Deconstructing Moya

A Farscape Re-watch Project

Noel’s take on Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars

“Once upon a time, there was a boy named John, and John was an astronaut. He lived in a faraway place called Earth, which is so far away, you’ve never heard of it.

“One day, when John was out doing astronaut things, a big blue wormhole gobbled him up and spat him out at the far end of the universe.

“Things were looking grim in Mudville, till our hero met an amazing living ship, made some nice new friends, and he hooked up with his dream girl. We could’ve lived happily ever after, but the Peacekeepers raped, chased, and tortured us for years on end.

“Then, two months ago, we got our asses shot off again. This time, it was the Scarrans – big reptiles, wooooo – and Moya, our living ship, limped her way to your happy planet for a little R&R. Because, we figure, it’s empty. Hey, no one is gonna bother us.

“Next thing, me and the future Mrs. Crichton are having a private moment, when you guys fly by, boom bada-bing, squiggly line squiggly line… Crystalized.

“And it’s two months later.”

Hour 1

We open on a future scene, of John bloodied in a bed, not unlike the final moments of his twin. Lord, it’s been song long since I’ve last watched this mini-series that I don’t have the foggiest notion of what his fate has been, but the voiceover from Aeryn – starting peacefully, about how they’ve won, then breaking, backed by sadness about how she won’t accept losing him as a tradeoff – is kicking me in the soul for not remembering because oh sweet pretzels is it a haunting tease of an uncertain, bittersweet fate, echoing through the deserted halls of Moya.

And then we flash back, and it’s war, with Peacekeeper and Scarran fleets pummeling one another within a planet’s rings. And the first shot of the war? Fired by Scorpius, of course. High Command has made him admiral of a fleet! … Then sacrificed showed their trust in him by sending his fleet to the front lines on a “reconnaissance mission”. So what does he do? He pulls a Reinhard and initiates a full on war, so the guns are suddenly spread in every direction instead of all pointed at him.

And then he skips out and joins John. Because these two got along so well the last time they lived together on Moya, they just have to give it a second go, with Scorpius peeping John’s brain through Harvey, John using Scorpius as a human shield, and the word “loverboy” tossed around a few times. Oh, and there’s a funny bit where John erases Einstein’s formulas from a blackboard and replaces them with a “FUCK OFF” pointed squarely at his two Scorps. So things are back up and running between the galaxy’s most bestest frenemies.

I’m getting ahead of myself, though. We still have the water planet, where, like Shelley Winters before him, Rygel proves to be quite the graceful swimmer as he picks up, swallows, and later vomits up the pieces of John and Aeryn that spilled over the boat when they were reduced to pebbles. Because, oops, not only did the locals mistakenly zap the heroes, but they did so on a craft narrow enough to allow our heroes to runneth over. But it’s okay! Because Grunchlk is back! And he has a new Diagnosan! Granted, this Diagnosan is a little more wino-y than the last, and Grunchlk is still Grunchlk, but our heroes are nonetheless reconstituted two months after they decorated the aquarium bottom, and the final piece that Rygel forgot to cough up turns out to have been Aeryn’s baby, meaning he’s pregnant.

Okay, so the split head people are actually the Eidelons, who tie back to the ancient temple where we left Jool, meaning a bit of backtracking is in store for our heroes as they try to help this culture find a bridge to their newly resurrected ancestors. Great plot, looking forward to where it goes, but it is a bit out of nowhere. It also speaks to the larger problem I’m already encountering in this first 45 minute chunk of the miniseries, in that this feels like they’re taking a season of a show and crunching it down into a Reader’s Digest format. Here’s the episodes I can see:

1) John and Aeryn come back. Tension with the water planet race. Revelation that Rygel is now pregnant with their baby.

2) War breaks out between the Peacekeepers and Scarrans, with Scorpius firing the first shot. Drama between Maryk and Grayza (she’s pregnant!). Drama between Scorpius and Sikozu (that hair!). Drama between Ahkna and Staleek (less tall of a hat, but still a creepy hat!). Scorpius and Sikozu abandon their post.

3) We find out the waterworld race are the Eidelons. Noranti exposition. Scorpius and Sikozu arrive. Headfrellery between John and Harve. Peacekeepers show up and heroes take off with Eidelons.

4) Everyone settling back into life on the ship, with continued tensions, and Eidelons wondering why everyone is so weird. Rygel gets the message from Hyneria.

5) Moya is randomly harpooned by a Peacekeeper-controlled Tregan “fishing” vessel. Fighting. Banter. Victory.

As a series, these would played out well and we would have time to soak each one in. As they are, they feel rushed don’t always transition well from one to the other. I like the Eidelons, they have an interesting look and story, but we don’t get enough time for it to play out before “Oh, hey, we met your ancestors, so why don’t a few of you hop on board our ship and we’ll take them to you.” If this were playing out as a season, that would be fun to explore. For this miniseries, it feels like an extraneous distraction from what should be a tighter central focus on the war and the parts our characters play in it. Other than the Eidelons having to be there because they ended Season 4, they’re extra fat that could have been trimmed. Unless they do actually play a big part down the road, which I don’t remember. So we’ll see.

Also extraneous is the entire attack by the Tregan vessel. I mean, yeah, it gives us a few great sequences – John using Scorpius as a shield, D’Argo and Aeryn conversing between gunfire exchanges, Chiana and Sikozu completely kicking ass, Stark realizing he can best help by staying out of everyone’s way – but you could have just played these out against Peacekeepers while they’re escaping the planet. You don’t need this entire shoehorned in plot thread of a vessel manned by creatures we’ve never seen before and will never see again, the characters of whom have nothing to do with anything else that’s going on, when your time to tell your story is limited. The focus should have been narrowed, playing out the essential threads instead of every episode they had on the schedule. I mean, look how much story I listed up above. This isn’t even the first half of the mini, this is the first half of the first half of the mini. This is 270 minutes worth of story stuffed in a 45 minute bag.

My other issues are small ones, but worth saying. It’s no secret that the show has recycled actors from time to time, but they typically only do so when the performers are covered in prosthetics and otherwise unrecognizable. Here, we have Linal Haft and Sandy Gore, who both played previous roles with clearly visible faces, and are doing so once again. Gore, especially, creates a moment of confusion because her multi-episode appearance as the Scarran’s assistant was in the middle of the last season. Watching this show in order, that means less than a dozen episodes are between then and now, and while I think she’s a great actress, she’s also a very distinctive actress, and it was a mistake to stick her in two parts so chronologically close together.

There’s also some odd makeup moments. Scorpius’ skin looks painted on. Sikozu’s scales have been downplayed. Noranti looks fine in some shots, oddly puffy in others. I don’t think it’s a prosthetic problem, it’s in the makeup that was done over the prosthetic, as though it’s being done by an entirely new group of people working off of scattered notes from their predecessors. The tweaked costumes are great, though. No complaints there. Slicker, a little more stylish. And D’Argo and Chiana’s makeup looks fine.

But then there’s Pilot. What did they do to Pilot’s voice, because they’re suddenly processing Lani Tupu in a way that makes him sound completely different than he has in the entire series. Have they suddenly forgotten how it was done? Like the makeup, was it suddenly in different hands? Was it so hard to just call someone up and say, “Yo, what setting did you use.”?

Those issues aside, this is still a blast, as they key elements of character conflict are there, all of the actors bring their A-game, the music and effects are spectacular (minus the CGI Rygel, who was nicely animated, just crudely rendered), the action is wonderful, Grunchlk showing up again really made my day, and it has me amped for what comes next.

Hour 2

So everything I wrote above? Yeah, that was from two years ago when we initially started this project. Wanted to give a heads up just in case anyone realized my writing style is a little different now than it was then. Forgot just how quippy of a smartass I could be. When the above was written, I was also fresh off Season 4, so my memories of the show were clearer than they are now with a two year gap between things. I re-read our posts on Season 4, but if I’m overlooking connections, my apologies and feel free to fill me in with a comment below.

We’re back to Arnesk! Where we left Jool who, for some reason, is dressed as a Sheena-style jungle girl as she takes down John and then starts making out with him, until Aeryn glares her away. It’s a very unexpected way to re-introduce the character, and again speaks to the rushed nature of the show, as we don’t get to spend any further time with her aside from a few lines in crowd shots, and even Rygel is now going through what’s called a “geometric pregnancy”, meaning the child could be fully gestated and born in a matter of days.

Okay, I’ll give them that. Aside from this necessary bit of plotting and Jool being overlooked (as well as a third point I’ll get to in the next paragraph), this hour doesn’t feel as much like multiple episodes squished together as the last one did. There’s good progression and flow to the story as it narrows its focus on the key conflicts and sweeps, and I’m curious to see if it’ll maintain this footing for the next hour.

So on Arnesk, the Eidelons are hesitant to believe the news our heroes have brought them about a planet full of descendants, until John misfires his gun and goes into a rant about The Wizard of Oz. Which the Eidelons accept as they start training the bland kid whose name I don’t remember in the ways of channeling cosmic peace. Honestly, there’s not much to the Eidelons as characters. The bland kid could never stop smirking, so I’m glad we leave him behind here, and while Ron Haddrick is fine as Heirarch Yondalao, it’s a largely forgettable character. Which brings me to the third problem with the season compression as we never get to develop Yondalao beyond being a spiritual leader archetype, so when he dies at the end of this hour, it has little impact beyond just suddenly happening.

Not to get too far ahead of myself, the Scarrans show up in a massive battleship, blow up the Eidelon temple (exit: Jool), wreck Moya’s starburst drive before she can take off, and leave D’Argo and Chiana for dead adrift in space as the rest of our heroes are captured. Jool, shame she didn’t get more time for her return as the stark and distant explosion on the surface was a great shot I wish had more weight behind it. Anyways, our heroes are completely overwhelmed as Emperor Staleek and War Minister Ahkna know about the baby and use Rygel as leverage to force John to give them wormhole weapons. And Staleek rips the cooling unit out of Scorpius’ head for good measure, forcing Sikozu to jerry-rig him a nasty new one as we see Scorpius’ cranial innards slurping their way around fresh rods.

John can’t build wormhole weapons, so as proof, he somehow squeezes Staleek into the back seat of Farscape 1 (love how they cut away just before or after we’d actually have to see how he climbed in there), and takes him to Einstein at the end of the wormhole. This not only convinces Staleek John is of no use to him, but that wormhole weapons are a bad horrible awful idea which could tear the universe to shreds simply for existing.

So then they’re back to the ship, Staleek doesn’t know what to do, and Yondalao uses his powers to gently nudge Staleek down the path of seeking peace… until Ahkna fries the old man and our heroes are stuck in a room being flooded with gas so their brains can be dissected.

That’s about the gist of it. Other threads:

  • Chiana and D’Argo are rescued by Jothee, who commands a small strike ship of Luxans. Nice to see the kid back, but shame the destruction of Lo’la was brushed aside pretty quick as Jothee shows off how much more advanced his is. Also, there’s no reason Chiana should be alive. THAT’S NOT HOW THE VACUUM OF SPACE WORKS.
  • We learn the origin of Peacekeeper and how they may tie back to Humanity, as they’re evolved versions of a life on some fringe planet, engineered by the Eidelons to maintain the accorded peace of the cosmos. Nice line about how, without the Eidelons, they kept maintaining peace the only way they knew how: at the muzzle of a gun.
  • Sikozu is stuck wondering how relationships work as she tries to figure out if she or Scorpius is the superior one in the relationship, until Aeryn schools her with the idea of just being with who works for you regardless.
  • Interesting tension between Ahnka and Staleek as she often countermands his orders and operates behind his back, but out of dedication to his best interests. She’s so chilling.
  • Harvey is trying to talk John into killing himself, in the form of a Crash Test Dummy hallucination.
  • Stark now has the knowledge of Yondalao in his brain, which he needs to bring to the Eidelons. Great reaction as something he feels he’s beneath is forced into his soul by the others.
  • With the promise of peace, Grayza poisons her lover, Grand Chancellor Maryk, to death, as she’d rather see mutual eradication than share space with the Scarrans. Because of course.

Overall, a much better and more consistent hour than the first. It does have its rushed moments, but the focus is tighter, the central conflict ratchets up, and aside from a few exceptions, there’s some great character moments in there.

Hour 3

Our heroes escape the gas flooding into their cell thanks to Sikozu’s ingitability (despite igniting gas NOT WORKING THAT WAY), Scorpius melting through a grate with a spent cooling rod he rips from his head (!), and Jothee arriving with his commando squad of Luxans. Let me pause for a minute to say how awesome the commando squad of Luxans is. They don’t get much individual personality development (again, squished running time of the presentation), but as a whole, they really show why Luxans have made a name for themselves as warriors. I was a little let down when they flew off after the prison break, but as we gear up to the major battle in the second half, they’re suddenly repelling down a wall, back in the thick of things, and I was beaming.

I’ll admit the story does slow down a bit as the focus wanders to Stark going all Stark as he’s fighting with the forces in his head, and scenes like Chiana trying to feed him or everyone searching the flooding ship for him do drag on a bit. Especially when he finally releases the power and has no further repercussions from it to warrant the build. Again, spread out over a season, this could make for some fun episodes, but here, it feels like we’ve slipped our attention. It’s not a huge chunk of the story, so I can blow past it.

Other developments in this section: the baby is back in Aeryn as Rygel sobs through a post-pregnancy hormonal imbalance; D’Argo and Chiana decide to retire together on Hyneria; Jothee decides to stick with his father; and John confronts Einstein, fully unlocking wormhole knowledge in his brain and allowing him to make a wormhole weapon. Interesting complications arise from this, as the support he gets from Aeryn is balanced by the dread and resentment Pilot and Moya feel about being party to such a devastating weapon. And for John’s part, there’s a great speech about how he’s had a gun pointed at his head all this time, and he has to defend himself and his family, even if it means causing the deaths of tens of thousands of people so as to end a war which will kill billions. It puts us squarely in the ethical grey zone this series explores so well, and it’s good that I haven’t seen this in a while as I actually can’t remember how this plays out in the final hour.

But they still have a chance with the Eidelons, and head back to Arnesk. Unfortunately, both the Peacekeeper and Scarran armadas have found out about the Eidelons on Arnesk, and Moya runs right into the middle of a firefight between the two sides over the planet, leaving her shot full of holes and seeking refuge beneath the ocean of the planet’s surface. Great callback to the second episode.

So our heroes abandon the floodwaters of the ship as they head back to the main Eidelon city, which has been devastated by Scarran attacks, even as Braca and a contingent of Peacekeepers try to keep as many Eidelons alive as they can. So its these Peacekeepers, our heroes, the Luxan commandos, and oh look, Grunchlk and the Diagnosan are still around, as defense perimeters are set up and they try to defend what’s left of the city. Stark transfers his knowledge over to the lead Eidelon, who needs more of her population, who are all being lead around wreckage somewhere by Noranti. The heroes are trying to keep their status a secret, but Ahkna is getting info from a spy (gasp!) and is coordinating her troops around their position. Oh, and Aeryn’s water just broke and she’s giving birth. Which the Diagnosan is able to help with, until he takes a bullet through the skull, and now Chiana is working to turn the baby around, which would be much easier if Aeryn would stop shooting at everything.

So yeah, fun times ensue.

Some issues with pacing and focus aside, this miniseries is getting better by the hour, as we’re actually building all our threads and character arcs to a definite climax, and things are weaving together beautifully. John is also being pushed to one of his trademark breaking points, as he has a massive choice in front of him, and the universe just doesn’t seem willing to allow him to make the right one.

I’m all amped for the conclusion, so let’s wrap this up!

Hour 4

Hang on. I’m still dabbing away at my eyes with some sob-filled tissues after this stretch….

Okay, I’m go–OH GOD WHY….

….

….

Okay, I’m good.

So Sikozu is the traitor. Not a huge shock, and when Scorpius confronts her about it, it goes about as squickily as you’d imagine. Surprisingly, she survives the encounter, in a nice little moment where Grunchlk is also left behind alive. We never see how they get off the planet prior to events soon to be spoken of, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they showed up again in the comics.

As for Scorpius, the most fascinating thing about him in this final stretch is that he doesn’t pull a heel-turn. He doesn’t particularly get along with our heroes, but there’s never a surprise betrayal on his part as they work together up to the very end toward their shared goals. Building things to an ultimate confrontation between John and Scorpius would be the expected way for this ultimate finale to go, so I find it refreshing that it’s instead a path they share.

Aeryn gives birth in a great sequence of chaos, as John is there, Chiana is medicating herself with purloined liquor, Stark is trying to remember the right prayers to marry them, and Rygel vomits up John’s mother’s ring for the occasion. They really dance their way around how Aeryn manages the act without taking off her tight leather pants, but I’ll give them the happy moment. And I love how Aeryn asks John to promise to find a way out of this, he says, “Done,” and the next thing we see are all our heroes side by side as they blaze their way right through the opposition.

And then there’s an ambush and D’Argo is killed.

Say what you will about the structure of the miniseries leading up to this point, but from here on out, it’s one emotional punch after another, as the big guy says his farewells while coughing up black blood, Chiana has to be dragged away, Stark respects his wish to leave his soul be, and John has to say goodbye to the best bro he’s ever known. And then they put a pair of pulse rifles in his hands and leave him blasting away at the enemy shouting “I’M YOUR DADDY!!!” This is further punctuated by the great moments of Pilot and Moya learning of his death, and John being unable to break the news to Jothee.

So then we get to the wormhole weapon, as John learns Pilot had the DRDs build all the necessary components, and realizes it really has reached the point of this being the only option. Here’s the thing about Farscape: this has never been a story about heroes, never a story about peace. So while these are big themes conveyed to us by this mini-series, it gives them to us in a way packed with pain and guilt and tears about choices the characters are forced to make. And John, just before activating the big guns, knows this, and makes Scorpius beg him for it before pushing the button.

And we have our wormhole weapon, an exponentially increasing black hole which will ultimately consume the entire galaxy if left untouched. The Scarrans can’t break away. The Peacekeepers can’t break away. And Moya can’t break away. Everyone is pretty much doomed as they watch the planet below tear apart in the expanding rings of fire, destroying the only home ever known by the Eidelon populace needed to broker the necessary peace. It’s finally enough to shut everyone up and realize the consequences of four years of chasing around the cosmos a dude capable of absolute annihilation, and he’ll be damned if he doesn’t destroy everything before letting his son be born into a war.

Peace is agreed to and he shuts the weapon down, just as Einstein yanks all the wormhole knowledge from his brain, leaving John in the coma we saw in the opening tag. He stares with unseeing eyes, never witnessing the Eidelon-brokered peace, nor Scorpius finally taking pleasure in the meeting of both his halves, nor Stark freeing himself of his mask and the madness in his soul, nor Jothee accepting the blade of his fallen father. But he does see the passing of Harvey, recreating the final moments of 2001: A Space Odyssey as the neural clone program completes its mission and begins deleting itself. And he comes to and rolls over, seeing his son resting at his side. And Aeryn is watching from the corner, and…

ALL THE TISSUES. ALL OF THEM.

I’ll admit the final scene is a little cheesy, as they doll up and present their son – of course named D’Argo – to the cosmos, but hell, they’ve earned it by this point. Whatever problems I had with the buildup of this miniseries, with their visible compression of season 5 and juggling of too many elements to give some of them enough focus to make them work, they ultimately nailed it in the end, and gave us an out where we could cheer for our heroes. In four season of hard choices and haunting consequences and the losing of multiple minds, they finally let us, the audience, find some peace as they waved us off, with so much left they wanted to share, but an understanding that their guarantee to do so was no longer there.

Oh, and Braca lived. Huzzah!

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  1. Yup, we brought Sikozu and Grunchlk back in the “Strange Detractors” comics miniseries, and Sikozu stayed on Moya after that, through to “The War for the Uncharted Territories.”

    Reply
    • NoelCT

       /  May 30, 2014

      That’s awesome to hear. I recently got my hands on a bunch of the Farscape comics and hope to start digging through them at some point.

      Reply
  2. Tiny Williams

     /  June 1, 2014

    CGI Rygel? Boooo! Was the Henson Group not involved at this point?

    Reply
    • Tony Williams

       /  June 1, 2014

      I accidentally called myself “Tiny” Williams. Freudian slip? Naaaaah.

      Reply
    • Eva

       /  June 1, 2014

      He’s just CGI for the purposes of swimming. He’s full on Rygel for all the rest of it, though he looks a much fresher color of green. Maybe it was the swimming that did it!

      Noel, I pretty much agree with your take on this. The first 45-60minutes was messy. The Jool introduction seemed very left field as far as the way she tries to jump John’s bones, though I do like Aeryn’s reaction shot. Nevertheless, by the time you get to the last 45 minutes, you’re almost holding your breath.

      I know lots of folks, including Claudia Black herself, thought the ending was a bit too cheery. However, like you, I agree that they–and we–had earned that respite. In my mind, before the comics came around, that moment was the calm before the the storm.

      Also, Ben and Claudia looked beautiful in that last scene so it’s all good!

      Reply
  1. [Deconstructing Moya] Noel’s take on Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars | Made of Fail Productions

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