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Farscape Rewatch: “Family Ties”

Family Ties
Written by David Kemper and Rockne S. O’Bannon, directed by Tony Tilse
Season 1, Episode 22

1st US Transmission Date: 28 January 2000
1st UK Transmission Date: 5 June 2000
1st Australian Transmission: 27 January 2001

Guest Cast: Lani Tupu  (Capt. Bialar Crais), Wayne Pygram (Scorpius), David Franklin (Lt. Braca)

‘You remember the day I left? You told me that every man has a chance to become his own kind of hero. Well, I don’t think I’ll be coming home, so I won’t get that ticker tape parade, and I doubt that I’ll have kids, so I won’t get the chance to be a hero to them, but I think I know what you meant.’

Synopsis: Moya is still trapped in the asteroid field. Rygel takes a transport pod to the Command Carrier and tries to sell out his shipmates. Scorpius indulges him but gives orders for him to be killed as soon as Crichton is captured. Crais, now persona non grata on his own ship, allies himself with Rygel and persuades Scorpius to let him go to Moya and persuade them to surrender. In fact, he defects and asks Moya’s crew for asylum and sanctuary, which they give him – perhaps too amazed to do otherwise.

Farscape, Family Ties

Moya could StarBurst to freedom, but won’t leave her baby – which Aeryn christens Talyn, after her father. D’Argo and John fill a transport pod with explosives and fly it into the oil-covered moon which houses Scorpius’ Gammak Base. Scorpius follows the pod to recapture Crichton. John and D’Argo bail out. The plan is for Aeryn to collect them in her prowler and return them safely to Moya who will then StarBurst away with Talyn.

The moon catches fire and the Gammak Base is entirely destroyed. Unfortunately Aeryn cannot get to John and D’Argo without being spotted by other prowlers, and Crais steals Talyn and takes off into the asteroid field, leaving Moya to StarBurst alone. John and D’Argo are left floating in space, D’Argo is dying, Aeryn can’t reach them, and even if she does Moya has gone, perhaps for good.

Buck Rogers Redux: ‘I can tell you this for free—I will not be taken alive.’ It’s John’s idea to pilot a transport pod into the Command Carrier, in effect a kamikaze run, and unless D’Argo had suggested the alternate plan he probably would have gone ahead with it. He calls Rygel a ‘soulless bastard,’ but still forgives him his selfishness. He tells Crais that he’s ‘desperate for human male to male conversation’ about ‘cars and football,’ but his rapport with D’Argo has never been stronger – they crack jokes at each other even as they fly to almost certain death, and John tells him ‘I love hangin’ with you, man.’ He manages to resist Chiana’s come on, which was the right thing to do, but must have required superhuman self-control.

Farscape, Family Ties

You Can Be More: ‘When I was very young, one night a soldier appeared at my bunk. Battle-hardened, scarred… my mother. She told me I wasn’t merely an accident, or a genetic birthing to fill the ranks, that she and a male that she had cared about had chosen to yield a life – mine.’ Aeryn actually cries because she’s so honoured by Moya’s decision to let her name the baby. She never thought she would live as long as she has, and is withering of D’Argo and John’s macho determination to go down fighting: ‘just to be in the warm glow of all this testosterone.’ She is reluctant to stay on Moya, but accepts that she’s the one with the strongest bond to Talyn. She’s incandescent with fury when Crais steals the child.

Big Blue: ‘The instant I committed murder, I sacrificed my right to exist. Since then, I view every microt as a generous yet undeserved gift from the goddess.’ Zhaan, chief anarchist, is the one who comes up with the explosive that John and D’Argo use, again harking back to her revolutionary past. She tells John that the crew of Moya are now her family; John agrees: ‘well, it’s a Jerry Springer kind of family, but for what it’s worth, Zhaan, you are family.’ Happily Zhaan does not respond by chanting ‘Je-rry! Je-rry!’ and we don’t get a closing thought from Rygel.

Farscape, Family Ties

I Was A Teenage Luxan: ‘Fear accompanies the possibility of death. Calm shepherds its certainty.’ D’Argo takes great satisfaction in kicking the hell out of Crais for keeping him locked up. He insists on piloting the transport pod with the explosives, and leaves the holo-image of his wife and child with Zhaan. He is certain he will die, but goes to his death without hesitation. He always thought he’d live longer than this. He reveals that he has become fond of Chiana.

Buckwheat the Sixteenth: ‘I am a Dominar of action!’ Rygel tries to sell out his shipmates for his freedom, but realises he’s overplayed his hand and returns to Moya with Crais. But he is unrepentant and when Zhaan says ‘you went there to sell us out’ he calmly replies ‘you bet your shiny blue ass I did!’ He’s lucky they don’t kill him on the spot. John leaves Rygel his stuff if he dies. Rygel admits his selfishness, but seems grateful for John’s forgiveness. At the end he talks about abandoning John, Aeryn and D’Argo, but when it comes to the crunch he suddenly refuses to do so, proving that he’s not really as self-serving as he appears… sometimes. John loses all control of his nickname compulsion and calls Rygel ‘Sparky, Spanky, Fluffy, Buckwheat the Sixteenth.’ When he’s bathing… is that a tail?

Farscape, Family Ties

Your Favourite Little Tralk: ‘Don’t tell me how to lie, it’s one of the best things I do!’ D’Argo wants Chiana to play prisoner and pretend that she was forced to help them in 119 and 120, but she refuses, preferring to rely on her wits and charm. She shows her appreciation for her crewmates by cooking them all their favourite dishes as a farewell meal.

The Insane Military Commander: ‘I thought it was about my brother. It should’ve been about my brother. Somewhere along the way my priorities decayed.’ Crais keeps severed Hynerian heads in his office as trophies. He realises he’s lost his ship to Scorpius, but his decision to defect to Moya is hugely risky. He knew that D’Argo was innocent of Lo’Laan’s murder (110, ‘They’ve Got A Secret‘) but kept him locked up anyway because it requires a tribunal to overturn a murder conviction. He apologises to Crichton for his pursuit of him, which is another massive character shift, and agrees to advise and help Moya’s crew. But when he sees an opportunity to flee in Talyn he takes it – it’s love at first sight for him, that ship is everything he’s ever wanted and he grabs it with both hands. His final message to Aeryn hints that he is secretly attracted to her. He has been officially designated ‘irreversibly contaminated’ and can never return to the Peacekeepers.

Farscape, Family Ties

The Other Insane Military Commander: ‘I cannot risk killing the knowledge that [Crichton] possesses and he knows that.’ Scorpius has sent M’Lee (121, ‘Bone To Be Wild‘) off in a transport, but the security guard he assigned to guard her has vanished. Hope he was crunchy! He lets Crais go to Moya even though he knows he won’t return, probably hoping that he will be classified irreversibly contaminated and command will fall to him – which is exactly what happens. He doesn’t care about Moya, Talyn, Crais or his Gammak base, only Crichton and the knowledge he possesses – but we still don’t know why wormholes are so important to him (and in fact will not find out until Season Three). He admires Crichton’s strategy (although it’s really D’Argo and Crais’s plan) and knows that he has been beaten as soon as the plan is put into effect. We see more evidence of his ESP when he’s interrogating Rygel.

A Ship, A Living Ship: Moya refuses to leave her baby behind until John persuades her that the best chance of rescuing the child is to StarBurst to safety and live to fight another day.

Farscape, Family Ties

Big Baby: Talyn can support a pilot but doesn’t require one, instead it has been bred to respond to direct voice control. The Peacekeepers have tried many times to breed such a ship, but each time both mother and child have died – Talyn and Moya survived because she gave birth free, and without a control collar. Moya can StarBurst free using Br’Nee’s maps, but Talyn is still too young to StarBurst on his own.

The Ballad Of Aeryn And John: John and Aeryn don’t say goodbye to each other. When she asks John about the version of his father that she met in 116, ‘A Human Reaction,’ she establishes once and for all that it was really her that spent the night with him in the safe house and not some phantom replica.

Worlds Apart: The moon on which the Gammak base is situated is covered in oil. It would have been nicer if they’d mentioned that in 120 rather than dropping it in here, because as it is it seems a bit convenient.

Alien Encounters: Scorpius is a Scarran half-breed, according to Crais. During their conversation Crais and Crichton discuss whether it really is a co-incidence that Humans and Sebaceans should be so alike. Crais regrets that is a mystery he may never solve.

Disney On Acid: As he and D’Argo are about to jump into space John calls them both ‘Kirk and Spock, Abbot and Costello.’

Farscape, Family Ties

Get Frelled: Chiana offers John sex before he leaves because it’s the only way she knows how to thank him. He replies ‘never before the big game,’ but she gets a kiss out of him, and definitely slips him some tongue, the minx.

What Does This Do? Typical of the attention to detail in the show, when Rygel is bathing in the mist bath on the Command Carrier, he lets rip and farts a jet of steam into the air.

Logic Leaps: Aeryn can’t move in to collect John and D’Argo because the other Prowlers will see her and realise what she’s doing… so why doesn’t a Prowler from the Command Carrier pick them up? Why doesn’t D’Argo have a space suit? Perhaps because none of the PK suits would fit him, but if so, it should have been mentioned. In fact, why is D’Argo on the transport Pod at all? John could have executed their plan on his own quite easily. And although he has some bargaining power, isn’t Rygel’s treatment aboard the Command Carrier – he’s fed, groomed and bathed – stretching credulity a bit too far? Crais has already lost command of his own ship to Scorpy, so why, when the episode begins, is Scorpius still keeping him around and discussing strategy with him? And although he surrenders, and offers some help to their plans, would the gang really allow Crais to sit down and eat with them?

Bloopers: When D’Argo passes out and lets go John’s father’s good luck charm it would not fly away as it does because there’s no gravity to attract it, it would float alongside them.

Farscape, Family Ties

WHAT did you just say? Both D’Argo and Crais speak in their native tongues in this episode, but we don’t find out why the translator microbes don’t handle it.

The Verdict: As the first year ends the two people most responsible for the direction of the show, Rockne S. O’Bannon and David Kemper, take the opportunity to present what is in effect a restatement of the characters and an assessment of how far they have changed and grown since the first episode. We are given 35 minutes of two-hander character scenes as all the relationships are put under the spotlight and thrown into sharp relief, making it clear how much they have all come to care for each other, and us for them. Crais is entirely re-invented and a new character, Talyn is introduced. Perhaps there are elements of the plot which don’t quite hang together, but this is primarily a character piece, and as such it works beautifully. There is a strong sense of doom about the proceedings, and the cliffhanger is a genuinely gripping one with no immediate resolution apparent.

Farscape, Family Ties

Verdict Redux: Rygel’s sudden treachery bothered me quite a bit this time around. I felt that since his semi-redemption in 113, ‘The Flax‘ it felt like it was inconsistent for him to suddenly revert so drastically, and then flip again. I suppose there was a danger that after a season of bringing the crew together that the finale could have seen them too unified and so they decided to rewind Rygel’s evolution a little bit, give him a relapse, so to speak. And it sort of works, but it smacks a little too much of the writer’s hand for my taste. Otherwise, as above – it’s a bold character piece, far less action-packed than might have been expected, but packing a real wallop in its final act.

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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