Revisiting Farscape: Top 10 episodes

Top 10 Juliette Harrisson 15 Aug 2013 - 07:00

Juliette's final Revisiting Farscape piece selects the show's best 10 episodes. And that's your lot...

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been flying down Memory Wormhole, looking at all sorts of aspects of Farscape – the exotic aliens, the dramatic concluding mini-series, the madness, the leather. To conclude our look back at the show that enriched our vocabulary with such phrases as ‘what in the hezmana,’ here we celebrate the very best of Farscape’s 88 regular episodes, highlighting in particular those things Farscape does best – epic romance, awesome spectacle and sheer madness.

10. Liars, Guns and Money Parts I, II and III (Season Two)

Remind me what the frell is going on: D’Argo’s son is about to be sold into slavery, but it’s OK – Stark knows a bank our heroes can rob to get the money to buy him (and 9,999 other slaves). Unfortunately, it’s Scorpius’ bank, and Harvey is really starting to get a hold on Crichton’s brain…

Watch because: Drawing on plots and characters from across two seasons of the show, Liars, Guns and Money is the big, bold climax of the first two seasons. Crichton finally finds out it’s Harvey that’s been driving him slowly mad (among other things), D’Argo is finally reunited with his son and those members of the crew who weren’t criminals already, now definitely are. Between action, drama and weird-looking aliens with an eyeball obsession, this trilogy has it all.

Star-crossed lovers: Aeryn goes to extremes (including encouraging Talyn to act as a warrior, which is not what she initially wanted) to rescue Crichton. If he can’t be rescued, she plans to kill him quickly. From Aeryn, that’s love.

Most completely bonkers moment: Natira’s obsession with eyes is not only weird but extremely creepy.

Most awesome moment: The Shadow Depository collapses in an orgy of extremely expensive special effects.

Quotable: Crichton: Aeryn, listen, if Scorpius gets me –

Aeryn: I know, shoot you.

Crichton: No! No, no, shoot him!

 

9. Infinite Possibilities Parts I and II (Season Three)

Remind me what the frell is going on: Furlow the mechanic is trying to sell wormhole technology to the Scarrans, so at the behest of Jack the Ancient our heroes dive in to stop her, with terminal consequences…

Watch because: Usually, when a clone/duplicate/twin/whatever of a character, even a main character, is killed off we feel a bit of a twinge of regret and move on. But Farscape has done so well at selling the idea that a) both Crichtons are the same, equal and original, but b) their experiences, even in the short time they’ve been apart, have differentiated them, especially as regards Black T-shirt Crichton’s relationship with Aeryn, that it’s a rare viewer who watches Black T’s death scene here and thinks, ‘What’s all the fuss about? They’ve got a spare, after all.’ Rest in peace, Black T Crichton.

Star-crossed lovers: Aeryn and Black T are almost sickeningly happy; by mid-way through Part II they’ve got rid of Harvey for good and they’ve unlocked Crichton’s wormhole knowledge and plan to use it to return to Earth (heartlessly abandoning Green T in the process, presumably). The more bitter in the viewing audience are probably relieved when Black T almost immediately bites the dust.

Most completely bonkers moment: We don’t mean to nit-pick, but that is the cleanest, most bloodless death-by-radiation-poisoning we’ve ever seen. For comparison, SG-1’s Daniel Jackson looked like a mummy by the end.

Most awesome moment: The destruction of the Scarran Dreadnought (our heroes are getting really good at Blowing Dren Up). ‘I have no prayer for that,’ says Stark in horrified awe.

Quotable: Black T Crichton: They say it's a lucky or an unambitious man who goes when he's ready. That said, Scorpius is gone. I'm at peace. I don't hurt. I – I did some good things. I'm proud of my life. And I'm with you. Don't worry about me. I've never felt better.

 

8. Premiere (Season One)

Remind me what the frell is going on: John Crichton, an astronaut, has been shot through a wormhole into an unknown region of space full of strange alien life forms…

Watch because: Farscape’s pilot episode throws you right into the show’s crazy world at the deep end, but as pilots go, it’s one of the best. We understand Crichton, the boy racer PhD who skipped quarantine before his flight because he’s just that kinda guy, immediately, and that helps to orient us in the crazy world into which he’s been flung. All the regular characters make an impression (while their lack of knowledge of each other keeps clumsy exposition to a minimum) and the whole thing is infused with a healthy sense of humour that doesn’t detract from the drama, such as when Zhaan asks Pilot if Moya knows where they are and Pilot replies, ‘We're someplace else. I'll get back to you on the specifics.’

Star-crossed lovers: We’d love it if How I Met Your Mother was leading up to the reveal that Ted Mosby’s first good look at his kids’ mother was staring up at her with her knees clamped round his head after she kicked him halfway around their prison cell, but it seems unlikely. After accidentally ruining Aeryn’s entire life, Crichton tells her to come with him because ‘You can be more.’ The first time someone said that to her, we later find out, she ignored it; this time she listens.

Most completely bonkers moment: All of it? We’re introduced to both Rygel’s helium farts and D’Argo’s tongue stunner in this first episode.

Most awesome moment: Again, all of it is pretty awesome, but perhaps Aeryn’s introduction stands out. She kicks ass, and will continue to do so throughout the series, no matter how much she softens or how heavily pregnant she is.

Quotable: Crichton: There's life out here, Dad. Weird, amazing, psychotic life. And in Technicolor.

 

7. Incubator (Season Three)

Remind me what the frell is going on: Scorpius, now in possession of a neural clone of Crichton, tries to convince it to help him by telling it his life story.

Watch because: Scorpius (and Braca) is one of the more compelling, fully three dimensional villains on television. Although we may not approve of his methods, Scorpius has his reasons for acting the way he does, and his back-story fleshes out those reasons nicely, as well as being fascinating and pretty horrific in itself.

Star-crossed lovers: Depressed over Aeryn’s departure, Green T Crichton has become obsessed with finding wormholes, in his continued attempts to get back to Earth.

Most completely bonkers moment: Whenever the Peacekeepers try to fly through wormholes, they end up liquefied. Lovely.

Most awesome moment: Braca changes Scorpius’ fried cooling tubes with his bare hands, grimacing all the while.

Quotable: Scorpius: You think I want wormholes to betray the Peacekeepers and to conquer the universe myself? I don't want power. I want revenge!

 

6. Die Me, Dichotomy (Season Two)

Remind me what the frell is going on: Harvey has almost completely taken over Crichton’s body, with the result that immediately after Aeryn finally declares her love for him, he attacks her…

Watch because: The climax of the Harvey plotline is intense, and as cliff-hangers go, this one’s a doozy; Aeryn dead, Crichton unable to speak or remember anything about American Presidents Nixon-Clinton, everyone else fairly thoroughly traumatised. You know they’ll get out of it somehow, but it’s hard to imagine exactly how.

Star-crossed lovers: Aeryn is killed trying to fight Harvey-in-John’s-body and has a very artistic ice-planet funeral complete with actual (Christian) Latin chanting.

Most completely bonkers moment: As the Diagnosan operates to remove the chip from Crichton’s brain, he has to chop away at quite a few bits of brain mush and tendrils in the process. He is apparently able to tell exactly which bits store which of Crichton’s memories, so he asks Crichton which memories he wants to keep and which to lose.

Most awesome moment: Whenever Harvey is in control, we see glimpses of Ben Browder in the Scorpius make-up (a trick that would be re-used several times in later episodes) which is fabulously creepy, though perhaps not what you’d call ‘awesome.’ This episode doesn’t really do ‘awesome’ exactly, more ‘gut-wrenchingly traumatic,’ but Aeryn’s funeral has a degree of awesomeness to it, partly thanks to the somewhat anachronistic music and gorgeous ice planet set.

Quotable: D'Argo: Aeryn, Crichton has often said he'd rather die than fall to Scorpius. If you get the opportunity, don't hesitate.

Aeryn: What makes you think I would?

D'Argo: Because if our positions were reversed, I would.

 

5. We’re So Screwed Parts I, II and III (Season Four)

Remind me what the frell is going on: Aeryn has been captured by the Scarrans, who seem to think it’s somehow possible to extract knowledge from a person’s foetal offspring (just go with it). Our heroes manage to rescue her (unfortunately killing several innocent Nebari in the process) but Scorpius is captured, at which point Harvey informs Crichton that Scorpius has Crichton’s wormhole knowledge and they have to go back for him…

Watch because: Like Liars, Guns and Money, this trilogy embraces all the things that Farscape does so well – danger, intrigue, torture, romance, death on a massive scale and Blowing Dren Up. In this case, though, our heroes have moved up from bank robbery, via terrorism in Into the Lion’s Den and have now reached nuclear terrorism. In their defence, the stakes are also that much higher, as the Scarrans threaten half the galaxy, including Earth.

Star-crossed lovers: One of the joys of this particular trilogy is that Crichton and Aeryn are finally, properly, fully together as a couple, after three and a half seasons of messing about (season three’s Black T Crichton episodes don’t count as Black T was clearly doomed the minute he started getting laid). Ben Browder and Claudia Black have fantastic chemistry and this is topped off with great writing and direction that finds the reality in amongst the crazy – like the beautiful scene after Aeryn’s rescue, as she lies recovering on a bed on Moya and Crichton sleeps sitting on the floor beside her while she strokes his head. Their dance in the elevator is also adorable.

Most completely bonkers moment: It’s gotta be Crichton prancing around on top of the conference table with a nuclear bomb strapped to his hip and connected to his heartbeat. Though actually setting off said bomb with only an elevator to protect them comes close.

Most awesome moment: Three episodes after she was captured, Aeryn is finally rescued and Crichton carries her out of the Scarran medical bay. (This is definitely the closest Aeryn Sun will ever come to being a damsel in distress, crazy computer games aside. While this trope becomes objectionable if used too often, Aeryn kicks enough ass most of the time that it’s very rare use here simply drives home the horror of what’s happened to her and increases the emotional impact of the story).

Quotable: Crichton: You used me.

Scorpius: We used each other.

Crichton: You’re better at it.

Scorpius: You’re learning.

 

4. A Bug’s Life/Nerve/The Hidden Memory (Season One)

Remind me what the frell is going on: Crichton and Aeryn pose as Peacekeepers to fool a PK squad transporting valuable cargo, kick-starting a chain of events that results in Crichton and Chiana infiltrating a Peacekeeper Gammak Base, only for Crichton to be captured and tortured by the mysterious Scorpius… (OK, technically we’ve cheated; A Bug’s Life is a stand-alone episode while Nerve/The Hidden Memory is the two-parter. But, since Crichton first plays at being a Peacekeeper in A Bug’s Life and it’s the events of that episode that put Aeryn at death’s door, we like to think of them as a three-parter. Did you want Liars, Guns and Money knocked off the list?!).

Watch because: We happen to be quite fond of the first season of Farscape, but if we’re honest, much if it (with the exceptions of Premiere and A Human Reaction) is fairly skippable. Not these three episodes, though. Plot-wise they’re essential, containing the introduction of Scorpius, the introduction of Stark, the reveal of the wormhole knowledge planted in Crichton’s brain, the birth of Talyn and revelation that he’s a warship and the unspoken acknowledgement all round of how much Crichton and Aeryn love each other, their own insistent denial notwithstanding. But perhaps more importantly, the tone and themes of the show are established here. It’s here that Farscape stops being a weekly serial with a personal revenge story in the background and becomes a series about weapons of mass destruction and about the dangers of them ending up in the wrong hands, about the mental and physical effects of torture and prolonged stress, about madness and grief and regret, and an epic love story across time, space, death and reality (as Red Dwarf might put it). If you only ever see three episodes of Farscape, make it these three.

Star-crossed lovers: This is the point where everyone else realises just how much Crichton and Aeryn care for each other, as both risk their lives on fairly insane plans to rescue the other. Poor Gilina comes off the worst of course, giving her life for Crichton even after she’s realised he’s moved on.

Most completely bonkers moment: ‘My side! Your side! My side! Your side!’

Most awesome moment: There are lots of awesome moments in these episodes – Aeryn cold-bloodedly leaving Crais to the Aurora Chair, Gilina coming back to die for Crichton, Talyn’s birth, anything involving mysterious new villain Scorpius. But we have a fondness for the very beginning of A Bug’s Life, as the camera lovingly pans up to reveal Crichton dressed in a Peacekeeper uniform and the costume department wonder why they ever put him in anything else. Whether by accident or design, it’s from this point on that the show really discovered what it wanted to be.

Quotable: Stark: Who is she?

Crichton: That is the radiant Aeryn Sun.

Stark: How many Peacekeepers do you know on this base?

 

3. Into the Lion’s Den Parts I and II (Season Three)

Remind me what the frell is going on: Our heroes have talked their way onto Scorpius’ Command Carrier in the hopes of sabotaging his wormhole project, but when things start to heat up and Scorpius threatens Earth, they decide Blowing Dren Up is the only solution…

Watch because: Farscape had a knack for epic end-of-season multiple-part stories in which things go boom in a spectacular manner (see also Liars, Guns and Money, We’re So Screwed and The Peacekeeper Wars, which would presumably have been the climax of the never-made season five). Into the Lion’s Den is the best. The Dren that gets Blown Up, rather than a shady bank for criminals or a Scarran secret base, is the Command Carrier that’s been pursuing our heroes for three seasons, under two different commanders. The tension between our heroes is palpable, with Crichton and Aeryn barely talking and no one except Aeryn entirely trusting Crais right up to the end; and, of course, these episodes also send two regular characters off to the great Leviathan in the sky in a spectacular and heroic manner. Zhaan’s death was forced by real world issues, D’Argo’s the result of the series-ending impulse to kill off regular characters, but Crais and Talyn’s deaths are pure story-telling, occurring at just the right place and the right time to create maximum dramatic impact. Rest in peace, you lovably psychotic pair.

Star-crossed lovers: Aeryn is still giving Green T Crichton the cold shoulder, unable to get close to him so soon after Black T’s unfortunate demise.

Most completely bonkers moment: While Crichton and Harvey’s scenes are relatively serious, the black and white war movie setting is rather fun as well as thematically appropriate.

Most awesome moment: The production values on this episode are of the ‘so that’s where the budget went’ variety, and this pays off magnificently in the shot of Scorpius standing on a staircase in the Command Carrier while water from the clearly non-holodeck-style lake area flows down and around him, like something out of Titanic, and the soundtrack goes into full-on epic mode. It is glorious.

Quotable: Crais: Talyn… Starburst!

 

2. Revenging Angel (Season Three)

Remind me what the frell is going on: Crichton’s latest fight with D’Argo has ended with him in a coma, hallucinating Looney Tunes while Harvey desperately tries to motivate him to keep them both alive…

Watch because: Of all Farscape’s really out-there episodes, this is the funniest (by a hair), the most satisfying and weirdly, it actually makes the most sense. Which is not to say that it makes much sense at all, but since it mostly takes place in Crichton’s injured brain, that’s OK. The cartoons are backed by a slight but sweet little story between Jool and D’Argo that hints at the romantic interest they later display in season four’s What Was Lost two-parter, that keeps things moving but doesn’t detract from the Looney Tunes fun. Meanwhile, the animated sequences are perfectly executed, from the caricatures of the regulars, through the Wile-E-Coyote-style attempts at traps, right down to the music. And if you’re watching as part of a DVD marathon, this episode is importantly placed; between the tragedy of Infinite Possibilities and the unrelenting misery of The Choice, this episode provides some much needed light relief and reminds viewers that while Aeryn may feel like her world has ended with the death of Black T Crichton, Green T still loves her, so there’s hope for them yet.

Star-crossed lovers: Green T Crichton is well aware of what’s probably going on over on Talyn (or was, since this takes place during or after Infinite Possibilities). ‘Don’t do it to yourself,’ advises Looney Tunes-Aeryn.

Most completely bonkers moment: We’re tempted to say ‘the entire episode.’ But we’ll settle for the moment when the cartoon USS Enterprise shoots through one of cartoon-Crichton’s wormholes with D’Argo stuck to the front of it. In a close second place is D’Argo being hit by the Mir space station.

Most awesome moment: Oddly enough, the most awesome moment isn’t one of the animated sequences, but rather Jool triumphantly pulling D’Argo’s Qualta Blade from the lake of dren in which she’s been searching – which means they’re all going to live after all. It may be a crazy episode, but the Moya crew are actually in more danger here than in many a more straightforward story.

Quotable: Crichton: I don't wanna be like you. I don't wanna stoop that low. Kirk wouldn't stoop that low.

Harvey: That was a television show, John. And he made Priceline commercials.

 

1. The Way We Weren’t (Season Two)

Remind me what the frell is going on: Chiana finds an old security tape that reveals Aeryn has been on Moya before, when Moya still had her old Pilot…

Watch because: The Way We Weren’t contains so much of what makes Farscape great; real, raw emotions with characters reacting in a violent and realistic manner to the episode’s revelations, Crichton and Aeryn’s relationship and the actors’ fantastic chemistry, some seriously dark back-stories for everybody, even Pilot, in a beautifully made episode with a washed-out look to differentiate the flashbacks from the scenes set in the present and featuring an acting tour de force from Claudia Black, as well as from Lani Tupu and the puppeteers working on Pilot. Perhaps the particular genius of both the episode and the show is best encapsulated in the scene where Aeryn gently strokes Pilot’s cheek. It’s an important and moving moment for both characters, and everyone completely sells it so that as a viewer, you forget you’re looking at a puppet; you’re looking at a beloved character in pain. That is what makes Farscape, and the Henson workshop in general, so special.

Star-crossed lovers: One of the reasons Crichton is able to be there for Aeryn is that, unlike most of the others, he wasn’t on Moya at the time of the incident and unlike Chiana, he’s never been a prisoner for longer than a few days. However, the most important reason is that he’s far too much in love with her not to feel for her. Aeryn observes that Velorek told her exactly the same thing Crichton told her when he took her away from her Peacekeeper life in the pilot – ‘You can be more.’ Crichton’s response is to reiterate that she says she loves ‘this man.’

Most completely bonkers moment: Bonkers-ness is at an absolute minimum in this episode, though Pilot’s reaction to the episode’s revelations, while completely understandable (he feels guilty for forcing the bond with him on Moya) is a little bit extreme considering it endangers everyone on board, not just himself and Aeryn.

Most awesome moment: Pilot strokes Aeryn’s face back – a beautiful character moment and some highly skilled puppetry.

Quotable: Aeryn: Do you remember when you first came aboard? Velorek stroked your cheek like this. Back then, I couldn't fathom why he'd do a thing like that, and now I couldn't fathom not doing it.

  

Bubbling under: Crackers Don’t Matter, A Clockwork Nebari, A Constellation of Doubt, Bad Timing, A Human Reaction, Prayer, Won’t Get Fooled Again, The Ugly Truth, Scratch ‘n’ Sniff, Look at the Princess Parts I, II and III. 

We hope you’ve enjoyed re-visiting Farscape with us. It’s rare to find a show with such a joyful blend of dramatic character work and great acting mixed in with a strong sense of fun and a streak of madness a mile wide. Although rumours of a re-boot resurface every now and again, with the sad passing of Jonathan Hardy (the voice of Rygel) in 2012, we think it’s probably time to lay Farscape to rest. Farewell Farscape, it’s been a blast. 

Not that we wouldn’t be first in line for the movie if it did come back… 

Juliette Harrisson is a Classicist, a writer and a Trekkie. Her thoughts on what the Greeks and Romans have done for us can be found hereRead the rest of her Revisiting Farscape series, here.

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