Farscape 1.02-1.03: “I, E.T.”; “Exodus from Genesis”

And so, due to the small, confined space where the beacon is located, Rygel has to go in and do the cutting, while Zhaan uses her Delvian priest powers to “share” Moya’s pain, and later Aeryn has to help Zhaan through the trauma, a collaborative effort that pushes all of these characters to connect with each other in new ways. Zhaan connects with Rygel for the first time, inspiring him to get over both himself and his fears–after all, he was a ruler of an empire who then became a prisoner and has never had to do this sort of precise physical labor for which, additionally, lives depend on him, not to mention having to cope with the knowledge that he’s inflicting suffering on Moya in the process; this is the first time we see his submerged bravery start to hesitantly emerge–and Zhaan and Aeryn begin to bond, as well, the latter in spite of herself. Witnessing Zhaan’s strength and resolve in putting up with all of the pain, Aeryn comes to respect her in a way she never would have expected to respect not only a member of another species but a seemingly “peaceful hippie female priest,” to boot.

Earlier on, there’s also a great scene between Aeryn and D’argo in which they both air their grievances with one another’s species, Aeryn hypocritically writing the Luxans off as savages, despite the fact that the Peacekeepers kill and imprison thousands by the score on a regular basis. And yet while they have trouble realizing that–both being fierce soldiers–they have more in common than any other two people on Moya, they commiserate with one another over how backwoods and primitive Crichton and his people are. So much sci-fi, even space sci-fi, is so Earth-centric that it’s refreshing to see aliens who couldn’t give a Billean yard rat’s mivonks about Earth. Crichton’s quest might be to get back to Earth, but the other characters have their own problems, as well as their own homes they’re looking for.

Even given that, this episode also marks the first time that Crichton comes to impress D’argo on any level, helping to free him from this planet’s military, despite his limited skill set when it comes to fighting. They are far from being friends, but this is one baby step forwards.

Other odds and ends:

–Crichton’s reflexive eye twitch due to the Paddac beacon is a great early example of how effortlessly Farscape could weave a strange bit of physical comedy into an otherwise dramatic scenario, with the tones perfectly meshing. Browder and Black show some terrific early chemistry in these scenes, with both the twitch itself and her reactions being absolutely hilarious.

–This episode marks the first time a character visits Pilot in his den and we get a sense of both his and the room’s absolutely massive scope. It’s a lovely scene between Zhaan and Pilot that helps set up her strong connection to him and Moya. In retrospect, an additional nuance is added when we realize that Pilot is actually lying to her, at least by omission. She asks whether he knew about what the Peacekeepers had installed on Moya, and he mentions that Leviathans are rendered unconscious when PKs first tame them. What he fails to mention is that he wasn’t there at all yet during this time. Moya had a previous Pilot, of whom we learn in the second season’s “The Way We Weren’t,” a crucial episode that turns many truths we had thought we had known on their heads. And another important point: there is yet another thing the PKs installed on Moya of which the characters are not yet aware–a contraceptive wall blocking a device meant to eventually impregnate her with a Leviathan/gunship hybrid baby, the origin of which also comes out in “The Way We Weren’t”.

–The shots of Moya crashing into the bog are among the most beautiful effects moments of the first season–cinematic quality, while also featuring surreal colors and angles that are distinctly Farscape.

–The moment in which Rygel bites Aeryn’s arm and then swallows the flesh is the strongest “this is not a Muppet” indication of the early episodes. Furthermore, it underlines what a little bastard Rygel can be. The good qualities that can come out at times don’t wash away the bad. Also, however, it shows just how much he has come to hate the Peacekeepers. He doesn’t know Aeryn well enough yet to forgive her for her peoples’ crimes. In retrospect, after one learns about his horrifying torture at the hands of Durka, his reactions to her at this point make even more sense. At this point, we have been told the PKs are bad but we haven’t yet seen that in full action.

–The irony that, in the very episode after we learn that translator microbes are needed for aliens to communicate with each other, the Moya crew hits a planet that had never made any contact with other life, and they have no trouble understanding each other has been pointed out many times. My favorite explanation for this was the (admittedly tongue-in-cheek) fan theory that translator microbes must happen to live in the water there. I’m happy to accept that, largely because Farscape has never been about perfect sci-fi logistics, but about character, emotion, and often weird dream logic.

1.03: “Exodus from Genesis” Original airdate: 26 March 1999


“Exodus from Genesis”

I get the sense that “Exodus from Genesis,” in which a swarm of intelligent alien insects infest Moya so that their female Monarch–who requires warmth while spawning–can lay her eggs there isn’t generally considered anyone’s favorite episode of Farscape, and neither is it mine, particularly due to its pacing, which is slightly slower and more drawn-out than the chaotic heights that the show would reach in its best hours. However, I still consider it an excellent and important early episode for a number of reasons, mostly revolving around its continued character development–this is a crucial early episode for a number of the gradually unfolding relationships and friendships–worldbuilding, and strong thematic unity.

The crux of the episode lies in an early scene in which Crichton first discovers the giant space bugs, nearly jumps out of his skin in fear, and later kills one, as he would any insect on Earth, before bringing it back to Zhaan for analysis, not realizing that they are sentient beings, or that at least the Monarch is, and that she experiences extreme emotional pain when any one of her offspring is killed. The plot is therefore centered on the idea of it being harmful to make assumptions about another being due to its outside trappings. Crichton’s first instinct, upon seeing the insect, is to kill it. Well, technically, his first instinct is to literally climb the wall in terror, another great example of how he is not the typical all-American hero, fear of bugs being a stereotypical feminine trait. But his second is to kill it, never in a million years thinking that he would be causing anyone pain.

Later, when the bugs start attacking the ship, it isn’t until the Monarch takes over Zhaan in order to communicate with them that anyone realizes that the Draks’ behavior at that point is simply retaliatory. The Monarch had raised the heat to dangerously high levels to make a better birthing habitat for her young, and she had struck out against Moya’s crew only once they had killed one of them. On the surface, she couldn’t seem any more different than the species of Moya–all of whom are far more like one another than they might have realized before crossing paths with her–and yet she’s actually driven by emotions just as strong as their own.

Author: Robert Berg

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