Deconstructing Moya

A Farscape Re-watch Project

Episode [1.11] – “Till the Blood Runs Clear”

Today, on Farscape

“You are selfish.”
“Can be. What about you? Selfish?”
“…sometimes.”
“I ever come after you with a weapon?”

While restocking Moya, solar flares attract John’s attention, and he takes his Moya-Upgraded module out for a spin. During his flight, he realizes that he can re-create the conditions that brought him here to open another wormhole, but this one is unstable and damages the ship. When he and Aeryn take the module down to the planet to get it repaired, they stumble across a Peacekeeper beacon that is meant to set bounty hunters on their trail…


Weston

There are numerous good moments in this episode. Of particular note: the beginning of Crichton’s wormhole obsession. This episode marks the moment that Crichton realizes he can use wormhole technology to return to Earth, the beginning of his research in that direction, and everything that stems from that. From that first moment that he sees the proto-wormhole, he’s hooked. There is absolutely nothing in the universe that will stop him from pursuing this goal. He will create a stable traversible wormhole, and heaven help anyone, friend or foe, who stands in his way. If it ended differently (and in one potential universe, it did), this could have been his Start of Darkness.

The conversation between Crichton and D’Argo that codifies their antagonism, acknowledges their differences, and ends with a handshake is a great one. It has Crichton fleeing and hanging off a ladder again, which I wholeheartedly approve of, but the statement that they aren’t friends and aren’t likely to be strikes a strong chord.

A personal favorite here: Crichton’s Earth-tech module gets a Moya-tech upgrade. No longer is he merely piggybacking on the mercy of others, no! Now he’s contributing. He’s learned enough about the local hardware to patch it onto his wee bitty spacecraft, and now it’s packing more delta-V than five terrestrial rockets. And he tore out enough equipment to throw in a jump seat. Now granted, it doesn’t have a Hetch drive, nor weapons, nor the kind of zero-gravity maneuverability that’d let him survive a furball… but hey! He can pop out for groceries.

Zhaan’s… um. How to put this… her indisposition through most of the episode is played partly for laughs, partly to remind us that despite her darkness in recent episodes she’s still a very sexual being, and partly to hint that despite what we’ve learned about her she has significant details that remain hidden. All told, it’s good to see her happy again. Very, very good.

Furlow is the sneakiest, most underhanded car mechanic you’ve ever known. Multiplied by at least three. On the one hand, she actually gets the job done and does it earlier than she estimated, but on the flip side her bill multiplies as the work progresses (a running theme through the show) and she ultimately takes John’s wormhole data as payment. This comes back to bite the crew pretty hard.

This episode employs another favored trope: Sending in the reinforcements one person at a time. The train starts with Crichton and Aeryn stuck on the planet with a slightly broken Farscape module, followed by D’Argo who takes Aeryn’s Prowler down to retrieve the both of them (the trunk space on a Prowler being one of the key selling points), and finally Zhaan manages to pull herself away from her photogasms just long enough to get down to the planet… and become once again indisposed. The last is interesting in that Zhaan employs another new ability, completely removing her odor emissions. Must be very handy on Moya.

My big issue with this episode is the dearth of two-person shots. There are extremely few with Rorf and Crichton in the same frame. Only infrequently do we see Aeryn and Crichton in the same frame, and that mostly in the beginning shot and at the end. Aeryn does have an awesome smile when she gets the revised hologram working, but there’s one shot…


AERYN SLASHER SMILE GO.


Adam

This is such a wierd episode, guys. Lots of odd character moments and stilted speech. Between Zhaan being blissed out on photogasms and Crichton trying to act badass, I really don’t know what the frell to make of this episode. The two bounty hunters are really just horrible. They really got on my nerves with their snarling and overacting. I really can’t get over these two clowns, they’re just so…cliché. Snarling blood-obsessed bounty hunters are a dime-a-dozen in these types of shows. I really wanted Aeryn to start stabbing them in the face just as soon as possible.

Another thing about this episode is the acting. So much stilted dialogue, so little time. The bounty hunters are the worst offenders, but everyone gets in on the act it seems. I think that a lot of these scenes were shot after long days of bad takes because everyone seems frustrated and tired and it comes through in the acting. Every time Furlow started talking, I wait for her to burst into a Shatnerian rendition of “Rocket Man”.

The costumes and makeup were pretty fair, all things considered. One thing that has always bugged me about these planets is, why does everyone wear exactly the same outfit? Yes, the outfits are functional, but they don’t seem to be uniforms or anything. We saw this a couple episodes back on the hashish planet, too. It’s always struck me as lazy, and I expect better from Jim Henson.


Kevin

Here’s the thing about this episode: It’s subtle. It’s really subtle. There are twelve different things going on underneath the Repair/Bounty/Wormhole foreground plots that it’s easy to miss most of them unless you look hard enough. Thankfully, the writers give us a clue in the title of the episode: “Till the Blood Runs Clear”. Obviously a D’Argo-centric title, but take a look at the primary plot threads. It’s only relevant to one of them – the Bounty Hunters – and even then it’s almost a throwaway continuity reference.

It wasn’t until I started doing this rewatch that I began looking underneath the underneath. This is a fantastic one to do that with, and it tells us something that we wouldn’t have otherwise guessed.

This episode is way more about D’Argo than it is about Crichton or Aeryn. In fact, there are only two parts of this episode that aren’t all about D’Argo. Aeryn visibly turning away from her Peacekeeper past for the first time ever is one of them, and that deserves way more of a mention than I’ll give it at this time. Weston hit the nail on the head with Crichton starting his focus on Wormhole Research here, and that’s the other major part. Aside from that, though? D’Argo. Not even the badass sexual teasing that Zhaan gives Rygel takes away from this fact.

Let’s break it down. Crichton and Aeryn are testing the souped-up Farscape One – in which you can actually see bits of Leviathan infrastructure, especially in the bulkhead behind Crichton. D’Argo makes a judgement call and demands they be on their way; well within his rights to request, since they are, in fact, still fugitives. He can’t quite get his point across, due to his demeanor and Crichton dismissing him out of hand.

Knowing that they’re being irresponsible and potentially putting all of Moya in danger, he goes down to the planet to bring them back. This backfires, as he’s caught by the same bounty hunters Crichton was hoping to avoid. Crichton then tortures him to the point of passing out – albeit to save his life.

Once D’argo breaks himself free of the restraints and confronts Crichton, there are three extremely important rapid-fire exchanges between the two that not only explains everything between them, but it changes their relationship forever:

D’ARGO: “Every time I let down my guard, you disappoint me.”
CRICHTON: “Sorry. I’m only human.”
D’ARGO: “You look so much like a Peacekeeper, I often forget.”

CRICHTON: “Why do you always have to be the Alpha Male? […] The leader? You are so childish.”
D’ARGO: “You are selfish.”
CRICHTON: “Can be. What about you? Selfish?”
D’ARGO: “…sometimes.”
CRICHTON: “I ever come after you with a weapon?”

CRICHTON: “This isn’t going to work, is it? We’re never going to be friends.”
D’ARGO: “Friendship is a lot to ask.”
CRICHTON: “Then how about respect?”

It’s the choice of words here that is the most telling. When D’Argo lets down his guard, he isn’t “betrayed” or “made a fool of”. He’s disappointed. D’Argo has put a lot of himself out in the open, moreso than he ever expected he would have to, and with Crichton it always comes back to bite him in the ass – not always through any fault of Crichton, but it still happens. His obsession with Matala led to Crichton seeing not only a weak part of himself, but gave him the knowledge that he was lying about his crime. After the spell of Hyper-Rage, D’Argo was at peace on a planet that was his own personal heaven – lots of farming to do and fairly gymnastic sex with a sunburnt albino – and Crichton made the walls come crashing down. When exposure to deep space forced him in the mental loop with his past, it was Crichton who stepped into the role of the villain and dragged the secret of his wife and child out into the starlight.

The line about Crichton looking like a Peacekeeper was said with the expected amount of vitriol, but there was a definite wistful undercurrent. D’Argo is disappointed that Crichton isn’t Sebacean; the human is so alien to him, he just can’t begin to understand him. Aeryn is a visual representation of everything D’Argo hates, but he understands her more than the guy who’s only trying to help. And let’s not forget that there’s at least one Sebacean he can stand for hours at a time:


Forbidden love.

D’Argo’s also confronted with the fact that he takes the “D’Argo in IKEA” approach way too often. He’s the only one who regularly pulls a weapon on his shipmates, but he expects them to trust him and follow his lead. His intentions are pure, of course; at the beginning of the episode, he’s trying to keep them all safe by demanding Crichton and Aeryn drop the module and return to the ship. He just isn’t very good at expressing himself in a, shall we say, non-violent way.

The final exchange solidifies the guys’ new truce and measure of respect, and you can see D’Argo realize that Crichton, in all of his alien, babbling ways, is putting himself out for D’Argo to trust just as much as he himself was trying to get Crichton to trust him. The animosity between the two is, and has always been, culture shock and communication failure.

This is brought to our attention all the more during the firefight with the Dobermensch, when D’Argo impresses upon Crichton that he will not leave an ally in battle. To the casual observer, this says that D’Argo finally sees Crichton as an ally. But if you look closer, you come to realize that D’Argo has been this way all along, but is just now finally able to make himself understood about it.

The wound in their relationship has been bleeding, but it’s been toxic to the both of them until now, when they aggravated it enough that the blood between them was finally running clear.


Noel

Kevin covered all the ways that this episode is about D’Argo, which I fully agree with, but one shouldn’t shortsight just how deeply the focus was also on John and Aeryn. We all remember “DNA Mad Scientist“, where D’Argo, Zhaan, and Rygel went a little crazy and turned on their crewmates at the offer of going home, and how John and Aeryn, left out of the offer, took a very critical stance at their crewmates’ choices. Well, here we have John in his souped up Farscape module, actually opening a wormhole, and going into a daze of glee at the prospect of returning home. Aeryn is struggling to free the ship from the gravity waves, and he doesn’t seem to care, not one bit, that she would be dragged along for the ride completely against her will. Hell, he only finally turns away when it sinks in that this wormhole is unstable, but until then, he’s completely willing to sell out her will at the vague promise of a homecoming.

Everything else is a consequence. Because he plunged toward the wormhole, he damaged his ship. Because he refuses to abandon the module he needs in order to make another wormhole, he has to land on a planet open to Peacekeeper activity. Because he pushes the mechanic Furlow harder and harder to get the job done faster, she adds delay after delay to draw out more info and potential profit. John spends a lot of the episode in frustration, not because of guilt, but because he has a chance to leave and he seems to realize just how little personal attachment he has to the crew of Moya … minus Aeryn, who, as we mentioned, would be dragged along against her will.

What has me a little confused is his eagerness to attach himself to the Vorcarian Blood Trackers, bounty hunters in search of the others. I like the idea of John making himself the alpha dog of a pair of pack hunters, just to get them to back off Aeryn, but why he goes the extra step of taking on the persona of a rival bounty hunter doesn’t make sense to me. You’d think John would see the potential threat and try to steer away from it instead of pushing himself deeper and deeper. Maybe bossing the mutts around brings on a needed release of tension, I don’t know, but I do like how, when the Vorcarian’s get their paws on D’Argo and lay out the tools of torture, John’s conscience finally kicks in and he does what he has to do to protect his ally. Unlike the others, who sacrificed their shipmates for their dreams of home, only to lose that dream in the end, John eventually does the opposite: sacrifice the dream for them. There’s other solar flares out there and he at least has an idea of what needs to be done to trigger a promising path back, and I love his line as he hands his research over to Furlow to settle the bill. “I can start from scratch.” She may have backed him into a corner, but look at the determination on his face as he comes to that conclusion.

And then there’s Aeryn. It’s pretty obvious by now that an attachment has formed between her and John, but here it’s strained as he almost yanks her across the galaxy in a bid to go home, whether she wants to join him or not. And other than a few gripes, she never gets a chance to do anything about it as things keep falling out of her control. She gets caught in a pair of fights that leave her needing to be rescued by others. She’s blinded by a solar flare and gets a lecture from silly human John about how she can’t look after herself. She’s had her entire life, her entire worldview ripped away from her and has fallen into numerous dangerous situations with no backup but a bunch of improperly trained “lesser beings” who no longer recognize her authority as a Peacekeeper, and damn if her posture doesn’t shoot into one of soldierly pride when she finds the secret message from Crais offering to let her retire with a full commission if she’ll just turn on the others. She knows it’s a lie, a trap, and doesn’t fall into the same homesick frenzy as the others, but “It was nice, just for a moment, to believe it was genuine.” And Aeryn – blind, beaten, robbed of her world and anything resembling control Aeryn – who complained back in “Throne for a Loss” that it was her turn to come up with a plan…. Well, she comes up with a plan, an idea, that saves the day. And it didn’t even involve a commando raid. Her absolute delight – just look at that smile in Weston’s pic – at the success of her manipulated hologram is one of the few moments involving Aeryn that one can call adorable.

JOHN: “Good idea.”
AERYN: “Best I’ve had yet.”

All in all, a solid episode of our characters laying yet more cards on the table. Even Zhaan’s inconvenient photogasm bliss, aside from being sexy and funny, has an ominous air to it as the priestess continues her recent struggles against primal desires. Everything is supposed to be about peace and control with her, but the reigns keep slipping away. Getting the short end of the character stick, though, is Rygel, who pretty much just slobs around in his pajamas, avoiding glimpses of the frequently naked Delvian.

As for the broader plot, it worked for me, but it was a little too Western with the desert town and bounty hunters, and I get some of Adam’s frustration. Furlow, with her gleaming little irises and puffing cigars, is way too “slime for the sake of slime” for my tastes, though I think her odd delivery had less to do with stilted dialogue (I thought the writing was quite good, actually) than it does the actress fighting through her natural Australian accent, something one frequently encounters in American shows that are filmed Down Under. Some actors can make it work, some can’t, but payback will be had when Ben Browder tries to be British. And I agree about the portrayal of the Vorcarians. They were pathetic. Snarling and hunched and bowing down to John’s barking orders, I get what they were trying to do, but it just feels silly and underthought. Despite these elements, though, I still thought the story played out nice. But Adam also points out how everybody looks tired and frustrated. Well, yeah. John is pissed at delays keeping him from opening another wormhole. Aeryn is getting knocked around and is fuming over John’s deception. D’Argo wants to leave. Rygel wants to sleep. Zhaan’s gone through a string of debilitating orgasms. They’re supposed to look tired and frustrated.

Good point about the planetary “uniforms”, though. It does sort of make sense, with a garage full of mechanics all in similar disposable overalls, and people outside similarly bedecked to avoid the flaring sun, but a little more individuality between outfits to cut the mass produced appearance would be appreciated.

So, yeah, I found it a bit uneven, but not nearly as much as the last episode or “I, E.T.” It was a good, simple, backwoods boiler of a plot that kept the complex character arcs weaving, and there were some nice flourishes like the electric guitar over Zhaan and D’Argo marching all badass through the desert dunes, the “Worf?” bit, or John’s Butch and Sundance reference coming ironically to life when him and D’Argo are hunched down in what could very well be their last stand. Nice episode. Could be better, but it still works for what it is.


Episode [1.10]: They’ve Got a Secret || Episode [1.12]: Rhapsody in Blue

33 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. Thanks for picking up the Aeryn thread, Noel; that was something I really wanted to talk about, since it’s such a huge moment for her, but I got caught up with all the D’Argo and I ended up going on a lot longer than I intended.

    Reply
    • I’m just glad I found some threads with enough left to ramble on about for half the page. 🙂

      By the way, your D’Argo deconstruction is fantastic.

      Reply
  2. Weston

     /  September 19, 2010

    Wait, Kevin. You’ve been putting alt-text on ALL of the pictures? That’s awesome! And now that I know, it’s like eleven episodes of reread value. 😀

    Reply
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