Farscape 1.01: “Premiere”

Virginia Hey also manages an amazing blend of maternal warmth along with sensuality. She plays it on both levels. There’s a bit of good-natured joshing of D’Argo–of course, also brilliantly played by Anthony Simcoe–who may seem like a fierce warrior but is actually, in Luxan terms, “but a boy” who has only seen 2 battle campaigns, a hint that, like Crichton, D’Argo is putting on a braver face and exterior than what lies underneath. And at the same time, Zhaan is flirting a bit, indirectly indicating the many orgasmic pleasures available to a Pa’u of her level. And along with character, this scene also introduces a wealth of worldbuilding information, many details of which may go over newbies’ heads but which are all there to be picked over and examined on subsequent viewings. Another example: D’Argo’s lie that he was arrested for killing a superior officer, the truth of which comes out in “They’ve Got a Secret”.

And now let’s get back to Aeryn Sun, who is, of course, absolutely awesome. Her first appearance is also another great subversive Farscape twist. When Rygel first indicates that she’s in the cell with John, he refers to her as “that,” which we later realize is because of how much he hates the Peacekeepers but which in the moment seems like he means that Aeryn is some kind of robot or creature. In her PK armor, she seems to be just as non-human as any of the other characters aboard Moya, until she takes off her helmet, and reveals herself to be, to John’s surprise, a beautiful, young woman. A beautiful young woman who, moments later, completely dismantles him. From her first moment on screen, Claudia Black is utter perfection. She manages to be a badass female warrior here without a hint of male gaze, even though she ends up straddling John, her legs around his neck. Although an inherently sexual position, her attitude and sexless space uniform completely desexualize it. She is simply subduing and restraining her enemy. She still seems more a robot than a person here. It isn’t until the next scene in the kitchen where she starts to show a bit of the pluck and sass that are part of what inspired so many to love her. It’s that buried charisma that starts to intrigue Crichton.

The kitchen scene also introduces a few other elements into the mix, the most prominent likely being that this is the first time we realize that there aren’t really any heroes or villains here. Zhaan, D’Argo, and Rygel may have been prisoners but they have no interest in harming John or Aeryn, and while Aeryn has been raised her entire life to be an emotionless soldier, she has no personal stakes in harming these particular people beyond merely enforcing the PK rules that were ingrained in her since birth. At this point, John really could conceivably choose either side. And later, it’s really only Crais’ insistence on revenge upon John for his brother’s death that makes John realize that the Moya crew is the (only) way to go.

The other thing this scene does is to introduce the first instance of Farscape‘s trademark scatological humor, in the form of our beloved Dominar Rygel XVI of Hyneria farting helium. Farscape always made an effort to ensure that people didn’t just write their animatronic puppets off as Muppets, and beyond Rygel’s generally conniving nature, as evidenced in his earlier scenes, this is the moment that really confirms, no, he is not sweet, no, he is not cute. He is gross. (If anything, the real surprises with Rygel come later when at times he actually reveals a softer side.) At the same time, of course, the effects on all of the characters is very whimsical, and the manner in which the scene handles these shifts is classic Farscape, setting the stage for much more similar humor to come.

Jumping ahead a bit, then, as I previously indicated, Crichton at first decides to go with Aeryn, probably because she seems more like him, at least physically, than any of the others, which leads to some level of identification. He’s grasping for any link to Earth that he can find. In these early episodes, Crichton is also still very optimistic and youthful in many ways, and one gets the sense that, although he can already tell that Aeryn is fundamentally different from him, John believes from the start–even if on a subconscious level–that he can get through to her. And the charming thing about this seeming naivete is that he is right. In spite of herself, Aeryn finds herself intrigued by him–this man who looks just like one of her people but who is so very different. This is why I believe she goes out on a limb for him, leading to her being labeled as “irreversibly contaminated”. And, of course later, in the ingenious season 2 episode, “The Way We Weren’t,” we will learn that Crichton actually reminds her a great deal of a former lover of hers, Velorek, an idealistic Sebacean unlike any other she had ever met. But although the clincher for her is John unknowingly echoing Velorek’s words to her that she can “be more,” I wouldn’t be surprised if on some level he’d already begun to strike a nerve with her.

Speaking of which, this is one of the best pieces of writing I’ve ever seen on any television series. It’s doubtful, at the time he wrote “Premiere,” that O’Bannon realized that the real reason John’s words inspired Aeryn to choose to impulsively follow him back to Moya were that they were the same a former lover had said to her (a former lover who she then condemned to death, guilt for which she still carries underneath her cold surface), and yet, like the aforementioned “closed room mystery,” it works perfectly. On a first viewing, it makes sense, even if it might feel a bit sudden (not that the situation doesn’t force that sort of snap decision), whereas on a later one, it resonates with much deeper meaning. The truth is that the path Aeryn chooses here is one that she had been tempted with in the past, and in the moment, the opportunity to follow it again entices her, even if it’s a decision she will later come to regret at times.

And then, of course, we have the quick getaway back to Moya, Crichton for the first time proving himself capable to the others on some level by making some rapid-fire calculations in order to help get Moya away from the Peacekeepers using his slingshot theory, and finally the aforementioned last scene, in which John fixes the DRD affectionately known as “One-Eye,” and records a message for his dad. Interestingly, by the end of this episode, he has already begun to show the promise that his dad had seen in him, using his emerging brand of heroism not only to help his newfound allies escape but to inspire Aeryn to change the course of her entire life.

Next Week: “I, E.T.” and “Exodus from Genesis”

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Author: Robert Berg

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2 Comments

  1. Great review. I agree with all of your discussion of Premiere. I look forward to reading future reviews.

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  2. It's safe to say, that by this review, you love and understand Farscape like a true fan. Can't wait for the next instalment.

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