Farscape 1.18-1.19: “A Bug’s Life”; “Nerve”

The ingenious thing about all of this is that, on a first viewing, Scorpy just seems to be another high-ranking Peacekeeper psychopath (we may not be sure how whatever species he is became thus, but other than that…). We expect that he is interested in wormholes because that is his job, and that he also delights in torture for the sake of torture because he is evil. However, even though it takes until mid-season 3 for us to learn his true motivations, it all holds up and tracks perfectly when you revisit this first appearance. We know now that wormholes are a particular, deeply personal obsession of his and that his animosity against John isn’t due to being intrinsically evil but because he believes the information locked in his head could help save the galaxy from an even worse evil. And yet that also doesn’t absolve him of his behavior nor the fact that he does enjoy turning peoples’ brains inside out. But it also makes his discovery of what’s inside Crichton’s brain even more goosebump-inducing than the first time around, because we really know what this means to him. On subsequent viewings, this “coincidence” has the predestined thrust of myth.

And the episode ends with a true gut punch, because with Aeryn saved by the injection, we almost have the warm, happy, triumphant ending of other episodes, the crucial aspect missing from the scene being Crichton himself. Cut to John again in the chair, Scorpy making mincemeat of his brains before the show’s very first “To Be Continued…” As I said, Farscape would never be the same.

Other odds and ends:

–I’ve also always loved the Aeryn/D’Argo material in this episode. While lying in bed, Aeryn tells D’Argo that, as a warrior, she wants to die alone, which we actually know isn’t true from how she opened up to John in “The Flax”. She is instead trying to project a bolder, stalwart image to a fellow warrior here to save face. And what’s so beautiful about this is that D’Argo realizes this. And he comes up with a plan to prolong Aeryn’s life by using Moya’s natural filtration abilities, but won’t let Zhaan reveal to her that it was his idea. When she asks why, this dialogue exchanges occurs:

D’ARGO: Earlier on, Aeryn told me she wanted to die alone. As a warrior, I should respect her wishes and not interfere.

ZHAAN: You did a good thing. You may have saved her life. Despite her words, she really didn’t want to die.

D’ARGO: I don’t even believe that she wants to die alone.

This is profoundly moving on many levels. As in the past, D’Argo demonstrates an internal conflict between his ingrained warrior code and his own desires, and yet here he finds a way to honor the former while doing what he feels is right. And being a warrior, he can identify with Aeryn on a particular level the others can’t, and knows from personal experience that a lot of the warrior facade is a front to obscure any given soldier’s own fear of death. He really gets it, as much as he gets why she clings to that facade, and so allows Zhaan, the healer, to have the credit for saving her. And shows a similar sense of knowing exactly the right thing to say when he echoes her own words to him from “Throne for a Loss”: “You will die. But not today.” Crichton does a similar thing at the start, when he gives her a handshake before leaving. As Claudia Black says on the commentary, “Everyone is trying to allow Aeryn to be what she knows best, and that is a warrior, and so Crichton is giving her the dignity of controlling her emotions and having a meaningful but not melodramatic potential goodbye.”

–I also always loved how tenderly Zhaan cares for Aeryn here. In many ways, the two of them may be the most diametrically opposed of any two people on Moya and so rarely express outward affection for each other, however underneath it all, there is love there. They may not be best friends but they are family, and that really comes through here.

–There’s something so sad and touching about how Gilina kisses John’s eyebrows, echoing their first kiss and desperately trying to convey how she still feels for him, hoping it will reignite his feelings for her, however at the same time she can tell that things have changed and that she’s trying to recapture something that may no longer exist for him. It’s a moment of silence that speaks a thousand words.

–It’s incredible just what a sense of epic scope the Aurora Chair scenes bring to the series. Seeing the quick flashes of past events–in conjunction with all of the references to past episodes throughout this one–gives such a sweeping sense that every single event on the show to date has led to this moment after which nothing will ever be the same.

–This episode also introduces the wonderful Paul Goddard as Stark, along with his immortal opening “My side…your side…my side…your side.” I will have more to say about Stark in the next episode, as not much about him is revealed in this one, other than that he seems crazy, the result of countless rides in the Aurora Chair. For now, I just wanted to remark on how incredible his performance is, and just as fearless as Browder’s, in a different way.

–One of the most deeply unsettling and memorable parts of the entire episode to me has always been John’s line, “Danger, danger, Will Robinson…Beware the chair…beware the chair,” because the use of the pop culture reference to Lost in Space is so very John but at the same time, it isn’t played for laughs. Browder’s haunted reading of the line, leading right into the eerie rhyme makes for a supremely disquieting moment, enhanced by the zoom-in on his face, which up to this point has always been shot in a way that makes him look youthful but here calls attention to the lines in his forehead, making him look bedraggled, tormented, and older than ever before, as if he’d aged 20 years over the past few hours.

–I love that Crichton, even while a total wreck, is able to ascertain that Crais is lying to him about having Moya and his friends by asking him how Aeryn is doing. When Crais says that she’s fine, showing no hint of realizing that she’s dying, Crichton knows the truth–a very intelligent move.

–I always saw the moment that Chiana lights the PK commander on fire–although, yes, it’s in self-defense–to be an indirect acknowledgment that she most likely killed Salis in “Durka Returns,” as well. She’s certainly capable of it. Either way, it’s a beautiful reminder that this girl, while fiercely loyal to Moya’s crew, is as dangerous as any of them.

–And, of course, Moya starts having contractions now, at the worst possible moment. That’s Farscape for ya.

Next: “The Hidden Memory” and “Bone to Be Wild”

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Author: Robert Berg

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  1. Farscape 1.20-1.21: “The Hidden Memory”; “Bone to Be Wild” | DreamPunk - […] continuing our journey with John Crichton last week with “A Bug’s Life” and “Nerve,” our Farscape re-watch continues this week with the twentieth…

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