Deconstructing Moya

A Farscape Re-watch Project

Episode [2.13] – “Look at the Princess Part III: The Maltese Crichton”

Today, on Farscape

“I know, it hurts. You want it to not hurt? Well, next time, hold on to the frelling wall!”

Crichton’s time as a statue is interrupted when the Scarran, Cargn, cuts off his head. As everyone kermitflails around trying to figure out what happened, the Peacekeeper Spy recovers it, revives Crichton, and the two of them find a way to pull their collective butts out of the fire. Meanwhile, 127 Hours Between a Rock and a Hard Place!


Tessa

I’m just going to come out and say it – I think this is a really weak third act to an otherwise awesome storyline.

We start pretty much where we left off, with Crichton and Katralla having just turned into statues. Tyno recaps to the others that the two of them will be watching their people for 80 cycles, and that they can hear (and see, the implication appears to be) everything that’s going on. He leaves the three there to talk with John via a device that allows him to talk back to them while in statue form.

That night, Prince Clavor comes stomping in the room, swearing his lungs out, attempting to take out his frustrations on Crichton’s statue, only to injure his hand. And then Cargn shows up and bypasses all the dramatics and simply cuts John’s head off. Of course, due to the whole statue-thing, Clavor explains that John can’t actually be killed in that state without the statue being destroyed completely – any pieces can simply be put back together with minimal permanent damage. Cargn decides to get around this by dropping John’s head into a vat of acid. Luckily for John, the metal he’s made of is pretty sturdy stuff, and hangs on long enough for a “rescue” by Scorpius. We get a fairly awesome moment where a loud noise interrupts Scorpy’s Villain Speech and he gets up to ask who else is there, only to get ambushed and shot by Jenavian.

Meanwhile, the Empress is demanding to know where her son-in-law’s head has gone, and shuts down all planet leave until answers come forth and John is put back together again. Everyone starts running around in a panic trying to work out just who did this and how it can be fixed.

And here’s where my major issue with this episode comes in. We just spent the opening of the episode covering the fact that both John and Katralla can hear (and quite possibly see) everything that’s going on in the room, along with showing that there’s a way to easily communicate with them in statue-form. Why didn’t someone think to just ask Katralla, who was right there in the room and should logically know, if not exactly what happened, who is responsible for her husband’s missing head? At first I wondered if it might just be that for some reason Crichton was the only one given the means to communicate, but no, we very clearly see Katralla able to communicate by the same means in the end. Did nobody think to ask the very obvious witness to the crime?

For that matter, do they really not have that room guarded? While I understand Clavor being able to enter without anyone saying anything, I seriously doubt Cargn would have just been let in without anyone taking any notice. With all the talk about super-tight security in the first two episodes and the number of attempts on Crichton’s life, it’s extremely bizarre that nobody would be keeping track of who was coming and going.

In any case, Jenavian puts Crichton back together while nobody is looking, taking him to an undisclosed location and calling his Peacekeeper bluff, having discovered that he isn’t Sebacean. Even still, she recognizes that he’s her best shot at completing her job of not letting the Scarrans gain influence over the separatist empire.

Of course, now that Crichton has gone from only somewhat missing to now totally missing, the Empress flips out even more and threatens execution of all off-worlders if John is not found (once again, nobody thinks to just ask Katralla). With the chips down and the situation getting desperate, Scorpy starts trying to cut deals, calling a meeting with D’Argo, ensuring him that he’s just as anxious to find John as the rest of them are, more to avoid execution at the hands of the Empress now than for the information he wants from John’s brain. He promises to help D’Argo and the others get Crichton off of the planet alive, if they let him gather the information he needs, which he claims he can do without harming John.

Their negotiation is cut short by Cargn, who mind-zaps D’Argo for information. D’Argo of course knows nothing, but gives away that he thinks Chiana does, causing Cargn to start seeking her out. Scorpius stops him briefly only to try to make a deal with him, which Cargn abruptly turns down. He finds and questions Chiana offscreen, after which Clavor declares that he’s ending their allegiance. Cargn continues to demonstrate that he doesn’t put up with this kind of nonsense and just kills him.

Scorpius makes a second attempt to make a deal with D’Argo, having found Cargn. D’Argo reluctantly agrees to help him confront the Scarran once Scorpius tells him that he has Chiana.

Upon discovering her son’s death, the Empress upgrades everyone’s executions from “probably” to “definitely”, until John shows up. Rygel fills him in on what’s been going on, and John hurries off to help the others.

Scorpius and D’Argo confront Cargn in the acid room (exactly what purpose does that room serve normally?), and banter back and forth until Scorpius appears to be getting weaker. Cargn reveals to D’Argo a major weakness in Scorpius, namely that his Scarran and Sebacean sides have conflicting reactions to heat. Scarrans love heat, it strengthens them and they crave it, while Sebaceans are seriously hindered by it. We also learn that Scorpius’ outfit has a functional purpose – it regulates his temperature to allow him to function properly. There’s also finally an answer to those rods being put in his head, which are coolants (Aha! I was right!) to further help him deal with his temperature issues. They fight for a bit, and Cargn pretty handily kicks both D’Argo and Scorpy’s asses. He’s about to throw D’Argo into the acid when John shows up, using a gun-necklace thing that Jenavian gave him, stunning Cargn long enough for him to push him into the acid and kill him. John proceeds to almost push Scorpius in after Cargn, but instead just uses the threat to tell Scorpy to stay the hell away from him.

And then once everyone leaves, Scorpius just gets up and walks out, totally fine, meaning that all the trouble he was having in the encounter was just an act. Either that suit of his is better at regulating temperature than he was letting on, or it just wasn’t that hot down there after all (which considering Clavor and Jenavian were both perfectly fine down there earlier, seems more likely). Either way, he’s now put the idea in our heroes heads that he has an easily exploitable weakness that may not actually be so easy to exploit as they think.

Wrapping things up in the end, John begins to refuse to go through the statue-ifying process again now that Scorpius is thought to be out of the picture, until the Empress informs him that Katralla is pregnant with his child, having been artificially inseminated before becoming a statue. John immediately changes his mind and agrees to go through the process again, but Tyno stops him, telling him he won’t survive a second attempt. Through some hasty political maneuvering, Tyno is set up to take John’s place as regent, but not before Katralla offers to show John their child. After a heartbreaking introduction and farewell to his would-be daughter, John and the others leave to return to Moya.

Oh, right, Moya and Pilot aren’t actually dead, making this the third time they’ve pulled this stunt. I kind of get what they’re trying to do here, and I admit that if and when a major character finally does die, it will hit pretty hard. But the side effect is that every time a main character “dies”, I have less and less reason to react with anything but irritation while I wait for an episode to pass before confirming their death is actually real and won’t have an Ass Pull attached to the end of it bringing them back. Doing this once is effective. More than that and near-death situations slowly start to lose more and more suspense.

There is a second mini-plot where Aeyrn discovers the true meaning of emotions, but I’ve gone on for too long already and I have a headache. All in all, the three-parter was fantastic, but this last part suffers seriously from plot holes and an over-used story device.


Kevin

I mentioned before that Farscape‘s three-parters are top-notch, and I stand by that. This episode pales in comparison to the two preceding it, mostly due to the things that Tessa expertly discussed, but it still holds up pretty well on its own. Especially considering the slow start that Season Two got; this one was a bit of backsliding, but not as far as you’d think.

With the political A-plot and Zhaan’s confrontational B-plot against the Greek Smoke God of Spaceships – however well-done we say it is – there’s definitely enough going on for all the main characters. Well, almost all. Let’s take a look at the person who got shoved to a minor thread – the C-plot, if you will – and discuss Aeryn’s own 127 Hours.

I disagree with Tessa on this, in that it wasn’t yet another “Aeryn Discovers The Meaning Of Emotions” storyline. It can be seen this way, but I believe it runs a bit deeper than that. Let’s take a look: Aeryn spurns Crichton’s advances, keeping herself at arm’s length, and he finally decides he’s going to stop chasing her. Sure, there’s the whole Scorpius threat, and the political maneuvering, but what it boils down to is that he’s tired of putting himself out there for her just for her to shut him down, every single time. And it wouldn’t be as big of a deal to him if it wasn’t for the fact that she is the one trying to get him to chase her.

Now he’s married and oh, by the way, a frelling statue, so she grabs the next male who shows interest in her and tries to run him through the same wringer. This backfires on her. And through it all, through the lying exaggerating to impress her, and the constant whining, she realizes what she needed to realize: This Guy isn’t Crichton. This Guy is someone completely different, and she doesn’t want This Guy. She wants the person who loves her unconditionally, who has been nothing but honest with her from Day One, and who could at least frelling keep up with her and not send her falling to a watery grave. She wants the person who knows her well enough to not give her the “All you need is love” speech, because she’s heard it all before, and she’s already past that.

It takes her breaking her leg and dragging Whinypants McPrettyface through the Outback the colonized planet’s desert for her to figure out her own feelings for Crichton.

It’s especially telling, and a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming for the series, when she interrupts Crichton’s babbling with one of the compatibility vials, and I really really appreciate that the entirety of that scene is done with zero dialogue. The writers just sat back and let two amazing actors carry the scene on its own merit, trusting that it was strong enough to stand on its own.

And ohgod, it does. Say what you want about the rest of the episode; the ending was perfection itself.


Noel

Gah! I’m totally with Tessa in finding this a frustrating finale to the first big three-parter. Let’s break it down.

The ability to communicate with the statues ultimately adds nothing. It would be a lot more interesting to know that they’re aware, but not give them a voice, meaning people will never really know what kind of a leader they’ll be getting until 80 cycles have gone by and they’re de-stoned. And imagine how much further they could have pushed the breaking of Crichton, with him being in multiples pieces that trade hands in steals and back alley deals to the point where no one is sure if everything will find itself back in place by the end. Good setup, kinda meek execution, though I do like the speckling of light acne John has as a result of his acid wash.

And how can he frelling see? It makes sense for the Princess, who’s locked in a steady forward gaze, but John’s eyes were squeezed shut in pain. And Tessa’s spot on that a large section of the plot implodes because nobody stops to ask the Princess.

The Aeryn/Dregon survivalist thread was decent. I like that they didn’t totally turn him into a whining mess and let him make some solid points about her struggles with emotional connections, but the problem is that, as with the Moya thread, it feels completely superfluous and acts as a way to separate her from the main plot for reasons I can’t entirely fathom. Shouldn’t she be the one charging in to save the day at the end, with John still in pieces in the acid room, instead of him being thawed halfway through the episode?

And now that we’ve mentioned the Moya thread, wow, that ultimately proved pointless. Zhaan gets some praise for using the thrusters on John’s module to suck up the vaporous deity, but the revelation in the end that it was all just a test to see how she’d react was hollow. Why her? Why test her when any conversation with Moya would reveal that Zhaan is rarely the one running the operation? Why wouldn’t Kahaynu quietly hitch a ride back and evaluate the entire crew in its own episode, and really get into matters because I sincerely doubt all of them would be against the idea of a few more gunships on their side. And if he’s such a powerful deity, why not simply remove that Peacekeeper addition that allows her to make gunships?

There’s still a lot of good things going on in this episode, like the dual breakdowns of the Empress and Cargn, both of whom take increasingly desperate actions in response to control slipping away from them. And then there’s the fantastic final moments, both of Scorpius revealing the bluff he’s laid for our heroes, and the compatibility test between Aeryn and John. There’s also a lot of good twists and turns and spins and wheels, but, as Tessa said, it ultimately doesn’t work because nobody tosses a question at the Princess.

Oh, and she’s pregnant with John’s baby through artificial insemination. Total copout. If you’re going to go that route, just have him sleep with her, the emotional implications of which Aeryn can continue to stew over. I mean, hell, they had absolutely no problem dropping John into a night of naked waterside passion with the Peacekeeper spy Jena, a hookup that ultimately has no payoff, and, I believe, is never mentioned again. Meaning John cheated on his wife, who’s trapped in stone, and Aeryn, who’s dragging an injured man through a desert with a broken leg, and not a single consequence arises as a result of this.

It’s a strange, uneven episode, where they seemed to be on the right track, but kept sweeping themselves in the legs. I’ve read that this was initially filmed as a two-parter, and had an additional 45 minutes worth of footage added to stretch it to three (hence, the two director credits). Since there’s at least three plot threads too many going on here, and too many twists occur without reason or payoff, I have to wonder why they went this route. They had a good story, a solid tale of John falling into political intrigue that could tip the balance in a looming war between Scarrans and Peacekeepers, so why did they feel the need to pad it up with so much extra material that it’s in danger of keeling over? I don’t understand.

Stark Unexplained Episode Count: 15


Weston

Many, many good points from the others. Katralla’s uselessness as a witness to the decapitation of her husband (do statues need to sleep?), the unexpected distraction during Scorpy’s triumphant gloating (monologus interruptus), Cargn firing Clavor, John/Jenavian unexpectedness and lack of consequence, Scorpius’ elaborate measures to regulate his body temperature. All fantastic. A little bit disjointed, the only weakness to a stellar three-parter, but the final scene that Kevin notes makes it all worth it.

I think they’ve covered all of the significant points, so I’m going to wander a bit.

It looks like there’s a reset button between episodes; the Empress’ trust in our heroes doesn’t last any longer than the opening credits. Anything that they’ve earned goes right out the window. I’ll grant that events are moving fairly quickly, but dang.

Speaking of, did anyone see the Empress this episode? She and Katralla are peculiarly absent. Sure, Katralla’s a statue, and she gets two phoned-in lines at the end, but after her development last week I would have liked to see more of her. Even by radio.

Development! Jenavian gets some fantastic scenes. Not merely a cold Peacekeeper with a stiletto up her forearm, she sincerely cares about her work. And, briefly, about John. And, frequently, about her outfits. She uses three separate changes of clothing while roughing it, and brings John’s shipboard leathers for his triumphant return to the palace.

Speculation paragraph: Jenavian and Crichton never use the compatibility test. Based on his earlier runs with the local Sebaceans, we can guess that he isn’t quite close enough to reproduce effectively. But Jenavian isn’t a local Sebacean. My question, then: Ninety years down the line, when John’s little girl is growing up, will she have a fifty-year-old half-nephew watching over her? Or an elderly half-sibling?

It seems a very Farscape twist.

The Kahaynu scenes are awe-inspiring, if anemic. If you watch his mouth, Kahaynu doesn’t seem to be using it for all of his lines. Call it dubbing, call it vocalizing from the cloud, call it throwing in dialogue to use more time when attempting to stretch an episode… whatever. Same plot arc, I wonder what, if anything, he did while Moya was shut down. Possibly poked around a bit, changed the oil, fixed up Pilot’s connection with the girl. I don’t think we hear about their communication difficulties at any later point. Possibly they merely finish bonding off-screen.

…although, as Noel says, why not remove her gunship-making bits? Tie the tubes, pull the baby hangar, anything? Hmm. It could set up a story arc wherein some unscrupulous individual (*coughSCORPIUScough*) absconds with out beloved ship and attempts to breed her. Gunships for everyone!

The moment when Scorpius and Crichton are bonding over a pool of acid is… complicated. John knows it’d be simpler to just douse the bastard and move along, but as on the cargo ship previously something affects him. Alters his mindset slightly. Again, we see that flashback. And, as Tessa points out, Scorpy doesn’t seem to mind the acid at all afterwards.

Note, if you will, that it only took four rounds from Jenavian’s pulse-necklace to stun Scorpius. Cargn took at least twenty, and I doubt Crichton was using it on low power. Demonstrating once again that Scarrans are nasty customers. The acid resistance that Scorpius appears to possess must be a part of his cooling suit – if you’re going to wear something non-stop, why not build some formidable defenses into it?

Rygel’s tears over Clavor appear out of character until we learn that he is facing execution. Have we ever seen him shed a tear for someone other than himself?

And that final scene… yeah. Kevin nails it. Letting the actors run without dialogue is risky, but it works so well. Especially with the music track. The hopeful rising violins, the gentle plucking guitar. Aeryn worried, John quiet for once. And, maybe most importantly, their reactions. Aeryn smiles and walks away, and Crichton doesn’t say a word. He gives her the space she wants.

This moment of happiness will, of course, not last through the next episode.

Only two significant nitpicks:

  • When Aeryn and Karzanova were climbing the wall out in the Barren Lands, she announced that she’d anchored the line before climbing back down to rescue him. Why, then, did they fall so far?
  • Cargn hitting D’Argo with a heat probe in the bar: Not assault? Does the planet have any law enforcers outside the palace?
  • In the closing credits, a few seconds are cut out just before the ending “Ah!” I wonder where they went.

Episode [2.12]: Look at the Princess Part II: I Do, I Think || Episode [2.14]: Beware of Dog

5 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. CAN

     /  March 11, 2011

    This three parter ( first one in Farscape ) suffers somewhat due to need the fullfiling the time necessarry to be a “three parter” Moya/Zhaan/Kaheynu arc was just there to prolong these episodes to 45 minutes (though one can argue that it somewhat involved some character development for Zhaan and Pilot since they now share a secret ) But really the cop out ending on that one ( it is all a test for Zhaan ) was a huge red RESET BUTTON written all over it. I hate those buttons.

    Aeryn story in this episode is maybe less meaningless ( it involves a really important step for Aeryn character development ) but isolating her with Dregon Casanova in a wall climbing and accident/life saving dragging adventure is really pointless even more pointless than Moya story in this three parter. Still there were scenes in here which somewhat lift it above avarage. Despite being a stupid playboy Casanova surprised me with his insight and wise advice. They were just the things Aeryn needed at this moment. Real counseling about relationships and feelings. She needed to be by herself with a right direction to be pointed on about her attitude towards Crichton. She still thinks like a grunt after all this is the only way to think , evaluate and act for her. Take orders and execute them. This is now definitely changing. Learning to act as an individual for quite some time she finally understands and glimpses her potential future with Crichton first time.

    And main story. Tessa’s obvious plot hole about why they did not ask to Katrala about who took out Crichton’s head hit me like a brick. I never thought about that. This plot hole takes out a few more bonus points from this episode. Maybe Empress asked Katrala without informing others. Maybe that is why she knew and suspected Cargyn and Cleyvor at first place as Clevor said before he melted under Scarran’s heat ray probe. Who knows ? Writers should definetely have adressed about that issue. Rygel’s constant attempts to manage Empress and Prime Minister , temporary allience between Dargo and Scorpius was fun. This shows another aspect in personality of Scorpius. He is adaptable to situation. He tried once more to recover Crichton but once that failed again he set up his priorities straight and worked with Dargo to rescue Chiana. With learning more about his suit , cooling rod system and his metabolysm about sensitivity to heat he is shaping more and more as a character

    Next : Crichton’s solo show to save the day. In fact he was lucky again by having Jenevian on his side. They played their parts well. As for having sex with Jenevian , from his perspective it is understandable. He is a normal guy , in an alien realm , with different norms , ethics , cultures , constanly running , his life is in danger , never sure if he can live another day only woman he cared about in Moya constantly rejecting him and shall continue to do so as far as he knows , what did you expect ? Him becoming a priest ? His marriage with Katrala was on paper , a formality for him after all. Crichton/Dargo/Scorpy confontration with Cargyn was fun if again resolved too quick. As Crichton said “How Batman was that ?”

    And final aspect. Last scene on Moya’s hangar between human astronout and ex-Peacekeeper. I don’t know how they did it but for me this is one of the best five scenes filmed in entire Farscape. No words , just looks , gestures , passion , a drop , a kiss and smiles…

    Reply
  2. I don’t have an issue with John hooking up with Jenevian, I just don’t understand why, if the writers really wanted to leave the Princess pregnant, they wouldn’t just have him sleep with her. Sure, their relationship is on paper and there’s no love there, but the awkwardness of that encounter would make it all the more interesting to watch. And it’s not like he had any real connection with Jenevian that made her more worthy of it, from a storytelling point of view.

    Reply
  3. Weston

     /  March 16, 2011

    Random thought: Was Kahaynu literally deconstructing Moya?

    Reply
  4. Kernezelda

     /  March 17, 2011

    Noel,

    Princess Katralla has shown no sexual interest in Crichton. Her emotional investment is in Tyno. To her, Crichton is merely a vessel for acceptable genes, ensuring her throne. However, unlike Crichton, Katralla is willing to give marriage to him a chance, with her encouraging comment before being frozen. To me, it makes a lot of sense for a colony-empire to divide monarchial sex from reproduction so as to design viable offspring and ensure the next generation of heirs without being dependent on natural conception.

    Reply
  5. Hi, the whole thing is going sound here and ofcourse every one is sharing facts, that’s genuinely fine, keep up writing.

    Reply

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