And, as I said before, things just get worse from there. The Horde sends a message to the nurses that they could have forgiven their general being killed in battle. They are warriors and understand that death in this situation is an inevitability, but what they won’t forgive is that he was dressed in the nurses’ garment at the time. From their perspective, the other side had shot their leader and then dressed his corpse in women’s clothing in a deliberate attempt to mock him. This is what fuels their rage from that point forwards. And by the end, it will again prove to have been Crichton and his friends’ very presence that leads to the nurses’ deaths, for after everything seems completely solved and they leave, secure in the knowledge that everything is back to normal–now there would only be women and children there again, as soon as they return to their own time–the Horde demands that the nurses turn over either the men who had been fighting for them or the pulse pistols they wielded, which were unlike anything they’d ever seen, being from the future. The Horde demands revenge on someone as a scapegoat before they will allow peace talks to resume, and with Crichton and Co. gone, they instead take out their anger on the nurses and children. Later on, peace is eventually struck between the Horde and the other people on the planet, but instead of the monastery being remembered as the place where this peace occurred, it instead becomes a memorial for the tragic deaths that occurred there.
Meanwhile, there is also the matter of Sub-Officer Dacon. One of the most interesting things about the past glimpsed in this episode is that it’s set during a time when the Peacekeepers actually did do good. It’s actually the only indication the series ever gives us that, in its original form, the term wasn’t meant to be ironic. Because it grew into such a huge, powerful force, its original intent became corrupted, as often happens within military institutions, but long ago, many Peacekeepers still held ideals and fought for the little guy. In many ways, therefore, this is the first time Aeryn can really be proud of any aspect of her heritage. Even at that, though, she discovers that the history that was passed down to her hadn’t been accurate. Just as the great Durka she had learned about in school had turned out to be a coward and a tyrant, here she discovers that the one of the Peacekeeper’s greatest heroes, Sub-Officer Dacon, whose death ultimately set the peace talks in motion in the original timeline, and who was known for countless acts of bravery during this struggle, wasn’t really a soldier at all but a simple cook. Granted, this is almost the reverse of typical Peacekeeper propaganda, but it’s a clear indication of how history–particularly surrounding peoples’ most cherished culture folk heroes–is often inaccurate.
And the interesting thing is that Aeryn feels pulled in two directions: on the one hand, once she realizes the truth about him, she wants to protect him, damn the original timeline, while on the other, she discovers that there is an inner bravery within this kid and eventually allows Crichton to convince her that she should help bring that out in him. She feels as if she’s leading him like a lamb to the slaughter but that’s what was supposed to happen. And so he dies, as he’s “supposed” to, but it’s impossible to say whether or not that death was crucial to getting the ending they had wanted and if it had made a significant difference. One could make various arguments for whether John was right that they had to try to force the timeline back to its original state or whether Aeryn was right to think it could be improved, but in the end, it’s impossible to say. It’s left deliberately ambiguous. Stark saw the nurses’ new fate instantly, before his friends and he even arrived in the past. It’s possible that as soon as he put those goggles on, all of their actions were now fated to happen. It’s also possible that some permutation of correct choice could have been made, but the point of the episode is that it doesn’t happen. Feeling this level of darkness and even hopelessness in the moment is a natural part of the grieving process, and it can’t be rushed or forced. Underneath it all, that’s what the episode is really about.
Other odds and ends:
–I love the scene in which both Rygel and Chiana both independently arrive at Zhaan’s chamber, originally intending to loot it–a motif that has occurred numerous times in the past–and yet they both also realize almost instantly that they don’t have the heart for it and have no interest in it. This is huge for both of them. The Farscape writers were always brilliant about showing how it wasn’t only huge, grand gestures that convey depth of emotion. Sometimes, the small things are even more significant. The fact that Rygel and Chiana feel too wounded and aching with loss to steal from Zhaan says more than a thousand teary speeches ever could.
–Although John spoke to Harvey in the last few episodes, this is the first time that he calls on Harvey for advice without any level of anger or recrimination. He just needs someone to talk to, and Harvey is a captive audience. He’s getting used to the idea of him being effectively neutered, and Harvey in turn is starting to evolve into something more than simply Scorpy’s clone. Having achieved his purpose, the only thing he can do is either talk with John or simply hang around his head, stagnating. And so he really starts to become his own person, one who isn’t only plumbing the depths of John’s brain for wormhole knowledge but one who shows gratitude for the bits of culture that being there provides him. Here, he comments on the fact that, if the situation hadn’t reminded John of the Westerns he grew up watching as a kid, Harvey never would have learned “Home on the Range,” a piece of music he clearly starts to enjoy. At the same time, John doesn’t control him. He gives John some counsel but refuses to advise him on how to get out of the situation, because he doesn’t want to be blamed if it goes wrong. Even the fact that he is concerned about that shows how he’s growing and changing.
Incidentally, this is another element that shows just how bold Farscape was getting at this point about not being welcoming to newcomers. Any casual viewer would likely be very confused by the fact that this guy who looks exactly like the series’ main villain seems to be in John’s head but isn’t actually being evil here. He might actually be genuinely changing. But there are no surface differences in look or costume to indicate that he’s not Scorpius. This is some genuinely complex stuff, and it of course only gets all the more so when John is doubled, meaning there are then two Harveys, not to mention “Incubator,” when Scorpy inserts a neural clone of John into his own brain.
–A great little Easter egg: on the bottom of one of Harvey’s cowboy boots you can see the name, “Andy” scrawled in pen, which is, of course, a reference to Woody of Toy Story fame.
–You have to hand it to Farscape. Not only is their new character, Jool, nothing like Zhaan at all, but they go out of their way in this one to make her as irritating as possible, which I’ve always reads as a cheekily meta comment on the fact that audiences almost always reject new cast members when they first arrive, especially when they’re “replacing” a beloved character. And so, instead of going out of their way to try to make Jool as likable as possible, they instead veer directly in the opposite direction, making it as difficult as possible to see the good in her. Now, the problem with this is that some people never got over their initial dislike of her, even once she became a valued family member, but I’m pretty sure the writers knew that that would happen either way so they instead decided to just go for it in their own unique way. And I really do enjoy Tammy Mackintosh in these episodes, particularly on subsequent viewings, now that I like Jool. She is terrific at the show’s oddball sense of humor. Her reaction to learning the medicine the nurses give her is largely composed of piss is terrific.
–Significantly, this is the first episode in which John is referred to as a “soldier”. It’s definitely true by this point but on some level, it hurts to hear it. On the other hand, later on, he will be able to do great good as a soldier. Not today. But someday. He isn’t the naive, wide-eyed youth he was, but he will be a great hero.