Wed
Jan 8 2014 4:00pm

Farscape Rewatch: “A Constellation of Doubt"

Farscape, A Constellation of DoubtA Constellation of Doubt
Written David Kemper, directed by Andrew Prowse
Season 4, episode 17

1st UK Transmission Date: 10 February 2003
1st US Transmission Date: 14 February 2003

Guest Cast: Raelee Hill (Sikozu), Melissa Jaffer (Noranti), Nick Tate (R. Wilson Monroe), Sarah Enright (Olivia Crichton), Joshua Anderson (Bobby Coleman)

Synopsis: Moya intercepts a TV broadcast from Earth—a documentary called ‘Alien Visitation.’ John’s family have shared the footage his nephew Bobby shot during Moya’s visit to Earth in an attempt to reassure people and quell alarmist rumours. Using this footage, talking head experts, some interview footage shot with Aeryn during the visit, and an interview with the Sheriff who encountered the crew in ‘Kansas,’ the programme is alarmist and pisses John off no end.

Meanwhile, they’re trying to hunt for Katrazi, the secret Scarran base where Aeryn has been taken. John remembers that one of the alternate versions of Sikozu/Stark that he met in an unrealized reality mentioned it. He then offers Scorpius a deal—he will give him wormholes if Scorpius helps him get Aeryn back.

Farscape, A Constellation of Doubt, Scorpius

John tells Pilot to set a course for the wormhole…

Buck Rogers Redux: John hoped humanity would be more receptive to Moya’s crew, but the documentary depresses the hell out of him and he complains that Earth never gave alien contact a real chance. Missing family is the hardest thing for him, and he admits he’s always waiting for something bad to happen, which is a pretty standard symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder. When he was younger he had a crush on Jill Steiner.

He pulls a gun on Sikozu and accuses her of lying to them all since the moment she arrived. He’s close to losing it entirely when he remembers where he’s heard Katrazi mentioned before; what might have happened had he not remembered? He seems very close to the edge, again.

Farscape, A Constellation of Doubt, Crichton

Then, having spent a whole seasons snorting drugs to prevent Scorpius from realising how he feels about Aeryn, John fesses up and makes a deal with the devil.

You Can Be More: Aeryn gave a TV interview while on Earth. She spoke honestly and plainly, admitting Earth could easily be conquered and enslaved—but the U.S. Government and the UN supressed the interview for six months. She tried to stress the similarities in the way humans and aliens live their lives, but was tripped up by a direct question about whether Sebaceans and Humans could breed.

Farscape, A Constellation of Doubt, Aeryn

I Was A Teenage Luxan: D’Argo walked a fine line between trying to steer Bobby away from glorifying war, and showing him how cool it is to shoot down spaceships and stuff.  He plainly stated Earth could not defend itself against attack—it’s truthful, but was seen by some as an act of psychological warfare. He liked Earth and doesn’t want to watch the show. D’Argo says Earth reminds him of his home 10,000 cycles ago—he doesn’t mean environmentally, but in terms of the character of its civilization. He went on Letterman, but it seems he was the butt of the joke and didn’t realise till afterwards. He foolishly allowed Bobby to badger him into tonguing him unconscious.

Everyone’s Favourite Little Tralk: Chiana made friends with a rat and got terribly upset when it ate rat poison and died. She’s baffled by both the waste and the luxury of Earth life. She feels sorry for John so she gets some of Noranti’s sleeping potion, to try and help him feel better.

Farscape, A Constellation of Doubt, Chiana

Buckwheat the Sixteenth: Rygel thinks humans are simplistic morons, but tried to persuade Pilot not to show John the documentary to spare his feelings. This implies he has his own TV. He thinks Earth’s only real legacy will be as a source of good slaves. Rygel is so depressed by both the documentary and Aeryn’s absence that he asks Chiana to give him the sleeping draught, so he can get some peace. Sugar is used as a poison on Hyneria, but given the effect it has on him I think he means more that it’s used as an illegal narcotic. He wants slaves, gambling and women, and really likes phone sex. Euw. He told Earth that he was still ruler of Hyneria.

Farscape, A Constellation of Doubt, Noranti

Grandma, we love you: Noranti was a kid in a candy store on Earth. She travelled to South America to collect plant samples, but the locals thought she was a witch because of her third eye. She cured a blind boy in Brazil. She likes making potions in full evening dress.  She deplores the violence justified by Earth’s religions, but admits it’s not much different in her neck of the universe.

Farscape, A Constellation of Doubt, Sikozu

Bobblehead: Sikozu is scathing of the interspecies chaos on Earth.

Disney on Acid: Commenting upon Chiana’s attitude towards sex, one commentator says ‘you get more juice from Dawson’s Creek,’ coincidentally the other show I did an episode guide for, back in the day.

Stats: It casts their visit to Earth in a new light, giving us far more information than we previously had. Hey spent a lot longer there than it may have appeared in ‘Terra Firma’; they went on organised trips around the world, appeared on talk shows and generally got out of the house a lot more than we realised. Also, it’s over six months since they returned through the wormhole, which has been covered by only three episodes, two of which took place simultaneously—what have they been doing with themselves?

Farscape, A Constellation of Doubt, Rygel, Chiana

Backstage: This episode contains the final filmed scenes of three of the main cast, and the final filmed scene of Farscape proper. Claudia Black’s last scene is the one where she’s making a sandwich and talking to Bobby; Gigi Edgley’s final scene is the one with Chiana in the bathroom, and knowing this she tried to make it the definitive Chiana scene; and Ben Browder’s last scene—and Farscape’s—is the one where he is talking to Olivia on Moya, being secretly filmed by Bobby. All three scenes are available in full on the DVD/Blu-ray releases. Ben Browder’s final scene is especially interesting as, in character, he lays pretty hard into the countries responsible for co-producing both Farscape the show and the fictional Farscape Project. The Brits are assholes who make unreasonable demands, apparently, which seems to imply there’s little love lost between Henson and the BBC (they’ve patched it all up now, if That Puppet Game Show is anything to go by). The Germans get a pasting, too.

David Kemper and Brian Henson both appear as talking heads in the documentary—Kemper as Mr X, Henson as Prof. Edmund Johnston.

Farscape, A Constellation of Doubt, Sikozu

To people of a certain age, the appearance of Nicholas Hammond as Dr Adrian Walker is a bit of a thrill; he was the first movie Spider-Man. But even more exciting is Moonbase Alpha’s Alan Carter as R. Wilson Monroe.

The Verdict: The accidental interception of entire, crystal-clear documentary from Earth that just happens to be about our heroes is hilariously contrived, but that aside, this is a fantastic episode, with real meat to its portrayal of humanity and tabloid culture.

Farscape, A Constellation of Doubt, Chiana

The documentary is very plausible indeed, managing to present itself as balanced and fair, while building—through innuendo and questions designed to provoke fear—to a xenophobic cry for ‘aggressive quarantine’ should aliens ever return. It’s the kind of documentary The Daily Mail would make.

Of course it’s perfectly calculated to push John, already reeling from Aeryn’s abduction, entirely over the edge and into the arms of Scorpius, whose patience is finally rewarded.

Farscape, A Constellation of Doubt, Aeryn, Bobby

Definitely one of my top ten Farscape episodes, and it continues a run of real quality. Like Season Three, Season Four has really hits its stride in the second half.


Scott K. Andrews has BIG NEWS!

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11 comments
George Brell
1. gbrell
It's probably my favorite episode.

The purpose of speculative fiction is ultimately to tell stories about humanity. You change the drapes, the participants, or even the basic laws of physics, but ultimately you tell a story about how humanity reacts in this new world.

This episode isn't really about the characters, it's about the earth and how we react to the "other" (a topic that is certainly not science fictional). It's also a great dichotomy with Terra Firma since there we saw the in-person reaction and here we see the behind-the-back one.

I think this episode is also really well-positioned in the series as a whole. The series has spent three-plus seasons showing us that the other species in the galaxy are power-hungry, selfish, shallow - they possess every vice that humanity demonstrates. Interestingly, Noranti is the only character to explicitly recognize that Earth is no better or worse than all the other species we've seen.

Tribalism is a thing and what this episode seems to posit is that it nevers go away, the boundaries and borders of who is and isn't one of us just expand, but there is always something beyond the border.

It's also interesting that the final episode suggests that Earth might have begun to unify - that human nature might be malleable.
DavidB
2. DavidB
Complete waste of an episode. That pilot could intercept this interview was laffable. That a young kid could roam about with a cam recording everything alien without security either booting him off the place or confiscating the camera was beyond ridiculous.
I thought that they spent a whole lot longer on earth than it seemed but no-one made that clear on the show. I thought it was only a matter of days they were there.
Side note: I gave John quite severe withdrawal symptoms to the drugs he was snorting. I always though Farscape didn't have consequences
enough. One day snorting drugs ,the next off drugs without any withdrawals?? Yeah right.
John had Sikozu well and truely sussed out. Pulling his gun on her was fairly indicative of that.
As I said all Scorpy had to do was sit back and wait, ingratiate
himself with the crew and John would come to him.
Too much of a critique of earth for me for a space driven series.
It was a long way about to make a deal with Scorpy, find Aeryn and the base she was on.
Do we know if your going to review PK wars as well?
Scott K. Andrews
3. ScottKAndrews
Thanks for commenting - interesting to read two such diametrically opposed views - should probably have realised this would be a marmite episode.

I'll definitely do PK Wars :-)
Iain Cupples
4. NumberNone
It is a fabulous episode, IMHO. Yeah, the setup and some of the dialogue is a little contrived (I was sceptical that Chi, in particular, would be the one remarking on humanity's wastefulness - as someone who enjoys her sensual pleasures, she seems an odd fit for a critique of luxury) but it's the apex of what is, in a way, the series' main thrust - the contrast between Earth and 'alien life'. And it's a turning point for John, of course. That it also includes some of the final scenes filmed adds a certain poignancy.
DavidB
5. Colin R
I don't know if it's one of my favorites, but it's definitely an interesting and worthy episode. Does it add much directly to the current plot? Does Crichton really need extra prompting beyond "Aeryn is competely missing" to turn to Scorpius for help? I think probably not. The tie to the story arc is flimsy--this was just a convenient place to put this episode.

But there's no denying that there's phenomenal character work here that lets us see sides of characters that we wouldn't see otherwise. And it's neat that while Farscape has had an ethos all along, it's only here in the fourth season where it starts to come into full display--that the entire season is re-evaluating what Crichton's journey has become, and where he's going.

Actually I can't even remember the last time I saw an alien encounter in a movie or TV series that is this measured. Like, aliens and humans meet, they talk, they consider their opinions of each other--and they don't even shoot at each other! Even the relatively thoughtful District 9 devolves into shooting.
DavidB
6. Another+
Add another for favorite.

Sure it's emotionally manipulative and budget conserving (but I tend to like bottle eps), but it works really well for me. Also a sucker for Crichton goes crazy(er) eps and could easily be unwatchable mess eps.
Zayne Forehand
7. ShiningArmor
I remember thinking "Why are we taking a break for this?" when I first saw the episode but once I calmed down, I really enjoyed the character work this episode highlighted. I think this episode shows what Farscape does best, a fairly unfiltered look at humanity through alien eyes.
DavidB
8. Joe Ray
One of my favorite episodes as well. This one does one of the things that science fiction does best -- allows us to see our own world from a different perspective, an outsider's perspective. And the parody of a supposedly "fair and balanced" documentary that's obviously designed to lead the viewer to a predetermined conclusion is spot-on. David Kemper at his peak, eeems to me.

And with regard to the comment up thread about John's drug use I'd just like to note that not all drugs are addictive and have withdrawal symptoms. I found the relative lack of a judgmental attitude about John and his drug use refreshing. I hate it when TV shows fall into drug use stereotypes and feel the need to somehow punish characters or send them to rehab for using any drug other than this society's accepted drug of choice, the dangerous and highly addictive drug alcohol. I know they send characters to AA too, but they also routinely show social drinking, as well as occasionally getting shit-faced drunk, as totally acceptable. Why not the occasional use of other drugs, as well?
DavidB
9. lvsxy808
A wonderful episode, so much rewatch value, so many new things to catch each time. I have MANY MANY observations, which will now follow.

There are so many connections between this ep and "Unrealized Reality" - not just plot wise via Sikozu/Stark, but thematically and visually too. In both episodes, we have the "talking heads" sections, in which characters talk directly to the camera to express their opinions on various characters (usually John). In UR it's a technique used by Einstein to explain by example how reality could change if he screws it up. In ACoD, it's done by the Alien Visitation TV show. But it serves the same purpose.

John watches these segments on his TV. Through them, he sees his friends, the people he's travelled with for years (in most cases) twisted and deformed into different people, just thanks to that slight change in perspective. Hear the psychologist or the anchorman or the FBI agent talk about Rygel or D'Argo or Aeryn, and suddenly they're different people, recognizable but... different. Like the bizarro hybrids in UR.

Having that extra layer of intrepretation added in between John and his friends, and between John and the audience aka us, makes it all like a parallel universe all of a sudden. What is real, and what isn't? One of the most common and over-riding themes of the show. Everything we thought we knew can suddenly be completely changed, through the prism of John Crichton. And then the show simply gels everything together, hammers the point home, by tying the plots together at the end with the Sikozu/Stark revelation.

One curious thing right at the end, in Crichton's confrontation with Scorpius, is this line: "You set me up." How could Scorpius possibly have arranged anything to do with Aeryn's capture, or with unrealized realities? Well, in fact this one line crystallizes a subtextual arc that has been going on for the last four episodes.

Go back to "Twice Shy," and watch everything Scorpius does very carefully from that point up to now. In "Twice Shy," there's a scene where Chiana is all over John. She says Aeryn told her they were over, and he replies that he and Aeryn are solid. Who just happenes to be standing in the doorway for no particular reason? Scorpius.

At the end of "Twice Shy," John finally reveals to Aeryn why he's been pushing her away. To demonstrate, he reveals Scorpius' trick with the comms. Scorpius, of course, notices someone trying to shut him out of the comm system. With these two pieces of information, he realises the time has come to make his move. And in the very next episode, he makes it.

It might seem contrived that Macton just happens to be at the training ground at the same time as D'Argo in "Mental As Anything." Of course it's contrived - Scorpius totally arranged it. We know he knows how to contact Macton - he was the one who gave D'Argo that information back in "Lambs to the Slaughter." So he uses that information himself, through back channels so Macton won't know he's involved, and makes sure Macton is there to keep D'Argo occupied.

He also invites the Charrid for the same reason - to keep Rygel occupied. He said in "Infinite Possibilities" that he was aware of the political situation between the Charrids and the Scarrens. So it stands to reason that he would know about the Charrids and the Hynerians too. All of this allows him to have plenty of alone time with John.

But the thing is, none of this is the point. All this training stuff is probably useful and he can certainly convince John, D'Argo and Rygel that it's vital to their survival. But it's all a cover for the real plan, which is to send the girls on their shopping trip to the dead Leviathan.

Is it a coincidence that Aeryn, Sikozu, Chiana and Noranti are on that colony at the same time as Akhna and Grayza? Of course it's not a coincidence - Scorpius arranged the whole thing. He knows full well there's going to be a secret conference there between the PKs and the Scarrens - his spy Braca told him so in "Kansas."

So, with the boys occupied at Katoya's compound, and John unavailable to pull a ridiculous solution out of his ass at the last second, Scorpius knows that Aeryn will very likely do something drastic to disrupt the conference.

Maybe it's sexist, and the women do acquit themselves admirably, but without his, John's and D'Argo's assistance, there's a high likelihood Aeryn will get captured (not killed - both sides know she's the key to Crichton just as much as he does). It doesn't really matter whether it's the PKs or the Scarrens that capture Aeryn. What matters is that Scorpius knows John will do anything, give him anything he wants, to get Aeryn back.

And by the end of "Constellation of Doubt," John has realized this. He has realized that by letting Scorpius onto Moya back in "Promises," it was no longer a matter of if he would get what he wanted. It was only a matter of when. Scorpius is nothing if not patient. John can play his little drug addict games, deny everything he wants, Scorpius isn't fooled. He will get what he wants. And now John has realized this.

"You set me up."

But equally, he doesn't care anymore. Nothing matters but Aeryn.

"...not that I care."

All there, none of it obvious or explicit, but I genuinely believe this is what was happening all through the last four episodes. Watch them again and tell me if I'm wrong.
DavidB
10. Joe Ray
Interesting analysis lvsxy808. I think you may be on to something.
DavidB
11. DavidB
Well writing different endings and episodes for farscape and giving him withdrawals is entirely in my purview. That's what fanfic is for.
Thats why I wrote Scorpy out because I saw exactly what he was doing,
agrees with lvsxy808.
Scorpy was way ahead of John from the get go.
John said something like, "Scorpy is here and looking for the key (which is Areyn and the baby)"
Hate to break it to you John but Scorpy had that figured out wayyyyyyyyyyyy back when.
I mean, John was so slow on the uptake it had me rolling my eyes.
Scorpy had played everyone from the start and thats why I wrote him out for a while.
Good review lvsxy808

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