Self Inflicted Wounds II: Wait For The Wheel
Written by David Kemper, directed by Tony Tilse
Season 3, Episode 4
1st US Transmission Date: 6 April 2001
1st UK Transmission Date: 17 September 2001
Guest Cast: Jool (Tammy MacIntosh), Neeyala (Victoria Longley), Kreetago (Nicholas Hope), Cresto (Dwayne Fernandez), Shreena (Kerith Atkinson), Lastren (Brian Carbee)
‘For the longest time I feared physical demise because my spiritual essence was suspect. But now I know I'm worthy, now I know the transgressions have melted from my soul. Now I know I shall meet my Goddess and be accepted to her bosom. Sensitive D'Argo, exuberant Chiana, wise Rygel, selfless Aeryn, innocent Crichton. My children, my teachers, my loves—there is no guilt, there is no blame, only what is meant to be. Grow through your mistakes, and know that if patient, redemption will find you.’
Synopsis: The aliens have been using their Phaztillon Generator to turn themselves invisible so they can sabotage Moya—the ship is not as badly damaged as it appeared. The Generator reaches critical phase and Neeyala sets a countdown to automatic—in one arn the ships will separate. If Moya StarBursts after separation they can spin free of the wormholes and the alien ship will be destroyed. John uses the D’Argomobile’s defence shield to kill the serpent, and Neeyala dies when she tries to kill John and ensure her ship’s survival. Unfortunately someone has to remain on the alien ship to trigger the Generator, and that person will die. Zhaan makes the sacrifice, Moya is saved, the alien ship disintegrates. Zhaan is dead.
Buck Rogers Redux: ‘My grandmother used to say that life is a great wheel. Sometimes it grinds you down into the mud, and other times it lifts you up into the light.’ John blames himself for their situation and tries to sacrifice himself on the alien ship to make amends. He’s lost the trust of D’Argo and Aeryn, who believe his judgement is seriously clouded and are concerned that he still speaks to Harvey. He used to own a green Chevy and hitchhiked to Lauderdale to see strippers during spring break from college.
You Can Be More: Aeryn thinks John’s plans never work. She tells Zhaan that she will only ever be a soldier and that Zhaan’s sacrifice was a bad choice. Zhaan tells her, as she has been told so many times before, that she underestimates herself and can be more. Aeryn, uncharacteristically, lets her emotions show as she cries and tries to prevent Zhaan sacrificing herself.
Big Blue: Zhaan continues her counselling round, this time talking to D’Argo and Aeryn. At one point she loses control, her eyes turn red (as in ‘Rhapsody In Blue’) and she makes to kill Neeyala, but is prevented by Aeryn. She offers prayers for Moya’s survival and refers to them as a family. She visited Pilot while he was unconscious and spoke to him telepathically, too. At the moment of her death she bonds telepathically with Stark, so that he can share her death. As we see the ship explode, she appears to emerge as a glowing chiaroscuro of orange light which leaves the wormhole—could she have survived in some way?
I Was A Teenage Luxan: D’Argo likes playing with his new ship—henceforth the D’Argomobile—and pressing random buttons just to see what they do. Its shield is so powerful that when the serpent rams it, it dies. He says it feels familiar to him but he doesn’t know why—could it be a Luxan vessel?
Buckwheat the Sixteenth: According to Stark, Pilot likes Rygel and told Stark so. Rygel is hugely impressed by this and takes to stroking Pilot lovingly and telling him how much he likes him, which disconcerts poor Pilot no end. He calls Zhaan a ‘big, beautiful, blue bitch.’ Charming.
Pip: Chiana is shot by one of the aliens’ spines but Zhaan heals her. She considers Zhaan one of her ‘very, very best friends.’
The Man In the Iron Mask: Stark’s dark side emerges again when he really lets Jool have it: ‘Dead. All of us, dead. My love, dead. My dreams, dead. You dead. Me dead. You dead… Your list is short, and unworthy of entry to this ship of horror, tortured by demons you can never know, mocked by love that will never be! Oh, you want to cry, young creature? I will show you something that will make you cry, forever!’ Luckily he’s interrupted before he can do whatever it was he was going to do. Aeryn thinks he’s a cold fish and should be more upset by Zhaan’s death, but he’s helped 15,000 souls die and none have ever been so at peace as Zhaan. He will try to honour her by carrying on with hope but knows it will be difficult at times.
Jool In The Crown: ‘Everything I have seen so far is despicable!’ Jool knows a lot of physics and John trusts her to watch the Generator countdown, but she’s still selfish and annoying and even Zhaan has a go at her. She took a multi-civilization tour for her birthday, met her cousins and then remembers nothing else until waking up. John speculates that she was never ill and that perhaps she was included as part of a job lot with her two ill cousins as a freebie to be used for body parts. Her hair turns red when she’s under extreme stress. She sheds her hair and it ends up everywhere, normally in peoples’ mouths. Yeuch. Her scream melts the tips of Neeyala’s poison bristles and handcuffs, too. John refers to her as ‘ballast.’
Hi, Harvey: ‘John Crichton was riveting in the role of cheerleader, rallying his comrades in the aid of the stricken ship he had earlier betrayed.’ Harvey flexes his muscles and leaves the Dumpster, demanding autonomy. He demonstrates that he can instigate conversations with John now. He’s absorbing some of John’s sense of drama and humour, dressing in a tux because he wants to look good, yeah! He calls a truce and warns John about Neeyala’s treachery. It now seems that they are uneasy allies.
In The Driving Seat: Pilot cries when Zhaan dies.
A Ship, A Living Ship! We see the manual control for flying Moya for the first time since ‘Exodus From Genesis.’ Neeyala implants a beacon in Moya’s hull that signals to her race’s High Command. There’s another bunch of bad guys after Moya! John says that the crew feel as if Moya raised them.
World’s Apart: The Three Stooges image confirms that Earth is at most 40 light years from some part of the wormhole, which confirms to John that it is possible for him to get home one day.
Alien Encounters: The families of the aliens will be killed by the authorities if the ship does not return, which explains why Neeyala is so desperate to sacrifice Moya. They have encountered no race as knowledgeable as John is about physics, which fits, given that they have no translator microbes. Instead of being a research vessel that uses wormholes to travel, as it first appeared, it seems their mission was specifically to gather wormhole information, information that is now lost.
Disney On Acid: Aeryn remembers John’s reference to Yoda back in ‘I, E.T.’ He warns the others that the serpent is now dangerous by saying ‘One-Adam-Twelve, guys,’ which was the call sign of the cops from the show Adam-12 which used to star Kent McCord, who plays John’s dad.
Get Frelled: Spoilt little rich girl moans about her shoes:
JOOL: Do you know how much these shoes cost, young whore?
CHIANA: For me, three sex acts. Probably double that for you.
Stats: DRDs can project green lasers, which’ll be handy if they ever decide to have a rave in the Maintenance Bay.
Logic Leaps: It’s hard to follow the technobabble, but Neeyala implies she set the Generator on automatic, but then it transpires that it needs someone to activate it—is this a mistake or was Neeyala lying, and if she was lying, why?
Bloopers: When Aeryn is walking through a section of Moya that is decompressed there is a sparking junction box behind her—how is it burning when there’s no atmosphere?
WHAT did you just say? John welcomes Jool to the crew: ‘welcome, to the Federation Starship SS Buttcrack.’
Backstage: Backstage: Virginia Hey was contracted for more seasons but the loss of her hair and, more seriously, the makeup’s detrimental effects on her kidneys, were really getting to her, so she asked to be released—in her own words here and here. Her original idea was that she would leave Moya but could return for about six episodes a year and play the part with a bald cap, allowing her to grow back her hair. The decision to kill Zhaan perhaps indicates that this was a vain hope.
The Verdict: The Season Of Death claims its first victim as Zhaan dies and we are left with a very different crew that now includes Jool and Stark. As awash in technobabble as the previous episode, it’s still hard to follow exactly what’s happening at times, but David Kemper again demonstrates his total understanding of Moya’s crew, and there’s a lot of really good character development and exploration here.
Especially good is the scene where the gang are split into two groups—John, Chi and Rygel in one, everyone else in the other—yet their thought processes and conclusions are shown to be exactly the same. By the end John is isolated from the rest; blaming himself for Zhaan’s death, taunted by visions of Earth but unable to get home, forced to share his head with Harvey, and distrusted by all his shipmates.
The introduction of Jool and Stark, one of them deeply unsympathetic and irritating, the other dangerously unstable and potentially violent, increases the levels of tension on board, already high following Chi’s affair and Zhaan’s death, to near breaking point and promise oodles of tension, suspicion and conflict.
Verdict Redux: So does this mark the beginning of the end for Farscape? There’s a part of me that thinks the heights that this season reaches would have been impossible with Zhaan there providing the balance that would help the crew cope better; but there’s another part of me that thinks the quest on the writers’ parts to replace her role in the crew with Stark and then Noranti are less than successful and that what is a short term win ends up being a long term loss. We’ll see if I still feel that way at the end of the re-watch.
What’s inarguable is that while her loss is deeply sad, the world of Farscape feels more dangerous following Zhaan’s death, and that’s exciting.
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.