Liars, Guns and Money III: Plan B
Written by Justin Monjo, directed by Tony Tilse
Season 2, Episode 21
1st US Transmission Date: 19 January 2001
1st UK Transmission Date: 18 December 2000
1st Australian Transmission: 29 December 2001
Guest Cast: Paul Goddard (Stark), Wayne Pygram (Scorpius), Lani Tupu (Capt. Bialar Crais) , Claudia Karvan (Natira), Nicholas Hope (Akkor), Matt Newton (Jothee) , John Adam (Bekhesh), Jeremy Sims (Rorf) , Lionel Haft (Zelkin), David Bowers (Kurz), Thomas Holesgrove (Teurac)
Synopsis: Aeryn and Stark persuade the mercenaries to help rescue Crichton by reminding them that the Depository is full of currency they can steal. Talyn responds to a distress call from Moya and performs a transfusion to heal her burn damage. Aeryn asks Crais to help in the rescue, but he refuses to use Talyn for violent ends.
Rorf goes to the Depository first and locates John, but is captured and tortured by Scorpius and Natira, who eats one of his eyes. He reveals the rescue plan in full. Aeryn, D’Argo and Bekesh storm the Depository main entrance while Zhaan, Stark and Teurac go to blow up the generator. However, Teurac is unable to breathe fire and destroy the generator, so they are captured by Scorpius. Teurac shoots himself and explodes, destroying the generator, killing the lights and allowing Zhaan and Stark to escape.
Aeryn, D’Argo and Bekesh manage to kill the PK troops defending the main entrance using night goggles so they can see in the sudden darkness. Meanwhile, John has persuaded Natira that Scorpius is going to kill her, so she releases him and they, together with Rorf, try to escape. They meet up with Aeryn, D’Argo and Bekesh, but are pinned down in a corridor by PK troops. Rorf sacrifices himself to save John; Natira runs off on her own. Rygel and Jothee take a Transport pod to collect Zhaan and Stark, but Zelkin betrays them to Scorpius and deploys the Flax, trapping the pod and Moya.
Talyn responds to Moya’s call for help and destroys the Zenetan ship, while Chiana kills Zelkin. Zhaan and Stark are collected by the pod. Aeryn tells Crais to use Talyn to demolish the Depository. She, Bekesh, John and D’Argo lock themselves in one of the Depository containers and survive the destruction. They leave on Moya, loaded with wealth.
Buck Rogers Redux: The chip now controls John so much that he wants to go to Scorpius. He believes the removal of the chip will kill him and since he doesn’t want to live as a madman, he figures surrendering and getting it over with is the only thing to do. However, Natira tells him that it can be removed safely—there is no need for him to die. In his mind, he still wears his IASA uniform. After being rescued forcibly by Aeryn he is a shattered, gibbering wreck, unable to silence the voice of Scorpius in his mind. He tries to get the white king on his chessboard to stand up but can’t; next to the board is his gun, Winona, but it seems likely that the chip prevents him from killing himself. Eventually, he begs D’Argo to kill him.
That Damn Peacekeeper Bitch: Aeryn plays a dangerous game, convincing the mercenaries to follow through on the plan using risky reverse psychology. She offers Crais anything at all if he will help them save John, and when he asks if she is offering herself to him, she remains deadpan. If John is insane and can’t be rescued, she resolves to kill him herself to put him out of his misery.
I Was A Teenage Luxan: D’Argo’s Qualta blade runs out of power during the battle and he uses it as a sword instead. He is at first surprised when Jothee doesn’t want to help rescue Crichton, although he tries to hide his disappointment. When the boy changes his mind he is proud, but keeps him and out of harm’s way on the Transport Pod with Rygel. The eventual plan of attack is D’Argo’s—a two pronged attack with himself leading a frontal assault—typically Luxan.
Now that he is reunited with Jothee, his quest is over, but there are some unresolved issues to deal with. Jothee has had to do some terrible things to stay alive and his first instinct is to look after himself, whatever the cost. He tries to change that, and accepts that his father’s fights are his fights too. He tells D’Argo: ‘in a way, you've done everything that ever happened to me… [but] I'm not angry with you.’
Buckwheat the Sixteenth: ‘Mine, mine, mine! Can I have this? Can this be mine? We can all have anything we want now, right? Any food, any female, anything! Right? Right?’ Rygel’s quite a dab hand at flying a Transport Pod. He keeps Durka’s head with him, on a spike, because he likes the fact that his one-time torturer can’t answer back. He is ecstatic at finally being rich again.
The Man In the Iron Mask: Stark’s madness is again to the fore, but it’s his beserker bravery that convinces Rorf to go ahead with the rescue. His initial plan is so complicated that none of the mercenaries can follow it.
The Insane Military Commander: Crais has changed, and he gives Aeryn quite a lecture: ‘is this violence more acceptable because it's for you? There's always a reason for violence, Aeryn. Thousands of people die for the most virtuous causes.’ What a turnaround, from the murderous nutter of Season One to a wannabe Buddhist who insists there should be no violence at any time unless in defence. He is amused at the thought of Aeryn offering herself to him in return for his help but, although we don’t see it on screen, he refuses, because it is only Moya’s distress at being caught in the Flax that brings Talyn back.
Nosferatu in Rubber: ‘You overestimate me, John. I have no desire to dominate the universe.’ Scorpius doesn’t need to kill John to remove the chip, but he intends to kill him afterwards anyway. His Command Carrier is in battle, we don’t know who with, and that is why Peacekeepers are not at the Depository in massive force. He does not want the wormhole information in order to further his own ambition, he wants it so he can sway the balance of power, presumably with the Scarrans. Given that he is still in the Depository when it is demolished by Talyn, he must be dead. Right?
A Ship, A Living Ship: Moya may never heal from the burning, but Talyn’s transfusion will help. Eight tiers were destroyed by the fire, and her immune system suffered serious damage. She performs a low level flypast of the Depository as a diversion, shattering all its windows, allowing the rescue mission to begin. She has the ability to flood the Maintenance Bay with poison gas.
Big Baby: Talyn decided to return and fight, Crais did not command it: ‘He acted alone. As much as any of us would want, he has the instincts of a warrior and does exactly as he pleases.’
Alien Encounters: Natira has a taste for eyeballs. Bloodtracker males are not as good at hunting by scent as females. Sheyangs can be injected with Taakar serum to stimulate the production of fireballs. If you shoot a Sheyang, he explodes (although the one in ‘PK Tech Girl’ didn’t).
Hi, Harvey: Harvey has reached the wormhole information in John’s brain and tells Scorpius that the chip is ready to be removed. He also tells Natira that Scorpius plans to kill her—the first time he acts contrary to his real-world self’s best interests. Harvey believes that John’s not conscious of the wormhole knowledge.
Disney On Acid: John makes a couple of references to the Mel Brooks film Young Frankenstein, calling Scorpy Fronkensteen, and Natira Frau Blücher.
Get Frelled: Natira tickles John’s prostate. Yowch!
Seen It All Before: In every heist movie ever, plus there were nods to Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, The Magnificent Seven, and more.
The Verdict: This is a logistical triumph. The superb CGI; the stunning battle scenes; the sequence where D’Argo, Bekesh and Aeryn take on insurmountable odds seen through Aeryn’s malfunctioning eyepiece; Ben Browder’s performance as a man losing his mind and desperate to remain sane; and above all, lots of groovy ray guns.
There are a few clichés scattered here and there—of course some of the mercenaries were going to die heroically, and someone would turn out to be a traitor, but we’d have almost felt cheated had the script not delivered these things. Dramatic and exciting, as well as managing to move the characters of Crais, Aeryn, D’Argo, Scorpius and John along considerably, this juggles a lot of elements and for the most part pulls it off with aplomb (although the inability of PK troops to hit a sitting duck at point blank range is unintentionally hilarious).
Verdict Redux: At the time I wrote ‘has TV sci-fi ever been this epic?’ Which was certainly hyperbolic (Best of Both Worlds certainly did, not to mention chunks of Babylon 5), but given how spoiled we’ve been in the last ten years, not least by BSG, it’s impossible to deny that the impact of this episode has been somewhat dulled. The PK troops’ staggeringly bad shooting becomes risible early on and just gets more and more so as multiple troopers repeatedly fail to shoot people who walk slowly across their line of fire.
But what has lasted, and continues to impress, is the character work. The complexity of Jothee’s attitude and D’Argo’s inability to deal with it; the ambiguity of Crais and his relationship with Aeryn and Talyn; John’s disintegration—it’s all compelling stuff.
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.