May 8 2013 5:00pm

Farscape Rewatch: “Incubator"

Farscape, Incubator, Scorpius, BracaIncubator
Written by Richard Manning, directed by Ian Watson
Season 3, Episode 11

1st US Transmission Date: 13 July 2001
1st UK Transmission Date: 12 November 2001

Guest Cast: Jool (Tammy MacIntosh), Lt. Braca (David Franklin), Tauza (Amy Salas), Young Scorpius (Evan Sheaves), Nurse Froy (Stephanie Jacobsen), Plint (Paul Shedlowich), Linfer (Jo Kerrigan), Co-Kura Strappa (Danny Adcock), Wolesh (Thomas Holesgrove), Rylani Jeema Dellos (Sam Healy), Ghebb Dellos (Nicholas Bishop), Captain Molayne (William Zappa)

This episode features the crew of Moya.

Synopsis: On the Command Carrier Scorpius discovers that some of the equations extracted from John’s neural chip are so strongly encrypted that they cannot be accessed. He inserts the chip into his own head and makes contact with a neural clone of John contained within it. He tells this version of John his life story, explains his motivations, and tries to persuade him to unlock the encrypted equations. The neural clone refuses and the chip is destroyed, but not before Scorpy extracts a few of the equations.

Linfer, one of the scientists helping Scorpius research wormholes, is so convinced that she has cracked the liquefaction problem (‘Losing Time’) that she pilots a test herself. She takes some of Scorpius’s data, flies through a nexus of wormholes and defects to Moya. She offers to give John all her research if he will give her Moya. John wants to accept the deal, telling his shipmates he can use wormholes to get them all home. Unfortunately Linfer’s solution is not as good as she thought—she has only delayed the onset of liquefaction, not prevented it. She leaves Moya in her prowler and blows herself up.

Farscape, Incubator, Linfer

Green T: ‘You ever think we've been on this boat way too long?’ Separated from Aeryn, stuck on Moya, John is becoming obsessed with wormholes and he’s driving everyone else up the wall. He’s had them flying around for 15 days looking for a wormhole that he thinks is out there. Pilot and D’Argo conspire to get him to sleep for 12 arns because he’s spending all his time pacing on the bridge running scans. When Linfer makes her offer he tries to persuade the others to go for it, and he’s angry when they allow Linfer to leave and kill herself. D’Argo turns on him and accuses him of contributing to Zhaan’s death with his selfishness (and he’s right, of course), and later Jool has a go as well, pointing out that he only supports Pilot when Pilot agrees with him. D’Argo none too subtly hints that it’s sexual frustration that’s really getting to John, and John doesn’t disagree. He’s concerned that Scorpius is ahead in the race for wormhole technology, and he’s worried that if Linfer found Moya, Scorpius can too.

Farscape, Incubator, Scorpius

I Was A Teenage Luxan: D’Argo and John are bickering a lot, but D’Argo doesn’t sustain the argument, whereas during the first season he would have tongued everyone unconscious and asserted his command.

Jool In the Crown: Jool takes action, allowing Linfer to leave without telling John, and then giving John a telling off. She also grabs a gun without a hint of complaint and stands with D’Argo and Chiana when Linfer comes aboard. She’s definitely one of the crew now.

Farscape, Incubator, Crichton, Jool

In The Driving Seat: Pilot would never abandon John and Co. but he and Moya both long to voyage into truly uncharted deep space on a mission of pure exploration. If given a free choice, he would probably have chosen to travel with Linfer and leave his current crew behind.

Nosferatu in Rubber: John: ‘Scorpy the teenage hero outwits the Scarrans, makes it look easy. You going for pity or applause?’ This is essentially Scorpy’s episode and we learn the story of his life. A group of Sebacean colonists were travelling in a Leviathan when Scarrans attacked it. Only one couple escaped and made planetfall in a Transport Pod. They were located, whereupon a Scarran killed the male and kidnapped the female, Rylani, who was raped as part of a programme to determine whether Sebacean genetics could be useful to Scarrans. She died giving birth to the only one of 90 such experimental offspring to survive—Scorpius (although this is the name he chose for himself after his escape).

Farscape, Incubator, Scorpius

Born with Sebacean heat delirium, Scorpius was a weak and feeble child whose first 12 cycles were a blur of pain. He was raised on a Dreadnought by a female Scarran named Tauza who tortured and humiliated him in an attempt to make him strong. She told him he was the product of a Sebacean breeding programme, but his ability to detect people’s energy signatures told him she was lying. He escaped and went looking for information about his parents. During this time he developed or acquired a cooling system which he carried on his back and plugged into his head; also this is presumably the period in which he first met Natira.

Eventually he surrendered to a PK ship and gave them all his knowledge of the Scarrans in return for information about his parents. This led him to his mother’s abandoned Transport Pod where Tauza had laid a trap. He was recaptured and tortured, but he managed to kill Tauza and escape. He then joined the Peacekeepers and rose through the ranks until he was given permission to begin his wormhole experiments.

Farscape, Incubator, Scorpius

He does not want power, he wants revenge, and only by developing a superior weapon to prevent the Scarrans overrunning the universe, can he get it. He sees his actions in pursuit of this goal as necessary and unavoidable—he is a man with a mission and will not be diverted from it. This backstory completely changes our view of Scorpius; his motivations are clear, easy to understand and not hard to sympathise with, and he makes a genuine attempt to win neural clone John over to his side simply by telling him the truth.

He can detect the energy signatures of creatures, and these signatures are different for every species (which finally explains how he knew John was an impostor way back on the Gammak Base); they also change when people are lying (which tells us how he knew John was being less than truthful in the same episode). He is surprisingly sentimental—he keeps a flower from Montok 4 in his quarters and strokes it with a wistful smile on his face—who’d have thought it, the great softie.

Farscape, Incubator, Scorpius

A Ship, A Living Ship!: Moya is enjoying scanning for wormholes because it gives her a chance to fly free in space.

World’s Apart: Rylani was born on New Heather and her Transport Pod landed on Montok 4.

Farscape, Incubator, Scorpius

Alien Encounters: Linfer is a Ralgarian, a peaceful race of explorers who travel into deep space on Leviathans. Pilot and Moya trust them implicitly. Once the Scarrans discovered that Sebacean genetics were no use to them they decided to destroy Sebaceans forever. Scorpius claims that they will destroy all races, including humans, until they are the only remaining sentient life form. Female Scarrans have different shaped head to males and like wearing skin tight black PVC—so we can see where Scorpy got his fetish for cute PVC-wearing nurses from. According to Scorpy, the Scarrans' main weakness is hubris. Peacekeepers have Purity Regulations to ensure that no one not of pure Sebacean blood is allowed to join, however Scorpius demonstrates such loyalty that they waive these laws in his case.

Farscape, Incubator, Scorpius, Crichton

Disney On Acid: ‘What am I… Holodeck Crichton?’ neural clone John riffs on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Stats: A Flibisk is a small ten-legged creature that’s good to eat but becomes ratty if prevented from mating. Scorpius tells John that a PK Command Carrier destroyed a Scarran Dreadnought, even though we will soon learn that Dreadnoughts are twice their size. Most wormholes are unstable and contain Rantath Flux variation, which is what is liquidising the PK pilots. Linfer has developed a system of Phase Negative Shield Deployment which, when programmed with the right Phase Progression, should protect against this, but it doesn’t work. She claims the wormhole that brought John from Earth was unusual in that it was stable and therefore didn’t liquefy him—this implies that the wormholes they found earlier this season were also unusually stable. The wormhole Scorpius is studying is part of a nexus of wormholes, one of which exits near Moya—so John was right, there was a wormhole nearby.

Farscape, Incubator, Scorpius

The Verdict: It’s daring to run the risk of making Scorpius sympathetic, but his story is believable and very well realised—the look of young Scorpy, and the pre-PK young man with his coolant backpack, are especially nicely done. His motivations are entirely explained and nagging questions about his abilities are answered. Green T John, meanwhile, is irritable, restless, now knows for certain that Scorpius is alive and in danger of beating him to wormhole technology, and is far and away less sympathetic than Scorpy. It's daring to build up the villain and undercut the bad guy’s likeability to such an extent. It’s a difficult balancing act they’re attempting, but it’s lots of fun to watch. There is also a lot of implied and unsettling horror in this episode which is not directly shown, except Tauza’s marvellously grotesque death, which we get to see in all its gruesomeness.

Farscape, Incubator, Scorpius, Braca

Verdict redux: In a TV landscape dominated by sympathetic monsters —Hannibal, Dexter and Bates are all the rage—it's easy to forget how radical Farscape was in making its chief villain so sympathetic. Wayne Pygram is brilliant in this episode, revelling in the opportunity to show the vulnerable side of Scorpy and really selling it.

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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Colin R
1. Colin R

That you pick homicidal psychopaths to compare Scorpius to is interesting, but I'm not sure that it's quite right. There is a shared obsession, but Scorpius' obsession is not perverse; killing is only a means to him, not an end. His motives are entirely sane and , even sympathetic, as you say. He is not crazy or sociopathic. He is mad, yes, but not madder than any other warrior who rationalizes other peoples' deaths as 'collateral damage'. TV has provided with a lot of great, monstrous characters recently, but those monsters are usually monstrous because their desires or their pride cause them to do terrible, transgressive things. Scorpius' motives are almost pure; he's not looking for personal comfort or glory, and he's willing to do anything, no matter how debasing, to achieve his vengeance.

I don't think they knew exactly what they had when they first introduced Scorpius, and I don't think that it's exaggerating to say that now that they understand that, this really changes the entire course of the show. From the beginning it has been about Crichton's journey. Now Scorpius' inexorable gravity is pulling Crichton off his own path and onto Scorpius. Crichton doesn't know it yet, but once he started orbiting planet Scorpius, there was no chance of him returning home to planet Earth.
Vicki Smith
2. EclecticMayhem
If that flower is a Bird of Paradise then Scorpius' attitude is much more than him being sentimental about his mother. I wonder if their importance to Scarrans and to the story arc was already in place at this point?
Jack Flynn
3. JackofMidworld
A prime example of Lawful Evil; you could even try and make the argument that he's Lawful Neutral, since all the bad things he does aren't for the lulz or to gain personal power but to protect the Sebaceans (the fact that he'd just as soon perform a little Scarran genocide sorta undercuts that argument, though).

Definitely makes him more a shade of gray than his outfit would make us believe.
Colin R
4. Ryan Viergutz
Eclectic: Yeah, I recognized that flower too when I saw it. I have to wonder if its eventual importance was planned and if it was, man, that's some long term thinking, exactly what I'd expect from this show. :D

I thought it was cool that in this episode Braca mentions that "He'll survive. He always survives." He really does... he has all kinds of "how the hell did he survive THAT?" moments.

I tend to wonder if Scorpius's twisted upbringing didn't damage him more than he knows... he says he wants revenge on the Scarrens, but I'm not sure he doesn't want revenge on the whole entire universe.

For pure loonie trivia, Scorpius's nurse in this episode became Kendra Shaw in the remade Galactica. I thought it was derangedly fitting that Scorpius's nurse would be a bloody pilot commando in another guise. :D
Vicki Smith
5. EclecticMayhem
@ Ryan - Yes, the talent behind the show is definitely capable of long-term planning but they're also pretty good at thinking on their feet and pulling ideas out of their backsides when necessary! I'd be interested to know which this was...

The whole thing with the Birds of Paradise also helps explain the difference between the Scarrans as we're first introduced to them (Creature Shop animatronic mask) to the way some of them will eventually look.

I always want to fling myself in front of Crichton and yell "Noooooooo!" when he makes that crack about Birds of Paradise growing 'in mom's garden' during one of the We're So Screwed episodes in S4.

Looking back at these episodes divided between Talyn and Moya I have to salute the Farscape team again on the sheer audacity of it all. It's SO risky but I have to think that we, the audience, are *meant* to be getting as frustrated with Green-T John as his shipmates are, that we're *supposed* to be as dismissive of his struggle to deal with life without his favourite Peacekeeper as Black-T John & Aeryn are being as they get together. Genius!
Christopher Hatton
8. Xopher
I've done that in a different episodic medium, in the form of having a character make a prophecy that I pulled out of my ass, and then having to figure out what it meant and make it come true. Took years sometimes.

But with this show you never know. They could have just put it in for a lark and then decided to make it important...or they could have been planning it this far back. I'd love to know which; at the same time, I love the fact that we DON'T know.
Colin R
9. Sorrowful
Nice seeing so well-tought reviews and comments :). Just saw the entire series a couple weeks ago and on watching it I had memories of having seen episodes here and there when this was on but had zone'd them out; strange how memory -and brain -works.
This particular string of episodes starting from Eat Me to the confluence of the Talyn and Moya crews reminds me of episodes 1 to 8 of Fringe's third season (wont say anything else for fear of being spoilerific).
Anyways, I'll keep reading these reviews (commenting is another matter as I usually have no insights -I'm dull like that :P) for such a great series.
Rob Rater
10. Quasarmodo
Was neural clone John wearing a Greet T as well?
Vicki Smith
11. EclecticMayhem
@Xopher - it makes me laugh that we honestly can't tell whether the Scarran look/Bird of Paradise thing was planned long term or pulled out of someone's butt! There must be something kicking around on some DVD extras somewhere, surely?

I've been trying to remember when we first see a - what does Chiana call them ? a "short face/flat face"? - actor-in-prosthetic-make-up type Scarren and I think it's in S4 (SPOILERS) in I Shrink Therefore I Am. At the time I presumed it was because they'd had problems with the animatronic Scarran heads - maybe they were going to need too many/had decided they weren't expressive enough/were too expensive - so they retconned the Crystherium Utilia stuff in to explain the different looks.

Whether long-planned or improvised - it works. Hats off to Farscape!

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