We’re So Screwed II – Hot To Katrazi
Written by Carleton Eastlake, directed by Karl Zwicky
Season 4, episode 20
1st UK Transmission Date: 25 February 2003
1st US Transmission Date: 7 March 2003
Guest Cast: Raelee Hill (Sikozu), Melissa Jaffer (Noranti), Rebecca Riggs (Grayza), David Franklin (Braca), Duncan Young (Emperor Staleek), Francesca Buller (War Minister Ahkna), Jason Clarke (Jenek), Jonathan Pasvolsky (Pennoch), David Downer (Vakali), Dean O'Gorman (Zukash), Jason Chong (Rahzaro), John Schwarz (Tugar), Sam Bettison (Grek)
Synopsis: Despite how badly things went last time, Grayza is continuing to negotiate with the Scarrans. This time, she’s brought her Command Carrier to Katrazi and is negotiating directly with Emperor Staleek, still claiming to have wormhole weapons. Ahkna is also there, even though the Emperor knows about her previous negotiation and her attempt to seize power from him by dealing directly with Grayza. Jenek has brought Scorpius to Katrazi, and he is being tortured by Ahkna.
Moya’s crew arrive in Lo’La. John is armed with a nuke tied to his vitals—it will explode if he comes under attack, or dies. Their plan is that he will join the negotiations, offering wormhole tech to the highest bidder; meanwhile the rest of the crew, for whom he’s negotiated freedom of movement, will foment a riot between the Charrids and Kalish, providing a diversion that will allow them to snatch Scorpius and escape.
Surprisingly, the plan works perfectly until a last minute intervention by Scorpius…
Buck Rogers Redux: When John swaggers into the negotiation with a bomb strapped to him, and his best gal at his side (he makes a point of saying ‘and partner’), it’s a real breath of fresh air. After all the darkness and angst, the soul-searching and guilt, he’s got his mojo back, big time. His plan is desperate, grandiose and absurd, but he sells it to the council chamber brilliantly—he just wants to sell out, he says, like any good American. He was arrested in college for, presumably, public indecency.
You Can Be More: When confronted by tortured, captive Scorpius, Aeryn seems all set to start a fight to try and rescue him. She seems genuinely spoiling for a rumble—does she still feel some loyalty to Scorpius in gratitude for his saving her? (It’s possible her antagonism is a response to Ahkna’s attack on John, but she’s looking at Scorpius when she threatens to take the initiative, so I take it that’s her trigger).
The Ballad Of Aeryn And John: They’re together, they have a plan, and all the tension is gone between them. We see a new side of Aeryn here (and how brilliant that Claudia Black is still finding new nuances to the character) as she obviously just really, really digs her sexy, crazy fella. She lets him take the lead, and her every look is adoring in an almost teenage-crush-on-the-bad-boy kind of way, yet oddly it doesn’t diminish her character in any way, which is a very fine balancing act to pull off. They share a lovely romantic dance in the lift and then try to fit in a quickie in the flower cavern. There’s something very Bonnie and Clyde about them—they figure they’re probably doomed, but they’ve rolled the dice and are enjoying the freedom of having no choice but to forge ahead, recklessly. They’ve never seemed more like a couple.
Everyone’s Favourite Little Tralk: Chiana confronts Jenek and knees him in the crotch for planning to have her and Aeryn cut open on the border station, which is pretty, um, ballsy of her.
Buckwheat the Sixteenth: Rygel poses as D’Argo’s boss to mess with the Charrids, which he obviously enjoys.
The Man In The Iron Mask: Apparently plucked by the Scarrans from his new career as a computer game developer, Stark is recruited to torture Scorpius, which he does with great gusto. (Spoiler: it’s not actually Stark, but a bioloid copy.)
Bobblehead: Sikozu’s part of the plan is to foment discord amongst the Kalish, her own people, against the Charrids. Her initial approach is pretty lame—approaching Secretary Vakali and telling him, without any proof, that the Charrids are plotting against them. Luckily his second-in-command, Zukash, is willing to hear Sikozu out. Big reveal—he is a bioloid, and so is she! It is not apparent whether she is the same kind of bioloid as the fake Aeryn, but she can reverse her eyeball, and it explains how she projected heat from her hands at the border station. It seems that bioloids form the backbone of a Kalish resistance movement.
Nosferatu in leather: Scorpius is extremely resilient to torture, but he can’t hold out against Stark’s stykera state. Big reveal—Emperor Staleek is under the impression that Scorpius has been working as a Scarran spy, reporting only to him, for ten years! So Scorpius is a double agent. In order to maintain the cover, he must have passed some juicy info to Staleek over the years (and for the second episode in a row, I’m reminded of Callan). He promises to deliver Crichton to Staleek, and by thwarting his own rescue, it seems he may have kept his promise…
John and Aeryn stage a little performance to convince Scorpius that they will kill him, and it seems he buys it. Scorpius then puts on his own show, pretending to die/pass out in order to delay their escape. When that doesn’t work, he resorts to simply punching them, demonstrating that he’s not nearly as screwed up by the torture as he’s been making out.
Captain lickspittle: He’s still Captain of the Command Carrier, and Grayza still doesn’t know he’s loyal to Scorpius. His intervention is key to Scorpius’ escape—after all, he doesn’t know Scorpius wants to stick around.
Servalan Redux: Grayza has come into the heart of Scarran space to negotiate for peace, despite what happened last time she sat down with the Scarrans. When she talks to John she really does seem sincere in her desire for peace, though whether that is her ultimate goal, or whether a peace deal is merely a means to buy more time to develop wormhole weapons and a decisive advantage, is hard to tell.
She offers John and Aeryn a pardon from the Supreme Council, conditional upon them not sharing wormhole tech with Scarrans. Even though they don’t take the pardons, they remain on the Command Carrier, and are still valid.
Alien Encounters: Scarrans have internal mivonks.
John tries a Scarran ‘delicacy’—the flower Chrystherium Utilia. He says it’s the same as strelitzia, the “bird of paradise flower”, and lets slip that they grow on Earth. He’s going to regret that… There is a cavern at the heart of Katrazi where the flowers grow. It is high security, but the Kalish do not know why.
Stats: John refers to his bomb as ‘Fat Man,’ the name given to the bomb that destroyed Nagasaki in 1945.
Logic Leaps: Do we really buy the Scarrans allowing the crew to wander freely around the base? Surely the negotiations could have taken place just as well with them sequestered.
John being allowed into the same room as the Emperor with a bomb strapped to his waist? That’s the worst security I have ever seen.
Backstage: In a deleted scene, Scorpius wet himself during torture.
The Verdict: Another season ending, and yet again our crew wander into the heart of an enemy base, get the run of it, and raise hell. It’s hard to shake a persistent sense of déjà vu throughout this and the next episode.
Not the most original premise, then, but executed with real flair. My one real niggle is that I don’t really know why John and co. are going to such extreme lengths to rescue Scorpius. Yes, Harvey told John Scorpy knew about wormholes but even if he does, so what? And even if he tells either or both Scarrans and Peacekeepers, so what? John’s said the only thing he cares about is Aeryn, he’s got her, why go off trying to save the universe? Why not just find a nice quiet planet and raise kids? Given the way he’s been acting, that would certainly seem to be where the story arc was taking him—not here.
There are a couple of blinding twists, one that we kind of saw coming (Sikozu’s a what now?) and one that, although telegraphed (now we know how Scorpy knew the code he told Jenek) came out of the blue.
Gripes aside, this is confident, swaggering stuff, with a great dynamic between John and Aeryn that raises the level of fun higher than it’s been in far too long.