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Farscape Rewatch: “PK Tech Girl”

“PK Tech Girl”
Written by Nan Hagan, directed by Tony Tilse
Season 1, Episode 7

1st US Transmission Date: 15 March 1999 (see Backstage)
1st UK Transmission Date: 24 January 2000
1st Australian Transmission: 16 September 2000

Guest Cast: Alyssa-Jane Cook (Gilina Renaez – PK Technician), Derek Amer (Teurac), Phillip Hinton (Voice of Teurac), Peter Astridge (Lomus), Christopher Truswell (Voice of Lomus), Peter Knowles (Evran), David Wheeler (Capt. Selto Durka)

Synopsis: Moya comes across a derelict ship, The Zelbinion, most powerful of all PK ships, lost in battle 100 cycles ago. They board her hoping to salvage weapons or star charts, but the ship has been gutted by Sheyangs. They encounter Gilina, a PK Tech from Crais’s ship. Crais found the Zelbinion and sent her across with a team to investigate its destruction while he continued his hunt for Moya. The Sheyangs killed all her comrades, looted the ship and said they would return for the Defence Shield, which is not badly damaged. The Sheyang ship appears and charges weapons to attack Moya, but D’Argo’s appearance makes them hesitate.

John and Gilina work to get the shield operational and succeed mere seconds before the Sheyang lose patience with D’Argo’s bluffing. There is a spare shield and Gilina agrees to help them install it on Moya. The Sheyangs launch an assault and one of them breaks through the shield and boards The Zelbinion. Aeryn kills him. They broadcast a distress signal to Crais to force the Sheyangs to flee, and Gilina returns to The Zelbinion to wait for pickup.

Buck Rogers Redux: ‘I try to save a life a day. Usually it’s my own.’ John got a doctorate in Cosmic Theory. He had a poster of Clint Eastwood from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly on his bedroom wall.

You Can Be More: ‘Showing pain is a sign of weakness.’ At first Aeryn is extremely hard on Gilina and looks likely to kill her, but after Gilina tells the truth, saves their lives and installs the shield on Moya, they find common ground. Aeryn advises her how to avoid being executed or exiled for having contact with aliens, and even gives Gilina the faintest of smiles. In spite of everything, she still longs to go home, is shocked at the demotion of her unit (following her “contamination”) but refuses to show the pain of the loss she feels, except when speaking to Gilina: ‘I hope you can only ever imagine how horrible it is to never return to the life that you love.’ She grew up entirely on ships like The Zelbinion.

I Was A Teenage Luxan: ‘I spit on your grave, you sons of cowards!’ D’Argo loses his temper with the Sheyangs even before they fire on Moya and it’s his bravado that convinces them not to attack. He resents Zhaan asking him to mislead the enemy, but rises well to the challenge and perhaps learns that some situations are best handled by cunning.

Buckwheat the Sixteenth: Rygel says he was deposed over 130 cycles ago, contradicting what he said in ‘Throne For A Loss.’ The Zelbinion was the first PK ship he ended up on, and he was tortured by its Captain, Durka. He finds what appears to be Durka’s body in his cabin – he shot himself. Rygel spits on the face of his torturer’s corpse and steals back his royal sash and seal.

In The Driving Seat: Pilot and Moya are afraid of fire.

The Insane Military Commander: Although he doesn’t appear, Crais is still hot on Moya’s trail and is close by throughout the episode. He demoted Aeryn’s entire unit and they can only be re-instated upon her death.

A Ship, A Living Ship: Moya’s lack of offensive or defensive capability again lands her in trouble, but now she has a defence shield.

The Ballad Of Aeryn And John: Aeryn catches John and Gilina kissing and is thrown for a loop – she tells John she doesn’t like being ‘ambushed.’ John asks her: ‘haven’t you ever just “clicked” with a guy?’ Her reply changes the nature of their relationship forever: ‘yes, but I didn’t let it… in the beginning I found you interesting… but only for a moment.’ John says it’s good to clear the air, but Aeryn has again shown a small chink in her armour.

Alien Encounters: Sheyangs are a scavenger race who will attack the moment they sense weakness. They can breathe fire. Peacekeepers are, according to Aeryn, hired by other cultures ‘to keep order, to keep harmony’; Rygel says their job is to ‘kidnap, torture and assassinate’.

Disney On Acid: John appears to be telling Gilina the plot of Lethal Weapon 3 before getting sidetracked into describing love stories, which apparently Peacekeepers have as well (this seems unlikely given what we later learn about their breeding habits and the rules against personal attachments of any kind). When D’Argo says The Zelbinion was considered invincible John replies: ‘yeah, well, just ask Leonardo DiCaprio; even the big ones go down.’ (On set Ben Browder ad libbed and changed Leonardo DiCaprio to Bill Clinton, but they made him change it back.)

Get Frelled: John finally gets his Captain Kirk on, although what it is that he and Gilina have about each other’s eyebrows is food for disturbed thought.

What Does This Do? Gilina says that ‘human and Sebacean men are much the same’ and she says that when she’s sitting in his lap and doing a little gentle wriggling, so I wonder what exact similarity she was remarking on….

Logic Leaps: The ship’s been looted first by whoever destroyed it (see 115, ‘SPOILER Returns’) and secondly by the Sheyangs. Yet Rygel found his seal of office just lying in Durka’s room?

Bloopers: When John’s holding the terminals apart, it cuts to Gilina doing rewiring — watch closely and you’ll see that in one shot she’s wearing her jumpsuit, the next just her t-shirt, and then she’s got her jumpsuit on again.

WHAT did you just say?: John’s explanation of humanity to Gilina: ‘Human. It’s kind of like Sebacean, but we haven’t conquered other worlds yet, so we just kick the crap out of each other.’

Stats: The Zelbinion was considered invincible and was famous even on Luxan. Gilina considers it a ‘cultural treasure.’

Time measurement: a Microt is a second.

Backstage: This episode was the first Farscape to air. It was shown as a special preview on SciFi Channel’s sister channel USA Network four days before ‘Premiere’ was shown on SciFi. It is also the first episode filmed solo and not in tandem with another episode, which David Kemper believed heralded a higher level of quality – and he’s right.

Anthony Simcoe: ‘we really found the tone of the show in ep seven; it really was a journey, marching straight towards episode seven and as soon as we hit that episode I feel we all discovered, as a company, what Farscape was.’

Gilina is the first character that David Kemper rescued – she was to die at the end of this episode, but he liked her so much he changed the ending so he could bring her back. Exactly the same thing would later happen with Chiana.

Nan Hagan had sci-fi experience as a writer on season three of Sliders, and would go on to write two episodes each of Dawson’s Creek and JAG. This is her only contribution to Farscape.

This is the first episode directed by Tony Tilse – obviously his work was well received, as he went on to direct 18 more across all four seasons. It certainly looks great, with the location filming for The Zelbinion lending the show a welcome sense of scale.

The Verdict: Moving effortlessly from atmospheric space mystery to romance to action thriller, this is real edge-of-the-seat stuff. Alyssa-Jane Cook is excellent as Gilina and the romance between her and Crichton is moving and believable. The Zelbinion sets are stunning, but the Sheyang are a bit daft, to be honest — they’re well-realised and fun, but still just fire-breathing space frogs at the end of the day. Rygel’s subplot is so underdeveloped and unexplored you wonder why they bothered; happily it turns out to be a set up for future developments. In the end, the love story carries the episode and it’s nice that Gilina doesn’t end up dead in a blaze-of-glory self-sacrifice, which is what would have happened on most shows.

Verdict Redux: I didn’t solicit my wife’s opinion on this episode as her regular snorts of mild derision told me all I needed to know — don’t think she was buying the whole romance angle, nor was she knocked out by the Sheyangs. I’m also somehow less impressed with this episode now than I was initially. Hard to say why, because I vividly remember this was the episode that turned me from enthusiast to fan, and it definitely marks a step change in quality across the board.

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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