Written by Justin Monjo, directed by Rowan Woods
Season 3, Episode 17
1st US Transmission Date: 17 August 2001
1st UK Transmission Date: 7 January 2002
Guest Cast: Xhalax Sun (Linda Cropper), Talyn Lyczac (John Gregg), Tenek (Stephen Shanahan), Hotel Owner (Raj Ryan)
This episode features the crew of Talyn.
Synopsis: Aeryn, in mourning for Crichton, leaves Talyn and takes a hotel room on Valldon, a world Stark claims has mystical properties that allow the living to contact the dead. What she doesn’t know is that Xhalax is also on the planet, having been spared by Crais, and is plotting to mess with her head.
She hires a guy to pretend to be Talyn, Aeryn’s father, and to use a fake seer to convince Aeryn that John’s spirit is in pain. She then kills the Talyn impostor, forcing Aeryn to watch her father’s death. Aeryn reveals that she never believed he was Talyn at all, which deflates Xhalax, who tells her that when the Peacekeepers caught her visiting young Aeryn, they forced to choose who she should kill to redeem herself—Aeryn or Talyn. She killed Talyn out of love for Aeryn, and wants Aeryn to suffer because it will ease Xhalax’s pain.
Aeryn just manages to get through to her when Crais, thinking to rescue Aeryn, bursts in and shoots Xhalax.
Black T: Aeryn has visions of John, which appear to be genuine. His spirit remembers the life they lived in ‘The Locket.’ It claims he never really believed he was going to die.
You Can Be More: ‘I returned from the dead, why can’t he?’ Aeryn is broken and desperate, takes refuge on a planet of ghosts, rents a grotty hotel room and drinks herself silly. She never believed ‘Talyn’ was really her father, but she hoped he was. She condemns the PK life because ‘we do nothing for love. Not one thing.’ She psychoanalyses her mother pretty well, manages to get her to lower her weapon and for a moment it looks like she might be her mother’s salvation. After her grieving process is complete she retreats back inside herself, tries to reverse the evolution she’s undergone throughout the series, and tells John’s spirit: ‘maybe I could have become something different if you’d lived, I could have truly changed. But you are gone, and I am what I was bred to be.’ Xhalax’s last words to Aeryn are ‘live, for me.’
Buckwheat the Sixteenth: Rygel was in love with a female called Kelor, back on Hyneria, but the relationship ended because his parents forbade it (this is the story told in the novel ‘Dark Side Of the Sun,’ except in that version the female was called Nyaella). His thronesled can go very high indeed, but it becomes vulnerable to high winds at high altitude. Rygel goes to talk to Aeryn and for once he has no hidden agenda—he doesn’t want anything from her, he’s showing genuine concern and understanding: ‘self-sacrifice is not the answer. Look, I’m not like Crais or Stark. I’m not trying to save you, or recreate with you. You can do whatever you like, but Crichton loved you, Aeryn. He wouldn’t want his death to lead you here.’ He’s looking forward to getting back to Moya.
The Man In the Iron Mask: ‘If you’ve got a deity, you better make your peace with it now, because I’m going to lead you to the other side, real quick!’ Stark’s enraged that Crais spared Xhalax and if not for Rygel reasoning with him, he would probably have shot him outright. He never believes Crais’s explanation and instead thinks that he was planning to betray them all. He wants to take care of Aeryn because of the crush he has on her (‘she’s very beautiful; hair as dark as a Fellip berry’) and she doesn’t take kindly to it at all, threatens to knife his one good eye, and tells him: ‘what makes you so much worse is the fact that you think you’re so much better than [Crais]. Always pressing against me, stealing looks.’ He hears Zhaan’s voice on Valldon and decides to leave Talyn and go in search of her. He leaves his mask for Green T John, saying that only he will know what to do with it.
The Insane Military Commander: Crais claims he realised more Retrieval Squads would be sent after them if he killed Xhalax, so he cut a deal—her life in return for a message to High Command telling them that Talyn and his crew were dead. His desire for Aeryn is as transparent as Stark’s, and she calls him on it: ‘you always wanted to take me from Crichton and now here’s your chance. And you know what, Bialar? If I squeeze my eyes closed tightly enough you could be someone else.’ He claims because Talyn now has a large part of his psyche only he can fly Talyn, but he later says that once he has offloaded Rygel and Aeryn with Moya, he will find a new Captain for Talyn and leave.
Big Baby: Talyn has detected Moya in the Mannon Nebula.
The Ballad Of Aeryn And John: Aeryn now remembers her life on the Favoured Planet (‘The Locket’). She recalls the times she and Crichton were together, in ‘The Flax’ and ‘A Human Reaction,’ as well as more recently. She tells Cresus that ‘he loved me…. he made me better.’
World’s Apart: ‘Can’t leave her on Valldon. It’s dangerous. It’s filled with mystics and criminals.’ Valldon is a planet with ‘dark powers’ and is peopled with spirits and seers who can contact and sometimes even raise the dead.
Alien Encounters: There is a Diagnosian on Valldon who pays good money for fresh corpses (presumably this is Tocot). The seer, Cresus, is the most repulsive creature Farscape has ever given us, but the animatronic mouth is a real work of art. He says he normally fakes contact with the dead but his vision of Crichton may actually have been real. ‘Talyn’ claims that there are people called Sintars who can sometime make a spirit corporeal. Xhalax’s leg became infected after Crais left her and she had to amputate it herself.
Get Frelled: Aeryn humiliates Crais by jumping on him and telling him to do her right there and then.
Stats: A PK device called a Blood Spectrometer allows you to check whether you are related to someone else or not with near 100% accuracy.
Logic Leaps: How did Xhalax know Aeryn would go to Valldon? Where did she get all the money to pay her cohorts? Why did Aeryn choose to raise her father? What was Xhalax really playing at, anyway? Why did Stark recommend Aeryn go to Valldon and then warn that she shouldn’t be left there because it’s too dangerous?
Guest Stars: John Gregg has been a regular on Medivac and Heartbreak High, but if you were able to penetrate that makeup you might recognise him as Lycett from the Doctor Who serial ‘The Ark In Space.’
Backstage: This episode was devised partly as a response to Claudia Black’s desire to take centre stage for an episode and generate clips for her show reel.
The Verdict: This episode looks a million dollars; the sets, makeup, costumes and puppets are all superlative, as is Claudia Black’s performance. However the script is a bit muddled and seems like a first draft, needing one more pass to iron out the rough spots and internal inconsistencies. Part of the price you pay for having a show as risky as Farscape is that occasionally an experimental episode will not quite work as well as you’d have hoped; this is one such.
Verdict redux: Now this is odd. In my memory I have this flagged as a highlight, so I was surprised to find my initial review was so down on it. Watching it again, I think it may be due to the simple fact that, um, I am a sucker for goth girls in velvet (share-too-much?). Because yes, the script is a great idea, but not quite polished as finely as it needs to be. There is some lovely stuff, especially the haunting by Crichton’s spirit, but Xhalax’s plan confuses me—I just don’t really know what she’s trying to achieve, practically or emotionally. But at the end of the day, despite her worries that she pared her performance down so far that it risked being boring, Claudia Black entirely justifies the decision to showcase her talents, and that alone is worth the price of admission.
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.