Deconstructing Moya

A Farscape Re-watch Project

Episode [3.05] – “…Different Destinations”

Today, on Farscape

“Aeryn, I think Stark’s mask might have pulled us some time into the past.”
“I kind of figured that one out.”
“John’s right. If we change anything here, change the past, the future might not happen as it’s mean to.”
“And we won’t get back.”
“So we don’t get back. But I’m not dying just so that things don’t change.”

While Moya stops for repairs, the majority of the cast (sans Chiana and Rygel) head down to a planet to explore archaeological ruins. When Stark flips out and his energies mix with a tear in the time continuum, he zaps them all back to the past, where they find themselves in the middle of a historical standoff between Peacekeepers and the native populace, which was supposed to end in a peaceful ceasefire. Our heroes try to find a way back home while also struggling to settle a series of changes to the timeline they keep accidentally creating.


Noel

To be honest, I was all set to hate this episode after the first five minutes. Following the death of Zhaan, it just feels so random to drop into a one-off time travel story, especially one triggered in such a ridiculous fashion. I like the idea that the ruins are now a tourist attraction that comes complete with headgear one can use to look back at a sequence from the past that’s visible through a time crack on an infinite loop. It’s played a little loose and they never explain how the time crack can keep changing camera angles when you’re looking straight into it, but the concept works. It’s Stark I have a problem with. John being so awed by the gimmick that he just has to show the headgear on the grieving Stark is a painfully obvious plot device, and the time crack itself is inconsistent throughout the story. It appears and disappears, moves around, and is enveloping of the whole cast at several points, stable and waiting for one to simply walk through at another. Worst of all, tying it to a flip out from Stark feels cheap, as though they couldn’t think of a better way to drop our characters into a version of the Alamo.

Once we get past the setup, things are much better.

Continuing the “Season of Death” theme, our characters hands are pretty thoroughly drenched in blood by this point as they inadvertently off important historical figures, sacrifice a young soldier who shouldn’t even be there, condemn an entire group of nurses to their deaths, and even frell up so badly at one point that they wipe out all life on the planet. There’s a great divide wedged between John and Aeryn. John want to do everything he can to either maintain or restore the timeline, even see to it that those who need to die follow their set path, all in the hopes of reopening the crack. Aeryn forges a bond with her Peacekeeper kin, seen here in their now lost uncorrupted era of intergalactic police officers who protect the defenseless, and wants to keep everyone alive she can while taking on the enemy at the gates. Our heroes have become the unwilling bringers of death, whether it comes in the form of reassuring someone into unknowingly stepping into the line of fire, or running left and right, mowing down a horde of soldiers, blasting away with such fury that I’m shocked their pistols didn’t overload from excessive use.

Though he gets to hack away with his Qualta blade a few times, D’Argo takes a bit of a passive step back from John and Aeryn this episode. He doesn’t settle into either of their sides, instead focusing his attentions on getting the hopelessly manic Stark to focus on finding the crack. There is a touching scene where he bonds with a little girl, giving her a knife to carve her name in the wall, and another less touching but hysterical moment where he finds the crack by repeatedly smashing Jool into a wall until she slips through.

Oh, Jool. She is not fitting in at all. Instead of finding ways to bond her to the others, this felt like everyone behind the scenes knew she wasn’t sinking in, so they tried, instead, to win over the audience by making her everyone’s foil. They shoot Jool in the arm, abuse the wound, get her drunk on anaesthetic urine, then slam her into a wall until she falls through into a pool of mud. I get they sense they’re taking the inspiration of Dr. Smith from Lost in Space in creating a character who stands out from the rest as someone we love to hate, but we already have that in Rygel. More importantly, Rygel has moments that redeem him and make our investments worth while. It’s still early, but they need to make me care what happens to Jool soon or I’ll open every review with “Why haven’t they tossed Jool out the airlock yet?”

I’m still undecided on whether or not I like how little attention is given to Zhaan’s death. Stark is still a grieving wreck, and there’s the beautiful scene where both Rygel and Chiana sneak into her room, yet are unable to bring themselves to steal anything, but that’s it. On the one hand, everyone is eager to move on before the grief can linger and build, and that feels real and makes sense. On the other, by jumping so quickly into other stories, her demise feels somewhat swept under the rug. I don’t know. It’s a complicated issue where either too much or too little would push it the wrong way, so maybe they did balance it out just right. I’m curious to hear what the others think.

My big issue, though, is how the people who stayed behind on Moya were able to consciously observe the planet below them changing as its timeline was altered. This doesn’t make a lick of sense because they’d be existing in the same timeline, right? If we’re going by the bizarre notion that the planet’s timeline is anchored to the planet itself, then it should still affect them because, in orbiting the world, their perceptions are already tied to it, as would Moya through interactions with its gravitational and atmospheric changes. I know Farscape isn’t exactly the hardest of science fiction, but this is nonsensical bullshit no matter how you poke it.

The opening is weak. The people watching the world change is weak. I’m still undecided on the legacy of Zhaan, but I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. Everything else in this episode? Gold. The characters found themselves in a ridiculous situation, then had to go to some very deep and ugly lengths to cut their way out, wiping out and restoring entire civilizations along the way. And when they’re back home and history is once again left in the past, they weep for the changes they did leave behind. For people who weren’t meant to die.


Weston

I actually cringed a bit when I saw this episode coming up. It’s a complete tear-jerker, and coming hot on the heels of Zhaan’s actual, final, not-coming-back death makes it worse. I usually keep the episode running in loops while typing these up to get specific scenes or quotes right, but… aw, man, I’m going to have to, aren’t I? Expletive.

Stark: “When you shot the general, how did you feel?”
Nurse Kelsa: “I felt hatred. Fear.”
Stark: “Fear is good. Keep that. But travel light, forget hate.”

It’s always a risk bringing time travel into a story. You run the risk of jumping sharks, alienating viewers, and asking the question “couldn’t you have told this story without time travel?” Farscape does it well. Once before, in episode five, and now again in season three. This time it isn’t short hops into the future or the past, it’s one big jump four hundred cycles back to the siege of a monastery. From that point, every single action taken makes the timeline worse: First the Veneks massacre the population and colonize the planet, then the planet is devastated by warfare and uninhabited, then the planet is devastated by nuclear war and orbital weapons, and at the worst point the planet itself is outright gone. The rings are still there, though, which is a bit odd. Like the commentary from those left behind on Moya, it just serves as a way to highlight the differences in the timeline.

The way things went when Moya arrived at the planet, the nurses surrendered, paving the way for peace between the Veneks and the plateau civilizations. Afterwards, the nurses were massacred, paving the way for peace between the Veneks and the plateau civilizations. One tiny difference, inconsequential in the grand scale of things, but meaning the world to those that caused it. Aeryn feels responsible for Dakon’s death, D’Argo finds the mark he encouraged Cyntrina to leave on a wall, Stark acutely feels the deaths of each person, and Crichton… the nurses call out his name as they die. Everyone who visits that memorial for the next thousand years will remember that, will watch through the tear as he fights to preserve events as they originally unfolded and ultimately fail.

Crichton infamy: +1

Worth noting: The part of the opening credits where Virginia Hey used to be is now filled with Crichton and Aeryn charging and shooting, another shot of Rygel in his throne, and D’Argo tonguing Stark. Even the credits are acknowledging Zhaan’s death. But they say nothing about Jool, which I find amusing.

Oh, Jool. At the risk of just repeating what Noel has said, she gets shot, drinks piss, shoved into a wall (which is hilarious), shoved into mud, and Chiana aggravates her arrow wound. She’s well on the way to replacing Rygel and/or Crichton as the series butt monkey. For all that her character is unlikable, she does have a tendency to see things from a new-to-the-universe perspective and comment on them. Loudly. Repeatedly. Annoying, yes, and often hurtful, but frequently true.

And then there’s Harvey.


“Oh, give me a home…”

Crichton brings him out for a discussion on the nature of time and timelines, and he shows up with a harmonica and Woody’s boots. Scorpius apparently has (or had, when he created the neural chip) some theoretical knowledge on the subject. Harvey shares what he has on the elasticity of time, events matched closely enough to course leading to similar outcomes, and then refuses to give specific advice. After Zhaan’s death, he is not going to take the blame for Crichton’s choices and actions.

Crichton: “I’m in a hell of a slump here. Everything I do just makes things worse.”
Harvey: “Well then, do better.”

Stark is in a brand new outfit. I haven’t said anything about Jool’s outfit yet, which is uncharacteristic. I’ve had a difficult time finding something to say that isn’t “omg cleavage.” So. Leather and pointy. Huge, in a sort of exaggerated “I take up more space than I need to” way. Neck ruffles made of leather with large metal rings every inch or so. The same rings that hold her hair back. Very wide hips on a very short dress. And thigh-high boots. So yeah, every inch straight out of the Australian S&M culture. I do love her hair. Extremely high forehead, multiple long widow’s peaks, and very wavy. And there’s some fantastic color in her eyes.

At one point, Stark says “Different beliefs, different destinations.” I wonder how much that’s been on his mind since Zhaan died. Will he be with her after he dies?

In conclusion, the damage Moya took escaping the wormhole in the previous episode is the entire reason they were on this planet in the first place. It’s a small nod to continuity, but it’s there.


Tessa

This episode is really interesting. Like Noel, I get wary with time travel episodes considering how easy they are to get wrong, but for the most part the episode really does do a fantastic job with the story (at least, the portion taking place in the past).

I really liked Harvey’s explanation about time re-correcting itself (I’ve never been a big fan of the whole concept of “change one thing in the past and suddenly the Nazis win World War Two“). I love the simple logic behind it. “If the participants are the same, the venues the same,
the motivation the same, then well, the outcome is likely to be the same.” Its a theory that sits comfortably between the more extreme Back to the Future model (where changing one thing radically alters the future), and the more laid back Hitchhiker’s model (where nothing you change makes any difference because it was supposed to happen that way in the first place).

What’s more, he’s totally right. The crew sets up events as closely as they can to recreate the events they know are supposed to happen, and the end result is nearly indistinguishable from how things were when they arrived. The details of how that result came about change, of course, but like Weston pointed out, it’s an extremely minor detail in the larger series of events. It’s an incredibly cold logical viewpoint, but this is Harvey we’re talking about.

I wasn’t fond of continually cutting back to Moya where they can see the damage being done to the planet with every action taken. It’s a little too heavy handed, especially since we’re given no real connecting points between their actions and how things get so bad (we’re pretty much just told “things suck more now because you frelled up” without any kind of elaboration), and it doesn’t really make any sense at all, considering that for each “snapshot” of the changes to be true, it would have to mean that the crew literally made no additional contributions whatsoever past that point. The only way that the story would have worked this way would be if the crew somehow managed to hop back immediately after each change, witnessed the damage they caused, then went back again to try to fix it. The crew went back one time, and took one set of actions (remember, the ones that remained there for the entire time had no outside communication letting them know they needed to change anything). For there to be three radically different future outcomes is just total nonsense.

It’s a frustrating point for the story to fall apart at, because it’s such a superficial portion of the whole thing. It’s artificial tension that really doesn’t need to be there. The story would have worked fine without having to throw in the whole “good job, you blew up the world” thing. In fact, it might even make it more powerful if they spent all this time and energy trying to set things right, only to find that nothing of real consequence changed, and that the only significant effect they had on the event was inflating the death count.

Although that might have meant that Jool would have to stick around. Ick. The more I see of her, the less I like her.

On a final note, the silly headgear visor thing looks even sillier on Stark considering the little scope thing on it is on the side of his head the plate is on. I half expected him to just not be able to see anything through it because of it.


Kevin

Once again, we have an example of Our Heroes making things worse simply by existing, and spend the entirety of the episode trying to fix something that they themselves broke. Five hundred cycles into the past? They change history by nature of their very existence. Even if time travel hadn’t been involved, something bad would have happened and they would have been the reason for it. Call it Crichton’s Law: Anything that can go wrong has done so because he was involved somehow.

It’s actually a stroke of genius to see the Peacekeepers being what they always say they are – essentially, Interstellar Rent-A-Cops. These are the mercenary police that people hire out in times of emergency, actually doing some good in the universe. Small wonder that Aeryn idolizes her historical figures so much; these guys were heroic.

(Although it brings up an interesting question; did the Peacekeepers fall into the more sinful, totalitarian state they’re in now after this event? Were these guys simply being paid by the right people at the right time? Or is it that the Peacekeepers defend Sebacean colonies but don’t give a damn about other species?)

The others have gone over the themes and impact of the A-plot already, doing a fantastic job of it, but I really think I should mention the amazing characterization we’re given from Chiana.

I mentioned back on the Season Two Overview podcast that Chiana doesn’t really get a lot of development on her own; it’s almost exclusively in relation to other characters. And while that wasn’t a whole lot to go on in the last season, it means a whole hell of a lot more now.

By now, we know who Chiana is. She’s a self-confessed tralk and, well, I wouldn’t say “proud of it”, but she definitely owns her own image and uses it to its fullest. She’s a thief, she’s flighty, she can’t be tied down – but she’s not a liar. She’s not very good at it, as we’ve seen multiple times already.

Her relationship with Zhaan was spotty at best; since the beginning, Big Blue has been trying to mother her, and Chiana has rebelled more often than not. She was the bratty kid, the rebel without a cause, and tensions between the two were always strained. But Zhaan’s death affected Chiana immensely, because she was her mother figure, and she made an impact in her life.

When Rygel asks Chiana why she’s in Zhaan’s quarters, she lies through her teeth. You can see it, I can see it – hell, even Rygel can see it. She’s not even trying to be convincing – she’s trying to not break into tears. Zhaan was her family, and one of the only people who treated her like an actual person, instead of a piece of meat.

This is what Chiana’s thing is, then, what makes her her. Her Power Ring is that of Loyalty. (She’s a Grey Lantern!) Previously, she asserted that she didn’t give a crap about anyone but herself, but now that she’s found people who actually give a crap about her, she’s going to stick with them until the very end. Why else would she pilot a Transport Pod into the nebulous remains of the no-longer-there planet to find her friends? Only a season ago, she’d have been taking that same Transport Pod as far in any other direction as she could get.

Things to note this episode:

  • Holy crap, those actually are Woody’s boots, you can kind of see “Andy” written on the bottom of it in Weston’s screencap.
  • The “planet is gone but the rings remain” thing bugs me too; I get that it’s better than showing a blank spot of space and saying “oh hey look the planet is gone”, but the rings would have dispersed once the gravity well of the planet was no longer there.
  • Such an awesome touch when Stark is quoting Zhaan’s advice and half-assedly makes her prayer motions with his hands. On Virginia Hey, the motion was serene. On Stark, it’s hilarious.
  • This is the first time we see Crichton actually take Harvey out of the dumpster to get advice. It’s kind of genius, actually. Scorpius’s personality would be able to sift through his memories and experiences with a colder, more analytical perspective – Crichton is basically talking to himself.

Episode [3.04] – Self-Infl​icted Wounds, Part 2: Wait for the Wheel || Episode [3.06]: Eat Me

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  1. Hi, interesting review from so many different perspectives. As usual, I focus on John. In this episode the poor guy can’t get an even break. And he screws up badly by trying to help. It continues the theme from Sons and Lovers of the growing fame (infamy) of the “Moya Gang”. John feels the blood on his hands and deeply the guilt in Zhaan’s death. And everyone is pretty tough on him, too. He is in a slump. And as usual, trying really hard to be the hero and good guy. But, he placed General Grymes in the nurse’s uniform thus embarrassing the horde and causing them to be so unforgiving. If he hadn’t placed the disguise on Grymes, peace would have happened. It was his judgement call. But I get pissed off at the rest of the crew for standing there and letting the nurses chain John up in plain site of missiles and not standing up for him in the slightest. So he calls on Harvey.

    What Harvey says is deep foreshadowing. Remember it because it is one of the themes of Farscape and comes back in Season 4. I love how Farscape does the continuity. Oh, Ben Browder took a marker and wrote ANDY on Wayne Pygram’s boot as another pop culture reference — this comes from the twisted mind of John, so why wouldn’t Harvey wear Andy’s cowboy boots? Ben is so cool with these ad-libs.

    Meanwhile, I see mourning for Zhaan everwhere — the entire episode is sad and about trying to fix that which is broken, whether it is relationships, unnecessary deaths, mistakes in judgement, and broken hearts. And in Farscape fashion, there are always consequences for every action. Zhaan gave her life for the crew and they begin to accept her sacrifice and its ramification — they’ve lost their mother and nobody is there to take the place of Zhaan who offered wisdom without judgement. So, each character is lost in their own way.

    The last scene with John leaning on Aeryn is heart-wrenching.

    Reply

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