Deconstructing Moya

A Farscape Re-watch Project

Episode [4.12] – “Kansas”

Today, on Farscape

“Remember nothing.”
“…except for Karen Shaw in the four-wheel drive.”

In which Dorothy returns to Kansas, but accidentally kills Auntie Em in the process. Now she’s striving to right what once went wrong, and hoping that her next leap will be the leap home.


This week’s summary is also your crackfic seed. Go forth, little seed. Go forth and sprout wonderful fiction.

Continuing last week’s theme: Once upon a time there was a boy named John. John’s dad died in the Challenger disaster, so he never went into the space program. Moya remained a Peacekeeper slave, Aeryn was stuck as a space Nazi, Chiana went back to Nebari Prime, Jool did a fantastic popsicle impression until someone needed her organs, Sikozu got ate by a Brindis Hound, and Scorpius continued to be a magnificent badass. Then someone set a fake fire, bonked Jack Crichton on the head, banged young John in the back of a four by, and set events more or less back on course.

The previous episode’s cliffhanger left John Crichton, wormhole bodysurfer, in a fairly low Earth orbit. Over Earth. Earth, our poor hero’s prime motivation, his obsession ever since he got lost four years ago. He made it back. And now he’s going to burn up on entry because he can’t surf atmosphere like he can wormholes. At least his ashes will be scattered over his homeworld.

Everyone gets the chance to practice English while they’re on Earth. Aeryn’s is stilted but understandable. Chiana’s consists of maybe twenty nouns and verbs. Noranti is damn near fluent somehow. Rygel can say “graaaagh!” and steal candy from children. And D’Argo knows three phrases, none of which are helpful. It’s a fun twist. Translator microbes are literally everywhere in the civilized galaxy, and these people who have never had to take a language diversity course to get through college are now dropped in the one place in the universe that they don’t exist. It seems a perfect opportunity for Sikozu to show off, but she’s back on Moya keeping Scorpius company.

Scorpius and Braca. Man, these two. Braca is revealed to be the spy that’s been reporting on Grayza’s actions to Scorpius, and he’s played the role to a tee. Torturing Scorpius, shooting him to death. Braca’s double-agent status could explain how Scorpius didn’t die on Arnessk – who better to shoot you in a non-vital location than your mole? Grayza is apparently unaware that her pet Captain is still in Scorpy’s employ, though that could just be her exploiting his double-agent status for her own purposes.

Grayza’s purposes, as it happens, aren’t all that bad. A negotiated peace settlement with the Scarrans is only terrible in the sense that they’ll stab the Peacekeepers in the neck with the same pen they just used to sign the treaty. Her motives are worthy, but the end results she chooses to pursue those goals are questionable, and the methods she uses to achieve those results are downright horrific. Case in point, she left a present for Crichton on Moya. A green, acrobatic, toothy present. Which given that Moya dropped down the wormhole to present-day Earth, means there is now a Grayza-methodology mantis-alien over or on Earth.

Think about that one for a minute.

Crichton’s absolute joy at the little things that he missed on Earth is fantastic. Milk, blue jeans, Cher outfits. The big things are there too, including things that won’t be there in his own time: His girlfriend Kim, who he continues flirting with despite being roughly twice her age. His mother, who died before he left for the Uncharted Territories. The opportunity to see his parents young, healthy, and in a loving relationship – it’s the sort of thing everyone has to reexamine with adult’s eyes when they get the chance. The young John Crichton; hotheaded, impulsive, stubborn. We can see the untempered characteristics that make him the astronaut we know and love almost twenty years later. And Jack Crichton. Balancing career and family, and watching both suffer. His relationship with John is complicated from the very beginning, and we see those roots here.

It’s a pity we don’t see a young DK running around.

Young John mistaking Chiana for Karen Shaw is… oh, man. Finally, Chi gets to do the dirty deed with a John Crichton. Not necessarily the one she was hoping for, but he’s young and distractible. Amusing that he doesn’t make any comment about her coloration. And I suppose that, being his first time, he wouldn’t notice any unusual alien bits and pieces.

Noranti’s method of reviving young John after accidentally killing him. Scene raised, point made, throwing up now, moving on.

That poor Sheriff! One deleted scene shows that he only investigated that house because the nosy neighbor called him in, and what does he get for it? Hallucinogenic dust in the face, dumped on a curb with an empty bottle of whisky, punched in the face, narcotongued, and briefly investigated by Mulder and Scully.

Rygel’s jack’o’lantern is the best such thing I’ve ever seen. Seriously. What’s scarier than Scorpius in pumpkin? Nothing, that’s what.

Then, finally, temporal snarl unsnarled, our heroes fly back to Moya. She’s taken up orbit over Earth, and has visitors aboard. Three suits and Jack Crichton. John immediately pulls his gun, having been fooled no less than three times previously. His first question, the one that has been previously used to verify his identity, naturally makes absolutely no sense without context.

…I do have to ask, how did Moya get down that wormhole? She’s positively phobic about them now.

I love how Crichton lets Aeryn and D’Argo drive on the way back. Sure, he has more experience navigating wormholes, but the odds that he might drive them into another time paradox are a bit too high for his comfort.


Okay, so when we last left Crichton, he took a wrong turn out of the wormhole and rather than winding up back at the time and place he left, he found himself instead above Earth, with no way to contact anyone, and no obvious way to go anywhere other than float just out of reach of the place he’s been working so hard to get to all this time. In other words, totally screwed.

Fortunately for him, his com suddenly springs back to life, and he’s able to communicate with D’Argo and the others, who follow his com’s signal through a new wormhole and make it to the same place and time he wound up in order to save him.

Wait, what?

Okay, let’s ignore the fact that he’s not remotely in range where that com should work properly, we find out later that he’s not even in the same place in time as the others at that point. So, uh… what? Even if we were to handwave it and say that somehow the magical properties of the wormhole now also have the ability to fling messages between ridiculous distances and totally different places in the timeline (which, considering we learned last week don’t connect two specific points in time, space, or reality, but can lead to pretty much anywhere, and so this either doesn’t make sense by the rules they only just added, or it’s yet another amazing stroke of luck for our plot-armored heroes), the wormhole isn’t open on either side when communications suddenly work again.

And… after spending three seasons exploring the difficulty of understanding and navigating wormholes, and right after a full episode devoted to telling us exactly why it’s such a dangerous thing to do… now apparently anyone can do it and reach where they’re trying to go by locking onto a voice signal in a communications link that shouldn’t even be working.

So, uh, what?

You know what? Screw it. I don’t even care anymore. Wormholes can do whatever they want, fine, it’s cool.

Because Crichton showed up prior to the point he left the timeline, there are a few tiny differences that, if left unchecked, will ripple out and cause much bigger ones. I’m… still not entirely certain how or why that works, since there’s no logical reason why Crichton and crew showing up in space above Earth and then flying down to the surface while cloaked should have triggered any kind of decision making before they even interact with anybody. I know, I know, Einstein said so, we’ve been told it works that way so just go with it, but it would have been far more satisfying to see an actual contextual reason why Crichton showing up where and when he did caused those changes to start taking place. Here it… just happens, and we just have to go with being told that this is just what you get when you mess with wormholes.

So, in a somewhat Back to the Future style plot, they have to do what they can to set events back on course or risk the future as they know it being totally altered. On a side note, I understand Crichton reaching the conclusion he does with what would happen to the others should events not be fixed, but he’s making a rather large assumption that their situations wouldn’t be altered also. If showing up too early caused his father to make a different decision on a whim, who’s to say that, as things ripple outwards, that the other characters wouldn’t go through similar things? After all, they came through the wormhole the same exact way he did, so why does the time anomaly focus on Crichton alone, and not also have repercussions on them as well?

Okay, so, problems with the setup aside, the episode is incredibly entertaining for exactly the reasons you’d think it is. Crichton has to deal with the awkward situations of interacting with people from his past who feel he looks incredibly familiar but can’t work out why (we get into serious creepy territory when he starts interacting with Kim, since, as Weston mentioned, he’s twice her age at this point and yet still can barely hide his feelings while talking to her). His scene where he attempts to talk to his mother (who died four years before the Farscape project commenced) to warn her about Jack going up in the shuttle is fantastic. You can see in his face, in his body language, hear in the shaky way he talks to her that he desperately wants to tell her who he really is, and to spend time with her. But, out of context to her, it adds to the ethereal nature of the “character” he’s trying to play. He totally comes off as a spaced out spiritualist who has been seeing visions (or alternatively, is on drugs and thinks he is, we are in the 80’s, after all, but its a good thing his mother believes in those sorts of things), and his emotional state only helps to sell it. Both scenes where he’s talking with his mother are just painful to watch. I teared up a little when he tries to warn her about the illness she’ll eventually die to, only to be seconds too late to be within earshot.

On the flip side, of course, there’s… everyone else. For the Moya crew, this is one big fish out of water storyline, as they all struggle to deal with a language they all barely know to speak, bodies that only barely squeak by as not drawing too much attention by the fact that it’s the day before Halloween, and dealing with a nosy neighbor and a cop who won’t leave them alone. There are far too many hilarious moments to name them all without stretching this on for a while, but I loved Aeryn trying get the others to watch and understand Sesame Street (“Q, R, S… S! This girl is slow!”), as well as Nana Peepers using her drugs to get the cop to see D’Argo take off his “mask”.

Rygel on sugar is one of the greatest things to ever grace the screen. Welcome to the cult, my diminutive Hynerian friend. Next, we get you on caffeine! And then both! That’s when things really get fun.

I totally didn’t make the connection between Chiana as Karen Shaw and Maldis’ mention of John losing his virginity to a girl of the same name back in Season One until Weston mentioned it, and… wow. I love it. That’s both brilliant and… confusing, because it seems to run counter to what we’ve otherwise heard about time travel in the Farscape universe. It fits the Douglas Adams time travel theory more than anything (which says that if you go to the past and wind up changing something, it was supposed to happen that way in the first place and therefore you didn’t actually change anything). Of course, there could be an actual Karen Shaw in existence elsewhere that Crichton was supposed to meet up and lose his virginity to in the back of a four-wheel, but… I kind of like the idea that it was Chiana all along, meaning that they were in some form supposed to make that jump backwards in time after all. It muddies things up a bit, but I think it’s fantastic.

Meanwhile, back on Moya… we finally learn who it was that Scorpius had as a spy all this time when Grayza and Braca catch Moya and board her. It turns out that it was Braca all along (who must have some way of at least partially resisting Grayza’s hypno-boob-sweat stuff for that to work), which on the one hand, does make me happy (I love Braca, and his devotion to Scorpius is both adorable and awesome and I can only imagine the fanfics that spawned from their embrace this episode), but at the same time, I was kind of holding out hope we would have seen Strappa showing up again as the spy. Oh well, not a big deal in the long run. Yay, Braca’s still a good gu- er, well, a good bad gu… Okay, um… he’s on Scorpius’ side, and Scorpius, for what it’s worth, is mostly on our protagonist’s side. So he’s, uh, a good-ish bad guy that’s a helpful force to the good-ish bad guy who is currently a helpful force to our protagonists. Who could conceivably be called bad-ish good guys.

Dealing in moral grays gets confuzzling sometimes.


There needs to be some sort of special award to give Ben Browder for his acting in this episode. Not only is it heartbreaking to see his face when talking to his mother, his younger self, or his ex-girlfriend, but that final scene when they rejoin Moya over present-day Earth, and the Maintenance Bay Doors open and Jack Crichton and some Secret Service type people are waiting for him? Terror. Uncertainty. Hope. Disbelief. Possibly a little bit of nausea. All of these play over his face in the half second it takes to register, and it’s quite possibly the most emotional scene this season, if not the entire series.

What’s more, we’re reminded yet again how much Crichton is the Audience Proxy. We not only see the story from (mostly) his perspective, but we’re feeling all of those things at the same time. We’ve wanted Crichton to come home for three and a half years now, and now that we’re faced with this possibly very real prospect… we’re terrified. What does this mean? Is this the real life, or is this just fantasy? (We’ve been caught in a landslide and have no esca- ow ow ow Tessa stop) And what’s more – and something we’ll be exploring shortly – now that Crichton knows exactly what is out there in the rest of the galaxy, does he still want to go home? This is a question he’s been struggling with for a while now, and as I mentioned last week, he’s been trying really hard to convince himself that it’s still his goal. He wants to go home. He wants to leave this all behind him.

Now he’s home. And not only is he faced with the one person he’s been thinking about for the past three years, but a whole American delegation is standing in Moya’s Maintenance Bay. Both his homes, his old and his new, have been tangled together, and everything’s starting to get a bit fuzzy.

More than any of this, however, is what Jack must be feeling. Three and a half years ago, he watched his son disappear. Likely everyone thought he was dead, caught up in an explosion. Now, an alien spaceship appears in the skies above Earth, and what goes through his head? Especially when they A: seem to speak – or at least understand – English, B: know who his son is, and C: by the way his son is flying into the hangar now. The son he struggled to connect with all his life. The son who eventually reconciled his feelings and decided to follow in his father’s footsteps. The son who for all intents and purposes was dead because of it.

The son who is wearing alien clothing, leaps backwards upon seeing him, draws an alien weapon and points it directly at his face. The son whose face is wild, afraid, and now babbling nigh-incoherently. The son he lost who might not be exactly his son anymore.

We know Crichton’s gone slightly native, but we’ve only seen it from the perspective of him trying to fit in with these strange people and their strange worlds, while still identifying very strongly with his humanity. Everything he’s said and done up until now has been very human in comparison to everything else. But now, we see it from the other side. We see how much he’s changed, how – for lack of a better term – alien he has become.

It’s a powerful scene, and I love these people for being able to portray it on the strength of their acting alone, their body language and facial expressions and precious little dialogue.

Special Wormhole Section:
I have a feeling that Tessa and I are going to be debating the wormhole thing for the rest of the season. Or at least until it… devolves into this. Perhaps I’ve been watching too much Deep Space Nine or Voyager lately, because the concept of being able to communicate through the wormholes doesn’t seem that strange or inaccurate. Especially since there’s the throwaway line from D’Argo about how the wormhole’s been opening and closing rapidly since Crichton went through it.

Consider everything we’ve learned about wormholes so far, mechanically. Crichton himself postulated that the wormholes are always there, they just phase out of sight by rotating 90 degrees from our plane of reality. Which means that they’re, in effect, always open, and a comm signal might still be able to get through when physical matter cannot.

We also know that broadcasts have been going through wormholes practically forever – remember the episode of The Three Stooges that Crichton pulled off the Pathfinder crystal – so it’s not even a last-minute asspull, it’s something they’ve layered into the wormhole mythology. We also know that Moya’s comms are not radio-based, because Crichton asks D’Argo to switch to radio to see what’s going on groundside. If they use some sort of unspecified subspace hetch drive frellnik thing, it could possibly be transmitted through wormholes even better, who knows? But it’s not out of nowhere.

Additionally, it’s not that great of a leap from “Wormholes are all connected, you must navigate carefully” to “Lock onto my signal and use it as a beacon to get through to where I am now”. It’s also something that’s been layered into the mythology for a while; though Moya’s random jumps in Starburst tend to be erratic at best, she can also home onto another Leviathan and travel through the dimensions much more accurately. After all, what is Starburst if not a personal pseudo-wormhole?

In any case, rebuttal, and why I think that the wormhole mythology has actually been relatively consistent with itself and not a series of Eleventh Hour Upgrades.


No, Kevin, wormhole mythology has not been consistent with itself.

I’ll grant you the com signal thing, though. A wormhole is a tunnel between locations, so light years can suddenly be as close as a mile when going through wormholes, so it makes complete sense that radio communications are still accessible.


Initially, wormholes were like the internet in that they were a series of tubes, all interlinked, all constant, and all you had to do was map out the routes and find the exit you wanted to take. This changed in the last episode where they suddenly became wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey things that one could manipulate with will alone. Instead of having to find the path to the exit point you wanted, somehow the grey matter of a lone human brain is able to manipulate the fabric of this complex transdimensional interstate so all you really have to do to get where you’re going is to think about it really really hard. This is not consistent. And what happens if multiple people are travelling together? We see it happen here where everybody aboard Lo’La enters the wormhole, and instead of following their subconscious wills to some random location, they just casually follow a signal and come up alongside John. Were they all thinking of the same place? Even though they’d never seen that specific place so as to think about it? Were they all just thinking of John on the way there and Moya on the way back? How come nobody accidentally screwed the pooch by conjuring up a reminiscence of the Stay Puffed Marshmallow Man?

This is not consistent, Kevin. If you have a set fixture of entry and exit points, thinking about things shouldn’t change them, let alone suddenly throw a kink into the timestream that leaves John in the shoes of Marty McFly. Remember the plot thread about people liquefying? Don’t bring up the cheat of calling them “unstable wormholes”, because it’s a fixed network, right? A fixed network where everything is interlinked can’t be both unstable and stable. Maybe the entry points can be, but how does that liquefy people. My point is, that was a cheap plot conceit concocted for no reason than slowing down Scorpius’ research. This entire time travel scenario is another, where the uneven previous episode set up brand new rules just so this episode could happen. There’s no other reason for any of it. Those rules are unnecessary. That episode was unnecessary. This episode is unnecessary. The show is starting to feed in on itself in one big stream of “let’s just do stuff for the hell of it”.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a blast of an episode. There’s parts that don’t make a lick of sense (How exactly did John change things in the first place? Are you kidding me with the non-corporeal state bit?) but it gets by with the thrill of John being back home, just not quite in the way he imagined, and the others doing exactly what you’d expect them to when you tell them to lie low. I love Aeryn “going native” in the most adorably awkward ways possible. I love the clever way they threw a bone to John/Chiana shippers. I love Noranti instantly making her crazy antics at home. I love D’Argo so constantly flustered that he just stops trying after a while. I love Rygel with the Tessa jitters. I love the many birds that are flipped. I love the nosy neighbor. I love the cop who’s so crazed by the end that not even Mulder and Scully will give him the time of day.

There’s so much great stuff in there and you can tell everyone is having a blast yet again, but was this the best way to get there? Though it’s not a necessary story before bringing John to Earth, I’ll concede and allow it out of pure fun, but did the means through which we got him into his planet’s past really need to be so heavily convoluted that the entire episode prior had to be concocted just to lay the tracks that carry him there? No. Not at all. John figures out the way home, something happens in the wormhole en route, he gets there but at the wrong time. Boom. A simple cold opening. Doesn’t need Einstein. Doesn’t need the iceberg. Doesn’t need the confessionals by people from his life. Doesn’t need the fun but brain hurting scene of swapped roles on Moya. Doesn’t need an entire 45 minutes of screen time to set the idea up. Get him there, have your Back to the Future shenanigans, then get him to the present. As it is, I’m agitated because we have one unnecessary episode piled on top of another unnecessary episode, and I would be so much more forgiving had they just picked one instead of stringing them back to back like this.

Gah, and other blurts of frustration.

If we really needed to pad out the season block by an episode, why not take the Grayza subplot and make that an entire story? Seriously, it’s perfect. Grayza catches up with the ship (Tormented Space, feh), invades, finds it seemingly empty, Scorpius and Braca cross paths and reveal they’re still an item, Grayza leaves, but not before leaving a little present behind in the form of a “What’s wrong with your faaaaaace!” monstrosity. I’m not sure how you could pad it out, but I have far more interest in seeing more of this angle than I did a lecture on mechanics that were being shoe-horned into the franchise at the last minute.

But then we get to the ending, the oh so magnificent ending that spins the expected on its head in classic Farscape style. Where John finally comes face to face with his smiling father, only to remember all the times this has happened in the past. It’s been a simulation. It’s been a dream. It’s been an alien in disguise. The real Jack is finally standing up, but Crichton’s been burned so many times that he can’t accept it on hope alone.

I can’t wait for next week’s episode. Until then, goodbye, Cookie Monster.

Episode [4.11] – Unrealized Reality || Episode [4.13] – Terra Firma

5 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. Tessa

     /  January 20, 2012

    I had admittedly forgotten about the “always open” thing. And I don’t really have a problem with the idea of transmissions going through wormholes in and of itself, but… this example is either contradicting what we just heard last episode, or, again, a fantastic stroke of luck.

    Pretty much the entire point of last episode was to tell us that wormholes AREN’T just portals between two fixed points in space. Not only that, but they aren’t even between fixed points in time, or even reality. And yet, this episode treats it very much like the wormhole just zips between those two points back and forth, with the coms shooting messages between the places, and later the crew coming through to that exact location without any trouble.

    Incidentally, had last episode not happened, this mess of an opening wouldn’t be nearly this convoluted. I can buy the communications zipping through a tube through space and time that leads to one specified place. It’s significantly harder for me to swallow that same communication zipping though a tube that branches out into endless side roads of space, time, and reality that isn’t a straight shot to the other side, and winding up exactly where it’s convenient for it to wind up in the plot every single time.

    The “locking onto a signal and following it no problem” thing still seems a little bit of a stretch even before last episode (when we just thought wormholes were branching paths within space), but feasible enough to swallow that it could be done. Now, though? With the added mess of it including time and alternate universes, and with it being repeatedly stated last episode how easy it is to accidentally veer off course (hence why Crichton’s even above 1980’s Earth in the first place), it doesn’t seem like it should be that easy to ignore all the dangers and come out fine. Coordinates, or willpower, or whatever it actually is that dictates where that wormhole exits, when the odds get blown that ridiculously out of proportion with where it was before, wormhole travel working at all for anyone without a head stuffed full of Ancient knowledge starts looking questionable.

    Obviously they do it, and have been doing it, but it starts becoming a case very similar to the Tormented Space thing, where we’re just told it’s more dangerous than we thought but don’t see the consequences of said danger because it’s not shown to us, just told.

    On top of that, the one sliver of “showing” that we get seems to be very selective in the way it applies those rules. I said it in my post, but if someone arriving before they left causes minor changes in the timeline to start expanding out from sometime in their own history, why is it only Crichton that has that happen, when the others came through the exact same way he did (their histories changing because Crichton isn’t there later on doesn’t count, because that’s still just the consequences of his history changing and isn’t actually a change in their past at that point)? Granted, we haven’t seen whether or not anything is actually different upon their return, so maybe something did radically alter with all five of them because they were so focused on Crichton’s problems that they forgot all about the other possibilities, but that’s an awful lot to suddenly turn on its head at this point, and while I’d be interested to see that played out, I’m not sure that’s what they have in mind for the rest of this. I’ll recant my statement if it turns out they do make a thing out of that, but I’m not totally convinced that they won’t just ignore it and move on at this point.

  2. Schmacky

     /  January 20, 2012

    I’m surprised no one makes mention of it appearing that Aeryn can either see the wormhole before it opens (like another species later on) or “feels” it. I think its this episode where right before it opens she says “wait for it” and then later “here it comes”

    • This is that episode, yeah. I caught it when she said “wait for it”, but didn’t think much of it beyond her responding to some impatience from the others, and now I see she did say “here it comes” later in the episode. I can’t remember how or if that plays into later episodes, so thanks for pointing it out, Schmacky, so we can keep an eye on that angle as it develops. 🙂

  3. EdWoody

     /  October 23, 2012

    You mention the possibility that the Chiana-Karen Shaw situation is a predestination paradox – that they were always meant to travel back in time and do this – so why do you discount the exact same possibility that the Jack-Challenger situation is the same predestination paradox?

    It seems to me that Jack captaining the Challenger is the “original” timeline, and that the Moyans didn’t change anything just by being there at the top of the ep. They thought they had, but that’s just because John didn’t recognise the original course of events as they were supposed to have been. He remembered the new course of events – the one where Jack didn’t captain the Challenger – because that’s the way he makes things happen now. He only knows to set a fire in the house because he remembers it already having happened to his younger self. There were no ripples at first, but in trying to fix the ripples they thought there were, they created the ripples they remembered as having already happened. Predestination paradox. The Moyans were always in Crichton’s past, and they always had been.

    I also think you’re wrong about saying that anyone claimed John could manipulate wormholes by the power of thought. Einstein never said that – he said that John could catalogue and recognize the currents and destinations that were already there in the system, and aim himself towards or away from them, but not that he caused them to exist in the first place.

    He had to concentrate on the concept of “home” and feel his way to a previous time and location to find his way back through the wormhole to Moya without Einstein’s help. Unfortunately he got mixed up and found himself back at the other “home” – Earth. Subconscious regrets about missing his mother or arguing with his father may have led him to “choose” the wrong time as well as the wrong destination. It’s all about navigating, and he gets better and better at it all the time, even if it’s mostly done subconsciously.


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