Deconstructing Moya

A Farscape Re-watch Project

Episode [1.21]: “Bone to Be Wild”

Today, on Farscape

“There is much cruelty in the universe.”
“Yeah. We seem to have a treasure map to it.”

Moya and her baby are hiding in an asteroid field while Crais and Scorpius give chase. While Aeryn hops on board the baby Leviathan to help calm it down and trust its mother, Crichton takes Zhaan and D’Argo to investigate a distress beacon. But treachery abounds both groundside and up in space, as Crais and Scorpius continue their search for our heroes…

(Apologies for the post being a little late this week. It’s entirely the fault of the highly contagious Thanksgiving Turkey Coma which plagues the nation once a year.)


Kevin

First off, ignore that Stark isn’t here anymore. He left. He’s gone. There is no Stark at the moment. They’ll explain that later, but not now, so forget it. That’s just how he rolls.

This episode is an interesting one. We see yet again that there are three main plot threads; Farscape likes doing this. Three shall be the number of plot threads, and the number of plot threads shall be three.

In this episode, we have what’s going on with Moya and the as-yet unnamed baby, the rescue mission on the…what is it, a planet? An atmosphere-carrying asteroid? And finally Scorpius and the Peacekeeper Coup. (Have you heard my new rock band, Scorpius and the Peacekeeper Coup?) I’ll touch upon each as I write this; there’s a lot to go through, so bear with me.

Since it’s the subject of the episode’s title, I’ll call the rescue mission the A Plot. While Crichton, D’Argo and Zhaan are groundside, they get caught in the middle of a he-says-she-says between Emily and Bernie. (Sorry, I mean M’Lee and Br’Nee) What’s distinctive about this is that it isn’t distinctive for Farscape. Most morality conflicts aren’t as cut and dried as Black and White. Whether it’s the fact that Moya’s denizens aren’t really that good but at least they’re not the Peacekeepers, or when you just have differing sides of culture clashes, you rarely get to see Our Heroes be, well, Our Heroes. This is an example of the latter; Br’Nee may look like one of NamTar’s experiments, but it turns out he’s a botanist! M’Lee may be the last survivor of her species on the planet, but she’s a psychotic and near-feral creature that flays her prey to eat their bones, leaving a soggy rotting mess behind.

Who’s a monster, M’Lee or Br’Nee? Yes. Well, no. Whoever is the villain at the time is wholly dependant on who had been lying to/omitting from Crichton and the gang, and neither of them is really the – for lack of a better term – lesser of two evils. They’re both kind of horrible people.

It comes as a pretty stark contrast when you go to the (arbitrarily designated) B plot. Crais has fallen pretty far, and we all know it. He has lost the respect of all but his (new) first officer, and his ship is being taken away from him. Watching the scenes aboard the Command Carrier, it’s hard to tell if I was rooting for Crais to man up and kick Scorpius off his ship, or for Scorpius for taking command and shoving Crais’s face in his mess like a troublesome pet. They’re definitely the bad guys, and the fact that they’re opposing each other doesn’t detract from that. However, it’s a huge fact that the writers, actors and the director are not only able to make us care about what happens with our villains, but they’re able to turn Crais in our eyes from villain to victim in one episode. This is the boogeyman who continued to hunt Our Heroes and show us how vile and crazed he was, but here he is at the end, a defeated man. Fallen from grace, he gives his extremely loyal officer an order to follow Scorpius from now on. He knows he has lost. He has nothing left.

Frell it all, they’ve made us care about Bialar Crais. You magnificent bastards.

Of course, there’s a huge difference between being a sympathetic character and being a likeable one. He’s still Bialar Crais, for frell’s sake. I mean, look at Rygel; he evokes sympathy from us a lot but he’s still a complete jerk. More on how Bialar Crais is a sympathetic jerk next episode!

Finally, we have the C plot, and arguably the most important of the three. It’s interesting yet extremely fitting that Moya and Pilot both ask Aeryn to be the one to talk to the baby Leviathan Warship. Not only is she the most familiar with how Peacekeepers will act, but she’s as close to a Pilot that they have on the crew. Also, as I’ve said in earlier episodes, she’s had the most character development than anyone else in the series thus far. She was a standard Peacekeeper soldier, but she learned how to live away from that. She’s turned her back on what she used to be, and was surprised to find that she was happier for it. Of course Moya asked her to be the one to talk to the newborn. It has nothing to do with the fact that she’s the only one who would be able to understand the meld between Sebacean and Leviathan technology (although there is that), it’s because she’s one of the few people that Moya trusts most to understand her and her child. If Crichton and Aeryn had swapped places in this episode, she may have asked him, but she specifically requested Aeryn.

Things to note this episode:

  • Repeating what I said about Br’Nee: I love his disturbing appearance. Including, but not limited to, the second mouth on the side of his face that moves with the first one. It seriously freaked Trekkiegirl’s dren out, too.
  • Goddamn is Ben Browder’s wife scary.
  • WHAT IS THE BABY GOING TO BE CALLED IT IS SO SUSPENSEFUL. It’s actually really awesome when we find out. I’m not saying what it is but we’ve been using it to promote this rewatch.
  • Speaking of [Insert Name Here], the set designers really outdid themselves with his interior. Not only are the Peacekeeper blacks and reds all throughout the command deck, but the organic controls and Leviathan browns and oranges are interwoven seamlessly throughout the design. All throughout [Insert Name Here], both inside and out, you see the same blend of Sebacean and Leviathan infrastructure. Soft Leviathan curves are countered with the hard angles and sharp lines of his Peacekeeper heritage. All in all, it comes out to an absolutely beautiful and disturbing bit of juxtaposition.
  • Sonic Ascendancy Cannon, huh? Sounds ominously important and powerful. Pilot seems fairly shocked by its presence.

Noel

This episode had me a little worried. A big, season-ending plot arc has been set in motion with our heroes having to hide from two major Big Bads because Moya is in a state that leaves her temporarily unable to outrun them… and now, while our heroes huddle together with the heaters shut off as they evade the Peacekeeper equivalent of sonar, now, frelling now is when they decide they have to respond to a random distress call? I love that even John gets a chuckle out of the absurdity, but really? Farscape is a show that always jinks its story off on unexpected tangents, but this was an oddly placed diversion for the penultimate episode of the season.

Yet, damn, what a fascinating little ethical struggle they provide. As Kevin points out, we’re presented with two forms of monsters and it’s up to us to sort out the lesser of two evils. On the one side is Br’Nee, who looks like an imposing beast, but actually has a high, cultured voice when he can gather the breath to use it. His people have created miraculous technology that allows them to seed asteroids with every form of plant life under the sun, and in order to maintain the purity of this garden, they eliminated all herbivorous life (which got there how, exactly?) by bringing in the ultimate predator, an eater of bones, knowing full well that these creatures would be forced to cannibalize and starve once there’s nothing left for them to eat. Which is where M’Lee, the last survivor of these predators, comes in.

M’Lee is an interesting creature, toeing the line between instinctive animal and sentient being. Look at her initial introduction where she twists truths and puts on a pretty, smiling face to lure the others in with a mask of innocence, dividing them so she can scarf down their skeletons one by one. That’s great. That right there would have been enough for a memorable Farscape beasty, especially when she goes into rage mode with a flaring spine ridge, bristling needles, and her sweet voice erupting into roars of “I’M HUNNNNNGRY!!!” But wait, let’s look at where she goes with this. When she has John alone for the second time, she says:

“….after I satisfy myself on your bones, and those of your friends, and finally on Br’Nee… I would eventually starve to death anyway.”

One has to wonder how a species would become so self-aware when they A) still have such a highly restrictive diet, and B) still rely on simple predatory skills instead of advanced cultivation. Maybe they are, and the world on which they originate does thrive through technological means. Maybe they aren’t, and M’Lee survived because she’s an evolution, one who thinks outside the box and plans in the long term, the eventual extension of a species artificially placed into a scenario where they are destined to collapse. Either way, it’s fascinating that, while both she and Br’Nee use people, she does so because it’s a necessity of survival. Br’Nee, on the other hand, through both his casual dismissal of her race and the way he turns Zhaan into a highly-prized collectible action figure (Honey, I Shrunk the Delvian), sees other races as mere tools. Yes, his goals are impressive and would ultimately be highly beneficial to the entire universe, but it’s carried out through genocide and prejudice. He doesn’t hate other life forms, he just doesn’t see them as important unless they further his goal. M’Lee, on the other hand, damn, just look at the agony she’s in as she fights her starvation, continuing to use diplomacy and increasing honesty as she refuses to give in to her instinctive drive to kill and eat, even just once. Wonderful stuff. And I love love love the tag at the end where our heroes sic her on the Peacekeepers.

I’m tempted here to go into a long rant about how they’ve written her calcium-based diet so she can eat nothing but bones, and how nonsensical it is given the abundance of calcium within natural life, to the point where it’s present in all forms of organic tissue, both plant and animal, where it’s such a necessary ingredient that it holds together the very walls of all organic cells, and, hell, is all over the place in nature in terms of salt water or mineral deposits in caves, so M’Lee’s people shouldn’t have had any problem turning on the plants in the garden before feeding on one another…. but, oh well. It’s still a good twist on the classic vampire story.

And the other threads are just as great. Kevin’s already gone into detail about the fall of Bialar Crais, so I’ll just add how much I love the way Scorpius slowly and calmly takes charge. First, he politely interrupts a private briefing and politely backs off when his suggestions are ignored. Second, he’s found politely lounging on the throne in Crais’s private quarters, politely insulting the man’s trophies with sarcastic admiration. Third, he politely informs Crais that the ship’s course has been altered and that the Captain will be brought up before an inquest at high command. This he says as he politely plunks his report into Crais’s food, activates the control that slowly lowers the table into the floor, then punts the meal across the room.

SCORPIUS: “I personally intend to see you stripped of rank and office.”
CRAIS: “So you can take command of my Carrier?”
SCORPIUS: “I already have.”

Crais is dangerous, but Scorpius is frelling badass. And just look at the way he initially lets himself appear weak as an enraged Crais grabs him by the throat and starts slamming him around the room. After Crais has had his say, Scorpius reaches down, effortlessly lifts Crais’s hands away, and tosses the Captain off with a roar. It’s our first indication that Scorpius is just as capable physically as he is mentally, and you’ll like him even less when you make him angry.

A list!

  • I find it amusing that the thread of Aeryn and Moya’s baby is essentially a story about a frustrated mother bringing in a nanny to help with her troublesome child. At least Aeryn didn’t start singing about chimney sweeps and spoonfuls of sugar.
  • This is our introduction to Braca, who’s probably the most fascinating background character of the series, sneaking up on viewers and becoming a major player before you even remember he’s there. Keep an eye on him at all times.
  • Seeding an asteroid is an interesting idea, but why would you seed one that’s within an asteroid belt? Additionally, why would our heroes be motivated to find a star chart of the asteroid belt? Asteroid belts are unstable, with the rocks constantly shifting and rolling and smashing into one another. Good for a hiding space, not good for a surface terraforming project, and not likely to be thoroughly mapped.
  • Given her unfortunate molestation at the hands of Rygel in the last episode, why would Chiana be snuggling up with him again? Hell, right from the start, she’s having to bat away roaming hands. Could it be that the writers were hinting at a romantic pairing of these two? Doubtful, but I’m sure there’s at least one shipper out there.
  • Since when can Zhaan turn invisible? Allowing her plant skin to blend into the surroundings is a nice idea, but this came out of nowhere and should’ve been a cool makeup effect instead of a cheap CGI ripple. And how did her clothes transform? Are they woven from special fiberoptic Delvian threads? This show has never backed away from an opportunity for Zhaan to disrobe, so why not do so here?
  • Where’s Stark? No, seriously, where the frell is Stark!? Where would he have gone? How would he have left? It’s doubtful either John or Aeryn would have handed over the keys to their ships, so does this mean one of Moya’s transport pods is gone? Or is he simply just napping?

And let me end this with my favorite exchange of the episode:

ZHAAN: “Are you picking up any being’s scent?”
D’ARGO: “Zhaan, let me explain to you what’s going on inside my nose right now. There’s large pieces of green mucous and gunk–“
JOHN: “D’Argo, no no no. Stop it with the Luxan poetry.”


Weston

Stark is gone. Just… gone. This will be explained later.

Asteroid belts are actually fairly stable places. They’re only violent and messy in space opera, and Farscape is trying very hard to use actual science where possible. Notable exceptions: when it’s cool, when it’s funny.

Nice discretion cut when Br’Nee crosses the de-shrinking ray just as Zhaan’s naughty bits are being reconstituted. This is our second example of humanoid stasis technology and our first of miniaturization technology.

Meet Lieutenant Miklo Braca. He’s got about three lines in this episode, one of them a monologue to a catatonic Crais, but he carries them off. From this humble start, he gets a fantastic level of development and a solid role clear through Peacekeeper Wars. Keep an eye on him.

Meet also Mrs. Ben Browder, also known as M’Lee. The actress shows up again a few times through the series, always as a character in some kind of conflict with the Moya bunch. The way the series rolls, that’s not too surprising, but there is some discussion on the DVD commentary about what it implies about their home life. It is, almost by definition, hilarious.

M’Lee would be fantastic at conventions. Mostly because she seems to glomp everyone in sight. First she hits John, then D’Argo, then kind of alternates between the two before finally glomping frelling Scorpius. It takes some serious bones to glomp Scorpy. And not only does she get away with it, she prompts an ironic statement on compassion and honor.

[Unnamed Offspring] has a beautiful Command. His interactions with Aeryn and the bonding they go through is completely adorable. Aeryn is making fantastic use of her new tech background and Pilot features, and [Unnamed Offspring] is chirping and beeping at her. Such a wonderful series of moments. On a related note, [Unnamed Offspring] is already a bit of a handful. The only way that Moya is able to exert control over him is by utilizing Aeryn’s link. Without that, he’s rebellious and impulsive and refuses to listen.

Zhaan… I think this is the second use of her camouflage biology. The first time was when she did the static-head-thing to hide her scent. That’s not quite the same thing as full stealth, but it’s got to be related. Have we seen Zhaan go invisible anywhere else? Also, surprise! The light-loving herbalist is a plant! There have been some hints over the course of the series so far, but nothing to come right out and state that she’s flora. It’s fairly easy for the audience to keep track of this, but poor Crichton’s been thinking she’s flesh and blood for better than half a cycle. Making the mental change is difficult.

On Crichton. It’s been four episodes now since we last saw Crichton in anything but Peacekeeper garb. Say good bye to the cotton and denim, it’s all leather from here.


Tessa

I have to echo Noel’s question, even with it apparently being explained later. What happened to Stark? Granted, Moya’s pretty big, and it’s not that much of a stretch to imagine that he might be off in a room of his own, keeping to himself (in fact, given what we’ve seen of him, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if it turned out it was just a case of him preferring solitude), but to introduce him and put him on the ship in a very impactful way last episode, it’s really odd to immediately go to an episode where he may as well have never existed. He gets no mention at all, which just seems odd to me.

For that matter, it bothers me that Gilina gets no mention either in this episode. It was fairly heavily implied that she died at the end of the last episode (and quite honestly I’d have been surprised if it turned out she hadn’t), but there’s no mention whatsoever of whether or not she actually did die, and the impact of her death on the characters.

Also, what’s with all the whispering between the crew while they’re on Moya? I get that it adds to the tension of the scene, but there seems to be no reason for it. It’s not like there’s a risk of anything they say being broadcast beyond the ship, and the idea that the Peacekeepers could locate them because they hear them talking from inside their ship while they’re on a completely different ship is ridiculous. They could all scream at the top of their lungs and it wouldn’t increase their risks at all. Rygel, at least, seems to realize this, seeing as he has no problem at all with being as loud and obnoxious as ever while the crew attempts to have their hushy quiet time.

It’s already been mentioned, but I love the double-subversion that goes on with M’Lee and Br’Nee. From the start, we’re drawn into the shallow first impression that the monstrous-looking Br’Nee is the monster they need to fear on the asteroid, only to find that he’s just a “harmless” botanist, and that the initially pretty and timid M’Lee is the actual “man-eating” (sorta) beast (complete with flip-up Zoidberg fin!).

And then it all gets turned on its head again when we learn that Br’Nee and his people are actually pretty monstrous themselves (in a completely different way, of course). At that point it all comes down to who will screw them over less, and M’Lee’s “I just want to survive” predicament wins out. Of course, it doesn’t help that Br’Nee “collects” one of the crew and tries to pass her off for dead. I love double twists, and this was a very interesting one.

Meanwhile, we have Crais and Scorpius continuing what was started last episode as they continue to butt heads during their search for Moya. Of course, Scorpius may as well have written an entire library on the art of effective coups, and quickly pulls the rug out from under Crais, going from a nearly unwelcome guest to taking full command of the carrier in record time. It’s worth observing, though, that although it really comes to a head here, Scorpius has really been working at undermining Crais for three episodes at this point, as he’s almost immediately (and successfully) ordering around Crais’ extremely loyal crew very quickly on the base. This is just that taken to its conclusion.

As awesome a villain as Scorpius is, it’s actually kind of disappointing to see Crais reduced to a near powerless threat so soon. Someone mentioned something very similar a few episodes back, but even though he’s been the looming danger in the background all this time, he actually did very little as an antagonist up to this point. I would have loved to see more encounters with him on the level of “That Old Black Magic” before watching him be effectively neutered as a major threat.

Two cliffhangers for the price of one this time, as we still don’t know the baby’s name, and we also leave Scorpius’ encounter with M’Lee unresolved. Though, really, I don’t think anyone’s expecting him to do anything other than make his way out of that one without breaking a sweat with what we’ve seen of him.


Episode [1.20]: The Hidden Memory || Episode [1.22]: Family Ties

7 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. Weston: Asteroid belts are actually fairly stable places. They’re only violent and messy in space opera,

    I stand corrected.

    and Farscape is trying very hard to use actual science where possible. Notable exceptions: when it’s cool, when it’s funny.

    I still stand by my calcium argument. Someone really didn’t think that one through.

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