Deconstructing Moya

A Farscape Re-watch Project

Episode [2.05] – “The Way We Weren’t”

Today, on Farscape

“I’m…. I’m in a great deal of pain.”
“You’ll get used to the pain.”
“Get… used to it. It… will… go away… won’t it?”
“I’m afraid not. An unfortunate but permanent side effect of the grafting process. I’m about to reawaken the Leviathan. All of her senses will reawaken instantly, along with her consciousness. Remember, her senses are now yours. Nothing I can say will prepare you for what you are about to experience. Try not to be afraid.”
“I wont… cry out.”
“You will.”

When Chiana finds an old recording of Aeryn taking part in the execution of Moya’s original pilot, the crew is unsettled by the reminder of Aeryn’s brutal past, but agree it would be in everyone’s best interests that Pilot never see it. It’s not long before Pilot does in fact see it, sending him into a violent fury as he demands the others eject Aeryn from the ship.


Tessa

I seem to have a knack for picking up on themes for this series just prior to episodes focusing on them. Last episode I pointed out Aeryn’s lingering isolation from the rest of the crew as well as how easily Pilot could destroy everyone on board, only to be followed with… an episode where Aeryn is isolated from the crew for her past actions and Pilot gives the very real threat (and effectively begins to carry it through) of killing everyone on board through his own apathy and guilt. Huh.

Chiana finds a video file chip thing with recordings revealing that their Pilot was not actually Moya’s original Pilot, and that furthermore, Aeryn was among those given the command to kill the old Pilot. This of course causes most of the crew to totally freak out (though Chiana questions just what exactly they thought Peacekeeper Aeryn had been doing her time in service before joining them) seeming to completely undo whatever trust had been built up with her in their time together. John is barely able to prevent a fight breaking out, and D’Argo very wisely decides to take the recording, saying that Pilot shouldn’t see it under any circumstances (I suppose they were lucky that there weren’t any DRDs present during either viewing).

Unfortunately (and rather predictably), Rygel takes the first opportunity he gets to swipe the recording and hand-deliver it to Pilot himself, presumably because he thought Pilot would owe him something for it, or maybe he just needed to fill his asshole quota for the day. It turns out to be one of those “didn’t think this through” moments, though, because Pilot reacts by refusing to move the ship another inch until Aeryn is thrown off, and later disconnects himself from Moya entirely, throwing the ship’s systems (most notably the life support ones) into complete disarray.

There’s a ton of character insight in this episode, which isn’t surprising considering the majority of it is backstory. Going down the line…

We’ve been seeing more and more of this lately, but Zhaan appears to taking solace in self-righteous condescension ever since returning to her priestly role. She’s stopped being the wise spiritual mother-like figure offering guidance that she was in the first season, and has become a preachy holier-than-thou Sunday School teacher. It’s actually made her really unlikable in the past few episodes, and I have a feeling that it’s mostly to cover her own guilt and grief over her own past, both the more recent and prior to the show. She backpedals considerably when she actually gets a reaction out of Aeryn, though.

Speaking of Aeryn, the amount of guilt that she’s going through in this episode is almost painful to watch. Her past is very literally catching up to her, and she suddenly has to relive some memories that she is very deeply ashamed of, both regarding Pilot as well as the betrayal of her former lover. In addition to that, she’s facing the very real possibility of losing her friends and a place on the ship that she’s come to consider her home and family. And although she has changed considerably since that time, the things she did were still horrible, and she can’t really blame them for rejecting her now that they’ve come to light.

We also get to see just how much of a psycho Crais was even before losing his brother. Though I still have to question why we didn’t get to see this in the first season when he actually was the main villain.

Despite his recent unraveling, John still makes a very good showing as the level-headed voice of reason throughout the episode. Although it helps that he’s probably only second to Chiana in being the most removed from the situation.

And then, of course, there’s Pilot. Where to begin? First off, I think this is the first time we’ve seen him this angry. Sure, he’s been irked, annoyed, and snarky in the past, but never seething with rage like he is here. And it is terrifying. I’ve mentioned before that it’s easy to forget just how huge he is compared to the others, and while he is wired into the ship (welded into it, we find out here) and isn’t usually associated with physical actions, he’s shown here to be a very strong physical threat when he wants to be, nearly strangling Aeryn. There’s a few other mind blowing revelations here as well, like the fact that he’s been in constant pain the entire time he’s been Moya’s pilot, and that his language is so complex and advanced that he has to significantly dumb down what he’s saying just to be understood by anyone.


Kevin

I mentioned last episode that it was probably The Perfect Farscape Episode™, that it was a microcosm of everything the show stood for and specialized in, and I stand by that. However, it is not my favorite episode of the entire series.

This one is.

I’ve made it no secret that Pilot is one of my favorite characters, and that his friendship with Aeryn – their Epic Bromance, if you will – was one of the best things about character development in the first season. I’ve been looking forward to this episode, where the very limits of their friendship is tested.

This is probably the most amount of character development from Pilot that we’ve seen the entire show thus far, actually. He’s gone from being the cowed wallflower who meekly obeys orders, to a snarky voice of aloofness who still only wishes to help, to a long-suffering victim of having to occupy the same ship as those frelling mouthbreathers that constantly put him and Moya in danger for selfish, annoying reasons. (Admittedly that last one was only a result of T’raltixx’s Hate Plague, but still.) Here now he sees something that pushes him over the edge, and Pilot has had enough.

And let me say, goddamn.


Red Lantern Rage.

Here we see, as Tessa pointed out, the real danger of royally pissing off the one being who controls whether or not they keep breathing. He’s been known to give of himself to further the efforts and wills of his shipmates – willingly or not – but threaten the life of Moya? You’d better learn how to breathe vaccuum.

Here’s where it gets even more cutting. Pilot knew – knew – that by accepting Velorek’s offer, he was dooming the previous Pilot. The shock he felt at seeing the video was the flood of guilt, as he never thought he’d ever see the consequences of his decision. Once Aeryn popped up, he had a selfish moment where his conflicting and painful emotions found a target, and that’s when he summoned her to his Den. I’m definitely not blaming him for this; it’s hard to control how you react towards people, especially if you’re blaming yourself, and the shift in targets is not necessarily a conscious one. It also puts things in an interesting perspective when he can’t force himself to kill her and banishes her from Moya; he knows that she’s a reminder of the incident, and removing her may assuage his self-loathing.

Keep in mind, of course, that Pilot is extremely young. I’d go so far as to say he’s still in adolescence, for a Pilot, and this whole thing – pointing fingers, holing up in his room, self-destructive behavior – is very teenagey. Especially when he rips out the neural links to Moya, declaring that she would be better off without him – all without asking what her opinion was.

That, I think, is the critical thing that the episode was missing, in my opinion; Moya’s perspective and thoughts on the matter. We know that she lumped Pilot in with the rest of the crew when she shut off life support so the fetal Talyn could have all the resources she could give him, and while looking back at all the examples of their interactions so far doesn’t discount the concept that Pilot was subjugating her will the entire time, I highly doubt that was the case due to their respective personalities.

Regardless, it is still my most favorite episode of all time.

Notes!

  • I don’t remember if it is ever explained why they needed to replace Pilots to start the breeding experiment; perhaps the previous one was too old, or – far more likely – she simply refused to allow the sperm capsule to be implanted, which made Crais say “Okay, frell you, I’ll just find someone who will.” Which is perfectly in character for Crais, so that’s probably what it was.
  • I love the fact that it’s D’Argo that is becoming the voice of leadership now. Sure, he still gets angry, but he has learned patience and the value of thinking things through before chopping, tongue-whipping, or shooting his problems. Crichton may still be the voice of reason – relatively – but D’Argo is the one who starts taking charge.
  • Oh, Rygel. The more things change, the more you stay the same slimeball we love to hate.
  • AMAZING puppetry this episode with Pilot. We see more of him now – his back as he’s lowered down into his Den which struck me as really vulnerable and naked, his underbelly and lower appendages – and his facial expressions are so incredibly nuanced that there is no doubt, without any dialogue whatsoever, what he’s feeling. Guilt. Remorse. Shock. Anger. Rage. Homicidal rage. Terror. Revulsion. Self-loathing. The fact that they even gave him tear ducts so he could cry on camera. Is it any wonder why he’s my favorite character?

Noel

Way back in the first episode, the cold Peacekeeper Aeryn Sun was forced to fight alongside the “lesser beings” she once persecuted, and was challenged to be something more. She’s done pretty well for herself in the time since, forging bonds and opening up and becoming slightly more comfortable with her feelings. Here, we learn she once had a chance to do something very similar. Another man opened her heart, challenged her ingrained Peacekeeper beliefs, and asked her to be something more.

That time, she failed.

It goes without saying that Claudia Black has been absolutely fantastic as Aeryn from episode one, but the level of vulnerability she brings to the table here, as bad choices and missed opportunities from her past flood her memories, is absolutely heartbreaking. We open with this Old Aeryn calmly gunning down a Pilot in cold blood. As with John in the last episode, we’re being forced to see her at her worst. But it’s hard to hate her when she vents on a punching bag until her knuckles are bleeding, then drops to the floor a sobbing wreck. This is a person who’s participated in atrocities, who we shouldn’t sympathize with, yet we’ve seen her change. She’s grown. She’s becoming “something more”. Here, in the final, touching moments between her and Pilot, she faces down her past alongside him, taking an event that could have torn them apart and actually uses it to bring them even closer.

The writing, directing, and acting in this episode is astonishing. The guilt and self-loathing on the part of Aeryn and Pilot. The initial anger from the trio of former prisoners as the old memories dig their way to the surface, and Zhaan and D’Argo eventually pushing it aside and accepting what Aeryn’s become instead of what she once was. The tragic romance where Aeryn sells out her first love just to once more get behind the controls of a Prowler. Chiana, who’s only known New Aeryn, wondering why everyone’s making such a fuss when they all have skeletons in their closets. The looks on John’s face, equal parts whimsy and jealousy, as Aeryn tells him about the first man she ever loved. And Pilot.

Pilot, Pilot, Pilot. Kevin points out the tears they trickled down his face, but I’d also point out the saliva they caked around his mouth when the gag is first removed in the flashbacks. The puppeteering and vocal work of Lani Tupu is at its best as we witness a teen go against his own Elders so he can journey the stars, only to learn the hard way that he may have bitten off more than he could chew. We’ve always seen him as capable and confident at the controls of Moya, but now we learn about the constant pain of the unnatural welds that bonded him to Moya. Now we learn about his youth and realize he was a child forced to become a man before his time, with the Peacekeepers yanking out the development years of transition and learning, much like he forcefully yanks free his connection to Moya.

This was a painful episode as two of our main characters are forced to relive their pasts, but as with the new, natural connection Pilot is forming with Moya, the shock may have been necessary to push that pain aside and start over new.

This, to me, is the single best episode we’ve seen so far. It’s full of all the alien weirdness we’ve come to expect, but only uses it to enhance the deep bonds and conflicts that keep changing among this cast of characters. Kevin does, however, point out the massive flaw in that we never once hear from Moya. What does she think of all this? What are her choices? It’s like she’s regressed to a horse that’s being fought over by riders while she runs around in confusion as they settle their own matters. Another problem I had was Rygel selling out the recording. He gives a reason, Chiana gives another, but it’s never further explored, and thus feels like it was just done to move the plot forward.

But none of that undoes the greatness we see elsewhere. This episode made me cry. Real tears of manly crying.

Stark Unexplained Episode Count: 7


Weston

This episode opens with a blue tinge to the light, unusual compared to Moya’s normal reddish orange, and a whole bunch of Peacekeepers stomping around. The viewer is left to piece together what’s going on, until the Aeryn reveal and zoom out to the present emphasizes the rapid development of the plot.

Speaking of plot, this episode is unusual for Farscape in that it doesn’t have many threads going. There’s the conflict in the present between Aeryn and Pilot (and unspoken Moya), and the events of the past between Aeryn and Pilot and Velorek. Everyone and everything else is in a distant orbit around those points.

Let’s see… Tessa highlighted Chiana’s noting that Aeryn was a Peacekeeper and did Peacekeeper things, and how cool Pilot’s language is. Noel hit Aeryn’s punching bag of self-flagellation and bleedingness, and Pilot’s fantastic voice (I loved the quavering in it when he was first hooked up, and the sheer contempt when he confronted Aeryn. Also, same scene, the look out of the corner of his eye as she entered the Den.). Kevin noted Pilot’s self-loathing and youthfulness and background.

*checks each of those off the list*

Wardrobe! Crichton’s hair has calmed down a bit since last episode. Zhaan is back in the shapeless flimsy robe and pointy molecule necklace instead of her new smooth robe and heavy gold collar.

We find out that Talyn was Crais’ pet project, not just something that was occurring under his command. Kinda like Scorpius’ wormholes. Hmm.

Around eighteen minutes in we get our first wide-angle shot of Pilot’s Den. It’s a little hard to see, since it’s shot from above with Pilot being lowered towards his console, but you can distinguish three focal points: Pilot in the immediate foreground, the center island with four walkways around it, and waaaaay down there you can see the bottom. We’ll get more wide shots when Pilot springs for some area lighting around the perimeter. Also, we get our first look at the area directly underneath Pilot, his interface with Moya, and his legs. Tiny little things, they definitely look aquatic.

D’Argo loses at Rock/Paper/Scissors again.

DRDs can accept voice commands. It’s a good thing nobody else can talk Pilot.

The commentaries on these episodes are worth watching for many reasons, among them the commentators reading the names during the end credits. Included for this episode, we get Claudia Black’s tryout for CSI.


Episode [2.04]: Crackers Don’t Matter||Episode [2.06]: Picture If You Will

7 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. This episode..frell. What can I say about this episode ? I mean this is not the way we know two of our main characters usually : Aeryn and Pilot. But they were not like as we know of. Were they ? As Chiana pointed out What did you think she was doing before as Peacekeeper ? They made wrong choices before. The guilt followed them all the way through now. Claudia Black was amazing in Aeryn’s guilt and regret….Especially punching exercise and her emotional collapse afterwards. And Pilot…WOW ! Not only puppetters made an astonishing work in Pilot’s facial expressions of anger , pain , regret etc. , Lani Tupu’s voicework was amazing in portraying all these emotions…..

    Reply
    • Weston

       /  January 14, 2011

      Totally agreeing with Lani Tupu’s voicework. The man has astonishing range.

      …hey, who voiced the female Pilot? *looks it up* Oh, it’s Nilaam from ‘Vitas Mortis’. Man, I wasn’t expecting that.

      Reply
  2. I wanted to point out the wonderful use of the PK rug we saw in Season 1. Here it is shot from above so that the white arrow with red surroundings is used to point to Aeryn as she confesses to John about Velorak and what she did. John sits outside the white area which is very metaphorical. I love their relationship and how it is developing. I don’t think John is jealous so much as curious and carefully compassionate as Aeryn talks about how painful love is within PK ranks.

    I also want to praise Ben and Claudia for their improvised silent communication during the tag. They say in the Commentary that the director let them take their time and figure out how to play the final tentative reaching out from John, so the actors jettisoned all the dialog and went for silent communication. They have such a connection as actors that they pulled off so much with their silent looks and facial expressions. Shear genius.

    Reply
    • I fully agree about both the use of the rug and the silent exchange at the end. Yet more amazing details in an amazing episode.

      When I say jealous, I’m referring to the slight reactions of irritation at certain details. John not only learns he’s not the first big love of Aeryn’s life, but that he wasn’t the first to challenge her to be something more (a line I can’t type without hearing Bruce Greenwood). John thought he was the catalyst, but now he’s discovering he’s the second chance to an earlier missed opportunity. The reactions are brief, though, and he pushes past them and gets back to helping Aeryn through her grief, but I found the fact that he had those moments, brief as they were, to be increadibly honest and authentic.

      Reply
  3. Rita

     /  January 15, 2011

    Noel, I missed those reactions completely. Oh now I hear Bruce! You are right and observant about john’s reaction. I always watch Claudia and missed Ben’s reaction. The rug is so symbolic of the vast gulf between human and peacekeeper. Set design is amazing.

    Reply
  4. KevinCV

     /  January 15, 2011

    As an avid sci-fi fan, I’m a sucker for strong character backstory, so when my buddy Robert first showed me this ep, telling me there was a lot to learn about Aeryn and Pilot, I was totally giddy. I didn’t expect that Pilot would get so pissed off, though. Beware the Nice Ones, indeed. This episode was raw, emotional, and all-around very awesome. It’s not often we get a sci-fi show that takes a chance to do something so dark and interesting as this.

    I was shocked when I saw the name of the writer, Naren Shankar, in the opening credits, though. When I was a kid, I watched “Star Trek: The Next Generation ” with my older brother, so his name was one I saw quite a bit of, and now as an adult see as a regular “CSI” viewer. It was shocking to me that this man had delivered such an amazing ep. He’s certainly a versatile writer, I’ll give him that. Not that I’m saying his “Star Trek” and “CSI” eps are crap, mind you… 😀

    But yeah, I can’t think of anything else to say except how brilliant this episode was. Well, maybe one thing: Near the end of the episode when D’Argo announces to Pilot that he was finished bonding him to Moya naturally and asks how he’s feeling, and Pilot replies with “There’s no pain… No longer any any pain…” I actually found myself tearing up with joy at that. It felt like a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming for me.

    Reply
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