May 22 2013 3:00pm

Farscape Rewatch: “Scratch ’n’ Sniff"

Farscape, Scratch'n'Sniff, Crichton, D'ArgoScratch 'n' Sniff
Written by Lily Taylor, directed by Tony Tilse
Season 3, Episode 13

1st US Transmission Date: 20 July 2001
1st UK Transmission Date: 24 November 2001

Guest Cast: Jool (Tammy MacIntosh), Raxil (Francesca Buller), Fe'Tor (Tamblyn Lord), Theiadh (Laura Keneally), Mitols (Anthony Martin), Sarl (Milan Keyser), Heska Tinaco (Jaye Paul), Blue Girl (Julia Trappe), Green Girl (Rachel Sheriff)

This episode features the crew of Moya. It takes the form of a tale being told by John to Pilot and as such may or may not be a complete lie on John’s part.

Synopsis: Pilot throws John and D’Argo off the ship because they bicker constantly. They and the girls they head to a pleasure planet, LoMo. At a bar, John and D’Argo are picked up by two girls who spike their drinks and steal their money. Jool and Chiana leave with local hotshot Fe’Tor.

The next morning, heavy with hangovers, John and D’Argo meet Raxil, a female alien who was at the bar the previous night. She claims that Fe’Tor is big trouble, and takes them to a creature who can show them pictures of what happened in the bar last night. They see Fe’Tor giving Chi a hit of some smelly drug called Freslin.

Farscape, Scratch'n'Sniff, Jool, D'Argo

D’Argo goes to Fe’Tor’s house and breaks in but finds Chi and Jool drugged up, blissed out and unwilling to leave. Fe’Tor’s guards throw him out. Raxil reveals that Freslin is a drug milked from the glands of people. Fe’Tor is the local producer and sometimes he milks people till they die. Back at the house, Fe’Tor hooks Jool up to the milking machine and begins to extract Freslin.

It turns out that Raxil paid the two girls to distract John and D’Argo at the bar so that Fe’Tor could capture Jool and Chi—she’s heard of their exploits and is hoping that when they rescue their shipmates they will rescue her mate, who is also being held captive in Fe’Tor’s house.

Fe’Tor calls an auction to sell Chiana, whose Freslin is particularly high quality. John and a disguised D’Argo enter the auction but John is outbid. John shoots out the lights and rescues Chi while D’Argo and Raxil storm the milking room and disconnect Jool. Raxil’s mate is there and he is dead, but she has one more trick up her sleeve—he stole the milking machine from her and she was really using John and D’Argo to get in there so she could remove the program chip from the machine and set up in Freslin production herself. She runs off with the chip, happy that her convoluted plan has worked.

Farscape, Scratch'n'Sniff, Fe'Tor

Fe’Tor fights John, but Chiana douses him in Freslin and then pours it down his throat, killing him.

Back on Moya, John explains that he and D’Argo can’t return to LoMo because they’d be arrested, but Pilot refuses to believe John’s tale, takes them to an industrial planet, and throws them off the ship for another eight days.

Green T: ‘It's a weird universe out there, man.’ Is John just making it all up? Who knows, chances are it’s partly true. He and D’Argo bicker almost constantly, like children in a schoolyard. His first worry when he wakes up after being ripped off is that he’s lost his pulse pistol—he’s come to rely on it so much he feels naked without it. We get to see John in thigh-high stockings, which causes women all across the world to swoon, and producers to add Ben Browder to their list of possible actors to play Frank N. Furter in their next production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Farscape, Scratch'n'Sniff, Crichton, D'Argo

I Was A Teenage Luxan: ‘I am a full-blooded Luxan, and ladies I have so much cash in my pocket that I can assure you that the three of us will be out of here on our hands and knees come sunrise tomorrow morning.’ It was D’Argo’s idea to come to LoMo, implying that he finally persuaded John to accept the need for shore leave. When he’s on Freslin, he dances like crazy and does the funky chicken.

Everyone’s Favourite Little Tralk: Chiana can twirl fire balls on chains so fast that she can render a viewer unconscious. She’s become quite protective of Jool, promising to take her back to Moya if she passes out, and anxiously trying to find her when she suspects something is wrong at Fe’Tor’s house. Her visions of the future are becoming more specific—she removes John’s night vision goggles just before he is punched in the face, but she knew his neck would be fine. She produces particularly fine Freslin. Once again she proves ruthless and vengeful—she kills Fe’Tor and enjoys doing it.

Farscape, Scratch'n'Sniff, Chiana

Jool In the Crown: Jool can do acrobatics, likes to drink effervescent alcohol, can get drunk, likes to dance (especially with Chiana!), enjoys bubble baths, and is only in the bar for a short time before she’s been pegged by fellow drinkers as ‘annoying.’ Her com badge is melted around the edges from when she screams.

In The Driving Seat: Pilot is so sick and tired of John and D’Argo arguing that he throws them off the ship, refuses to believe John’s explanation of events on LoMo, and then dumps them on an industrial planet as punishment. John asks how long they’ve known each other and Pilot replies ‘approximately two and a half loooooong cycles,’ but he accedes that John has never lied to him before.

Farscape, Scratch'n'Sniff, Crichton, Pilot

Hi, Harvey: When D’Argo and John are using the Hangi to scope out the Auction Room, Harvey is able to meet and interact with D’Argo. He asks the Luxan to give him five, hands out very useful information indeed on the layout of the complex (how did he know this?), and camps it up for all he’s worth. John calls him a Pooka, which is the type of spirit in the original film Harvey.

A Ship, A Living Ship!: Pilot isn’t the only one sick of John and D’Argo’s bickering—Moya too wants a few days peace and quiet.

Farscape, Scratch'n'Sniff, Crichton, Chiana

The Ballad of Chiana And D’Argo: Although D’Argo and Chi aren’t together anymore—a point she raises when telling him to leave her alone at Fe’Tor’s house—he gets very jealous indeed when John manhandles Chi on the auction stage (although this is in part due to the Freslin he's metabolising.)

World’s Apart: LoMo is renowned as a pleasure planet and it boasts lovely beaches. Officially no weapons are allowed on the planet, although Fe’Tor’s men have guns. It is close to an industrial world that has accommodation for visitors.

Alien Encounters: Hangis have removable eyes that continue to send signals back to them which they can record. Stick a Hangi’s tentacle into your eye and you can experience the recording as 3D visions with surround sound.

Disney On Acid: John calls D’Argo Lassie and refers to Raxil and the Hangi as Ren and Stimpy.

Farscape, Scratch'n'Sniff, Crichton, D'Argo

Get Frelled: You’ve got to reckon that Jool and Chiana got up to all sorts of mischief during their drugged up night at Fe’Tor’s. We don’t know how far John and D’Argo got with the feathered girls but D’Argo claims there were ‘breasts; blue breasts, green breasts, I don't know.’ Chi and Jool dancing together was not a little suggestive.

What Does This Do?: The senal gland of most sentient creatures produces a chemical called Freslin which is a powerful aphrodisiac, attractant and, um, disguise!

Farscape, Scratch'n'Sniff, Raxil, D'Argo

Stats: Brandar tiles are acceptable currency on LoMo. John and D’Argo have plenty of them, presumably from the Shadow Depository raid.

Seen It All Before: This episode riffs on the movie Swingers and stylistically it owes a lot to the marvellous and criminally short-lived series Good Vs Evil. Fe’Tor is reputed to have the finest nose around, and he tells Chi that she ‘smells exotic’; shades of Patrick Susskind’s book Perfume.

Farscape, Scratch'n'Sniff, Chiana

Logic Leaps: Cunningly, any things which may appear to defy logic are accounted for by the script and in some cases are even specifically mentioned—to wit the amount of liquid drained from Jool; the daft idea that Freslin can also be used to disguise a person etc. Pilot even says: ‘I don't believe you… too many inconsistencies, too much obfuscation.’ One leap that isn’t addressed though, is the way the Hangi’s eyes work—Raxil says its optic nerves record images and transmit them back to the body, but when John and D’Argo see the recording they hear sound as well, so the Hangi can see sound!?

Bloopers: When Jool screams we can see Tammy MacIntosh’s fillings.

WHAT did you just say?: Raxil on John: ‘You're not very smart, are you? Now he (D’Argo), he's got a brain. But you, you're a bit of an idiot.’

Farscape, Scratch'n'Sniff, Crichton

Guest Stars: Welcome back Francesca Buller, for the third time. Tamblyn Lord was a regular on The Law Of The Land. Laura Keneally appeared in Dark City. Richard Carter has appeared in Babe: Pig In the City, and Muriel’s Wedding amongst other film and TV appearances.

Backstage: The BBC in the U.K. realised that if they were to cut this episode to fit the normal Farscape 6:45pm timeslot there’d be nothing left to broadcast, so they showed it at 11:20 pm instead. When Raxil shouts at the guys for bringing ‘two little weapons that wouldn't kill a Negnec’ there is a split second flash of a squeaking, blobby creature with an eye; this is a shot of the Boolite taken from ‘Fractures’. Gigi Edgley did her own fire twirling, she is also sporting a new wig in this episode.

Farscape, Scratch'n'Sniff, Crichton, D'Argo

The Verdict: Amazing, it just doesn’t get much better than this. The jump cuts, the insane editing, the music, the colour, the s&m costumes, the drugs, the drink, the sex, the gun fight—this episode oozes style, confidence, class and wit from every pore. All this, plus Fran Buller’s hilarious turn as Raxil, makes this episode as close to perfect as TV gets.

Verdict Redux: If you held Wynonna to my head and made me choose a favourite Farscape episode, this would probably win out because it's about as extreme as the show can get and is thus the perfect example of how uniquely off-kilter Farscape was. Sure, you can argue it tries a bit too hard,  and I'm sure some people find its gimmicky excess soon becomes tiresome, but for my money, this is the good shit.

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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1. Blend
Just a quick note to tell you that your link to the full post is not actually a link. We can still access the full post by clicking on the title, but yeah, just thought I'd give a heads up!
2. Fenric25
I have to say, when I first watched Farscape, I found this episode to be enormously off-putting and one of my least favorite episodes of the series, it was just too strange for me. I watched many Farscape episodes more than once but this was not one of them. As I was a teenager then and haven't seen the full series since the early 2000s, I am going to have to give it another chance when I finally get around to a full series re-watch, see if it's as good as your review makes it out to be. Could be I just have different tastes (I note, for one, that you more or less seem to like Jool whereas I never really got the point of her and only found her to be okay in a few episodes, extremely annoying in all the others.)
3. Colin R
I recall finding this episode a little off-putting when I first saw it. The second time around I couldn't really remember why. It tries a little too hard, but it's mostly a lot of fun.

What struck me the second time was how unsettling it all was though, even when it was funny. This feels like friendships disintegrating, not with a bang but with a slow fizzle. Now if only Revenging Angel was a worthy companion to this episode. And if only all the Chiana build-up had some sort of payoff.
Rob Rater
4. Quasarmodo
But if John made it all up, is it still the best episode?
5. Colin R
One of the fun bits I remember from the commentary is that Gigi Edgley is a fire-twirler, so that's really her doing it.
6. lalo
Ahh I miss Good vs. Evil--I wish that had lasted longer (as well as War Next Door, but well). This is my dad's favorite episode--the first time we watched it he was pretty drugged up because of his pneumonia and thought that Jool had mysteriously turned into a boy. The second time we watched it (some 5 years and non-medicated time later) he said he thought he had hallucinated John in thigh-highs XD
Keith DeCandido
7. krad
Obligatory comics note: I did a kind-of followup to this episode in the miniseries D'Argo's Quest, which is available as a trade paperback, in which D'Argo meets back up with Raxil during his quest to find Macton between the third and fourth seasons.

And I gotta say, writing Raxil was more fun than should be legal.....

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
8. ad
I don't think I would like too many more episodes like this, but as a one off, I really liked it.

Of course, it is also a light-hearted look in some very unpleasant directions...
Iain Cupples
9. NumberNone
Oh, I think there are a couple of other episodes that challenge for the title of 'as extreme as the show can get', and certainly for 'a perfect example of how uniquely off-kilter Farscape was'. But that's what I love about the show: its confidence. It takes real self-assurance to do one episode like this, let alone a handful, and even more to then go back to the 'serious' plot, to blend them into the series as if it were nothing out of the ordinary.
Vicki Smith
10. EclecticMayhem
Count me in with those who were a wee bit nonplussed by this episode when it first aired. The juddery editing irritated, the subject matter was uncomfortable and I just wanted to get back to Talyn.

Watching again the subject matter of Jool and Chiana being drugged and abused is STILL a really grim place to go in amongst all the funny/crazy stuff but I recognise the purpose (the show is going to get very, VERY grim both in the immediate future and further ahead into S4) and appreciate it more now.
11. Ryan Viergutz
Okay that does it I'm going to have to watch the heck out of this show again. I /thought/ that Harvey and D'Argo talked. You gotta admire that, amid the disturbing and the madness, the voice in John's head actually wanders out and talks to somebody else. O_O

John in the thigh highs is one of the most messed up intros I've seen. What a glorious way to set the stage for this episode.
12. RinnicBob
Perverse and very daring, for the time it was aired. Consider where some shows have gone of late and then recall that this was first aired in '01. This episode is one of the reasons Farscape was so eminently watchable and has such a loyal fanbase. Yes, it's weird and difficult at times and disturbingly funny, or funnily disturbing depending on your point of view, but that's the true genius of the show. It never shied away from this kind of fractured fairy tale. You've gotta love that.
marmot smith
14. marmot.smith
This was a fun little episode. Very daring for general consumption but not at all offputting to me. That's to say the sexual themes of cross dressing, bondage, bondage furniture, humilation or domination. Those things are not at all new to human history but were generally underground and not explored on science fiction television then. Wait... who am I kidding? Farscape had to compete on weird with Lexx in the same era.
The thing that made me hate the episode the first couple viewings is that it wasn't science fiction. They had crossed over, yet again, into fantasy. No drug can make person completely change facial struction, coloration and even change the clothing instantly. Nanites could accomplish it over some period or it could have been holographic but the way they pulled it off it was just woo-ee, woo. The pheromone extraction being used as a drug and the bio-engineered critter with eye attachments were imaginative technology creations but my hard sci-fi hackles were raised in major parts of this episode.
Still great fun after the third viewing and it shows that there are pervs both in the Farscape writing community and the fan base.
15. M.W.
Pilots have to choose between staying home and a reduced lifespan inside a Leviathan, so OF COURSE Pilot thinks the Hangi are mythical-- they can go wherever they like and never have to leave home!

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