Deconstructing Moya

A Farscape Re-watch Project

Episode [1.20] – “The Hidden Memory”

Today, on Farscape

“Who is she?”
“That is the radiant Aeryn Sun.”
“How many Peacekeepers do you know on this base?”

When Crichton doesn’t come back with Chiana, Aeryn takes D’Argo and Zhaan back to the Peacekeeper base to mount a rescue. While Moya is having a difficult labor up above, extracting Crichton below proves more and more difficult as Scorpius gets right on their tail.

(Please note: Farscape is currently no longer available on the NetFlix Instant Queue. It is, however, still in their DVD collection, and DVDs can still be purchased on Amazon or your local retailers.)


I always have mixed feelings about two-parter episodes in shows. On the one hand, they tend to be fairly epic storylines worthy of taking that much time to tell, but on the other, cliffhangers drive me absolutely nuts.

We pick up right where we left off last episode, with Moya lurching back and forth in orbit, after the revelation that she’s very close to labor, and the crew extremely frantic about their situation.

It’s interesting seeing the variety of reactions from the individual characters, since this is probably one of the worst situations they’ve ever been in. They’re minutes away from a Peacekeeper base, Crichton’s been captured with very little chance of a successful rescue even being possible, and they’re now finding out that they’re effectively dead in the water because Moya is about to give birth.

It’s worth pointing out, that while of course, to nobody’s surprise, Rygel is the first to question why they haven’t simply gotten the frell out of there before they get spotted, everyone on board or not, that Zhaan appears to share his opinion at least to some extent, considering that rather than scolding Rygel for suggesting they leave Crichton behind, she instead questions Pilot when he tells them that it’s impossible for them to leave.

And then there’s Aeryn and D’Argo, who wouldn’t dream of leaving a comrade behind. Just like before, D’Argo’s reaction is very subtle. He hasn’t already gone to try to rescue John not because he wants to save his own behind, but because there is no conceivable way to make it work. Once Aeryn provides one, he immediately jumps on board. It’s very easy on a superficial level to characterize D’Argo as the “shoot first, ask questions later” type, especially in the earlier episodes, but he’s actually very strategically minded, and doesn’t just “act for the sake of taking action” as much as you might think.

And Aeryn, who according to Gilina shouldn’t even be out of bed for another 10 days, doesn’t even hesitate to throw herself back into the fray to rescue Crichton. While her feelings for John and the fact that she owes him in a very immediate sense definitely come into play there, I think it goes deeper than that. I think on a very basic level, she refuses to abandon one of her shipmates regardless of the odds involved.

Meanwhile back at the base, Crichton is continuing his sessions of torture in the chair as Scorpius and Crais attempt to get the last bit of information out of his brain. He’s let them have everything at this point – except the fact that Gilina has been helping him. Scorpius, of course, sees that he’s blocking a bit of information and assumes it’s about wormhole technology, and so keeps digging for it, despite John’s insistence that he’s not blocking anything about wormholes anymore.

All of this, and we haven’t even hit the opening credits yet. Damn.

Back in Crichton’s cell, he has another encounter with seemingly insane Stark, only to work out that his insane ramblings are all just an act. Stark has been letting the Peacekeepers believe that he’s totally lost his mind, in order to get them to go easier on him. He’s probably not completely all there, but he’s definitely at least functionally sane. It’s interesting getting the few insights into his character that we do, and will likely get to see more with him apparently joining the crew in their escape at the end.

I have to wonder exactly how Gilina was able to set up something as detailed as the fake memory she tricks the chair into seeing when by all appearances, she’s not messing with it for very long at all, and really only appears to alter a very small piece of it. That said, it’s an amazing idea, turning Scorpius and Crais against one another to buy John some time. Of course, for Scorpius it doesn’t matter, whether or not the memory is true, it’s a simple matter for him to confirm it by putting Crais through the same torture he just put John through, but Crais is understandably terrified at the idea, and even though the damning fake memory was not true, he has his own secrets that he wants to keep.

And it all leads up to Aeryn getting to have a one on one encounter with him, incapacitated in the chair. This is the man who single-handedly destroyed her former life, completely at her mercy. She could just kill him there, but she does what appears to be the charitable thing and spares him. And then she turns it on its head by cranking up the chair on her way out. She’s not that nice, after all.

Through the whole thing, we also keep getting updates on Moya’s labor, finding out that there’s something very wrong with her baby. It’s not until it’s practically out of her that we learn exactly what it is, and why: the baby is a highly modified “design” on a typical Leviathan, most notably that it appears to be armed to the teeth with weapons, something that normal Leviathans don’t have any of. While it’s something of a shock, it’s not very surprising when you consider that the instant-insemination pack that was accidentally set off earlier in the season was put there by the Peacekeepers, and obviously was designed specifically to create a weaponized version of a Leviathan, complete with Peacekeeper color scheme. This is actually a pretty frightening concept, since, as I’ve pointed out before, Moya has proven fairly dangerous on her own without weapons, and based on what we see here, the baby’s weapons pack a lot of punch already, even barely having been born. It’s scary to think of what this thing will be capable of once it’s full-grown, considering Pilot muses that it could easily be larger than Moya once it matures.

The baby’s presence raises a lot of interesting questions and problems. If the Peacekeepers could dictate it’s development to that much of an extent, does that mean that they also may have been able to naturally include something to ensure their control over it? Even if it isn’t under Peacekeeper control, without a Pilot, how much control will the crew even have over it? We know that Aeryn can take over Pilot’s duties in a pinch, but its doubtful that she could completely serve in that role for very long. In addition to that, Starburst is impossible with the baby in tow, and even though the crew is able to make their escape from the base (thanks to the ident-chip that Aeryn snags from Crais in their encounter), their options for getting away from the base are limited with the significantly reduced mobility.

And, if there was any doubt from the last episode, the show ends the episode by appearing to completely kill off the relationship potential between John and Gilina. Literally.


For someone who has never seen or even heard of the series before this, Tessa hits the nail right on the head. Let’s break it down even further.

Oh, Stark. As in Stark Raving Mad. We find out in this episode that he’s not as insane as the Peacekeepers think he is. Well, he is, but it’s a completely different kind of insanity, and he plays up the zany to keep them off his back.

He’s definitely not Sebacean, though – or is he? He does mention his people, the Banik slaves, but he doesn’t say his “species”. It can get hard to tell sometimes, when even the Sebacean offshoots don’t really look Sebacean, but complete aliens are almost exactly the same. We also have the fact that he has some psychic powers, possibly related to the healy-glowy thing under the iron mask. What is that? Why does the mask look like it’s a punishment when he can take it off whenever he wants? Is that what he looks like under the Sebacean disguise, or is he Sebacean with some freaky power? What did the healy-glowy light actually do? Why does he keep it locked up behind the mask?

I’m not telling. They’re fantastic mysterious aspects of a character that I remember not liking very much the first time around, but I also completely missed his introduction the first time around. All of a sudden he was on the ship and I didn’t know who he was. (Comes from my mother recording the show and watching it whenever she got to it, whether or not I was in the room. I actually missed quite a few episodes when this was first run.)

So, to recap, Stark is crazy but not that crazy, he’s the sole survivor of his people, he has psychic powers like Zhaan, and his head is a healy-glowy light thing. The only thing better would be if he was slash-bait.

And the shippers rejoiced.

Also in the chair this episode is Bialar Crais. We’ve watched his downfall in a couple episodes this season, and this is where it all falls apart for him. His snappy red outfit and near-fanatical obsession with the Pope Crichton have given him many reasons to avoid a full inquiry; you can see how terrified he is at the prospect of Scorpius getting the full technicolor.

Even when Aeryn comes across him, there is still further down to go. She confronts him for the first time, what she’s wanted to do ever since being declared “Irreversibly Contaminated”, and here, here is where we see all the development in her character come rushing to the forefront.

CRAIS: “You are still a Peacekeeper. You took a Blood Oath to obey your Commanding Officer ’til death. I am still your Commanding Officer.”
AERYN: “But I am no longer a Peacekeeper!”
CRAIS: “You are a Peacekeeper for life! On the oath you took – “
AERYN: “Your oath means nothing to me! You made sure of that. You destroyed everything. I lost everything because of you!”
CRAIS: “Aeryn Sun!”
AERYN: “Do you know what I learned when I was away from you? Everything I lost isn’t worth a damn. And I don’t want to go back to your past.”
CRAIS: “I order you – “
AERYN: “You order me? You will never order me again!”

That’s an amazingly powerful scene, and Claudia Black’s performance never fails to hit me with how emotional it is. This is a woman who, even more than anyone, even more than Crichton, we’ve watched evolve and come into her own. She’s struggled to think outside the role of soldier. She has agonized that she may never have a home to come back to. She agreed to keep the existence of D’Argo’s half-breed son secret. She’s flirted with the idea – multiple times – of being able to return to the Peacekeepers, even though she knows it wouldn’t be feasible.

Here, we finally see that she has come to terms with the fact that the Peacekeepers are no longer her home. Moya is her home. Her shipmates, mottled and rambunctious as they may be, are her new family. And she’s even comfortable with that. It is with this revelation that she, in a chilling manner that I want you guys to remember, condemns Crais to live with his past. She turns the Aurora Chair on, full blast, to let him watch his failures until he is discovered by Scorpius and Peacekeeper Barbie.


This episode should’ve been titled “The Spittle of John”. No, seriously. The last episode was all about the drooling, eye-watering, constantly grimacing agony that is the Aurora Chair, now here we have a bit where John’s mouth suddenly epic gushes like the money shot of a porno, leaving him dripping with a glistening saliva facial. Kevin talks about slash between John and Stark, but this pearly surprise is where it’s really at.


On a less serious note, I love how Aeryn, D’Argo, and Zhaan all rush off to save John, leaving the pregnant Moya, who they already know is going into labor at this point, in the questionable hands of Rygel and Chiana. Rygel is of course useless, skimming through schematics just to look like he’s doing something, which leaves Chiana to haul ass and deal with all the problems that arise. She made a choice in the last episode, to come back to this ship and this crew and become a part of whatever family is being built here, and suddenly they’re all “She’s giving birth! She’s all yours!” as they hop off to pull John’s ass out of a chair. One has to believe this incident is giving her second thoughts. Especially when Moya’s need to vent herself leaves the impish Nebari squashed in a pressure chamber with Rygel. Let me rephrase that: leaves her squashed in a pressure chamber with his boner, his groping hands, and his helium flatulence. In the midst of a tense episode, it was a huge laugh as his hand slid down the fogged window like a post-coital Kate Winslet in Titanic.

And to get even sillier, why did this episode climax with a Wild West shootout? You’ve got the dusty, desert ruins atop the plateau that hide the Peacekeeper base, full of broken stones, half-collapsed walls and pillars, and an inexplicable number of crates. People are ducking and shooting left and right, tossing and triggering hidden bombs. John and Stark are suddenly cracking wise between rush and cover runs, like the last stand of Butch and Sundance. All of this craziness in the middle of what should have been a haunting, devastating half-victory of an episode. And they didn’t even shoot it well! This is supposed to be a breezy setting open to the elements, but the squashed, claustrophobic way in which it’s shot and edited betrays that they were squeezing every inch out of a tiny set. And, no, that one lousy overhead digital matte doesn’t sell it.

There. I’m done with all the silliness. Oh, wait, more Crichton spit.

Hide your kids, hide your wives, and hide your husbands!

Okay. I’m done. I swear. All serious from here on out.

I have to wonder about Scorpius. I can’t remember from pouring through special feature all those years ago if this is true or not, but I don’t get the feeling that he was meant to be quite the arch nemesis he turns into down the road. He’s a marvelous, menacing, imposing presence, but there’s nothing in these two episode that tells me he’s anything more than a guest role, an “Is it safe?” creepy torture guy for our heroes to run into before pulling a seat-of-their pants escape. Does it really matter in the end if he was intended to stick around or if he was simply a guest star that left such a strong impression they just had to bring him back? Not really. But I’d be curious to hear from others why he works and Durka doesn’t? Both were introduced this season, both were left hanging for returns, but only Scorpius is elevated to such recurring villainy that he becomes a permanent fixture of the main cast. Now, I’m not questioning the decision. I’m all for it. I’m just curious to hear what others think.

I don’t really have anything else to yammer at length about, so a list is in order:

  • Kevin already covered the pure awesome of the encounter between Aeryn and Crais, but I feel the need to point out an additional great little moment where she gleefully leans over him. “Does this contaminate you, Crais?”
  • Tessa, Gilina doesn’t put together the false memory during her tiny amount of time beneath the chair, she pulls out one of the tubes and replaces it with something she had on her, something she presumable prepared in advance. Essentially, swapping one USB drive for another. Aeryn and Furlow were able to significantly alter a hologram of Crais in a rather short amount of time back in “Till the Blood Runs Clear“, so this isn’t much of a stretch.
  • I’m with Kevin when it comes to Stark. I was a bit turned off by his manic performance when I first watched this back in the day, and thought he never fully fit in among the crew, so I’m very curious to approach it with some fresh eyes. Already, there’s a tranquility to him that I hadn’t remembered.
  • Did anybody else notice that Peacekeeper Barbie’s voice was modulated? There was a bit of an Auto-Tune distortion there. I can’t remember enough about her character to recall if it’s an intentional tie to an upcoming revelation or not.


Important note: I think this is our first “Previously, on Farscape.”

I believe that both Stark and Scorpius were intended to be one-shot characters. So was Peacekeeper Barbie, and in fact these are her only two episodes. This is a shame, because she totally rocks that dress.

Might as well cover fashion first. That dress? Thigh-high boots over tights and a hip-slit leather buckle thing? Yeah. That’s the direction everyone’s wardrobe in this show is going. Get used to it. The really good news is that they all wear it as well as she does. I’m not exactly sure where Aeryn’s heavy coat comes from. It may have appeared in a previous episode, possibly stripped from one of the dead Marauder team back in “A Bug’s Life“, but I don’t believe so.

It’s never explicitly mentioned how long Gilina’s been on the Gammak base, but from the other tech’s one-line-scene, it’s been long enough that she’s a bit of an expert in the field of spinning torture chairs. From that, it’s not terribly unbelievable that she could rig up a false memory and slip it into the machine’s in-box. Maybe the best part, she created a new blonde to take her place. But… how did she generate a Crichtonism all by herself? Hrrm.

I’m picking at nits. On to awesome stuff!

Crais drops his first invective in this episode. Kevin hit his part very well, most especially the conversation between Crais and Aeryn. That moment is… if the chair is instant flashback episode, Crais/Aeryn is instant summary. It’s concise, exact, and perfect.

Zhaan’s reaction to D’Argo’s cheesy line, “My Qualta Blade and I can cut rocks for you,” is absolutely perfect. Rock-solid until he wanders off, transitioning to disbelief and a partial eyeroll. Beautiful.

I said in the previous episode that Stark was crazy. I stand by that. He’s partially sane, but not nearly enough to counteract the enormous madness that he’s got going on. He does have quiet moments, periods when he is more fully in control of his mind and actions, but you can always see his insanity prowling around behind his mask. It’s a pity we won’t see more character development for him for so long. Come back in mid-April for more crazy-Stark-happy-fun-time! And a partial explanation of his vanishing trick. Nothing for how he got from his cell to the great outdoors, though. That remains a mystery.

Scorpius is far too reasonable to be a villain. He converts Crais’ guards, who can be reasonably assumed to have a certain loyalty to their commanding officer, within minutes of Crais falling into his sights. This is pretty important, as he immediately pulls the same trick with his entire command. Carrier. Command Carrier. And a fantastic lieutenant who hasn’t gotten any screen time at all yet. We also see, at the very end of the episode, that Scorpy isn’t afraid to take direct action. He’s a chessmaster who is completely willing to move his king out into the field if it achieves his objectives. Also, he’s fairly sneaky.

The implication that Scorpius’ LED headpiece is a comm is… amusing. I want to say more, but in the interest of not spoiling the reveal for our uninitiated, I will not.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch. Fairly important events surrounding the birth of the baby Leviathan. First, Dominar Rygel in a Can.


If you’re getting a Titanic vibe from that picture, you’re not alone. Also eeeeugh.

Second and more important, Chiana midwifing for Moya. This is the second time Chi’s gone out on a limb for the team, and she’s getting a bit better at it. It seems like she’s been a solo badass so long that, having found a tight-knit group that’ll go out on a limb, she wants to be a part of it. Wants it very strongly.

And finally, our first look at Moya’s unusual child. A Peacekeeper paintjob, a radically different hull design, and a minimum of two powerful weapons. This can only end in tears. More on him next week.

Episode [1.19]: Nerve || Episode [1.21]: Bone to Be Wild

8 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. Spiderwrist

     /  November 19, 2010

    Thanks for another great recap/review. I really love these sort of re-watches; they always open my eyes to things I’ve missed, no matter how many times I’ve watched an episode.

    Scorpius was only supposed to be in the final four episodes of season one, but they liked what Wayne Pygram did with him and kept him on. A similar thing happened with Chiana; she was supposed to be killed in “Durka Returns” but they gave her a flash wound and kept her around instead.

    I’m not sure about Stark’s status as just a guest or somebody they were going to be bringing back.

    • The advantage of adding Stark so late in the season is that they have a lot of off time in which to gauge the audience’s reaction to him before deciding either way. Thinking back, I know we see much more of him down the road, but did he ever become a full, opening-credited fixture to the cast, or did he just come and go for stretches? My memory’s a little fuzzy on that.

      Oh, and thanks, Spiderwrist. I’m glad you’re enjoying our recaps.

      • Weston

         /  November 19, 2010

        Stark gets into the opening credits in season 3.

        Greetings Spiderwrist!

        • He does. Okay. Thanks for clearing that up. All I really remember about later Stark is that he eventually grows hair. Man, my memory is fuzzy.

  2. I love your reviews and how much each of you have different interests and thus look at Farscape from many vantage points. I want to put in my 2 cents for John. Somehow he fooled Crais into admitting that he was lying — he had the presence of mind to ask if Aeryn was okay and since he knew she wasn’t, he knew Moya was safe and his sacrifice was worthwhile. You have to admire his bravery in these circumstances.

    Ben Browder’s acting was superb. His work with Wayne Pygram is as charistmatic as his work with Claudia Black. It is a weird sort of slashy dance. And the gentleness of Stark in aiding John by showing him that secret place was beautifully acted by Ben and Paul Goddard. That sweet scene is one of the best of the show, in my opinion. I think the different emotions Ben had to play as well as the physical nature of the episode were undertaken in an amazing tour de force. I always thought he should have gotten an Emmy for this episode (but they don’t give Emmys to science fiction shows).

    I never saw anything silly about the final shoot out. John and Stark were thrilled to be out from under Scorpius and had bonded and they certainly wanted revenge. And oh we see the first glimmers of John’s ability to go manic when Scorpius grabs him.

    I just wanted to add more feedback about Ben Browder/John Crichton because I thought you guys short changed him a little.

    Thanks for your wonderful recaps.

    • You’re absolutely right, Rita. Ben was amazing as Crichton sank into the deepest depths of suffering we’ve yet to see from him, while still finding little moments of hope and heroism to get him through it. And his contrasting chemistry with Pigram’s Scorpius is immediate and striking. I’m not sure why it slipped past us, but thanks for bringing it up.

      Calling the shootout silly was a bit much on my part, but I do still personally feel it was restrictively shot and a little out of place.

    • Tessa

       /  November 20, 2010

      I’m totally in agreement with you on Ben Browder’s acting here – it continues to be spectacular.

      The only reason I didn’t dwell on that more in my recap was because I had devoted a lot of time last episode to the excellent acting in a setting that must have been extremely taxing physically, and considering that these two episodes are sort of supposed to be taken as one long one, it would have felt redundant to me to say all of that again two recaps in a row, even though it definitely applied to both. The verbal and physical acting from all the characters in this one was amazing (Ben Browder’s especially), but there wasn’t anything in that regard here that wasn’t also gone over last episode. That doesn’t take away from the job done here, it just meant that I didn’t see a point to making an observation in this episode that would have effectively been a copy+paste job from my last one. It’s also why, looking back on the last two, I wound up far more “re-cappy” than “in-sighty” on this one than the one previous : this is really one episode chopped into two, and so a lot of what I had to say on it was already done last week.

      Still, I probably should have at least given a one-line mention that all of the thumbs up I gave to the acting last episode carried over here. I’m sorry if not doing that made it look like it was under-appreciated. 🙂

  3. Tessa, thanks for the explanation. You are absolutely right that Nerve/Hidden Memory are really one large ep and taken together, how much gushing can one do about Ben? (for me a lot *grin*). I appreciate your candor.

    I think I brought up Ben/John’s trauma and the acting that really drove it home is because we’ll see repercussions throughout season 2 and beyond and the subtlety by which Ben shows us how it affected John is really what sold Farscape for me. These are the two eps that made me love the show (although A Human Reaction comes very close). John went from “can do” guy and almost an unnatural save-the-day typical science fiction hero in the middle of season 1 to someone who now understands his own limitations as well as the reality of how brutal and unfeeling most of the denizens of the UTs are and his trust and self-worth as well as his Earth-centric morality was deeply wounded. You’ll notice he definitely has a “circle the wagons” protect his Moya family at all costs attitude from here on out. It underscores the theme of the show: It All Starts With Family.


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