Deconstructing Moya

A Farscape Re-watch Project

Episode [4.15] – “Mental As Anything”

Today, on Farscape

“He’s trapped in a coma with his own nightmares. Killing him would have been merciful. I’m not that enlightened.”

In order to find out more about the Mantis Lady that accompanied them to Earth, Scorpius schedules a Boys’ Night Out. This goes over about as well as expected.


This is the episode that reminds us of D’Argo’s hyperrage. He’s had his grumpy moments in the last two seasons, but he’s mostly been collected, mellow, even goofy at times, and it’s been a long time since we’ve seen him full-on Hulk out his anger, tearing a room up, roaring out gibberish curses and spittle, being filmed in blurry motion, and attacking anything in sight, even those he’s closest to. I’m trying to remember when we saw it last, because it’s been so long that it comes as a complete surprise here. This is the man who’s recently been voted captain of the ship, and the moment he sees the man he believes killed his wife, he’s out of his seat and ready to kill. It’s a little random to have Macton Tal suddenly show up in Tormented Space (*scream of horses*), as one would expect D’Argo to actively hunt the man down at some point, but the beginning of the season took a stray path like that off the table rather quick, so this is the best way the could come up with to get the two adversaries together. It’s a minor quibble. Creative license. I’ll give it to them.

It’s so perfectly executed with the way they remind us viewers of the rage and violence D’Argo has the potential to erupt into, then gives us a spin on his long standing origin which paints him as his wife’s killer, unknowingly abusing her and ultimately taking her life in a series of blackout rage fits brought on by her family’s hate of her choice of partner. It’s one thing for a man to confront the mortal foe he’s spent years chasing, it’s another for the mortal foe to pull the rug out from everyone and turn the savior into the guilty, the protector into the monster. They play Macton Tal with just the right level of understatement so that he could be telling the truth. And given what we see and remember of D’Argo, it’s not something that’s beyond him. If there’s any small weakness there, it’s that they spend so much time convincing D’Argo he wasn’t as gentle with Lo’La as he remembered, only to reveal, nope, it’s all a lie and he wasn’t guilty of anything. I’m not saying I want her to actually have been killed by his hand, but some lingering shame of genuine violence could fuel his new goal of complete self-control far more vividly than an illusion of it. That said, domestic abuse, even (arguably) unintentional, is a bitter thing to ask an audience to accept and empathize with, so I guess I can see why they didn’t want to go that far. As it is, it’s still a strong story that comes out of nowhere and reignites the depths I was starting to forget were buried within the lovable Luxan lug.

Much of this episode comes out of nowhere. The entire trigger is the crew’s attempt to track down info on the creature that attacked Crichton and his family on Earth. Which brings us to Katoya, the one-eyed pain Jedi who, instead of bartering his info for money or supplies, forces the men of the crew (no ladies allowed in the pain classes? Is it too easy for them, being the tougher sex and all? You heard me, buster!) to partake in Lament Configuration Mortal Kombat where they enter a virtual reality plane of degraded arenas, bottomless pits, or smoky shadows and try to focus their own pain and increase their opponents torment through a flaming polygonal thingie that zips back and forth between them. Yeah, it sounds silly, but it works, especially when Rygel kicks a Charrid’s ass. The point of the game, and other challenges in Katoya’s dojo, is to learn control, to not give into pain, because pain likely stands alongside fear as a mindkiller. In order to think and focus through pain, you have to be willing to experience it. As Crichton learns when he’s locked in an oven box and eventually forced to dig into searing grates and smoldering coals with his bare hands to get the key to his freedom.

And the other big twist is how Scorpius is involved. It’s gradually revealed that he and Katoyan are old acquaintances, and that Scorpius brought the crew here so Crichton could learn to withstand Scarran heat mind rays, just as he himself once did. Scorpius has been the epitome of self control so far in the series, and now we meet the man who gave him that power, and who wants to further lessons so Scorpius wouldn’t even need a coolant suit in order to function. It’s a shame, then, that John Brumpton’s performance as Katoya is really quite flat. They try to spice it up with him doing weird head things to compensate for the single eye, but he comes off too dry and stoned to be all that memorable. And how, when he’s a master Jedi who can fling people to their asses without even touching them, is Macton Tal able to casually sneak up and kill him in the VR chair?

This is a damn good episode. I had a few nitpicks here and there, but frell ’em. The setting is strange and interesting, there’s surprising revelations about our main cast as they’re put through a series of genuinely challenging tests, and D’Argo continues to show why he’s the man.


This really is a difficult episode to write about, and I can’t quite put my finger on why that is. Maybe it’s how short it feels – compared to “Terra Firma”, it seems brief. We spend most of the last fifteen minutes in D’Argo’s head, with brief intermissions to see how Crichton’s doing in The Box. Everything takes place on five sets: Katoya’s icosohedron (big D20) chamber, the mess hall, Lo’Laan’s house, and two Moya locations.

Those two scenes on Moya are pretty powerful. Aeryn and John cuddling in Pilot’s Den, conspiring with the guy who controls the comms to get together behind Scorpius’ back. When was the last time we saw them happy together? “Daedalus Demands“? Any bets on how long this reunion will last? The other Moya scene, Macton chaining D’Argo; man, that’s rough. All through the first three seasons, D’Argo emphasized that he would not be imprisoned again, and now Macton has chained him inside his own mind. It shows how much he’s changed over the series that he no longer sees himself as a former prisoner.

D’Argo married too young. This is a danger with any couple, but Luxans and hyperrage? Ooof. I want to see how these two met, and I really want to see an unrealized reality in which they meet twenty years later instead. Calm D’Argo, mature Lo’Laan, absent Macton. Maybe it would have worked out. Or maybe they would have been tossed into a blender and Macton would have wound up with D’Argo’s face.

As long as I’m running down scenes by location: Lo’Laan’s house. Goddamn, but that was brutal. Killing someone reflexively in self defense is unfortunate, but understandable. Beating the warm corpse of your own sister to an unrecognizable mess? That’s approaching Crichton levels of madness-inducing action.

Crichton. Yeah, I’ll get to him in a minute.

First, Katoya. Dang. Why do Scorpius’ major affiliations only show up towards the end of a season? Scorpius himself in season one, Natira in season two, his childhood in (the middle of) season three, and now this guy in season four. His iron self-control, revealed last episode to not be his strongest trait, came not only from his upbringing on the Dreadnaught but also from this guy. Katoya’s line that Scorpius could live without the coolant suit, given sufficient training? Terrifying. A stronger Scorpius is exactly what the universe doesn’t need. …or, considering his goals and motivations…? No. That’s too much end justifying the means.

The icosahedron could have been Scorpius’ inspiration for the Aurora chair. I wonder if Katoya needs the device, or if he just puts people into it so they can play against each other. He certainly observes D’Argo in the light and fog chamber without difficulty.

Now, Katoya and Crichton. Dropping our boy into a hot box until he pushes through the pain to achieve his goal? Cruel. Perhaps necessarily so, but it’s a hell of a thing to do to someone. The lesson learned is, perhaps, nothing new to Crichton. It does revive a bit of his season two mindset, remind us that he’s got a propensity for stupid ideas and the willpower to see them through. He does, however, gain a few points of heat acclimation. Totally useful if/when the Scarrans show up again.

Rygel on the Charrid: Owned. But it knocks Rygel out for the rest of the episode. Unfortunate. I can just see him hovering over the oubliette with a key asking what Crichton will pay for it.

D’Argo said at the beginning of season four (in a deleted scene, it still counts) that he’d chosen a more subtle revenge against Macton Tal, that he’d just sent a message indicating that he knew where Macton was and that he was coming. This episode is Macton’s retort. Maybe the Peacekeeper took off for the most remote location he could think of, or maybe he was looking for D’Argo.

Scorpy’s three favors: You know that he was planning to bring Crichton here for a long while, and the green meanie was just a good excuse. Hell, I’ll be he knows four other people that could identify the Skreeth, and half of them are on that dead Leviathan the ladies took off to.

Speaking of whom: ladies? Don’t break up the team. Bad things happen when people split up.

The video quality drops significantly during the Macton/D’Argo confrontation. I thought it might be intentional, dropping back to the season one style of shooting, until I saw a frame that still had the timing across the bottom. That’s just ridiculously poor editing.

Close enough.

In conclusion, I don’t know how Macton kills Katoya either. This is why you always work with a spotter; so that no one sneaks up behind you while you’re diving into someone else’s brain.


Oh, D’Argo. It’s been too long since you were the center of attention in an episode, and boy, did this episode remind me why I love it when the narrative decides to turn towards you for a character study.

I agree with the others that it’s really tricky to get thoughts in order on this one, because so much is going on. First off, I kind of wish that deleted scene Weston mentioned hadn’t been deleted, because that covers the one problem I had with this episode. Without that bit of information, it seems fairly random that Macton would be in Tormented Space, this ~horrifying~ place that nobody ever goes to until our heroes run there and then everyone else suddenly shows up there too. But, with the added context that D’Argo let Macton know that he knew where he was? It makes a bit more sense that Macton would get scared and go running for a place he wouldn’t be expecting to be found, and even more sense that he would be seeking out training from Takuma Sakazaki1 Fish-head Obi-Wan Kenobi Katoya in preparation for the eventuality that D’Argo did find him. It’s still a pretty big coincidence that the two wind up in the exact same class, but it’s an easier one to swallow in context.

I have no idea why Katoya’s dojo is a boys-only club. I can only assume that Katoya himself is kind of sexist that way (which, “no women allowed” martial arts masters aren’t exactly unheard of even now, in pop culture or in real life), since it’s never commented on one way or another.

Anthony Simcoe does some fantastic acting, but that’s nothing new. Still, with the revisiting of the hyper-rage concept and D’Argo’s battle of will to control it, there’s some really great moments in there. Ben Browder has some great ones also in the heat cage (which, ow, by the way), but D’Argo’s the character really on display here.

I love the ambiguity at play in this episode regarding Macton and D’Argo’s past. We really don’t know for the majority of the episode what really did happen. We took D’Argo’s version of events that we were told about all the way back in season one as the truth for so long, that suddenly having it play out as a little more complicated than we thought at first is really interesting. In the end, it’s a mixed bag. D’Argo didn’t kill his wife, intentionally or otherwise, but we learn that he did during hyper-rage blackouts, hit her, presumably on more than one occasion, a fact which she kept hidden from him. While Macton is still a racist bastard, his position as a concerned brother suddenly gains some legitimacy after that reveal, and the lines become sufficiently blurred to the point of not being able to know for certain what happened anymore. I really like that Macton, who had been villified for basically the entire series, becomes a bit more grey now that we’ve actually met him in person. He seems like a total arrogant monster on first glance, but under the surface, he’s a scared, guilt-ridden man who has to live with the knowledge that he not only killed his sister, but brutally beat her corpse. I kind of wonder if his sneering insistence that D’Argo is the guilty party, the monster who can’t control his violent tendencies, is just as much him trying to convince himself that his lies are the truth to cover his own guilt as they are to torment D’Argo. I almost feel bad for him in his ultimate fate, living out the horror of his crime repeatedly, the look of absolute pain on his face as he beats an imaginary Lo’Laan. It’s a fate he’s fully deserving of, especially considering the fact that he just attempted to inflict the same fate on D’Argo himself, but it’s not as cut and dried as simply “he’s a Peacekeeper, ergo, he’s evil”. You can see the steps that led to what ultimately transpired.

I do kind of love that D’Argo effectively has a shoulder angel and devil in the forms of Katoya and Rygel throughout the episode. Katoya insists that D’Argo can control his anger and hatred of Macton, while Rygel repeatedly tells D’Argo to just kill the man and be done with it. Crichton, somewhat amusingly, stays incredibly neutral in the whole thing, being a pillar of support for D’Argo as always, but not really having any input on whether Macton should live or die.

The guys already went over the Scorpius angle pretty well, but just as a sidenote, a more detailed backstory of Scorpius leading up to his first appearance in Season 1 would be a really awesome spin-off series, in really any medium. I’d love to read or watch his whole story, which just gets more and more interesting the more we learn of his past, what he’s been through, and who he’s known.

All in all, I loved this episode. It’s a really great means to tie up what’s been something of a loose end in the series in regards to D’Argo’s overall story.

  1. Noel referenced Mortal Kombat, I had to respond in kind with my own reference to my favored fighting game series. And really, I was hearing “Ko-ou ken!” in my head the entire time the glowy orange pain ball was being passed around. But then, I’m a shameless fangirl.


You know what’s interesting about this episode? Not just fascinating, or cool, or thought-provoking. No, what’s absolutely the very most interesting part of this episode is this: What is Scorpius planning?

No, seriously. What is Scorpius planning? We have no idea. It’s been a mystery ever since his original plan went pear-shaped. He disappeared, seemingly dead, his drive and passion completely gone, then returns – on Moya, no less! – and has a new fire, a new reason to continue existing. He claims that Crichton is part of this, and… that’s it.

Crichton doesn’t trust him. Ever. He plays along, sure, but he is always cautious when Scorpius is involved. The others have varying degrees of a similar attitude, save for Aeryn (who up until recently was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt) and Sikozu (who we’re all pretty sure is frelling him blind at this point).

So what do we know? We know he’s planning something about Crichton. We know Sikozu factors in somehow. We know, thanks to this week’s episode, that it involves Anti-Scarran Training, with assurances that he’ll need to use it at some point.

That’s what I love about this storyarc. Not only is Crichton in the dark here, but so are we. We’re left with rampant speculation and paranoia, which Scorpius is a master at manipulating. It keeps things tense, because we don’t know what he’s going to do.

All we know is that he’ll look damn good doing it.


  • Maybe Macton snuck up on his blind side?
  • How interesting would it have been if D’Argo had actually been the murderer? I know it goes against everything we believe about his character, but it might have brought up some great moral dynamics. For example, is hyperrage truly an excuse? Would he be completely culpable if he can’t remember it? What else might he have done against his own will, a slave to his own physiology?
  • Of course, that could also have very easily turned into a massive angst fest. Maybe we’re better off not having gone that path.
  • Did anyone else get Maldis vibes off the mental training? Or was that just me?
  • I want to turn one of the rooms in my future house into a psychedelic starry-sky trippy light room.

Episode [4.14] – Twice Shy || Episode [4.16] – Bringing Home The Beacon

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