Written by Rockne S. O’Bannon, directed by Peter Andrikidis
Season 3, Episode 10
1stUS Transmission Date: 6 July 2001
1stUK Transmission Date: 5 November 2001
Guest Cast: Xhalax Sun (Linda Cropper), Vek (Thomas Holesgrove), Thek and Kek (Dominique Sweeney)
This episode features the crew of Talyn.
Synopsis: Talyn is healing on a planet that has heavy gravity and restorative plant life when the Retrieval Squad lands nearby. Xhalax, along with two Colartas, begin hunting for the ship but John, Crais and Aeryn act as decoys and lead them away. There is a fierce firefight in which Xhalax is wounded in the leg, captured by Aeryn and taken to Talyn. Crais is also wounded, but he and John evade the Colartas and run deeper into the jungle. John stakes Crais out, and when the Colartas come for him, John ambushes and kills them.
On Talyn, Xhalax breaks free of her bonds and stabs Rygel, who Stark sews up with restorative plants. She severs Talyn’s higher functions and leaves Stark and Aeryn tied up as she goes to hunt for Crais. Rygel revives and releases Aeryn and Stark. Aeryn, John, Crais, Xhalax and one of the Colartas who survived John’s ambush, meet in the jungle and there is another firefight. The Colartas is killed and Aeryn insists Xhalax must die also; Crais remains behind and we hear the shots as he kills her. Crais revives Talyn by splicing his consciousness with the ship’s, and they fly free.
Black T: John’s distrust of Crais comes to the fore when he realises he’s been lying to them, and when he stakes the Captain out to die, it really looks like he’ll leave him there. When he reveals it was a ploy, and has killed the Colartas, he makes as if to walk away and leave Crais but as Crais points out, it’s in John’s own best interests to keep him alive. He refuses to let Aeryn shoot her own mother, but although he says there’s been too much killing, he doesn’t protest too strongly against Xhalax being killed. The John who let Crais live in ‘That Old Black Magic,’ is gone and has been replaced by a desperate man of expedience who is more willing to let people die. His first girlfriend was called Julie and mazes used to get her hot; he hates them.
You Can Be More: It seems that Xhalax didn’t know she was hunting Aeryn, although she seems to recognise her at first. When she visited Aeryn as a child she was caught and punished for breaking PK rules; she redeemed herself by killing Aeryn’s father, Talyn, who was older and less valuable as a soldier. Aeryn tries to reach Xhalax, to convince her that she is a rebel because her mother made her that way: ‘don't you see? My independence comes from you, anyway. I grew up wanting to be just like a woman I'd only seen once… I am the part of you that wanted to be a rebel, the part of you that knew deep down inside what was right.’ Xhalax is having none of it and calls Aeryn an aberration whose corruption is too far advanced for redemption. Aeryn knows Xhalax must die to ensure Talyn’s safety but she’s distraught at her mother’s death, understandably. With Xhalax dead, Aeryn tells John she ‘was my last connection to the Peacekeepers. All my ties to them are now completely severed.’
Big Blue: When Stark bonded with Rygel to bring him back from death, he says he encountered Zhaan. She seemed contented and said a prayer of Guardianship.
Buckwheat the Sixteenth: Rygel does indeed have three stomachs, and a tiny heart. He can wink. As ever, he’s planning to run out on his shipmates at the first opportunity, but doesn’t get the chance. Even accounting for the restorative plants and Stark’s help, he must be remarkably resilient to survive so severe a stabbing for any amount of time. He actually died for a few microts but was brought back by Stark.
The Man In the Iron Mask: Stark hums when he’s nervous. He sews Rygel up very badly indeed—he actually stiches Rygel’s robes into the wound. He’s absolutely hopeless in a fight, and his tactic for dealing with Xhalax seems to consist of running at her screaming and hoping she flinches.
The Insane Military Commander: Crais knew that a PK Squad would pursue him when he went rogue, so he stole Talyn and bonded himself to the ship in part to force the assistance of John and the others. He knew they’d never raise a finger to help him but they would do anything for Talyn; as he puts it ‘I used all my assets to stay alive, and those assets were you.’ When Crais protests that this is not the only reason he had for helping John and Co. it’s hard not to conclude that his other motive was his plans to get into Aeryn’s leather pants.
Hi, Harvey: John’s subconscious can summon Harvey without John knowing he’s doing it. It’s Harvey who alerts John to Crais’s muddy motivations.
Big Baby: Sleeping in heavy gravity helps Talyn recuperate. With his higher functions severed he is powerless to act, so Crais splices his own neural engrams with Talyn’s, allowing him self-will again. Unfortunately this means that a large part of Crais’s personality now rests in Talyn.
Alien Encounters: Colartas have two hearts and can track by scent and body heat. They act as mercenaries and after nine successful missions they can buy their freedom; one failed missions and the counter resets to zero. Peacekeepers carry a drug for use in combat that can enhance strength and dull pain.
Get Frelled: Aeryn: ‘you were louder than that, believe it or not.’ Black T John and Aeryn are at it and they’re LOUD. Rygel is disgusted that John, who is loudest, sounds like he’s exerting himself, so we can assume the skill of Hynerian nookie is to appear effortless. John enjoys banging the wall and faking, too, just to torment the Dominar. Stark likes to listen so, like Rygel, he’s a bit of a perv.
Stats: Some of the gasses on the planet interfere with PK weapons. Oarusk fruits are acidic and John uses some of their juice to cauterise Crais’s wound.
Logic Leaps: This episode appears to wrap up the Retrieval Squad threat so Talyn can contact Moya again. Given the ease with which Talyn’s located Moya in the past, it’s a bit of a leap that they are not together in the next episode. The Retrieval Squad, which boasts prowlers and a ship strong enough to nearly destroy Talyn, consists solely of Xhalax Sun and three mercenaries? Give me a break, the planet would have been swarming with PK troops.
Bloopers: John uses the Colartas’ tracking device to lead him back to Talyn, but earlier the Colartas didn’t use it to find the ship.
The Verdict: The evolution of Aeryn continues and Claudia Black acts her socks off in an episode that goes right to the heart of the character and shows just how far she’s come, and how far back her rebellious streak goes. The ending is a cop out, though, as no-one believes for a moment that Xhalax is actually dead—if Crais had really shot her it would have been shown on screen, so he spared her, but why? Studio-set forests are always difficult to realise and this one is better than most. It’s great to see Black T John and Aeryn together and so obviously happy, but it does inspire a sense of doom—how long can it last, when’s the other shoe going to drop?
Verdict redux: Not much to add, except to say how much I’m, enjoying the Stark/Rygel double-act this time around.
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.