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Farscape Rewatch: “Durka Returns”

Before we kick off this week’s rewatch, a big apology for missing last week’s installment. I had a sinus infection and was so full of drugs that I didn’t even realise I’d missed the rewatch until Thursday—which gives you some idea of how out of it I was. Apologies. Onward!

“Durka Returns”
Season 1, Episode 15

1st US Transmission Date: 13 August 1999
1st UK Transmission Date: 27 March 2000
1st Australian Transmission: 2 December 2000

Guest Cast: Gigi Edgley (Chiana), David Wheeler (Captain Selto Durka), Tiriel Mora (Salis)

Synopsis: Moya collides with another ship and is forced to take it on board. There are three occupants – a Nebari man named Salis, a Nebari girl named Chiana, and Durka, the ex-captain of the Zelbinion and the torturer of Rygel (“PK Tech Girl“). They wait on Moya for a Nebari craft that is on its way to collect them.

Durka admits that he faked his own death on the Zelbinion (which explains the body Rygel found in “PK Tech”) and fled in an escape pod, leaving his crew to die. Chiana is being taken back to Nebari for mind cleansing and is locked up at Salis’s request. Durka has already been cleansed and is now a nice guy. Nonetheless, Rygel wants him dead.

Rygel rolls a bomb into the room where Durka is, not knowing John is in there too. Luckily Rygel mixed the bomb’s ingredients badly and it doesn’t kill them, but it does break Durka’s conditioning, unbeknownst to anyone but Rygel. The crew tie Rygel up and leave him in his quarters.

Meanwhile, Chiana escapes and Salis is found dead.

Durka knows that if they rendezvous with a Nebari vessel he will be re-cleansed, so he seizes Moya’s flight deck and holds Aeryn and Rygel prisoner. Durka tells the crew that unless they release the StarBurst controls, he will torture Aeryn and Rygel, but he discovers that Moya cannot StarBurst for some time because of her pregnancy. He decides to abort the child.

John and Chiana join forces and she lures Durka into a trap, but it doesn’t work and he goes to his damaged ship, intending to shoot Moya’s midsection and thus abort the child. John manages to use Rygel’s explosives properly, and blows Durka’s ship out of the airlock and damages it, leaving Durka floating helplessly in the ship waiting to be picked up by the Nebari and re-cleansed.

Chiana stays aboard. (YAY!)

You Can Be More: Aeryn initially regards Durka as a hero, having been taught about all his great achievements.

Big Blue: Zhaan is continuing to be prickly and difficult to handle. She’s full of barely concealed anger and tension, and is more than willing to have a go at Salis for his repressive views.

Buckwheat the Sixteenth: Rygel goes totally nuts upon seeing Durka and loses it to the extent that he sets off a bomb in Moya without checking whether any of his friends are around. He has a bomb-making kit in his quarters, but he doesn’t know how to mix the bombs properly. When Chiana tries to do a deal with him, he plays along and then instantly double-crosses her, presumably hoping she’ll run off, distract the others and leave him free to kill Durka. Unfortunately she stops to tie him up again first.

He’s very impressive when held hostage by Durka: ‘you are pathetic… You tortured me without mercy, but you never broke me, you only made me stronger. And even if you kill me, I’ll be laughing at you because the last thing I’ll think of is you on Nebari Prime for another 100 cycles being ground back down into nothing.’ He’s very proud at having beaten Durka at his own game but, as Aeryn points out, this means he compared himself to a Peacekeeper.

Your Favourite Little Tralk: ‘I left the half-dead sanctimoniousness of my planet the first chance that I got!’ Welcome Chiana, a black and white character in a colourful show. At first she’s presented as a villain, but when we discover that she’s going to be mind-cleansed for being a bit of a tearaway, she gains our sympathy.

She’s very good at hiding, managing to avoid Moya’s internal sensors, and she’s able to crack door locks and release herself from handcuffs and a control collar, so she’s a slippery customer. When she can’t talk her way out of a situation, she will use her considerable sex appeal to try and get her way. She’s unaccustomed to trusting people and only allies herself with John when he convinces her that it’s her best chance of survival. She’s entirely mercenary and will always cut a deal to save her own skin.

She may or may not have killed before, and she almost certainly killed Salis.

A Ship, A Living Ship: Moya’s pregnancy is continuing to cause problems – first she StarBurst unpredictably, now she can’t StarBurst at all. As Zhaan points out ‘now I understand why the Peacekeepers tried to prevent this pregnancy.’

Alien Encounters: Chiana: ‘Among my people you conform.’ The Nebari, from Nebari-Prime, are a hugely powerful race – they have no war ships but one of their standard class host vessels engaged and destroyed the Zelbinion, the most formidable ship in the PK fleet. Theirs is a culture of bland uniformity—dissension and freethinking of any sort are forbidden. They mind-cleanse anybody they disapprove of, and Salis makes it clear that he’d like to cleanse Rygel and Zhaan. Had they met with the host vessel, it seems likely that Salis would have had his way.

Disney On Acid: ‘Durka’s gone all Hannibal Lecter on us’ says John, but Chiana just replies ‘I don’t know what that means.’

Get Frelled: When John is holding down Chiana and trying to persuade her to help him the sexual tension is through the roof… could Aeryn have competition?

Logic Leaps: Durka manages to cut his own hair extremely well using only a sharp knife. Obviously his bad attitude is because he missed his calling in life and he secretly longs to spend his days in a posh salon with a pair of scissors. And why does he wear an eye patch at the start and not after he’s restored? (Shades of Guy Crayford, Doctor Who fans). John tells Chiana that they only have food cubes, yet they collected tons of the plant/animal food in 113 and lots of fresh fruit and veg in 114, so Moya’s holds should be cram full of tasties.

Guest Stars: Tiriel Mora appeared in Queen Of the Damned with Claudia Black.

Backstage: The shot that wings Chiana was originally intended to kill her, but David Kemper decided he liked the character and kept her around for a while on a trial basis to see if she worked.

Her accent was the cause of confusion as Gigi Edgley explains: ‘originally I was a mid-Atlantic American alien, and the Australian producers wanted an Australian alien… by the end of series one, they decided they wanted her back in American, so we dubbed over as many scenes as we could to try to meet their needs but there are still a few Australian bits coming out here and there.’

Chiana’s exaggerated and stylised movements are all Gigi Edgley’s invention, but the contact lenses she wears enforce tunnel vision, which cause her to move her head more than would be normal.

This is the first of Grant McAloon’s four scripts for Farscape, and the third of Tony Tilse’s 19 episodes behind the camera.

The Verdict: Tony Tilse’s trippy, slow-mo, slightly distorted direction adds extra tension and weirdness to an already tense script which puts the crew in real jeopardy and provides an excellent introduction for Chiana. Durka is occasionally a bit too mannered, but he’s nicely malicious. The climax is ambitious and exciting but a bit confused, and seems to be a set up for Durka’s inevitable return. So with Crais, Mortis and Durka out there, all with grudges against Crichton, he’s fast amassing a little army of bad guys out for his blood.

Verdict Redux: Fab. With Chiana on board now the cast is properly complete and it feels like Farscape can kick up a notch. She adds the extra dynamic that really makes the show work. Although the production crew do like to keep throwing new characters into the mix whenever things aboard Moya risk becoming slightly too cosy, from memory I’d say Chiana is the only time they do this with total success—though I reserve the right to change my opinion as we progress.

Scott K. Andrews no longer has a sinus infection and so is marginally less physically disgusting than he was a week ago, when he was just gross, man!


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