Wed
Oct 2 2013 2:00pm

Farscape Rewatch: “John Quixote"

Farscape, John Quixote, AerynJohn Quixote
Written by Ben Browder, directed by Tony Tilse
Season 4, episode 7

1st UK Transmission Date: 11 November 2002
1st US Transmission Date: 26 July 2002

Guest Cast: Raelee Hill (Sikozu), Melissa Jaffer (Noranti), Paul Goddard (Stark), Tammy MacIntosh (Jool), Lani Tupu (The Ogre), Rowan Woods (Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan), Alyssa-Jane Cook (Gilina), Virginia Hey (Zhaan)

Synopsis: Chiana buys a virtual reality game which she persuades John to try with her. It turns out to be based upon the memories of Black-T John as absorbed, interpreted, and then sold by Stark.

Farscape, John Quixote, Crichton, Chiana

John and Chi are trapped in a fairytale world, in which familiar characters are represented as warped, monstrous versions of themselves. It transpires that the game is trying to keep John and Chi trapped inside until their bodies die, leaving their consciousnesses stuck in gameworld forever. John is able to decipher the riddles, and he and Chi escape.

Back on Moya, Noranti offers John a drug that will make him stop caring about Aeryn, and the damned fool goes and takes it.

Farscape, John Quixote, Stark

The Man In the Iron Mask: Stark is the POV character this week. The game is based on a mix of Black-T John’s memories and a neural template from Stark. So the game reflects Stark’s view of events and people, portraying them as fundamentally dangerous and insane. He harbours deep seated resentment against John for, as he sees it, causing Zhaan’s death. It will be interesting to see how this revelation affects his relationship with John if their paths ever cross again in the real world.

It is not stated, but it seems likely that the game only goes askew when it realises the real John is playing, and that the secret level he and Chi enter is a trap, possibly created subconsciously by Stark to take revenge for Zhaan’s death should John ever play the game.

Farscape, John Quixote

Stark’s version of himself has hair—he must be insecure about early hair loss, poor lamb.

Big Blue: Of course the real princess is Zhaan, Stark’s lost love. It seems so obvious in retrospect, but it was a great surprise at the time (well, it was in the U.K.—Sci-Fi trailed Virginia Hey’s guest appearance). But before the big reveal we get a male Zhaan, who lives in a camper van in car park and can lactate acid.

Farscape, John Quixote, Chiana, Zhaan

The Ballad Of Aeryn And John: The whole fantasy game revolves around John’s unresolved feelings for Aeryn—his longing for her, his fears that she’s going to leave again. She is the princess he thinks he has to rescue, but in each version, she is involved with another—the ogre in the fairytale, and Scorpius in the Moya level. When John still thinks Moya is real, he tells Aeryn how happy he is to have her back. But by the time he gets back to reality, he’s so screwed up by the way the game made him see the nature and consequences of his own obsession, that when he is offered the chance to anaesthetise his emotions, he jumps at it. What an idiot. Seriously.

Farscape, John Quixote, D'Argo

I Was A Teenage Luxan: D’Argo is Hansel, but instead of being eaten by a witch, he’s got two witches ready for the table. Also: D’Argo in lederhosen. Just... no words.

Farscape, John Quixote, Jool

Scream Queen: Jool is a wicked witch with baked bean for intestines.

Farscape, John Quixote, Crais

The Insane Military Commander: Crais is big ogre with a demanding wife and a bad temper.

Farscape, John Quixote, Chiana

Everyone’s Favourite Little Tralk: Chiana loves the game and plays it well. She and John are such a good team, that the game switches her for a fake just to keep John running round in circles. She’s a nifty swordfighter.

Farscape, John Quixote, Rygel

Buckwheat the Sixteenth: Rygel is the Black Knight from Monty Python and The Holy Grail, and he can shoot fire out of his arse, naturally.

Farscape, John Quixote, Scorpius, Aeryn

Bobblehead: In the real world, Sikozu likes to play chess with Scorpius. He asks her to let him out and although we see them playing through the door, there is later a small problem with that same door—did she try to open it and mess it up?

Farscape, John Quixote, Scorpius, Aeryn

Nosferatu in leather: In the game Scorpius is both Pinocchio and his old, menacing self, taunting John on the Moya level and manipulating Aeryn, much to John’s horror.

Disney on Acid: The references just keep coming—

  • Fairytale riffs: Scorpius/Pinocchio; Scarran/Red Riding Hood; Sheyang/dragon; Aeryn/Rapunzel.

Farscape, John Quixote, Crichton

  • Sci-fi riffs: John’s gameself is a take on Max Headroom, because Ben Browder reckoned that the fake version of John should be a sci-fi character rather than a fairytale one; the lift wants to go sideways, like the lift in Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.
  • Other riffs: The scenes between the princess and the ogre are modelled after Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?; there is a 37 in the wormhole equations that John draws on his cell floor, referencing Cool Hand Luke.

Farscape, John Quixote, Crichton

Seen It All Before: In the game version of Moya, Aeryn has her season three hairstyle, D’Argo is wearing his season three costume, and the scenes in Pilot’s den are a direct rerun of scenes from The Way We Weren’t. In fact the whole Moya level is designed to feel familiar, as they go through the kind of scenario Farscape has done on countless bottle shows.

Backstage: This is Ben Browder’s second script for the show. It was originally intended to slot in before Aeryn returned to Moya and would have served as a re-introduction of the character prior to her genuine re-appearance. When it was moved to episode seven, the episode then had to set up the emotional distance between John and Aeryn that would persist throughout this season.

Farscape, John Quixote, Crichton, Noranti

Despite the script’s wild ambition, no new sets were built for this episode, and it came in on time and under-budget.

Claudia Black is wearing a ¾ wig – the hair at the front is hers, the back is not. Male Zhaan is played by Farscape director Rowan Woods, who shaved his head and had his body hair removed for the role. Virginia Hey wore a skull cap.

Farscape, John Quixote, Crichton, Zhaan

The princess’s comments during the climactic fight were improvised by Claudia Black, who based the accent on an amalgam of Mike Tyson and Wallace Shawn’s character from The Princess Bride. Look closely at the TV that falls on John—it has an image of Aeryn on it.

The original cut was ten minutes longer, and Ben Browder preferred it—he thinks the episode plays better at a slightly less frantic pace.

Farscape, John Quixote, Crichton, Chiana

The Verdict: First time around, I remember feeling that this episode tried too hard to be zany and mad. I didn’t like it much, thinking it a pale imitation of ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again.’ This time, however, I like it a whole lot more.

It’s great fun to see Stark, Crais, Jool, Gilina and Zhaan again, to have references to all the seasons, old episodes, and old villains, like Maldis. But in spite of all the fun, this is an episode with serious intent, showing us our heroes in a more malignant and dangerous light, letting us see them as they must appear to the people they encounter on their adventures, and those who they leave bereaved or broken in their wake. It also works as a deconstruction of John’s love for Aeryn and an exploration of his love, insecurity and paranoia.

Farscape, John Quixote, Crichton, Aeryn


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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7 comments
Colin R
1. Colin R
Kind of fun, but kind of pointless. The fake-out on Moya works fairly well, Claudia Black's princess accent is funny, it is kind of fun to see everyone act so goofy... I don't know why I don't like the episode more. Part of it is probably that, like you said, it is out of order from where it was originally conceived. Nothing about the episode is very revelatory or new, except in the last few minutes. It's Season 4--we know that Crichton is crazy about Aeryn! What we don't understand is why he feels the need to pull back--and I think this episode obfuscates rather than clarifies our understanding of Crichton's thoughts and feelings.

And poor Virginia Hey--she said she was game to come back for Farscape on occasion, but I don't think this is what she had in mind. She didn't even get the good makeup artist.
Colin R
2. lvsxy808
There's a lot of substance in this episode, but it's not presented in an obvious way. Farscape never is. Instead it's made to look silly and frothy and colourful, all to disguise the deep shit that's going down. As the aphorism goes, when Farscape gets wacky or gross, look under the grossness and you'll see what it's really all about.

I personally think you've got the wrong end of the stick regarding your 'Ballad of Aeryn and John' section, or at least that that's not all there is going on there. I can't say more without spoiling half of the rest of the season, and I can't remember if you've seen it already or not.

Likewise to @1: Obfuscating John's feelings is precisely the point, as the rest of season 4 will explain.

FYI, the male Zhaan was the original concept for the character - a big blue Buddha type. It was only changed to a female later on in the process.
Colin R
3. Colin R
Right, but does it obfuscate in a useful way? His statement at the end of the last episode (I trust you with my life not my heart) was way more effective at communicating what Crichton thinks, or wants people to think, than this entire episode does. If you're going to do an episode like this, where it is all taking place in Crichton's head, it should be using that opportunity to, well, get inside his head.

It's not that Farscape hasn't done that effectively before. This isn't an offensive episode like "What Was Lost", and it's more effective than "Revenging Angel". Just wish it was better than it is.
Colin R
4. DavidB
IMO there are many layers to this ep. Some of which I still haven't worked out.
John and taking drugs, definite no, I've never been happy about farscape moving in the world of bondage, drugs, rape and torture. Found it interesting that when he thought it was real, locked up, he was quite happy to kill scorpy with the knife to the head IF he could. Seems like his promise is only every other day.
If this is about Johns head then there are better ways to communicate this.
To me it seems like it was some writers wet dream to confuse the audience..Worked..
Black has a great smile and not too shabby as a blonde :)
Colin R
5. Colin R
Yeah. I'll take one more stab at explaining my feelings here!

The melodramatic crux of Farscape is always about John and Aeryn--and the show succeeds largely because it draws out that tension beyond all reason, even inventing a duplicate Crichton to allow the audience to enjoy John and Aeryn united just long enough that it hurts when it is snatched away again. The yearning and the uncertainty is one of the best parts of the show.

So in this episode they are both indulging in that romantic tension, and trying to draw it out. The problem is that they make Crichton's decision to shut Aeryn out look stupid. Aeryn's reservations about a relationship with Crichton have always made perfect sense--they are part of her background, her character, and her experiences.

But when Crichton starts shutting her out it's not clear why he is doing it. Later on, it does make sense, but for someone who is not aware of what happens in future episodes they will see John indulging in space roofies here, and they just think he's being stupid (like Scott says in the review). At best it seems like he's just trying to get over her. I don't think works to the benefit of the story.
Colin R
6. DavidB
Actually I reckon John had more than enough reasons to dump Aeryn without the obtuse, 'come back to him when she’s got her story straight' line.
When I heard that I thought what the hell does that mean?
I've always been against the whole put them together just to break them up and the whole angst, will they, won't they routine.
It's just a pet peeve of mine.
It seems to me this whole ep was a inner exploration of Johns inner feelings that failed miserably.
Scott K. Andrews
7. ScottKAndrews
Sorry guys, haven't been able to get the next episode done in time - combo of headcold and life stuff. So there'll be a tempoorary delay before 'I Shrink Therefore I Am'. Apologies.

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