Written by Steve Worland, directed by Peter Andrikidis
Season 3, Episode 5
1st US Transmission Date: 13 April 2001
1st UK Transmission Date: 24 September 2001
Guest Cast: Jool (Tammy MacIntosh), Nurse Kelsa (Lucy Bell), Cyntrina (Basia A'hern), General Grynes (Marshall Napier), Sub-Officer Dacon (Dan Spielman), Colonel Lennok (Terry Serio), Officer Tarn (Alan Cinis)
Synopsis: While visiting a shrine to a historic peace accord, Stark’s energy interfaces with a tear in time and whisks him, Jool, D’Argo, John and Aeryn back in time to a monastery under siege by a Venek horde. Before they can get their bearings they are attacked and are forced to defend themselves; unfortunately this changes history.
The monastery is full of Jacecean Nurses and children, who are being protected by a five-man PK squad. In the original history all but one of the Peacekeepers were killed in the fight and the remaining man, Sub-Officer Dacon, died sending a ceasefire plan to the enemy General Grynes, which was accepted.
Although Dacon is still the only remaining PK officer, General Grynes is captured as a result of the time travellers’ interference. They locate the time tear and push Jool through, but Stark realises that the future has changed and that unless they set it right, billions will die. John convinces Grynes that they will leave the monastery if he returns to his men and convinces them to enter the monastery peacefully. John is seen smuggling Grynes out of the monastery and Nurse Kelsa kills the General, believing John to be betraying them to the enemy. The Veneks find the General’s body and declare they will attack at dawn.
The time tear disappears entirely and on Moya, back in the future, the world below them changes to a barren radioactive rock. John convinces Aeryn that Dacon must die to set history right, so they let Dacon send his ceasefire offer and he dies, as he did in the original history. This does not fix things—in the future Moya sees the world disappear entirely.
John accepts Aeryn’s demand that they stay and fight, so they repel the dawn attack and find that the tear re-appears and history is restored. John promises the nurses that they will be safe and that the Veneks will offer peace when they return if he and the others have left.
They return to the future and discover that one detail is different—the nurses and children were killed by the Veneks; what was a memorial to a historic peace is now a memorial of a massacre. The nurses died with Crichton’s name on their lips.
Buck Rogers Redux: ‘I'm in a hell of a slump here. Everything I do just makes things worse.’ John gets it all wrong, again. Why didn’t he tell everyone he was going to smuggle the General out? By keeping it a secret, he blew it and cost the women and children their lives. When he’s tied up, Aeryn is reluctant to let him go, and you can understand why—he’s becoming a liability. After the events of the preceding two-parter, which were his fault, and this little debacle, his sense of self is taking a hell of a beating.
You Can Be More: ‘This is what peacekeepers are meant to do—help the defenceless.’ You’d think Aeryn would have realised by now that the things she was taught in PK school were suspect. The last PK hero she met was Durka, but she’s still surprised when the hero of the monastery, the fabled Sub-Officer Dacon, turns out to be a cook. She wants to keep him alive, even tries to take the fall for him, and then tells him how brave he is just before he dies. She fits back in to the PK world very easily, and seems wistful for the days when the Peacekeepers really did stand for justice and peace.
I Was A Teenage Luxan: ‘I'm not going to kill anyone. Oh, but I might kill this guy.’ D’Argo gets to meet a child he’s good with at last, and what does he do? He teaches her how to graffiti. What a role model. His couldn’t care less when it looks like Jool may have been cast adrift in time, and even seems to enjoy throwing her against a wall a couple of times. Can’t blame him, really.
Everyone’s Favourite Little Tralk: Chiana ignores everything Jool has to say and then deliberately punches her wounded arm to make her scream. She bumps into Rygel in Zhaan’s quarters, but neither of them have the stomach to actually steal any of her stuff.
The Man In the Iron Mask: ‘Fear is good, keep that. But travel light, forget hate.’ Stark is trying to fill Zhaan’s place, even going so far as to do impressions of her. Somehow the energy from under his mask throws them through time, and he is able to both sense the location of the time tear and hold it in one place. When looking through to the future he can sense the accumulated deaths in the time between then and now. He is wearing new clothes that Zhaan bought for him.
Jool In the Crown: ‘You threw me in mud! Bastards! They shoot me, they punch me, they make me drink piss.’ Jool sheds so badly that she leaves piles of hair on Moya’s consoles. She drinks by reverse gargling into a glass and making a weird sound. When she is shot through the arm with an arrow, the nurses give her fellip urine to dull the pain. She has encountered Peacekeepers before and has a very low opinion of them indeed.
Hi, Harvey: Harvey wears cowboy boots and plays ‘Home on the Range’ on harmonica for John, because he knows the situation reminds John of old Western movies. John summons him to ask for help, but Harvey refuses to make suggestions because he doesn’t want to carry the can if everything goes wrong.
A Ship, A Living Ship!: Moya is recovering from her ordeal and repairs are still underway.
Alien Encounters: The Venek horde are almost impossible to control when they are in the grip of bloodlust, although a skilful general can just about keep them in check. They are attacking the monastery to get to a water source that will save them from drought. Jocaceans can live up to 700 cycles. Once upon a time the Peacekeepers were truly a police force for hire; Kelsa says they ‘uphold all that is good.’
Disney On Acid: Harvey’s cowboy boots have ANDY written on the soles, complete with reverse N—this is a lovely reference to Toy Story. John sees the situation as like The Alamo. John calls Stark Astroboy, which means he reads Manga comics. He shoots a Venek and cries ‘Tony Montana!’ which refers to Brian DePalma’s remake of Scarface.
Seen It All Before: Time alteration stories are a staple of Star Trek and this episode has a lot in common with Deep Space Nine’s excellent two parter ‘Past Tense.’
Logic Leaps: Why would Stark’s energy throw them back in time? Who cares, any explanation we were given would only be technobabble to excuse a story idea, so it’s fine they don’t even bother to try explaining it; were this Star Trek we’d have been given a pointless five paragraph dissertation on decaying Chronon particles and phase loop quasar pulses. Or something.
WHAT did you just say?: Bullfrell = bullshit.
Guest Stars: Lucy Bell was Detective Tessa Vance on Murder Call. Marshall Napier has appeared in many TV shows and films, including The Navigator: A Mediaeval Odyssey and Flirting. Terry Serio was Captain Sam Phillips on Ocean Girl.
The Verdict: How many shows are willing to have their hero screw up to this degree and not provide a cop-out loophole? John is responsible for the deaths of the nurses and children, he knows it, we know it, and there’s no getting away from it. Compare this episode to one of the standalones from the same time last season—‘Taking The Stone’ or ‘Vitas Mortis’—and it’s clear that the show continues to improve in leaps and bounds.
Verdict redux: I’m a total sucker for this kind of story (says the guy currently writing a time-travel trilogy) and this is a well-constructed tale, with an ending so bleak it could only be Farscape. It doesn’t feel the need to justify its premise with technobabble, or to tie itself in knots explaining how the actions of the past affect the present—it just shows what happens and lets the story get on with business—refreshing.
Jool is a delight—to me anyway, not so much to the wife—but Stark’s histrionics continue to grate on my nerves, and I think his new outfit just looks daft on him. Nice juicy stuff for Aeryn and John this week, but Rygel continues to feel like a spare part—he hasn’t done anything vital or terribly interesting yet this season. A standalone, but a really solid one.
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.