Deconstructing Moya

A Farscape Re-watch Project

Episode [1.04] – “Throne For a Loss”

Today, on Farscape

“So once I get it on, how do I get it to work?”
“It just does.”
“Right. Willpower, like the Green Lantern’s ring. Okay.”

Moya needs to restock. There’s no food, no money, and very little patience around, which leads to our heroes heading for a planet to try to barter. Things go awry, however, when Rygel is mistaken for their king and kidnapped for ransom by mercenaries. What’s worse is that D’Argo has mistakenly tried to use one of their adrenaline-boosting weapons…


Hey guys, What did I miss last week? Sweaty!Aeryn in leather? And this week we get…an anvilicious drug message and ugly hamburger-faced mercs. Frell.

Hello, and welcome to another thrilling episode of “Rygel Frells Us All”! At one point, you have to wonder if, rather than just catching the Idiot Ball from time to time, Rygel just decided to eat it.

This episode is kind of odd, in that it seems almost like an excuse to do a “drugs are bad” story. That isn’t to say that this is a bad episode, far from it. Rygel and the Cthulhu alien (which I’m told is actually named Jotheb. Or maybe J’oth’eb) have some pretty good scenes, and the B plot with Zhaan and the littlest junkie-merc was handled surprisingly well. That said, the whole episode has side-story feel to it.

Costume-wise there isn’t much going on this time around, just the Tavlek armor and the aforementioned Littlest Junkie-Merc in Crichton’s flight suit, which is actually kind of funny to see. The armor is pretty boring, with lots of webbing and boring beige plates. As far as armor goes, it looks functional, but they probably could have done more with it. One thing about the Tavlek leader, though…That metal faceplate thing he has grafted to his skull is probably the most impractical thing I’ve seen since some of the quest rewards in Hellfire Peninsula from WoW. Is he missing the whole top half of his skull or something?

It just bugs me, is all.

This episode seems a little weaker than the others, in my personal opinion. It’s still enjoyable, but not quite as much as the others we’ve seen.


We’ve mentioned before that the first season was broadcast out of order, and this episode is probably the most obvious example. D’Argo makes a point of showing how his Qualta Blade can transform into a Qualta Rifle, and not even Aeryn knew that was possible. (Though for someone who knew a lot about Luxan military campaigns, she doesn’t know all that much about Luxans. But that’s less a continuity error and more of an example of how she – and other Peacekeepers – viewed everyone as “Lesser Races” and thus not worthy of close study.)

The next episode, “Back and Back and Back to the Future”, was initially shown right before this one, and has D’Argo already using his Qualta Rifle.

Anyway. Adam mentions this is a B-plot episode, and it shows, but it also serves as a Good Rygel Episode. We learn a lot about his imprisonment here; not just the throwaway line he gave us in “Premiere” about his cousin. On a related note, goddamn the Hynerian Empire is big. Six hundred billion subjects? That’s roughly one hundred Earths. And most of us can’t follow the leaders we ourselves put in power.

(Although, I’d kill to see a Hynerian Glenn Beck. Two forms of annoying might cancel each other out. Or make it funnier. Who knows.)

Also of note here is the introduction of Luxan biology; their blood turns toxic when it hits the open air. It’s an extremely cool aspect of xenobiology, if a bit inconvenient. Imagine a papercut that drew blood. That hurt a lot, right? Well, at least you didn’t have to split it open more to keep from dying. It becomes a recurring plot point in the series; there’s even a whole episode devoted to it here in the first season.

I’ve sort of turned into the “Check out these cool things/hello continuity” guy, so let’s take a look. Keep an eye on these things here:

  • The Gauntlet weapon (more of a bracer, really) pumps adrenaline-boosting drugs into the user. D’Argo seems to almost be in hyper-rage when he wears it, and Aeryn gets super-commando Ultra-Peacekeeper. Little nods to how it amplifies, rather than creates new emotions, which I thought was a nice touch.
  • Let’s talk about how cool Zhaan is. No, on second thought, we don’t really need to. Got a mouthy, crude, annoying youth nearby? Drop your robes to Blue Screen him and shut him up. ‘Nuff said.
  • Virginia Hey is gorgeous. I know this is the same point as above, but I thought I’d reiterate it. You know. For scientific purposes.
  • They’ve really gotten a bit blasé about Crichton being around. Though I guess he really is the only one with more than one outfit. Still, I wouldn’t want some crazy sweaty naked junkie sitting around in my flightsuit.
  • Rygel, Rygel, Rygel. You’re a loudmouth jerk who only looks out for Numero Uno, but you’ve still got a bit of a heart left. When you choose to show it, that is.
  • Aeryn is not and never has been The Chick. She will kick your ass if you say otherwise.
  • How cool is it that C’thulhu himself guest-starred in this episode? A bit of a commute to get to Australia for filming, but ultimately worth it.
  • We really get a sense of how desperate they are for supplies. Moya doesn’t provide biofluid for food, they don’t have replicators, and prisoners don’t have money. Their need for supplies is a refreshing and realistic aspect, and it allows for great misadventures like this one.

All in all, a decent sideplot episode with a surprising amount of character development.


I don’t know, guys. I don’t find this to be as much of a side-plot episode as you think it is. While, yes, it is an admitted filler story, it comes as a very natural progression of the crew’s predicament and weaves in some wonderful character cementing, making it a very essential episode. And the first, if I may say, that fully captured what Farscape will be.

The crew of Moya is wandering around space, always just outside the reach of the Peacekeepers, and has succeeded in little more than using up its dwindling resources. They need food. How do they get some? Try going all Captain Mal and sell the ship’s services as a freighter. In many shows, this is where we’d establish a new status quo, where they pull the odd job while evading the law. Not here. No, everything explodes in their face in spectacular fashion as their clients use this as a ruse to capture Rygel, whose empty boasts of still being a reigning monarch makes him a tasty target for ransom.

This is where we start to establish that there will be no status quo, no settling of formula or format for this series. No, what always stays constant are the people who are stuck in a chain of events that will force them to constantly adapt. John is still blowing up tech and rambling out pop culture references the others can’t understand, but he’s also quickly learning (the oculars) and cutting to the simple heart of issues thanks to his outsider point-of-view. Aeryn, the self-imposed outsider, is continuing to find unexpected connections. She bickers and fights and even punches out John because he disagrees with her plan (it was her turn for a plan, John), but her most unlikely of allies are of the races her kind subverted: the fellow pilot in the form of Pilot, and the fellow warrior in the form of D’Argo.

And Rygel. Pathetic gas-bag Rygel. The man who’s constantly victimized this episode – buried, strangled, kicked, fallen upon – entirely as a result of the bluster of his own pomposity. I disagree with Kevin here. Even as the Dominar is making sad puppy eyes with a drooping brow, we aren’t seeing his heart. We’re seeing his defeat. He doesn’t feel bad about what he’s done or how his actions are affecting others, he’s feeling bad because he’s not succeeding. He’s not in control. He’s not plushly enthroned before planets of grovelling subjects. Take, for instance, his pride as he throws a definite plan of escape out the window because he can’t even pretend to be humble and string Jotheb along when his fellow prisoner offers an admittedly one-sided bargain. And even after the others risk life and limb to get him back on the ship, he smirks maliciously as he hands them an unwashed stone he just shat out.

And the stone. The stone! The whole reason everyone went down to rescue the little weasel is because he removed a key component of Moya’s controls… because the shiny red jewel would look mighty fine on the head of his sceptre. I love this. Everyone (well, John briefly hesitates) is so totally willing to just leave the worm to his fate, but he has the very thing that Moya needs to fly away before she drifts into the planet’s atmosphere. It’s an ambiguous grey zone our protagonists are dropped in as we are flatly denied righteous heroics. This is Farscape, where the choices might not always be pleasant, but they’ll always be justified.

Which brings us to the drug plot. I agree that there’s times where Zhaan and the captured junkie alien feel a bit After School Special, but I like it because it shows just how awesome Zhaan is. She can make potions and medicines. She can kick all kinds of ass even though she chooses to reserve that power for defensive techniques. She fights not for zealous ideals, but the right all creatures have to make choices. And, in true Farscape tradition, the choice ultimately made isn’t the pleasant one. But it is justified. And it doesn’t just end there, as her plot to clean up the junkie runs parallel to her shipmates each exposing themselves to the drug. While, yes, both D’Argo and Aeryn do go into super-aggressive mode and turn on their mates, it’s only through John donning the needled gauntlet that he’s able to retrieve Rygel. In other words, the bad bad evil naughty drug… saves the day.

I like this episode. I really do. We finally escape the conventional plotting I’ve been going up against and get into our first episode that is full-on Farscape. Bad guys make good choices. Good guys make bad choices. Hell, you can’t tell who’s bad or good half the time. Space is a broad place with people both stunning and hideous. Our team is unable to work as smoothly as the villains because their conflicting alpha personalities just won’t shut the frell up, and they often only succeed through sheer ballsy ridiculousness.

And at least one of them has a mighty fine blue alien derrière.


Ahh, sweet fourth place. Where the relevant points have already been made and I can pick at my happy little nits with no guilty feelings whatsoever.

The first order of business must be to echo some of those points. Primarily, hello Cthulhu! Love the eyes. Jury’s still out on your resurrection power, unless it includes madness induction. Also, Zhaan. Mmmmm.

Those two trains of thought should never have been put into the same paragraph. For this, I apologize.

John does an awful lot of tackling in this episode, especially in the first twelve minutes or so. Seriously, he pulls Aeryn out of the line of fire like four times. On the one hand, this bothers me a bit. Officer Aeryn Sun is a Peacekeeper, an elite who was applying for Marauder duty, an ass-kicker and gum-chewer. On the other hand, John tackling Aeryn is something that should never, ever be turned down.

Pilot has, as usual, a couple of fantastic lines. Early on, when Rygel has been kidnapped and the crew is trying to deal with the Tabloid Tavlek leader, “D’Argo’s getting angrier. Do something.” Just something about the way he delivers that line cracks me up. The second line, right after the captured Tab- Tavlek dismembers a DRD, perfectly captures Pilot’s anger and… wordiness.

Ah, the outfits. I may be the only one who thinks the Tabl- Tavlek outfits look like Fallout Power Armor. The flat helmets, the single broad piece across the shoulders, I find it very evocative. Cutting to a lower layer, the cloth mesh shirts remind me very much of the fishnet/mail undershirts (and occasionally overshirts) worn by characters in the Naruto manga. This, of course, looks very good on Aeryn. Related note: Did anyone else think of Wonder Woman when everyone was deflecting power bolts with their magic bracers?

Aeryn’s marksmanship with the Qualta Rifle is abysmal, but that’s to be expected when firing a weapon that you have zero proficiency in. I’m amazed she got her shots within a few meters of the targets at that range.

Rygel is a lot happier about mud when he’s using it to dig himself out of a dirt pit. Proof, perhaps, that he isn’t as upset with it as he said in “I, E.T.” From anyone but a habitual liar, I’d be surprised.

A lot of the shots in the opening credits come from this episode. As in most. And they stick around through season two.

Crichton manages to roll a natural 20 on his diplomacy check after his super-adrenaline kicks the bucket. He’s a fast thinker, very much at ease with the epic bluff, which comes very much in handy later in the season. Actually… with how often he uses it, you could make the case that it’s his superpower. MacGuyver has duct tape, Michael Knight has KITT, and John Crichton has rapid babbling. I find it quite endearing.

Noel’s Re-Rewatch (3/21/2022)

I’ve been bringing up over the last couple episodes how Zhaan has been falling into den mother mode, always calming and comforting and guiding. This is the episode that starts breaking her of it. In the last episode, she was comforting and urging John. Here, she’s rolling her eyes at the news that he has a plan. The entire plot of her and Kyr the young Tavlek lets us see how strong she is and capable of violence, which further accentuates her peace and control. And the great ending, of her going through all this trouble to free him of his drug dependency, only for him to happily return right to it, is something that you can see taking a toll on her. Outside of the pilot, we’re not used to Zhaan’s anger, but it’s something we’ll start seeing more often.

As I said above, this is where we’re starting to feel like a more traditional episode of Farscape. D’Argo tries to assume command in a way which highlights how this ensemble has no leader. John strikes a truce only by activating the very weapon he’s spent the entire episode avoiding (HEAVY unintentional foreshadowing to the end of Peacekeeper Wars there). Aeryn and D’Argo continue to hate each other even as they’re always there to help each other. Rygel finally shows his own self loathing at just how far he’s fallen and how hated he is, and he’s completely incapable of changing as he just has to get a nasty final dig at the very people who saved him. John starts to become the “ugly American” who’s so frustrated the locals aren’t understanding his pop culture references that he doesn’t even care that he’s getting them wrong half the time himself.

I think the major reason why this feels like a major step in the direction of what this show is tonally becoming is that it was the first written someone who would go on to become a major creative voice on the team. Richard Manning is a veteran of the first three seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and also wrote episodes of ExoSquad, TekWar, and Sliders. He not only becomes one of the most prominent writers of Farscape for all four seasons, but just a few episodes after this, he becomes a consulting producer, then bumps up to co-executive producer for season 2, then a full executive producer on seasons 3 and 4.

Alas, this is the second and final episode for director Pino Amenta. Back in “I, ET”, I was stuck by the staging of the scene between Aeryn and Dargo in the tree. It was very strangely posed, and yet kinda worked in an odd way. The scene between them in the woods as Aeryn is recovering from her drug crash is very similarly done. There’s an artifice to the posture and how intimately close they are, but it still heightens the characters in a way I like. Maybe a hair too cartoonish in its artifice, but I’m digging it.

Overall, a key episode, even though it’s often dismissed as filler. Even beyond the cast, this shows the hardships they face as they have little food, no resources, and no source of income to get out of it. They’re criminals nudging around the periphery for scraps.

Episode [1.03]: Exodus from Genesis || Episode [1.05]: Back and Back and Back to the Future

8 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. Weston wrote: Aeryn’s marksmanship with the Qualta Rifle is abysmal, but that’s to be expected when firing a weapon that you have zero proficiency in. I’m amazed she got her shots within a few meters of the targets at that range.

    I got the impression that, instead of going for pin-point accuracy, she was just trying to create confusion for the others to escape through. Beside, if she’d actually blown away some of the soldiers, I’m sure it would have made John’s negotiations all the more difficult.

    • Weston

       /  July 30, 2010

      On the one hand, she was the “distraction”. On the other, Aeryn’s idea of a distraction tends to be to kill the officers and let the enlisted run around in circles. Then kill the enlisted.

      • I still argue that her stray shots were intentional, but, yeah, that is out of character for her.

  2. I like how we’re not afraid to contradict and disagree with each other here. It gives us a lot of room for expanding on opinions and themes, and it makes a more interesting read.

    That said, I checked out the Rygel thing a second time, and I still have to say that you do see Rygel’s feelings. Right after he tells Jotheb (J’oth’eb, whatever) that he’s worthless and nobody wants him around, you actually see those words hit him – almost directly after saying them, even. I guess I used the more general version of “he still has a heart” than most people do, and it gives the wrong impression.

    • Adam

       /  July 30, 2010

      The “J’oth’eb” thing was just a passing joke relating to His Cthulhu-ness and how H.P Lovecraft liked to throw in handfuls of apostrophes into his mythos names (Ry’leh, Y’ha’nthlei, ETC).

    • I like how we’re not afraid to contradict and disagree with each other here. It gives us a lot of room for expanding on opinions and themes, and it makes a more interesting read.

      A discussion isn’t worth discussing if everybody agrees. 🙂

      That said, I checked out the Rygel thing a second time, and I still have to say that you do see Rygel’s feelings.

      I agree that we see a genuine emotional response, but I personally take the phrase “we see his heart” as meaning a display of empathy or compassion. All we see here is humiliation and defeat because he’s entirely at the mercy of people for whom for has absolutely no authority, and, yes, because it’s been driven home that nobody gives two squats for his continued existence. Throughout the season, so far, he’s only been important because he’s made himself important, and basks in the glory of whatever small praise he can wring out of the others. Here’s he’s robbed of even that.

      But I guess this is more a sign of how we each perceive “heart” more than it is a disagreement between us.

    • Weston

       /  July 31, 2010

      I hate you and the music you like! D:<

      But yeah. When Rygel falls, he falls hard. He can be so sympathetic when he isn't being a royal ass.

      …y'know, we four are about 80% of the comments on these. XD

  3. Cshenk

     /  October 30, 2014

    Is four and half years after this was written too late to comment? Anyway, I noticed in this episode and “I, E.T.” how John is always holding on to Aeryn or tackling her, and most of the time she’s not moving away very fast : ). I know from the DVD commentary that it was a conscious choice that Ben and Claudia made to be in close proximity as often as possible since even though the writers hadn’t said so (yet), they believed they were telling a love story.


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