Deconstructing Moya

A Farscape Re-watch Project

Episode [1.06] – “Thank God It’s Friday. Again.”

Today, on Farscape

“What I had to do up there was like a field strategy exercise, only the enemy wasn’t trying to kill me, the enemy was a puzzle. There were lots of different pieces and independently, separately, they didn’t… they didn’t make any sense and I had to think it through really hard and I had to work out and try different combinations of putting them together and then finally I worked out what had happened and I worked out what I had to do—What?”
“This is great. Trading in your pulse rifle for the Junior Chemistry Kit.”

It’s been three days since D’Argo jumped ship after a bout of Luxan hyper-rage led to repeated attempts on John’s life. Heading down to the planet Sykar to check on him, the rest of the crew discover that the rich technology of a labor community has gone to pot as the unusually passive civilization now focuses entirely on the cultivation of a root. Every day is full of toil in the fields as they all smile and look forward to the rest day of tomorrow … a tomorrow that never seems to come as they keep working and smiling and working and smiling.


Noel

The last episode received some complaints from me for failing to pull off an odd mystery surrounding a very alien woman. Here, we get something along a similar line with Volmae, the bizarre leader of the doped out community, but this time it plays out much more successfully. The cause of the peoples’ condition is pretty obvious, but the mystery comes from the particulars of what it is they’re doing and who it’s being done for, all of which I found a genuine surprise (the blessing of a foggy memory). And Angie Milliken is amazing to watch. There’s the obvious element of her manipulation and secrecy, but it’s incorporated well into weird twitches and sways as her character has to force each line out of her wasted body, all the while keeping a smile in place for appearance’s sake. Her condition is the result of a filtering worm in her gut, one of which Crichton now finds himself the not-so-proud owner of. His visible sickness and discomfort is amusing at first, until we realize he could very well turn into a similar veiny albino should he not be relieved of the parasite. It’s a marvelous fusion of writing, design, and performance.

Which is backed up by the cast as a whole. D’Argo is an absolute terror as he searches for a hidden John in the opening scene. There’s still some questions I have about the specifics of Luxan hyper-rage, but we know for sure that it may lead to John’s death simply because he’s male and nearby (I love Rygel’s deflation as he realizes he’s not considered an equal target). And this is all beautifully countered by our fist sight of D’Argo in the Sykaran night club, laughing and embracing John – even as the human throws a few frightened punches against expected hyper-rage – and dancing with lovely ladies who slink back to his quarters as our first proof that while John is the man, D’Argo gets all the tail. We’d expect Zhaan to quickly appreciate the peace-loving commune, but she’s equally well played as her eventual acceptance is tempered by initial suspicion and examination. And the scene of her and John sharing a bed, each suffering from subconsciously drifting hands, is hilarious.

Kevin pointed out in our last installment how Aeryn is the only one showing interest in John’s constant Earthly pop culture references, and here she takes it further by trying to add them to her own vernacular (“She gives me a woody.”). Added to that, it seems John is finally finding his place on the ship as she keeps deferring to him as the group scientist, suggesting that he’s grown increasingly familiar with the equipment on board. Which leads to my favorite part of the episode. No, not Rygel pissing liquid nitrogen (that was hilarious and a great effect), but rather Aeryn, deprived of John, having to enter the lab herself and perform tests of a scientific nature. Earlier, we see her in her element as she marches around, pulse rifle at the ready, but here she’s visibly pulled out of her comfort zone as she keeps trying to shove the tasks on Pilot until he finally makes it clear that limitations make this impossible (some more great bonding between the two, by the way, and I’m sure Kevin will have plenty to say about that). The shock she experiences at her own eventual accomplishment is just so adorable.

Speaking of Rygel’s lethal pissing, heaps of praise must once again be given to the puppeteering staff for the increasing fear and pain the Dominar goes through as his body turns against him, mixing with the local drugs to make a horrific cocktail out of his precious bodily fluids. And who is he stuck with in this condition? Doctor Aeryn, who puts the first steps together – perfectly true to character – with the barrel of her pulse rifle. Great work. And who doesn’t love the shot of his bloated body in cryo freeze?

My only real complaint is the design of the Sykarans. Their tanned skin and bleached hair and eyes are interesting, but them and their Asian-inspired farming outfits are a little too down-to-earth, especially in comparison to the unforgettable sight of Volmae. There is a nice exchange between Aeryn and John about cousin races, but I still wish they’d pushed it just a bit more. Other than that, great direction, great writing, great performances, some great designs. A great episode.


Weston

Noel’s absolutely right about the difference between Matala and Volmae. They’re both villains, but Volmae is written and played so much better that watching these two episodes back to back is kinda like watching The Last Airbender and New Moon together. Severe whiplash.

This is the second Black Shirt Episode, coming hot on the heels of the first. As such episodes go, it’s relatively mild. The worst thing that happens to John is pain from the gut worm and watching his friends get brainwashed. Bad, sure, but miles short of “That Old Black Magic”. You could even make the argument that the worst mind screw happens to Aeryn when she’s forced out of her usual “shoot first, shoot later” comfort zone and into the tech role.

This may be the first external shot of the pods since episode one. The only view we got of the pod then was when it was taking off from the run-down commerce planet. Here, we see one taking off, traveling, and landing. Neat little ships, especially the way the landing gear is made up of the bottom ribs.

We were discussing last episode how this series compares and contrasts with Lexx. In this one, I think we see a little more of the former. D’Argo is way, way, way happier when he’s getting some. Drugs help, but his epic sex drive kinda drives the first part of the episode. This is also the episode where D’Argo’s green thumb begins to grow. I think it may also be the last time we hear of it before the end of season 2.

There’s a really fantastic moment when Crichton discovers the Peacekeeper link. The expression on his face, Volmae’s continuing with business as usual, and the ominous music combine for a fantastic revelation. It works even better if you recognize the Peacekeeper flag from the previous episode.

D’Argo’s little apartment has a fantastic hide-a-bed. Kinda small, unfortunately. Or fortunately, if you’re shipping John and Zhaan. Her insistence on sleeping naked is fairly typical for her, even, and maybe especially, in light of John’s protests. Someday she may enlighten him.

Volmae throwing the peace sign as a greeting to Crichton is hilarious.

Pilot has some significant limitations, and this episode presents one of them. It’s built on early in season 2, but his lack of science background is a pretty severe hindrance in Moya’s regular operation.

While Rygel is frozen Aeryn breaks off his left mustache. After he unfreezes, it’s still gone. Continuity like that is fantastic. It’ll be back next episode, unfortunately, but little touches like that are endearing.


Adam

Guys, I think I like surly D’Argo more than happy hippy D’Argo.

Before I go any further, let’s talk about Volmae for a minute. This is a severely creepy lady, kids. Between the hair, almost translucent skin with prominent veins, and the staggered way she talks, she sends off a STRONG “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” vibe. I really expected her to leap at John’s jugular the second she saw him. And am I the only one that got a creepy flirty vibe between her and John when they met in the bar the second time? And her braids look like they are made of cheap yarn. All and all, a grade A-1 creeper.

The costumes in this episode are nice, if a bit monotonous. They have a very Asian feel to them, and give a clue as to the creepy opium-esque effects of the Tannet root. Volmae’s guards look like DEVOs evil cousins, which is always a fun look. Volmae kinda looks like one of the Twins from the second matrix movie, and I have to say she carries it off better than they did.

The makeup here is really above average. The locals have a subtle scale pattern over their bodies, which must have been a pain to do. And big props to anyone that had to wear colored contacts here, because I know they are a stone bitch to wear for any amount of time.

Finally, here are a few thoughts I had during this episode:

  • I’m not sure, but I think a few of the flowers in the background might have been poppies, which have that same red color as the locals clothing.
  • Rygel is just an unending source for bodily grossness. I can’t imagine how the Hynerians conquered their own planet, let alone an empire.
  • Pilot seems almost embarassed to be interested in science. It’s kinda adorable. We get him a witty T-shirt and a Warcraft account and he’d make a fine geek.
  • Aeryn is getting dangerously close to becoming a Hot Scientist. I kinda want her to get a lab coat.

Kevin

As Weston noted in a previous episode, the final slot in our review lets us pick away as we wish, since all the relevant points of the episode have already been made.

Remember how D’Argo’s emotional state has been dragged around for the last couple episodes? It all culminates with a bout of Hyper-Rage at the beginning, which is a fantastic aspect of xenobiology. Luxan Hyper-Rage becomes a recurring plot point for the series, especially as D’Argo struggles with it.

I’d like to point out, though, that for a seemingly D’Argo-heavy episode – at least, the plot is moved almost exclusively by D’Argo – he’s not in it very much at all. In my opinion, that marks strong ensemble writing; everyone gets their spotlight in almost every episode, even if they have very little to do with the Problem Of The Week.

I mentioned the Aeryn/Pilot Bromance Tally earlier; this episode moves it along. Pilot and Aeryn start confiding in each other more, and rely on each other a lot more than usual. And seriously, as Adam said, watching Aeryn struggle with the science stuff and realize that she’s actually good at it? Heartwarming and awesome at the same time.

Here’s something I thought was a great touch: The Peacekeepers are a large-scale interplanetary mercenary police force, right? Rent-a-cops in fetish gear, basically. That’s a lot of spaceships, and a lot of pulse weapons. I nitpick about science-fiction authors having a complete lack of scale, especially where whole planets are concerned. Even Farscape is prone to having the Single Biome Planets from time to time. This episode completely shatters that. We get that sense of scale when they talk about how the entire planet is overrun by these laser turnips, and that is a believeable concept because of how far-reaching the Peacekeepers are. They need the fuel for their weapons, and this is a cost-effective way to get it without dipping into their mercenary contract profits.

I don’t know, I thought it was a neat touch.

The things to keep an eye on in this episode:

  • Everyone loves tormenting Crichton. Aeryn delights in taunting Crichton – “D’Argo’s been off the ship for three whole days, but we couldn’t find you to tell you. You hide very well; you must have had a lot of practice.” Rygel also takes pleasure in this, because…well, he’s Rygel. Not even Zhaan misses a chance to get her digs in later, with the whole “sleeping naked” thing. It seems callous, until you remember that it’s Crichton, who always gets just as good as he gives.
  • Rygel’s grin when Crichton theorizes that D’Argo might have killed something down on the planet of albinos. Adam’s right; he has a fascination for the death of other creatures, so long as it’s not him.
  • Speaking of Rygel, I keep mentioning how tactile he is, and how he’s always tasting things as he comes across them. Even this bad experience doesn’t temper that urge. It’s an extraordinarily fascinating aspect of his character.
  • Did anyone else catch Crichton’s off-hand comment about Humans and Sebaceans being “kissing cousins”? And Aeryn completely dismisses it. Just throwing that out there, but remember that conversation.
  • Crichton, can’t you just get beyond Thunderdome? (*dodging rotten fruit*)

Final note: I think everyone loved Aeryn’s misunderstanding.

Aeryn: “She gives me a woody.”
(Crichton stares at her)
Aeryn: “Woody. It’s a human saying. I’ve heard you say it often. When you don’t trust someone and they make you nervous, they give you—”
Crichton: (quickly) “Willies! They give you the willies.”


Episode [1.05]: Back and Back and Back to the Future || Episode [1.07]: PK Tech Girl

5 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. Adam: The locals have a subtle scale pattern over their bodies, which must have been a pain to do.

    I didn’t notice that detail the first time around. That really is a clever touch and, when added to the talk of them being a Sebatian cousin race, quietly enforces their cold-blooded reptilian nature. Though these folks are obviously more accustomed to the heat what with Aeryn having to go back to the ship come morning. Interesting.

    Kevin: I nitpick about science-fiction authors having a complete lack of scale, especially where whole planets are concerned. […] This episode completely shatters that.

    That is a very, very good point and definitely something I loved about the episode. However, I can’t remember if, down the road, we ever actually see the broader consequences of this episode. I’d expect them to be wide and would love to see how the Peacekeepers are deeply affected so early on by this hapless human, but honestly don’t recall if we do. Do you guys? It would be quite unfortunate if it were swept away and done-in-one.

    Reply
    • I think someone mentioned that this wasn’t the only Laser Turnip Factory. If the rest of the planet is the same as this, it’ll take a while to halt production. And if there are other planets, this would only be a small dent.

      Reply
  2. Maggie

     /  August 18, 2010

    Thanks for having this website, and loving Farscape. I am almost finished with the fourth season. It’s the best show, ever.

    Reply

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