Deconstructing Moya

A Farscape Re-watch Project

Episode [4.22] – “Bad Timing”

Today, on Farscape

“You tell my grandkids about me.”
“Ha, that’s a no-brainer. They’ve got to know who my hero is.”
“You’re going to find when you have your own, you want them to surpass you. Be better. Climb higher. I guess if that’s the measure, I’m the greatest dad on Earth.”
“I love you, Dad.”
“You’re the heart and soul of my life, son. I love you.”
“Goodbye.”

The Scarrans are heading for Earth. The Peacekeepers want Scorpius back. And through it all, Crichton must make two decisions, both of which will alter his life irrevocably…


Kevin

To Be Continued.

It’s a phrase that has dual-meaning for Farscape fans, both due to the Save Farscape Campaign and its surprising result. I say “surprising” because in this industry, as Joss Whedon carefully points out in the pre-movie presentation for Serenity, it’s treated as understood and a general rule that cancelled shows do not get picked back up again, nor do they spawn major motion pictures or a high-budget miniseries. The best a series had ever done before was a spin-off nearly twenty years later. Now, of course, you see shows get cancelled and then picked back up through its massive success in syndication, more commonly being taken over by a cable network.

We had to wait two years for a resolution. Thankfully, all of you only have to wait three weeks for us to get to it, but more on that at the end of this post, because I’m not going to talk about cancellation, I’m here to talk about heroes.

We all get a chance to be our own kind of hero. Sometimes it involves walking on the moon and clipping a family photo onto the flag at Serenity Base. Sometimes it involves destroying your only chance to ever return so that an invading armada won’t occupy, slaughter, and enslave your family and destroy what little you have of your home.

For all that we’ve debated on the “Suddenly New Aspect Of Wormholes That We Just Learned” topic – and I’ll finally concede to Noel on the Jiffy-Pop wormhole sealant deal (available now for only three easy payments of $9999.99!) – the fact of the matter is that it’s been there. It was there for however long before Crichton originally discovered it, and he always assumed it would be there in case he maybe one day decided to go back home. It’s a conflict he’s been dealing with for a while, but the wormhole has always been intended to be a safety net. He may not have decided to use it, but it was there just in case.

Sealing off the wormhole (and giving Earth a warning) results in multiple objectives. First, unless another wormhole to a nearby system is discovered, Crichton will never go back to Earth again. Scorpius had calculated Earth’s distance at about 60 years travel at fastest speeds, and humans just don’t live that long. Crichton’s about 33 now, and even if he does lives to 93, his life is in deep space now.

Secondly, it protects Earth from Scarran invasion. If the Scarrans are still intent on seizing Earth for its potential Flower Power, they’ll have to travel 60 years to get there. In the meantime, there’s still the Peacekeeper border, and its holdings on Charrid and Kalish and however many other species’ territories, and splitting off a task force would cripple them.

Finally, it gives Earth a chance to finally come together and join the rest of the galaxy. It might take them sixty years to do so, but that’s sixty years of human ingenuity coupled with the technology, schematics, and political information that Crichton left for them on the moon, and you’d better damn well believe that they started putting a shuttle crew together the moment Jack got off the phone. That’s not even mentioning the fact that even if the Scarrans made the 60-year trip to Earth, that Earth would be ready and waiting for them.

You know what’s scarier than John Crichton? Seven billion John Crichtons.

Notes!

  • One of the reasons that D’Argo’s so upset is that Crichton and Aeryn have never fallen apart on him before.
    • He’s never seen them go to pieces before.
    • They’re all really broken up about it.
    • His illusions of them are just absolutely shattered ow ow Tessa stop ow ow frell it
  • I guess this neatly avoids the “What is Stark’s opinion of having to share a ship with Scorpius” question.
  • Did they re-use the “Did you say it like that ’cause now he knows” clips, or did they just shoot it again as a callback? I couldn’t tell.
  • If I really wanted to, I could sit back and come up with an explanation as to why the transport pod and the Scarran assault ship passed through each other harmlessly, but it was a bit strange. Really cool and a nice callback to Lo’La vaporizing the rogue Leviathan, but still strange.
  • Crichton reciting what might have been the fifth season’s credit sequence was a surreal touch, and I definitely applaud its inclusion.

Noel

Just to get it out of the way up front, I find it very amusing that Kevin finally concedes on the inconsistencies of wormholes over an aspect that I don’t really have much issue with. My problems earlier were contradictions. It was set up as a mapped network, something anyone could learn to navigate to get to specific exits within the network, but then they said that a pilot’s willpower steers the outcome and can literally let them out anywhere they want, just as long as they’re careful on the when. They make it safe for John and his module, but then there’s a stretch of people dissolving into goop with no plausible explanation. And then there’s the whole unrealized realities mess that I won’t go into again except to say that I didn’t like it one bit. I took issue with those purely from a narrative standpoint in that they had little, if anything, to do with what had already been established, and often contradicted what we already knew. Here, though, I don’t have an issue. How do you collapse a wormhole? Pulling the entrance back in on itself before it has a chance to open all the way. That makes perfect sense to me, as does requiring someone with a higher range of perception – like Pilot, which brings up a messy situation that plays out beautifully – to be the one who gets it done properly. I’m good with that!

What does bother me is that this is now treated as a single tunnel between points as opposed to a pair of doors in the hallway of the wormhole network, and how this should either take down the entire network once and for all (with untold consequences throughout the universe) or just sever the entrance above Earth, leaving the other end of the wormhole active and open to the network, just with one less possible exit to head out through. That bugs me, but it’s small enough that I’ll go with it. Especially because of the absolutely gorgeous bit that is the transport pod, fully charged with and leading a wall of collapsing wormhole energy, passing through the Scarran ship, whose captain is making his final report to both his Emperor and lover before he ceases to be. I’ll handwavium the question of how because of the swirling mass of time and space that the pod is still enveloped in.

Onto the broader episode, I think I’m finally starting to appreciate just how big of a blow this conclusion was to Farscape fandom. Back when I first watched the series on DVD, The Peacekeeper Wars had already been announced, so I knew I wasn’t going to be left on a fully unresolved cliffhanger. It also didn’t help that I didn’t really like Season 4 all that much, even less than I’ve been enjoying it now. I didn’t get into Sikozu or Noranti back then, and a lot of the plot left me feeling lost and confused. I actually think watching it in a weekly format here, with discussion and reflection, has made me appreciate it much more, plus I’ve lost all taste for marathoning shows that are meant to have a bit of space between installments.

The big thing that makes me get it is Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. There was another show which, especially in its last season, was equal parts frustrating and fascinating, that bounced me from being pissed to being absolutely gripped as I watched it from week to week. And then came the finale. If you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, without spoiling anything, let me just say that it was very similar to what we have here, with a huge escalation to a massive conflict between all the faction at play, the heroes making their big last stand and seeming to be in the clear – with relationships coming to a head and big damn hero moments leaving their iconic mark – and then we got to the last few minutes. In that final scene, they threw everyone for such a loop that it was hard to even process what all was going on as those minutes played out on the tv screen. Some were royally pissed. Some were thrilled and eager for the next chapter. Some were a combination of the two. And then came the cancellation. The ratings were bad, so we knew it was coming, but they left us on such a wildly bold cliffhanger that we clung to all our hopes that something more would come of this story. But it never did. Unlike Farscape, where creator Rockne S. O’Bannon wrote an epilogue in the final issue of the show’s official magazine (parts of which were later contradicted by The Peacekeeper Wars), T:SCC and its creators left us with nothing in the way of closure and the characters of that tale are still hanging from that cliff. Likely for all eternity.

So I get it now. I understand just how crushing of a blow it was for viewers to see John and Aeryn, in the midst of their happiest moment, reduced to bejewels, and how the hunger for a resolution would drive the fans to fight for this thing they loved.

And it doesn’t hurt that the episode leading up to that finale is a damn good one. In the preceding three-parter, we already had the huge conflict where a direct blow was struck to the villains, so a direct confrontation would be a bit redundant now. There’s no final showdown with Scorpius, with Grayza, with the Scarrans. No, instead it’s a race to beat them to the second most thing John holds dear: Earth. It’s long lingered in the background as John’s destination, then Scorpius hijacked it as a threat, then we actually got there and enforce the notion that They Are Not Ready for what lies in wait in the universe just outside their view. So now John has to make the latest in a string of tough choices as he chooses to seal off the easy route and once again make his home world the distant – but not entirely unattainable – goal. Though not before leaving behind some knowledge that’ll push humankind forward and help them be a little readier, as well as sharing a final farewell with his dad.

We haven’t given Kent McCord enough credit for his role as Jack Crichton, the hero of our hero, whose own actions and experiences seem small in the shadow of those of his son, but who is no less inspiring for what he’s accomplished. Jack’s screen time on the show would likely only fill a single episode, but McCord always cut a proud, determined, steady figure, and you could always see the man John held up as an idol and a goal. Through his recordings, you also see that John looks as Jack as a human he can trust to both understand and appreciate what his son has been through, and while they had their disagreements when they finally came face to face, that understanding was eventually reached, and you know it left Jack as a powerful ally who wouldn’t sit back and watch his planet dick around with the gifts his son brought. McCord absolutely knocks it out of the park in this episode as Jack and John share what may likely be their final farewell, with Jack showing that his son has now elevated to the biggest hero he’s ever seen, which makes him all the more heroic in John’s eyes because the man can still look forward and dream whereas John has been through horrors the other will never know. And they leave it on the note that Jack will come. One day, even if John doesn’t make it back, Jack will damn well make sure his people rise and take flight and start spreading across the stars. Even if Jack himself never makes it out to his son, the descendants of his actions will, and maybe they’ll reach the descendants of John, connecting the divide he opens up this day. There’s sadness, but there’s also great hope. And the smudged soul that is the world-weary John Crichton polishes itself off several scenes later as he re-enters the mindset of an eager country boy about to reach for the clouds for the first time. They’re having a baby. She said yes. Of all the things John has experienced, none fill him with the joy and excitement those two bring.

And then a random alien shows up, opens his face, and reduces the couple to pebbles while D’Argo collapses into primal, roaring sobs, unable to describe the tragedy he just witnessed to the blind Chiana.

To be continued, indeed.


Weston

My name is Weston Abney, a pizza delivery guy. Eleven years ago, I watched a guy get shot through a wormhole, with a group of dorm rats who became my friends. Now I’m rewatching that series with new friends, and learning so many things that I missed the first time around. Apparently nineteen-year-olds are terrible at catching subtext – who knew.

Nine years ago, I was watching this episode with those three friends. We knew that the series had been cancelled seven months previous, mere days before the end of shooting on season four; that this was the last hurrah for a show that defied every trope established by Star Trek and the like. Crichton’s final chance to pull off a ridiculous plan and save the day.

We didn’t appreciate the nested flashbacks in the introduction for the expository technique it was. Young and dumb, I got completely lost at the flash forward. I love it now, but I hated it fiercely at the time. Likely just transference from my rage at the cancellation.

Crichton’s trick with the “Dear John” bomb was clever, though it begs the question: How many of those things does he have? Did he whip up that nuke on the fly? Does he have more assembled? Did he just throw together the shell to bluff Braca while Moya made her getaway? We don’t know.

We also don’t know how Moya can now direct her Starbursts. Previously, they took her a random distance on a random vector in one-dimensional space – now she can use it as a faster-than-faster-than-light travel method. Even better, she can now EXTEND the Starburst, spending more time in the trans-dimensional space to traverse even more territory. When/where/how did she figure this out? Unknown. All we get is that Moya now has transwarp drive.

Oh yes. I went there.

They cut Pilot out of Moya. Remember what happened the last time they did that? Pilot is slowly dying until he’s hooked back into Moya, and even then it’s going to be a cycle or more until they’re fully healed. And hey, remember the last time Moya jumped down a wormhole to Earth? She doesn’t. Somehow she conquered her wormhole phobia that time, but this time, with the fate of six billion people at stake, she absolutely refuses. Or, how about Scorpy’s plan to destabilize the mouth of the wormhole by detonating a pair of transport pods inside it? Apparently insufficiently reliable for Crichton’s liking.

Rrrrrrg. The season got off to a slow start because SciFi wanted a reintroduction to all the characters and less continuity with the previous seasons in order to bring new viewers into the series. Unfortunate that the network gets its wish in the final episode of the series.

All that aside? Ignoring the technical quibbles and lore issues? It’s a good episode. Conflict and brainstorming, intuition and escalation, a solution that introduces new problems, and a sacrifice that resolves the hero’s dilemma. Beautiful storytelling. Not sure how the wormhole inversion thing works, and not sure why the head-on collision with the Stryker didn’t require a call to 911 and various insurance agencies, but it works.

…and then Moya’s floating in an ocean (what.) and Crichton found a rowboat somewhere (what?!) and oh hey here’s a new bad guy whose face splits open and he OBLITERATES Crichton and Aeryn RIGHT after they get engaged (WHAT?!) and they close out the series – THE FINAL EPISODE OF THE CANCELLED SERIES – with a TO BE CONTINUED.

TYI*P%$EI^IYTFTPL%EIYT(*&YI:JK[BN[LY(^%IYfrick.

Seasons four and five had been simultaneously greenlit by the SciFi network. Four was intended to set up plotlines that five would then knock down. The cliffhanger for season four was originally intended to close out season three, but The Powers That Be decided to push that back because, at the time, they weren’t sure that Farscape would be picked up for another season. They didn’t want to end the series on such a depressing note.

Oops.

The cancellation came as a surprise to everyone. It was announced by David Kemper and Ben Browder during a live internet chat with fans – few of the cast and crew knew of it before that. Lani Tupu found out from some fans in California who wanted to know how he felt about it. It kicked off the “Save Farscape” campaign, one of the first if not the first internet-based effort to uncancel a series. Television ads were filmed and placed. Boxes of crackers were mailed to executives. The internet exploded.

It didn’t quite work. Season five never came to be, but fourteen months later a miniseries was announced and produced. Ironically, it aired on SciFi. We’ll review that in another couple weeks – I have strong opinions about it.

I have to point out that at roughly the same time of the Farscape cancellation in 2002, another science fiction series started up on Fox. Really neat space western by the guy who did Buffy and Angel. Despite time slot problems and episodes aired out of order, it was pretty fantastic.

You all know how that turned out.


Tessa

So, uh. We’re done with the series.

…wow, that really hasn’t sunk in yet, especially with the “end on a cliffhanger” dealie. I don’t think it’s possible for me to have anywhere near as emotionally strong a reaction as the others about this final episode, considering both that I’ve come to this series so late, and I already know in advance that there’s a miniseries all set up to watch to continue the story. It kind of blows my mind to think that first-run watchers had to wait three years to get any kind of resolution to what happens in this episode.

This is a good final episode, all things considered. The climax of the season has already played out over the last few episodes, and here we see the consequences on all sides of the actions our heroes took on Katratzi. As mentioned before, John kind of inadvertently painted a big bulls-eye on Earth for the Scarrans with the mention of the flowers, and having removed a large source of their brain food, the Scarrans of course set out immediately to take his home as a replacement.

The only real reason this becomes a decent set up for a single episode instead of something like a full season arc is that they pull another wormhole cheat and we’re back to the idea that they’re straight shots between two points again that anyone can navigate now that it’s necessary to the plot. There’s nothing really new here for me to complain about, so I won’t dwell on it, but the inconsistencies on wormholes as a plot device is easily my biggest pet peeve this season.

I actually don’t feel that strongly either way about the “inverting the wormhole” idea. Yeah, it’s another example of John reaching into his magical bag of tricks the Ancients stuck into his brain that comes out of nowhere (at the very least, though, it’s not something he’s actually able to pull off himself in the end), and I don’t know if it totally meshes with other explanations of how wormholes are actually supposed to work, but with the version of wormholes they’re going with in this episode, it works well enough.

I can really easily handwave the problems with the plot point away in favor of what it effectively does from a storytelling perspective. In the course of hours, John has to effectively undo the work he’s done over the course of the entire series. Arguably, up until this season, getting home to Earth has been his main goal. It’s the reason he started studying wormholes in the first place, and as a result, indirectly the reason why he’s been thrown headfirst into the Scarran/Peacekeeper conflict. All he wanted was the find a way home. And now he has to cut off what may well be the only way he could realistically return to Earth (at least, that’s how the development is treated). In that context, the final conversation he has with his father is heartbreaking. This could very well be the last time he ever speaks to his father.

I kind of like that the story most definitely doesn’t end here. The Scarrans couldn’t take the back door to Earth, but there’s still the long way, and the payoff for them taking Earth is far too big to let a 60 year journey be the thing that dissuades them. Even if there wasn’t a miniseries following all this, there’s a ton to build off of as a jumping point to imagine where everything would go from there. In addition to all that, the Scarrans would still need to work out exactly where Earth actually is and how to get there, while the Peacekeepers actually have access to that tidbit already through Scorpius, who is back with them again.

Okay, so, that ending. I’ve mentioned before (or rather, I mentioned to Kevin who in turn mentioned that I mentioned it here) that I think it would be extremely interesting for the show to actually kill off its main character. They toyed with that idea last season (which led to an episode that probably would have been one of my favorites if it didn’t involve a bug-faced man), but it was ultimately a pretty safe move since there was still a John Crichton around when all was said and done.

Here, at the last possible second, John and Aeryn finally seem to have things turning out for the better, and are sharing a lighthearted, slightly whimsical and goofy scene (at least once you bring in the observations of the rest of the crew), when suddenly an alien that as far as we can tell is completely unrelated to anything else we’ve been dealing with swoops in and disintegrates the two of them for what appears to be a total misunderstanding. That’s… a hell of a way to end of the series.

I don’t know anything about what’s coming in The Peacekeeper Wars. I don’t know what will be addressed, who will still be around, who will be introduced, or anything else about it. I will say that part of me actually hopes that what we witnessed at the end of this episode was the deaths of John and Aeryn. Not because I want either character to die, but more because I’d be fascinated to see how the story would unfold in their absence, and how the other characters would react and ultimately pick up and carry on without them. The story of Farscape has been almost completely tied to John and his experiences, and it would be really interesting to see it outlive him and continue beyond what he could contribute to it. Now, I’m not really expecting either one of them to actually be dead permanently or even at all (maybe that beam is something like a transporter that just happens to leave marbles behind for some reason or something, or they can be put back together, or something else happens and they’re suddenly okay), partially because I doubt the series would actually follow through with killing the both of them before the end of the story, but mostly because both characters are on the cover of the Peacekeeper Wars DVD. But maybe it’ll surprise me.

To Be Continued…


Deconstructing Moya will take a one-week break and return Friday, April 13th for the Season Four wrap-up podcast, and then… Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars!

Episode [4.20] – We’re So Screwed, Part III: La Bomba

3 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. Kernezelda

     /  April 1, 2012

    Let’s see: two My Little Ponies, Buffy cheese guy, MAA bad edit. Did I miss any? 🙂

    I’ve very much enjoyed your review of the series, and look forward (with a little sadness, too) to your last Farscape outing.

    Reply
    • Tessa

       /  April 1, 2012

      Pinkie and the Cheese Man were the only two “out of place” slides that I snuck in. The rest were all shots we’d used on the site before, which, yeah, included the bad edit, the Cave Story mashup, the nom-face dumpster, and the Derpy/Ditzy reaction shot.

      So yeah, strictly from a “screenshots from the show and nothing but” perspective, then there’s six “fake” slides. From the perspective of images we’d used in our writeups before, it’s just two.

      It was fun putting it together, if a little tedious. But that came with the power of getting to decide what went into it. >:3

      Reply
  2. Fraser

     /  February 1, 2014

    Living in Australia I never got to see the whole show, so I finally decided to watch the whole thing from the start with my elder daughter. I have been reading your rewatch project, somewhat delayed, as we watch and have really enjoyed it.

    But, where’s the Peacekeeper Wars stuff? I can’t find it 🙁

    Reply

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