The Way We Weren’t
Written by Naren Shankar, directed by Tony Tilse
Season 2, Episode 5
1st US Transmission Date: 14 April 2000
1st UK Transmission Date: 24 July 2000
1st Australian Transmission: 11 December 2001
Guest Cast: Alex Dimitriades (Velorek), Lani Tupu (Capt. Bialar Crais), Melissa Jaffer (Voice of female Pilot)
Synopsis — Then: Three cycles ago a Peacekeeper called Velorek, who specialised in bonding Pilots to Leviathans, was contacted by Crais and instructed to secure a Pilot. He visited the Pilot race’s world and convinced one youngster, who had been judged unfit to be bonded, to agree to be bonded to Moya. Moya’s original Pilot, who had resisted PK servitude, was no longer needed and was executed by PK troops at Crais’s command. One of the troopers was Aeryn, who had been taken off Prowler duty and assigned to assist Velorek. Pilot was then forcibly grafted into Moya. Velorek realised that Crais’s secret project – to breed a Leviathan gunship – would probably kill Moya, so he secretly installed the shield that prevented conception (which D’Argo shattered in ‘They’ve Got A Secret‘). He and Aeryn were lovers but she betrayed him in order to secure a posting back to Prowler duty. Velorek was tortured to death, but never revealed the measures he had taken to thwart Crais’s project. Moya never conceived, was re-assigned as a prison transport… the rest is history.
Synopsis — Now: Chiana finds a recording of the previous Pilot’s execution and discovers Aeryn’s part in events. The crew confront her and she admits it, but insists she didn’t realise Moya was the same Leviathan. D’Argo hides the tape, but Rygel steals it and shows it to Pilot. Pilot nearly kills Aeryn in fury and stops Moya dead, refusing to move until Aeryn leaves. Crichton goes to see Pilot to talk him down but Pilot rips himself out of Moya’s system breaking the bond and leaving Moya uncontrolled. Eventually Pilot will starve and the life support will fail. He then commands the DRDs to adopt defensive position and keep out the crew. John and Aeryn break in and Pilot admits his own culpability in the death of his predecessor. Aeryn and Pilot make peace and Pilot is naturally re-bonded to Moya.
That Peacekeeper Bitch: ‘Things were very different then: my priorities, my values, and my relationships.’ We’ve always known Aeryn was a PK but now we are confronted with the harsh reality of what that means – she was a traitorous, cold-blooded killer. She was in love with Velorek but she still betrayed him for her own ends, although she tells him to change his mind just before his arrest, so she relented at the last moment. Her relationships back then were ‘painful,’ but Velorek is the only one she ever loved. She has been on hundreds of Leviathans.
Big Blue: Zhaan was on board when the Pilots were switched and we glimpse her being led along a corridor in one of the flashbacks. She turns on Aeryn too, but soon realises she’s being too harsh: ‘you had no choice back then, you did exactly what was expected of you. In that world, that was the only kind of Peacekeeper you could be.’
I Was A Teenage Luxan: D’argo still loses whenever he and John resolve a question by playing Rock/Scissors/Paper. He was chained to his cell by the rings through his collarbones.
Buckwheat the Sixteenth: Rygel was on board Moya when the Pilots were changed and his fury at Aeryn is something to behold. He shows Pilot the tape because he says he has a right to know, but the others believe he did it so Pilot would owe him a favour.
Your Favourite Little Tralk: Chiana takes the pragmatists view to the revelations about Aeryn: ‘what have you guys been thinking all this time? What? She was out picking Rawliss Buds while all the other mean Peacekeepers did all the really nasty stuff?’
In The Driving Seat: Pilot was voted unworthy of being bonded to a Leviathan, but his hunger to see the stars led him to agree to Velorek’s deal. He now blames himself for the death of his predecessor and the consequent suffering endured by Moya, and feels unworthy of his role on Moya. For a Pilot to bond naturally with a Leviathan takes one or two cycles, but Pilot was forcibly grafted into Moya, and so is in constant pain. After he severs his connection he instructs D’Argo on how to re-attach minor, temporary connections to give him rudimentary control. He will now bond naturally with Moya; this will take a cycle during which he will have less control than before, but he will never feel the pain again. As John points out, when Pilot’s arm was cut off in ‘DNA Mad Scientist‘, he only got slightly annoyed, so the fury he displays when strangling Aeryn is entirely unexpected and opens the character up immensely.
The Insane Military Commander: Now we know why Crais went into raptures when he saw Talyn – it was the culmination of a project he had instigated. It was not just the death of his brother that sent him over the edge, he was quite mad and utterly ruthless already, as the flashbacks reveal. Which also calls into question the sincerity of his change of heart when he supposedly let go of this brother’s death — was it all a ruse just to get Talyn?
A Ship, A Living Ship: Before the current Pilot, Moya had a female Pilot for 21 cycles. She was anaesthetised while the change was made and awoke to find herself being tortured into accepting a new Pilot. The crew aren’t weightless because of ‘Internal Gravity Bladders.’ John and D’Argo are trying to repair the defence screen they took from the Zelbinion (‘PK Tech Girl‘) but they’re not sure they can make it work again.
The Ballad Of Aeryn And John: Aeryn tells John that Velorek told her she could be more than just a PK, and John told her the same thing the day they first met. John says ‘and you say you loved this man?’ Aeryn doesn’t reply, but their looks say it all. She as good as admits that she and John would be lovers were she not both afraid of the consequences and conditioned against such attachments. John’s a little floored and momentarily jealous about Velorek, and he has to adjust his image of Aeryn.
Alien Encounters: Pilot’s home world is wreathed in mist (a convenient way to avoid showing the operators underneath the puppet), but the sound effects and the scene seem to imply that Pilot’s race are aquatic. Their language is so complex that translator microbes can’t handle it — one sentence can contain hundreds of meanings (this reflects the unique multi-tasking abilities referred to in ‘DNA Mad Scientist‘). Pilot has to train himself to speak in short simple sentences so others can understand him. The elders of their race decide who is worthy of being bonded to a Leviathan.
Disney On Acid: ‘Five cents, the Doctor is in.’ John obviously reads the comic strip Peanuts. If someone’s acting irrationally his ‘Etch-a-Sketch isn’t operating with all its knobs’.
Get Frelled: Peacekeepers are bred for military service and they breed on command. They do not have lifepartners and their relationships are brief and recreational. This way the best officers can be assigned where needed without High Command having to worry themselves about keeping couples together.
Seen It All Before: In many ways this is similar to the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode ‘Things Past’ that shows us Odo’s behaviour when he worked under the Cardassians.
Guest Stars: Alex Dimitriades has been a regular on Neighbours, Heartbreak High and Young Lions. Most recently he’s appeared in The Slap.
Backstage: This episode’s covered extensively in issue 2 of the official Farscape Magazine.
The Verdict: Stunning. Chock full of revelations, extreme character examinations, explanations to long unanswered questions and, most impressively, giving Pilot a back story and a fully rounded character, this is Farscape at its very best. On every other show you can think of the initial revelation that Aeryn was a murderer would have been wormed out of some way – possession, or a trick, or something lame. Not on Farscape – she was a cold-blooded killer and that’s that. How refreshing to have a show unafraid of muddying the waters and taking the characters, in this case both Aeryn and Pilot, to deep, dark places. Claudia Black is superb in this instalment, allowing us to see far more substantial aspects of the person underneath all Aeryn’s defences.
Verdict Redux: The decision to make Aeryn’s past so murky seems quite tame nowadays, but at the time it was unusual and brave; Farscape really was ahead of the curve there. But external context is the only thing that’s changed with time — this remains a tour de force and one of the most seamless and elegant pieces of retconning you could wish for. Also, Lani Tupu (who my Kiwi wife assures me was quite the heartthrob on NZ TV when she was a girl!) really is excellent in his dual roles.
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.