Liars, Guns and Money I: A Not So Simple Plan
Written by Grant McAloon, directed by Andrew Prowse
Season 2, Episode 19
1st US Transmission Date: 5 January 2001
1st UK Transmission Date: 4 December 2000
1st Australian Transmission: 27 December 2001
Guest Cast: Paul Goddard (Stark), Wayne Pygram (Scorpius), Claudia Karvan (Natira), Nicholas Hope (Akkor), Matt Newton (Jothee), David Franklin (Lt. Braca), Adrian Brown (Gan), Jennifer Fisher (PK Nurse)
Synopsis: Stark returns with blueprints to a Shadow Depository—a bank for criminals—and a daring heist plan to raise money to buy Jothee at the slave auction. John refuses to go along with the plan, but D’Argo and Stark act anyway, which results in D’Argo being arrested, forcing the others to get involved in order to save him.
Zhaan poses as a pirate with a deposit to make; Chiana, John, Aeryn and D’Argo are her assistants. She convinces the Depository owner, Natira, that D’Argo was testing security on her instructions and he is released. Zhaan’s deposit is a Hynerian statue containing Rygel. Once sealed in her container, he emerges, takes the ID tag for the deposit to another container, and when Zhaan makes a withdrawal she gets the content of the other box instead—a whole pile of ingots belonging to Scorpius.
However, all does not go according to plan—Scorpius arrives and withdraws his goods, realises a heist is in progress, and seals the depository. Zhaan, Chiana, Rygel and Aeryn escape, but John is caught by Scorpius. Luckily, he earlier smeared one of Scorpy’s coolant rods with explosive paste, which causes Scorpy all sorts of problems, and he is able to make his exit, leaving the bad guy to die. Moya departs for the auction with the money, but down in the cargo bay the ingots unfold and emerge as mechanical spiders…
Buck Rogers Redux: ‘Die, you grotesque bastard! Even if it means I die, too.’ This week, John is mostly being a dick to his friends. His temper is getting shorter and he’s becoming more unpredictable—he gets very rough with Stark very early on in the proceedings, and pulls a gun on the poor guy just for winding him up a bit. He wants Scorpius dead. For someone who’s been spoiling for a fight recently, it’s surprising he doesn’t immediately agree to help Stark and D’Argo, who is after all his best friend.
Big Blue: Zhaan finally gets something to do outside of the Medbay—she gets to play pirate and puts on a black cat suit, an eye patch, and adopts the name Aralla.
I Was A Teenage Luxan: ‘As a race, Luxans can be inartful at love, inadequate at war, and intrinsically inept. But this one is intelligent.’ D’Argo condemns his crewmates as cowards when they will not help in Stark’s plan to rob the Depository, and willingly sacrifices himself to capture and torture so as to force them to become involved. He takes quite some time to recover from Natira’s attentions. He is slow to forgive John for not helping from the off, but Chiana urges him to.
Buckwheat the Sixteenth: ‘Ten percent of this plan is lunacy; fifty percent of these riches is not enough; one hundred percent of dead is dead!’ Rygel is quite intrepid, allowing himself to be sedated, smuggled into a sealed container inside a statue, and then clambering from one deposit container to another. He loses his robes while in the container and his orange undies are revealed—he’s obviously reconsidered the awful y-fronts he was wearing in ‘Thank God It’s Friday… Again.’
Your Favourite Little Tralk: Chiana is immediately ready to endorse the heist scheme—any excuse for some larceny.
The Man In the Iron Mask: Stark has managed to reincorporate himself following his dispersal by the Plokavians (‘The Ugly Truth’) because ‘this body is only a molecular creation, which enables me to live in your realm. It's merely a vessel for my true, incorporeal self.’ Immediately after his re-integration, he located the plans for the Shadow Depository by helping its designer die—when asked if he killed him, he replies ‘not exactly.’ He then stole a ship and sent word to Zhaan to come and collect him. He can transmit messages to his mask over huge distances using mental powers.
Being dispersed appears to have had an effect on his sanity: he is now almost as manic as he was in ‘Nerve,’ not at all the more composed person he appeared when he stopped faking madness in ‘The Hidden Memory,’ or when he returned in ‘The Locket.’ He even returns to his ‘my side, your side’ rant, which he delivered in his cell in the Gammak Base.
He is a capable hacker, gets into the Depository systems from orbit and, for a time, manipulates the Depository systems well, but when it starts to go wrong he panics and begins smashing his equipment, forcing D’Argo to stun him and take over. When they escape D’Argo apologises for doubting him and says: ‘you've proven yourself to be a worthy friend, and one not to be distrusted again.’
Nosferatu in Rubber: Scorpius is entirely dependent on the coolant rods, but seems unable to insert them himself, although heaven knows why. He apparently succumbs to heat exhaustion and dies in the depository reaching for a coolant rod, but none of us believe he’s dead, do we? Natira owes him greatly for unspecified reasons, and she appears to be his girlfriend, of a kind. He had some goods stored at the Depository, but Natira sold them when she heard of his Gammak Base’s destruction and assumed he was dead. He intimidates her into reimbursing triple the value of the goods. He is strong enough to single-handedly open a security door that easily crushed a guard. Since the ingots that awake on Moya were intended for Scorpius, it appears Natira was attempting to double-cross him.
The Ballad Of Aeryn And John: While under the influence of the chip, John is afraid he’s losing it for good and tries to tell Aeryn how he feels about her in case he goes mad or they don’t escape the Depository. Back on Moya, he tells her again: ‘I meant what I said... didn't say.’ And she strokes his hair and tells him she knows.
Alien Encounters: We have no idea what race Natira is, but the Creature Shop design is stunning.
Hi, Harvey: ‘A Neuro-Bio Tracer, call it what you like. A tiny chip, a tiny seed that's been growing in your brain and touching every aspect of your personality, your memory… and whispering advice.’ The voices in John’s head get more insistent when Scorpius is around, and he hallucinates Scorpy at one point. He seems to be on the verge of a total breakdown, twitching and whispering to himself at the most inopportune moments. When he meets Scorpy in the flesh, he finally finds out about the Neural Chip (described as a Neuro-Bio-Tracer), which at least means he now knows he hasn’t been imagining things. He is again restrained from killing Scorpius, or allowing him to die, but this time he is able to override the chip, although it’s a hell of a struggle. He beats the chip by singing ‘The Star Spangled Banner.’
Disney On Acid: John tries to convince the Shadow Depository to store the eleven secret ingredients to KFC. He sees himself and Aeryn as Bonnie and Clyde, then recants when he remembers how that story ended—in a hail of bullets. When using the Depository video cameras, John tells Aeryn he’s looking for Baywatch.
Get Frelled: Looks like Scorpius and Natira got horizontal, or whatever it is they do. Scorpius tries to force John to put in his coolant rod:
SCORPIUS: Insert the rod, John!
JOHN: You're really not my type.
Stats: We get to see Moya’s Docking Web being deployed for the first time. Borinium is a valuable metal pressed into ingots and used as currency. Zhaan creates Jelifan paste for John to smear on Scorpy’s cooling rods—it reacts explosively to heat. She develops a mixture called Melar gas, which suspends body activity long enough for a living person to register as inanimate when scanned—they use this to smuggle Rygel into the Depository; a simple pill immunises someone from the gas’s effects.
Logic Leaps: Stark insists that the computer connection into the Depository’s systems could only be made once, at the instant they changed their codes. But later, when he freaks out and severs the connection, D’Argo is able to break into the systems again almost immediately.
Oops: When John and Scorpius are down on their knees in their final confrontation a whopping great boom mike drops into view.
WHAT did you just say?
JOHN: If Scorpius gets me…
AERYN: I know, shoot you.
JOHN: No, no no no, shoot him!
Guest Stars: Claudia Karvan appeared as Sola Naberrie in Star Wars: Episode II — Attack Of The Clones and is one of Australia's busiest TV actresses. Nicholas Hope will return to Farscape as Kreetago in season three.
Backstage: In an online chat, Wayne Pygram stated that the final four episodes of Season two were filmed simultaneously. This would be the first time episodes were filmed in blocks since the very beginning of Season One.
The Verdict: The biggest sets, the best CGI and the funkiest creature yet seen on the show give this a cinematic feel. Ben Browder’s performance in his final scene with Scorpius is staggering. The return of Stark is welcome, but a little strange as he now appears to be an almost entirely different character. Rygel climbs up a ladder, a deceptively simple effect, but it must have been hell to do with a puppet—bravo. Even Zhaan finally gets a pro-active role for the first time in ages. All this and the return of Scorpius too. Excellent.
Verdict redux: This time around I found this annoying, muddy and confusing. The complete change in Stark’s character isn’t addressed, it just kind of happens. John’s unpleasantness to him is also not really addressed; just a shot of Aeryn looking concerned at the way John was behaving to Stark would have sufficed. This is some seriously inconsistent and frustrating character work. My wife assumed we’d missed an episode and made me pause it to explain why Stark was being so odd and why everyone was being so horrible to him—best answer I could come up with was bad writing. Also, the heist plot is not terribly well laid out. I know it’s a bit obvious and info-dumpy, but would it have killed them to outline the plan to us with a bit more clarity? So in summary, not nearly as good as I remember it being. Let’s hope the next two parts raise the bar a bit.
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.