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Farscape Rewatch: “Picture If You Will”

Picture If You Will
Written by Peter Neale, directed by Andrew Prowse
Season 2, Episode 6

1st US Transmission Date: 21 April 2000
1st UK Transmission Date: 31 July 2000
1st Australian Transmission: 21 July 2001

Guest Cast: Chris Haywood (Kyvan/Maldis)

Synopsis: Chiana, Rygel and Aeryn visit a trader, Kyvan, who gives Chiana a portrait of herself and tells her it is a window into time. First it shows her a missing necklace moments before a DRD finds it, then it shows her with a broken leg just before she trips over the DRD and breaks her leg. When it shows her dying in fire she panics and believes she is burning up. They put her in the freezer but the door jams with her inside, a fire starts from nowhere and by the time they open the door, Chiana is burnt to ashes.

They burn, smash and eject the picture into space but each time it comes back. Zhaan tells John that they are in great danger and he must trust her and do what she says without question when the time comes; he passes this message on to Aeryn. Rygel and Aeryn return to Kyvan who tells them she was forced to make the picture on the orders of Maldis (‘That Old Black Magic’).

D’Argo is next to die, but after being impaled he vanishes. Zhaan telepathically tells John that she has a plan and he must distract Maldis. He then is electrocuted and vanishes. D’Argo, Chiana and John are trapped inside the surreal world of the picture. Maldis has not yet re-corporealised, but he has enough power to lay this trap and extract enough fear from the crew to fully re-integrate.

Farscape, Picture If You Will

Zhaan is next to die and joins them in the picture. Her fear allows Maldis to materialise a doorway from the picture into the maintenance bay. Pilot passes a message to Aeryn from Zhaan instructing her to shoot Kyvan and leave, which she does. Kyvan was in fact a manifestation of Maldis, and her death weakens Maldis and allows the crew to escape through the doorway. Maldis attempts to follow but they shoot him with Aeryn’s prowler and his power is broken; the picture shatters.

Buck Rogers Redux: ‘I say we lock all of Moya’s doors, we don’t let anybody in, we don’t let anybody out. That way we get no alien critters, no shape-shifting bugs, no mind altering viruses, no freaky-deaky artefacts.’

When Zhaan tells John to trust her completely and without hesitation, he demonstrates his faith in her and agrees. Given Maldis’s power he doesn’t seem terribly frightened by him, he’s all flip remarks and irreverent humour. Admittedly he’s supposed to be distracting Maldis, but the devil-may-care John of the previous five episodes is still in control. Maldis threatens to go and visit Earth, which he says could keep him fed for quite a while – this is the first real threat to Earth in the series, and if Maldis were to go there it would be John’s fault.

Farscape, Picture If You Will

That Peacekeeper Bitch: Aeryn openly considers throwing Rygel and Chiana off the ship on the basis that they cause more trouble than they’re worth. John is annoyed and offended by this and walks out. When Pilot tells Aeryn to kill Kyvan she doesn’t even blink – the cold-blooded killer of 205 is alive and well; no matter how much she may have changed in other ways, she’s damn good at taking orders and carrying them out without hesitation. 

Big Blue: ‘I’ve never been more scared in my life.’ Because they shared Unity (‘Rhapsody In Blue’) Zhaan can commune telepathically with John by touching heads. She senses Maldis’s presence, and knows that it is she he has come to revenge himself upon. Even though she’s terrified she manages to save the day, but just by the skin of her teeth.

Farscape, Picture If You Will

I Was A Teenage Luxan: D’Argo’s protectiveness towards Chiana grows and he tries to persuade her to get rid of the picture before it harms her. He admits that he cares about her. When he believes he is about to die he tells John ‘you’ve been a good friend. Whatever happens, it’s been a pleasure to know you.’

Buckwheat the Sixteenth: Rygel believes that a Hynerian Royal Tiara from the Neltoth era which he buys from Kyvern for one food cube, is genuine – unfortunately it vanishes when Maldis does. Rygel on Chiana: ‘she was quite a lot like me, you know. She had spirit, ambition, large appetites. She would have made an excellent Hynerian. I’m actually going to miss her.’  Nonetheless he still uses her death as way of trying to squeeze punitive damages out of Kyvan – always on the lookout for the main chance.

Farscape, Picture If You Will

Your Favourite Little Tralk: Chiana lost her favourite necklace some time ago and Pilot assigned a DRD to look for it. She’s more fragile than she looks – it only takes a trip over a DRD to break her leg.

The Ballad Of Aeryn And John: Aeryn feels guilty about Chiana’s death because she was dismissive of the painting’s warning and of Chiana’s usefulness, so she goes to Pilot to try and establish what started the fire. John tells her not to blame herself and she pretends not to understand, provoking him to shout ‘are you always gonna do this? Keep the entire world at a distance, keep everybody away. Is that ever gonna change?’ 

The Ballad Of Chiana And D’Argo: The flirting between them is becoming more open, but still no action…

CHIANA: Wonder if the portrait will show both of us next, give us a glimpse into our future.

D’ARGO: I am not sure I want to know about that either.

CHIANA: Why? Because of what it might not show? Or what it might?

Farscape, Picture If You Will

Disney On Acid: Last time he appeared, Maldis and John alluded to The Wizard Of Oz, this time it’s The Sound Of Music.

Seen It All Before: Maldis has become Farscape’s version of Doctor Who’s Master – he turns up to claim revenge, sets elaborate traps, dons disguises, assumes terrible accents (is Kyvan’s lingo bad Oirish or mangled Jamaican?) and is never conclusively killed off at the end.

Logic Leaps: When John, Zhaan and D’Argo die there’s nothing left of them – but when Chiana dies there is a pile of ashes and a necklace left behind… why?

Behind the scenes: This is Peter Neale’s only script for Farscape, but he’s a well established screenwriter with credits on Water Rats and All Saints, amongst others.

Farscape, Picture If You Will

The Verdict: This starts off as a spooky ghost story, turns into a revenge thriller and ends up surreal and bizarre as the distorted world of the picture wobbles across the screen. From the opening shot of the trading post through to the giant Maldis hand that emerges from the picture to swat Moya’s crew in the Maintenance Bay, this episode is bursting with visual flair and style. Maldis is a great villain and his return is a nice surprise, assuming you didn’t recognise Chris Haywood under Kyvan’s makeup. Each of the episodes this season, bar the opener, have placed the emphasis on one character, emphasising the ensemble cast, and now Zhaan gets her moment in the spotlight, which is good as she’s been underused so far this season. A good sequel, and as Maldis is merely banished again, he’s bound to return sooner or later.

Farscape, Picture If You Will

Verdict redux: This time around Maldis seemed a bit too panto for my tastes — I think it was those daft shoes that pushed it just over the brink, though the poor makeup on Kyvan didn’t help. Still, it’s a shame he didn’t come back once a season for the next two years. I presume Zhaan’s departure left him on the shelf too, as he was very much her adversary. A good episode — not nearly as dull as some this season — enlivened by some really great visual flourishes, but ultimately feeling a bit slight.

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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