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Farscape Rewatch: “Natural Election”

Natural Election
Written by Sophie C. Hopkins, directed by Ian Watson
Season 4, episode 6

1st UK Transmission Date: 4 November 2002
1st US Transmission Date: 19 July 2002

Guest Cast: Raelee Hill (Sikozu), Melissa Jaffer (Noranti)

Synopsis: While hanging out to observe a wormhole, Moya is infected by a space-borne fungus. The crew have to race to clear it out of Moya’s systems before she dies. They manage it, with Scorpius’ help. John and Aeryn clear the air.

Buck Rogers Redux: John can speak at least some Spanish and he can sense the imminent arrival of a wormhole. It’s unclear how much of his affinity for wormholes is based on maths and how much is intuition, but he seems to predict its second appearance without any help from charts of what have you. The wormhole is naturally occurring, he doesn’t create it, so it’s still unclear how much his skills relate to creating wormholes or predicting them, or both.

You Can Be More: Women born on a Command Carrier can carry an embryonic fetus for seven cycles. Only a surgeon can release the stasis to let the baby grow. Aeryn only found out she was pregnant when they visited the Command Carrier at the end of Season Three, so she’s unsure how long it’s been there and whether it’s John’s. She left to track down a surgeon to get the parenthood tested, but was sidetracked into assassinating Lukythians. She confides in Chiana, which seems unlikely, but a deleted scene shows a lovely bonding moment between Chi and Aeryn that takes place beforehand and sets up the unexpected confidence. She eventually admits to Chi that she may not even tell John about the pregnancy, presumably she was considering denying the whole thing, at least until she could be sure it was his.

Farscape, Natural Election, Crichton, Aeryn

The Ballad Of Aeryn And John: There is no longer any distinction in Aeryn’s mind between the two Johns. She loves him and wants to be with him, but her slowness at confiding her pregnancy, and the unfortunate way Chiana led John to believe everyone knew first, convinces John that Aeryn doesn’t trust him. So he can’t trust her—with his life, yes, but not with his heart. He tells her to come back to him when she’s ‘got her story straight,’ but I’m not sure what that means—does he not believe her story about the baby being in stasis?

I Was A Teenage Luxan: D’Argo loves shooting things, gives great advice to both John and Rygel, and has made himself a new shilquin. He is voted captain of Moya, getting four votes out of the eight votes.

Farscape, Natural Election, Crichton, D'Argo

Buckwheat the Sixteenth: Rygel is a terrible captain, but he knows it and is totally grief stricken when it looks like Moya is going to die on his watch. D’Argo recognises his guilt and tells him not to sweat it because “there are so many other reasons you should hate yourself at the moment.”

Everyone’s Favourite Little Tralk: Chi really doesn’t trust Sikozu—it seems their little collaboration in ‘Lava’s A Many Splendored Thing’ hasn’t helped with that. In the deleted scene she tells Aeryn that she has to enjoy her life more and stop ‘getting so twisted’ about stuff. But when Aeryn responds by confiding her pregnancy to her, Chi can’t help but tell D’Argo, and then compounds the error by telling D’Argo she heard it from Rygel. She’s really freaked out by crawling through the pipes full of plantlife. Her skin reflects radiation.

Farscape, Natural Election, Chiana, D'Argo

In The Driving Seat: Pilot is badly affected by the fungus and goes mad, nearly scuppering the plan to save Moya. He votes for D’Argo as captain, so we can assume he’s happy with the result.

A Ship, A Living Ship!: The plant secretes an acid that eats metal, which it then ingests, secreting a gas as waste. Moya’s neural cluster is unaffected, as it is wholly organic, but there is metal in the syanptic regulators, which explode, causing non-permanent brain damage. Moya’s body contains mildly radioactive Silantrum, which kills the fungus when ignited. This is the first time we see Moya’s fan room.

Farscape, Natural Election, Pilot, Aeryn

Grandma, we love you: Noranti can sense the plant inside Moya. She eats it, cooks it, and devises poisons to attack it. She votes for herself in the captain’s election, referring to herself as The Divine Eternal. John calls her ‘school lunch lady,’ which tells you a whole lot about the kind of school lunch he had.

Bobblehead: Sikozu so digs Scorpius. She thinks of him after the initial attack, runs off to save him when he calls for help, lets him out, goes all dreamy when he points out the fires he didn’t start, and even votes for him as captain! John thinks she is way too smart. Ion radiation would dissolve three of her internal organs.

Farscape, Natural Election, Scorpius, Sikozu

Nosferatu in leather: Scorpy looks practically orgasmic when John predicts the appearance of a wormhole. He provides the key to saving the ship when he realises his coolant fluid repels the plant. He absorbs the radiation from the Silantrum gas, which makes him stronger—strong enough to break his chains, break Pilot’s grip on Rygel and save the day by igniting the gas. He very literally saves the day.

Blooper: The plant only eats metal, and avoids those parts of Moya that are wholly organic, why does it attack Pilot? Is he somehow metallic? And if so, why does he not get at least partly ingested before the ship is saved?

Backstage: This is the only Farscape episode written by Sophie C. Hopkins, and the last writing credit for her that I can find.

Farscape, Natural Election, Scorpius

The Verdict: Another Farscape bottle show, but at least this time the crew aren’t stupid enough to let yet another gang of obvious ne-er do wells aboard, and the addition of Scorpius and Sikozu really adds tension and variety to a tried and tested formula. The real meat of the episode, though, is the way fate once again screws Aeryn and John in the fine print. If they’d just had that chat a little earlier things would have been fine, but since when have things ever gone their way?

The plot is serviceable but ultimately unmemorable; the great strength of this episode is the interaction between the regulars—each scene feels real and earned, especially D’Argo’s scenes, pretty much every one of which is a gem. It’s a shame Sophie C. Hopkins didn’t return to write for the show again, as she really nails the character voices and writes lovely dialogue. This is actually some of the best writing of individual scenes the show’s seen in a long time.

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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