Deconstructing Moya

A Farscape Re-watch Project

Episode [4.08] – “I Shrink Therefore I Am”

Today, on Farscape

“You mean you could have got out any time you wanted?”
“I never wanted to.”

In which most of our heroes get captured offscreen and John McCrichton has to rescue them from Axikor Gruber.


No movie, in my mind, emphasizes the spirit of Christmas so much as Die Hard. Christmas music everywhere, a separated family trying hard to get along, Alan Rickman being awesome, and a guy named John limping around trying to kill a bunch of bad guys. This episode hits two of those four, and does a fair job of it. Maybe even three, if you can identify the music that Crichton’s humming.

I absolutely love the outfits the bad guys are rocking. Heavy armor that’s almost as thick as a Scarran’s hide, functional fully-enclosed helmets, gauntlets containing more weapons than you can shake a pulse pistol at, a tattered shoulder cape, and a hollow spot right in their center mass containing a canister that can’t possibly be as strong as the surrounding armor. Aside from the last point, they’re extremely functional. And they’re grafted on! How cool is that! Granted, the beings inside them have all the consistence of the innards of a pumpkin (eew), but that’s the price you pay for evolving an exoskeleton instead of an endoskeleton.

Speaking of Scarrans, how about that flat-faced ruling elite guy? We’d known that there were two varieties of Scarran, these new ones make a third. And what a difference. Previous Scarrans have been… unsubtle. This guy can pull off the mind-probe trick without throwing heat waves around. He’s actively infiltrated Peacekeeper installations in the guise of a cybernetically-enhanced bounty hunter. He’s wearing thick body armor on top of his natural invulnerability to almost everything. He’s smart enough to cut and run when capturing Crichton proves too difficult. If not for showing Crichton the code sequence necessary to de-shrink something, he could have pulled this off.

A running tally of Scarrans we’ve met, and how they went:

The Square-Cube Law really should have worked in Axikor’s favor when he rolled to resist crushing damage. With all of that armor, he should have been as hard to crush as a walnut. Sikozu lampshades the issue fairly well – either they shouldn’t be able to breathe, or their brains shouldn’t work. Rygel shoots her down with a swift observation that they have been shrunk, and that attempting to deny the self-evident is entirely useless. So Axikor crunches.

I’ve already used the Dominar Rygel in a can crack, but it’s so appropriate here.

Crichton is popping Noranti’s bug juice every few arns or so. This is a little concerning. It keeps his mind clear enough to deal with the bounty hunters, but he’s almost caught when he takes a hit in an air vent.

1812 isn’t hooked into the Moya DRD network – Pilot doesn’t command it the same as he does the other DRDs. It can communicate with the other DRDs and relay orders, but it follows Crichton’s commands. One wonders if he’s programmed it any better than Pilot has the DRDs of Moya, or if it’s vulnerable to the same overrides.

Noranti’s wirework while floating outside the viewport in Command is really, really obvious. One could be justified by having to tie her to something lest she go drifting off into the black, but three? Maybe Crichton wanted to be very certain that she wouldn’t float away?

Scorpius could have left his cell any time he wanted. Any time. The only word we have that he hasn’t already is his, and his trustworthiness is questionable at best. Crichton keeps him on a short leash while he’s helping to retake the ship, but he’s helping. This is a gigantic step forward in their relationship. In Warcraft terms, he’s gone from Hated to Hostile – still nowhere near speaking terms, but marginally less terrible.

With Axikor’s call to that Dreadnaught, Moya is now being pursued by both Peacekeepers and Scarrans. Pilot reluctantly suggests retreating into a region called Tormented Space – something within or adjacent to the Uncharted Territories. Imagine, now: The Uncharted Territories are labeled so because they’ve never been fully explored. Tormented Space is so labeled because ships go in, but either never come out or come out screaming. It is to the Uncharted Territories what the Uncharted Territories are to the civilized galaxy. It’s the interstellar equivalent of the Fire Swamp. And Aeryn knows enough about it to be a little scared of the possibility of going in. This ought to be fun.


First off, I really enjoyed this episode. The plot is both suspenseful and fun, the acting is pretty stellar all around, we get amazing character moments between John and Scorpius (the dynamic between them is just fun to watch, with Scorpius’ dry delivery of “Thank you, John” when he realizes the gun he’s been given is empty is probably my favorite moment in the episode), and it’s got science-defying size-changing goodness that manages to both be played for laughs as well as being a serious obstacle in the story.

It’s interesting, then, to compare it to Natural Election, just a few episodes back, which is a very similar episode, because where that one was almost completely underwhelming, this one hits pretty solidly. The gripes I had about the paranoid refusal to accept Scorpius’ aid in moments of “extreme” danger come to a head here, where the danger feels much more real and dangerous because we’re working with actual people as opposed to a faceless and ultimately pretty boring threat that the plant made up in that episode, and thus we’re cool with the idea of John turning to the man he’s had all these fears and suspicions of because he really has no choice. Now, I still hold pretty firmly to the idea that there’s no reason why this exact scenario couldn’t have played out in that episode (and I’d still argue it should have), considering that, really, there isn’t much separating the desperation level of the two at their critical moments. In both situations, there’s exceedingly little time available, with everyone’s lives at stake if something isn’t done. The rest of the crew isn’t literally tied up in that episode like they are here, but they aren’t any closer to being able to solve the problem in that episode than they are in this one, and when Scorpius actually presents the answer to the problem, they pretty much tie him to a stick and ignore him while they take part of the help he was offering and then bungle things up on their own. If there was actual consequence to that course of action, I would have zero gripes about it (well, that particular part of it, at least), but instead they’re saved by a deus ex machina moment and we move on (which also neuters any suspense that might have been present and makes us feel like there wasn’t all that much danger to start with).

I realize I’m talking about things from two episodes back, but mostly, I just want to contrast to how much better this one pulls it off. The threat, which simply by looking at the synopsis of the episode, is roughly about the same level of danger, feels far more real, and thus the desperate moment is actually recognizable as such when it comes. I’d argue (although I’m sure people will still disagree with me) that things were supposed to be just as desperate in NE, which is why I’m still baffled as to the stubborn refusal John would make to utilize a resource at the moment he needed it there, especially since he caves so easily (and rightly so) here. I guess I’m still left wondering why we needed to play up his irrational terror of Scorpius to the extent that we did if it was only going to last two episodes before moving straight past it. Maybe we wouldn’t have been able to have the last episode without it, and that’s an acceptable price to pay, but this episode basically puts onto the screen exactly what I was arguing for two episodes back.

I’ve wasted most of my time talking about an episode that wasn’t even this one, but a couple quick extra points about the one I’m supposed to be talking about before I’m done.

Weston covered the square/cube law being addressed pretty handily, but I still want to poke at it also. I love that they basically bring it up, acknowledge that it exists, and then dismiss it entirely within the course of a few minutes. Sikozu even tries to debunk several different theories (which are amusingly typical ones used to explain away said law) as to why it’s not applying, only to be shot down by Rygel basically shrugging it off, totally lampshading that science is totally being thrown out the window. They wanted to use the shrink ray, and damn it, they were going to use it, laws of nature or not.

This episode also drives home the point that there’s really no safe place for Moya and friends to be anymore. Even if they manage to keep avoiding Grayza, the Scarrans are actively pursuing them now also, and if that wasn’t enough, the reward on their capture is high enough now that they need to worry about bounty hunters coming after them as well. Which leads to my one minor gripe of the episode – the Tormented Space thing feels the tiniest bit out of nowhere. We’ve never heard of it up until now, and it’s practically just a repeat of the season one “raising the danger level” thing that we went through when they went into the Uncharted Territories. If it changes the formula up like it sounds like it could, then there’s not really a problem, but there’s a risk of just seeming like “we’re changing the name to make it sound dangerous-er” if it’s not properly reflected. I’m not too worried about that, since I trust the series to deliver on it by now, but it would have been nice to have gotten some hint that such a place existed prior to now.


Point of order here: When Crais puts out Wanted posters, it’s annoying. When Commandant Cleavage does it, shit gets done. Double standards work just as well in space as they do here on Earth.

It’s quite interesting to note that while the Hunters seem to be doing it for the cash, their leader – the aforementioned Royal Scarran – doesn’t give two flying frells about any kind of Peacekeeper reward. He’s in it for the intrigue and what information he can send back, and if he can kill a couple Sebaceans while doing it, all the better. It’s actually a pretty clever use of the subversion here; trying to outbid the price tag on your head means nothing if your bounty hunter captor is a double agent, simply wants to watch the world burn, or has some ulterior ancilliary agenda that has nothing to do with what you’re bribing him with and is simply frelling with you because he is bored.

It really stands out, too, to realize that the Scarrans are spending all this time and energy hunting Crichton, simply because Scorpius and Grayza want him. They have no idea why. Until they find out that it’s ’cause of wormholes, they probably don’t even care why, aside from the fact that he’s valuable to them somehow. Sure, they say that if he’s important to the Peacekeepers, he obviously must be important to the Scarrans, but I’m almost positive that a lot of them are simply out to remove him from the board because it would annoy the Sebaceans.


Things to note this episode:

  • Still going to have to disagree on this point. Crichton’s not just magically deciding that he’ll work with Scorpius and that makes everything okay. It’s pretty clear – at least in my opinion – that we were in Desperate Act City here. The simple fact that everyone else was captured, and the only other person available was Nana Peepers (which A: no, B: she’s out floating in space, and C: still no), and Scorpius was already out of his cage (since he pulled apart the frelling door)… I’m just saying, Crichton might be paranoid, but he’s not stupid. If Scorpius was claiming he could help in this situation, let him help. Of course, you stick him in front and give him an unloaded weapon, because Crichton is not stupid. Mostly.
  • Italics.
  • As silly as a shrink ray is, the use of it in the final scuffle had me on the edge of my seat. Both the access to the shrink ray and the state of each other during the meantime meant that it really did feel like a split-second advantage that Crichton capitalized on, and that Prince Spyface would have done exactly the same were the positions reversed.
  • The large amount of crawlspaces and hidey-holes in Moya has been well-established. What I don’t get is why Rygel was caught, since he knows all of them. Did they catch him sleeping? Or eating? Probably, actually.


I have little bad to say about this episode. I love it. I love the Die Hard plot where John is the lone voice on the other end of the communicator, constantly finding skin-of-his-teeth ways to destruct the nigh indestructible pumpkin men one at a time. I love the twist of the bad guys having little lunch boxes where their hearts should be where they stick their captives in an inescapable prison that also ties them to hostages that one has to be extremely careful not to shoot. I love the way they have their cake and eat it too by voicing numerous reasons why shrinking a person down to that size is an impossible accomplishment but, as Rygel says, “We’re here, they did it, and that’s that.” I love the bear trap. I love D’Argo getting his hands on a communicator by gulping it with a tongue lash. I love Scorpius fighting alongside John, only to be left wondering how the hell this little human keeps managing to pull victories out of his ass. I love napping Noranti (though, yeah, Weston’s not wrong about the awful wire work). I love Aeryn surfing a DRD. I love how Rygel, instead of handcuffs, just has a single large one cuffed around his entire body like a sausage casing. I love the shrink / grow / shrink / grow / shrink ha squash! climactic battle.

This is a damn solid episode. The twist of the lead bounty hunter being a Scarran isn’t entirely necessary, but it adds a nice little bonus twist and sets things up for down the road. And get a good look at him, because that’s how the majority of Scarrans are going to appear on the show from now on. They do a little handwavium by mentioning he’s from a different class than the previously seen Scarrans with their giant tyrannosaurus/great white shark heads, but let’s be honest: it’s likely budgetary. Those heads always looked like quite a burden to operate and wear and probably took a toll on both the actors and the budgets, and when suddenly confronted with a season where that race of creature is going to be more prominently featured, streamlining it into a makeup application instead of a cumbersome animatronic helmet makes a lot of sense. It’s not as striking of a look, but it still works, and it freed them up to put some more detail in the meticulously designed armor of the villains, a combination of mechanical implants and their own organic shells. Also, kudos for making the villains intelligent and extremely capable. I love how they genuinely are one step ahead of John most of the way through, yet he still whips out his Crichton magic to win the day.

To disagree with Tessa on a point, I’m with Kevin in that the only reason Crichton is accepting Scorpius’ help is because he literally has nowhere else to turn. In the purple mold episode, the rest of the crew was still running around alongside him. Here, he’s all alone and all he has is someone who could very well be Hans Gruber disguised as a hostage. I do also have to credit them for two things. First, that Scorpius didn’t go all manipulative and try to slyly and soothingly win John’s trust, mainly due to the fact that he was overheating and couldn’t focus. I mentioned it before, but I seriously love the moment where Scorpius is grumbling about how he doesn’t understand how John has managed to get as far as he has. Second, by episode’s end, John finally is cutting Scorpius slack. Their collaboration didn’t go very well, but John is at least mildly reassured that Scorpius isn’t planning to skip out, call in the cavalry, or mentally enslave everyone on board in the immediate future. Yeah, it took a few episodes to get there, but I felt they were a necessary few episodes for John to confront his fears and settle into things.

I do have to agree with you Tessa, though, when it comes to Tormented Space. It really does feel like they’re stretching it a bit by coming up with Uncharted Territory 2.0: The Uncharted-ier, and the “Tormented” tag so laughable that you expect a dramatic sting and the neigh of frightened horses every time it’s uttered. As John says, it really can’t be worse than stuff they’ve already gone through. He’s been beaten, raped, tortured, watched as the woman he loved died by his own hands, had his head cut open, part of his brain removed, and spent two years with his mind co-habited by a neural clone of the most terrifying bastard in the cosmos. No, you seriously can’t stick John in anything worse than he’s already gone through, and the fact that they’re promising to means they’re setting a bar that’s going to be extremely tough to deliver on.

Episode [4.07] – John Quixote || Episode [4.09] – A Perfect Murder

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