Deconstructing Moya

A Farscape Re-watch Project

Episode [4.07] – “John Quixote”

Today, on Farscape

“This elevator sucks. My job sucks- sucks- sucks. Day after day, the same- the same thing. Up. Down. Up. Down- Down. Just once- Just once, it’s be nice to go sideways. Just- Just sideways….. FROG PRINCES!

John and Chiana get stuck in a virtual reality game while Scorpius causes a spot of trouble on Moya.


That squee your hear is my delight that I get to be first at bat for another one of the crazy episodes. And one written by Ben Browder, no less.

In this episode, John and Chiana play a game. A frelled up virtual reality game where a fleshy device straight out of Cronenberg links their minds in a world pulled from their fantasies and memories. Well, John’s fantasies and memories as everything is from the jumble of his Terran consciousness instead of Chiana’s, which is a little weird, given that she’s the first the play, not him. Genuine gripe, but let’s move on.

In this world, John is decked out as a brave Spanish knight and Chiana as the sexiest jester to ever wear a floppy hat and pointy orange boots. They have to ascend the levels of a castle, fighting monsters and solving riddles so as to kiss the princess, who’s guarded in the highest room of the tower. This involves craziness like D’Argo dressed as a little German boy who’s captured two witches (Faux Chiana and Jool) he plans to eat. Or Rygel as a “None shall pass” black knight who holds people at bay with his flamethrower ass (yes, we get a clear view of Rygel’s anus beneath his little tail as flame belches from it). Or Zhaan being recast as a fat man in a creepy van who forces John to drink his breast milk. Or Aeryn as the beautiful princess with a lisping southern belle accent (had me rolling with laughter every time) who’s cared for by Harvey as a pointy-nosed butler while imprisoned by Crais as the ogre. And there’s a Scarran that shows up as Red Riding Hood, a Sheyang as a frog prince, and yet another John as the magic Max Headrom tv on the wall.

As with all “let’s just go insane and have fun” episodes, everyone pretty much went insane and had fun. John is all scowls as, just before they went into the game, he caught something about Scorpius and fears the worst and dammit he doesn’t have time for any of this, resulting in a great montage as he goes from floor to floor, increasing his trophies of severed heads. Slob’Zhaan is a completely unexpected delight, knocking the shit out of John and gushing up a goblet of acid from his teat. Ass-Blaster Rygel seems a threat, until Chiana gives him a prostate exam with her sword the first time around and John runs him over with Slob’Zhaan’s van the second. D’Argo succulently slurps up the fresh baked beans from an eager-to-be-consumed Jool. Princess Aeryn. Oh, lord, Princess Aeryn. Absolutely gorgeous, then kills me when she talks, especially as she’s chewing out Harvey for fighting poorly and getting slain. So much madness.

And at the heart of it is Stark. What seems to be another manifestation of the game turns out to be something more as this Stark looks to be the entire overseer of a world crafted by the real Stark from T’John’s memories as our slave god of death guided the twin into the afterlife. Whether this was something intentionally made by Stark or hijacked by an outside force is unknown (Maldis is name dropped at one point, and this certainly would fit his M.O.), but I’m wondering if that has anything to do with it at all. As we go on, we find out the real Princess John is supposed to kiss is the “real” Zhaan, who’s hidden inside the Slob’Zhaan, and that this trap was meant to snare John, who Stark blame’s for Zhaan’s death. My suspicion is that this is all straight from John’s head and is nothing more than a part of the game. Stark didn’t show any hatred for John back when Zhaan died, and her death was entirely one of self sacrifice, so the motivation feels off. Also, with everyone else being a construct, I don’t see why this Stark wouldn’t be one, as well. Especially since there are deeper aspects to each portrayal. The two women this D’Argo is shown as capturing and “eating out” are the two he’s had relationships with. Aeryn was stolen away by Crais. Harvey chose to assist and serve, even as suspicions always aimed in his direction (he’s the butler, the red herring in every mystery). Rygel always gets in his way through his attempts to make himself an authority figure. Everyone has some tie to how John perceives them, so Stark as the mad wizard who blames John for the latest in a string of sorrows doesn’t feel that off.

And then we get to the subplot of Scorpius escaping and taking over the ship. It’s cold and methodical how he finds the blind spot in Moya and slowly implants his neural chips in one person after another, even taking control of Pilot. And he must have worked a bit of the I-Yensch bracelets into the mix, because any harm that’s inflicted on him by John also spreads to those under his link. It’s an interesting and fully believable twist, and I love how John and Chiana use the game as a way to both communicate outside of Scorpius’ view and to bring him into it to give them time to operate while his mind is trapped, but then they pull the rug out from under us. This entire sequence, which would have made for an interesting turn of events and is fully believable, is yet another part of the game and merely reflects John’s fears of what Scorpius is capable of. In our last instalment, Tessa took issue with John’s paranoid level of distrust toward Scorpius’ presence on Moya. This window into John’s perception explains that. Scorpius is the master who always manages to rig the deck to give himself the upper hand and John fears that any slackening of the leash they have on him will result in either this scenario or one equally nightmarish.

Here’s where I’d typically be complaining that I felt it was a bit of a copout to reveal this entire twist was just a part of the game, but I won’t. It’s actually woven in quite masterfully. Not only does it explain John’s fears, but it cements them as a scenario he’s now experienced first-hand, meaning he’s unlikely to afford Scorpius any opportunities in the immediate future. Also, I love how everything ties back into Stark and Zhaan and the effect of their absences on John’s life. Without Stark, there’s no one else to blame for the chaos and insanity. Without Zhaan, there’s a lack of serenity, of inner peace and guidance. And then there’s even the great bonus twist as we realize the Chiana we’ve been following for half the episode is actually the game’s Chiana, and the real Chiana has spent arns provocatively roped up on the game D’Argo’s table with an apple in her mouth. Which again brings up the flaw of nothing from this game world really representing Chiana’s memories or cultural backdrop. I understand it’s already a cluttered episode and the creators probably felt that doing so would lack context and require exposition to work, but it still feels like a missed opportunity.

In the end, it’s not a perfect episode and doesn’t really tie all that deeply into events in the broader story, but you can’t deny it’s a heap of fun. When the cast and crew of this show see an opportunity to have fun and throw every insane idea they have at a story, they take it, and the results are almost always unforgettable.


First things first. Unlike every episode this season, there’s no “Previously On” sequence. Whether that’s because the episode stands on its own or because they needed the extra time to cram in all the awesome, I leave to you.

From what I understand, the majority of the game that Crichton and Chiana spend their time in isn’t part that most players see. The only reason they backdoor into it is because Crichton himself is in the game. That whole section was designed by Stark (“Over the years I have acccumulated a vast reservoir of evil“) to do… something. Punish Crichton? We certainly see that in Crichton Headroom, poor elevator operator. To work through his own issues surrounding Zhaan? Possibly. He has enough of them. To resolve his own fears that Crichton loved Zhaan, and that she loved him in turn? Ah. We saw that Stark was attracted to Aeryn during their time on Talyn, how fear that Crichton harbored the same for Zhaan? Especially after she sacrificed herself in the wormhole. Crichton was prepared to clean up the mess and get the Pathfinder vessel out of Moya, but Zhaan stepped up to do it instead. She saved everyone, yes, but she especially saved him. And that eats him like acid.

Stark lost his princess when Zhaan died, Crichton lost his when Aeryn left. The latter did come back, yes, but she came back with Scorpius. She has voluntarily allied with the devil himself, and Crichton can’t trust her anymore. Even so, he can’t stop thinking about her. Harvey is gone, but Aeryn remains a constant presence inside his mind. A distraction, something he just can’t think around. He’s so thoroughly engrossed with thoughts of her that he’s willing to try anything to clear his head – even ingest something Noranti cooked up based on those bugs he huffed on Arnessk. This combines two bad ideas to make something that Crichton, were he in his right mind, would immediately reject. He isn’t. He’s desperate.

We even see this in the game. Remember that TV that falls from the sky, the one that lands firmly on Crichton’s head and embeds part of itself in his cranium?

Does this mean our ratings are falling?

Aeryn is literally wedged in his head. Briefly. Until not!Zhaan pries her out.

I love how many people come back for this one. Lani Tupu never technically left. Jool is a bit of a surprise, though we last saw her only a few episodes ago. Zhaan, though. Man. She isn’t in the opening credits, so she should come as a complete surprise if you didn’t see any of the ads leading up to it. The way they teased that, it looked like she was coming back permanently. Fans were… displeased. Her new makeup is nice. Less detailed, but very nicely done for a one-shot return appearance. not!Zhaan is played by director Rowan Woods, and has a giant peace sign in white scales on his belly – that is an awesome detail. Harvey as Pinocchio the constant liar is a fantastic interpretation of the character. Aeryn as the fairytale princess, complete with golden locks, is straight out of Crichton’s head. Crais as the princess’ beastly boyfriend reflects both Crichton’s jealousy and fear of Talyn’s captain. Bringing back Gilina just to kill her off in a burst of wormhole equations… man, that’s cold.

The plot, once we get thirty minutes in, involves a fake reality inside a game inside of another game. All of the characters in that deepest level are in their season one and two outfits. It’s a neat touch, and in keeping with the age of the memories that Stark used to construct the scenario.

D’Argo has used his tongue in literally every episode this season. In the last seven episodes, he’s used it more than in all the previous seasons combined. This is awesome. I fully advocate the use of more prehensile tongues. I had previously missed the innuendo in D’Argo eating out (of) Jool, thanks for that image Noel.

The splitscreen mechanic is a neat touch. Combined with the tilty-cam, it allows for disorienting or disparate sequences. I’m glad they don’t use it more often, but it works well here.


So, last episode I made the remark that Crichton and crew seemed far more terrified of Scorpius than distrusting. At the time, I criticized the episode for that, thinking that it wasn’t intentional and that we were just getting heavy overplaying of the distrust angle. It’s immediately followed by an episode where the B-Plot (which turns out to be part of the A-Plot, but still) is all about Crichton being totally paranoid about what Scorpius is capable of.

I have to take back what I said at least in part last episode. As irrational as his fears are (and this episode backs that up with the entirety of Scorpius’ takeover being in a fake world based off of Crichton’s brain), I appreciate seeing them play out more now that it’s clear that’s exactly what’s going on.

This episode was so much fun, and it was such a head trip. The jerking between camera angles and filters does a great job in adding to the surreal atmosphere of the game world, although by the end it was actually beginning to make me nauseous.

I really loved seeing Stark back. I didn’t think I’d miss him so much, but I loved him in this. It’s interesting that he seems to make a far more compelling antagonist than he does a protagonist. I have to echo Noel in wondering just how much of him here is actually him as opposed to Crichton’s perception of him. Stark blames him for Zhaan’s death in the game, but does that mean the real Stark is the one who blames Crichton, or is it Crichton blaming himself through an imaginary Stark? Although, if even the Stark in the game is a construct of John’s mind, who actually did make the game and for what purpose? Was it something Stark put together to help John through his own issues, or was there really malicious intent behind it? If there was, and Stark eventually returns, that makes for some interesting potential conflicts in the future. Or what if it wasn’t Stark at all who made the game in the first place? I’m very tempted to think of this as the third Maldis episode in my own personal head!canon if it doesn’t get another definite explanation.

I loved the twist, even though I saw it coming pretty early on. It holds out just long enough and takes itself seriously enough that it still made me take pause and second guess it, even though, under scrutiny, it doesn’t hold up (which I think was the point). It’s everything John is convinced that Scorpius would do if given the chance. I suppose there is the possibility (though I think it’s very unlikely) that Scorpius does have that level of technology still on him to take over the ship and its crew entirely (the neural harness seems like an amalgamation of all of the tech Scorpius has had prior to this, which makes sense, given that it’s John’s brain developing the worst possible conclusion), the real red flag that something is up is that it appears that the first thing Scorpius does upon escaping is to call out to Grayza’s Command Carrier, which makes no sense given what we know. To John, though, who is already expecting the worst when it comes to Scorpius, the entire thing having been a charade seems plausible.

Poor Gilina. That pairing to me is what D’Argo and Zhaan is to Weston. I really would have liked to see that actually have the chance to play out, but alas, it will never be. And now she’s back again, as a brief cameo, her level in the game never even getting the chance to play out the way it was meant to (assuming that it was ever actually meant to be anything other than what it was in the end).

I loved Crais as the ogre, both because it was cool seeing him again, and just because the overall concept of everything in that room was hilarious. It also plays off of the fears and doubts that T’John had regarding whether Crais and Aeryn shared any romantic feelings between one another. Whether or not the thought had ever occurred to our John (it probably did, but the concept wasn’t nearly as much in his face at the time), the game is based off of the dead John’s mind, not the current one (which is also why Sikozu and Noranti aren’t present anywhere in the game).

All in all, this was a really fun episode, and yet another one that gives us a peek into John’s psyche. I guess my feelings about last episode serve as proof that yes, we do need to be reminded every so often of just how messed up a place his head is, and yet, despite all that, he continues to work through it and come through in the end.


There’s just something about watching actors having the time of their lives. I saw Mamma Mia! with my mother when it was in theaters a few years ago, and as cheesy as it was, you could tell that everyone in that movie – especially Meryl Streep – just had a constant grin on their face the entire time of filming. They had fun with it.

The same is evident here. It’s obvious that these guys just had a blast filming it, and it makes me want to hunt down any cut scenes or blooper reels from it.

Noel and Tessa really captured the essence of the story here, so I’ll move on to something I haven’t explored in a while, which is the execution. The setting of what might normally have been just another filler episode – and might still have been in Season One – was beautifully done. The camera angles and music serves to underscore a feeling of wrongness, an unsettling reminder that it’s not reality. The colors also become slightly more blue-shifted, enforcing the cold and unfeeling nature of a virtual game world.

I know it’s explained in-universe that the game was made from Stark’s memories of CrichtonT‘s passage into death, but it’s also hinted that the game is pulling things from Crichton’s mind as he’s connected to it. This doesn’t explain how Chiana started with the Gilina scenario, unless the game itself was very barebones and was relying on Crichton to discover it. Though he may not have had Chiana never picked it up and played with it. And so the circle of uncertainty goes, and it’s a bit of a plot hole when you think about it but holy crap do I find myself not caring. Because as with many things that kind of stretch the suspension of disbelief on this show, the writers simply bring it. It has been brought and sent away for the express purpose of being brought again.

And yet the episode also knows when to lay off; they could have extended the “What is the real world” aspect one step further, and they wisely did not. It would have been too much of a head-trip for an episode that was mostly about wacky fun and facing your fears. Crichton faced his fear of Scorpius taking control of the ship, and cyber-Stark faced his fears of losing Zhaan once again. Which, incidentally, was a brilliant move, in making the princess to rescue the one that Stark had been trying to rescue all of Season Three.

I honestly believe this episode is the best one yet this season. Solid delivery, spectacular writing, and continuing in the fine traditions of Farscape. Especially the tradition of the zany breather episodes still hitting like a mack truck.

“So I heard I was a princess.”

Episode [4.06] – Natural Election || Episode [4.08] – I Shrink Therefore I Am

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