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Farscape Rewatch: “Vitas Mortis”

Vitas Mortis
Written by Grant McAloon, directed by Tony Tilse
Season 2, Episode 2

1st US Transmission Date: 24 March 2000
1st UK Transmission Date: 19 June 2000
1st Australian Transmission: 14 July 2001

Guest Cast: Melissa Jaffer (Old Nilaam), Anna Lise Phillips (Young Nilaam)

Synopsis: A rumour heard on a commerce planet leads Moya to Nilaam – a female Luxan Orican (holy woman) – who is nearing death alone on a forgotten world. She asks D’Argo to help her through the Ritual of Passing and he agrees, but as she prepares to die she senses great strength from D’Argo and instead performs the Ritual of Renewal, turning herself back into a young woman. While she and D’Argo celebrate with lots of energetic sex, Moya begins to disintegrate and show the signs of extreme old age. Realising that Nilaam was in fact draining strength from Moya not D’Argo, she tries to save the ship without sacrificing herself, but fails. Eventually she and D’Argo perform the Ritual of Passing, she kills herself, and Moya is healed.

Farscape, Vitas Mortis

Buck Rogers Redux: John is over the top with his initial objections to D’Argo taking part in the Ritual of Passing. Why does he argue so loudly and so long about this? That makes two episodes in a row where he’s exhibited uncharacteristically extreme behaviour…

That Peacekeeper Bitch: Aeryn, realising that Nilaam is the cause of Moya’s problems, catches her and opens fire without even yelling at her to stop, which is extremely hot headed, even for her. She’s irritated that Chiana won’t do her laundry for her.

I Was A Teenage Luxan: The tattoos on D’Argo’s face and chin mark him as a general even though he is not. In his second campaign he had himself tattooed to protect the real general, who was wounded. He knows that he has to help Nilaam die in order to save Moya and he cries in front of John at how hard it is for him to do the right thing. His Qualta blade is the instrument of her death. Zhaan says that a Luxan who assists in the Ritual of Passing goes part way into the other realm and gets a glimpse of the other side, but D’Argo makes no reference to this after the ceremony.

Farscape, Vitas Mortis

Buckwheat the Sixteenth: Rygel gets stuck in a hull breach on Moya and physically plugs the gap with his backside, which is stuck out in space for quite some time – it’s a miracle his innards weren’t sucked out his arse. Now there’s a lovely thought. Chiana refers to him as Froglips and Toadface.

Your Favourite Little Tralk: Chiana does D’Argo’s washing, but won’t do Aeryn’s. She looks mighty jealous when D’Argo returns to the ship with fresh young Nilaam. She seems to sense the Ritual of Renewal, even though it’s happening down on the planet and she’s up on Moya – another hint of supernatural Chi.

In The Driving Seat: When Pilot is affected by Moya’s ageing, he turns to Aeryn for support, re-emphasising the strong bond between them. Pilot’s species live for an average of 1,000 cycles, Leviathans only live 300 – when a Pilot is bonded to a Leviathan they realise it will cost them 700 cycles of life. Pilot says he would not have it any other way.

Farscape, Vitas Mortis

A Ship, A Living Ship: The crew do their washing in Moya’s Amnexus fluid which solidifies in old Leviathans. Unfortunately for Chiana, it solidifies while she is standing in it doing the washing and nothing can dissolve it to free her until Nilaam reverses her drain of Moya’s energy.

Alien Encounters: Assisting an Orican in the Ritual of Passing is the highest honour a Luxan can receive. Female Luxans do not have chin tentacles. Nilaam actually sticks her hand inside D’Argo’s chest and has a rummage, thereby reading his soul and thoughts; he is unharmed by this. She also zaps a gun out of Crichton’s hand, diverts a gun shot, and freezes John and Aeryn in crystal suspension. So Luxans can obviously achieve great spiritual powers, much like Delvians, if they so wish.

Disney On Acid: ‘So, if she wants to rip out your liver, snack on it with a chianti, she can do that?’ John quotes Silence Of The Lambs.

Farscape, Vitas Mortis

Get Frelled: D’Argo and young Nilaam go at it like rabbits, but the look of bashful cat-who-got-the-cream on D’Argo’s face when he realises he’s about to get laid is priceless.

Seen It All Before: This is the first time we’ve seen another Luxan (bar the holo of Jothee) and the episode is reminiscent of the first time we saw another Delvian, ‘Rhapsody In Blue’ – it’s a holy female who spiritually joins with one of Moya’s crew and takes something she shouldn’t.

Logic Leaps: Nilam says she could lead Moya’s crew to their homes, but there’s no mention of her passing charts or anything like that to D’Argo, so presumably she was going to sense her way home somehow. Rygel would have frozen solid and died if he were stuck half out in space unless, like D’Argo, he can survive in vacuum, which seems a bit of a stretch.

Farscape, Vitas Mortis

Backstage: Melissa Jaffer voices a Pilot in ‘The Way We Weren’t,’ and returns as Utu-Noranti Pralatong at the end of Season 3 and stays aboard thereafter.

Anna Lise Phillips went on to regular roles Young Lions, Home and Away and Crownies.

This is the second of Grant McAloon’s four screenplay credits on Farscape, and the sixth of Tony Tilse’s 19 turns behind the camera.

The Verdict: It’s nice to see another Luxan, and D’Argo gets more depth, but this is a predictable episode that doesn’t deliver much in the way of thrills or laughs. Competent, and it looks great, but not a classic. Still, it’s a nice pink corset Nilaam gets to wear, and ‘Scapers of a certain persuasion over swooned at John in the full black leather PK garb, which reflects the darker the tone of the show this year.

Farscape, Vitas Mortis

Verdict Re-Dux: A bit underwhelming, really. Enjoyable mostly for the opportunity it provides Anthony Simcoe to act his socks off, and for the introduction of an actor who’ll go on to become a major part of the Farscape world, Melissa Jaffer. An episode that again goes to show how daft the BBC were to schedule this at 6pm. What it does reflect, though, is the ability and willingness of the show to move off Moya more often. There were too many bottle-shows in Season One for my taste – probably to amortize the cost of the standing sets – but now the budget can stretch that bit further and trips off-ship will become more prevalent and the universe of the Uncharted Territories can begin to expand even further.


Scott K. Andrews new book, School’s Out Forever is out very soon.


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