Deconstructing Moya

A Farscape Re-watch Project

Episode [1.07] – “PK Tech Girl”

Today, on Farscape

“Thank you for stopping her killing me.”
“I try to save a life a day. It usually winds up being my own…”

Moya comes across an abandoned Peacekeeper Command Carrier and the crew starts to investigate, but Rygel wants nothing more than to leave the past to the past. Unfortunately, they’re not the only ones with an eye on salvage…


Weston

This is an episode that I feel completely inadequate to write about. The writing is tight, the acting is on the spot, the pacing is quick. Here we are introduced to Gilina, a Peacekeeper tech who serves as Crichton’s natural counterpart among the enemy. We also meet Durka, the Peacekeeper commander who jailed and tortured Rygel during the first years after his deposition. And finally we meet Teurac, a fire-belching scavenger who has been at the job far too long to take extrordinary risks.

The opening shot is a reflection of the Zelbinion in Rygel’s eye, a neat effect showing us that it’s as much in him as it is out there. The amount of suffering laid on the little Dominar in this episode is downright painful to watch – his initial fear of the decrepit Command Carrier is enough to override his omnipresent greed, and sufficiently strong that it sends him scurrying into Moya’s cargo hold at the first shadow of memory. The way that he confronts this fear over the course of the episode is magnificent.

Crichton’s immediate defense of Gilina reflects his naive human perspective: Nothing in the Uncharted Territories is entirely friendly. It’s a reflex that’s going to hurt him in the future, but this one time it works out. His reaction after Aeryn reveals that she is from Crais’ ship is better, but he remains protective of her throughout their relationship. Their interactions throughout the episode are touching. A little quick, maybe, but they have some great chemistry.

Aeryn’s reaction to Gilina is standard Peacekeeper, at first. That may be Aeryn in a nutshell. “Peacekeeper first, character development later.” The development of their relationship is both sweet and a little sad. Gilina gets to go back home to the life Aeryn left, and Aeryn… well, she’s stuck with Crichton. Which is where Gilina would like to be. It’s a no-win scenario – each gets something, but loses something else in the process.

Rygel’s mustache makes a triumphant return after the terrible abuse suffered at the hands of amateur Tech Aeryn. Just in time for abuse at the hands of Durka. The poor mustache.


Kevin

This episode is absolutely brilliantly shot. The entire set of the Zelbinion is very evocative of Ridley Scott. This is even more apparent with Aeryn’s Ripley-esque appearance. (Side-note, get a look at those guns! And the giant pulse rifle, too.)

There are a few really well-done plot threads weaved and intersecting throughout the episode. The first one is Rygel overcoming his past with the Zelbinion and Captain Durka. Both Zhaan and Pilot attempt to convince Rygel to face his fears and – in true Rygel style – defile the corpse. Rygel has always been one of the most expressive characters, and this episode really throws his fears in your face – especially when we’re thrown into his own flashbacks to his torture sessions.

The second thread consists of Crichton and the Peacekeepers (have you heard my new rock band, Crichton and the Peacekeepers?), attempting to repair the Zelbinion‘s defense screen. The hostility between Aeryn and Gilina is the primary drive of this thread, which also leads into a bit of a romance/jealousy angle. How great is it to see two science geeks in their element, where brainstorming turns to flirting? This, of course, makes Aeryn feel like a Third Wheel (in more than one way).

The third thread is with D’Argo and the Fire Toads. (Have you heard my new metal band, D’Argo and the Fire Toads?) D’Argo has had a lot of reasons in previous episodes to have a bit of an existential crisis, and he’s having serious doubts about being able to lead the defense of Moya. Remember how I said that the last few episodes have been playing merry hell with D’Argo’s emotional stability (usually for things beyond his control)? They culminated in Hyper-Rage last episode, and he’s definitely unsure of himself here. He does get a lot of encouragement from Zhaan and Pilot, and he really steps up to the plate here.

The mark of a well-written episode is when all the plot threads come together, making the episode as a whole that much stronger. Seinfeld in particular was the master at this, and this episode of Farscape evokes a bit of that genius.

Things to keep note of this episode:

  • “Moya and I are very afraid of fire.” Pilot just looks so vulnerable. It’s no wonder he’s the Woobie of the series.
  • While Crichton being into Gilina makes a lot of sense – he’s been away from home for so long, and Sebaceans look just like humans, and Aeryn has been standoffish to him – the reciprocation seems a bit forced to me. Gilina was on Crais’s crew, she knows that Crichton is alien and dangerous. Why does she seem so eager to contaminate herself?
  • FIRE TOADS.
  • How badass is Aeryn? So badass. Her screaming “ON. THE GROUND. NOW.” certainly sparked a whole bunch of fetishes for growing teenagers, let me tell you. Especially when you factor her arms into the matter; Claudia Black has great arms.
  • Speaking of budding fetishes, Gilina rocks the tank top. I’m not talking about the standard attributes; I will admit to having a bit of a thing for shoulders and bare arms.

This episode is probably one of the more artistic ones in the first season, and while it’s not my favorite, it’s well up there.


Noel

Man, where to start….

Gilina, the stray Peacekeeper tech. She’s one of the very rare things in this series that can be called adorable, and I fully bought into the brief romance between her and John. He isn’t just drawn to her physically, but intellectually as he finally has a partner he can dive into a science project with (speaking of which, look how comfortable he is with alien tech by now). It’s the natural breeding ground for a pair of stunningly attractive geeks and it’s a surprising relief to see John finally get some lip action, even if it’s not with Aeryn (blasphemy!). Speaking of Aeryn, just get a load of her in full on “chew bubblegum and kick ass” mode. We’ve talked about how she’s let her hair down and peeled away layers of the old uniform as she settles outside her comfort zone and learns to respect “lesser species”, but here she falls back to her old ways hard, whipping out some classist hazing on the (said with a sneer) “tech” and even throwing a few punches at John – who’s thankfully learned how to dodge them by now. The familiar environs and presence of a subordinate are causing her to overcompensate, symbolized by the freakin’ HUUUUUGE pulse rifle slung at her side.

Gilina not only cuts to the hearts of these two players in great ways, but she’s an amazing “what if” character: a supporting player destined for single episode status but who leaves such a strong impression that you can’t help but wonder how it would play out if she actually stuck around the series for a while. How would her relationship turn out with John? How would her relationship turn out with Aeryn? How would she affect the relationship between John and Aeryn? What additional tech would she equip Moya with? How would she get along with Zhaan and D’Argo? As a tech, how would she get on with Pilot? Would she be able to keep Rygel from seeing her backside during “meditation”? However, one of the things I love about Farscape is that it gets to the point where it takes the characters and their relationship down more twists and turns per one or two episodes than most contemporary series would go through in an entire season. It all starts with this episode as Gilina and John fall in love, Aeryn gets jealous, John confronts Aeryn, Gilina decides to stay behind, Aeryn and Gilina part on respectful terms, and John and Gilina say their farewells through tears. Playing it out any longer wouldn’t change any of that, so why not move through it now so we can get to a waiting universe filled with other things? And as Weston points out, it ends on the perfect poetic note of Aeryn and Gilina both having to take the paths the other would rather choose.

Then there’s the Sheyangs, the feared scavengers hanging just out of scanning range for any other ships that might swoop in to inspect some salvage. I love the setup, with D’Argo growling at the mention of their name, the constant discovery that they’ve already stripped out things our heroes need (food, weapons, star charts), and the ever present smoldering corpses that remind us of how they burn their enemies alive. While not quite on the level of the Reavers, it’s enough to get one quaking in their boots. Sadly, they blow it on the reveal as the Sheyangs are nothing more than obese redneck frog men with big floppy feet and WWII bomber garb who burn their enemies alive by literally burping up the flames. These are the guys who clonk their leaders on the head when they disagree with an order, who shoot at a guy who tells them to their face that he’s holding what amounts to a dead-man’s switch, who invade a ship by launching a dozen manned pods at fritzing shields with the hope that at least one will punch through while the others explode around it in a fatal way. We were promised Predator and instead got Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. While it’s a good example of Farscape constantly refusing to settle on a tone, I feel it’s yet another season 1 misfire.

Faring much better, though, are the attempts by D’Argo and Zhaan to delay the Sheyangs. We learned about Hyper-Rage in the last episode and it’s great how they almost boil it back to life here, with the Luxan warrior, long burning for a battle, finally facing down a worthy and challenging foe only to be stuck in a ship completely devoid of weaponry and for the foe to be powering up a large blaster instead of taking him on in hand-to-hand combat. He thuggishly “leads” everyone with reasonable capability up to this point, but now he gets so worked up that he goes into a tirade of swears that not even the translator microbes can keep up with. And what does the patient and wise Zhaan do to improve their situation? Open a comlink. If you can’t scare your enemy with weapons, do it with a frothingly pissed Luxan raging right into the camera. And it works! It knocks the threat level of the Sheyangs down yet another peg, but it’s a great scene. And I love how D’Argo and Zhaan argue about keeping the ruse alive:

D’Argo: “I cannot lie to an opponent in battle.”
Zhaan: “It’s not lying, it’s simply misleading.”
D’Argo: “For a priest, you certainly have a very flexible morality!”

Finally, there’s Rygel’s thread, as he has to revisit the chamber of horrors from which he once escaped. He’s his usual pomp at first, barking and spitting to cover his frustrations, but I love the scene where he gets so overwhelmed following a visit to the Zelbinion that he builds and huddles into a dark little fort of crates in a corner of the corner of a corner of Moya. We get flashes of the one-eyed Captain Selto Durka, dragging Rygel along grated floors and tearing off the Dominar’s medallions, but I wish they’d pushed the brutality of this relationship even more. And there is a limit to what the Rygel puppet can express, and while they did a lot with performance and shadows and the heavy crush of the music, when you go into a closeup of a glass eye, it looks like a glass eye. The iris doesn’t move, the blink of the lids is mechanical, you can even see the gap between the inside of the lid and the ball itself, completely lacking the moist suction that would hold them together in nature. It doesn’t sell to me.

But worst of all, this thread doesn’t tie into anything. Everyone is running around dealing with defense screens and Sheyangs, and Rygel’s just wandering off on his own dark spirit quest. He has to confront his fear, that’s a good thing, I like it, but couldn’t it tie into the broader plot if even in the most minor of ways? What if, instead of choosing to face his fears, he had to. I know that was already covered a bit in “I, E.T.”, but you could play it out differently here, with every little thing he looks at on the Zelbion bringing about subliminal flashbacks to his torment. The earlier struggle was fear of failure, this is the overwhelming haunt of memory. Something could have been made of this that would either help or hinder the broader cast in their efforts, but, no, it’s just left on its own.

This thread does, however, end on a great note. Rygel is known for plundering anything he can wherever and whenever he can – hell, Zhaan even points it out in this episode – but when he confronts the corpse of Captain Durka, dead by a bullet to his own temple, Rygel looks right into the steel ball the man wore in his scarred eye-socked, and instead of claiming it as a prize, he hawks upon it the nastiest wad of phlegm you’ll ever see. Bravo, Dominar. Bravo.

Wow. I didn’t mean to ramble on this much, but there were so many things worth talking about. While not perfect, with one thread that goes an awkward direction and another that feels underdeveloped, this is my favorite episode yet. It’s deep. It’s rich. Some of our cast go on complete journeys in a mere 50 minutes. The acting is spot on. The dialogue is spot on. The direction, the music, the f/x, the wicked blinking eyes of the Sheyang, all spot on. And I had to look it up, but for the very first time, we have a season 1 episode (excluding “Premiere”) with characters and elements that will come back into the story down the road. I very much look forward to having my memory refreshed.

And I can’t resist ending it with one more great exchange, from an episode with so many to choose from:

John: “Hey.”
Aeryn: “A greeting I shall never understand.”
John: “It’s kind of all-purpose. Lets the other person decide what they want to talk about.”
Aeryn: “What if they don’t want to talk?”
John: “Then they say ‘hey’ back.”
Aeryn: “Hey.”


Episode [1.06]: Thank God It’s Friday. Again. || Episode [1.08]: That Old Black Magic

2 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. “Crichton’s immediate defense of Gilina reflects his naive human perspective: Nothing in the Uncharted Territories is entirely friendly.”

    Actually i think it reflects the fact that he’s a guy and she’s hot. 🙂 Guys always rush in to defend the damsel in distress. Hormones still win all even in the UT.

    Reply
    • Weston

       /  October 5, 2010

      Solid point. You see the same thing from all of the crew at some point or another.

      Reply

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