Dec 19 2012 3:00pm

Farscape Rewatch: “The Ugly Truth”

Farscape, The Ugly TruthThe Ugly Truth
Written by Gabrielle Stanton & Harry Werksman, Jr., directed by Tony Tilse
Season 2, Episode 15

1st US Transmission Date: 8 September 2000
1st UK Transmission Date: 13 November 2000
1st Australian Transmission: 15 September 2001

Guest Cast: Paul Goddard (Stark), Lani Tupu (Capt. Bialar Crais), Linda Cropper (Fento), Peter Carroll (Gahv)

Synopsis: Crais and Talyn contact Moya and ask for a meeting. While Moya’s crew is aboard Talyn, he fires on an approaching Plokavian vessel and destroys it. Crais throws Moya’s crew off and StarBursts away. The transport pod containing D’Argo, Zhaan, John, Aeryn and Stark is captured by a second Plokavian vessel. They each, in turn, are asked to give their version of events aboard Talyn.

Aeryn: In Aeryn’s version of events D’Argo is violent, Zhaan is a total flake, and John wants to kill Crais. Stark tries to raise a defence screen, but Aeryn stops him. Talyn’s gun fires of its own accord, it must have been a malfunction.

Zhaan: Through Zhaan’s eyes John is stupid, indecisive and cowardly, and he agrees with everything everyone says. D’Argo loses his temper. John tries to disarm the malfunctioning weapons console, but Aeryn stops him in case he sets it off. Again Talyn’s gun fires of its own accord.

Farscape, The Ugly Truth

Stark: Claims that Crais fired the cannon deliberately. According to him, the others are lying to prevent the Plokavians going after Crais and perhaps killing Talyn in the process.

D’Argo: In D’Argo’s tale, he is the leader of the group and everyone defers to him. Stark is a total nutter, screaming and raving. He lunges at the weapons console and fires the gun.

Farscape, The Ugly Truth

John: Admits that they’ve been lying, but only because no-one knows what happened. Stark did attempt to fire, but John had already disarmed the weapons console, so he couldn’t have been responsible.

The Plokavians decide to execute them all, so Stark takes responsibility and is dispersed. We subsequently discover that Talyn fired the gun himself.

Farscape, The Ugly Truth

Buck Rogers Redux: John still distrusts Crais and it seems from most versions that he’s quite happy to see him dead. Which is fair enough.

That Damn Peacekeeper Bitch: Aeryn seems inclined to trust Crais, although whether that’s just to give her a chance to undermine his captaincy of Talyn remains to be seen.

Big Blue: Zhaan and Stark are very touchy feely now—sharing Unity in ‘The Locket’ has brought them closer together.

I Was A Teenage Luxan: ‘I've become so distrustful of people, even when they're trying to help me. What does that say about what I've become? D’Argo blames Stark and punches his mask off, which isn’t exactly helpful. He later admits he misjudged him.

Farscape, The Ugly Truth

The Man In the Iron Mask: Stark distrusts Peacekeepers and hates Crais, as well as harbouring deep hatred for the Plokavians whose weapons helped subjugate his world. He has formed a deep attachment to Zhaan and is willing to risk death for the crew of Moya. If his mask is removed before he has had time to prepare himself, he loses control of his ‘energies.’ When he removes the mask prior to dispersal his face does not glow, it is dark, indicating that he is fully in control of his energies. It is possible that he survived dispersion: ‘my physical form is only part of my reality, much of me is energy that I can control and project… maybe if I'm prepared for it, I can transfer enough of myself into another realm to survive.’ Everyone thinks it unlikely that he did survive, and Zhaan is left crying, holding his mask.

Farscape, The Ugly Truth

In The Driving Seat: Pilot uncharacteristically loses his temper with Chiana when she questions the wisdom of searching for Talyn.

The Insane Military Commander: Crais is having trouble controlling Talyn’s aggressive urges and has decided to take drastic action. He requests Moya’s help, and that of her crew, to persuade Talyn to allow them to anaesthetize him and replace his weapons with a Dampening Net, which will only disable, not destroy, enemy vessels. He can remove his Neural Transponder and thus sever his link with Talyn, but he has a spare.

Farscape, The Ugly Truth

A Ship, A Living Ship: Moya tells Talyn that the Plokavian vessel is carrying Novatrin gas. She is torn between her concern for her crew and for Talyn. and she chooses to search for Talyn rather than stand by the Plokavian ship in case she’s needed. Chiana eventually manages to convince her and Pilot of the futility of the search and Moya returns to collect her crew after they are released by the Plokavians.

Farscape, The Ugly Truth

Big Baby: Talyn has grown and tells Moya he is healthy and happy. He is not under Crais’s control—even though he trusts his Captain, he can act independently. He shoots the Plokavian vessel when he discovers it is carrying Novatrin gas because he believes it is the best way to protect Moya. Crais can activate Privacy Mode, which ensures Talyn cannot hear when the crew are talking about him. Talyn’s capability to act freely can be manually overridden, but when his Weapons Console is shut down, it restores his freedom of action.

The Ballad Of Aeryn And John: When John wants to conspire with Aeryn secretly, he grabs her and whispers in her ear; her playacting in response is risible. He seems suspicious of her motives and perhaps thinks she was not only protecting Talyn, but Crais as well.

Farscape, The Ugly Truth

Alien Encounters: The Plokavians are weapons dealers who may be ruthless savages or devoted to truth and justice, depending on who you listen to. The Dampening Net is the only non-lethal weapon they produce. They live ankle-deep in water and are covered in pustules which drip acidic puss.

Stats: Novatrin gas is another of the six cargos it is forbidden for any Leviathan to carry (one other is Clorium, as referenced in, ‘I, E.T.’).

Seen It All Before: In every sci-fi and cop show ever made, but they all stem from Akira Kurosawa’s classic film Rashomon.

Farscape, The Ugly Truth

Logic Leaps: Stark found Moya with ease in ‘The Locket,’ now Talyn does the same. Given the size of the Uncharted Territories, and the fact that they’re, um, uncharted, doesn’t it seem a little odd that Moya’s friends keep dropping by for a cup of tea and a chat while Scorpius is blundering around entirely failing to find them? We end with D’Argo looking at the picture of Jothee that Stark gave him. Given that he knows his son is about to be sold at auction, what on earth are they all doing messing around with Crais—shouldn’t they be making full speed to the rescue?

Guest Stars: Linda Cropper will return to Farscape next season in a crucial role.

The Verdict: The Rashomon rip off is a TV standard but Farscape manages to make it fresh by filming four entirely different versions of the same scene, each time with subtly different dialogue, camera moves and relationships—must’ve been very hard work to act and shoot.

Farscape, The Ugly Truth

Cowardly John is hilarious, as is D’Argo’s image of himself as the leader, with everyone flanking him and deferring to his authority. Aeryn’s vision of flaky Zhaan is fun too. It’s nice to see Crais and Talyn again, and the fact that he considers Moya’s crew potential allies and friends is an interesting indication of possible future events.

The design work is sparse but effective, and the interrogation chair is nicely unique. The only drawback is that Stark hasn’t been around long enough for us to become attached to him, so the played-for grief at his death doesn’t quite feel earned, and Zhaan’s sudden attachment to him seems like a ploy to make us feel more for him that we otherwise would.

Farscape, The Ugly Truth

Verdict Redux: Now take your place in the gynaecological examination chair of doom! Somehow this feels like the moment the Farscape aesthetic finally clicks into place. It’s Aeryn and John’s matching long black coats in the sparse sets that make this look like the Farscape I remember from its heyday. But it also feels a bit like a time-marking exercise—John’s madness is forgotten, Stark’s big sacrifice is undercut by the brevity of his reappearance, and the story of Crais and Talyn doesn’t really progress as much as it might first appear. So a middling instalment—fun on its own terms, but nothing super special.

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.

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George Brell
1. gbrell
One of my favorite episodes, even though it is somewhat light in terms of overarching storyline. The Rashomon-reference is done well, each character's version of events provides an interesting summary of their worldviews, and the ultimate culprit is somewhat surprising.

What it really sets up, in my opinion, is S3 (particularly Talyn's storyline's conclusion) as well as the emergence of Talyn as a separate character. Because he lacks a Pilot, I always felt that "he" was more involved in the characters' lives than Moya. The obvious example is "Green Eyed Monster."
Iain Cupples
2. NumberNone
Two things I love about this episode:

1. How in Crichton's testimony, everyone mispronounces 'Plokavians' as 'Plakavoids'. Cracks me up every time. I'm easily amused.

2. Stark dies. If only he'd stayed dead. I'm not that easily amused. He rapidly became mighty tiresome.
Jack Flynn
3. JackofMidworld
We end with D’Argo looking at the picture of Jothee that Stark gave him. Given that he knows his son is about to be sold at auction, what on earth are they all doing messing around with Crais—shouldn’t they be making full speed to the rescue?

Well, when the lady who's doing the steering finds out that her estranged son might be in need of some rescuing, you're going to have a hard time convincing her that they should do it on the return trip.

And those acidy pustules gave me the chills. In my imagination, they were so damaged by the weapons and gasses and chemicals that they were creating that they were pretty much walking contamination machines; don't know if that was the case or not but it was a hard idea to get away from, once it settled into my head.
4. Lalo
@Jack - honestly when I first saw this episode I was hip deep in research for the Bubonic Plague, so when I saw the Plokavians I was like 'OMG PLAGUE CARRIERS GET AWAAAAYYYYY'

This episode has always intrigued me from a writing standpoint (though I didn't realize Zhaan felt so negatively about John?), but since taking up the study of law (for my paralegal courses) it now interests me from a law standpoint--we discussed how the 'real truth' in a legal setting is maleable based on a person's experiences/perceptions/emotions/awareness/etc.

Its a bit undermined by John saying that everyone else lied--I'm not sure that's strictly true, but its fun to put what I'm learning in a real world setting towards my fictional loves!
Melissa Shumake
5. cherie_2137
i remember not really liking this episode very much...

and yes. those aliens looked nasty and contagious and bad.

also, @2. i got incredibly tired of stark mighty quick once he showed back up AGAIN.
Kristen Templet
6. SF_Fangirl
I liked this a lot. The very different flashbacks were a lot of fun; although, I wish they had all been telling the truth so we could get a better feel for their POVs. Both D'Argo and Zhann thought Stark did it because they did not realize that John had disarmed the weapons console. So D'Argo was probably pretty close to truth. Zhann was so obviouslly lying with all her sucking up to the Plakovians and covering for Stark.

BTW gang, really, really bad job on relaying to others what everyone's story was going to be a sticking to it.

I was shocked that John's truth "we're all lying because we all saw it differently" failed and that Stark was killed. That's because (1) usually that would work (2) this is a rewatch for me I know Stark eventually returns and didn't recall his death here. Although I understand what you're say about Stark not being a major character in the series yet. If some were going to die, he was a obvious choice so it may have been different when I first watched the show.
Kristen Templet
7. SF_Fangirl
What it really sets up, in my opinion, is S3 (particularly Talyn's storyline's conclusion) as well as the emergence of Talyn as a separate character. Because he lacks a Pilot, I always felt that "he" was more involved in the characters' lives than Moya

I agree. A lot of times I forget that Moya is supposed to be a seperate character from Pilot since he is their sole communication with her. Somehow I never do that with Talyn. Talyn is always his own man boy. Even when I agree that Crais might be a bad influence on him I don't think Crais is necessarily in control of him. Talyn is just running with some bad friends and there's nothing his mom can do about it.
Heather Dunham
8. tankgirl73
"The Rashomon rip off is a TV standard but Farscapemanages to make it fresh by filming four entirely different versions of the same scene, each time with subtly different dialogue, camera moves and relationships—must’ve been very hard work to act and shoot."

Really? ST:TNG did this too -- twice. Once where Riker was accused of murder, and the holodeck recreates the testimony of the different parties involved, with, again, subtly different dialogue and relationship and characterizations. Exactly, exactly the same thing -- which version is closest to the truth? They're all coloured by the teller's bias. Even the eventual truth is similar -- in this Farscape, it was Talyn himself responsible. In the ST:TNG episode, it was the space station itself (and the actions of the 'victim') that was responsible. So I don't see how this was new and "fresh". Even if it was interesting, ST had already done it.

The other ST example is "Cause and Effect" -- not a "which version of the truth is the closest" storyline, of course, but it is the same scenes refilmed with subtly different dialogue and camera angles, etc etc. So that sort of thing has also already been done -- and IMO, Cause and Effect is the zenith of this paradigm.

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