After continuing our journey with John Crichton last week with “Home on the Remains” and “Dream a Little Dream,” our Farscape re-watch continues this week with the ninth and tenth episodes of Season 2.
Just one important note: if you are new to Farscape, you may NOT want to partake of these posts, as I plan on including potentially major spoilers for later events. They are written not for the Farscape virgin but more for the viewer who–if not as obsessive about the show as I am–has at least seen it once through and can appreciate the bits of foreshadowing and long-term arc progression that the show sets up often far in advance.
2.09: “Out of Their Minds” Original airdate: 7 July 2000
Sometimes, Farscape goes out there in ways that no other sci-fi show has done before, and other times it takes an old sci-fi chestnut but puts its own incredibly unique spin on it. “Out of Their Minds” is the latter case, doing the classic bodyswap plot that all genre shows seem to hit eventually, and yet, this being Farscape, delving into some of the concept’s naughtier possibilities with the characters truly exploring one another’s bodies. In many ways, it’s the standalone trope that has suited the series’ modus operandi best so far, because it’s one that speaks directly to the show’s mix of wacky surrealism with its always very raw, naturalistic approach to biology. Unlike characters on practically any other space show, Farscape characters fart and piss and puke and screw (the latter sometimes kinkily), and all of this is on full display in this largely comedic episode, which also manages to maintain a dark edge that is distinctly Farscape (I don’t think there’s a single “light” installment, at least once the series had really established its voice, without something strange or disturbing rearing its head at some point.).
And so whereas another show might have all of the humor of this scenario derive from the actors getting the opportunity to take on one another’s roles, mimicking/lightly mocking each other–and, of course, this cast clearly has a blast with this, as well–Farscape goes one step further, having them have to learn how to acclimate to these bodies. For example, when Rygel’s mind is in John’s body, he has no clue how to contain himself when nature comes calling and so John–currently in Aeryn’s body–has to instruct Sparky on how to take out and use his penis to relieve himself, but forgets to instruct him beforehand on how to handle returning it to his pants without getting it caught in the zipper. Later on, when John has a few microts of alone time, he unzips Aeryn’s vest and plays with her breasts, relishing the opportunity to see what it’s like to have a pair to touch and bounce around that are actually “attached” to him, to Aeryn-in-Rygel’s dismay, and in the last shot of the episode, Aeryn will coyly reveal that she did the same with John’s package.
And speaking of John’s package, at another point, China-in-D’Argo attempts to convince Rygel-in-Crichton to run away with her–they’re all in mortal danger at the moment, did I forget to mention?–and does so by coming onto Rygel and showing him the sensual possibilities available to him now in this human body, culminating in her putting her hand on his crotch and making some off-screen motions that imply that she’s…stimulating him down there. But, again, although the characters are Chiana and Rygel, what we are actually seeing are the bodies of two of our male regulars and best buddies, D’Argo and John, having a sexual encounter. You would not see this on Star Trek.
You also wouldn’t tend to see a standalone plot forwarding a long-term character arc on Trek, but here, the experience of having been in each other’s bodies in this most unusual way actually turns D’Argo and Chiana on, inspiring them to immediately do so in the more traditional sense at the end of the episode. With all boundaries crossed between them, they’re finally ready to take their burgeoning relationship to the next level. What other show would have male and female characters swap bodies and not have any of the male characters experience any gay panic or fear of being feminized but instead make them appreciate one another even more and become even more hot for each other? Even John and Aeryn flirt rather outrageously in the final shot!
Meanwhile, for Pilot and anyone who swaps bodies with him, it is a surprisingly profound experience, he having never expected to be separated from Moya again, particularly not so soon after severing their connection in “The Way We Weren’t,” and first D’Argo and then Chiana having to deal with his species’ incredibly complex physiology and multitasking abilities, which prove overwhelming at first. Meanwhile, Pilot’s mind can’t handle the simplicity of their bodies, remaining physically weak throughout the experience, and when in D’Argo, spending most of the time unconscious. While Anthony Simcoe doesn’t get a great deal of time to play Pilot because of this, Gigi Edgley does for a number of scenes and does an absolutely superb job capturing not only his vocal patterns but his fascination and fear at this utterly new experience, as well as his delicate nature. D’Argo and Pilot each gain a newfound understanding of each other:
D’ARGO (in PILOT): The glimpses I get of what you experience, Pilot- they make my own life feel insignificant.
PILOT (in CHIANA): That’s not true, D’Argo.
D’ARGO: It is. I have memories of my son, of a wife, but you have seen the galaxies and the birth of stars.
PILOT: But I have no…no memories of love. Of friendship. None. You have the remarkable memories, D’Argo.
It’s particularly touching and fascinating to hear Pilot speak like this, since he is the one who was so desperate for a life traveling in the stars that he indirectly betrayed Moya’s first Pilot, and yet what he’ll never have is a simple, everyday life of traditional romance, friendship, and love. And yet that doesn’t necessarily mean that Pilot would want to trade lives with D’Argo for good. It’s just that this time inside D’Argo’s body has allowed him to appreciate the positive attributes to the mundane lives of species whose minds and existences are simpler than his, as well as to be able to more adequately reassure D’Argo that even a life that has experienced fewer cosmic wonders than his has its own sorts of awe. Also, he is underestimating how Moya’s passengers feel about him, as he may not have had friendship in the past but he certainly does now.