–When John describes beer as tasting like “fellip nectar,” it is a direct reference to what Aeryn compared it to on the false Earth in “A Human Reaction,” which I love because (a) it indicates that he had been listening to her, after all, as he probably always does, even when he seems not to be, and (b) it’s another sign of how much more alien he has grown over the course of the show, with now him being the one to make this comparison.
–The scenes between D’Argo and the young girl, in which he inspires her to carve her symbol in the rock so that she’ll be remembered when she dies, are lovely and sad. They are the most paternal that we’ve seen D’Argo, which indicates that while he may not know how to be a dad to an angry young man, due to not having been there to raise him all of that time, he still remembers how to speak to children. And his eventual loss of this little girl reflects his loss of Jothee both back then and now. But there is also something uplifting about seeing him being so gentle and kind to a young child, regardless, a potent reminder that underneath his warrior exterior beats the heart of a poet.
3.06: “Eat Me” Original airdate: 13 April 2001
Farscape had flirted with the horror genre before, in episodes such as “Bone to Be Wild” and the first half or so of “Picture If You Will,” but it arguably never plunged quite as deeply into it as with “Eat Me,” which is effectively a haunted house/mad scientist film in space, set aboard a diseased Leviathan. As with “…Different Destinations,” it is another dark episode whose atmosphere reflects the characters’ downcast and fragmented state of mind after the loss of Zhaan. Whereas the previous episode is a bleak time travel yarn, however, “Eat Me” is a deliriously warped twist on Farscape‘s usual world, with everything flipped upside down, topsy turvy, and deeply wrong.
The main thrust of the episode surrounds John, D’Argo, Chiana, and Jool flying in one of Moya’s transport pods which, due to an error on Jool’s part, has become dangerously crippled, forcing them to land aboard a strange Leviathan that they find drifting in space. The first sign of danger is that she still has a PK control collar on. The second is that she looks ravaged and unwell, and once they disembark from the pod, they discover her in a horrifying state of disrepair, with a rotting smell and leaking pus. Even later than that, they discover that she is populated by mad, feral, zombie-like creatures who used to be Sebacean but who now mindlessly hobble around, literally eating the long-suffering ship and her Pilot. In a pitch-black reference to the events of “DNA Mad Scientist,” this ship’s crew hasn’t only chopped an arm off this Pilot once but countless times. They take two at a time, allowing the appendages to grow back only so that they can chop them off again, an endless food source. His wail of agony, “They’re eating me,” is one of the most haunting and frightening moments of the entire series.
As their stay aboard this ship of horrors progresses, D’Argo seems to be slaughtered right in front of them by a bald, large-eared creature who shoves a spike through his head and seems to suck out his brains for nourishment, and as with “Picture If You Will,” the episode takes a while to confirm that D’Argo hadn’t actually died. Or did he, after all? The villain is Kaarvok, a criminally insane prisoner so dangerous that he was this Leviathan’s only captive, who later managed to overpower his PK captors, and then used a device on them that he had created that has the ability to “twin” people. Rather than traditional cloning, it takes a person and makes two exact copies of them, both technically equal and original, or so he claims. The reason he does this is to provide an endless source of sustenance for himself. Just as they eat the ship and Pilot, he “eats” them, or at least sucks out their brains for his nourishment. But after a while the process begins to produce diminishing results, like a Xerox of a Xerox of a Xerox, and so the legions of the seemingly undead are actually all that is left of the original PKs who had originally held him prisoner, now all copied far past the point of redemption. And so, returning to D’Argo, in a manner of speaking, he did die. In fact, it’s very possible it was the actual original who did, and either way, because both copies are completely identical in every way, the unlucky one was him, as well. Another possibility–and maybe the most likely–is that the actual original D’Argo “died” as soon as the splitting occurred, and both of the doubles are copies of him.
The same happens to Chiana, whose double is slaughtered right in front of her, and despite how much she pleads for help, she instead runs away to save herself. What’s fascinating about this is that it’s a very Chiana thing to do. If the tables were flipped and it was the other Chiana who hadn’t been grabbed by Kaarvok, she would have done the same thing. After all, they’re both her so there’s no reason to think either would behave differently in any situation (as evidenced by the two Johns accurately predicting every single “rock, paper, scissors” move they try on each other at the end of the episode). But in order to accept the death of the other, Chiana repeats to herself over and over, shaken and almost mad with fear, that she is the original, the one who died was just a copy. Gigi Edgley, however, plays the subtext brilliantly and you can tell that each time Chiana says it, her fears increase that it might not be true. It’s very possible that she isn’t the “real” Chiana. The answer is left completely and deliberately ambiguous, as there is no way to tell. But she has trouble even accepting the fact that that Chiana was her too, because if she did, she’d have to put herself in that unfortunate Chiana’s shoes, basically betrayed by herself, and it’s too much for her to confront. (The “Season of Death” really lives up to its name. Within the confines of this year, every single core character who isn’t a puppet dies: Aeryn (died in the previous season finale, was still dead when the premiere began), Zhaan (in “Self-Inflicted Wounds”), at least one D’Argo and Chiana here, and one of the Johns in the “Infinite Possibilities” two-parter.)
The most remarkable thing about “Eat Me,” however, is what a red herring its construction is. The majority of the episode seems to be a freaky standalone that would have been well-suited to a Halloween airing. Every single thing about it screams “standalone A-story,” especially since Moya and the people left aboard her–Aeryn, Rygel, Stark, and Pilot–are preoccupied with a B-story that is all arc. The reason Moya had starburst and abandoned the four aboard the transport pod is that she had received a distress call from Talyn, who is horribly wounded, while Crais is in a coma and possibly at the brink of death. All of the storytelling rhythms seem to tell us that the Crichton and Co. story won’t have any effect on later events and the Aeryn and Co. story will. But as it turns out, they both have major, significant, lasting effects, because in the last moments of the episode, just as Crichton is defeating Kaarvok, his machine activates one final time and doubles Crichton. But unlike D’Argo and Chiana’s doubles, this Crichton escapes with them into the transport pod. And unlike when he was cloned in “My Three Crichtons,” as the episode closes and they reunite with Moya, there are still two Crichtons to deal with. And there will remain two Crichtons on the series for the next nine episodes–nearly half the entire season.
This is enormous, and unprecedented in the annals of sci-fi TV, particularly because, again, Ben Browder isn’t playing two variations on the same character here a la the actors on Fringe, nearly all of the regulars of whom played multiple parallel versions of their characters over the course of the series. No, they are both John Crichton, 100%, both with just as much right to be there, and both just as likely to be the “real” one as the other. When one of them does eventually tragically die, there is a 50% chance that he was the one who had left Earth and been shot through a wormhole (if either had). On one level, it doesn’t really matter, while on another, there is something rather haunting as well as poetic about the concept that the John Crichton who left very well may not be the one who ultimately returns, which works on both literal and symbolic levels.
Meanwhile, this episode, in which Moya’s crew is divided into two for nearly the entire span of time, foreshadows the split that will occur between the crew in this remarkably structured season, which will come to basically alternate episodes (give or take a two-parter) between “two casts,” one aboard Moya, the other Talyn for 10 episodes (12, if you count the episodes in which they separate and reunite). And so what initially seems like it’s going to be an eerie diversion of an episode actually ends up being one of the most crucial transitional stories in the series’ history. How very Farscape.
Next: “Thanks for Sharing” and “Green-Eyed Monster”
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