What’s particularly interesting here is that Scorpy has less information we do. He and his people assume that there’s something about Crichton’s genetic make-up as a human that has allowed him to survive wormholes vs. their Sebacean physiology, not knowing that it isn’t likely to do with his species, as we have seen Aeryn survive a wormhole earlier this very season. The difference isn’t in the person but in the ship. However, having not figured that out yet, Scorpy is growing all the more worried. Unlike Crichton, he theoretically has access now to all the information but it’s doing him no good as it can’t be fully interpreted, and given that, as he tells Braca, the Scarrans have a much larger army than the PKs and the only thing holding them off from invading is their fear of PK wormhole tech that doesn’t actually exist yet, he has reason to have troubled sleep. The most wonderful irony of the entire episode is that, as we see in the first and last bookend scenes, now Crichton is in Scorpy’s head, haunting his dreams and taunting him about the wormhole data that seems to keep perpetually slipping just outside his grasp, an absolutely masterful twist. This also foreshadows “Incubator,” when Scorpy won’t only hook himself to the chip from Crichton’s head but literally put a neural clone of Crichton inside him, bringing them completely full circle.
–The episode also introduces one of my favorite recurring characters on the PK side, Drillik, who becomes the new project head after Scorpy has the previous one killed. He looks almost exactly like a stop motion character from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, brought to life.
And one more thing of note: for the second time on the series (the first time being in the first season’s “That Old Black Magic,”) Crichton mentions having lost his virginity at the age of 16 to Karen Shaw. Long-time fans know that this running reference gets an ingenious pay-off in the fourth season’s “Kansas”.
3.10: “Relativity” Original airdate: 6 July 2001
Xhalax Sun, has been a presence on the series–in a way–since the first season finale when Aeryn first told John of her hazy memory of her mother visiting her in the dead of night once when she was a child and telling her that she had been a product of love. This revelation shaped her life, because even though she grew up being a good, rule-following-and-upholding PK, it planted a seed in her head that she could be more, one that she may have suppressed most of the time but which resonated at different points, the two most significant being when Velorek also noticed that there was something special about her–despite her protestations–and, of course, when she finally crossed paths with John Crichton, who said the same thing: that she could be so much more.
In both cases, it was as if that niggling little voice in the back of her mind which she had always tried so diligently to ignore since it went against everything she was taught, was suddenly confirmed for her. The first time around, she wasn’t ready and it cost her lover his life. The second time, she resisted as well, yet her guilt over that first outcome along with John’s unconscious repetition of this sentiment that had been following her for her entire life finally caused something to click. The significance that in both cases it was inspired by a lover or potential lover is that falling in love had also been her mother’s act of rebellion. It’s as if she had always seen herself as following in her mom’s footsteps.
It’s fitting, then, that the episode in which she finally meets and learns the truth about her mother is set on a lush, green world that looks something like the Garden of Eden run wild. At the same time, with its perpetual fog and hot gas pockets shooting up from the ground, it’s also reminiscent of the Fire Swamp from The Princess Bride crossed with the Bog of Eternal Stench from Labyrinth. The Biblical motif brings with it images of motherhood and of gaining knowledge, while the latter, darker elements point to the outcome of that first sin of gaining knowledge, namely Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Paradise. Interestingly, for Eve, learning about sex might have been what doomed her. For Xhalax, it’s the opposite: it’s forgetting her humanity and her love for both her lover and then, later, her daughter that does.
And that is the episode’s greatest irony, as well as personal tragedy, for Aeryn. The very woman who had, in a few, brief moments, taught Aeryn about love, leaving an impression that forever affected her, has completely forgotten the meaning of the word by this point. The years have hardened her in unimaginable ways, hinting that Aeryn met John at just the right time. Because, as it turns out, Aeryn is even more like her mother than she realized. After Velorek revealed to her his plans to sabotage Crais’ secret project–which was, significantly, Talyn, the very gunship Xhalax is trying to reclaim and which is named after that man she loved so many year ago, for which she now mocks Aeryn due to the sentimentality–Aeryn reported him to Crais, leading to his presumed execution and her promotion in the ranks.
Similarly, Xhalax reveals to Aeryn in this episode how the very act of speaking to Aeryn back then had destroyed her life. The existence of the vidchip implies that her superiors were aware of what she did, something which Aeryn hadn’t considered before, and Xhalax was interrogated and punished for it, a grueling process that culminated in her proving her loyalty by killing Talyn herself–a more direct action than Aeryn took against Velorek but a clear parallel. It’s possible that Aeryn might have lost herself, too, had she had to do that to Velorek. And, either way, she might have eventually lost herself due to betraying him, had she stayed in the Peacekeeper life as long as Xhalax did. Any regret her mother might have had over what she was forced to do eventually calloused over. The same could have happened to Aeryn had John not arrived and reminded her not only of Velorek but her mother’s words from long ago.
What happened to Xhalax isn’t far removed from Stockholm syndrome. For her own sanity, she had to justify her actions to herself by willfully forgetting her love for Talyn and Aeryn, considering her actions as those of a foolish young woman, and crafting herself into the most heartless Peacekeeper imaginable. She demonstrates a shocking level of hatred and vindictiveness towards her daughter today and, as Aeryn astutely realizes, it is because Aeryn is a living, breathing reminder of her long-buried humanity. In addition, on some level, I’m sure she blames her for Talyn’s death, as the PKs may have never discovered the truth had she not gone to Aeryn to tell her of their love. The brilliance of Linda Cropper’s performance is that we can see, obscured beneath the toxic exterior, that being near Aeryn again is getting to her–that she both hates herself for what she has become and hates Aeryn for making her realize that. In a manner of speaking, she hates Aeryn because she loves Aeryn, which is amongst the most complex emotions we have seen on an already psychologically dense space opera. And what an ingenious Farscape twist: the woman who had given Aeryn a heart seems to no longer have one. One could say symbolically that the reason is because she gave Aeryn hers.