And there’s actually a longer story behind it, which is that the episode was one of the first scripts ever written for the show and was the one that sold the SciFi Channel on picking up Farscape to series. However, when it came time to actually make the show, the writers never found an appropriate place to fit the plot into Season 1. At the start of Season 2, however, Farscape was moving to a different studio and they needed to produce an episode that wouldn’t require any of the show’s permanent Moya sets, as they were in transit, so they decided it was finally the right time to do this story, which still required a bit of editing as the original version treated the idea of a planet called Litagara whose population was 90% made of lawyers in a far more jokey, goofy manner, whereas the finished product, which actually took the concept semi-seriously in a darkly satirical sort of way, is a better fit for the more broody place the characters were in at that point.
After the episode was completed, however, SciFi wasn’t comfortable with the idea of beginning the season with an episode that didn’t resolve the cliffhanger from the previous season finale, believing that it would try the audience’s patience, and so they instead simply aired the second episode as the premiere and moved this episode to later in the season, slightly altered with two framing sequences that would establish the flashback. As I said in the previous post, I have mixed feelings about both potential placements. On the one hand, I actually rather like that the missing episode causes a bit of disorientation the first time around, and that the information is then filled in later. And given that this episode doesn’t really feed into the larger arc other than driving Zhaan to join the Seek, I agree that it might have bothered some people. On the other, I also like that it would have been so bold about playing with audience expectation, and making them wait a little longer for resolution. Also, having now seen the scenes that had to be cut in order to accommodate the framing device, I think it’s a real shame that they had to be eliminated, as they add important layers to the story that actually changed my perception of Pilot’s role in it.
In the episode, as it aired, Zhaan’s story begins when they land on Litagara, which is the last habitable planet that John, Aeryn, and D’Argo could have possibly gone to after Moya starburst away in “Family Ties,” and throughout the story, their search for their friends is given the additional pressure of Pilot repeatedly warning them that Moya is losing patience with the search for the three of them and is desperate to find her son, which adds real urgency to the plot and helps underline just how much they all care for their missing friends at this point. In “Jeremiah Crichton,” after 3 months of trying to locate John, even Zhaan was saying that it might be time to call off the search, and Aeryn backed her up, saying “there will come a time where we may have to acknowledge that Crichton has met his destiny and we’re just not part of it.” This time, however, it’s Pilot who has to say the same to her: “Perhaps it is time to accept their fate, whatever it may be, does not include us.” And yet Zhaan has a great deal of trouble with this, which one can extrapolate is due to them having grown far closer at this point, the sudden loss of three of them at once, and the fact that they had sacrificed themselves for her and the others who had managed to escape on Moya. However, it isn’t expressly stated and has to be largely interpreted through Virginia Hey’s truly gorgeous performance. Furthermore, although Pilot repeatedly reiterates that it’s Moya and not he who wants to leave, it still makes him seem to care less about finding the others simply by dint of being Moya’s mouthpiece.
The original opening scene of the episode, which appears as a bonus feature on the DVD (along with the entire original cut of “Re: Union”), shines a very different light on Pilot, however. In it, both Zhaan and Pilot are clearly desperately heartbroken over the loss of their friends and their lack of luck in finding them so far, and in it, the two take turns supporting one another. Pilot asks why it’s been so hard to get over the three of them, and Zhaan answers that it’s because of the sacrifice they made, which bonded them closer as a family even as it ripped them asunder. And just as Zhaan first helped talk Pilot through calming breaths, then he does the same for her. It’s a beautiful opening, one of the rare one-on-one scenes between these two characters, a particularly lovely balm to her part in the attack on him in “DNA Mad Scientist,” establishing that they’ve grown past that, possibly largely due to their shared loss here.
Further, it makes it clear that Pilot is not as sure as Moya that it’s time to give up. This is the first time we’ve ever seen that Pilot can disagree with her at times, even if he ultimately has to follow her wishes, which makes an interesting statement about his individuality and youth, as well as his commitment to Moya, which ultimately supersedes any of his concerns. He can cajole or try to gently convince her of his argument, but ultimately, it’s her decision, and he would never try to dominate her like a Peacekeeper would. Meanwhile, as much as Moya loves John, Aeryn, and D’Argo, it’s fully understandable that, as a mother, she would put her child first. Unfortunately, however, a lot of the nuances regarding Pilot and even the full, articulated reasons behind Zhaan’s grief are if not lost at least muffled with the loss of that economical but extremely effective scene.
Now, this is another episode of Farscape that a lot of viewers are down on–particularly ironic given that there wouldn’t be a Farscape without it!–but which I am actually very fond of, for a number of reasons:
1) I find Zhaan’s journey–and Hey’s depiction of such–in this episode beautifully and often heartbreakingly expressed. Her mounting desperation feels achingly real, from the start when she’s simply trying to hold herself together, needing to be the rock for the–at least to her–childish Chiana and Rygel even while falling apart inside, to when her greatest nightmare is realized and she is again incarcerated, this time due to two entirely trumped-up charge, the second of which is being framed for a murder, at which point her mind truly starts to shatter. The first time Zhaan’s mind broke, it was after murdering her lover and political enemy in cold blood. This time, it happens because she finds herself reliving her darkest time, only this time in a possibly even worse situation, having been stripped of her newfound friends and freedom and almost sure to be executed for a crime she didn’t actually commit. Given what we know about how difficult it can be for Delvians to control their sanity, no wonder she snaps.