Deconstructing Moya

A Farscape Re-watch Project

Episode [4.17] – “A Constellation Of Doubt”

Today, on Farscape

“Sikozu Shanu?”
“A reasonable interpretation of the word ‘no’.”
“Katratzi. It’s the name of a place, the place where they took Aeryn.”
“As stupid as you must think them, the Scarrans have managed to build one of the most extensive empires in the galaxy in part, and I shall repeat this because it does not seem to sink in, by not advertising the location of their secret bases.”

In which the crew tries in vain to locate Aeryn Sun, and Crichton watches TV.


Okay, let’s get this part out of the way: There are some god awful attempts at American accents in this episode.

This is an interesting episode to try to talk about, especially on the heels of the last one. Where last episode was packed with so many substantial plot developments from beginning to end, in this one effectively nothing happens until it’s minutes away from being over. Not only that, but it’s an episode where the focus isn’t really even on the main characters themselves, but rather on people we’ve never met and will likely never see again talking about those characters. It’s a character driven episode where the characters aren’t doing the driving. It’s just people talking about the characters and having discussions about who they are and what they’ve done. And who wants to waste time with something like that, right?

…oh wait, I just got it.

Joking aside, it’s an incredibly interesting view to take. The meat of this episode is, plot-wise, the unimportant bit, basically a television special where a bunch of talking heads give their spins and opinions on the Moya crew, their actions, their motivations, and what the whole thing means for Earth. It’s played up as rather unflattering at first (and overall, it does seem to have a more negative spin on it than a good one), and John certainly comes to his own conclusions about it fairly quickly, but actually watching it, it’s a fairly mixed bag, and I really like that about it. There are of course, negative reactions to the crew’s arrival, but there are also some very positive ones, occasionally from the same people. I really already touched on the idea of Earth’s reception to them a few episodes back, and it still applies here. It’s not an enlightened welcome of the advanced alien people, it’s not the cynical xenophobic imprisonment and experimentation angle, it’s just… people, reacting in all the various ways that people might react. The crew (including and especially Crichton) isn’t particularly impressed with it, and dismisses it and humanity as just ignorant idiots, but I don’t think that actually does the range of personalities and opinions in the show justice.

It’s also interesting to get insights to the characters we’ve been following for so long through the lens of total strangers, ones who have no context for who these people actually are. They aren’t all particularly well founded, but some of them are very neat little observations of the characters (and, usually them in relation to us as a species). While that’s interesting in its own right, there’s barely anything else of any relevance to the plot going on in this episode. Even the character insights we get through the show aren’t really anything we didn’t already know about the characters, and after all the momentum that built up last episode, to suddenly screech to a halt and basically watch a news special is a bit of an off-putting shifting of gears.

As far as that goes, Crichton has Sikozu and Pilot looking everywhere they can for a base called Katratzi, which Sikozu mentioned hearing the Scarrans refer to, but neither seems to have any luck finding out anything about it. Chricton swears up and down he’s heard of it before now, and, whether due to lack of sleep or his brain starting to bend under the pressure of the situation again, begins hearing Aeryn telling him about the base in the tape he’s watching. After agonizing over it for a while and finally pulling a gun on Sikozu, accusing her of lying to him, it suddenly hits him that the place where he heard the name of the base before was in one of the alternate realities. He has Pilot turn back around and head for the wormhole they used to get to Earth, and then goes off to sell his soul to the devil to get Aeryn back. He finally cuts the deal with Scorpius: if he helps John save Aeryn, he’ll hand over the secrets of wormhole technology.

All in all, I have a hard time deciding whether or not I like this episode. It’s one that’s definitely worth existing, and I guess my biggest complaint just comes down to the placement of it. The majority of this episode would have fit in far better immediately following the crew leaving Earth. There, it would have been a final bit of reflection on the impact the crew had by showing up on Earth, and could have stood on its own a little better. Following last episode, though, it almost feels like an obstacle in the way of building up to the climax for the season.


One of the minor underlying themes of this series is what Earth would think of the new Crichton and his friends. Crichton’s own fears were explored in the first season, he was debating whether or not he’d ever make it home anyway in Season Two, he was preparing Aeryn to come back with him in Season Three…

I’ve talked before about how Crichton’s grown past Earth, how he no longer fits in groundside. Yes, he missed his home, his family, his friends. Yes, he always wants to go back. But he discovered back then that he no longer belonged there, that he already knew too much to live comfortably back with a backwater civilization.

Similarly, we as the audience have grown past this. We no longer want to see Crichton on Earth. Yes, we’ve wanted him to go home for three and a half years, we’ve been terrified that he might never have the chance to go back, and we’ve rooted for him teaching Aeryn English in preparation for the event.

What’s great about this episode, however, is that we get to see this from the other end. Not only is Crichton uncomfortable with staying on Earth, but Earth is uncomfortable with Crichton. Humanity isn’t prepared to be part of the galactic community, to withstand an occupation force, to accept the differences in other species because we haven’t yet accepted the differences within ourselves. The disparate voices and viewpoints here are especially telling; the scientific minds (including the psychologist who correctly diagnoses Crichton’s PTSD for what it is without knowing the full details behind it) and the spiritual and religious leaders have a wonderful dichotomy, not only between their viewpoints but even amongst themselves, debating endlessly about whether or not the aliens are enough like us to be understood, or dangerous and unknown and bringing with them discord and strife. Even the ever awesome Olivia (I’d love to have a sister like that) defends Crichton and his friends while at the same time acknowledging that they’re not human and thus cannot be judged by our own social dynamics and laws.

This, of course, is where the brilliance comes in. Through showing us Farscape through the eyes of familiar human social dynamics and dissenting opinions, we’re forced to acknowledge that we ourselves, the Audience and observers, have changed right there alongside Crichton. We too have gone irrevocably through the looking glass to be able to fit comfortably in this world. We have seen too much, we know the terrible and wonderful secrets of the universe. Our own society is now more alien to us than the giant with the tentacles and the gunsword, or the hypersexual grey chick, or the arrogant and insufferable know-it-all who also can walk on walls.

It is true that all stories have the audience taken on a journey, right alongside the primary protagonists, but it’s often assumed that once the story is over, when the book has been closed and the television turned off, that the story remains on its pages. As most of us who are writers and avid readers, who are able to shut out the world and grow alongside our favorite characters, we know that sentiment is false. All stories affect us, all experiences shape us, and Farscape joins the select few that actually call attention to this.

There are two quotes from Isaac Asimov that I’ve held with me for many years, which I believe is the lesson this episode is trying to impart.

It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.

Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today – but the core of science fiction, its essence has become crucial to our salvation if we are to be saved at all.

Society cannot stagnate if it is to proceed. Crichton has brought change, and it is now up to Earth to rise to the challenge. If Earth stagnates, it will fall – literally, under the heels of Scarrans or Nebari or Peacekeepers or anyone else who wants to take it over. If Earth comes together and faces what’s to come, it will grow and expand and maybe one day join that conglomerate of races in the Uncharted Territories.

But this is not that story. That’s the story that we’ve left behind, at the same time that Crichton did.

This episode was slowly paced, filmed in a disjointed manner, and made heavy use of an in-universe televised documentary. It is quite possible the best thing that the series needed at this point, a breather episode after the hard-hitting revelation that the Scarrans have Aeryn and also are poised to take over the galaxy. Crichton’s dwelling on his loss and thus focusing on the past, trying to reclaim a sense of self that he had lost long ago. He’s kicking himself for the reactions of Earth, and trying to piece together the puzzle that he knows he can figure out even if it’s not complete, because he’s got all the corners and an edge and a bright splotch of color that he can use to start working on the picture itself.

He doesn’t know where Aeryn is, but thanks to the video and that very human determination, he knows where to start looking.

My notes this episode:

  • I will agree with Tessa that the impact of the documentary would have been better if it was immediately after “Terra Firma“, but the documentary is only a vehicle for the real meat of the episode. Having it after Aeryn’s lost gives him something to search through to try to find her, and it works from that angle, at least.
  • I know it came later, but all I could think about during this episode was the “Under the Hood” featurette that I purchased seperate from Watchmen. Same documentary style, same perspective, and it’s a format that really lets you sit back and pick things apart from the outside.
    • Even though I picked up the Director’s Cut which was supposed to have “Under The Hood” and the pirate thing not only attached but interspersed throughout the movie as it was in the comic. This is what was advertised to me and the reason I shelled out for the Director’s Cut… only to get a flyer inside the case advertising the Ultimate Edition which had this feature.
    • No, I’m not still bitter.
  • Crichton found out about Katratzi from Alternate!Stark. Does this mean Stark is coming back? As I’ve said, this is the only season I hadn’t seen first-run, so I honestly don’t know.
  • Weston’s probably laughing at me right now.
  • Every single one of the Specialist Interviews was familiar and recognizable as a legitimate viewpoint. Sure, they’re flanderized a bit, but not so much that you can’t see it for what it is. They’re believeable reactions, and that’s what’s important.
  • Though the Secret Service guy takes the cake.
  • Agreeing with Tessa here, there were a LOT of really bad American accents. But Crichton gives us really bad accents when he’s trying for something, so it balances out.


It’s been no secret that this season has had a share of episodes that pissed me right the frell off. I want to be pissed off at this episode, too.

I want to be pissed off at the awkward placement of the story. Yes, Kevin, a dramatic breather makes for a good drawing out of tension. No, following up a huge cliffhanger with an episode of Crichton kicking back and watching tv is not a way that feels satisfying because it doesn’t draw out that tension. It grinds everything to a halt. It’s not a pause, it’s not a breath, it’s a full on distraction. Remember the threepart finale of Season 1, which had a fourth episode that had nothing to do with the others dropped smack in the middle? Remember the huge cliffhanger at the end of that season, where John and D’Argo are floating in space and heavens, whatever shall they do to survive oh wait they’ve already been safe and sound by the time we get to the Season 2 premiere so never mind lets move on? This feels like that. This feels like they needed filler, so they dropped this idea in there. It doesn’t fit. Yeah, it would have fit after “Terra Firma” – or, actually, before it, following the Dateline-esque special with what really happened (which would be a more interesting sidestep for an episode than Back to the Future) – but it doesn’t work for me here. Also, if we’re going to talk season structure, do we really need an episode of Crichton watching as humans reminisce about him just six episodes after Crichton watched as humans reminisced about him?

I want to be pissed at the completely random instigator of the story, that Pilot just so happens to catch this signal through the wormhole which everyone is close to again despite a number of starbursts into Tormented Space (neigh of horses).

I want to be pissed that Crichton is just sitting around, watching tv, brooding and glaring, instead of diving into the problem in full on wormhole obsession mode. Why isn’t he dancing over all the possibilities, hitting every planet and back alley snitch he can scurry up, instead of just gellin’ while Sikozu makes phone calls? Crichton is one of the most proactive people in the universe, so it never sells to have him intentionally become inactive. Remember when he first met Sikozu, after he’d been stranded with nothing but a dying Leviathan to keep him alive? Despite massive limitations, he kept working the problems and moving forward every inch he could. Here, he doesn’t do a damn thing until he offers a deal to Scorpius.

I want to be pissed that they best they can do to make the pointless “Unrealized Reality” relevant is to have a random word uttered by Starkozu suddenly play a key plot point that doesn’t even really mean anything because A) Stark isn’t here, and B), even if he was, you’re gambling he knows everything the he from an alternate universe knew and that Katrazi is even in the same place in both realities. Bullshit. This is desperate, lazy plotting, especially for this late in the game.

I want to be so very pissed off at this episode….

But I can’t be.

Why? Because, dammit, it’s really well made. Alien Visitation is a hysterical show that comes off as all too true in terms of how the world – or, at least, America – would respond to the impression the visitors left behind. I love the variety of faces and personalities. I love the way they laugh one moment, make a sharp philosophical point the next, and give a rich, spot on overview of each of the main characters one after the other. It’s perfect how they take innocent claims and turn them into either dangerous declarations or deep insights. Our heroes warn the planet about how vulnerable they are, which creates the divided reaction of “Thank you for this wakeup call!” and “I know you are but what am I!” It’s bravado. It’s ego. It’s exactly the mindset that would have led to Rygel on a dissection table. It’s painful. It’s amusing. It’s real. It’s frelling honest.

I made a big speech at the end of Season 1 about how Farscape excels at being honest, and by golly, they continue to prove it. This is how us we humans would react. And, yet, when Rygel says:

It’s a backward planet, full of superstitious, xenophobic morons. Nothing makes sense if they didn’t think of it first.”

One could also take that and apply it to members of pretty much every race we’ve seen on this show, himself included, and especially the entirety of the Peacekeepers. And then there’s Aeryn’s more grounded, but equally apt, claim that we’re all the same, really. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is or if you have tentacles instead of hair or if your skeleton is on the outside. People are people. There is no humanity vs. alienity. It’s all one and the same when you get down to it.

This episode has many deeply frustrating elements about it, but I can’t deny that I enjoy watching it. There is a sloppiness greasing up the edges and making it hard to hold on to, but the central point it’s making and many of the ways in which it does so keeps me holding onto that frame as tight as I can and refusing to let it drop away.


Ah, hell, you guys. This is the episode that has the final scenes that were shot for the series. The bonus features on the disc have the full videos that Bobby shot, the final wrap, and the Save Farscape campaign. David Kemper’s final speech is solid – he takes a few swings at the Star Trek franchise and particularly Nemesis, and fairly. He takes a few extremely valid shots at Sci-Fi Channel, which replaced Farscape with the short-lived Tremors series and some other show from Showtime I’d never heard of.

I appear to have feelings on this subject. I will try to hold on to them for the finale. In six weeks. *sob*

So, this episode takes place several months after Moya left Earth. With only three episodes between then and now, I suppose this has to be explained by wormhole instability. We also know that Bobby took a hundred and twenty hours of home video while the aliens were around – mathing that out, making a few assumptions, we can get a rough estimate of how long they were on Earth. It kinda surprises me that they hung around as long as they did.

Noel properly hammers Rygel for his evaluation of humanity.

I love the musical transition from the Alien Visitation theme into the Farscape credits.

We learn that Crichton is the youngest of three children, with two sisters. We met Olivia in “Terra Firma”, and I don’t believe we’ve seen Bobby’s mother. This episode has a ton of Bobby, though, and he’s fairly fantastic.

Short paragraphs this week. Unfortunate. Appear to have ensaddened myself by reminiscing over the end of Farscape. Compensating.

D’Argo regrets the amount of killing he’s used Lo’La for. Between him and Crichton it’s become a running theme this season, though it does run slightly counter to his “I love shooting things” bit.

The giant TV uses TAPES. Actual magnetic TAPES. That’s, like, two generations of media ago! And this episode is only nine years old! The TV itself uses a big honking cathode ray tube! How did they fit that through the landing bay doors?! Man, no wonder Sikozu is so disdainful.

Noranti’s hair is absolutely amazing in the rat poison scene. Chiana may not like makeup, but Noranti has sure gotten into it. Unfortunately, a rat later gets into the poison, and Chiana finds it. That scene… man. Poor Chi.

The Alien Visitation experts are… well, they’re speculating in an expert fashion. The retired general believes that Noranti has never killed, and it’s probably for the best that he doesn’t know she tried to kill Crichton. She technically succeeded that one time. The sociologist seizes on her comment that humans never give up while skipping over how boneheaded it is. Two experts note that Chiana’s outlook is anti-materialist and sophisticated. The monk and the psychologist unknowingly comment on Ka Jothee, the latter is closer to the truth. She then makes a similarly striking analysis of Sikozu, calling her full of anger and disdain.

Sikozu needs a paragraph. She’s got a good heart, but it’s ruled by her head. She recognizes the sacrifices that others have made for her, but has trouble doing the same. Her self-preservation instinct is so strong that it has, on most occasions, overrode her apparent moral center. It’s there, but buried deep. She does seem to have a stronger connection to Aeryn than to any of the others, maybe that’ll strengthen the moral core. On the flip side, the amount of suspicion she’s been getting from the crew may push her the other way.

Olivia recognizes the tension between Crichton and Aeryn. So did Caroline. Heck, it seems that the only person in the neighborhood who doesn’t see it is Scorpius. Maybe he has, but chooses not to exploit it. Could be his motives really are benign.

D’Argo seems to have picked up a little bit of Latin along with the English. “Ad nauseum”, indeed. Maybe something Crichton said that the translator microbes didn’t catch?

Sheriff Schumacher returns, and he’s been carving pumpkins for eighteen years. Poor guy obsessed over the alien invaders to the point that he was institutionalized.

Chiana talks sex with Bobby. Many good points in that conversation. She’s only two thesaurus jumps away from using the word “prostitots”.

So much of this season’s arc story seems to show up in the last five minutes of each episode. This one is no different, culminating in Crichton’s faustian deal with Scorpius. An even trade: Aeryn for wormholes. Our boy John is so desperate to get Aeryn back that he’ll trade a planet-destroying weapon.

Most notable? Scorpius doesn’t say a word. He doesn’t have to. His eyes show suspicion; after all, Crichton’s offered him wormholes before. The music says everything he doesn’t.

Amusingly, during the credits, we get an ad for Alien Visitation in the style of Sci-Fi’s “next time” previews. I don’t like that style of credit-squishing, especially when the music carrying the show out is so fantastic.

Episode [4.16] – Bringing Home the Beacon || Episode [4.18] – Prayer

One ResponseLeave one →

  1. Rita Lewis

     /  February 24, 2012

    This ep has a lot of subtle arc throughputs, such as the question of Aeryn and the baby. We also hear about the deaths of DK and Laura and John has a moment of grief. I get the impression that John has turned over every rock to find Aeryn and all he has left is Katratzi as a clue. He’s driving everyone nuts like he did about wormholes.

    Fun fact: the CIA guy is Brian Henson and David Kemper also is one of the talking heads.

    The tag is one of the scariest and saddest things I’ve ever seen John do, sell his soul to Scorpy. He said to Aeryn that he was vulnerable to this and that scene kills me. Congrats to Ben on terrific acting!


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