Deconstructing Moya

A Farscape Re-watch Project

Episode [2.02] – “Vitas Mortis”

Today, on Farscape

“John, Nilaam isn’t evil.”
“That doesn’t change anything.”
“Moya, Pilot, Aeryn, they will never forgive her. They may never even forgive me. But you. You must understand.”
“I understand. What she’s doing is killing Moya.”
“She didn’t mean it.”
“Doesn’t matter.”

While stopping for supplies, the crew hears rumors of another Luxan in the area and immediately go investigate. What they find is a dying holy woman who needs D’Argo to attend her passing. Instead of dying, she finds herself full of a new source of life, but complications abound when Moya and Pilot start falling apart before everyone’s eyes.


Well, the last few episodes have been insanely stressful, so here we are with a one-shot breather episode. No Peacekeeper pursuit, no Aurora Chair, no flighty baby warship taking potshots at Our Heroes. Instead, we have the first episode that I found myself extremely uncomfortable to be watching with my mother back in 2000.

There’s been awkward-to-watch alien sex before, but it hasn’t yet been as in-your-face as it is this episode. Not that I’m complaining; the whole series is about defying conventions and testing the boundaries of viewers’ expectations, and this is a fantastic way to do it. But when you’re fifteen years old, the last thing you want to do is watch an attractive redhead (with tentacles) lick a man’s nipple while your mother is in the room.

My point, of course, is that I may appear a bit squeamish about this episode, but ignore this ’cause it’s just lingering memories forcing themselves on the present.

All that aside, let’s talk about Nilaam and the way she defies conventions. Here we have a plot where, in any other show, it would be a greedy woman stealing life to remain young, and becoming hostile when there are obstacles in her way. It’s a common trope that’s used in many places, and even when it’s subverted in a way that’s more tragic than malicious it’s shown to be still an evil, conscious act that is made with full knowledge of the harm it causes.

Nilaam, though? Sure, she’s abrasive and a bit imperious, but when she stole Moya’s youth, not only did she not realize that’s what she was doing, but she took every step to try to reverse it once she found out. Running away from Moya might have turned out to be a plan to take the life force and run, but she did it with the most honorable intentions and, once she realized that the only way to reverse the spell was to kill herself, she did so without hesitation.

Once again we’re given proof that while the world is not black and white, there are still good people out there. Even if they do bad things. It’s also yet another incident (in a long, long line to come) of the Crisis Of The Week being something that our heroes fix because they’re the ones that caused it in the first place. (Although it’s more that Nilaam caused it and she fixed it afterwards, but it still counts.)

Of course, what makes it all the more delicious is the fact that everyone expected her to be the greedy old witch-turned-seductress – even us, the viewers. Aeryn even goes so far as to shoot first (no questions later) when she makes her own confrontation. At least Crichton simply stormed into her bedroom and said “HEY WHAT IS THE DEAL HERE”, as barbaric and crass as it may be.

I made the comparison earlier to the Scovian spy Matala, but I think the connections really need to be made a bit further. Nilaam and Matala both offered D’Argo carnal delights, but whereas Matala’s advances were to cover her schemes, Nilaam’s were simply out of gratitude. They both drew D’Argo’s attention away from the others in favor of shared cultural connections, even going so far as to (whether intentionally or not) putting him on edge towards his crewmates and friends. They even look similar, which was a great continuity note, since Matala was supposed to look Illanic, genetic cousins to the Luxans. I’m not sure if the fact that both actresses even moved somewhat similarly was intentional, but it’s definitely a nice touch. As viewers, we’re supposed to make a subconscious connection between the two, and that was done beautifully, which made the differences in these two situations stand out all the more.

It really feels like they took a look at “Back and Back and Back to the Future“, sat down, and said “Okay, how do we do this right?”

Things to note this episode:

  • I haven’t watched any of the special features or listened to the commentaries, but is that Crais’s Badass Longcoat that Crichton is wearing? Did Crichton steal that from Crais? I really hope so. He looks really hot in it.
  • On a more reestablishing-my-heterosexuality note, Young Nilaam? Goddamn. And I can’t decide if the tentacles enhance this or not. (The headdress, by the way? Definitely does.)
  • Gee, Chiana seems very hostile to Nilaam. Is it ’cause she’s pawing all over D’Argo? And Chiana was washing his clothes, too.
  • We find out a bit more about the Pilot/Leviathan symbiosis here. Before, we learned that Pilot bonded to Moya for a chance to see the stars, because that’s the only way he would have been physically able to leave his planet. Now we find out that it dramatically shortens his lifespan to do so. He considers it a fair trade. It’s an interesting concept, and one that gets fleshed out more as the series goes on.
  • Speaking of Pilot, while he’s in bad shape due to Moya’s aging, he specifically requests Aeryn to come see him so he can tell her in person. I’ve mentioned their friendship many times, and this is yet another example of it. I just really love it.
  • Rygel plugging the hull breach. Do I really need to say any more?


Right from the start, when Crichton, D’Argo, and Zhaan march up to a temple on a blowing desert world straight out of a Sergio Leone western, the attitude feels different. We’ve seen this show go dark and crazy before, but this entire episode is pure tragedy. It starts out a mystery, with our characters seeking out some off the map Luxan because, let’s be honest, they don’t have much else to do at the moment. She brings with her both happiness and sorrow for D’Argo in that he’s found one of his own people, yet has to take part in her death. When she’s “rejuvenated”, he’s finally found a companion, someone with power and influence who can not only lead him home, but return him to a state of dignity as he reunites with his son. But then Moya goes bad, and both Nilaam and D’Argo are increasingly confronted by what needs to be done.

It’s almost a tale of starcrossed lovers, but instead of being the true soul mates of fantasy, things are played much more real. The first night is fantastic, with all the vibrant, nipple-licking sex you could ask for. Morning comes, and brings with it the cuddle where all the “what if” scenarios play out as both struggle to find a reason why they shouldn’t say frell it and give things a shot. But then that reason hits like a brick, the arguments in favor become increasingly empty and desperate, and the big breakup goes down, bringing with it all those fleeting dreams of what could have been. And, in this case, it also involves Nilaam doing some Seppuku with D’Argo’s sword, and him making out with her elderly corpse.

It’s a heartbreaking episode and, for once, John doesn’t really do much. Instead of going the old route of making him the hero by having him be responsible for at least two major decisions per ep, he’s solidly in the role of D’Argo’s best friend, acting as a voice for the other man’s fears as D’Argo finds himself on the cusp of a few potentially life-altering decisions. Sure, Crichton has the occasional post-Aurora Chair loony pop spiel, but we can see he’s being cut deep here. John has few things he can hold onto in this new reality, and one of the most important to him is his bromance with D’Argo. The majority of the fears he expresses are about threats to D’Argo’s life, and when we get to the end, and he gives word to things D’Argo already knows he has to do, it starts with a tense, armed standoff, but climaxes with the two sitting down and smoldering side by side. Together.

Elsewhere, we’ve got Chiana “cemented” into the washing hole, Aeryn getting some slow mo plasma firing action, Moya and Pilot turning into elderlies, and Rygel plugging a hole with his ass. It irked me a tad that they never explained why his guts weren’t sucked out of his anus or why his legs didn’t freeze and break off in the void of space, but okay. My only major problem with things is that Nilaam is so frelling powerful. Her hands are tasers, she can deflect plasma bolts, she encases people in blocks of crystal. Many of these, as well as some other bits she performs during rituals, could be written off as advanced psionics, but not all of it, and while the episode doesn’t cross the line to the same degree as “That Old Black Magic”, it still calls attention to itself and feels just a tad out of place.

That said, another fantastic gut puncher of a chapter.

Stark Unexplained Episode Count: 4


I have to start by agreeing with Kevin on two points. Crichton’s badass longcoat is amazing. It’s somewhat plain compared to most Peacekeeper coats, lacking ornamentation and red diagonal patches, so I’d guess that he just picked it up on the commerce planet mentioned in passing. It’s fantastic.

Second point, Chiana washing D’Argo’s clothes. There’s some kind of subtext going on there. Is Chiana just really, really happy to see him back on board? Is she trying to ingratiate herself with him? Returning a favor? She’s even singing. In a later scene, D’Argo lies to her about the potential danger in the ritual of passing. Whatever this is, it’s going both ways.

Speaking of clothes, does everyone have something new in this episode? Crichton’s coat and vest, D’Argo’s riveted patchy fur cloak, and Zhaan’s surprisingly conservative chin-to-toes blue dress and thick gold jewelry. Budget upgrades are fantastic things.

Hooded-robe purple-person says hello and goodbye. Such fantastic makeup for a one-scene zero-line character.

Cobra la-la-la-la-la-la-la!!!!

I admit, I don’t have much to say about this one. It’s great. Maybe that’s it, I don’t have any nits to pick at.


The timing of seeing this episode was a little interesting, considering Kevin and I had just come back from seeing Tangled (which, on a completely unrelated note, I seriously encourage seeing) before watching it, with both hitting the similar “youth-stealing” trope (albeit with notable differences on both sides).

I have to counter Kevin slightly though on one point. While ultimately pretty virtuous, Nilaam wasn’t that selfless throughout the whole thing, since even though her Life Draining Moya was completely unintentional and not malicious, she waffled a touch on what to do once she actually realized what it was she had done. She (understandably) doesn’t want to give up what she’d gained, and while she ultimately didn’t run off with what she’d “stolen”, I seriously doubt the idea didn’t cross her mind. I read her leaving the ship less as a “hey I know what I need to do, let’s go down there so I can kill myself”, and more that she really was trying to escape the increasingly hostile crew. Not necessarily to ditch them completely, but I think she went back to her temple thing so that her desires could wage war with her conscience without the added threat of people shooting at her. She hadn’t decided what she was going to do at that point just yet.

Of course, that just makes it more impressive when she does do the right thing, because it’s much more realistic and believable with her struggling hard with what really should be a very hard decision, regardless of what was right. This was someone who early on in the episode admits to being so afraid of dying, ultimately choosing her own death.

It was also very interesting watching Crichton confronting (old) Nilaam, mostly because I was really unsure where the scene was going at first. With how increasingly chaotic Crichton’s become over time, part of me almost wondered if he went in there intending to speed along Nilaam’s death rather than just hoping for it. He eases off of her significantly when he’s able to relate to her lonely position, though, and I think a bit of that stays with him, which is why he’s somewhat less hostile towards her than Aeryn is later on. He doesn’t pull a gun on her, at least.

And then while all the seriousness is going on, we have the nearly slapstick antics of Rygel and Chiana comedy hour, where Chiana is cemented in with the laundry, and poor Rygel goes from being a doorstop to a drain plug. If last episode showed off Pilot’s improved puppetry mechanics, this one shows off Rygel’s. I’d gotten a hint of it last episode, but I hadn’t realized just how many more points of articulation Rygel gained until he was flailing around trying to get his butt unstuck from the hole in the ship.

Episode [2.01]: Mind the Baby||Episode [2.03]: Taking the Stone

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