Farscape 1.14-1.15: “Jeremiah Crichton”; “Durka Returns”

What’s interesting is that the Nebari do seem to have molded him into a better person–calm, obsequious, polite–but at the same time, Zhaan is repulsed by their behavior. From her perspective, it would have been better for them to have killed this monster outright than to mentally break him into someone he is not. Because he seems less a person than a shattered remnant. And she realizes that, although Durka was completely evil, the Nebari would be just as interested in eliminating the dark attributes they don’t like from her friends and her.

Meanwhile, Rygel doesn’t believe that their conditioning has worked at all. From the moment he lays eyes on Durka again, he sees nothing but the face of pure evil. As with the first time we learned of Durka in “PK Tech Girl,” there is absolutely no sense of underlying comedy to Rygel in this episode. Rygel is terrified of this man and has every right to be, and just as with Chiana murdering Salis (assuming she did it, which, again, is left ambiguous), one could even argue that he’s fully justified in attempting to kill him. The problem is, though, that in so doing, he hurts the pregnant Moya and nearly gets Crichton killed in the process–which, at least, he does seem genuinely sorry for–via a homemade bomb, not to mention the irony that it seems that the shock of the explosion manages to break the Nebari’s mental cleansing. Durka might have remained in his weakened, neutered state if it weren’t for Rygel’s refusal to accept that it had worked. At the same time, it also belies the Nebari’s insistence that their methods are foolproof, if all that it took was an unexpected boom to jar him back into his old psychotic self, which means they are hubristic and wrongheaded on multiple levels.

Crichton’s comparison of Durka to Hannibal Lecter is right on target. David Wheeler gives a truly awesome performance, making Durka just as frightening as the reputation that preceded him. Like Lecter, there is a disarming calmness and singleminded focus to his twisted nature. From the moment he takes Rygel and Aeryn as hostages–the former being Rygel’s worst nightmare brought to life–the episode takes on a sense of menace, dread, and near unbearable tension unlike any Farscape before it, which is multiplied fourfold when Durka finally learns of Moya’s unborn baby and plans to kill it in order to restore her starburst capabilities, which are temporarily out of commission due to the pregnancy (it’s the reason she ended up colliding with the Nebari ship in the first place).

It’s incredible just how much Moya feels like a real being in moments such as this–a mother whose child is in danger at the hands of a madman who would kill it without a moment’s hesitation if it means escaping the Nebari. This causes us, as audience members, to feel just as on edge as the crew. And just as Crichton promised Moya in “They’ve Got a Secret” that they all love her baby, here they all risk their lives to protect both mother and child, which is particularly impressive when it comes to John given, again, he has had no training but does manage to take out Durka with science, ironically fine-tuning the very sort of bomb Rygel had tried to use, and in the process also enlisting Chiana’s help, thus showing her the sort of allies they could be for her.

But even more important than Crichton’s temporary vanquishing of Durka is Rygel’s, who finally manages to conquer his demons and bravely laugh in this monster’s face, in what is easily his finest moment on the series to date. His overwhelming fear of him turns to simple disdain when he realizes how excited Durka seems to be getting at the prospect of torturing a handcuffed Aeryn with intense heat.

RYGEL: Durka, you are pathetic. Look at you. Salivating at the chance to maim and kill someone who can’t even defend herself. Foaming at the mouth like a sick trelkez. Pathetic.

DURKA: Why, Rygel, what’s this?

RYGEL: Something I should have said to you a long time ago…Go ahead and…[torture me]. I don’t care. Because the all-powerful Durka is a failure. It’s the truth, Durka! You tortured me without mercy, but you never broke me! You only made me stronger! And even if you kill me, I’ll be laughing at you because the last thing I’ll think of is you on Nebari prime for another 100 cycles, being ground back down to nothing.

This is a glorious scene for Rygel. For one, he shows no concern for himself here. What prompts these words is the fact that Durka is about to hurt Aeryn, his–despite himself–friend (and note that he doesn’t say “salivating at the chance to maim and kill a defenseless woman” or worse, girl, as another show might but instead simply, someone). And even though Aeryn says later that she doesn’t think he even noticed she was there, I believe the fact that Durka’s threat to her is what inspired Rygel’s anger belies that.

Furthermore, even though he is currently incapable of physically defending himself against Durka, being much smaller than he, as well as tied-up, he laughs in his face, calling him out as a pathetic, fearful bully who may talk a big game and get off on inflicting pain but who ran like a frightened animal while the Nebari slaughtered his crew. In season 2, Rygel will get to finish Durka off for good, but this scene here is truly his greatest victory against him.

Aeryn’s evolving reaction to Durka over the course of the episode is fascinating, as well. At the start, she at least partially ignores Rygel’s words against him because they don’t jibe with the PK hero she had grown up idolizing. She soon afterwards, however, realizes that it was all propaganda, just as Rygel said, first upon hearing from Durka’s own lips that he’d fled to save himself rather than going down with his ship, as a brave Peacekeeper should, and later of course when she sees firsthand what a raving lunatic he is. What it represents is yet another piece of her past being revealed to be a lie, but this time rather than this knowledge hurting her, it helps reconfirm for her why it was right to leave, just as Rygel surely impressed her here, even if she won’t admit it to him.

I also love that not only won’t she admit it but she feels the need to burst his bubble a little by pointing out to him that by reveling at having beaten Durka at his own game, he’s compared himself to a Peacekeeper. While people tend to like characterizing themselves as being nothing at all like their enemies, this is a reminder that sometimes, especially when living the life the characters on this show do, the lines do blur.

Next: “A Human Reaction” and “Through the Looking Glass”

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Author: Robert Berg

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  1. Farscape 1.16-1.17 “A Human Reaction”; “Through the Looking Glass” | DreamPunk - […] continuing our journey with John Crichton last week with “Jeremiah Crichton” and “Durka Returns,” our Farscape re-watch continues this week with the sixteenth…

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