Deconstructing Moya

A Farscape Re-watch Project

Episode [1.03] – “Exodus from Genesis”

Today, on Farscape

“Yeah, I’m getting the hang of a few things. Of course, when I do…”
“Things change, and you find you’re more confused than you were before.”
“Pretty much.”

In the process of evading a Peacekeeper scout, Moya hides in a cloud of asteroid debris. Of course, the debris turns out to be anything but, and Peacekeepers are very thorough in their searches…


Alright, let me check my notes…. hrrm. Apologies, my notes appear to consist entirely of “AERYN SWEATY HALF-NAKED OMGOMGOMG”. With that out of the way, on to the episode!

I’m a huge fan of the vehicle designs in Farscape. Most shows have vessels that look very much like they were designed to operate in an atmosphere, very sleek and aerodynamic and contoured. Marauders are these blocky, ungainly monstrosities that don’t so much glide through space as force it out of the way. It’s a fantastic example of the Peacekeeper mindset, and a decent extrapolation of what happens when your engine output exceeds the minimum necessary for spaceflight.

Speaking of engines, it’s neat to note that Moya’s problem in this episode is heat reduction. This is one of the Big Things about starships – any time they do anything, they generate heat. The problem is rarely heat generation, it’s heat removal. Shutting down Moya’s propulsion system to reduce the heat generated is a brilliant use of Actual Science in a medium that rarely acknowledges the field. Cracking open the docking bay to use it as an additional heat venting system… somewhat less so. Not shoving Aeryn into her Prowler and dragging it along behind the ship while everyone else bakes on board… well. But at least they acknowledged the science. Tipped a hat at it while they rode past on the way to danger and drama.

On a related note, the scene where Aeryn gets hit with the splinter shows a device or three hooked up to Farscape One – foreshadowing, however subtle, that Crichton’s low-tech ride is getting pimped by the locals. The same could be said about Crichton himself: He figured out how to operate doors in the second episode, the thermostat in this one, and next episode he may be permitted to operate the microwave. The tech level in the Uncharted Territories is so very far beyond his reference points that he’s learning the things the others take for granted – the things that Aeryn and D’Argo point at when they brush him off as useless. But he’s picking it up.

Pilot gets two neat scenes in this episode. The first, when D’Argo begins cutting into Moya’s internal hull, is Pilot’s first furious moment in the series. Not frustrated, not defensive—outright pissed. In the second, Aeryn is in his den, the first crew member to do so. When she loses her balance in the heat delirium, he reaches out and catches her. That kind of interaction goes a long way towards de-muppetizing him, making him a person rather than a thing that’s supposed to act like one.

The alien bugs – the first generation at least – look an awful lot like alien DRDs. There may be a deliberate distinction drawn there, something to make the DRDs feel a little more familiar. At least, until the one bug gets up on its legs and menaces Crichton. Then the differences become a little greater. Fortunately, it’s only the once. On a related CGI note, watching Rygel walk into the bug nest was pretty awesome. Again, it goes a long way towards making him a character (one with actual legs) rather than just a green sock with someone’s hand up its posterior.

Crichton gets kinda hammered on in this episode, and it’s not even a black shirt ep. He’s thrust into combat with the bugs four times, and he holds up well for a relatively fragile humanoid. That first one, though. Man, nobody likes running into giant space cockroaches. His reaction is absolutely perfect.

Two last points to wrap up: The dentic, a fascinating little critter that eats plaque and craps minty freshness. How awesome is that? I wonder what kind of environment it grew up in. And finally, the Terrace. One of the neater locations in the show, mostly due to being outside Moya’s external hull. There is some handwavium that goes along with that, something about Moya’s bio-field extending a distance out something something, the same reason they can operate in the maintenance bay while the outer doors are open, but ultimately? Looking at the stars from the outside of the starship is just cool. And that is what the series is all about.


I mentioned before that I’ve enlisted Trekkiegirl and my roommate in this re-watch, since they had never seen it before. This episode is one that I could not show to my roommate. Those bugs may resemble DRDs initially (and probably are DRDs with a new housing, now that I think about it), but they’re extremely insectoid – especially when one rears up to intimidate Crichton in his quarters. That scene alone, even ignoring everything that Rygel encounters in the ion backwash chamber, will give anyone with insectophobia nightmares for a week. That’s not even counting the dentic. *shudder*

(It’s implied that Rygel has sex with the insect Matriarch. Though thankfully, it goes unconfirmed. I’d rather not dwell on this.)

That said, I still needed to summarize the episode for her, since there are a few worldbuilding devices dropped here that will be picked up later. The first and most important of which is the main difference between Sebaceans and Humans. Sebaceans lack the gland to regulate internal heat. (Roomie: “So, what, they can’t sweat?”) This causes loss of memory, motor functions and consciousness. Spend too much time in “heat delirium” and you slip into an irreversible comatose state, a “Living Death”.

(Trekkiegirl: “Really? They’re cold-blooded? They actually went there?”)

The second lore thread that gets woven into this episode is the Marauder-class troop transport, and the elite commandos it carries. (“Success measured by bodycount.”) We also find out that Aeryn was next in line for a posting on a Marauder.

Crichton and Zhaan start bonding here; she’s the most understanding about John’s learning curve.

Weston mentions Pilot’s awesome interaction with Aeryn. This episode marks the beginning of the deep friendship Aeryn and Pilot develop over the series. I think I’ll be making a note of it every time it comes up; a “bromance tally”, if you will.

While we’re on the topic of Aeryn, have you been paying attention to her hair? In the first episode, it was in the extremely tight Peacekeeper braid – a hairstyle you see on pretty much every enlisted Sebacean. Last episode, it loosened. Here, we can see that she’s simply gathering it into a loose ponytail. It’s a visual cue that she’s “letting her hair down”.

The early episodes of the show are fairly formulaic, and this episode is no different. Aeryn’s hair, Rygel and Zhaan’s interactions about Dominar Rygel I, and the Marauder storyline are right out of the book, but we’re seeing little details that show the true creativity of the writers.

Here are a few things to note as far as minor details go:

  • Crichton is able to read the environmental console. (“D’Argo, the giant Ouija board says…”) The Translator Microbes help him understand spoken communication; there’s no reason it can’t do the same with visual languages.
  • This is a very clear example of how the crew spends more time fixing their own mistakes than they do fixing other people’s. A clear subversion of the hero/villain dynamic of other space operas. As Crichton notes, the bugs didn’t start attacking until he killed the first one in his cabin.
  • Rygel is extremely tactile. Always touching, sniffing, and even tasting everything he comes across. He’s almost like Jayne Cobb in that respect.
  • Check the awesome battle makeup from the Marauder commandos. Especially around the eyes; it’s a good form of glare reduction in case they’re deployed on salt flats, snow fields, or other bright and reflective environments.

All in all, a solid – if icky – episode.


I’m glad to see the others picking up on the Aeryn/Pilot dynamic that’s starting to appear. The domesticated slave and the fascist oppressor, forced to work together as they find themselves in mutual danger. I like the hesitancy of their acknowledgment of one another, with Pilot slipping on a pause as he stiffly says, “Thank you … for your help, Officer Sun.” At heart, both are pilots who feel a bond with their crafts, and this will forge a unique mutual appreciation of Moya and each other. But, as we will see down the road, those old identities and prejudices are always waiting to boil back to the surface.

And these play into deeper themes for Aeryn this episode as, like John, she’s forced to open her eyes to new ways of thinking. As the heat saps her strength and reason, she’s completely at the mercy of people, “lesser beings”, she and her kind helped to lock away. She tries to put up a barrier at first, but it’s slowly chipped away by Zhaan’s peaceful pragmatism (“We’ll search together.”), D’Argo’s eventual respect as she risks herself during a final gambit, and John being John. Kevin’s observation of her hair coming down is spot on.

And speaking of the heat delirium and the cold-bloodedness of Peacekeepers, I applaud the writers for recognizing, just three episodes in, that genuine anatomical distinctions needed to be made between them and shockingly similar humans. She may look like one of us, but, inside, she isn’t. She’s an alien being with internal mechanics that don’t follows our rules. This is an important lesson for both John and the audience. Though how the other Peacekeepers (sorry, didn’t like the Egyptian eyes) succumb to heat so quickly when she’s been burning through it for hours longer never fully adds up.

I’ve dropped complaints in the past reviews about generic storytelling, and, yes, I’m going there again. Space bugs infest the ship. Seems like a big battle, but they only want to give birth before returning to space. Bargains are struck, peace reigns, amen. It’s a clever plot, but nothing new, and one could easily see it happening in an old pulp mag or on the decks of any incarnation of the Enterprise. However, they improve upon the last episode by making it feel more like Farscape. John figures things out by repeatedly getting the crap beaten out of him. D’Argo barges and blares and does his part to smash walls and make the bugs scatter. Rygel is once again shoved down a dank hole.

But it’s not without problems. Zhaan conveniently becomes a smock wearing scientist, complete with rubber gloves and a scalpel, as she plops a dead bug on a laboratory table. Making her the voice of the bugs is clever, but that also happens in very clumsy, convenient ways, and it’s never really explained how Rygel delegates on the ship’s behalf without her working as a “translator” (Kevin’s sex theory makes my inner eye bleed, but it would fit Farscape). And then there’s the constant struggle to give John things to do in a world where he’s still reeling from mundane tasks like opening doors. Him coming up with distinguishing marks to separate them from xeroxes is great, as is him realizing the benign intentions of the insects, but it starts to feel over the top when he’s also the first with ideas like “It was gonna use my DNA to make a copy of me,” or “Can we make something that will dissolve this blue gunk?” when Zhaan is STANDING RIGHT THERE IN A LABCOAT. They’re stumbling over a stumble as they suggest that the wise and all knowing Zhaan, who’s been slicing apart and analyzing every nook and cranny of this captured corpse, wouldn’t have put the same simple 2s and 2s together. They want John involved, but they’re trying too hard.

But it’s still a great episode filled with great moments. John leaping onto furniture at his first sight of a bug. Rygel quietly wiping his slimed finger on Zhaan’s gown. The maggot toothbrush. “Linebackers or serial killers.” The continuity of John having a huge welt on his forehead from the multiple blows he’s taken there. Pilot physically catching Aeryn. D’Argo all too eager to cut off a finger or cut out a stinger or cut through a wall. John using the xeroxes to pull a major fake-out. Not only is the creative team starting to find their footing, the brim is increasingly closer to being stuffed to with unforgettable ideas and character moments.

But not the CGI Rygel. No. Uh-uh. Never want to see him again. There’s better ways, man. There’s better ways.

Episode [1.02]: I, E.T. || Episode [1.04]: Throne for a Loss

11 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. Actually, I never had a problem seeing why the commandos went into heat delirium faster than Aeryn. Crichton – at Aeryn’s behest – has the Matriarch “crank it up”, turning the heat higher than it ever was before. Increased heat would make them succumb faster.

    • I guess my main problem is that Aeryn never fully succumbed, cold shower (with ridiculously weak water pressure) or not, whereas the commandos are dropping like flies. I’m with Weston. They should have taken her out in her prowler or one of Moya’s transports.

      Oh, and if Tessa doesn’t like an episode with bugs, wait till we get to the one where the ship becomes infested with Eversion points. :p

      And no, Tessa. Not entirely joking there.

      • What.

        Also “doesn’t like” is something of an understatement. I sort of have a crippling insect phobia, and from the sound of it, this would have caused me to completely shut down for about a week.

        • Weston

           /  July 23, 2010

          Farscape is chock full of bugs. The giant shapeshifting roach bugs here, the money bugs in 2×22-3, the bugs Chiana picks up thinking they’re cute, the giant spider in season 4… yeah.

          And he’s totally not making up the Eversion points. That’s coming up in twelve episodes or so. Luckily, it just cycles between red, yellow, and blue. But they’re all freaky.

          • Given her plated exoskeletal exterior, could one argue that Moya is also a bug?

          • Weston

             /  July 25, 2010

            I’d say it’s unlikely. She’s got significant internal skeletal bits too. I find it difficult to apply terrestrial terminology to Moya. Space Whale probably comes as close as we’re going to get.

          • Good point.

  2. I see we all forgot to mention the great moment where John accidentally tears the Xerox Aeryn’s arm off. A striking scene hurt only the the notion that the loss of a limb is instantly fatal to the clones. As I’m sure many of us sickly know, bugs don’t up and croak when a leg is lost.

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