Taking The Stone
Written by Justin Monjo, directed by Rowan Woods
Season 2, Episode 3
1st US Transmission Date: 31 March 2000
1st UK Transmission Date: 10 July 2000
1st Australian Transmission: 6 December 2001
Guest Cast: Anthony Hayes (Molnon), Peter Scarf (Das), Michela Noonan (Vyna), Natasha Beaumont (Janixx)
Synopsis: Chiana discovers that her brother is dead, but when she tries to talk to John he's distracted and gives her the brush off. Upset, she leaves Moya in Aeryn's Prowler and lands on a Royal Cemetery planet where clans of young people live in underground caves. In the caves is a deep pit at the bottom of which is a sonic net that uses the sound of the jumper's voice to generate sound waves to cushion their fall.
The clans live a highly ritualised life, and when they are 22 they jump into the pit in silence and die, which they call Taking the Stone. John discovers this is because there is a lot of radiation in the caves, which the pit amplifies, and after 22 cycles they begin to suffer radiation poisoning. He explains the radiation to them but the clans vote to remain in the caves and continue their ways rather than moving to the surface where they could live longer and healthier lives.
Chiana joins the clan and is determined to jump into the pit both to prove her independence and to feel alive. John tries to force her back to Moya but Aeryn persuades John that Chi must be free to stay or go as she chooses. Eventually Chi jumps, the sonic net breaks her fall, and she returns to Moya.
Rygel steals treasure from a royal grave and decorates his quarters on Moya with it. Unfortunately it is cursed and stuff begins to fly around the room, so he reluctantly returns the artefacts.
Buck Rogers Redux: John's unusually gung-ho approach and increasingly erratic behaviour continues – in 'Vitas Mortis' he tried to force D'Argo to leave the Orican, now he tries to force Chiana to leave the clans, when both times it was apparent that they needed to be left to their own devices to work through whatever was bugging them.
Molnon, leader of the clan, offers to tell John why he wants Chi to jump if he eats one of four magic mushrooms – one of which is deadly. John does so and gets lucky, but it's a totally nutty thing to do. He then challenges Molnon on the very edge of the pit and seems willing to jump with him. He asks Aeryn: 'lately, do I seem a little crazy to you?' to which she replies 'what do you mean, 'lately'?' Since they don't know any other humans, how are any of the others to gauge John's behaviour? After all, he baffles his shipmates at the best of times. The only ones aware of John's increasing unpredictability are the viewers and John himself.
John the scientist makes a brief return – he spends his spare time disassembling bits of Moya's control systems so that he can find out how they work.
That Peacekeeper Bitch: 'I'm not good at nice.' Aeryn is surprisingly insightful and sensible with Chiana, she knows that she needs space to work things out and refuses to let John kidnap Chiana back to Moya – this is because she says she understands loss (John says he does too, but we don't know who he's referring to). This amazes John because she is 'the pin-up girl for frontal assault'.
Big Blue: Zhaan chants over the objects Rygel plundered to try and lift any curses, but gives up when he tells her to get lost.
Buckwheat the Sixteenth: Rygel stoops to a new low – grave robbing. Despite his initial refusal to believe in curses he eventually relents and returns the items, but will he have learnt his lesson? Fat chance.
Your Favourite Little Tralk: 'I never had any courage. As a kid, Nerri gave me everything. I just followed him.' Nebari, and some other races, use surgically implanted Life Discs to maintain a link with loved ones. When the disc stops functioning it means the other person is dead. Chiana's disc links her to her brother, Nerri, and when it stops she assumes he has died. Prior to John and Aeryn's arrival she performs the first ritual required to join the clan – she ran naked through rings of fire. She then hung upside down between two big stones which exert some magnetic force – no-one's ever lasted longer than 15 microts, but she beats the record. She's deeply hurt that Crichton blew her off when she tried to talk about her brother, but it's interesting that she went to him – in 'Vitas Mortis' it seemed clear that D'Argo was her favourite shipmate, after all she did his laundry.
Worlds Apart: Rygel implies that there are many Royal Cemetery planets – he considers it disgusting to bury the dead near the living.
Alien Encounters: We don't know what race the clan are, but when the females become pregnant their stomachs turn transparent.
Disney On Acid: John asks Molnon 'are we having a failure to communicate, here?' which is a reference to the classic Paul Newman film Cool Hand Luke.
Get Frelled: Chiana makes out with Molnon, but we don't know how far that particular encounter went.
Seen It All Before: A world of young people who die at a certain age and think anyone over that age is old and worn out is reminiscent of Logans Run.
Logic Leaps: When Aeryn and John begin exploring the caves they're wearing their coats, but they're coatless for the rest of the episode, until they leave. Presumably the clan have some kind of handy coat check service. How does the Life Disc work? It must send and receive some kind of signal, so we must assume no-one on Nebari prime knows Chiana has one, otherwise it surely would have been used to track her down by now.
WHAT did you just say? Rygel calls Earth Erp, like Aeryn did in 'Premiere.' John tells Aeryn to call Zhaan: 'let's get her on the dog and bone.' Aeryn: 'whatever that means.' It's cockney rhyming slang for telephone, and John is very well educated about obscure London dialects for a good ol' southern boy.
Stats: Sonic Nets are used by Peacekeepers in aerial combat training.
Backstage: Nerri was originally intended to be a sister, but Gigi Edgley, who has an elder bother, asked for it to be changed to a brother because then she found it easier to connect emotionally to Chiana's loss.
Anthony Hayes has gone on to enjoy a very succesful career, featuring in The Slap and Rabbit Proof Fence. He will return to Farscape as Wa in 'I Yensch, You Yensch.' Natasha Beaumont has appeared as a regular in Eastenders, All Saints and My Spy Family, as well as appearing in Inception. Peter Scarf was a regular on Underbelly.
The Verdict: This episode looks great – the planet is spooky and foreboding and the design of Chiana's hair is especially cool, although John's hair seems to be suffering from gel overload. Rowan Woods does a great job and it's clear that the show's darker, grittier aesthetic is now well established and working wonders. The relationships between the characters are also played out nicely, especially the interplay between John and Aeryn, and John and Chiana. Gigi Edgley finally gets to carry an episode and she does a marvellous job, it expands and deepens the character, and avoids Pip becoming the domestic homebody she threatened to become in 'Vitas Mortis.' The only downside, apart from the total irrelevancy of Rygel's subplot, is that it's all a bit predictable and nothing unexpected happens – a problem the previous episode also suffered from (happily the next set of episodes alleviate any worries we may have about the show's scripts becoming routine).
Verdict Redux: 'Well, that was turgid,' remarked my wife as the credits rolled, and it's hard to disagree. Apart from the fabulous design and direction, and the especially good soundscape – the music this week is especially well used – this episode just seems to go on forever to very little effect.
Scott K. Andrews has written episode guides, magazine articles, film and book reviews, comics, audio plays for Big Finish, far too many blogs, some poems you will never read, and three novels for Abaddon. He is, patently, absurd.