This theme of prejudging another person based on one’s physical exterior ripples throughout the episode, which has numerous characters coming to surprise the others with capabilities they hadn’t realized they had had. At the beginning, Rygel may seem as conniving and small (in more ways than one) as ever, and the regal spirit painting Zhaan makes of him might even seem a bit ridiculous, and yet by the end, Rygel proves his nobility in approaching and having an audience with the Drak Monarch, who comes to respect him immensely and consider him an equal, which throws people like John and D’Argo for a loop. It can be easy to forget that Rygel used to be the Dominar of an immense empire, and after the hint of his ability to rally himself and “be more” in “I, E.T.” this is the first time we see him in a truly royal light. And, again, Zhaan brought it out by seeing something in him that others don’t and telling him so, thus inspiring him to at least temporarily assume that role. This will continue to be explored in the next episode, “Throne for a Loss”.
The other major case of judging has to do with Crichton, who tells Zhaan that he still feels as if he’s being constantly tested by D’argo and Aeryn, and never living up to their expectations, both completely unsympathetic to the fact that he’s from an entirely different world that doesn’t even know intelligent life exists on other planets. As with Rygel, Zhaan is the only one who takes time to try to catch up with and understand him, and just as she can be empathetic with the Hynerian and the human, so can she be with the two warriors, and she gives Crichton excellent advice–that, as soldiers, they are impressed by action, and that that is what they will respond to. Sure enough, over the course of the episode, he will come to impress both of them, but significantly, not in a way that’s out of character for him. Returning to his dad’s words about him being his “own kind of hero,” Crichton uses a mixture of brains and bravery to do so rather than brawn. To further underline that point, he gets soundly beaten up by replicants of Zhaan, Aeryn, and himself (the latter of which also foreshadows the Crichton clone arc around which much of Season 3 revolves)!
Instead, the tools that come in handy for Crichton are related to his scientific knowledge, which he uses to figure out why the Monarch needs to be inside Moya right now; his sense of pacifism, compassion, and empathy, which he uses to understand and try to reach out to the Monarch; and his creativity, which he uses to outsmart the head of the PK Marauder team that later lands in Moya, first by having the Monarch crank up the heat to worsen their Sebacean heat delirium–more on that in a bit–and then by confounding them by filling a room full of Crichtons, hoping that he might thus convince them to pass the word on to Crais that his species is not one to be trifled with…that, again, Crais had misjudged him and had pursued him without having any knowledge of what he’s really made of. Crichton shows immense bravery in standing up to him and putting on a fearless exterior, impressing D’argo both with that and with how he manages to avoid the PK’s attempt to attack him with a knife, and all without compromising himself or trying to win a physical fight he isn’t capable of winning.
Meanwhile, Crichton proves himself to Aeryn again, but this time through his compassion and his willingness to make a difficult decision. At the start of the episode, he’d indicated to her that he and the rest of Moya’s crew could be friends or even family to her, and she rejected it. Later on, however, when she’s suffering from heat delirium and begs Crichton to kill her if she gets too far past the point, she comes to rely on him for the first time–exposing her vulnerability to the other characters. And while he never agrees to do it, he does choose to temporarily make things worse for her with the goal of defeating the other Peacekeepers, and she respects that, even as she also discovers, in spite of herself, that she appreciates his caring for her. In the episode’s final scene, she finally admits that Crichton isn’t a useless inferior species, and by extension that neither are the others on Moya, which are her first baby steps towards embracing them as family. Meanwhile, according to Brian Henson in the DVD commentary, this experience does mark the start of Crichton beginning to truly fall for Aeryn, due to finally getting a chance to see the cracks in her PK facade.
Interestingly, she had already, at the start of the episode, begun to make these sort of tentative steps forwards with Pilot, with whom she will share a very special relationship over the course of the show. Which makes sense as, also being a pilot herself, they have that in common, which is an easier trait to share than having similar warrior traits to D’argo, given that warriors also tend to be combative with one another. Also, since Pilot is usually more isolated and by himself than the others, like her, she can identify with him in that regard, as well. The scene she later shares with him, in which she is at her most vulnerable, and he even catches her with a claw as she starts to faint, is truly beautiful. They are letting their guards down with each other in a way neither has with anyone else on board up to this scene, and there is, of course, some bittersweet dramatic irony given what viewers who have seen “The Way We Weren’t” know about their pasts.
Basically, though, it isn’t that Aeryn hadn’t begun to form any relationships with the others before this episode. Even D’argo has come to see her as an ally of sorts, even if not yet a friend, but the end of this episode is probably the first time she admits or acknowledges to herself that she is beginning to see the others as such. And that’s huge for her.
Other odds and ends:
–This episode marks the first time we see Zhaan doing sciencey things, although we did hear about her testing Crichton’s DNA in “Premiere”.
–The “dentik,” a small, maggoty-type bug thing that the people in this world place in their mouths and which cleans their teeth, is another great little example of Farscape worldbuilding, enhancing its funny, weird sci-fi universe. At the same time, it also underlines the episode’s theme. Just as with the Draks, Crichton would never have been able to guess that the dentik isn’t something to fear or be squicked out by, and yet when he finally gives it a go, he finds it leaves his breath minty fresh!
–This episode films and presents Moya better than possibly any one before it. The shots through her hallways, with their mesmerizing, overlapping curves give a sense of the scope of the ship, as well as her great beauty.
–As previously mentioned, this episode also features Sebacean heat delirium for the first time, which establishes unequivocally that there are fundamental biological differences between humans and Sebaceans. And while I’ve seen some question how a military force with such a weakness could consider themselves so flawless, I’d say it’s similar to Hitler trying to establish an Aryan ideal that he himself didn’t live up to. Corrupt people in power try to deflect from their own “deficiencies” by denying them or distracting others from noticing them. I see it as very believable. Plus, Big Bad Enemies need some sort of weakness, and this is one that pays off very intelligently multiple times throughout the series. And here, of course, it provides a perfect opportunity to see another side to Aeryn, and for her to see another side to the others.
–Crichton’s assumption that D’argo hates all Peacekeepers is even more interesting in retrospect when we later learn in “They’ve Got a Secret” that (a) his wife was Sebacean and (b) the circumstances of her death explain why he hates PKs so much.
Next: “Throne for a Loss” and “Back and Back and Back to the Future”
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