Deconstructing Moya

A Farscape Re-watch Project

Episode [3.10] – “Relativity”

Today, on Farscape

“My superiors didn’t want to lose me, so they gave me the chance to redeem myself.”
“How did you redeem yourself?”
“By killing your father.”

In which Talyn lands in a vine-infested swamp to take a recuperative snooze, and winds up missing Zhalax Sun’s arrival, bounty hunters playing Hide and Go Seek with Crichton and Crais in the swamp, and his own partial lobotomization.


This episode seems longer than it is. Something about the concurrent plots, or the rapid pace, or the way the scenes are cut. I just get the feeling that there’s a lot of story here and not many wasted moments.

Talyn has landed on a heavy gravity world to take a power nap, and this world has characteristics that help hide him from Peacekeeper hunters. Landing on a world isn’t a common event for Leviathans, but Talyn is young and strong. And not underwater. If Moya could take off from partial submersion, a younger and stronger Talyn can withstand heavier gravity and take off with little trouble. Unfortunately, the ruse doesn’t work. Even unconscious, Talyn spots the retrieval squad entering atmosphere. It’s been diminished to one Prowler and the Vigilante with the Leviathan-zapping gun. They appear to have run into trouble since the last time we saw them: If Xhalax had any Sebaceans with her, they’re either dead or staying on the ship. All she has left is three of those red shapeshifting bounty hunters, and she caps one of them for being unable to function in the heavy gravity.

I may have to take back the praise I had for Xhalax last time we saw her. She wanders into unfamiliar territory with two trackers and no fire support to take out one known Captain, one unbalanced sub-Sebacean sebaceanoid, possibly a Luxan warrior, and whatever other crew they’ve managed to assemble. In addition to the Leviathan hybrid itself, which has anti-personnel intruder defenses. This plan is so bad that Crichton could have come up with it.

Amazingly, much like a Crichton plan, it actually works. Xhalax is captured instead of killed, which she couldn’t have predicted, and by her own daughter. She’s taken back to Talyn, tied up, and manages to escape by using an extra-long fingernail (likely an implanted weapon) to retrieve a subdermal knife. Having freed herself, she pops some kind of Peacekeeper combat drug, kicks Aeryn, punches Stark, and eviscerates Rygel. Literally, he’s opened up from crotch to clavicle. His stomachs are exposed, he’s bleeding terribly, and only survives because Stark sews him up with the vines that have permeated Talyn. The same vines, incidentally, that are helping to heal Talyn so quickly. I absolutely love that Stark sewed Rygel’s robes to his chest. Dammit Jim, he’s a death god, not a surgeon.

While that’s going on, Xhalax has free rein over Talyn. With unrestricted access to the comatose Leviathan, she begins ripping out his higher neural functions, effectively lobotomizing him. She does stop to retrieve a working pulse weapon from her Prowler, but the damage is done. Aeryn escapes and confronts her in the swamp. They go back and forth, wrestling over a gun and philosophy. Crichton and Crais step in and end the fight in Aeryn’s favor. There’s more back and forth over what to do with Xhalax; the consensus is that she won’t stop the pursuit until she’s dead. Crichton pulls Aeryn away, and Crais… well.

Elsewhere, Crichton and Crais are bonding over being hunted by two big red trackers through a disgustingly smelly swamp. By “bonding”, I mean tying up and interrogating. Harvey feeds into Crichton’s paranoia regarding Crais, and points out that Talyn isn’t the only one being hunted by the Peacekeepers. Crichton leaves Crais out as bait for the hunters, ambushes them with pointy sticks, and would have left Crais to die of exposure if he hadn’t pointed out that Crichton does kinda need him. It’s a recurring theme. Sooner or later Crichton and Crais are going to either throw down and kill each other or make up and start trusting each other. Any bets on which way they go?

Stark is a little crazier than usual. Which, given how often I say that, is starting to seem redundant. He’s very bouncy and sing-song today. Rygel puts himself first, naturally enough; but when presented with the choice between lying still to not tear his terrible stitches or cutting Aeryn’s bonds, he does make the right choice. Rygel: Doing the right thing after all other options are exhausted. Aeryn isn’t torn between her mother and her adopted family, but she does regret Xhalax’s death. Crais still has secrets. Crichton is happy that he’s getting regular nookie.

And Talyn. Poor Talyn. Xhalax removed enough of his higher neural functions that he couldn’t fly himself on his own. Crais wound up having to splice part of his own neural engrams into the kid to get him functioning properly. Talyn isn’t just Talyn anymore. He’s part Crais now. The hybrid Peacekeeper/Leviathan warship now has someone else’s thoughts rattling around in his head, even more than they were sharing through the neural link. And that can’t possibly be good.


I agree that this episode seems long… and yet in other ways, not quite long enough.

I’m actually a little frustrated to see this plot thread play out in what appears to be its entirety in a single episode. The concept of a retrieval squad out to capture Talyn and Crais led by Aeryn’s mother seemed like it had tons of potential for a long, drawn out and detailed plot, and I had assumed it would be something that Talyn and crew would be dealing with for quite a bit, almost a mirror of the chase involved in the first season (ironic, considering Crais is on the other side now). Between the psychological games that could have been pushed with Aeryn facing her mother, and the serious danger the shape-shifting Colata trackers could pose at any given point, I was looking forward to the chase being lengthy and involved.

In that regard, the story we got from this feels… slightly messy. As Weston pointed out, Xhalax only really comes as close to success as she does due to being extremely lucky in how things play out. Given that she seems genuinely surprised to be facing her daughter, the likelyhood is extremely low that she’s playing the psychological game here, and simply lucks out that the situation just plays out to her advantage (at least initially).

Seriously, now. This was who we were supposed to be scared of? As has been pointed out, not only did she only bring three subordinates along as back-up (and then proceeds to kill one off herself), but she picks the race that is so unused to the higher gravity that it causes their hearts to explode from the pressure. I suppose what we could take from this is that she doesn’t have any other Sebaceans as part of her squad (odd for what is apparently a high-ranking Peacekeeper officer), but even still. There was so much room for mind games to be played once she gets captured and is facing her daughter, but she lets it go to the wayside in favor of a brute force approach, which works just as well, but feels almost boring in comparison to what it feels like we could have had. Xhalax just doesn’t feel like the kind of person who would have gotten put in charge of this seemingly high profile mission.

That’s not to say that the episode is bad, really. I’m just lamenting the loss of potential places this story could have gone. I’ll be honest, I actually was expecting Xhalax to wind up being the big bad of the season, at least for Talyn and crew.

In addition to everything else… there’s so many questions I’m left with at the end of this that I want the answers to that I’m not certain we’ll get. What was with the side of Xhalax’s face? She had what looked like some sort of mutation, or diseased growth going on there, and I wanted to know why and what had happened. Was it just a particularly ugly scar she picked up in the course of her career, or was there something else going on there? What was the deal with the Colatas, and why did Xhalax appear to have so many of them under her command? Was there someone who purposely put Xhalax in command of this mission because of Aeryn’s presence (given Xhalax’s reaction, she didn’t appear to know about it), or was it just a very strange coincidence?

To be fair, these questions still may totally get answered. It’s unlikely the Peacekeepers are just going to give up on their chase because Xhalax is dead (off-camera, to boot. While it doesn’t make a lot of sense for her to survive the whole thing, we never see a body…), and if the entire squad wasn’t those three Colatas, there may be another Peacekeeper right there waiting to take over right away (although that would beg the question of why Xhalax didn’t bring at least one other Sebacean with her, as they seem far more capable of coping with the gravity).

One more note, I really liked Rygel and Stark’s bit in this episode. The two work together really well as comic relief, and yet also both get to have more serious moments in the episode also. On the subject of Rygel, in an episode where he’s very much being himself, I love that you can really tell he’s considering running and hiding when Xhalax breaks free, and yet in spite of everything charges forth at her and tries to attack. It’s another of those moments where despite what he or anyone else would claim, he really is there for the others when the chips are down. Granted, he winds up with his stomach cut open as a result, but it’s the thought that counts, right?


The nature of family has been discussed almost as long as there has been the concept of family. For the past two seasons, Aeryn has been coming to terms with the concept of “the family you choose” – although in this case, it’s up against the family that she had chosen for her.

The Peacekeepers were the only family she knew growing up; all traces of individuality erased in favor of the needs of the organization as a whole. This didn’t seem wrong to her, at least on the surface – after all, this is what she grew up with.


Except there was in fact that time where the “battle-scarred warrior” visited Tiny!Aeryn in her dorm. Aeryn was introduced to the idea of love, a concept that would confuse her for the rest of her life.

Fast forward to now. Having been away from the Peacekeepers for over two cycles, Aeryn’s adapted. She has grown, and she’s allowed love to push to the forefront – more than that, she’s acknowledged that it’s there. She has surrounded herself with a new family – the family she chooses – to replace the family she left behind.

Is it any wonder she’s conflicted when her smoking-hot mother shows up and starts taking out her friends? This is the woman who introduced Aeryn to the concept of love, the one who gave her that initial push down the slippery slope of emotion. To have this memory not only brought back to the surface is bad enough, but Xhalax also aggressively and repeatedly claims that she never loved Aeryn, it was absolutely and completely a mistake and in no way how she truly feels about the situation.

(I’d bet anything that even Aeryn recognizes the parallels between Xhalax killing Talyn to save face and Aeryn selling out Velorek to do the same.)

The family you choose, being denied you by the family that refused to choose you.


I’m with Tessa and Weston on this one. The badass threat of the battle scarred Xhalax (she has a knife inside her arm) is severely undercut by her knuckleheaded battle plan of wandering around with no backup but three members of a race ill suited for the gravity. And then shooting one of them herself. This doesn’t make sense to me, at all. Why would the Retrieval Squad be composed of only one Peacekeeper, given their rampant xenophobia and attitudes of racial purity? Bringing along one or two alien trackers makes sense, but not having them make up the majority of the team. And if you want a tracker, why not bring in a Vorcarian Blood Tracker? Not only have they already been established in cannon, but the makeup is much simple and doesn’t require the manufacture of several animatronic heads, which would free up enough budget to stick other members on the squad who aren’t having to deal with their hearts blowing up due to the gravity.

I’m conflicted, though, with the idea to resolve the thread of Xhalax and her relationship to Aeryn in a single episode instead of playing that out as an arc. On the one hand, I see where Tessa’s coming from in that she would have been a badass threat to have nipping at our heroes heels. On the other, there isn’t really enough complexity there to build on without it feeling a little stretched out. Xhalax severed her last thread to compassion by killing her husband. Aeryn must now leave Xhalax to her fate in order to sever her own last thread to the Peacekeepers. Aeryn talking down Xhalax and finding the good within her would have made for an interesting story, but this is Farscape, the show that knows when people have gotten to the point where they can’t be saved. Yes, there is still love in Xhalax, but look at what it’s gotten her. Visiting her child one night, just one, resulted in her being tortured and compelled to kill her lover. Love hasn’t brought her anything but pain, so she hates it with a passion. That’s not something that’s easy to overcome, and I applaud the show for not taking the easy way out.

Crichton and Crais are forming an interesting relationship. Early in the episode, when a threat looms, everyone turns to Crichton for a plan. He’s the natural leader. Crais doesn’t object to this. I’m guessing his dealings with the human have built up some sense of respect for the man and his abilities. At the same time, they still obviously loathe one other. Even then, when Crichton learns that Crais’s request for help with Talyn a while back was merely a ploy to get them to help him, Crichton’s outrage is largely fake and is used to set a trap. In this world, you can’t be shocked when people manipulate one another for survival. There’s the great moment where Crichton is all set to leave Crais to the elements, and Crais shouts “I used all my assets to stay alive!” Find me a single character on the show who hasn’t repeatedly done the same. And, let’s be honest, getting them to help Talyn to help Crais still means they’re helping Talyn, so learning about the bounty on Crais’s head is shocking because? Honestly, the retrieval squad being after both Crais and Talyn should have been a given from the start, so I don’t get why it’s dropped on us as a huge revelation.

The other great little moment that hasn’t been explored is the possible continuation of Zhaan in some form. When Rygel died (another fake death, Tessa?) and Stark joined with him to guide his spirit back, Stark says he witnessed Zhaan watching over them, guarding them. It’s a small way to keep her spirit tied to the show, but a poignant one. So poignant as to make Rygel fart.

Episode [3.09] – Losing Time || Episode [3.11]: Incubator

7 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. Tessa

     /  July 29, 2011

    I don’t think the plot spanning more than one episode would have been synonymous with them having Xhalax overcoming her emotional and moral issues. They could pretty easily have continued this on for longer in a lot of different ways (most of them, admittedly, would have involved this episode being very different than it was), either holding back some details for now and letting us sit on the question of what exactly her full reaction to facing down her daughter again would be, or going the totally opposite route and having her be the one playing mind games with Aeryn, teasing her with the idea that she might be having a change of heart while actually having nothing of the kind, either as a tactic to get Aeryn to let her guard down or to save her own skin and escape to come back at them another day.

    Again, that would have required this episode to be something different than it was, though. I still think she could have been built up as a much more menacing threat that could have easily lasted the entire season for Talyn and crew. No, she wasn’t very complex up to this point, but neither was Crais in season 1 (and there’s actually far more going on with Xhalax to keep her interesting as a villain than Crais had). There was tons of room to go in a few different directions, and I’m just a little disappointed to see them basically cut it off here. Also I’m kind of wondering just what happens next with Talyn now that their main pursuers are gone. Again, maybe there’s another Peacekeeper waiting there to pick up where Xhalax left, or maybe something even more interesting that I have no idea about is around the corner, but I still think they ended this plot thread way sooner than they could have.

    As for Rygel’s “death”… I don’t know. Technically, yes, it’s a death-and-revival thing, but it’s not treated as a fake out. Did anyone really believe he was dead for real in the very tiny space of time before Stark healed him? I didn’t take it as him being fully dead and then revived so much as him being very near death and being patched up just in time. Of course, we get told that yes, he did “die”, but that’s so far after the fact that there’s almost no chance that they were trying to fake us out and make us really believe he was ever really gone.

    • I would argue that, yes, they were playing up Rygel’s death as real. After the stabbing, they hold on him for quite a while as he gasps and gurgles, letting us soak it in, even preceded it with a little hero moment for him to go out on. And you have to remember that there was a commercial break right after that, so people would be hanging on that moment for several minutes. When we come back, Stark is in the cell babbling, and just as he utters the words “dead meat” we turn to Rygel, who’s completely still and visibly sliced open, with Stark pointing out that his stomachs can be seen. Rygel didn’t suddenly poof away in a flash of fire or light, or fall off screen to an unknown fate, he was sliced the frell open.

      Yes, this is a “he’s dead” moment, followed by “Psych! His eyes are moving!”. If anything, this one fell like more of a copout than any of the others. Though they did make a good bit out of Stark’s sloppy stitching.

      As for the mother, I’m not disagreeing with you, but they were probably worried about running into the same problem they did with Crais in season 1. You can’t have them featured in every episode, which is tougher now that this specific ship and crew is only getting half a season dedicated to them. It would have been great to do more, but I can understand why they chose to open the way for new stories instead of lingering on the same one. We’re getting to a point I mentioned way back when we started, where Farscape gets through more twists and arcs every few episodes than most shows do in an entire season. The compression has started, and it’s not going to let up.

      • Tessa

         /  July 29, 2011

        Maybe it’s just that I’ve gotten that resistant to buying into any death in the series at all, but I really didn’t believe he was dead for a second. Or maybe I was just really wanting to believe that they weren’t doing this anymore.

        Maybe I need to go watch that bit again so I can be properly angry over it like everyone wants me to.

        • Weston

           /  July 30, 2011

          I look at it as more of a touch-and-go first aid situation than a death fake-out. If he did die, it wasn’t long enough for us to really think he was dead before he came back.

          Oh, hey. With Crais firmly seated in Talyn’s brain, does that make him like Harvey to Crichton?

  2. Is there any proof that these were all Xhalax had? The Retrieval squad had multiple ships at the beginning of the mission, and Talyn did engage them in combat previously. Perhaps this is all Xhalax has left.

  3. Weston

     /  August 1, 2011

    There was the hologram Crais used to show Aeryn what they ran into in “Thanks for Sharing” that showed Talyn popping one of four Prowlers. Figure one pilot per Prowler, up to three total depending on how many they put in the trunk. The crew of the Vigilante, pilots and techs, as well as any soldiers they had along.

    Maybe they ran into fallout from killing the Rinic family. Maybe the shapeshifters were disguised as Sebaceans for the trip and ate the crew. Oooh, maybe the Vigilante was captured on Planet Rinic, and the red shapeshifters rescued Xhalax while the other Sebaceans were executed. Maybe they ran into the Flax, or starship invading space bugs, or picked up a parasite when they stopped to resupply.

    Uncharted Territories: Finding new and fascinating ways to kill off your crew.

  4. CAN

     /  August 5, 2011

    Writer and producer of Babylon 5 ( a sci-fi franchise I am a fan of as much as Farscape…in fact it it is the only series that approaches the level of Farscape ) Joe Michael Straczynski one made a comment about creating a memorable antagonist 8 when he talks about creating his own master antagonist Alfred Bester in Babylon 5 series ) ….The audience must empathize with him. This should be seen from his points of view , from his version , from his perspective. The character must be given a motivation which audience identifies , understands and even symphatizes….And this episode accomplishes this perfectly. Scorpius is a brilliant character , my favorite among every character in Farscape universe or even sci-fi genre. He is really what he is….A product of the universe he is in , shaped with his own experiences and conditions surrounding it. And they are not pretty. From his point of view reasonable or maybe even urgent most thing is to create ultimate weapon and use it against Scarrans. For Scorpy due to their culture and his personal vendetta against Scarrans there is no middle ground with them. He knows Scarrans better than everyone else in PK ranks he is a half Scarran after all. Who can argue with him on that issue ? To defeat them is his ultimate goal , his purpose , his main motivator in his life and in every vile act he committed….It is not surprising that he is a committed man expanding his every bit of physical and intellectual potential for this goal. “Result justifies the means” would be motto of Scorpius probably in harsh life of Uncharted Territories. Or “Patiance is the most rewarding virtue”


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