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Farscape Rewatch: “Lava’s A Many Splendored Thing”

Lava’s A Many Splendored Thing
Written by Michael Miller, directed by Michael Pattinson
Season 4, episode 4

1st US Transmission Date: 28 June 2002
1st UK Transmission Date: 21 October 2002

Guest Cast: Raelee Hill (Sikozu), Melissa Jaffer (Noranti), John Adam (Raa’Keel), Jack Finsterer (Gleeg), Alan Flower (Frool), Ross Newton (Sloggard), Teo Gebert (Weldon), Mick Roughan (Airek).

Farscape, Lava's A Many Splendored Thing, Chiana

Synopsis: Forced to land on a volcanic planet, Rygel, D’Argo, Noranti, and John stumble across a gang of thieves stealing some treasure hidden in caves by a bunch of do-gooders. Rygel is caught in a trap while John, D’Argo and Noranti, unable to escape from the caves, play hide and seek with the thieves.

Sikozu and Chiana manage to use Lo’la to blast into the caves, Noranti signals the owners of the treasure to come rescue them, and John and D’Argo deal with the bad guys and save Rygel. They fly away to rendezvous with Moya.

Farscape, Lava's A Many Splendored Thing, Crichton

Buck Rogers Redux: His lo-fi plan to hit the bad guys with rocks actually works; he dives into lava to save Rygel, putting his life at risk to do the right thing. He makes jokes, looks pissed off that his day’s gone sideways again, and generally acts like the John we know and love, but who’s been MIA so far this season.

I Was A Teenage Luxan: D’Argo is on fine form this week, cracking wise, flinging the crew across lava pools and—a comparative rarity for a character who’s supposed to be a mighty warrior—fighting a bad guy one-on-one and decapitating the mug.

Farscape, Lava's A Many Splendored Thing, Crichton, Rygel, Naronti, D'Argo

Buckwheat the Sixteenth: Rygel’s kleptomaniac tendencies get the crew in trouble again, but he gets his just desserts. Has he ever suffered this badly? Having his nethers sealed in amber when he’s got diarrhoea, then his whole body, then being dropped in lava.

A Ship, A Living Ship!: Moya has received D’Argo’s message and is coming to get them.

Farscape, Lava's A Many Splendored Thing, Noranti

Grandma, we love you: She can regurgitate a substance called jilnak. It tastes like chicken but wreaks havoc on your guts. She’s narcoleptic, all of a sudden. Her blind trust in the Tarkans causes all sorts of problems, and she tends to blurt things out in a way that seems almost innocent—hard to square with the ruthless manipulator of the last two episodes. She finally proves herself a useful team player by using her hallucinogenic dust to convince two goons that she’s a belly-dancing alien siren so John and D’Argo can knock them out.

Farscape, Lava's A Many Splendored Thing, Chiana, Sikozu

Bobblehead: After working with Crichton in 401, Rygel in 402 and D’Argo in 403, this week she’s teamed up with Chiana. It seems the writers are trying her out alongside each character in turn to see which ones she sparks off best against. Her spiky, patronising but ultimately successful team-up with Chiana is huge fun, and she proves herself well placed amongst the crew when she’s willing to cover her hands in D’Argo’s vomit—no room on Moya for anyone too squeamish about bodily functions of any kind. She can go without food for long periods of time.

Alien Encounters: Tarkan freedom fighters are known for their humanitarian good works throughout the galaxy.

Farscape, Lava's A Many Splendored Thing

Disney On Acid: Lou Costello was one half of the classic American comedy double act Abbot and Costello.

Blooper: Rygel’s arse is sealed tight in the amber, yet one of his farts escapes. John says Rygel can survive in the amber because he’s amphibious; but that only implies he can extract oxygen from water through gills, not that he can hold his breath for half an hour.

Farscape, Lava's A Many Splendored Thing, Crichton, D'Argo

Behind the scenes: John Adam, who plays Raa’Keel also played Bekesh in the first two seasons.

The Verdict: Now here’s an oddity. Neither the writer nor director of this episode have been responsible for an episode of Farscape before, and neither will be again (although Michael Miller was a script editor this season). So it’s strange that this is the first episode this year which, for my money, is both well written and directed, and which feels like Farscape.

Farscape, Lava's A Many Splendored Thing, Crichton, Noranti

It’s not an earth-shatteringly original episode but it’s funny, silly, gross, exciting—everything the show should be. The ambitious sets and design are unlike anything the show’s tried before and they work really well. The bromance between John and D’Argo feels real and funny, and Noranti, while still feeling like she’s there to do what the story demands rather than being a coherent character, is at least amusing and good value for money.

A huge relief after the last three episodes and a sign that Farscape has life left in it yet.

Farscape, Lava's A Many Splendored Thing, Crichton, Chiana, D'Argo

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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