A 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.