Deconstructing Moya

A Farscape Re-watch Project

Episode [4.06] – “Natural Election”

Today, on Farscape

“John, I’m going to tell you something I’ve never actually put into words before. I love shooting things.”

When observing a wormhole, Moya is caught by a ship-eating fungus that drifts through space. As it tears its way through the Leviathan, the crew tries to balance repairing the ship with repairing their own relationships…


I was all set to put together an entire analogous situation that places the fungus as a direct metaphor for the relations inside Moya, but the episode itself really does it much better than I possibly could. But alas, I’m still me, and so I’ll give it a shot anyway.

Consider the insignificant size of a secret and the strength of rumor. One tiny seed of information can not possibly be held on its own, and the desire to share grows. Thus the secret is passed on, but the jump to another pair of lips is not enough to sate it. It jumps again, and again, slowly eating away at trust and loyalty as the situation snowballs far out of control. Pretty soon the secret is a big, blue, pulsing mass that wraps around a spaceship and it doesn’t let up until you strap Scorpius to a stick and wave him around to keep it at bay.

…yeah, I was right the first time. The episode itself does it better.

The Love Song of Crichton and Sun is a twisting, turning work. It appears malleable, ready to shape itself to viewers’ expectations, but then it crystallizes into a sharp, painful reminder that things can only get worse. Given the course of such a story, and the at-times literal star-crossed nature of their relationship, it’s only to be expected that misunderstandings are had, and trust gets shattered. It is, deplorably, an all-too-common trend in television, and viewers do tire of the wacky miscommunication drama – but I do think they handled it at least believeably here. (Well, aside from the whole xenobiology aspect of it.)

I do wonder why nobody seems to want to say the baby might be Crais’s. It can’t have possibly slipped anyone’s mind, but the subject appears to be even more taboo than the concept of Aeryn (possibly) recreating outside her relationship with Crichton. Something to think about, in any case.

(Yes, I know we know it’s not Crais, but they don’t know this. Shut up, it makes sense in my head.)

The conversation at the end of the episode is especially painful, but it looks to me – and call me an optimist here – that Crichton, even while chastising Aeryn, is giving her the all-clear that everything will be alright. When she asks what she can do, he specifically says to “come back when you’ve got your story straight”. It’s not a “come back when you’ve stopped lying”, or “come back when you’ve learned to trust me”. The choice of phrase is – to me – extremely telling: You don’t know, you didn’t want to tell me until you knew, so go find out and then come tell me.

Based on the epic look of dismay, Aeryn may not have caught this. Only time will tell if she figures it out.

Things to note this season:

  • Continuity note: Sikozu is very interested when Crichton starts speaking Spanish. It’s subtle, but it’s there, and it’s a neat touch; she has no translator microbes, after all, and has learned every race’s language so far.
  • Man, not even Pilot has patience for Sikozu. That guy is the most forgiving person in the galaxy and he snaps at her.
  • Raelee Hill is hot. There is no real significance to the episode in this statement, but I stand by it.
  • I took one look at the blue fungus covering Moya and I thought, “Man, Zhaan’s really let herself go since she died.”
    • What, too soon?


I… hmmm… I’m having a hard time figuring out if I like this episode or not. On the plus side, we get bunches of great character stuff. The election to pick a captain has left Rygel feeling angry at both the others’ lack of respect and his inability to act under pressure, cemented Sikozu’s bond with Scorpius over the prattling others constantly getting in her way even when she’s trying to do what they want her to, and has finally left us with a commander in the form of D’Argo. This show is John’s, so everyone would expect him to be captain, but that’s the easy out. Instead, let’s give it to his wingman, his bro, the man John spends equal time with chilling out and roaring in arguments. Let’s give the captain’s chair to the man who just admitted he reeeeeally loves shooting things. I love this spin. It’s classic Farscape to spend several season showing why the hotheaded Luxan shouldn’t be put in charge so oh hey look who’s in charge!

So many great character bits with the ever impulsive Chiana always being there for her friends, except for that part about her impulses and how they always kink things up. Or Scorpius rolling his eyes about the ship as he ends up kinda saving the day through simply being there, even though nobody will ever admit to it. Or Pilot vomiting up a hairball of fungus. Or Sikozu’s hard science logical deduction trying to find ways to make use of Noranti’s chemistry set pallet as the old woman scarfs down samples and chemicals left and right to see how they digest.

And then, of course, we have John and Aeryn and the bun in her oven as she struggles to find a way to tell him that the baby in her belly might not be “his”, only for the others to gossip it along to him before she even has a chance. I love that John pretty much already figured that was the reason she was so mum. I love how the others want to help and protect the privacy of their friend but dammit they’ve got to tell someone. I love how all the danger our characters constantly thrust themselves into takes on a new perspective as Aeryn suddenly realizes she’s surviving for two (remember that time Aeryn died? I can guarantee it’s at the forefront of her mind). I love all that, but I don’t so much love two things.

One, that John is so tired of being jerked around that he flips the table and starts doing it to her. She finally comes to him, says what she’s been holding in, and finally looks ready to be with him, this John who wasn’t her John, and then he gets into a huff about how long she danced around the issue and storms off. Now, yes, he does have a reason to be pissed, but this is starting to feel like things are dragging out just for the sake of dragging out, which feels counter to how this show usually deals with threads.

Secondly, I hate that they’ve added the notion that she could be pregnant from any of up to seven YEARS worth of sexual partners. It could be John. It could be that dude from the episode where we flashed back to Pilot joining Moya. It could be some random lay she had inbetween just to get her mind off things. I hate this because it’s an easy out, it removes the struggle of John coming to terms with this being John’s baby. Or the questions Kevin mentions about Crais (we know it wasn’t, but they don’t know it wasn’t). Or the possibilities of some random lay during recent her time away to get her mind off things. It’s not so much that it’s a bad thing to do, but I can’t understand why it’s there. What’s the point of it? What’s the need for it? Is the tension not high enough already that you have to spill it a bit? Because now I’m just sighing and rolling my eyes at the stain on the carpet instead of worrying about what will happen. It killed the suspense for me. Now it just feels like the writers are dicking their work up more than they need to just because they can.

Also, I’m not a fan of the fungus story. It’s an interesting setup, but doesn’t really offer up anything we haven’t seen before. Wait, you say this is something that could potentially scar Moya for life? Heavens! If only the same hadn’t already happened with the massive internal burns that were supposed to linger for years but we never heard about them again after just a few episodes. And then there’s the time where she was fully impaled by an alien ship and close to dying, but then she was all better when we tuned in the next week. Or that time Talyn fired on her. You know, with the massive cannon that’s taken out massive ships in the past? Yeah, where was the lingering pain and scar damage from that? Like the “OMG SHOCKING DEATH OH PSYCH IT’S NOT REAL!!!” card, they’ve played this one too many times for it to have much impact.

And, I’m sorry, but the way they solve the problem feels completely random and thrown together. A plant reacting to boiling water and lashing out is a great setup, but it sabotaging fans before it can feel the plan that’s being set in motion suggests an intelligence and awareness that hadn’t previously been established and is never again picked up on, like during the moment where our heroes are again using fans to circulate stuff that will kill the plant. I don’t have much issue with Scorpius’ coolant solution being the game changer, and love that they have to deal with a limited supply, but when that’s wasted, what do they do? Suddenly realize that Moya has a whole ton of the needed chemical ready and waiting to be used! Bulldren! “This chemical will save the day! Oops, we just lost the chemical! Oh, hey, we have bunches more of this rare chemical laying around!” That’s lazy plotting and you know it! And, no, building interesting character drama around it doesn’t hide laziness when you’re being lazy!

This is an episode where they had all the character stuff down that they wanted to do, then pulled some story out of their ass and never really seemed to care if it worked or not. It’s just filler material to give everyone a reason to run around while talking about whose baby is whose, who gets to be captain, and who’s had D’Argo spit a loogie in their palm. It’s not a bad episode and there’s enough there to take me from point A to B, but I’m really disappointed at the blatant laziness of the fungi plot.


So how did the voting turn out? Let’s see if we can figure out who voted for who.

  • Moya – Abstained
  • Pilot – D’Argo
  • Crichton – D’Argo
  • Aeryn – D’Argo
  • D’Argo – Aeryn
  • Chiana – D’Argo
  • Rygel – Dominar Rygel XVI
  • Noranti – The Divine Eternal
  • Sikozu – Scorpius
  • Scorpius – Baggage

Rygel, Noranti, and Sikozu are fairly obvious. One of the remaining five voted for Aeryn, and I can’t imagine that D’Argo (after much character development) would vote for himself. Scorpius, being baggage, doesn’t get a vote.

D’Argo has built a new stringed electric bagpipe thing. Rygel hates it as much as the first one.

Noel has a point about how often Moya’s been eviscerated. She’s been hit, split, lost a symbiote, died, died again, been lit on fire, shot, shot again, impaled, and randomly sucked down a wormhole. The old girl’s starting to look like the Millennium Falcon at this point, or maybe season 4 Galactica.

I love the Tron-esque piping on the new environment suits. I’m believe they’re the same suits we’ve seen before, but the reflective bits are new.

Sikozu remains an interesting character. Simultaneously naive and educated and singularly focused on self-preservation, I love how these facets come together to form a gem.

After the bugs in space episode, I don’t really have trouble with the idea of fungus in space. I’m curious about what would happen if Grayza were to plow through it in her Command Carrier, but the basic premise seems alright. Space is a really, really dangerous place, even without Peacekeepers or killer stars or budongs flying around. At least they haven’t run into a Q yet. Maldis comes close, but doesn’t quite count.

Crichton and Aeryn are… man. Rough doesn’t cover it. It’s a role reversal from the end of the previous season. One eager, the other evading. There’s a lot of pain in the relationship, and nobody wants to be hurt again.


I’m kind of with Noel in not really being sure how I feel about this episode. He’s absolutely right about the fact that the “let’s put Moya in mortal danger” plot point is rapidly losing its edge. The comparison to the constant fake deaths from season two is applicable – we’ve seen this happen far too often, the recoveries are far too quick, and the consequences, if there are any, tend not to last particularly long. Is there really any suspense anymore when Moya is in danger? It’s almost a given at this point that something at the last minute will happen and they’ll make it out okay.

Apparently the crew couldn’t come to an initial agreement over who was going to hold the captain position, so in their infinite wisdom they decide to just pass temporary captain-ship between all of them every few hours. This goes about as well as you might expect, as Rygel takes command and proceeds to do an absolutely fantastic job at demonstrating all the reasons why he shouldn’t be captain. He struggles to make sense of the charts, isn’t able to really come up with a command to give when Pilot prompts him for one, and the second things start to spiral out of control, he totally panics and demands that Pilot find and fix the problem, and when neither proves possible, he retreats into isolation out of fear of what is happening, and guilt that it happened under his command.

Which is… a little odd, I think. While most of his captaining issues seem very feasible, given his character, the level of incompetence he has in this episode seems almost out of character at this point for him. He was the leader of an entire race of creatures that spanned over multiple planets, and we’ve gotten hints that he wasn’t lacking leadership skills in that role. True, captaining a ship, especially one who goes through as much immediate danger as Moya, is an entirely different ball of yarn, but at the same time, he’s been through all this for at least three cycles now. In fact, he’s dealt with more direct danger to himself with a much cooler head not all that long ago. Admittedly, in this situation none of his actual strengths seem to be of any use (the one that might actually serve to better the situation is pretty much void due to the fact that the rest of his crew barely holds any respect for him, to the point that there doesn’t seem to be any acknowledgement whatsoever that he holds any authority at all in the captain’s seat), but its disappointing that he doesn’t seem to be able to particularly do anything other than flail about helplessly under pressure. Is it believable? Sure, I guess, but only because Rygel is a character that can so easily slip into a caricature of himself in being written that he somehow can lose entire seasons worth of development at random because the association with his negative traits are so strong.

Maybe I’m overthinking the whole thing, but I was really disappointed with his role in this one. It seemed like the point was to lead up to D’Argo becoming captain and to show how disastrous an alternative another crewmember might be in that position, but if we were building to that point, why not actually explore what Rygel as a captain would actually be like? As it was, we got all of the negatives that Rygel as a captain would bring played up to 11, while seemingly not acknowledging that there would be any potential positives at all. For that matter, why not look at the others in the same light? Hell, why not do away with the somewhat tired “Moya is in mortal danger” approach and start with a minor problem that each of the characters takes their turn at trying to call the shots at fixing? We’d get to see each character make their case at why they should be in charge and how they would actually lead. In the meantime, as things get muddled down with the politics of the whole thing, the minor problem could develop into a major one if we really wanted to push things to the “Moya’s gonna die if we don’t work this out NOW” point. It would have made the actual selection of a captain at the end hold more weight and be far more interesting. The episode as it stands almost just arbitrarily has D’Argo become captain at the end without really making any argument as to us as the viewers as to why he’s the best for the job other than that he’s a hell of a lot better at it than Rygel.

I’m also a little frustrated with the level of distrust the crew has for Scorpius, which is starting to reach the point of ridiculousness. Did everyone just forget the end of last season happened? John was ready to take Scorpius with him as the Command Carrier was imploding to try to save him, and now he won’t even let him out from behind bars without being restrained, even when there’s absolutely no reason to deny the help he’s trying to give to keep them all from dying. If the end of last season hadn’t transpired the way it had, it might seem reasonable, and I can certainly understand most of the crew not trusting him in the slightest, but John’s level of paranoia regarding him seems kind of odd.

I dunno. I wasn’t intending to spend the entirety of my write-up for this one complaining about it, but the more I think through it, the less I like the episode as a whole. There are some great individual character moments (I loved the very obvious “taunt the shippers” moment between Crichton and D’Argo), but overall this episode just doesn’t work for me.

Episode [4.05] – Promises || Episode [4.07] – John Quixote

11 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. Kernezelda

     /  December 9, 2011

    Of the vote to determine Moya’s captain, the only people really interested in it are Moya and Pilot, but once it’s begun, only Rygel and D’Argo are actually motivated to take the role. John is busy with his own concerns; Aeryn has no desire to lead; Chiana, Sikozu and Noranti are unfit, and no one would vote for Rygel except himself. It would have been interesting to see Pilot in the role, as I enjoyed his behavior in Scratch N Sniff, banishing John and D’Argo, letting them know that Moya and he had made decisions which the crew were to abide by. I like the glimpses of Pilot and Moya acting on their own behalves, even though it’s been well-established that they are happiest serving others.

    I actually laughed out loud when reading your vote distribution, because it seemed so unlikely in a few cases. Arguably, Pilot voted for Aeryn, given the enthusiasm with which he announces her name; Aeryn voted for D’Argo, as she does not see herself as a leader; and D’Argo voted for himself, because he does regard himself as the natural leader of the group, as seen repeatedly from as far back as TFAL in the first season and as late as TUT in the third.

    Why would Crichton trust Scorpius at all? The moments aboard the Command Carrier were a height of emotional turmoil between Crichton and Scorpius, whose connection is filled with rage, hatred and fear on John’s part, and a grudging realization that Scorpius may have a point regarding the Scarrans, but also the taint of John’s own deception – and the conviction that Scorpius is not fit, and neither is anyone else, including John himself, to hold the power that wormhole manipulation represents.
    Scorpius will never give up his own conviction that this power is his singular path to victory, which for him equals genocide. Sure, Scorpius finds John a personal challenge and a creative enemy/potential asset, but whatever care he has for John’s safety is to ensure that the knowledge remains available to Scorpius. It is his absolute intent, if he can’t take the knowledge directly, which seems the case, to persuade John to use it in his stead.

    This episode is not a favorite of mine, but the character moments generally outweigh the plant plot.

    • Tessa

       /  December 9, 2011

      John doesn’t have to trust Scorpius explicitly, and in fact, he really shouldn’t. But there’s a middle ground between “omg we’re best buds lets share everything”, and absolute paranoia that if Scorpius isn’t under lock and key or bound and gagged that he will suddenly do something horrible, even when it isn’t in his own self interest to do that.

      John should absolutely be skeptical about Scorpius’ intentions, it would be ridiculous for him not to be. All I’m saying is that the extent to which that is being played out is beginning to hit the other extreme end of the spectrum. Towards the end of this episode, there’s nothing to lose, and the very worst Scorpius could conceivably do is escape (and at that point where would he go anyways?), which is incredibly unlikely given the state Moya is in, since it’s not likely that the transport pods are even functioning. Should he be out and about, walking around the ship doing what he pleases? No, but effectively tying him to a stick and poking him at Pilot when he’s offering aid when its desperately needed is when things start to just look silly.

      Yes, the man was a very dangerous threat before, and if they let him, he probably still would be now. But he has no resources left to him (save perhaps for Sikozu, now), and they hold all the cards. They shouldn’t trust him. But there’s a difference between “we aren’t going to give you the means to screw us over” and being terrified of the boogeyman. The last episode was more the former, but this started really edging into the latter. It feels like the crew is more terrified of Scorpius now than they were when he had the means to be a serious and pressing threat.

      • Honestly, Tessa, I’m going to have to disagree with you on this point. Crichton wanting to save Scorpius from a ship that is currently imploding/flooding/NEVAR AGAYN TEH BURNING TYMES is not mutually exclusive with Crichton not trusting Scorpius as far as Rygel can throw him. Sure, he’s a lot more cynical these days, but Crichton doesn’t actively want anyone to die – especially after seeing the reasons for the wormhole obsession. Scorpy-face isn’t by any means being altruistic about it, but he’s being honest, and himself personally has no wish to use it for galactic conquest. (The Peacekeepers as a whole are another story, but there’s a reason Crichton blew the ship up in the first place.)

        That said, Scorpius is devious, charismatic, and above all patient, so while Crichton doesn’t want him to die – thus offering to shuttle him out of the ‘splodeyship – he also has no reason to want to give him free rein inside their frelling home.

        • Tessa

           /  December 9, 2011

          I was never arguing he should be given free rein, and if I came off that way I wasn’t intending to.

          I’ll say it again. There’s no reason the crew should trust Scorpius. My issue with how this episode treated their reactions to him were not that they were untrusting, it was the level it was reaching. Again, there’s a difference between not trusting someone with free rein in your ship, and being scared that if you give them a second outside of total bondage they’ll use their magical powers to do unspeakable evils to everyone.

          My point wasn’t that the end of last season should have made everyone friends, but more that the crew should know that Scorpius isn’t a sociopath who strikes at random, and someone they’ve stood up to successfully in the past. With him effectively neutered, they don’t need to fear him right now. That’s not to say he’ll never be a threat to them again, but for the moment, he isn’t who they should be frightened of.

          It’s possible I’m totally alone in how it came off to me, and that’s fine, but the crew didn’t seem distrustful of Scorpius, they seemed downright scared of him. That’s where my problem with this was.

          • Kernezelda

             /  December 10, 2011

            To be honest, I think Scorpius is their boogeyman. He survives exploding gammak bases, exploding criminal banks, exploding command carriers, being shot at point-blank range – he is the Energizer Bunny of nemeses, and at this point he probably seems supernaturally powerful, despite the loss of visible PK status and influence. And having been scared of him for so long, to have him right here, right now, in their very home – it’s a nightmare come to life, and who knows when he’ll strike for his own advantage. It’s not a rational fear, but it’s deep in them.

            It doesn’t help that Aeryn is so different from what they remember. It seems only reasonable to assume that Scorpius did something to her, especially when she was so sick and so willing to listen to him. I don’t think any of them want to remember how she also gave Crais a second chance before anyone else did, and just assume that she’s brainwashed rather than giving their scariest enemy the same chance to prove his intentions.

            For myself, upon first seeing this episode, I actually wanted John to shoot Scorpius in the head the minute Aeryn left the bay, regardless of any promise she forced from him. I was enraged that she did so in the first place. But you can see from her perspective that she was honoring a debt to Scorpius for saving her life by ensuring his upon John’s return to Moya.

          • Schmacky

             /  December 14, 2011

            I think John chaining up Scorpius works. It makes sense – for John. Like Kernezelda said, Scorpy IS John’s boogeyman. John is terrified of the man, irrationally so. You can’t be too careful when the devil is playing in your house.

            And the rest of the crew, they’re taking their cues from John. At this point, D’argo’s got John’s back 100%. If John will give a little trust to Scorpy, D’argo will. If John wants to chain him up, D’argo will make the binds tight. D’argo is John’s best bud, he knows what he went through with Scorpius, he knows how terrified he is of him and it makes sense that that fear and distrust spills over to Scorpius. Same with Chiana.

            As far as Aeryn.. not only has she spent an undisclosed amount of time with Scorpius and he saved her life, he’s also a PK. And she’s a cool headed individual, former PK and all. I think, to a certain extent, she knows Scorpius – in the logical and methodical way. She’s thinking logically, and she knows Scorpius would only assist in the situation and wouldn’t sabotage them because it wouldn’t help Scorpius’ goals. She understands him in a PK-to-PK sort of way.

    • Weston

       /  December 10, 2011

      Oooh, a conversation!

      I could see Pilot voting for Aeryn. We know (suspect, have deduced) that either he or D’Argo did, and D’Argo’s mellowed out a lot since he got his subtle revenge on Macton Tal.

      • Kernezelda

         /  December 10, 2011

        Conversations can be good! I love the relationship between Pilot and Aeryn, and while it received its most compelling showing during TWWW, it’s lovely to see it continued here and there as the series progresses.

        While it’s clear that Pilot loves Aeryn best among the crew, I wonder who is Moya’s favorite? I would have said Zhaan early on, but after she dies, it might be John. We see Aeryn and Chiana speak directly to Moya, but Moya chooses to communicate with John in Losing Time (iirc) via the DRDs, and asks him to rid Pilot of the intruding creature. I love that Moya is a living ship who is given expression in rare episodes apart from Pilot’s interpreting.

        Talyn had a very different system of communication, meant to directly interact with his crew, but I have to wonder if the bloop-bloop-bloopity language was designed by Lt. Larell under Crais’ direction, because while Aeryn’s abilities with and sensitivities to Leviathans are attributed to remnants of Pilot DNA, Crais seemed to grasp Talyn’s meanings even before taking the Hand of Friendship.

        • Weston

           /  December 13, 2011

          Agreed on all counts. It would have been interesting to see who Moya voted for.

          I always took “the hand of friendship” more as a metaphor than an actual name for the neural interface. Seemed unusual that Peacekeepers would call it something so… sappy.

          • Schmacky

             /  December 14, 2011

            I think the name “Hand of Friendship” was given for the benefit of the Leviathan. Maybe even if it was in PK control, the Leviathan still had to “choose” who the Captain would be.. therefore it is a hand of friendship and the PKs would name it like that to seem…. nice. The name it has now, it gives off the impression that it’s a mutual relationship, a partnership and the Leviathan has nothing to fear from it. Of course, that probably wasn’t the intention of the PKs once they received the neural interface.

          • Kernezelda

             /  December 14, 2011

            Part of the experiment to hybridize Leviathans with PK programming/tech/weapons might have been to do away with having to use a control collar, since in battle it would be advantageous to be able to retreat from or starburst toward particular areas of conflict, which a collared Leviathan cannot do. Theoretically, then, it might be considered a partnership between a trained PK officer and an intelligent creature, like a knight and a warhorse. A project like that must cost a heck of a lot of money, and smart leaders do not mistreat their men/equipment/service animals, so it would be in PK interest to ensure compatibility between Captain and ship, as well as willing co-operation on the part of a living gunship with stupendous firepower. “Hand of Friendship” seems like both a diplomatic phrase and practical training tool for the potential officer candidates, too, to keep them in mind that they are not using a machine, but partnering with a being that must be respected.
            Since Talyn was the only successful birth, I suspect if he’d been taken back under PK control, they’d have worked out genetic/programming modifications for the next generation of trials to ensure a little less autonomy for the Leviathan, nonetheless.

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