Saturday, February 26, 2011

Farscape Season 3

Farscape's third season aired from August 2001 until January 2002. Fans of the show consider the title of this season's premiere episode to hold thematic relevance for the entire year, as it begins with Aeryn dead, provides a death scene for its main hero, permanently kills off several main characters, and teases the deaths of several others. The designation "season of death" is apropos in another way, as Farscape exhibited a key symptom that often serves as an early warning sign of the death of a series: a main-cast shakedown. The season begins with a new main-title sequence, complete with three new regular-cast members (Paul Goddard as Stark, Lani Tupu as Crais, and Wayne Pygram as Scorpius), a considerably different Crichton voice-over, souped-up graphics, and a new musical theme. Then, in the fourth episode of the year, Virginia Hey (Zhaan) departs, while Tammy MacIntosh (Jool) joins the show as a new main character, notwithstanding her "guest starring" credit throughout the season. And the entire season builds toward the sacrifice of two characters who have been with us since Season 1.

A word about Jool. Her full name is Joolushko Tunai Fenta Hovalis. When asked what her friends call her for short, she says, "My whole name"; yet she gradually comes to accept nickname "Jool," given her by Crichton, perhaps because it's preferable to his other pet name for her: "Princess." Jool has been on ice for the past 22 years, ever since illness overtook her and two cousins as they traveled together for pleasure. A member of the Interion race that is physiologically and genetically close to humanity, she prides herself on her academic accomplishments and the superiority of her culture. This, together with her spoiled-brat personality and a scream that melts metal on a molecular level, creates friction between Jool and her shipmates. Being a bit of a hysteric, she screams a lot; her hair also changes color when she is upset. Nevertheless, she adapts to her new situation on Moya, makes friends (especially with Pilot and Chiana), and with her scientific and medical background becomes an invaluable member of the crew. For one year, anyway.

Season of Death picks up where Season 2's agonizingly suspenseful cliffhanger left us: with Aeryn's dead body on ice, Crichton lying on the operating table with his brains all ahoo and his surgeon collapsed on the floor, Scorpius in possession of his wormhole knowledge, and, and, and... Deep breath: You ain't seen nothin' yet. Tocot the Diagnosan makes a miraculous recovery and saves Crichton's brains, aided by the sacrifice of a cryogenically preserved Interion specimen. Even with Scorpius's chip removed, Crichton continues to struggle with "Harvey," the personality clone of Scorpius that came along as a free bonus. While a Scarran (pictured) chases Crichton and friends around the snowbound hospital, Scorpius and Braca lie low, looking for a way off the planet past Talyn, Crais, Moya, and other hazards. And finally, at great personal cost, Zhaan brings Aeryn back from the dead, just in time to give Crichton a reason to live.

Suns and Lovers features this Creature Workshop riff on Fat Bastard: an arachnoid bartender whose vast bulk and many busy appendages overflow the frame in most of his scenes, somewhat spoiling the effect. The Moyas witness a terrorist bombing that blows a commerce station to kingdom come, and then help the survivors dig themselves out of the ruins so they, in turn, can help free Moya from the tangle of wreckage. They have to hurry because a storm is coming, and I'm not just talking about D'argo's fury when he finds out that his son Jothee and his girlfriend Chiana are fooling around together. Also, Stark shows signs of being in love with Zhaan, who for her part has started dying since she helped Aeryn back to life.

Self Inflicted Wounds, Part One: Could'a, Would'a, Should'a is the one where Moya pokes her nose into a wormhole and immediately collides with an alien ship. Due to some kind of dimensional mumbo-jumbo, the two ships become embedded in each other, which means that neither of them will ever escape from the wormhole without destroying at least one of them. The Pathfinder aliens (their leader Neeyala pictured here) show no signs of volunteering to be the ship destroyed, though they have some kind of treachery up their pleather sleeve. For the Moyas, escape from the wormhole is urgent, because Zhaan doesn't have long to live unless they can get to a planet where she can recuperate from the drain on her powers involved in resurrecting Aeryn. Meanwhile, a nasty serpent is slithering around the ship, and invisible saboteurs are playing Old Harry with Moya's systems, and Scorpius is still inside Crichton's head, and Pilot is puking everywhere, and Jool has come out of hibernation, reacting as you would expect a spoiled, histrionic debutante to react when she finds out that she has been on ice for 22 years, that her two cousins who were accompanying her on her grand tour have died horrible deaths, and that she has no influence over the course of the ship she finds herself on, surrounded by rude and disreputable aliens. It's enough to make a girl scream metal-melting screams!

Self-Inflicted Wounds, Part Two: Wait for the Wheel is the end of the journey for Zhaan, a character I truly missed after her exit from the show. Evidently Virginia Hey asked to be written out when the blue makeup started to cause health problems. It's too bad, because Zhaan really was the glue that held the other characters together and, after this episode, there were many moments when their endless bickering became tiresome. To make a long synopsis short, Zhaan sacrifices herself to disembed the Pathfinder ship from Moya so that her friends can escape from the wormhole in which both ships have become stuck. In the words of Rygel: "Goodbye, you big, beautiful, blue bitch."

...Different Destinations is an episode dramatizing the harmful effects time travel can have on history. Remember this in case you are ever attempted to go back in time! The Moyas visit a shrine on a planet where peace between two alien races was achieved after the martyr deaths of a small group of soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice to save a mission full of women and children. By means of special goggles, tourists can peer through rips in time and see the events unfold as though they were right there. Unfortunately, the power under Stark's mask sets off an unexpected reaction, sending Crichton, D'argo, Jool, Aeryn, and himself back in time to the event itself--and, by their very presence, changing it. Worst case scenario (which Chiana observes from orbit at one point): all life is wiped off the planet. Later, after the Moyas do what they can to repair the damage, the scale of destruction is pulled back somewhat. But the episode's unexpectedly bittersweet ending shows that, even if history can be patched up, it will cost. On the lighter side, Jool gets shot at a peace memorial, pushed into a mud puddle, and made to drink piss. So it's all worthwhile!

Eat Me is the episode in which John gets split into two Crichtons, each believing he is the original. It's all because of the guy pictured here, a sort of mad scientist named Kaarvok. The Moyas are forced to make an emergency landing on an derelict Leviathan, which they find peopled by a brain-sucking fiend and his cadre of cannibalistic kooks. Kaarvok has a device that "twins" people--not so much copying or cloning as creating two originals of the same person. This enables him to stretch his food supply (i.e. the brains of whoever was aboard the ship), but after being copied too many times, they don't have much left in the way of brains. So Kaarvok begins cloning the Moyas, offering to let them go if they will mate with the local gimps and enrich the gene pool a bit. By the time they escape, D'argo and Chiana have shed their twins, but Crichton still has his... which sets up interesting developments in the episodes that follow.

Thanks for Sharing is the episode where the Moyas try to negotiate with the ruling family of the planet Kavnia for a rare material that Talyn needs to heal after being wounded in battle. This is complicated by the fact that one of the ruler's children harbors a deadly ambition and is dealing with the Scarrans. These folks have a lobster-like creature whose lie-detecting talents are fatal to anyone who fudges the truth, which makes it lucky there are two Johns because that gives him (them) plausible deniability. Meanwhile, a Peacekeeper retrieval squad is on the prowl for Talyn, and the officer in charge of it happens to be Aeryn's mother...

Green Eyed Monster is the one where Crichton, Crais, and Aeryn are trapped on board Talyn when the young leviathan gets himself swallowed by a budong (see Season 2's "Home on the Remains"). While they race against the creature's digestive processes to find an unprecedented means of escape, their only help from the outside comes from a pod manned by Rygel and Stark. Yeah, I know. I would probably quit too. But one of the things that keeps things hopping on board Talyn is a kinky, four-sided love triangle in which Crichton and Crais seem equally determined to possess Aeryn, while Talyn himself turns out to be the most possessive of all. This is the beginning of a long arc in which the two Crichtons split up, having separate adventures in alternating episodes.

Losing Time is the first of the "meanwhile, back on Moya" half of the group of Season 3 episodes that alternate between the separate adventures of the two John Crichtons. Two bodiless aliens visit the Moyas, one the hunter and the other the hunted, and both of them possessing members of the crew. This is supposed to explain why people are losing track of periods of time, but it frankly doesn't. Not knowing who is really him- or herself causes the already shaky shipfellows to turn on each other. Meanwhile, on the Peacekeeper command carrier, Scorpius is frustrated with the progress of the team researching Crichton's wormhole data. The closest they can get to a successful wormhole flight ends, invariably, with the pilot reduced to a liquid state. Not ideal. Also, this is the episode in which Chiana's ability to see into the future begins to develop.

Relativity is the episode in which Xhalax Sun, Aeryn's mother, tracks down her little girl--now not so little--with a Peacekeeper retrieval squad on orders to capture Talyn. Crais, Crichton, and Aeryn try to decoy Xhalax and her reptilian trackers away from the young leviathan, to give him time to heal himself. But when your enemies have shape-changing powers, a terrific sense of smell, and the ability to see body heat, it's a tough chase--even in a world stocked with animated vines, foul-smelling sludge, and countless hidey-holes. Xhalax proves to be a vicious opponent, even to the daughter whom she once visited in the middle of the night to tell her, against all that the Peacekeepers stand for, that she was loved. Apparently the old lady got caught in the act and, after a period of re-education, is more committed than ever to the Peacekeepers' twisted values. Crichton, meanwhile, skates perilously along his own ethical edge, using an injured Crais as bait to catch Colartas (those lizard guys). But the ultimate moral conundrum turns out to be: Can Xhalax's life be spared?

Incubator is the one where Scorpius takes the next desperate step to prise the secret of wormhole travel out of Crichton's mind. Turning the tables on the man whose mind he invaded, Scorpius brings a memory clone of Crichton into his own mind. There he appeals to Crichton to open up to him, hoping to gain his trust by revealing his backstory as the child of a Sebacean woman raped by her Scarran captor. The conflicts of his upbringing, torn between two races that hate each other, tormented by his own heat, forced him to develop a resistance to pain. Meanwhile, one of Scorpius's scientists risks her own face-melting ordeal in an attempt to trade a new development in shielding technology for... well, for Moya. And for a moment, it looks like the offer might be accepted!

Meltdown is the "bug zapper" episode, in which Talyn encounters a strange kind of radiation that causes him to feel an irresistible urge to fly into a certain sun. As Crais's ability to control Talyn crumbles, Stark bonds with Talyn pilot-style and tries to hold back the fiery doom that seems sure to befall the ship and crew. Turns out the radiation pulses are the bait in a trap set by a powerful entity whose hobbies include destroying leviathan ships and messing around with the soul of a woman caught between life and death. Even Stark can't help her "cross over" while the villainous "god-like alien" has control of the situation. And he will remain in control unless Aeryn and Crichton can figure out a way to break through Stark's reluctance to fire the ship's weapons.

Scratch 'N' Sniff could be the season's weirdest episode--I think in a good way. It's funny, sexy, but whoa... far out, dude. On the pleasure planet of Lomo, the Moyas get high on some kind of sci-fi super date rape drug, and "the boys" (D'argo and Crichton) wake up to the realization that they have to rescue "the girls" (Chiana and Jool) from having their vital essence drained and marketed as an aphrodisiac. Besides a lot of club scenes and a trippy, humorously confusing storyline, this episode features another character played by Francesca Buller (again, Ben Browder's wife) and an amazing creature called the Hangi (pictured here), which can deploy its eyeballs as video cameras and replay recorded footage for your viewing pleasure, provided you are willing to stick one of its tentacles in your eye. There is also a slave auction, a chemical disguise, a good deal of action--and a very disapproving, disbelieving Pilot who has to listen to the whole story before deciding whether or not to kick "the boys" off the ship.

Infinite Possibilities, Part One: Daedalus Demands brings back some characters you may remember from Season 1. First, Kent McCord reprises his role as Jack, the "Ancient" alien who takes the form of Crichton's father. Jack things John sold out the Ancients, because a wormhole has been observed that could only have been created with the aid of the knowledge they planted deep in Crichton's mind. But the pilot caught on film flying out of the wormhole is a Charrid, a member of a warlike species who have been savage enemies of Rygel's Hynerian empire for a thousand years. The idea of the Charrids having wormhole technology is pretty frightening, whether or not the reports are true that the Charrids are joining forces with the Scarrans; but when the Talyns get to the bottom of it, they find out that it's Furlow--yes, that sleazy, backstabbing grease-monkey who once blackmailed Crichton into turning over all his wormhole research to her. Now Crichton, Jack, Aeryn, and Rygel are stuck on a desert planet with no choice but to defend what is potentially the most dangerous weapon in the galaxy against hordes of Charrans mounted in dune buggies and, if they don't get out fast, a Scarran dreadnought as well. As the first part of a two-episode arc comes to a close, Jack has forced Crichton to run an additional gauntlet: get Harvey out of his head or die. He may die either way...

Infinite Possibilities, Part Two: Icarus Abides is the one where Crichton actually does die. He earns a poignant, meaningful death while fighting off Furlow, the Charrans, and his own inner demons--and finally risking exposure to deadly radiation to save everybody's butt. The good news, of course, is that you know there's another Crichton to carry on, thanks to that twinning thing. The bad news, however, is that Aeryn has fallen deeply in love with this Crichton; his death hits her pretty hard. But it hits us all, and it was meant to do so. Clearly, this is what the whole twinning story-arc was supposed to lead to. Well, that and the rest of this season...

Revenging Angel takes us back to the Moyas, where the other Crichton takes a knock on the head when D'argo blames him for messing up his new ship. With Moya's systems--including her hangar doors--messed up, and a self-destruct sequence locked in on the Luxan ship, and everyone at each other's throats, it seems like the perfect time to check out and watch cartoons. Which is exactly what Crichton does. Though, to be sure, the cartoons are actually figments of his comatose brain. Harvey (who, natch, was twinned along with John) wants to convince Crichton that what he needs is a reason to live, and nothing is more worth living for than revenge. Crichton, determined to prove him wrong, turns every revenge fantasy that Harvey throws at him into a whimsical gag, reminiscent of the Roadrunner/Wile E. Coyote cartoons. The pop-culture references fly thick and fast in this episode, my favorite being a scene in which Aeryn appears as Jessica Rabbit. Finally it turns out that the key to aborting the self-destruct countdown on D'argo's ship is the Qualta blade which, in a fit of self-loathing after nearly killing John, D'argo had hurled into Moya's depths. And Jool, who actually caused the malfunction, makes the ultimate sacrifice (for her)... wading through chest-deep bat guano to fetch the blade back!

The Choice is the episode featuring these two examples of what happens to kids who spend too much time reading, when they grow up. But seriously, these are a couple of freakoid mutants on a planet full of freakoid mutants, where Aeryn goes to escape from it all after Crichton died in her arms. On the planet Valldon, the membrane between life and death is said to be rather thin. Aeryn hopes so; she wants to contact a man from beyond the grave. But it's not who you think: it's her father, the original Talyn after whom she named the young leviathan ship. The mutant pictured on the right claims not only to be able to reach Talyn, but to be Talyn. The hideous baby creature, Cresus by name, claims to be able to raise John from the dead. But what Stark, Crais, and Rygel know already--and what Aeryn seems unwilling to hear--is that Xhalax Sun is on Valldor, gunning for her estranged daughter one last time. It's a dark, deeply troubling episode, full of ominous portents, physical and spiritual danger, and the unbearable ache of loss.

Fractures is the episode in which the two halves of the regular cast come back together. Amid the not-so-joyful reunion of the Moyas and Talyns is a rendezvous with yet another crew of escaped prisoners, this one comprising escaped specimens from a monstrous Peacekeeper experiment. Someone on board is in league with this guy--a nerdy young Peacekeeper played by Matt Doran, best known as "Mouse" in The Matrix. But who is betraying his or her fellow prisoners? Is it the heat-glandless Scarran, the dangerously nonconformist Nebari androgyne, the enthusiastically fertile Hynerian female (Rygel hardly believes his luck), or the freakishly resilient Boolite, who has been blown to pieces yet still has a good chance of recovery provided the Moyas can puzzle his parts back together. It's not that I don't want to spoil it for you, but really--who cares? Aeryn and Crichton are back together again, the moment he had kept himself alive by hoping for... but she's not interested in him! It's as if her heart died with the other Crichton. The episode includes an emotionally destroying scene in which Aeryn overhears John listening to a recorded message from his other self; it ends with the fateful decision to go to the Command Carrier and face down Scorpius, risking all to keep the secret of wormholes out of Peacekeeper hands.

I-Yensch, You-Yensch is Farscape's parody of Dog Day Afternoon, featuring these two examples of what happens when kids who don't read enough grow up. Oy, but these dim-witted crooks are annoying, what with their simian chatter and the fact that their inept attempt at a restaurant robbery rudely interrupts tense negotiations between Scorpius and the Moyas. What makes their brutality perfectly exquisite is the fact that Braca and D'argo are linked by a matched pair of bracelets that cause any injury done to either of them to happen to both. Talyn, meanwhile, has become so psychotically violent that he has to be lobotomized, leviathan-fashion, and allowed to grow a fresh personality. It's not a treatment he can be easily persuaded to undergo.

Into the Lion's Den, Part One: Lambs to the Slaughter begins the climactic arc of the season, with the Moyas risking a visit to Scorpius's command carrier. John and Scorpius, bound as mutual hostages by I-Yensch bracelets, are meant to be working together on wormhole science, though John's real intention is to sabotage the project if he can manage it without Scorpius catching on. Aeryn and Crais endure the hostility of former shipmates who consider them traitors. Chiana tries to flirt. Talyn submits to being brought on board, his weapons disabled, to have some of his glitches looked at. Jool and D'argo survive an assassination attempt only to be arrested (briefly) for killing the assassin. As tensions mount between Scorpius and his crew (who aren't so enthusiastic about giving their "guests" a safe conduct), both Scorpius and Crichton find their plans being frustrated by a seductive Peacekeeper Commandant named Grayza--soon to become the series' next recurring villain--who is opposed to the wormhole project because she wants to negotiate a truce with the Scarrans. Now Grazya is gunning for Scorpius, and his most vulnerable point (by way of the I-Yensch bracelet) is Crichton. This leads to a three-dimensional chase by assassins through the Command Carrier's reactor room, and a final crisis in which Scorpius reveals that he knows the location of Earth and will destroy it unless John applies himself to finishing the wormhole project....

Into the Lion's Den, Part Two: Wolf in Sheep's Clothing is the one where John, having dissembled with Scorpius as long as he can and finding no way to sabotage the wormhole project, decides that the only thing for it is to blow up the whole Peacekeeper Command Carrier. But in order to save the lives of the 50,000 men, women, and children on board, they have to do it in a way that gives everyone time to evacuate the ship. But while the plan matures, more and more of the wormhole knowledge locked in John's mind comes to the surface. And that can't be good, because nothing could be more dangerous than a Peacekeeper-Scarran alliance wielding the power of wormholes. Nowhere in the galaxy would be safe from them. As the equations blossom out of John's subconscious, D'argo, Chiana, Rygel, and Jool get caught in the act of plotting the carrier's destruction. They have all been betrayed by Crais--who then tells a disbelieving Crichton that he only did this because their plan would never have worked, and because he needs a diversion to carry out his own plan to destroy the Command Carrier. In a supreme act of self-sacrifice, Crais awakens Talyn in the carrier's hangar and persuades the young leviathan to starburst, causing a slow-motion implosion that turns the entire carrier into an outer-space parody of Titanic. Scorpius standing on a stairway as floodwaters gush past him is one of the indelible images of this season. The episode ends with the Moyas planning to split up, now that the Peacekeepers have provided them the information they need to pursue their separate goals. Could this be (*sob*) the last one they ever made?

Dog with Two Bones is the episode that keeps you on the hook until Season 4. It also introduces Noranti (full name Utu-Noranti Pralatong), a batty old lady with a knack for herbal remedies, who will become a regular character in the following season. At this point she doesn't have a name, apart from Crichtonisms like "Old Lady" and "Grandma"; she seems to have stowed away on Moya while prisoners rescued from a Command Carrier life-pod were being dropped off on a commerce planet. And now, apparently, the old witch is meddling in the relationship between Aeryn and John, which has reached a new crisis point as Crichton experiences a series of visions about what it would mean for her to marry him and try to fit in on Earth. While the Moyas try to inter the remains of Talyn in the leviathan burial ground--over the objections of a rogue Leviathan, who is willing to resist Moya's funeral plans with deadly force--Noranti leads John to realize what his visions are all about: he is torn between his yearning for Earth and his love for his friends, especially Aeryn--knowing that he cannot have both and, now that they are going their separate ways, may not have either. After the famous scene in the maintenance bay, the "coin toss" scene in which John and Aeryn argue over whether they should be together, we find John in his Farscape module, having a private moment after watching Aeryn fly away in her Prowler. Just as he is turning back toward Moya, Harvey pops up in his mind and unlocks a buried memory of Noranti whispering in his ear that Aeryn is with child. In an awkwardly dense cliffhanger scene in which one surprise trips over another, Jool and Noranti squabble over whether Pilot should chase Aeryn's Prowler and then, just as everyone has agreed on what to do, a wormhole opens up and sucks Moya in, leaving John marooned in space. His final words sum it up: "You've got to be kidding me!"

I think the tragic love scene in the maintenance bay is about the high-water mark of this season's script writing. Unfortunately, everything that happened after that is a rushed, confusing mess. Nevertheless, this "season of death" (that first episode really called it!) is one brilliantly realized, extended storyline, combined with a variety of entertaining standalone stories. The "twinning" subplot enables John and Aeryn to consummate their love without sacrificing the romantic tension that remains bowstring-taut throughout the remainder of the series. In one year's worth of episodes, we see Aeryn resurrected, while Zhaan, Crais, Talyn, and even Crichton himself die poignant deaths. And, though you may not know it yet, you've been set up for a new level of jeopardy for the Moyas who, having found more or less what they were looking for, remain together from here on out because... well, because they're family.

See also my review of Farscape seasons one and two. For more on spaceship-based TV series, see my reviews of Star Trek: TOS seasons one, two, and three; of TNG seasons one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven; of DS9 seasons one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven; of Voyager seasons one and two; and of Enterprise season one. As a control group, see also my reviews of Firefly, and of Babylon 5 seasons one, two, three, and four.

Word Hymn

Last night, just before I fell asleep, the first few lines of this hymn came into my mind. In my mind's ear, I sang it to the well-known tune AURELIA, at least to make sure that it scanned correctly. Of course, I am open to other nominations from hymn-tune aficionados, as well as your specific and constructive criticism.
O Christ, Word all-creating,
Whose Father worketh still,
And who Thyself yet workest
To do Thy Father's will:
In hearts that now lie fallow,
Pray, plant the seed of Thee;
Feed, cultivate, and prune it,
That it Thy branch may be.

By Thee, o'er chaos spoken,
All things that are were formed;
By Thee, the Word Incarnate,
Great wonders were performed.
Thine Ephphatha now open
Our doubting, scaly eyes;
Our dead, unwilling spirits
Wake to Thy call, Arise!

O Promise that, once plighted,
Returnest not in vain,
Come forth with speed among us,
Fulfill Thine oath again:
Be in the midst of us who
Now gather in Thy name,
And let Thy quick'ning pardon
Be breathed upon the same.

Thy Word declareth water
A spiritual flood,
Proclaimeth loaf and chalice
Thy body and Thy blood;
Henceforth what Thou hast spoken
Let no man answer Nay;
For where Thy Word is given,
In Thee all things are Yea.

Thy Word cannot be broken,
For Thou canst never lie,
Howso the men that bear it
May falter, fail, or die:
In Thee is our assurance,
In Thee our hope of heav'n,
That realm of life and spirit
Which spreadeth e'en as leav'n.

Thy Word hath boundless pow'r, Lord;
Forbid that it be bound!
For in it Thou yet workest,
In whom all strength is found.
And if Thou, with our nature,
Art One eternally,
Thy promise nor Thy presence
Far from our race can be.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Laffy Taffy Lutheran Church

This week's message at the neighborhood ELCA Church of the Lighted Sign:

WHO MADE COFFEE IN BIBLICAL TIMES? THE HEBREWS

This is like the mutant lovechild of Laffy Taffy candy wrappers and those religious-themed "Testamints" that circulated a while ago. Could the level of Lutheranism's evangelistic outreach sink any lower? They should add a Surgeon General's Warning: THIS CHURCH ROTS YOUR TEETH...

Farscape Season 2

Season 2 of Farscape originally aired on the US's SciFi channel, the UK's BBC, and Australia's Nine Network during the 2000-01 season. At that time I was still watching commercial TV, but only via rabbit-ears; so, this being a cable show, I missed out on it until now. Even coming to it a decade later, however, I find it fresh, absorbing fun, with a many-layered, ongoing story set in a universe full of marvels, horrors, troubling ambiguities, frankly adult themes and language (some of it--but only some--couched in such galacticspeak euphemisms as frell, dren and yotz). It has the same main cast as Season 1, which is noteworthy because things start to change after this year. Scorpius, Crais, and Stark remain only recurring characters--indeed, Stark only gets involved towards the end of the season--though all three become regulars (with main-titles credit and all) in Season 3. Our heroes remain pretty much where Season 1 left them: on the run from Scorpius, who wants to prise the secrets of wormhole technology out of John Crichton's mind.

I should note the arrival of another recurring character. Peacekeeper Lieutenant Braca (played by David Franklin) had appeared in the last two episodes of Season 1, but given the expendable nature of our villains' minions you might not have expected him to have a growing importance throughout the series, and still to be alive at the end. Braca makes 6 of his 24 regular-series appearances in Season 2. (Please don't ask me to count his appearances in comic books, which I'm not going to read, or the Peacekeeper Wars miniseries, which I haven't seen yet.) For me the defining Braca moment comes towards the end of Season 3, when Crais tells him, "You are the consummate Peacekeeper"--and Braca looks as though he has been slapped. But let's not get ahead of ourselves!

The episode originally meant to be aired as the Season 2 premiere can now be seen in its original form only as a DVD special feature titled "Re:Union." Most of this episode was subsequently used as the season's eighth episode "Dream a Little Dream," re-edited with some new scenes to make it fit in chronologically. At the risk of committing heresy against the broadcast canon, I'm going to come right out and say that, in my opinion, "Re:Union" works better than "Dream a Little Dream," both in terms of series continuity and as a story on its own terms. But I understand why they pulled it out of the season-premiere slot; it's kind of a downer, definitely not the cliffhanger follow-up that most fans would hope for. As unpopular as it probably would have been in that regard, I think there is something brilliant about the idea of a swashbuckling sci-fi series showing that its heroes aren't just cartoon characters who bounce right back from their trials and traumas without a bruise on them, but the lasting consequences can hurt a lot.

I'll have more to say on this when "Dream a Little Dream" comes up, but Trekkies can compare this to the dilemma whether Star Trek's original pilot ("The Cage," starring Jeffrey Hunter as Capt. Christopher Pike) or the creatively edited, aired episode "The Menagerie" (which won a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation) is the better story, or whether TNG's post-"The Best of All Worlds" episode "Family," with its exploration of the human cost of high adventure, deserves to be the lowest-rated episode in that show's first run. That Farscape ran into such "lost-and-found episode" dilemma is not unusual; that we can compare and evaluate both versions (aired and unaired) is a sign of the DVD generation and the internet age, in which "lost episodes" are no longer lost and fans don't have to wait 30 years to see the unaired version as it might have been.

Mind the Baby thus became episode one of season two. It finds Crais bonding with Talyn (the offspring, you remember, of the leviathan-ship Moya), Crichton and D'argo recovering from their near-asphyxiation on an asteroid where Aeryn has brought them (secretly with Crais's help), Zhaan slightly maddened by grief after Moya was forced to starburst leaving the others behind, and Scorpius laying devious stratagems for the capture of both leviathans and Crichton. After much coming and going, it is finally decided that the only thing for it is to let Crais take off in Talyn (who, beyond all expectations of a leviathan of his tender age, is already able to starburst). Crais antagonizes Scorpius as he does so, an early sign that his character may really be evolving... though you're never quite sure about him (or at least, Crichton isn't) until the end. Crais's, that is.

Vitas Mortis guest-stars Melissa Jaffer (who later played the regular character Noranti) as an ancient Orican, or Luxan holy woman, who recruits D'argo to assist her through the ritual of passing. At the climax of this (naturally) dangerous rite, instead of dying, Nilaam suddenly regains her youth and beauty. Unfortunately, this magical transformation comes at a cost: now it is Moya who is dying of old age, and taking Pilot with her. As the ship's fluids congeal and her hull begins to crumble, the Moyas try first reason, then force, to persuade Nilaam to release Moya from this evil magic, and to accept her own end. But it is finally a love-struck D'argo who must be convinced that the female he loves must die.

Taking the Stone is this series' entry into the canon of sci-fi episodes depicting a planet of Peter Pan's lost boys (and girls), a world forever young because of a disease, or a superstition, or a social obligation to commit suicide before a certain birthday, etc. I've spotted this type of episode on Star Trek (TOS's "Miri"), and more recently on Stargate Atlantis ("Childhood's End"). Trying to think of other examples might be a nice way to keep your mind occupied while sitting through this disappointing, essentially pointless episode. To be sure, the alien youngsters are kind of sexy, in a way that reminds one of the kiddie colony in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, though it is clear from their laid-back groove that they are into some really yummy drugs. The ultimate thrill ride for them is to jump off a cliff. When accompanied by chanting voices, the jumper is caught by a sonic net and lives to jump again. But when the one "taking the stone" is of the age where a disfiguring illness sets in, the chanting stops and the jumper plunges to his death. It's a mildly psychedelic episode, with hallucinogenic moonshine, pregnant girls with transparent wombs, and a bit of bother over Chiana's intense desire to take the stone. Since discovering (thanks to a disc implanted in her body that remotely monitors her brother's lifesigns) that her beloved Neri is dead, Chiana may be just grief-stricken enough to want to end it all. Or maybe she just wants the rush?

Crackers Don't Matter is one of my favorite episodes of this season. The weird alien pictured hear, named T'raltixx, comes on board Moya promising to tweak her energy harmonics, or whatever, so that enemy sensors can't pick her up. But T'raltixx has other plans for Moya (don't they always?)--something to do with generating massive amounts of light. With the aid of a pulsar, which has disturbing psychological effects on everybody but Crichton, T'raltixx keeps the Moyas preoccupied with petty squabbles and paranoid delusions, many of them revolving around the supply of "food rectangles" that nobody likes, but everyone is suddenly hoarding. Zhaan is merely caught up in a long, exquisite photogasm; Crichton has a hallucination of Scorpius in a flowered shirt, which eventually proves to be the result of an implanted personality clone; but finally there is nothing for it but to tie everyone up, wreck T'raltixx's infernal machine, and kill the alien himself. Afterward, the Moyas must still face their mutually bruised feelings.

The Way We Weren't guest-stars Alex Dimitriades (pictured) as Velorek, a past lover whose bitter fate Aeryn remembers with regret for more than one reason. For one, while Peacekeepers are permitted to fool around with each other, they aren't supposed to really fall in love. The shame of this forbidden romance is compounded by Aeryn's betrayal of a truly special man whose gentleness, she now realizes, was unusual for his kind. But above all, her newfound conscience is troubled--and Pilot is enraged--by the role Aeryn played in the Peacekeepers' enslavement of Moya, the murder of her previous Pilot, and the agonizing, unnatural, morally compromising implantation of her present one. For a little while, it looks as though Aeryn and the Moyas must go their separate ways. But these revelations lead to a new chance for Pilot to integrate naturally with Moya, and very nearly to an open admission that Aeryn loves Crichton.

Picture If You Will concerns the Moyas' second round against the evil sorcerer Maldis. This time Maldis terrorizes the friends by means of a painting Chiana picks up on a commerce station. Reminiscent of Edvard Munch's The Scream, the picture foretells the doom of one after another of our friends, and when each grisly image comes true, the victim shatters and disappears, only to materialize in the same twisted dimension that the painting depicts. Ultimately Maldis reveals that he is saving his ultimate revenge for Zhaan, who had dared to match powers with him. But he is undone, once again, by the Moyas working in concert, in two different universes, to kick Maldis's ass. Which, by the way, gives Virginia Hey (Zhaan) a rare opportunity show off her martial-arts expertise.

Home on the Remains takes Chiana back to a rough-and-tumble frontier kind of place where she and her brother ran wild in their misspent youth. It's not a planet, it's not a space station; it's the carcass of a ginormous space-dwelling creature called a budong, where the offscouring of the galaxy risk being eaten by a rampant beast or digested by eruptions of budong bile, all in the hope of mining valuable crystals out of the creature's bones. The Moyas need food desperately--especially Zhaan, who has reached the dangerous budding stage, after which a carnivorous instinct for self-preservation will kick in, and none of her shipmates will be safe. Plus, Zhaan is giving off spores that are messing with Moya's sensors. While Chiana squirms at the apex of a lust triangle between the villainous B'Sogg (pictured) and our own D'argo, it turns out that the ravening keedva has been killing miners on B'Sogg's orders, and is now hard on the scent of Chiana's friends. Brace yourself for some gruesome special effects in this episode (budong bile is a bitch!). But also, enjoy such tough-gal lines as Chiana's "I'm evolving as an individual" (after B'Sogg, facing the point of her gun, tells her "You're not a killer").

Dream a Little Dream is the revised version of lost episode "Re:Union," whose main events take place between Season 1's cliffhanger ending and Season 2's premiere. The whole melancholy tale is finessed into its current slot in series continuity by the addition of framing scenes in which Zhaan confides in Crichton about how depressed she was when she thought he, D'argo, and Aeryn were lost for good. Disturbed by a recurring nightmare of her three friends dying in the vacuum of space, Zhaan tells John how she, Chiana, and Rygel searched for them from one planet to another, finally touching down on Litigara, a world where over 90% of the people are lawyers, and the remaining population falls into an oppressed underclass called the utilities. The visitors provide the planet's leading law firm with a convenient scapegoat for the murder of a leading pro-utilities advocate: Zhaan. In her despair, Zhaan refuses to assist in her own defense, but Chiana shrewdly plays the Litigaran legal system against itself and, using a brilliant deception, ironically reveals the truth. But in the present tense, framing narrative, none of this makes Zhaan feel any better. It's a bit of a downer of an episode--even more so, perhaps, without the framing scenes revealing that Crichton et al had survived--but I am glad to have seen the "original cut" as well. In my opinion, it's a remarkable, risk-taking, classic Farscape episode.

Out of Their Minds revives the skeksis from the classic Muppet Workshop movie The Dark Crystals... or, at least, a creepily similar race of aliens, whose lack of skin enables you to see the tendons, ligaments, and muscles that move the parts of their nasty bodies. The Halosians lure the Moyas with a dastardly ruse, then fire on them with intent to destroy. Thanks to a partially functioning defense shield, the ship survives... but every time the ship is hit, everybody on board switches bodies with the nearest person. This has the hilarious result that each member of the regular cast gets to play the role of several of his or her costars, regardless of gender or species. My favorite bit is the one where Crichton, finding himself in possession of Aeryn's body, unzips her jumpsuit (tastefully facing away from the camera) and gives his newfound boobs a lusty shake. This is way more fun than Star Trek's body-swapping episode (TOS's series-ending "Turnabout Intruder").

My Three Crichtons is the one where a sphere of energy pass through Moya's hull, envelops Crichton and spits him back out again, along with a cave-man version of himself and (a bit later) a more highly evolved, super-brain type pictured here. The energy ball turns out to be some kind of specimen collector from another dimension, one that studies all the genetic possibilities of each lifeform it encounters--but that it must return to its own dimension with a specimen, who will not survive the trip. The longer the container waits for a specimen, the more Moya is in danger of being pulled through a dimensional doohickey and being destroyed with all on board. So the condundrum becomes: which version of John Crichton should be sacrificed to save everyone else? Superbrain Crichton thinks the answer is obvious, but Caveman Crichton has formed a sweet bond with Chiana and "normal" Crichton knows it can't be that simple. But since this wasn't the last episode they ever made, you can probably guess what the final answer proved to be...

Look At the Princess, Part One: A Kiss Is But a Kiss introduces a three-episode arc featuring a planet where a couple's genetic compatibility (i.e. the ability to make a baby together) can be tested by taking a drop of a certain party drink, then touching tongues with a person of the opposite sex. This makes for an interesting clublife on the Royal Planet of the Breakaway Colonies, an offshoot of the Sebacean empire that isn't policed by the Peackeepers. More specifically, it offers Crichton an absorbing escape from the stalled trajectory of his romance with Aeryn. But when he turns out to be the only known male compatible with Princess Katralla, the heir to the Empress, fate seems determined to pull John and Aeryn apart forever. Now he must choose between his quest to find a way home to Earth and a hard-to-refuse invitation to be the consort of a lovely Princess, and eventually Empress. This episode features Francesca Buller (Ben Browder's wife) as the second of four different characters she played on Farscape, one in each season. It is also interesting to know that it was originally shot as a two-parter; additional scenes were shot later to expand it into three episodes.

Look At the Princess, Part Two: I Do, I Think begins where the previous episode's cliffhanger left Crichton, moments away from being disintegrated by assassins. For wouldn't you know, the Princess he has agreed to marry isn't the Empress's only child. She has an amorally ambitious brother, who has supported his bid for the crown by poisoning his sister's DNA so that she cannot produce an heir; and now, when a compatible mate unexpectedly turns up, means to do away with him. Prince Clavor, in turn, is being set up as the next leader by representatives of the Scarrans, a race of heat-emitting nasties we will soon get to know a lot better. So, ironically, it is an undercover Peacekeeper operative who foils the assassination attempt against Crichton. Scorpius, who happens to be half-Scarran and half-Sebacean, also shows up and adds his own layer of complexity to the situation (including another, even more spectacular try at Crichton's life). In spite of it all, in spite of a heartbreaking tiff with Aeryn, in spite of walking in on a surprisingly graphic sex scene between D'argo and Chiana (which could turn a man against sex forever), and above all in spite of knowing that he will have to spend the next 90 years frozen in the form of a bronze statue, Crichton finally goes through with his wedding to the princess...

Look At the Princess, Part Three: The Maltese Crichton continues the adventures of the (literally) bronzed John Crichton. He has a surprising number of them, for a man who has been turned into a statue--beginning with having his head cut off and thrown into a pool of acid. But all's well that ends well, thanks in part to the amorous devotion of a Peackeeper spy who thinks Crichton is working for her people. He has survived exposure to the vacuum of space, being decapitated and partially dissolved, and now he comes back to the flesh (way ahead of schedule) to face a world where Aeryn has been involved in a rock-climbing accident, where the Scarrans are trying to destabilize an independent Sebacean empire, and where Moya has been called home to the secret leviathan graveyard by one of her gods (pictured), who claims that she deserves to die because she spawned a gunship. That last bit is really Zhaan's storyline, though. And the three-episode arc ends with a tanalizing revelation about John & Aeryn's romantic compatibility. Kahaynu of the Builders, pictured here, was played by the same Jonathan Hardy who voiced the character of Rygel throughout the series.

Beware of Dog is the one where Crichton starts showing signs of space psychosis, which eventually turn out to be the result of the memory clone Scorpius implanted in him. Meanwhile, a concern that the ship's stores might be infested with a parasite that can wipe out entire ships, leads to the Moyas adopting a cuddly parasite-hunting critter called a vorc (pictured here with Aeryn). First D'argo and then Rygel are bitten by a venomous creature that seems to have the run of the ship, while the apparently useless vorc does little more than pee on things and run away from anyone who tries to catch it. Eventually it turns out that the monster and the vorc are one and the same, the big tough beast merely the mode the vorc goes into when it is on the scent of the parasite--and that the seemingly dying Rygel is actually a colony of larval parasites, while the real Rygel has been trapped in a cocoon, waiting for them to eat him. It's a cute episode, but more importantly, it raises the question: Does the bug inside Crichton's brain make it inevitable that Scorpius will get him?

Won't Get Fooled Again wakes up on Earth, having never apparently left Earth's orbit, and having hallucinated everything he has experienced since his test flight in the series' pilot. He doesn't believe it for a minute, however--not since the alien simulation of Earth had him going in Season 1's "A Human Reaction." But this time he's not being put on by an outside force; rather, someone is messing around with his mind. It turns out that a Scarran has captured Crichton and is plying his mind with clever delusions, in the hope of breaking through his defenses. The memory clone of Scorpius, whom Crichton calls Harvey (in honor of the famous six-foot rabbit), actually comes to his rescue, helping him see through the Scarran's tricks and giving him an opportunity to escape in a scene that gives new meaning to the word "mind-blowing."

The Locket is an episode you'll want to watch with your girlfriend, wife, or prospective future ditto. It's a movingly romantic story involving a world where 165 years are as a day to the Moya, floating nearby in a dense mist that, as it hardens around the ship, threatens to cut her off from the flow of time forever. Aeryn comes back from a brief recon mission shockingly aged; she reveals that while her friends have only missed for one day, she has raised three sons and has a granddaughter waiting for her to return. Ignoring her warning not to follow, Crichton follows Aeryn down to the planet, only to become trapped with her for what seems to be a lifetime. By the time they can return to Moya, Crichton has reached an advanced age and Aeryn--well, she doesn't quite make it back, dying during the flight. The sense of loss shared by these two characters, together with the mystery of whose picture Aeryn cherishes in her locket, make this episode a touching teaser for romantic developments yet to come. It is also the episode in which Stark returns, bearing news that D'argo's son Jothee is about to be sold as a slave.

The Ugly Truth is the episode in which the melted-wax people (pictured) interrogate Crais, Stark, and the Moyas, in order to find out who "pulled the trigger" causing Talyn to fire on one of their ships. As each character in turn gives testimony, we see a lot of contradictory viewpoints, finger-pointing, and growing distrust between the prisoners. Eventually, when it appears that Stark was really responsible, the Plokavians come to the same conclusion and disintegrate him. Don't touch that dial, though; the last surprise hasn't registered yet. And though, as the end of this episode, one can't be sure whether or not Stark will recover from his wounds(!!), the Moyas have to live with the knowledge that they share responsibility for what happened.

A Clockwork Nebari is the one where representatives of the Nebari Establishment--the body that rules Chiana's world by means of "mind cleansing" and other forms of cruelty--have come to bring Chiana and all the other Moyas under their planet's behavioral standards. Crichton, who together with Rygel is immune to the mind-cleansing, learns that Chiana and her brother were deliberately infected with a virus and allowed to roam freely through the galaxy in a type of biological genocide against everyone not like the Nebari. And Chiana learns that her supposedly dead brother is actually alive, well, and leading a rebellion against the Establishment. Whether or not she will ever see him again is another matter. The immediate worry is getting control of the ship back when all their shipmates have become Good Citizens. It's a memorable episode for many reasons, not least of which is Rygel's outburst: "I'm nobody's puppet!" What a howler!

Liars, Guns, and Money, Part One: A Not So Simple Plan is the first act of another three-episode arc, this one revealing how the Moyas rescue Jothee from a life of slavery. The plan begins with the rescue of Stark, who has bounced back amazingly from being dispersed at a subatomic level. Stark has the coordinates of the slave auction where Jothee's fate will be decided. Now all they need is money--lots of it. For that kind of cash, they will have to knock over a Shadow Depistory, a sort of private bank for galactic super-villains. The lady pictured here is the bank president, if that gives you an idea; she has a special relationship with Scorpius, who shows up right at the inconvenient moment when the Moyas are attempting to rob the bank. Double-crosses, torture, a good deal of business regarding Scorpy's cooling rods and the mental implant that prevents Crichton from acting against him, do all they can to trip the friends up. But the real kicker comes when they are flying away with a cargo hold full of gold ingots... which sprout insectoid legs and start running around.

Liars, Guns, and Money, Part Two: With Friends Like These... This second part of three finds the successful bank robbers smarting from their success. First they find out that, to buy Jothee out of slavery, they have to bid all their loot on a lot of 10,000 slaves. Then, after being outbid by a vengeful Scorpius, they learn that their gold has come to life and is chewing holes in Moya. While Zhaan and Scorpius concoct a plan to kill the metal-eating bugs--a plan which will leave Moya horribly burned--Crichton and the others recruit a motley band of accomplices from adversaries they faced in Season 1. But before they can switch into Ocean's Eleven mode, Crichton simply gives Scorpius what he wants in return for Jothee's freedom... himself.

Liars, Guns, and Money, Part Three: Plan B concludes the three-parter with the Moyas and their freshly-recruited allies executing a complex plan to rescue Crichton from Scorpius, though the Shadow Depository where it all happens is already on high alert following their previous heist. Scorpius wants to prise the knowledge of wormhole technology out of Crichton's brain. And with "Harvey" inside his mind, Crichton is helpless to resist, or even attempt to escape, whatever Scorpius has planned for him. So it's up to a Sheyang who can't make fire, a Tavlek berserker who has sworn never to kill again, a Vorcarian blood tracker who has a poor sense of smell, and a Zenetan pirate who turns out to be working for the other side. Plus Stark, Crais, Talyn, and the other Moyas, of course. Their mission is to get Crichton back or, if he refuses to go with them, to put a bullet between his eyes. Ultimately their rescue mission is successful, though with heavy losses on both sides; and when D'argo takes Jothee with him to thank Crichton for saving him, they find him close to madness, with Harvey tormenting him for allowing the apparent death of Scorpius. The episode ends with Crichton begging D'argo to kill him.

Die Me, Dichotomy is the cliffhanger conclusion to Season 2, in which the Moyas spend all their loot from the Shadow Depository to hire a healer to remove the chip from Crichton's brain. The healer is a Diagnosan named Tocot (pictured below), an alien with a sense of smell so delicate that, outside a sterile environment, it would die without its facial filter. While Tocot focuses on surgical technique, his assistant Grunchlk (pictured at left) handles the financial side of things, and with all the honesty and forthrightness you can read on his features. Before they can go ahead with the operation, however, Crichton escapes, sending out a signal to Scorpius, and engages Aeryn in an aerial chase over a frozen wasteland. Now and again possessed by the implanted personality of Scorpius, Crichton inadvertently forces Aeryn to eject from her Prowler over a freezing lake. Aeryn's dead body is recovered, and after her funeral an emotionally crushed Crichton surrenders to Tocot's tender mercies. As if that isn't as bad as things can get, Scorpius waltzes into the operating theatre while Crichton lies helpless with his head open and half of his brain on the table, breathes into the Diagnosan's delicate nostrils, and makes off with the chip the healer has just removed from Crichton's brain. The season's last "To Be Continued" card appears as Crichton writhes and screams incoherently, his only hope of survival lying comatose on the floor, left alive only to suffer Scorpius' most brutal revenge....

See also my review of Farscape season one. For more on space-ship-based TV series, see my reviews of Star Trek: TOS seasons one, two, and three; of TNG seasons one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven; of DS9 seasons one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven; of Voyager seasons one and two; and of Enterprise season one. As a control group, see also my reviews of Firefly, and of Babylon 5 seasons one, two, three, and four.

IMAGES from top: Braca; the Litigaran judge from "Re:Union/Dream a Little Dream"; Crichton and Aeryn having a moment; Nilaam showing her age; Das preparing to take the stone; Traltixx; Aeryn and Velorek; D'argo and Chiana trapped inside the picture; B'Sogg; Zhaan gagged by her own defense attorney; Yoz of the Hosnerians; future-Crichton; Crichton and Katralla looking at their future heir; Crichton in bronze; Kahaynu; Aeryn with her parasite-sniffing critter; an alternate career path for Pilot; the marooned hero couple nearing the end of life; Fento of the waxy-melty Plokavians; Valra of the Nebari Establishment; Natira of the Shadow Depository; Stark, Rorf, and Bekhesh lining up to do their part in the heist; Jothee; Grunchlk; and Tocot, the Diagnosan doctor whose nose really knows!