Deconstructing Moya

A Farscape Re-watch Project

Episode [2.03] – “Taking the Stone”

Today, on Farscape

“Crichton, why I’m here, it’s not about you. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not your kid, I’m not your sister, and I’m only your… your tralk, in your dreams. So please, please go away!”
“I’m trying to help.”
“I don’t want it, and I don’t need it. I like it here. I like… these people.”
“Chiana, you realized that nobody here has a clue. They’re nothing but stoned monkeys who jump off of cliffs!”
“Then you tell me what we’re doing on Moya that’s so frelling wonderful! Tell me that.”

When Chiana gets word of her brother’s death, she goes to John for a bit of consoling, but he ignores her, leading her to hop ship in anger. John and Aeryn pursue, and find that she’s shacked up with a stoned out group of youths living beneath a cemetery, who continually test their courage on a cliff called The Stone before they each die after reaching age 22.


Noel

It’s amazing how season 2 is almost as much a deconstruction of season 1 as season 1 was a deconstruction of classic “offworlder space opera” tropes. This episode specifically takes on the brother/sister bond forged early between John and Chiana. When she gets her devastating news – via a bit of self surgery to remove an implant that connected her to her brother – the first person she goes to is John. And when he rejects her? No one else. Just John. He’s the only one she wanted a little support from, and not even his cold shoulder will turn her to the others. Zhaan has called her a brat with rolled eyes. She’s apparently got a crush on D’Argo. Aeryn is Aeryn. Rygel, sure, that’ll happen. John is the only one who’s really accepted her for who she is and was the first to make her feel welcome. So both his appeal and the sting of his rejection ring painfully true.

And on John’s end, we see a big brother who’s starting to get a little tired of holding her hand. First, there’s the initial brushoff. Then, when he goes down to the world and sees the group of stoned out thrillseekers she’s shacked up with, he grumbles out an apology, but still treats her like she’s at fault and wants her to shut up, listen to him, and get back to the ship. He doesn’t stop to talk things out or see things from her point of view, he’s just repulsed by the punks she’s hanging out with and ends up pushing her deeper in his attempts to yank her out. Hell, he even goes so far as to tranq her with a hypo and toss her over his shoulder before Aeryn talks him out of it.

And that was the big surprise: Aeryn. The transport Chiana picked for her little runaway just happened to be Aeryn’s prowler, and we get the usual threat of coiled up violence as Aeryn stalks around and John tells her not to shoot anybody. But when Aeryn learns who it was that Chiana lost, she pulls a 180 and suddenly becomes the voice of emotional reason, butting up against John about how to help Chiana sort out her problems, and even argues that if they have to leave the girl behind, it’s her choice, and they’ll have to respect it because she’ll just go and do it again if they don’t. It was a softer side to see from our Peacekeeper. And she still got to shove a few guns in peoples’ faces, so don’t any of you start giving her crap about it.

Another important trope breaker comes when our heroes figure out this society’s secrets. This entire “Taking the Stone” cliffjump ritual is the result of rapid tissue breakdown after the natives reach the age of 22, but what they don’t know is that the ritual itself causes the radiation poisoning that kills them. Through a bit of detective work and tissue samples, our heroes piece this together, the society is warned, and the clans pull together for a vote. But this isn’t Star Trek, so one shouldn’t be surprised to learn that the natives think these outsider claims from vile “old timers” is a load of bunk, so they just keep doing what they’re doing. It’s a broader reflection of the theme that people can’t be helped if they don’t want to be helped.

It all feels very Lexx, if I may bring back a comparison Kevin made early last season. It’s all about living in the moment and feeding the immediate carnal delights to hide the fact that there’s no deeper meaning to these peoples’ existence, no broader plan. They just get stoned, fuck, jump off of cliffs, and do it all again the next day. Even the design feels Lexx, as greyscale Chiana decks out in brown leathers and runs red clay through her hair which she twirls out in droopy dreadlocks. And then there’s moments like a dude splatting on the ground after a failed jump, John boiling in the background as he watches Chiana screw a dude who wants her to tempt death in his place, John going all Daffy Duck wacko as he takes a major trip on a ‘shroom, followed by him popping a Peacekeeper painkiller the next day.

And then we get Rygel’s little side quest. For some reason, he accompanied John and Aeryn down to the cemetery world, and while they searched the catacombs for Chiana, he took up a bit of grave robbing. He managed to lug back quite a bit, in fact, and hangs it all around his room, to the disgust of D’Argo and Zhaan. Bring on the poltergeist shenanigans as things start flying around! It was just a hair much for my tastes, and I wish the consequences were more about the already lacking trust of the others, but it was entertaining. And I love the bit where Rygel first picks up the main haunted funerary mask, revealing beneath a mummified head. A wormish creature immediately slithers out of the eye, and does Rygel scream or recoil? Nah, he just smiles, grabs the little bugger, and starts to eat it.

Stark Unexplained Episode Count: 5


Weston

This episode is hitting a little close to home for me, as I learned on Sunday that my stepmother has terminal cancer. There have been some unseasonal rainstorms in Chez Weston over the last couple days.

Ahem.

The episode opens with Chiana walking down a corridor, though that might be a bit generous. A dazed stumble is a more accurate description. The music complements this: A slow single beat, evocative of a heart, with alternating descending and ascending warbles. It’s clearly reflecting her disorientation.

Does anyone else think that the Life Disk looks like a Life Saver?

Noel accurately pegs Aeryn. She recognizes the situation Chiana’s in, identifies several possible methods to resolve the issue, and repeatedly expresses disbelief as Crichton does the exact opposite. She even lays the entire plot out for him (and us), explicitly stating Chiana’s desire to validate her existence.

This episode showcases the first new outfit Chiana’s had. It is, of course, made of leather. Unlike most other leather in the series, it’s brown instead of black. We also see the first appearance of Aeryn’s badass longcoat. Chiana’s leathers do not stick around very long; Aeryn’s coat does. And, like most longcoats (and outfits, and makeup) in the series, it is completely badass.

Have you been paying attention to Crichton’s hair? It’s like the black shirt of this season. When it goes all spiky, that’s your indication that he’s about to be mind-frelled. There is one small problem with this analysis; it’s always spiky this season. He even points it out with, “Do I seem a little crazy lately to you?” Yes, John. Yes, you do.

And finally on the clothing/makeup front, what the frell was up with that translucent baby bump? Eeeeuagh.

The natives move a bit like Chiana. Lots of hopping on top of things, squatting, little head tilts. Is this cultural or biological? We don’t know, and they don’t say. Ultimately it’s probably irrelevant. It serves as one more similarity tying Chiana to the locals.

Final point: How long would it take to fill the surface of an entire planet with your dead royalty? Even assuming that each one gets a giant, elaborate crypt, there have to be more than you could count with a battalion of accountants. It kinda shows how very old this corner of the galaxy is.


Tessa

This whole episode was a very surreal trip, and I’m not entirely certain at first glance how I feel about it.

We start out right off the bat with a very squicky moment where Chiana cuts open her own stomach to pull out an implant. Oddly, the open wound doesn’t appear to be an issue at all throughout the rest of the episode, and thanks to the cut being underneath her clothing, we never even see evidence of it again, which bugs me slightly.

Anyways, Chiana proceeds to jump ship in Aeryn’s prowler, heading to the planet below, where she’s promptly ambushed by a pack of wild Boy Band members.

It’s interesting on a second viewing seeing Molaan popping one of his mushrooms in his mouth when he first meets Chiana, knowing just how strong a hallucinogen they apparently are. I had missed it the first time around, and though it doesn’t change much realizing he’s stoned out of his gourd at this point too (then again I kind of doubt there’s any point in this that he isn’t), it’s interesting to note.

That… “sound test” ritual (I have no idea what else to call it) Chiana is going through hanging upside down the first time is probably one of the most downright bizarre (almost to the point of being nightmarish) bits of imagery I’ve seen from this show so far, especially on a first view, since, along with Crichton, we’re meant to believe that she’s being put through it against her will. The sounds, the swaying weights, the quivering air, the rocking “dance” the others are doing back and forth, Chiana’s moaning along with having a hair color that seems very out of place (for her)… I wouldn’t call it scary, but it’s unsettling.

And then we had Rygel’s grave robbing shenanigans, more or less just to prove that, despite the character development we’ve seen in the past few episodes for him, he is still the greedy little bastard we know and love. I loved his reaction when John tells him not to go poking around for treasures. “HOW DARE YOU I WOULD NEVER oooh shiny!” I agree with Noel that, while it was fun to watch, it was painfully predictable. I spent the whole mini-story hoping they would throw something a little less obvious at us with it in the end, but to no avail.

It’s interesting seeing John completely misjudging situations throughout the episode. We can tell that he sees what Chiana is doing in a very different light than either she or Aeryn do from his outburst at Aeryn. He doesn’t seem to be able to grasp the situation as anything other than Chiana contemplating suicide, while Aeryn (possibly due to being more familiar with just what it is behind the mechanics of the jump) doesn’t see the decision as anywhere near as terminal as John does. And then there’s his triumphant speech to the group as a whole as he tries to tell them about their unwitting self-poisoning, only to get a confused and disbelieving reaction from the doped masses before they dismiss his warning out of hand (which shouldn’t have been the least bit surprising). I’m not sure if his judgement is clouding as he’s starting to crack under the pressure of everything he’s gone through, or if he’s just having a bad day here, but considering we spent most of Season 1 watching him make much clearer and wiser calls, it was interesting watching him reduced to near-incompetence in this episode.


Episode [2.02]: Vitas Mortis||Episode [2.04]: Crackers Don’t Matter

8 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. Ugh. I hate this episode. Worst one of the series, not afraid to say it.

    Reply
  2. Weston, I’m so sorry about your bad news regarding your mother. I want you to know that although the coming time will be harrowing, I’m living proof that things don’t have to end badly. I hope this is true for your family.

    I wanted to comment about John and his almost insane need to protect his family as shown in this episode. It isn’t like him to blow off a friend like he did with Chiana. I really like the idea that he thinks of her as a kid sister and treats her thus (as he would Olivia) and like a kid sister, Chiana rebels. But she is in crisis and so is John. I think he has a bad case of PTSD by this time. The most lovely scene in the episode (which is also not my favorite but it grows on me as I rewatch it) is when John, in tears, doesn’t listen to Chiana about wanting to jump to prove she can, and drugs her. He needs everyone safe almost like if he keeps his adopted family safe he’ll be safe. And he’s full of guilt and we don’t know his secret reason why yet. I love that Aeryn is the parent here in so many ways — telling the pregnant girl not to drink, trying to reason with a disraught John, and basically being reasonable. And John is slowly loosing it. Yeah, his hair is a give away.

    Meanwhile, I adore the ending when John finally accepts Chiana’s jump and cheers her on. And their final little cheer dance thing — which we do at home, sometimes.

    Favorite line: “I’m not good at nice.”

    Thanks for another terrific review. Happy New Year.

    Reply
    • All great points, Rita. I love the breakdown John is on the verge of, where half of him is still sick of the situation he’s in, even the people he’s stuck with, but the other half is so desperate not to lose the others, not only because of the connections he’s forged, but because they’re the only points of reference he has on this side of the universe. It’s a very bold direction to take his character in.

      Reply
  3. Rita

     /  January 2, 2011

    Noel, you hit the nail on the head. John seems to be coping up to the events of Nerve. Scorpy pulled john’s trusting nature and compassion as well as his coping means(that the UTs were some sort of weird Earth place that if he is careful all his cultural norms still fit) right out from under him. The moyans have become his lifeline. He already has an upbringing where he was taught to protect those he loves. He betrayed that once and still feels enormously guilty.

    Here, Chiana needs him and he wasn’t there for her. He has only his human norms which he no longer trusts to guide him an misconstrues China’s needs. I love the maze-like set that has him totally lost with only Aeryn to guide him. Great metaphor for his situation, if I’m not taking things too far.

    Yeah, Jeremiah Chrichto smells.

    Reply
    • I’d forgotten about the maze bit. There’s also the great moment where Zhaan gives him the radiation readings and, despite all he’s learned over the last year, he still has to turn to Aeryn to ask “is that high or low?”

      Reply

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