Deconstructing Moya

A Farscape Re-watch Project

Episode [1.10] – “They’ve Got a Secret”

Today, on Farscape

“The suffering that you’ve managed to avoid with your science is unimaginable.”
“Creatures still die out here, and we find new ways to suffer and make others suffer.”
“I never said Earth had a monopoly on that.”
“But you say you want to go back to this place, this Earth, a place that you tell me has so much disease and suffering.”
“Well, you guys don’t have chocolate.”

While combing over Moya for any additional Peacekeeper tech that could possibly be used against them, D’Argo jumps the gun in his typical smashing way, triggering an explosion of biomechanical particles. Everything suddenly goes to pot as his memories are scrambled, Pilot stops functioning, the air and food start to spoil, and the swarms of little DRDs turn on our crew.


Noel

Following the events of last episode, it’s interesting to see a little harmony back on the team. We do, of course, open with D’Argo smashing head first into things as his anger causes a massive problem, but everyone really pulls together. When he’s ejected into space, Aeryn immediately suits up and retrieves him in her Prowler. Zhaan is again the voice of calm and reason as she dons the lab coat for potions and scans. John kicks into engineer mode as he pores over floor plans than likely would have broken his brain just ten episodes prior. And Rygel plays babysitter, even as D’Argo, mistaking the Dominar for his infant son, gives him piggy-back rides and the occasional tickle.

No, instead of the crew turning on one another, they’re now stuck in a battle against their own ship. Moya is starving them, suffocating them, robbing them their only means of communication with her – Pilot – and even gluing them to the floor and opening fire. While I don’t understand her instantly jumping into such a defensive spaz, never once trying to communicate with her crew as they are later able to do with her, it is compelling stuff to have one’s own ship, the only thing keeping these people alive in the cosmos, suddenly decide for itself that they aren’t worth protecting. And even better is the crew fighting back as they get to the point where opening up her higher functions for a lobotomy becomes an acceptable option. It’s chilling, but feels like the only way out… until we learn the truth.

Which is, of course, that Moya is pregnant, a plot twist you could only get on a show like Farscape. For newcomers, this is a thread that gets a lot of play over the course of the series, but we’ll cover that as we get there. Personally, I’d forgotten that they set it up so early on, as it’s a wonderful addition to the crew’s full plate of problems. And note that the baby and Crais are the only real recurring characters at the moment, aside from the main cast. There’s some interesting foreshadowing in that, intentional or not.

It’s an interesting plot, but I feel it’s dragged down by D’Argo and his scrambled head. His origin is fantastic – he fell in love with a Peacekeeper, the sworn enemy of his race, and fathered a child by the woman, only for her bitter and xenophobic brother to kill her and charge D’Argo for the crime – but I don’t like the heavy-handed way he mistakes the crew for the memories playing out in his head. There are some powerful moments, most especially a kiss shared with Zhaan, but it’s melodramatic and artificial, and not even the haunting piece of music that weeps in the background can cover for the fact that it repeatedly grinds the entire Moya thread to a halt. There was so much more they could do with the ship, more specific and thrilling attempts to purge the crew, but that’s shoved aside for half the episode so we can linger on sappy reminisces. Regardless of how powerful the revelations are or how solid the performances, it makes for a lopsided episode.

But it’s still a pretty solid Farscape tale. The cast has defined itself by now, the stories are settling into a nice balance of serialized and episodic threads, callbacks are dropped in to previous plots that initially seemed to be one-offs (the Peacekeeper tech in “I, E.T.“, Aeryn’s genetic swap with Pilot in “DNA Mad Scientist“), and the direction is crisp and fluid… though I could have done without all the dissolves as John, Aeryn, and Zhaan make plans at a table. Seriously, what was that all about? There was no transition of time between dissolves, they were just there to be there. Knock it off!


Weston

I’ll disagree with Noel on this; the kiss between D’Argo and Zhaan is a great moment. It just works for me. The movement, the music, the emotions that D’Argo’s revisiting, it totally feeds into my shipping. I mean, D’Argo/Zhaan forever, amirite?

After the events of the previous episode, I can totally understand Moya turning on the crew. If D’Argo, Zhaan, and Rygel are willing to cut off one of Pilot’s arms for their own goals, what would they do if they found out their ride was going to be partially crippled for several months? Maybe she was intending to tell them after the tenuous first few hours of conception, but there’s no way she’d trust these ingrates before the fetus was stable.

John keeps getting the short end of the D’Argo crazy stick. He’s been targeted by hyper-rage and slapped around repeatedly; and now in D’Argo’s hallucination he’s Macton, murderer of D’Argo’s wife Lo’Laan. Poor butt monkey.

On D’Argo: What the frell was that? I swear, if you handed this guy an instruction manual for a bookcase, he’d look at it for a minute, get frustrated, and beat it in an attempt to get it to surrender the secrets of its assembly. The guy has no patience whatsoever. Nor technical aptitude. His big redeeming trait right now is his space-bagpipe. And… well, pretty much any time violence is called for. Which is fairly frequent in the Uncharted Territories. Just not today.

There’s a long-ish conversation between Aeryn and Crichton about disease, how Earth still has it and how the Peacekeepers have virtually conquered it. It feels kind of out of place. I agree with Noel, there is a lot in this episode that feels disjointed, like the slow parts were stretched out to accomodate the ten minutes of actual Moya pregnancy plot that occur. But I’m not sure where else it could have gone. It’s important lore information, and maybe it could have been presented with better flow, but I’m not sure where or how.

The spinning slow fade camera while Crichton, Zhaan, and Aeryn are discussing Moya’s involvement with their latest woes is fairly cool. It doesn’t look like multiple takes, the cuts are very clean from the close-up to the group shot to the next person’s line. Very seamless.

The horror tropes are played pretty straight halfway through. Crichton’s flashlight dies at the appropriate moment, despite not being hooked into the ship in any noticeable way. The unnoticed DRD hanging on the wall next to his head (little flashback to “Throne for a Loss“, eeew). And the many, many DRDs on the door. This episode was about a stone’s throw away from having zombies chasing Crichton.


“Braaaaains…”

One final note: this is the first time we’ve seen someone other than Pilot on his clamshell communicator. Aeryn looks good in blue stripes.


Tessa

    (Adam’s spare time was flushed out of Moya’s airlock with D’Argo this week. Tessa will be filling in for him until he returns.)

I guess I’ll be the odd man (woman?) out and say that I absolutely loved the D’Argo sub-plot. He’s one of my favorite of the crew – second only to Rygel – and to finally get his backstory fleshed out in this episode is fantastic. This series has been at its most enjoyable for me when the focus is on the characters and their interaction with one another, and this is one hell of a deconstruction episode for our big furry friend.

We finally get the truth behind D’Argo’s imprisionment, and it’s a huge insight into his psychology. Here’s a guy who witnesses the murder of the love of his life by her own brother, is accused of murdering her himself by the same brother while the blood is still fresh on his hands, and has to shuttle his son off with hardly time for a goodbye to get him to safety. And after suffering through all of these life-shattering events, he is sent to Peacekeeper jail – which based on what we saw of Rygel’s experiences in “PK Tech Girl” is a traumatizing experience in and of itself. After all that, who can blame the guy for his occasional lack of patience? The fact that he’s still able to function at all is impressive.

It’s interesting to ponder the different levels of his reasoning behind his fabricated version of events we’ve heard up until now. It’s obvious that he’s been desperately attempting to repress all memory of what happened, but the staunch and proud son of a warrior race going down not in the heat of battle, but on the whims of a man with power who couldn’t handle the idea of his sister marying outside of her race? That had to have been a blow to his ego alongside everything else. It’s not surprising that his invented version of events were inflated to sound as impressive as possible.

On the note of the D’Argo subplot, I want to mention that the music in this episode is gorgeous. The theme that plays whenever Lo’Laan or Jothee are mentioned had me wanting to hunt down the soundtrack for the series.

Also, Anthony Simcoe‘s acting chops really shine in this episode. His scene where he finally comes to grips with what happened to his wife and son is extremely powerful stuff, and his portrayal of the agonizing emotions D’Argo is feeling are totally spot-on. Also, did D’Argo become the Woobie in a big way for anyone else this episode? Maybe it’s just me.

On the lighter side, of course, we have Rygel getting mistaken for D’Argo’s son, which was awesome and hilarious. Watching Rygel go from terrified, to confused, and then finally back to his normal snarky arrogance over the course of a minute as he tries to work out what’s going on is wonderful.

Of course, all of this is sort of a backdrop (if an extremely awesome and important one) to Moya’s pregnancy. While we’ve been told Moya is a living ship over the course of the series, it’s sort of been easy to let her be “just the ship” or at most an extension of Pilot’s character. This episode brings the point back up that she is a living organism (rather bluntly, at some points… eww, sperm tank…), and reminds us that she is actually her own character seperate from Pilot, by taking him out of the picture fairly early on in the episode. I could be wrong (there was an episode I purposely skipped), but I think this is the first time that Pilot has been effectively absent from the crew. It’s interesting when we (and the other characters) realize just how much they rely on him to keep them alive as well as pilot Moya. The idea of her having maternal instincts kick in and going to extremes to protect and nurture her baby is an interesting reinforcement of the idea of both being alive and her own character, and makes sense in context. I’d imagine she’s probably slightly freaked at her sudden unexpected insemination, and then the hormones kick in. Add to that the fact that, as Weston mentioned, the people aboard her have not proven themselves to be the most stable bunch in existence, and her actions seem very understandable.

On a final note, Aeryn’s conversation with D’Argo at the end of the episode is a very big deal. That one sentence in which she swears never to tell anyone about his son speaks volumes for how much she’s changed from her first meeting with the crew.


Kevin

Tessa touched upon this, but I’m going to flat-out say it. Watching this episode more than once reveals a bit of Fridge Horror. Let’s take it slowly. D’Argo finds a device that the Peacekeepers implanted inside Moya. He breaks it open, releasing a torrential outpouring of a biomechanoid fluid that ends up impregnating Moya.

That’s right. D’Argo was flushed into empty space on a river of Leviathan sperm.

You’re welcome for that revelation.

Aside from this disgusting bit of knowledge, this episode is another one of my favorites. As Noel mentioned, the plot thread of the baby Leviathan gets a lot of play throughout the series – at least two full seasons’ worth. I also agree with Weston about Moya’s blatant disregard of her crew’s safety and survival; she just doesn’t trust them.

Except for Crichton, who makes her back down. Except for Aeryn, who has been shown to defend Pilot from the others’ brutality. For a being that has been subjugated almost her entire life by Sebacean Peacekeepers, she seems to put a lot of trust in two of them. (Well, one Sebacean and a guy who happens to look just like one.) Let’s just hope she doesn’t find out that Aeryn almost lobotomized her.

Speaking of that, keep in mind this is ten years before a similar plot on Doctor Who.

Everyone else has already made the more salient points, so let’s move right on to the Awesome Things Of Note:

  • We finally establish that Moya can not only see and hear through the DRDs, but also understand sights and sounds transmitted to her through them. Not only does Moya know precisely who is travelling inside her, she has a pretty good handle on each of their personalities. Which means that every bit of abuse that D’Argo has piled onto the DRDs thus far has been noted. It also means that one of the first things she knew about Crichton was that he took the time to try to fix the DRD he accidentally maimed when ejecting from the Farscape Module. No wonder she takes him at face value when he says that he’s happy for her and doesn’t wish ill on her baby.
  • Speaking of which, we’ve seen a bit of Moya’s personality through Pilot – he has informed us about her fears and moods – but this is the first time we’ve actually seen it firsthand. She’s gone from the theoretical extra character to a full-fledged one. She has thoughts, she has feelings, and she takes actions on her own. If she doesn’t like something that’s happening, we now know that she’ll actively do something about it. Like Tessa said, being told that she’s a Living Ship is one thing, but now we’re seeing it for ourselves.
  • Unintentional humor: “Then where is D’Argo?” It’s supposed to be frightening that he’s been ejected into deep space, but it comes across as one of the best timed “beat panel jokes” ever. Does that make it Narm? Technically, but not necessarily the bad kind.
  • Speaking of D’Argo, he’s been angsting about his “true crime” for cycles, and we know it’s been on the forefront of his mind since at least talking about it with Matala. Add to that the physical trauma of being ejected into space, and actually being revived from the brink of death, similar to being revived from drowning. There’s little wonder that he’s caught into a psychological loop; sorry, Noel, but the replaying of his past isn’t as forced as you make it sound. Granted, having to work past it before they can take care of the problem of having no air and their ship actively trying to kill them is a bit of a stretch, but only in the “We Have Great Priorities” kind of way.
  • “He’s giving me a piggyback ride!” Do I really need to expound on this? Let us simply bask.

Episode [1.09]: DNA Mad Scientist || Episode [1.11]: Till the Blood Runs Clear

6 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. Weston, I now have the image of D’Argo in IKEA in my head, and it’s all your fault.

    “Bring me another Allen Wrench.”
    “But sir, you broke all of–”
    “BRING IT TO ME OR DIE. I also require three more meatballs.”

    Reply
    • Weston

       /  September 10, 2010

      HAHAHAHA YES.

      …do we know any artists who can make this? Sketch, painting, Photoshop, (insert medium here)?

      Reply
  2. Let me clarify my point about D’Argo. I love his backstory. It’s sweeping, romantic, tragic, and has enough loose threads for other shows to pick up. My problem is how they presented it. The music, the acting, the direction were all top-notch (and I specifically pointed out the D’Argo/Zhaan kiss as a powerful moment, Weston) but I still feel that the way they had him re-enact his memories with the rest of the crew cast in new roles was ridiculous and artificial. Everything is too linear and the perceived roles too defined for a delusional bout of scattered memories. It was a gimmick. It was false.

    And it messed up the pacing of the show. This should have been all about people scrambling and hiding and cooking up plans to survive the onslaught of Moya, yet not only was the ship’s attack surprisingly muted, but every time someone ran into D’Argo, any momentum that had been built would grind to a halt as he’d waltz us down memory lane.

    I like D’Argo’s story, but this isn’t the place for it, and this isn’t how it should be revealed. I mean, we’ve got the perfect setup in the revealed pregnancy of Moya. In the following episode, this news could have stirred D’Argo’s memories of his own child, which causes him to lash out at the nearest Peacekeeper, Aeryn.

    This is not clean storytelling. Instead of finding a natural spot to uncover such a vital chunk of history, they shoe-horned it into a plot where it didn’t fit, and presented it in a gimmicky fashion.

    Reply
    • Weston

       /  September 10, 2010

      Oops, my apologies. Should’ve double-checked that last night.

      Reply
    • Tessa

       /  September 11, 2010

      Hrm. Agree to disagree, I guess? It totally worked for me, and I really don’t feel like it ruined the Moya thread at all. This was easily my favorite episode so far because of the D’Argo subplot. I’ll be honest, had the entire episode been a survival horror trip for the crew trying to not get killed off by Moya, the episode would be a total turn-off for me.

      I don’t think these things had to happen separately. It’s not convenient that the crew had to deal with two of these things at once, but, in my opinion, it worked, and the episode is far better because of it. Then again, I think my tastes may differ.

      Reply

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