Deconstructing Moya

A Farscape Re-watch Project

Episode [1.15] – “Durka Returns”

Today, on Farscape

“Your friend will soon understand that he is wrong.”
“Might take a while. Being tortured has that effect.”

In which Moya sideswipes a parked ship, stops to exchange insurance information, and winds up with a malicious damage claim and a hitchhiker.


Chiana! I’ve been looking forward to her introduction since we started the re-watch. Her particular blend of savvy, seduction, and sheer crazy is far too much fun. But first, the episode.

There’s some foreshadowing right off the bat when Pilot describes what Moya is experiencing as “minor turbulence”. Crichton replies, “If this is minor I don’t wanna see major.” Tune in two weeks from now for thrilling heroics!

I found it interesting that Durka was the only one of the three new folks introduced before the opening credits. It emphasizes that while we’re getting a new crew member out of the events, the episode revolves around Durka. His history, his character, his personal interactions with Rygel and Aeryn, and his time in the tender care of the Nebari. Over the course of the episode he demonstrates his deceptiveness, his combat proficiency, his technical aptitude (surprising for a non-tech Peacekeeper), and a little bit of his fears. He fears death, of course. His escape from the Zelbinion demonstrates this fairly thoroughly. But more than that, perhaps, he fears losing himself in the Nebari “mental cleansing” again.

Speaking of, this episode kicks off the Nebari metaplot. They’re a little bit terrifying: A race unified through mind control that uses a single standardized ship with more firepower than a Peacekeeper Command Carrier. It’s a good thing they don’t have plans for galactic domination or anything. That’d get kind of uncomfortable.

Crichton’s starting to slip into more local clothing. His shirt is no longer identifiable as white or black, but falls into a distinctly gray category. His belt is definitely Peacekeeper, though at this point he only has the general purpose pouch on the left and no holster. His pants may be different too, I’m not sure when he switched over to tucking them into his boots. All told, he’s becoming more recognizable as a Sebacean.

You see something of the opposite in Zhaan. She’s reverted to the outfit we saw in the first few episodes, the single cloth with the pointy neckpiece. Her moral uncertainty continues in full swing here as she argues with Salis about the ramifications of mental cleansing. She knows it’s wrong, she argues against it, but she doesn’t feel she has the moral footing to take a firm stand. I suppose in this we can see the results of three months of contemplation and meditating: She still acknowledges the loss of her authority, but she’s starting to do something about it instead of complaining.

Durka is absolutely right about the definition of irony. He was perfectly peaceful, his mind so clean you could hang it out to dry, right up until the point that Rygel tried to kill him. That bomb set off the events of the second act. You could even say that it triggers the return of the episode’s title.

Speaking of Rygel’s bomb, there’s a neat little moment right after it goes off. The toad is floating through the maintenance bay, surveying the destruction he has wrought, and he comes across Crichton. You can see a moment of surprise and guilt in his face, but then he moves right along to Durka. However much he’s changed during the series so far, he still has little loyalty to his crewmates.

Does Salis remind anyone of Weyoun? He’s got that kind of dry snark about him. On the same note, do Chiana’s throaty purr and little headtilts and general crazy seem a little like Heath Ledger’s Joker? I know this was nine years before The Dark Knight, but there are similarities.

The editing is very interesting. Lots of silent and muffled shots when people are running around. It’s very… I don’t know. Action music seems out of place there. The quiet adds to the tension. The stuttering slow motion, on the other hand, does not. It’s good for a dramatic reveal or a rushing leap, but for entering an empty room? Not so much.

Two remaining points and I’ll pass the torch. In the ultimate scene, when Durka boards the Nebari ship, the cockpit window irises open. That shot reminds me a lot of the Lexx opening credits. Also, Crichton isn’t the newest person on board Moya anymore. Hooray!


First thing out of the gate, we see the continued “Moya’s pregnancy causing problems” theme from previous weeks.

Let’s talk about the Nebari for a second, with special attention paid to Salis. This dude really gives me the creeps, what with his weird curving muttonchops and methodically slow speech. I think this guy took a handful of Zoloft whenever he was offscreen. But beneath that cold exterior there’s something else at play. I can’t help but think that this crazy bastard was meant for a larger part but the actor was unavailable or something. After all, what kind of crazy bugger has the controls for a prisoner restraining device implanted into his frelling face? That is not the action of a trustworthy public servant. He’s also real snotty for someone who just ran into someone else’s ship.

Let’s move away from Salis and move onto the infinitely more pleasant Chiana. Here we have a nice balance between scary!zen Zhaan and scary!trooper Aeryn. I’m looking forward to see how her character develops, especially with regards to Crichton.

The costuming in this episode is pretty standard, even though it introduces Chiana’s feathered shoulders to a grateful world. Everyone else just wears what they normally do, perhaps with a few minor variations. The makeup on the Nebari does a good job of showing what a race with blue blood would actually look like, which is always nice. That always bugged me about Star Trek: If Romulans and Vulcans have green blood, how come light-complexioned Romulans don’t ever have a greenish tint or blush green or something?

I really need to stop thinking about things like that too hard.


Oh, I’ve been looking forward to this one for a long time.

Here’s the thing. We all know that The Peacekeepers Are Bad. They’re xenophobic mercenaries that lie, cheat, steal, and kill to get whatever they want, all the while keeping hold of their authority by sheer virtue of being extremely badass. If you’ve got a battalion of leather-clad psychotic heat-intolerant maniacs after you, each one bristling with weaponry, you had better frelling surrender. Or, if you’re Crichton, set up a Batman Gambit and bluff your way out of danger.

The Peacekeepers, though? Not the worst thing out there. They lie, cheat, steal and kill because they think they’re better than you. With the Nebari, if you haven’t undergone their mental conditioning, you’re not really a person.

Enter Chiana. She’s a cute kid, with wide eyes and avian features – even her motions and mannerisms are bird-like – and all she wants to do is live her life. Sure, she steals her food and runs from the law; she’s gotta keep one jump ahead of the bread line, after all. It’s not her fault that a wanna-be John DeLancie wants to tear her head open and rearrange it.

The Man™.

Here’s the discussion question of the week, then. When Durka regains his personality, is that an anomoly? Do the Nebari lie when they say that their mental cleansing is permanent? Or does it not work as well on outside species? Or, maybe there’s a third, even scarier option here: Durka is so badass that not even a hundred-year brainwashing will control him for very long.

In any case, this episode adds two major threats to our crew’s already numerous list. The Nebari know that they’ve been thwarted, and I don’t think they’ll be very happy about that. There’s also the case of Durka himself, who is back and badder than ever. Sure, he was flushed out of Moya’s, well, nether regions, but two subtle things to consider here. One, his ship didn’t blow up. Two, there’s already a Nebari cruiser on the way. They’ll pick him up, and I highly doubt they’ll be able to contain a restored and angry Durka.


Man, how to describe Chiana. I guess we should start with her people. As the others have pointed out, there’s a religious fanaticism to the Nebari race, a drive to “save” everyone from incorrect ways of thinking and feeling, which makes them such a more chilling threat than the bullying Peacekeepers. Add to that enough firepower on a small transport to take out a fully armed Peacekeeper prison ship, and you’ve got a villainous presence that I’m surprised doesn’t show up much down the road. You’d expect these people to crusade forth in mass missionary purges, much like the Necromongers in The Chronicles of Riddick, but instead they keep to themselves, closed off in their own sector. Maybe they know there’s too much chaos in the cosmos to purge it all, and stick to stragglers that step over the wrong lines. Maybe they’re biding their time and building their resources. Either way, their technology is formidable and their devotion unsettling, and I’d love to see much more of them than we sadly will.

But their coloring. Despite their blue blood (and red inner mouths, but that’s a limitation of the makeup), this zombified race of emotional conformity is captured in the only color that can do them justice: grey. There’s a little white and a little black, but they’re otherwise a range of nothing but grey. Devoid of warmth. Devoid of life. Just grey. And who better to contrast that with than Chiana, who has way more than enough color in her personality to make up for a lack of pigmentation. Though not quite as wild here as she will be, she is anarchy. She is fun and freedom taken to the extreme, where telling her to do something is her challenge to do the exact opposite. She’ll seductively nibble at the food in your fingers one moment, try to smash you with a giant perforated paddle the next. And just look at the physical control Gigi Edgley brings to the role. Zhaan and Dargo both look alien, but Chiana moves alien. Witness her posture when we first see her freed from bonds and shed of a heavy coat. There’s an unpredictability to her stance. Is she relaxed? Is she prepped for a violent pounce? Is she being serious? Scary? Funny? Neither. Either. You can never tell. She’s alien.

“Who, me?”

That’s all I can really say about her now without blowing plot still to come, so let’s move on to Rygel. It’s amazing how violent his reaction is upon first seeing Durka, him flying into a violent, gnashing rage that almost defies his limiting obesity. And I love, as pointed out above, that they had Rygel be the one to set the monster free in his desperation to slay it. The slow, methodical way Durka gains the upper hand and rewires the command center is epic. And, yet, it’s Rygel to the rescue, equally methodical, as he later tears through Durka’s ego by revealing the failed coward within. That is some great writing, as is Aeryn going from a giddy Durka fangirl to a cold appraiser of the man behind the legend.

There’s not a whole lot to add. John spends half the episode running up and down corridors that swoop by through a wide-angle Steadicam lens. D’Argo stands guard and surprisingly doesn’t lose his temper. Pilot gets all flustered as controls are taken away and people start barking “Close the doors! Hold the doors! Close the doors! Hold the doors!”

And a poor DRD is sucked into the cosmos. Hopefully gravity pulled him to the damaged remains of the Nebari vessel so he won’t be all alone out there.

Episode [1.14]: Jeremiah Crichton || Episode [1.16]: A Human Reaction

10 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. KevinCV

     /  October 15, 2010

    This is another one of my favorite episodes from season 1. Mostly because of Rygel’s “in your face” Crowning Moment of Awesome when he basically rips Durka a new one. Rygel was one of those characters who I actually enjoyed because he was nice for a little light comic relief now and then, but yet also has this dark undercurrent that was hinted at in a few early episodes. However, that liking diminished a bit when he sent off a bomb to kill Durka while Crichton was simply chatting to him! I was like “What the hell, Ryg?!”. But the aforementioned CMoA not only restored my liking for him, but it developed into a profound respect.

    I’ll bet Rygel was scared drenless (I would’ve said “shitless”, but it IS a Farscape blog, after all… ;D) having to deal with the fact that the man who had tortured him, the same man he thought to have been dead since “PK Tech Girl” is not only alive and well, but also the reason he’s back to his old self was by his own doing. It turned what was initially a “What The Hell, Hero?” moment into a “Nice Job Breaking It, Hero” moment. But through that fear, he took it upon himself to rip Durka a new one, even if it wasn’t to keep him from torturing the hezmana out of Aeryn. That took some serious mivonks, and I found myself totally respecting the little guy in a new way.

    However, I’m surprised that you guys didn’t comment on the mystery of whom killed Salis. Then again, if you guys listen to the ScapeCast, a fantastic Farscape podcast, there’s an article in one episode that deals with exactly that. It could be why you didn’t. I won’t spoil whom they thought was the culprit, but I must say I was pleasantly surprised by whom they pointed the finger at, and they’re fairly reason arguments for why they thought so.

    • Thanks for the thoughts, Kevin CV, and your points about Rygel are spot on. As for the ambiguity behind Salis’ death, sorry. I meant to bring it up, but completely forgot. Our new character being a “did she, didn’t she” candidate for cold-blooded murder is a great note to end her introductory episode on. And knowing Chiana, I wouldn’t put it past her.

      I can’t talk for the others, but I personally don’t listen to ScapeCast. I’ll flag it for the future, but I’ve kinda been avoiding other areas of discussion for the show (even the TVTropes pages the others love so much) just to keep my mind a little more open for each review.

  2. KevinCV

     /  October 15, 2010

    Fair enough, Noel. I haven’t been listening to the ScapeCast lately, anyway. Mostly because I’ve been becoming more and more of a Doctor Who fan. Farscape sadly, has fallen by the wayside a bit, but I still like watching it every now and again and getting friends who aren’t ordinarily sci-fi fans to watch it. I make get back into it when I get myself the Farscape comic books, though. I’ll need some a job and some cash for that, though. As for not commenting on Salis’ death, that’s fine. I just thought it was worth bringing up because it’s such a great mystery.

    • Weston

       /  October 15, 2010

      It’s a fantastic mystery, but it’s never brought up again. Maybe no one really wants to know the truth, maybe they’re just being polite about the murderer among them, but it’s an unsolved mystery.

      I remain convinced that the Nebari would have played a huge part in season 5 after the resolution of the Scarran arc. Everyone’s breathing a sigh of relief, the region is safe, and BAM NEBARI.

  3. Weston: You mention that the episode is centered around Durka, despite the fact that by the end we get a new crew member out of it. I just love that. For me, it emphasizes the fact that Moya is a place full of these absolute rejects, like what does it matter if one more just tags along and sticks forever?

    Kevin: I feel the same way about the Nebari. They are so awful. No wonder Chiana is batshit crazy half the time.

    Noel: Gigi Edgley is a master at physical performance. Whenever I’ve seen her outside of the role, without makeup, she’s unrecognizable.

    • Chiana is one of my favorite sci-fi characters ever, and I really enjoy how she’s the street rat (space rat?) sort of crazy girl. She’s not stable, but she also isn’t a horrible person. She just doesn’t trust anyone.

  4. Weston

     /  October 15, 2010

    I was totally surprised when she wound up in the rest of the season. I mean, we’re two-thirds of the way through it, and they’re introducing a new character? Flabbergasting! But she’s such a good character, both upsetting and balancing out the crew that I can’t imagine the series without her.

    Kinda reminds me of McGee in the later episodes of season one of NCIS. A recurring extra promoted to regular.

    • Weston

       /  October 15, 2010

      This was intended as a reply to Ashley’s comment. :

    • I agree about the suddeness of Chiana’s arrival, and she’s such a unique character that she couldn’t help but stick. I’ll be curious, though, to see the other shipmates that are added in the second half of the show. I only vaguely remember them, but know their addition wasn’t quite as successful, even though I can’t fully remember why. Maybe Chianna works because it’s still so early and the show is still finding its footing, whereas they come in after things have been more deeply established. Definitely something I’m waiting for in this re-watch.


Leave a Reply