Deconstructing Moya

A Farscape Re-watch Project

Episode [3.12] – “Meltdown”

Today, on Farscape

“Sierjna’s gone, I’ve failed her, failed Talyn, failed Aeryn, failed you, Crichton.”
“Yes, and you have failed gloriously, Stark, and I want you to fail again. I want you to give me control of the consoles, I want you to give me some control!”

The radiation of a nearby star draws Talyn in like a moth. As Crais and crew work to pull Talyn back from a fiery death, Talyn’s vaporized adrenaline is playing with everyone’s impulses. Just as nobody thinks it can get worse, Stark has a plan


It’s almost becoming a trademark on this show that to throw a bit more drama in, Our Heroes are reduced to baser impulses. Whether it’s a weaponized drug, some spider-person’s Insane-O-Vision, or Crichton singing “I Think We’re a Clone Now“, the writers have gotten a lot of mileage out of this hook. More than that, they also know how to make it a sizeable B-plot without having it so overstated that we tire of the concept five minutes after pretending to kill Rygel yet again.


It’s interesting, too, the way they choose to work it into this episode. Flying too close to a star is frying Talyn’s systems; he’s got enough armor plating and cooling systems to keep Our Heroes from roasting, but circuitry is overloading steadily and his adrenaline fluid phlebotinum stuff is vaporizing. The effects of breathing in Leviathan adrenaline are seen almost immediately, and we find that it’s tapping directly into their id, pushing their wants and desires to the forefront.

Rygel is forced to constantly eat. While his three stomachs are working overtime to catch up (and he’s releasing as much helium-laced farts as he can), we can see him torn between enjoying his own indulgence and bemoaning his lack of control – he is eating nearly enough to kill himself.

Crais, torn from his command and surrounded by people who ignore him on an almost hourly basis, devolves into a screaming control freak who pulls his gun to demand obedience.

Crichton and Aeryn… well. The less said about that, the better.

And then, there’s Stark. Though to be entirely fair, this season has gone a long way towards removing the bias against Stark that developed throughout Season Two. His characterization has solidified somewhat, the writers have a better handle on him, and while he’s still the same schizophrenic doofus that we know, he’s a lot more believable of a character. In fact, I was commenting to Tessa that his plotline felt a lot like a Doctor Who episode, with the distressed blue chick’s soul trapped in the corona of a star, and the attempts to save her. Up until the whole Tim Burton goofball festival in the vestigial Pilot’s Den, it was the best Stark episode since the first time we’re introduced to him.

And then…

In any case, Stark’s case is twofold. His drive to soothe lost souls and ease their passage into death has been increased by Talyn’s desire-gas, and he’ll go to any lengths to save Soul Chick. This leads us to the second effect, where Stark will go to any lengths to save Soul Chick. His insanity has also been pumped up, much to Our Heroes’ (and our) chagrin. Though Crichton and Aeryn aren’t above exploiting this to save themselves… when they can pull away from each other long enough to breathe.

In short, I’m very impressed with what could have easily been yet another gimmick episode. It was handled masterfully, in my opinion, and had just enough gravitas to continue the momentum.

At least before it got all silly.

Things to note this episode:

  • Stark’s got a thing for creepy blue chicks, doesn’t he?
  • Claudia Black has some of the best facial expressions on any woman I’ve ever seen ever. Of particular note is the hyper-amused grin as she denies Crais his overbearing need for control.
  • Seriously, Stark. I was extremely impressed with you, and had just said as much to Tessa, when you went all Michael Keaton on us. What the frell.
  • Unrelated side-note: I managed to use “My side, your side, my side, your side effectively in conversation the other day. I was quite pleased with myself.
  • Yes, I know we’re introduced to Stark an episode earlier than I linked. It was a brief appearance, and we didn’t really get an idea of who he was until afterwards. I stand by my link.


The setup to this episode is perfect Farscape logical lunacy as Talyn is lured into a giant bug zapper of a sun commissioned by rival ship manufacturers to thin out their primary competition. While Talyn’s steaming adrenaline gasses make Crais charge into everything pistol first, John and Aeryn bump and grind their way about fixing the ship, and Rygel eat more than his own weight in whatever he can get his tiny little hands on, Stark becomes the hero of his own fairy tale. Seriously, he finds the soul of a beautiful maiden the color of a violet lily, who’s been imprisoned on this sun by a smoking fire & brimstone dragon man who has the power to consume ships whole. Stark wins the maiden’s heart and bonds with the most noble steed around, and when he doesn’t succeed at first, he swoop back into danger for another try.

Sir Stark, astride the galloping Talyn, winning the freedom of fair Sierjna from the flaming pits of foul Mu-Quillus.

Of course, it doesn’t work out all that well and Stark loses his dren while fused into an underdeveloped piloting station, condemning everyone to a fiery death because he won’t let go of a woman who’s already dead. It’s marvelously played as Stark’s bipolar schizophrenia casts him as both hero and villain; the delicate empath who wants to comfort the passing while still stepping up to take charge, and the maniac at the wheel of a bus with brakes that no longer work, who would rather crash into a brick wall than prolong his passengers’ suffering. He is the god and the slave, the tormentor and the victim, the knight and the monster. He is Stark, and it’s great to finally have an episode where every aspect of him feels natural.

I can’t say enough good things about this episode. The guest cast is wonderful, especially the way they play on fairy tale tropes. The main cast is great as they descend into a mania that’s surprisingly restrained given some of their freakouts of the past. I’m impressed they didn’t go the obvious route of John and Crais duking it out, and I laughed every time the slinky bass and sax kicked in when Aeryn and John started wrapping around one another. The scene between Crais and Rygel is hysterical, John’s final confrontation with Stark heartbreaking, and there’s a great “Frell yeah!” hero moment as John pops a one liner at the villain just before the camera rushes past his head, out the window, and follows Talyn’s cannon blast down to the sun where it blows up Mu-Quillus’ power source. Oh, and there’s a literal squee moment where Stark gets all giddy, wiggling his hands and beaming.

This is the second episode written by Matt Ford, who previously penned the grotesque delight that was “Eat Me”. I’m a little bummed to see he’s only credited on one more upcoming episode, because not only was this constructed to perfection, but I could fill the entire post with nothing but quotes of the amazing dialogue. I think I’ll limit myself to this unforgettable exchange between John and Aeryn:

“Are you done?”
“I’m almost done. I’m really close.”
“Nearly there!”
“God, I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
“Tell me when you’re done.”
“I’m… nearly done.”
“Tell me when you’re finishing.”
“Yeah? Yes?”
“Last one! Finished!”


I love the cold open in this episode. We get a flashback to the end of Relativity; Crais fires those four pulse rounds into a tree instead of Xhalax, then negotiates with her to remove the threat of further Retrieval Squads by offering Moya and the escaped prisoners to Peacekeeper High Command. In return, he asks two things: Aeryn, and the reinstatement of his commission. At which point Crais breaks character and addresses the camera. It’s a fantastic fake out.

Talyn’s adrenaline-equivalent can, when overpressurized, become sufficiently acidic to burn the seals on his conduits and the shiny new space suits, but not people. It’s a quibble, one that I could make up an excuse for in about three seconds (clearly the drexin loses acidity as it expands and vaporizes). Overall, the gas is a great mechanic. Triggering the fight or frell instinct is always good fun.

Crais goes into Captain Confrontational mode, Aeryn and Crichton are… distracted, Rygel is permanently hungry, but what about Stark? He’s neither angry nor horny nor hungry. The first thing he does after noticing the gas is notice the spirit of Sierjna. I’d guess that the gas supercharged his dead people vision, allowing Mu-Quillus and Sierjna to fully manifest. Related note, when Stark finds that he can’t guide Sierjna to the other side, his confused side-glancing eye is hilarious.

While being cut out of the Den, Stark mentions to Crais that he knows how Talyn thinks and feels about Crais. Crais covers for it by stating that Talyn was out of his mind, then subtly threatens to kill Stark. Stark responds that even dead, he’ll still know. Given that Stark’s come back from the dead before, that’s fairly significant.

Early in the episode, before the drexin starts leaking, Crichton zaps himself on a control node. Aeryn kisses it better. Loudly. In the epilogue, after the effects of the mist have worn off, the saxophone starts up again. Clearly, these two don’t need any kind of phlebotinum to fuel the fire.

Stark as a levitating tentacle monster plugged directly into the ship is a little bit scary. On the one hand, his fantastic willpower is what allows Talyn to escape from the star the first time. On the other, he’s a hovering madman hardwired into an abused child and this description just got really weird.

I wonder how much of going back for Sierjna was Stark and how much was Talyn. The kid’s got to have some abandonment issues, between Moya and Aeryn.

Kevin’s right, this does feel like a Doctor Who episode. In fact, there was an episode with a similar plotline.


I’m trying really hard to get my mind on the positives on this episode, because what was good about it definitely deserves a positive take on it.

Then again we just had three positive takes on it, so.

I’m sorry guys, but the narm hit me hard on this one. The basis of this episode is a very good one, and it had me really into it… right up until the moment Stark got strapped into Talyn’s Pilot den, and then it totally lost me. After that point, everything went downhill, as I was laughing too hard whenever Stark was onscreen to take things even remotely seriously. And I really don’t think that was the intended reaction. What I have to assume was intended to be bizarre and vaguely creepy (which apparently hit its mark for others, according to Weston), instead was just really cartoonish and goofy to me. It ruined the episode, at least for me.

I was actually convinced up until the end that Siernja didn’t actually exist, and that Stark really was just hallucinating the whole situation due to the gas. Until Mu-Quillus popped up to confirm her story completely, I was half-expecting him to actually be telling the truth, and that Stark was mistakenly leading them along the wrong path due to an imagined maiden’s cry for help. It turned out it was being played straight, which worked equally well, although it leaves something of a hole in that it seems to leave Stark as the only crew member largely unaffected by the gas. Granted, he’s already pretty out there to begin with, so it’s possible that the gas was just triggering what was already likely to be triggered on its own anyways, but it still seems a little odd.

I totally agree with Kevin that this feels very much like a Doctor Who plot, and thinking of this same story with the Doctor in Stark’s place, it works fantastically, even with the wiggly goofy antics of being strapped into the ship (although I’m almost certain Doctor Who would have played that aspect for laughs, which may be why it seems to fit better). With that in mind, I’m actually not sure why I can’t seem to get behind this one. Maybe if they hadn’t turned Stark into a near-literal puppet or at least toned done the silliness of his wriggling about during that bit, I might have been able to stick with it.

The good should vastly outweigh the bad here, and yet I kind of just found myself totally checking out by the end. It might have something to do with the fact that this episode so heavily revolved around Stark, so when a rather major scene of his failed, it threw the whole thing off balance.

I do think the implications of Talyn having a Pilot’s den is extremely interesting. A functional one, at that, meaning that while Talyn doesn’t actually require a “real” Pilot, it would seem that he could theoretically support one.

Episode [3.11] – Incubator || Episode [3.13]: Scratch ‘n Sniff

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  1. Actually, there is a flying-into-a-star Doctor Who episode (S3, ep 7 “42”) and its very similar (better I think than Farscapes, though I feel a bit blasphemous saying that). I think the Flying-Into-Star theme is getting to be a sci-fi requirement. Stargate Universe did it too (S1,ep 4-5 “Darkness” and “Light”, two of the least awful SGU episodes actually.)

    Farscape is one of the greatest sci-fi shows, but it could be campy, like in episodes like these. It was ridiculous (Stark+talyn’s pilot’s den = weird) and cheesy (sexy saxophone music lol!) But viewed as “that kind of episode”, i.e. a fun, light episode. It’s not too bad. Not one of my favorites, but fun.

    And I think the periodic ridiculousness of Farscape actually makes some of it’s darker, serious moments more powerful. Especially in season three. You have these lol moments and then all of a sudden you get hit with death and destruction and some scary stuff. (Not to say too much…)


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