–Although John says this planet reminds him of Mad Max, I can’t help but being reminded of Dune and the planet, Arrakis, both due to the reddish, sunburnt people with the bright blue eyes, as well as the idea of the chief export being a single, all-important plant (like the Spice in Dune).
–Aeryn’s humorous line that she’d rather be eaten alive than discover that there is a genetic link between humans and Sebaceans is even funnier once The Peacekeeper Wars is taken into account, in which we learn that there most certainly is!
–Famous Australian actress, Angie Milliken, is absolutely fantastic and truly creepy as Volmae, the Sykaran ruler. Like Lisa Hensley as Matala in the previous episode, she goes very weird with her character, really playing up her utter alienness to a level we basically never see on other similar shows.
–Everything that happens to Rygel in this episode is amazing. You could practically imagine Brian Henson giggling maniacally at the idea of a Jim Henson puppet pissing explosives.
–The worm forcibly stuffed into Crichton via his belly button gives the episode an additionally dark, twisted Farscape edge. It’s also the sort of penetrative violation that male sci-fi action heroes don’t usually suffer (contributing to the recurring theme of John being put in the traditionally/stereotypically female role).
–In many ways, this episode has the largest scope of any so far, with a seemingly huge cast of extras. It’s the first truly extended time we’ve spent on any of the planets, and the first time we’ve gotten to know a large populace to this extent.
1.07: “PK Tech Girl” Original airdate: 16 April 1999
Claudia Black has famously said that “PK Tech Girl” was the episode in which she really started to get a handle on how to play Aeryn. Rockne S. O’Bannon in his commentary for the previous episode even cites it as the episode where he believes the show really started to hit its stride for the first time, and to be honest, I don’t really agree with either, which isn’t to say it isn’t an excellent episode, because it is truly fantastic, but I don’t think they’re giving themselves or the show enough credit.
As far as Black is concerned, of course, she is the only one inside her own head, so if she feels that this is where she began to get comfortable with Aeryn, then I certainly believe her. However, from my perspective, she was brilliant in the role right off the bat. From the very first moment she overpowered Crichton in their shared cell, she was Aeryn Sun, fully formed, to me, and previous episodes, even the most recent, “Thank God It’s Friday…Again” allowed her to stretch herself as a character even before this one, so while internally, she might have felt this was a turning point for her in acting the role, I felt she had already nailed it. As far as the show on the whole, again, I think it was already finding its voice by this point–particularly in “Back and Back and Back to the Future”–and I don’t necessarily see this episode as being a marked improvement over that.
Again, however, please don’t get me wrong. This is a terrific hour of Farscape–a particularly great one for John and Aeryn that also manages to make time for superb Rygel development, as well as some good D’Argo/Zhaan interactions, and additionally humanizing yet another Peacekeeper and introducing us to another wonderfully weird Jim Henson’s Creature Shop alien creation in the form of the Sheyang, who are basically nasty, tall, toad-headed creatures that spit fire like dragons.
The episode kicks off when Moya stumbles upon a derelict, rotting Peacekeeper command carrier that Rygel immediately identifies as the Zelbinion, which he knows intimately because it was the first PK ship he was held on after being deposed as Dominar of Hyneria, and a place where he faced a great deal of misery, horror, and physical torture at the hands of its cruel captain, Durka. If we had held any misconceptions that life as a PK prisoner might not have been as bad as the Moya crew has said, or that Peacekeepers might not be as awful as they are described, Rygel’s nightmarish memories of the terrifying Durka are meant to fully dispel them. That isn’t to say that every PK is a cruel tyrant, but it is clearly a system that allows corrupt psychopaths in power to flourish–such as Durka and, arguably, Crais. Rygel’s memories are unnervingly dark and frightening, and his genuine fear further demands that we take him seriously as a character. At times, he can be played for laughs, but in a situation like this, we get a real sense for what indignities and pain he has suffered, which must have been a particular shock to him at the time, having gone directly from being royalty to being treated without a hint of humanity (for lack of a better word). Even today, that fear is palpable and real, to the point that he’s afraid to even set foot on the ship.
That’s why Zhaan’s advice to him that he should face his fears, go onto the Zelbinion and confront Durka’s corpse is so powerful. It takes Rygel a long time to rally himself, but he ultimately does, spitting green goo on the captain’s skeleton and reveling in him having apparently died as a coward via suicide. Now, in actuality, this isn’t Durka. We learn later that he is still alive, a captive of the Nebari, but for now, it is a cathartic moment of triumph for Rygel. Overall, the entire episode makes his hatred of the Peacekeepers feel more understandable and visceral than ever before. When he similarly spits at Gilina, the PK tech girl of the title, who they discover on the Zelbinion–the only living person–we understand the anger that drove him to bite Aeryn in “I, E.T.” on a whole new level, even if it was similarly misplaced.