Deconstructing Moya

A Farscape Re-watch Project

Episode [2.12] – “Look at the Princess Part II: I Do, I Think”

Today, on Farscape

“Aeryn, what am I supposed to do when there’s no fight left?”
“You run away!”
With you?
With all of us, together.

As attempts on Crichton’s life become more and more threatening, the Empress decides to stash him where no one will find him. Too bad Scorpius is already three steps ahead of the game. Meanwhile, Moya finally meets her Maker, and He finds her…a disappointing creation…


Weston

So, we’ve got three plots in motion, though two of them are distinctly minor. In the spotlight we have Crichton’s continuing pre-nuptial woes, off a bit to the side we have Moya’s god sending her into early retirement for producing a Leviathan gunship, and in a fairly distant third we have the continuing efforts of Casanova Karzanova as he attempts to woo Aeryn.

Yeah, that third one is a bit of a reach. It gets more development next episode. This is good, because it means more Aeryn screen time and she only got four scenes in this one.

Of those four scenes, three are fairly stellar. The first has her rejecting Karzanova in a fairly spectacular fashion. The second has her ambushing Katralla and Jenavian in the ladies room while they’re touching up makeup and sniping at each other. The third is a fantastically desperate and heart-breaking moment when she realizes that John is surrendering to the inevitable.

Plot line beta follows Moya, Pilot, and Zhaan as they are confronted by Kahaynu, a “capricious deity” that summoned Moya to decommission her. Despite the protestations of her passengers, Moya submits to the will of her god. Moya dies, Pilot soon to follow, and Zhaan stuck aboard. Bleak.

I will say this, though. I love the way Kahaynu says “Moya”.

And, of course, the main event. Jenavian rescues Crichton from the cliffhanger assassination attempt with a rapid series of hurricane kicks and one brutal use of a hidden blade. Yes, Jenavian, Prince Clavor’s fiancĂ©e. Turns out she’s a Peacekeeper plant with orders to kill the Prince should he be promoted to Regent. She believes John to be another spy, one who can produce a significantly more favorable outcome by simply ensuring that the right heir takes the throne.

Clavor is… oh man. Crichton confronts him over the assassins, and slaps him all the way around the room. His complete inability to defend himself could be attributed to the family’s abhorrence of physical violence, but given Katralla’s actions later I think it’s safe to say that he’s just a wimp. We see it again a few minutes later. During his conversation with Cargn, he’s actually clutching a pillow. If he was in any sympathetic I would call him a Woobie. Heck, that pillow might be a literal woobie.

There’s parallel between how Crichton confronts Clavor and how Katralla confronts Crichton. Lots of slapping, some yelling, and the revelation that dishonesty and unreliability voids the engagement. Heck, if John had known that a day previous he would have been lying his ass off. But by the time Katralla kissed him, Scorpius was in orbit, and he would have gone straight into the Aurora Chair. Hmm.

I do love how Katralla gets some actual development in this episode. She really isn’t just a vapid princess.

ro-NA is a fascinating sort of spy. We don’t know how long she’s been in Scorpius’ employ, though we can probably assume it’s a short time. Given that both of the local conspirators deny sending the gas droid we can guess that it may have been her, setting herself up as a hero and gaining some measure of trust. Or possibly just preserving John’s invaluable brain. The cut from Empress Novia expressing absolute trust in her to Scorpy handing off a down payment for services yet to be rendered is hilarious. Especially for her reaction when he pulls her into his lap. That… had to be terrifying.

In unrelated news, Scorpius has a new nurse. This one actually sticks around a while.

Chiana plays the Nebari super-empire card while attempting to intimidate the Scarran. It doesn’t quite work. Whether this is because Cargn doesn’t know about the Nebari or Chiana just plays it poorly is probably up for debate.

On board the Jakench transport (so many difficult to spell names in this episode) Crichton is safe for about twenty microts before Braca pops the guards and signals Scorpius. Braca’s had his introduction already, but this is where he starts to shine. He’s been a fantastic lackey until now, but out on his own doing the commando thing? The beginning of his path to awesome.

Crichton, naturally, disagrees. Trapped in a small space with an armed man, he threatens the only thing Braca values: Himself. And he does so with his only weapon: Crichtonisms. John completely unloads, to the point that ro-NA joins in the fun (and dies) and Braca abandons the mission when his antics summon the orbital weapons platforms. No point in saving a madman, right?

So John’s stuck on an exploding cargo vessel. No comms, no escape pods. Still coming down off of his crazy binge, and all set to go on another. He hears a voice. Scorpius. Scorpy-in-his-head talks John down. He denies it, doesn’t want to acknowledge, but the calms him, convinces him that he can survive this. Vacuum exposure isn’t all that bad, right? And there’s a transport pod only a couple hundred metres away.

Yeah. Crichton spaces himself. And he uses the pulse rifle one of his guards dropped as a propulsion source. Sure, he winds up bleeding from the eyes and nose, but he gets better. Fairly quickly, too.

Should note, the image of Scorpius on the cargo ship has the same discoloration as he had during that one scene in the previous episode.

There is, of course, a wedding. There’s a ceremony, it’s lovely. Scorpius is there, and Crichton finally scores a point against him. I believe this puts the score at Scorpius: 6, Crichton: 1. Katralla petrifies well afterwards. John… doesn’t. And he’s going to be locked like that for eighty cycles. Ugh.


You told him about the statue?

This could be an interesting point in a series for a timeskip or format change. Imagine: John’s stoned, Aeryn’s off with a guy. Moya’s dead, Pilot’s dying, Zhaan’s lost in space. All that’s left are D’Argo, Chiana, and Rygel. Fairly nasty cliffhanger, if you think about it.


Tessa

Weston did a pretty good job summarizing things, so I’ll hop right into my thoughts on the details.

I find the political situation between the Peacekeepers and the colony really interesting. Considering it’s a separatist colony that appears to have extremely different philosophical differences, the Peacekeepers seem oddly interested in keeping it stable, enough so to not only send in an agent to deal with a possible worst-case-scenario, but for it to not seem odd that a second would be sent also. I have to wonder if the colony falling apart would really be so bad as to have repercussions for Sebaceans as a whole, or if the intention of the mission is possible a bit more sinister, and the Peacekeepers are aiming to put one of their own on the throne for whatever reason.

Also interesting to note is how quickly and easily John is able to drop into fake-Peacekeeper mode now. He doesn’t even bother changing his accent, and seems to have no trouble convincing Jenavian when confronted by her. Though the lack of accent-change this time around may be because she’s already heard his voice.

At the risk of presenting a rather unpopular view of the “B-story” of the episode… I think it failed spectacularly in trying to present what should be a very emotional situation. I get that it was attempting to add extra tension to the works by putting Moya, Zhaan, and Pilot in potentially terminal danger, but it was jarring to be swapping back and forth, and broke the momentum of the main story far too much. I found myself waiting for those scenes to be over, which shouldn’t be the case for what was obviously supposed to be a very hard-hitting dilemma. I was far more invested in the much more fast-paced political drama that the main story brought than I was of Rygel’s voice actor in silly clothing with a smoke machine talking about shutting down Moya. Maybe this would have done better as a main story instead of throwing it in to an already very busy plot.

Part of this admittedly comes from my hesitancy to buy into character-deaths after the show’s two examples of crying wolf already (and knowing my luck, this one may well be real), and with one more episode left in the three-parter, I’m not mourning the death of any characters just yet. Although, to be fair, this one feels much more convincing than Chiana’s spontaneous combustion, and after so much bait and switching regarding the safety of characters, I won’t be totally shocked if they eventually really do have someone bowing out. But as I said before, I’m waiting at least for an episode to pass with characters staying dead before I believe they’re really gone.

On a side note, did anyone else notice ro-NA swapping out her white robes for a Scorpius-esque outfit after making her deal with the devil? It was a nice little touch.

And… Crichton. He’s gone loopy from time to time, but this is “Crackers Don’t Matter” nuts. And it’s AMAZING. He starts bouncing around the ship, imitating what I’m assuming is supposed to be pro-wrestling moves, and Braca’s left standing there almost helpless, baffled at how to handle the madman who he’d only just called “disappointing in the flesh”. John winds up killing ro-NA in the mayhem (though to be fair it seems to be more or less by accident), putting yet another kill under Crichton’s belt. And just when everything looks like it’s over, John’s mental Scorpius shows up again to lead him to safety. Sadly without Hawaiian shirts involved this time.

Speaking of Scorpius, I love the little sad puppy dog face he gives Crichton as he turns down Scorpy’s “offer” again and tells him he’ll be banned from the planet.

Finally, the good news : “Chiana and I are having fantastic sex.”


Kevin

I’ll definitely agree on the Zhaan/Moya/Pilot/Greek Space God plot; it’s a fantastically well-crafted idea, and it deserves to be the A-plot of an episode. The quick cuts back to the “real” storyline drew too much focus off it. The problem, though, is that it’s too simple to be the main plot of an episode – or at least too simple for Farscape. The only way to complicate things and give it enough weight to be its own episode would be to throw everyone else’s reactions into the mix – Rygel trying to abandon ship, D’Argo being frustrated and threatening violence against Kahaynu, Chiana split between her devotion to the crew and her instinct to scarper at the first sign of trouble, and Aeryn trying to stay with Pilot, finally culminating with Crichton reasoning with the Builders and being the heart of the crew once again. Which would be forced, tired, and status quo for a show that constantly tries to defy such a concept.

Essentially, the problem with the Moya sideplot isn’t that it’s bad – it’s not bad at all, and in fact is really amazing – it’s that the political A-plot completely blows it out of the water.

It’s especially interesting to note, as long as we’re talking about everything happening groundside (mostly), that the Peacekeepers will do anything to keep the Scarrans from gaining more power. Kill the next Regent, let someone else throw away eighty cycles… They’d rather let their separatist colony live in peace and relative obscurity than have their rivals gain an advantage. – remember, even Rygel didn’t know that the colonists were thriving, and Aeryn didn’t want to talk about it. It’s as if a successful secession was an embarassment to the militant, controlling mercenary government.

Why do the Scarrans seem like the biggest threat to the Peacekeepers right now? That’s another story, and shall be told another time.

No, what I’m going to talk about today is Our Boy, John Crichton. His options are limited, and fading fast. Cargn and Prince Douchebag keep trying to kill him, so he takes the Empress up on her offer to ship him to the Wedding Present Ship – note how Rygel’s eyes lit up at the mention of all that unattended wealth, he probably asked Crichton to pocket something for him – and then what happens? He’s sold out to Scorpius. The worst thing absolutely possible.

Of course he snaps. It’s not self-preservation at this point; he’s so absolutely desperate not to go back into the chair, to not be Scorpius’s lab rat again, that he’d rather blow up the ship. He’s back to full-on cartoon mode here, and while he knows that Braca won’t dare shoot him, he doesn’t care if he does. This is full-on desperation. This is a man who is completely defeated. He has no friends left – his best mate, D’Argo, is telling him to do this, and Aeryn won’t make up her mind about how she feels about him. The hope of going home, as he told D’Argo last episode, is hanging on a thread. Take away everything, strip him down to the barest essentials, and what’s left?

John Crichton. The unintelligible alien who goes off and does extremely unpredictable things, causing mayhem and confusion in the process.

And he’s good at that.

Things to note this episode:

  • Seriously want to give credit to the somewhat believable space physics in this episode. While there’s no way for us to be able to hear the explosions, they at least muffled them somewhat. And there’s a small discussion on TVTropes about using the pulse rifle’s recoil to steer, but we’ve seen that pulse weapons are not energy emissions, but rather blasts of superheated oil refined from Laser Turnips, and thus would have some measure of Newtonic Force. Not enough to propel him – the quick burst of air when he spaced himself would have done that – but tiny bursts of recoil would help him steer towards the Landing Pod.
  • Speaking of crazy cartoon Crichton, we have a marvelous bit where he forces Braca’s gun towards his crotch and makes Lorena Bobbitt and Vienna Boys Choir references, but right after, when he starts screaming “KILL MY SEX LIFE, KILL MY SEX LIFE”, where is the barrel? Right on the palm of his hand.
  • I’m going to disagree with Tessa here and say that Kahaynu’s appearance with the smoke wasn’t all that horrible; I really liked the effect where he kept phasing a body in and out of the plume. And the look he gives Zhaan when she rushes him to defend Moya and Pilot? Phenomenal.
  • Jonathan Hardy even looks like Rygel. It’s the eyebrows.
  • Moya’s voice was an amazing effect, and was frelling haunting.

Noel

What to say after everything’s been said. Hmmm….

Well, I don’t dislike the “Moya meets her creator” B-plot as much as Tessa and Kevin did, though I fully agree it’s little more than a way to keep three of our characters busy for three episodes, and has jack-all to do with the A-plot, thus leaving a bit of a clash in the air. But I like it because it takes Zhaan, who’s spent the season trying to retrace her spiritual path, and places her before a very real deity. She bows to him at first, and is awed and respectful… but then he makes the call on Moya and, damn, she pulls a 180 and challenges the dude head on. And the “god”, wow. I love the way he travels in a smoke tentacle that echoed the water tendril from The Abyss, but when he appeared, he looked like Victor Buono’s King Tut from the old Adam West/Burt Ward Batman. The lightning and mist really do give him an ethereal quality, but his puffed out toga reveals a little too much love for heavenly sweets.

As for the main plot, all I can really add is that I was suddenly struck by how much it reminded me of the early parts of the Scifi miniseries adaptation of Dune. The sharply cut, draped outfits. The sets that mix stark whites with sudden pastels. The questionable makeup. And there’s even the atmosphere of back room political deals, assassination attempts, arranged marriages, outside influences, clashes over the throne. Look at the scene where John and the princess encounter the floating GasBot-9000, then check out the strikingly similar bit where Paul Atreides is attacked by the hunter-seeker. And, hey, they’re both saved due to the sudden appearance of a meek servant woman with glowing eyes.

It’s striking enough that there has to have been some influence there, yet this episode actually beat the debut of that miniseries to air by five months. If it’s a complete coincidence, it’s a fascinating one, and I’d love to hear from anyone in the know whether or not I’m off base with this.

All that aside, it’s yet another great chapter in the “Look at the Princess” saga. John going crazy. Rygel’s voice actor revealing he looks exactly like Rygel. D’Argo’s farewell line to John. Our heroes slapping and slamming around posh royalty. The only thing missing is John encountering Moya’s creator and asking “What does a god need with a starship?”

Stark Unexplained Episode Count: 14


Episode [2.11]: Look at the Princess Part I: A Kiss is but a Kiss || Episode [2.13]: Look at the Princess Part III: The Maltese Crichton

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  1. Can

     /  March 4, 2011

    One thing I admire about this episode is how characters of Farscape are slipping into taking decisions they are unwilling to….Scorpy’s attempt to grab Crichton at the orbit leads one of the most epic scenes of Farscape. Crichton losing again to gain control of situation. After that things get really bad. Crichton ambushed third time for last three days and gives up , enough is enough. He is just a human trying to survive in an alien realm. He is not Captain Kirk , Buck Rodgers or Flash Gordon. There is not enough motivation left for him to resist , stall for time or rethinking anymore. Dargo , Rygel are puhing him for marrige…But Aeryn oh man Aeryn. If she opened up herself to Crichton right that moment in the bedroom after Crichton was rescued Crichton would probably would prefer to go down ‘swinging” again. Run , hide , fight. But even Aeryn , a scared and confused child when came to romance (as she said to Casanova “Don’t get me wrong. It is not about you. It is about me”) , is not giving him enough reason or motivation either. She also does not know how to give up , let go on that angle. She cares about this human more deeply than she is aware of though. When she busted cosmetic make up session of Katralla and Jenavian she made that clear to audience. And John and Aeryn’s silent , anguished confontration at Royal Palace bedroom was beautiful…..Just with glances they speak volumes.

    Meanwhile Kaheynu , Leviathan God makes Moya to choose an option no one wishes her to do. To let go , to die , to extinguish one’s own existence. All the resistance of Zhaan is no avail.

    Is the final statue shape of Crichton a salute to carbonite freezing of Han Solo in Star Wars Episode V : The Empire Strikes Back ?

    Reply
  2. Weston

     /  March 4, 2011

    Oooh, nice screenshot. I absolutely could not get a sharp frame in that sequence.

    Reply
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