Farscape 2.13-2.14: “Look at the Princess,” Part 3; “Beware of Dog”

The truth of the matter is, though, that that’s simply the form the Vork assumes when it’s ready to devour the parasite. Again, this level of subversion within subversion is so distinctly Farscape. First, we have a seemingly adorable, cuddly, friendly alien creature, but almost an exaggerated parody of such since, upon boarding the ship, he swiftly goes on to pissing on D’Argo, defecating in Aeryn’s quarters, and then humping her leg. Then, it seems that that sweet little guy might actually be a deadly monster, appearances-can-be-deceiving being one of the series’ recurring themes. But, then, that appearance turns out to be the truly deceiving one, since in actuality, he isn’t the culprit after all. The real one is actually Rygel, or what we had thought was Rygel this whole time. The real Rygel had been trapped in a cocoon for most of the episode, the parasite having taken his form a la Invasion of the Body Snatchers, manipulating them into blaming the Vork.

But they learn this too late, after Aeryn and John have already fired multiple times upon the poor creature, who had only been trying to help them after all. What makes this especially upsetting is that, at one point, they actually had realized the truth. They had captured the Vork and had even injected him with translator microbes so that they could communicate. Well, technically, his speech is too primitive for for John and Aeryn’s microbes to translate but he can understand them on a basic level, and Pilot is able to translate his rudimentary language for them (As he says, “Because of my bond with Moya, I am accustomed to non-verbal communication. While I don’t believe this creature has language in a true sense, it seems to be expressing itself in a mixture of simple concepts, sensations, and instinctual reactions.”). However, shortly after coming to trust him, the false Rygel fakes being poisoned by him, making it seem like the Vork had been lying to them, after all. The only piece of evidence that doesn’t seem to fit is that, when Zhaan had taken a sample from him, she had found no venom, and yet there is no other logical explanation that they can find.

And so in the end, he dies in Aeryn’s arms, our former Peacekeeper heroine absolutely devastated by having accidentally ended his life for no reason, and Pilot’s translations of his dying words making it all the more painful. Even this small level of communication hasn’t solved the problem, as it might have on any other sci-fi show. Farscape kills the cute creature, and it does so due to our heroes drawing incorrect but, again, completely logical conclusions. That’s what makes it so brilliant and so desperately sad. It doesn’t even happen due to poor judgment on our heroes’ parts, and it’s difficult to see how it possibly could have played out differently, given the amount of information they all had–particularly given the fact that the Vork seemed to turn on them after they had come to tentatively trust him, making him seem particularly duplicitous…up until it’s too late. And before that fatal twist, it’s actually often a very funny episode–as well as simultaneously eerie, another Farscape specialty–but on a rewatch, it’s difficult to lightheartedly laugh at their misunderstandings of the Vork’s attempts to convey the truth to them, particularly due to all the dramatic irony that reveals itself on a rewatch (Farscape truly is one of the few shows that is designed to reveal more layers on successive viewings.). Which might possibly make it a great episode but also a deliberately uncomfortable one that I appreciate more than I like.

And underscoring this story of our heroes unintentionally killing an innocent, we also have John’s continued potential descent into madness, which adds a brilliant counterpoint to even the episode’s more seemingly lighthearted moments, increasing its tension, suspense, and sense of paranoia, and also acting as a thematic parallel. The Vork is hunting the parasite, John and Aeryn are hunting the Vork, and Scorpius is hunting John within his own mind, John and Aeryn just as unaware of the truth about what is happening in Crichton’s head as they are about the Vork. After John spared Scorpy’s life in the previous episode, Aeryn questions him this week as to why, and he responds, “I tried. Tried, but I couldn’t. Something stopped me. Something inside.” At the start of the episode, John had been playing a board game–which seems to be basically a form of space chess–against himself, and in the final, eerily full circle moment, it’s revealed that he’s actually playing against Scorpius, a brain-shatteringly ingenious revelation that comments on and teases John’s current state, foreshadows where his arc is going, and is a flawless lead-in to the next episode, the mindfrelling “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” where the presence of Harvey is finally confirmed 100%…for us, as viewers, at least.

What makes the gradual unfolding of this arc so deeply impressive is that, as with all of the show’s greatest mysteries, it plays completely fairly.  Farscape doesn’t spring the Scorpy clone reveal on the audience out of nowhere. In fact, it first introduced him very early on, in “Crackers Don’t Matter,” obscuring the full meaning behind the appearance but still presenting evidence that indicated something was up, given Crichton was the only one actually “hallucinating” a figure that wasn’t there. And then in each subsequent Harvey appearance, he acted in a way fully consistent with what we later learn about his modus operandi but in a way that could also be interpreted either as John losing his mind, Scorpius having created some sort of mental link to John, or both. It would probably be difficult to guess the exact, full nature of what’s going on–that it’s a literal neural clone collecting information inside Crichton’s mind–though not impossible, but it’s done in such a way that once the final piece of the puzzle clicks into place, everything before it makes even more sense than before. The irony is, of course, that on one level, John isn’t crazy. Scorpius is actually in his head. On another level, however, the clone’s presence is also driving him crazy, causing his mind to fracture. Again, some of this will be literal, when Harvey actually takes over his mind, and other times it will be psychological–John thinking he’s going off the deep end, losing his sense of self, and ironically coming even more undone as a result.

Just two more things:

–As sad as this episode makes me, Aeryn’s priceless facial imitation of the Vork will never not be funny.

–…as is the shot of “zombie Rygel” rising from unconsciousness.

–Chiana has some great character stuff in this episode, as well, blaming herself for D’Argo’s condition, having been the one to bring the Vork on board (even though it was actually a joint decision with D’Argo). And at first, her mixture of guilt and grief actually inspires her not to stay by D’Argo’s side. Sitting there, watching him die just makes her feel helpless, whereas going out and trying to hunt down the creature with the others allows her to feel like she’s being useful while also distracting her from the aforementioned negative emotions, which is very Chiana, making it all the more touching when she finally does put her fears aside and simply holds D’Argo through his illness. Her feelings for him are seeming to be come more real, which will later actually ironically hurt their relationship when it begins to scare her.

Next: “Won’t Get Fooled Again”

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Author: Robert Berg

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  1. Farscape 2.15: “Won’t Get Fooled Again” | DreamPunk - […] continuing our journey with John Crichton last week with “Look at the Princess,” Part III and “Beware of Dog”, our Farscape re-watch continues this week…

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