Wed
Nov 20 2013 3:00pm

Farscape Rewatch: “Terra Firma”

Farscape, Terra Firma, ChianaTerra Firma
Written by Richard Manning, directed by Peter Andrikidis
Season 4, episode 13

1st UK Transmission Date: 6 January 2003
1st US Transmission Date: 17 January 2003

Guest Cast: Raelee Hill (Sikozu), Melissa Jaffer (Noranti), Kent McCord (Jack Crichton), Rebecca Riggs (Commandant Mele-On Grayza), David Franklin (Captain Braca), Murray Bartlett (DK), Geoff Morrell (Holt), Sarah Enright (Olivia Crichton), Katherine Thomas (Laura Kopecki), Erika Heynatz (Caroline Wallace), Amy Salas (Skreeth), Joshua Anderson (Bobby Coleman)

Synopsis: John and the gang arrive on Earth in 2003. While the aliens are kept in luxurious—but secure—confinement, John and Jack lock horns about how to proceed. Although the authorities go public about John’s return and the alien contact, his dad wants to keep the secrets of alien tech for America. After some to and fro, Jack agrees with John and offers to share the aliens and their tech with the world. 

The Skreeth comes to Earth, kills DK and his wife, then tries to kill John. It fails, but it provides a timely reminder of the threat Earth faces, and helps John in his decision to head back through the wormhole, to keep Earth safe.

Farscape, Terra Firma, Crichton, DK

Buck Rogers Redux:  John is adrift in post 9/11 America—he travelled to space for all mankind, but finds that the world is now at war and suspicion and greed are the order of the day. He decides not to tell them the truth about his adventures—afraid that they would think he was a fantasist and lock him away, so he plays his cards close to his chest, doesn’t give anything away. But while he rails at his dad for giving up on the idea of humanity working together, John refuses to do the one practical thing he could do to make that unity a reality—let the world know it is under threat. He offers to bring 500 of the world’s best and brightest for a trip on Moya, but it’s really a ruse to keep the authorities distracted while he plans to escape back through the wormhole.

When his dad finally stands up and backs John’s call for international access, John says there are some things they need to discuss. We never find out what they were—was he going to tell Jack the whole truth? At the end, when Jack asks him to stay, it certainly seems he knows the threat Earth faces. As John walks away from Earth there’s a real sense that he’s a man with a mission—could it be that to protect Earth, he seems to finally accept that he will have to take on the Scarran Empire?

Farscape, Terra Firma, Crichton, Olivia

He asks for a metallurgical analysis of the pod and Lo’la, hoping for a clue to why prowler pilots turns to goo when they go through wormholes but Moya’s crew do not.

John met Caroline six years ago, meaning he only knew her for a couple of years before he left. To Aeryn, she characterises the relationship as fun, not serious. He’s taken completely by surprise at her appearance, and doesn’t seem too enthusiastic about her kisses, but he still allows her to take him away for a quiet weekend alone, the dog.

Farscape, Terra Firma, Crichton, Caroline

John has started keeping a journal. He has a cousin called Bobby. An unfortunate side-effect of the amount this episode has to cram in is that he doesn’t seem terribly bothered by the horrible death of his best friend and his wife.

You Can Be More: Aeryn seems relaxed, happy and fits in just fine until John’s ex appears at the door. After John and Caroline disappear for their dirty weekend she’s insecure and diffident, offering to stay on Moya, feeling out of place and unwelcome. John doesn’t exactly reassure her, but he leaves the choice up to her and she decides to remain on Earth.

Farscape, Terra Firma, Jack, Aeryn

 She takes Jack for a trip to Saturn and they bond. She admits she still has feelings for John but she doubts his feelings for her. Jack reassures her to be patient. She responds by going shopping with Chiana and Olivia and buying a ton of presents for John. Then she goes and talks to Caroline; this scene really helps illustrate the journey she’s been on. She’s non-confrontational, and handles a very difficult conversation with considerable grace. She seems reassured when Caroline tells Aeryn that John still loves her.

On Christmas Eve, she arrives at John’s home, returns Olivia’s clothes and books and forces John to choose—should she stay or should she go. He never gets chance to give her an answer. She finds out about the drugs John’s been taking to help him forget her, and it looks like she finds her anger as a result…

Farscape, Terra Firma, Crichton, Aeryn

I Was A Teenage Luxan: Captain D’Argo oversees the Earth scientists’ examinations of Lo’la and Aeryn’s prowler. He thinks all humans are bigots and is amazed they fight amongst themselves—is civil war unheard of amongst Luxans? That would be odd for such a war-like race.

Farscape, Terra Firma, Chiana

Everyone’s Favourite Little Tralk: Chiana wraps a selection of Christmas presents for Pilot. She’s the first to embrace Earth clothing. She takes a pop at D’Argo for being unable to forgive her indiscretion with Jothee. Surprising—deep down, does she want him back? She can’t resist trying to stir things up at the IASA photo op and has to be shepherded away by D’Argo.

Buckwheat the Sixteenth: He eats. A lot.

Farscape, Terra Firma, Rygel

Grandma, we love you: Like Rygel, she’s ‘in gastro heaven’ eating anything and everything she can get her hands on. Her carol singing is hilariously dreadful—surprisingly so, given her command of English in the preceding episode.

Nosferatu in Leather: Scorpy is willing to blow up his pod in the mouth of the wormhole, sacrificing himself to protect Crichton and Earth from Grayza, if necessary. This seems out of character—surely he’d be better off travelling through the wormhole and collapsing it from the other side the second the Command Carrier appeared. He could escape with Sikozu in the other pod. That way, there’d at least be a chance he and John could return via another wormhole at a later date.

Farscape, Terra Firma, Scorpius, Sikozu

Bobblehead: Sikozu travels through the wormhole on Moya alone. When a shuttle arrives she answers it in English, which she apparently now speaks fluently. Presumably she brought Jack and the others aboard in a pod. She does NOT like them apples. While the rest of the crew seem content to be scanned, sampled and scrutinised, Sikozu is having none of it and flees back to Moya and then through the wormhole to hang with Scorpy. She even offers to die alongside him if Grayza returns to the wormhole and threatens Earth.

Farscape, Terra Firma, Sikozu

Captain Lickspittle: Poor Braca, led to believe he and Grayza have been having epic sex that he can’t remember.

Servalan Redux: Grayza has a device which, when attached to a person’s head, allows her to talk through that person to the Skeeth. She uses Braca, who retains no memory of the process, and then tells him they’ve been having sex. Poor Braca doesn’t know whether he’s… um… forget it. Once she thinks she has a bead on Earth, she gets the ship ready to destroy it entirely—she’s determined to take no chances with a planet full of Crichtons. However, when she realises that Earth is only accessible via a wormhole, she orders the Skreeth to capture Crichton, interrogate and then kill him.

Farscape, Terra Firma, Grayza, Braca

The Verdict: This episode gives us a return to Earth that is less dark but equally as believable as ‘A Human Reaction.’ The plot moves forward in leaps and bounds, taking the show to a whole new level. By episode’s end John is no longer lost, homesick or purposeless—he’s on Moya entirely by choice, and he has a job to do. It changes the very nature of the show and the lead character’s role in an interesting and exciting way.

Farscape, Terra Firma, Aeryn, Caroline

It seems a trifle unfair to pick out particular performances amongst such great work, but this episode contains some of Claudia Black’s best work on the show—subtle, heartfelt and heartbreaking, she really lights up the screen. Kent McCord is fantastic too, especially in the farewell scene, when the façade cracks and the hard old veteran astronaut lets his feelings show.

In many ways this is the bravest episode Farscape ever did, subverting everyone’s expectations that the show would conclude with John’s return, and opting instead for a knottier, more complicated and ultimately more satisfying route.

Farscape, Terra Firma, Crichton, Jack

One of Farscape’s very best.


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7 comments
Colin R
1. Colin R
This is indeed a great episode--great in and of itself, and great in the context of the season and the series. "Going home" has always been Crichton's ultimate goal, but from early on that has always been in tension with being with Aeryn. And it's kind of poetic that his search for a means to return home is itself the catalyst for why he can't really go back--both because the wormhole knowledge itself puts John at risk, and because in searching he forged a new life with friends on Moya. Dorothy can't go home because leaving (and returning) has changed the meaning of 'home'. And of course, the experience is enhanced by the fact that we've seen Crichton's imagined homecoming several times before.

And (apologies for yammering about things that have been discussed before) this is where I see some of the early episodes that were controversial, specifically Crichton Kicks, come together. The dark mood of the season opener fits together with this moody episode, and the threads from that continue on to the end of the season as Crichton has to put back together the pieces of his life and figure out what his future is going to be.

Good stuff that gets to the heart of what makes Farscape work as a series, not just a show with some great episodes.
Keith DeCandido
2. krad
John's utter disinterest in the death of his best friend who helped him build the frelling Farscape One module is a major sticking point for me. The episode is quite brilliant for the most part, but that really sticks in my craw....

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Colin R
3. DavidB
Does anyone know just how long they were on earth?
Granny mentioned something about spending time in the Amazon..
anyway.
major sticking point for me too John friends murder, also the fact a kid can roam about with aliens and record everything with the PTB seizing his camera.
Good EP, good to see him home. usual john Aeryn BS blah blah..
And I always thought it was titanium in the hull that allowed him not to get souped.
Iain Cupples
4. NumberNone
Yeah, the death of DK is a misstep. I was going to say the character (and his wife) are used as a disposable and convenient way of illustrating the danger John brings to the Earth, but in fact their death barely even qualifies for that paper-thin excuse. In fact, the character looks like something that was more heavily featured in an earlier draft, but then got cut to the point where it should probably have been removed altogether. There's just too much else going on. It's not that John doesn't care - it's that the script doesn't allow time for him to react.

But that is the only misstep in what is otherwise an excellent episode.
Colin R
5. Colin R
Sure, I can understand why got cut--it's like why most of Biggs's scenes got cut out of Star Wars. But yes, it's a little jarring that they are killed for effect without much reaction from Crichton.

Oh, and on subversion--not only does the episode subert the expectation that returning to earth is the 'finale', it subverts our expectations of the dilemma they face when they get there. The series has been building the expectation that the crisis will be whether Aeryn wants to stay on Earth with John, but that's not really the problem Crichton has here.
George Brell
6. gbrell
It's in my top five episodes and it's excellent. It's a wonderful inversion of the fish-out-of-water story that has characterized Farscape from the beginning. I also think the social commentary is done in a relatively clever way.

I do agree, however, that DK's (and wife's) death(s) are a mis-step that John never seems to react to. My fan-wave is to assume that we don't see John's reaction because of the jump-cut from the Skreeth getting blown up to "later."
Rob Rater
7. Quasarmodo
I thought the Skreeth killed the sister when it burst into the house, because it did the neck twist thingie on her. I was more than a little surprised to see her stirring afterward. And we got more boob sweat!

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