Farscape Rewatch! — “Till the Blood Runs Clear,” “Rhapsody in Blue”
[Permanent Archive Here]
With these two episodes under my belt, we’re officially halfway through with Farscape Season One, so everyone give yourself a big round of applause. You sat on your asses and watched TV and it was awesome while I did all the work. JUST KIDDING. (Only kind of. I’m not bitter.) And this week I’m giving you a homework assignment, and your homework is this: I want you to force at least one person in your life to watch “Premiere” and if they try to tell you “No,” you just tell them to suck it. Then tell them to come here.
I wasn’t looking forward to these two episodes at all, by the way. In fact, I was kind of dreading them. My memories of “Till the Blood Runs Clear” were pretty neutral, but my memories of watching “Rhapsody in Blue” were positively vitriolic, even worse than for “That Old Black Magic.” And don’t get me wrong, it’s still not my favorite and I still kind of hate those damn Delvians, but this time through I couldn’t deny that there was an intelligence and awareness to the script that kind of lifted it out of the Delvian shithole it was playing around in.
1X11 — “TILL THE BLOOD RUNS CLEAR”
Aeryn and Crichton are out testing the new components they’ve installed on the Farscape-1 module — John’s idea — when they fly past a star with unusual solar activity. Moya flies away from the flares to protect the wee developing Leviathan beastie, despite Zhaan’s obvious pleasure at the intense solar radiation. Back aboard the module, Crichton ever so casually lets Aeryn know that this whole thing has been about him trying to recreate the conditions under which the wormhole that brought him to the ass-end of the universe was created: the solar flares, the module, the slingshot maneuver . . . and Aeryn is like, with ME in the car? PULL OVER, HUMAN. And then a wormhole magically appears, hypnotizing Crichton with the prospect of home. And folks? Get used to wormholes. They’re gonna be around for a long, long time.
As Aeryn tries to snap Crichton out of his mesmer or whatever, the wormhole undulates like some unholy space anus, threatening to suck them in. He wakes up just in time to fly them out of its unstable vortex, and the wormhole disappears. Back on Moya, D’Argo thinks they should leave as soon as Aeryn and Crichton are on board, seeing “no reason to stay.” Zhaan begs to differ; the solar flares are — how shall I put this? — giving her good feelings in naughty places. Pilot informs Rygel and D’Argo that Delvian females are “unusually sensitive to bionic radiation.” Zhaan: “It’s called a photogasm.” Crichton contacts Moya, all hyped from makin’ wormholes, but before they have a chance to re-board, a plasma leak is detected aboard the module; Moya won’t take it on board for the safety of her baby so D’Argo orders Crichton to abandon it. Crichton promptly ignores him and instead chooses to head to the nearest planet for some mechanic Rygel was talking to earlier with the unlikely name of “Furlow.” When D’Argo gets all mad and tries to forbid him, Crichton tells him to suck it by turning off the view-screen. He refuses to give up on his module, which he sees as his only chance to ever go home again. Aeryn gets all pissy aboard Farscape-1 — and with good reason — and Crichton apologizes for being a dickweed about the whole thing, but he just couldn’t help himself.
Down on the planet, which is a blazing hot wasteland, Furlow — who is a dumpy but shrewd little woman with scary eyes and a dirty face — gives them a hard time about it, but eventually agrees to fix the module. She also gives them some special goggles to protect their eyes from the intense light of the solar flares. Outside, a hologram of Crais appears. It’s a “Wanted Beacon,” and it shows only three wanted persons: D’Argo, Zhaan, and Rygel. Crichton determines that he’s not on there because Crais wants the pleasure of killing him for himself, but before Aeryn can tell him why she’s not on there, they are interrupted by a wolf-looking humanoid with a very large gun. After some good old fashioned tussling and Crichton having to claim Aeryn as his woman and telling her to keep her damn mouth shut, we learn that the pair are Vorcarian blood trackers — bounty hunters — who are hunting our very own escaped prisoners. Crichton, the idiot, says that they too are bounty hunters, calling himself “Butch” and Aeryn “Sundance.” Meanwhile, Zhaan is holed up on Moya experiencing her dirty feelings, and D’Argo is fed up with waiting. Because of the solar flares, he can’t manage to contact Crichton or Aeryn. He decides to go down to the planet to find Aeryn and Crichton, who are busy at the moment feeding bullshit to the Vorcarians, Rorf (Crichton: “Worf!?”) and Rorg.
After the Vorcarians leave, Aeryn shows Crichton a message for her that was hidden in the beacon by Crais. In it, he offers her a full pardon and honorable retirement if she should turn her companions in. Crichton dismisses it as bullshit, but it’s clear by her face that Aeryn is taking it very seriously. Later, D’Argo arrives on the planet, unaware that everyone on the planet is fully aware of his status as escaped prisoner. After a LOT of guitar strumming and desert walking, D’Argo and the Vorcarians meet and the Vorcarians take him prisoner. John is made aware of D’Argo’s capture when Furlow tries to sell him a second-hand Prowler that just came into her possession, obviously salvaged from the desert where D’Argo landed it. He tries his best to keep the Vorcarians from severely injuring D’Argo but his mercy begins to make them suspicious. To prove himself, Crichton pretends to be violent to D’Argo when in reality, he’s squeezing the tenka that the Vorcarians cut, making sure the blood runs clear. Then he punches the crap out of senseless D’Argo, who falls even more unconscious. Back at Furlow’s, Aeryn kicks the shit out of some alien dude who tries to steal info from the module and is temporarily blinded by a solar flare. He almost gets away, but Furlow steps in at the last minute. Up on Moya, Zhaan and Rygel become worried about D’Argo and Zhaan heads to check it out but gets distracted by more photogasms.
While Rorf and Rorg are hunting for Zhaan, Crichton returns to find D’Argo alone and goes to set him free. Only problem is that D’Argo is PISSED and attacks him. For about ten minutes they run around hitting and yelling at each other and it’s not even about the tenka-squeezing thing. It’s about the lost thing, and the human thing, and the male-dominance thing. All the things they never talk about. “It’s not gonna work, is it?” says John, “We’re never going to be friends.” But he does think that they can manage respect. Then there’s more fighting and male bonding over fighting and blah blah blah. They blow shit up. Anyway, the Vorcarians give up after temporarily-blind Aeryn plants a false re-programmed beacon (courtesy of Furlow) that shows Crais giving up the hunt and recalling his offer of reward. The episode ends with Crichton — unable to pay his debt to Furlow otherwise — handing over the data of the proto-wormhole in exchange for his ship. And this is important, folks, because a year, two years from now . . . well, let’s just leave it at that.
- [SPOILER!] Zhaan enjoying the solar flares is a big hint about the true nature of her character, which is revealed in “Bone to be Wild.”
- The episode was shot at Stockton Sands in Newcastle, near Sydney. The temperature was high during filming, which made the episode difficult to execute.
- In the space of only twenty seconds, Crichton refers to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Jesse James’ The Hole in the Wall Gang, and Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s Klingon security chief Worf.
- In the outtakes, Crichton and D’Argo embrace and give each other a big fake kiss after shaking hands.
And so it begins. I speak of John Crichton and his wormholes, of course. Frodo’s quest was to destroy the ring, Luke Skywalker’s was to defeat Darth Vader, Harry Potter’s to defeat Voldemort, and John Crichton’s is to figure out those motherfucking wormholes so he can find his way back to good motherfucking Earth. He has no idea how to create a wormhole, despite his confidence in this episode, and as Aeryn points out, even if he were to create one who’s to say what would be on the other side? If D’Argo, Rygel, and Zhaan had Home dangled in front of them back in “DNA Mad Scientist,” “Till the Blood Runs Clear” is the show’s attempt to do the same for Crichton and Aeryn, to a lesser degree. Crichton loses all capability for rational thought when that proto-wormhole appears in front of him; he forgets about Aeryn, he forgets about Moya, he forgets about space. All he can see is a way home. Later he apologizes to Aeryn for almost killing her, but the damage is done. We have seen his deepest desire (for now, and it’s not really a surprise). What is surprising is just how crazy it seems to make him. Crichton is a determined fella. Aeryn is similarly tempted. Crais’s offer of amnesty, the dishonesty of which is not lost on Aeryn, falls nevertheless on grateful ears. They’re both in weird places, these two, trying to fit in to their new surroundings, trying to come to terms with never being able to go Home again. (It’s important to note that both do come to terms a little in this episode: Aeryn doctors the beacon of Crais and John trades Furlow the wormhole data for the return of his module.)
D’Argo’s story is a little different. He’s the B-story in all of this, another victim of Crichton’s wormhole obsession, perhaps the first victim? The conflict between he and John isn’t really about he and John, it’s about all the built up frustration and misunderstanding that both men are feeling. The only difference between them is that Crichton has a cool head on his shoulders (even as Ben Browder cracks me up with his line readings during that whole sequence. I had to rewind the part where he yells at D’Argo “Well, get a clue, pal!” like five times because of it). So mostly for these two, this episode is about them coming to terms with their relationship. They aren’t friends (yet), but they can try out respect and trust. The episode also tries to make connections between the title (the blood running clear in D’Argo’s wound and between the two of them) and the “alpha male thing” as Crichton calls it. Crichton pretends to be the Alpha male to the Vorcarians, and he innately understands that D’Argo tries to fill that same role on Moya in order to make himself feel comfortable.
Some other thoughts. I love Furlow. I LOVE her, and I don’t really know why. She’s so dirty and gross — in more than just the physical sense — and her eyes are freaky as hell, but she’s a good character. I also enjoyed how the solar flares functioned throughout, first as a humorous distraction for Zhaan and an excuse to get Browder and Black to wear those idiotic goggles, and then as a metaphorical thing. Which I haven’t quite pinned down yet. Anyone have any thoughts? In general I find that I don’t have thoughts when things aren’t clear enough. The individual parts of this episode are strong, but together they do almost nothing for me.
Honestly, I’d like to cut the episode a little slack because I don’t truly believe anyone on Farscape is a bigot or a racist, but Rorf and Rorg (and I’m assuming Vorcarians in general) have just a little bit too much a of a native feel to them (Aborigine or Native American, take your pick) for my comfort. They are wearing native clothes and acting like dumb pack animals. It’s kind of offensive, even if it wasn’t intentional.
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1X12 — “RHAPSODY IN BLUE”
The first thing I want to know is who that blonde strumpet is that Crichton is so flippantly having sex with. She has farm-face and a boy’s name and I don’t like her. She’s like, I’m moving! Suck it! And Crichton pushes his little black ring box under the bed. Poor Crichton; he’s such a homebody. And then we get this cool cut of him rolling over in his flashback bed immediately cutting to him falling out of his Moya bed (in see-through underpants, no less). The man does have a delicious ass. You know what? I’m just saying what everybody else is thinking. Anyway, the ship is rocking like crazy and that beautiful ass goes tumbling right over his head. Crichton reaches command, still in underpants (but wearing a shirt) and everyone else is in their undies, too. Except for Aeryn, who appears to be wearing Crichton’s undies. (Trivia: D’Argo wears black pajamas, Zhaan sleeps naked — big surprise there.) Once they’ve all gathered, Pilot tells them that Moya initiated and terminated Starburst suddenly when she thought she heard the distress call of another pregnant Leviathan. After Aeryn makes a Back to the Future joke about Crichton’s underwear (“Calvin. They’re not yours.”), Rygel’s bitching leads them to discover that all the menfolk at least — the girls aren’t telling — dreamed of the last night they spent with their lovers: Crichton’s ex, Rygel’s favorite wife, and D’Argo’s murdered Lo’Laan. Pilot is puzzled by their current location; the planet they’ve stopped at doesn’t seem to have a Leviathan anywhere in sight. A sudden transmission comes through that puts the mystery quickly to rest: there’s a whole colony of blue bitches down there, and they used the fake distress call to lure the Moyans into their evil blue clutches (I’m not a bigot). Zhaan is like, MY PEOPLE. MY FUCKING PEOPLE!!! Also, another mystery solved: not all Delvians are bald.
Down on the planet, mysterious and tricksy Delvian stranger is explaining how they managed to get their ship underground, and blah blah blah, Aeryn and John are both extremely attractive in this scene. While the hairy Delvian — whose name is Tahleen — introduces them to the “New Moon of Delvia,” a Delvian wearing a stupid hat appears to be tending a dead orchard. These damn Delvians; they’re all a bunch of freaks. Aeryn and Crichton aren’t feeling it either, although Crichton is feeling Aeryn (for a gun that’s hidden in her pants). Alone, Zhaan confronts Tahleen, saying that Tahleen’s invasion into their dreams the night before left her bitter. Ahh, so Zhaan did dream about a lover last night. Apparently Tahleen and the others are beginning to suffer some sort of Delvian madness and they think Zhaan has the answer. Meanwhile Crichton is lecturing Aeryn on her missing sense of wonder. Crichton is exactly like a five year old boy. And as soon as we’ve determined this, the show literally shows us a five year old Crichton playing at the beach, a memory which that bitch Tahleen decides to ruin in order to bamboozle Zhaan into helping her. I really hate Delvians sometimes. The crazy Delvian man — who I like — approaches Crichton and warns him about trouble, and another Delvian kicks Aeryn back to Moya. There also seems to be some sexual spiritual team-switching and back-stabbing going on.
After Aeryn leaves, Zhaan gets Tahleen to show John her dream from the night before, in which we see Zhaan entering into Unity (a Delvian sexual spiritual thing) with a man and then killing him for political reasons. She explains to John that she needs his help, and it’s pretty confusing so I’m not even going to try to explain it, so just trust me. Aeryn and D’Argo become suspicious and head back down to the planet just as the Delvians begin attacking Crichton’s mind and altering his memories to distract him. They make him believe that Alex, the farm-face from the teaser, joined the space program with him and was in the Farscape-1 module as his co-pilot when the wormhole opened, and how could you forget, silly John? She’s been here the whole time! The others’ heads are also being messed with up on Moya: D’Argo is seeing Jothee, Aeryn thinks her pulse rifle has fallen apart, and Rygel thinks he’s shrunk into a wee little mini-Rygel. All of this means that Tahleen has time to put her head into Zhaan’s and steal what she’s looking for. What it comes down to is that Tahleen and her fellow assholes are too impatient to learn what Zhaan took years and years to accomplish in order to conquer her inner rage and madness, and now Zhaan’s eyes are red.
Crichton tells her to start again, but Zhaan says she doesn’t have the strength; it took her seventeen years last time, and now she’s pissed. So now everyone’s nuts and that Delvian hoo-ha is still pretending to be Alex and kissing on Crichton’s arms and makin’ me mad and stuff. But Crichton won’t be put down. He may be kinda dumb sometimes, but the man ain’t stupid. Which is exactly why he’s so confused by Lorana/Alex pushing that damn ring in his face. Earlier I said John was a homebody, but that may have been an understatement. That man wants to get hisself married real bad. Outside, Tahleen attacks the old dude, who turns out to be her father, and I’m pretty sure that means he’s not actually crazy. And apparently all of this is just too much for Lorana, who gives up the Alex ruse and confesses everything to Crichton. She tells him that the time in his mind has helped her to un-crazify and that if he’s willing to take the risk, he might be able to do the same with Zhaan. Which is exactly what happens, their spirits becoming one, and not to get all ushy-gushy on you, but it’s kinda poetical. And kinda weird. It would be cool, though, to be able to see that far into what someone else is thinking. Later, Crichton filled with rage starts chopping down the Delvians tree thing and Zhaan, now a 10th level Pa’u, protects him from Tahleen’s wrath. Later, Zhaan lays down her priestly garments, saying she is not worthy of them any longer and tells Crichton that the years she spent in training were the best of her life. So what she’s saying is that all you people who use cheat codes are bastards.
- If Aeryn is wearing Crichton’s underwear, and Crichton is also wearing a pair of boxers, does that mean he brought an extra pair of shorts with him on the module in case of emergencies? Way to think ahead, Crichton.
- Originally, Unity was going to be depicted prosthetically with one person’s hand inside the other, but that was dropped from the script. The special effects team then came up with what we see, the very effective shot of the two people going into each other, so to speak, when they join.
- The title is taken from American composer George Gershwin’s most famous composition.
- Eight makeup artists were needed to create all of the Delvians seen in this episode.
- The actress who plays Crichton’s ex, Alex, also plays Lorana the Delvian, who pretends to be Alex.
I love the way this episode looks at John Crichton, because the way that I look at him is like he’s an amazing puppy and also a child and also a wonderful man who is awesome in every way. It’s not like I’m gushing or anything, but I don’t think my love for this man is any big secret. I’ve said before that John’s talent is to understand, to see, but what I haven’t said before is that it’s because he knows how to experience wonder. Instead of pre-judging the world, Crichton’s brain lets him experience things, live things. So of course Crichton is the absolute perfect dupe for the Delvians and for Zhaan, because he is so willing to believe in their lie and because the part of him that is willing to believe the lie is also the part which saves him. For example, the water fountain and those Trigopods. Aeryn is less than amazed by the discovery of these weird ass animals, and Crichton is trying his best to persuade her otherwise: “Look around. Almost everything we see every day is brand new, and it’s incredible, and it’s worthy of response.” So later when Tahleen alters his memory of the beach and “Oh, look! There are things in the water!” becomes “OH, GOD, THERE ARE THINGS IN THE WATER!” what’s she’s done is to ruin something beautiful. I mean, that’s like THE WORST, taking love and innocence and joy and turning it into fear. This scene is also one of the reasons that Crichton is so easily able to say to Tahleen, to call her on her bullshit: “This isn’t about freedom. It’s about power.”
And so we learn of Zhaan’s crime. She’s not just an anarchist, she is a murderer — murder for political justice, but murder nonetheless — and this murder led her to madness. When Delvians reach for their darker impulse, they have trouble coming back. So what Tahleen is asking for, then, is the ability to overcome this madness, which doesn’t sound like a bad idea until you stop to think about it. Not only is she taking the easy way out — Zhaan worked seventeen years to become who she is at that moment — but what she is essentially asking Zhaan for is the ability to do evil and feel no regret, making Zhaan Satan in the Garden of Eden, Prometheus stealing fire from the Gods. Because Zhaan’s whole thing is that getting there is half the point; the years she spent overcoming her savagery were not just worthwhile for their end result, but as a result in themselves. You can’t have one without the other, knowledge without wisdom, experience without exploitation. Zhaan trusts Crichton with all this information, and in return he saves her, despite his averse initial reaction to her crime: “You killed the guy you were having sex with!” It’s another perversion of something beautiful that Crichton holds sacred.
And speaking of sacred cows, I want to talk about all the Delvian mind games going on here. Tahleen tells her Delvian minions to “preoccupy them as you would children; distract them with their own hopes and fears.” And mostly they use fear. For Aeryn, it’s the fear of being useless in the face of conflict. Her rifle falls apart and she can’t recall how to fix it; she can’t remember how to fly the ship. For D’Argo it’s Jothee and the Peacekeepers, and for Rygel it’s being even more powerless than he already believes himself to be. But of course I find Crichton’s situation the most interesting, not only because his is the only fantasy to include hopes instead of fears. Crichton is a man who loves love; he loves being a companion, having someone to come home to. He wants a family. The thing about their deepest hopes and fears is that because they desire them or fear them in such great quantities, they are that much more likely to believe them to be true in this context. Crichton wants to be married; he wanted to be married to Alex. He wants a companion to understand him for a change, to share the burden. It’s genius, really, except for one thing: the stupid dolt is so right and good that the plan backfires. In Crichton’s deepest desire, Lorana remembers herself. And I don’t know how he would have reacted to the situation if it were fear instead of hope, but what I do know is that doing that to Crichton is like killing the mockingbird. What did it ever do to you?
The Delvians are truly unpleasant and I hate spending time with them. Everything they do to Crichton and the others is like a stab in the gut, and despite the supposed intelligence of the script, I just want to spend the least amount of time with these people as possible.
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- “Bonehead. Bonehead!”
- “Who the HELL do you think you’re shooting at?!”
- To Aeryn, referencing the squiggly plant/animal in the Delvian fountain: “Look at this! Have you ever seen one of these before? I dub thee Trigopod! No? No reaction from you.”
- “[squawks like a chicken] Your translator microbes handle that one?”
- Excellent use of Rygel in “Rhapsody in Blue,” throwing him around, punching him, talking about his thousands of wives and mating, the eating of the Trigopod . . .
- Speaking of the Trigopod, it was pretty gross. Reminded me of the Squid. I hate the Squid.
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“Crackers Don’t Matter!”
- Interstellar Swearing: “Fahrbot” is a Hynerian synonym for “crazy” or “mental;” “Wellnitz” is “dweeb, doofus, goofy idiot.”
- When Crichton has to claim Aeryn as his woman in “Till the Blood Runs Clear,” it is hilarious because if anyone in that pair were to be doing the claiming for real, it would be Aeryn.
- As of “Rhapsody in Blue,” Zhaan’s has ascended from a ninth-level Pa’u, to a tenth-level one. She now has the power to protect others.
- Somehow the idea of John’s naming the Trigopod and it traveling so fast up to Moya is hilarious to me. Rygel: “But this Trigopod is legendary!”
- Jothee is still ugly. They really couldn’t make him cuter? His face looks like a monkey’s butt.
- Rygel’s “fear” is hilarious. He has a complex about being so small, so of course the Delvians, those assholes, would make him think he had suddenly shrunk even smaller.
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Classic Moments in Farscape, #6
[Crichton is stuck up a ladder after being chased around by an angry D'Argo.]
Crichton: Relationship? Oh, we have a relationship? No wonder you wanna kill me.
D’Argo: I once thought . . .
Crichton: Thought? No, no, thank me tomorrow. I saved your ass today.
D’Argo: You tortured me.
Crichton: I saved you. You know what? I have no idea what goes on in that tiny little brain of yours, D’Argo.
D’Argo: I have no idea why you do anything that you do.
Crichton: Well catch a clue, pal, ’cause I’m tired of sticking my hand out only to have you snap at it.
D’Argo: Every time I let down my guard, you disappoint me.
Crichton: Sorry. I’m only human.
D’Argo: [long pause] You look so much like a Peacekeeper, I often forget.
Crichton: [climbs down the ladder] Is that it? Or do you always have to be the alpha male?
D’Argo: Alpha male?
Crichton: Yeah, the big shot. The one with the big britches. The leader. You are so . . . childish.
D’Argo: You . . . are selfish.
Crichton: I can be. What about you, selfish?
Crichton: I ever come after you with a weapon? [D'Argo eyes him, doesn't say anything.] This isn’t going to work, is it? We’re never going to be friends.
D’Argo: Friendship is a lot to ask.
Crichton: Then how ’bout respect? We can be allies. [Crichton sticks out his hand for D'Argo to shake; D'Argo looks at it.] Warriors on Earth did this to show they weren’t holding weapons. [D'Argo holds up his sword and then transfers it to his other hand, taking Crichton's hand in his own. They shake on it.]
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Coming up on the Farscape Rewatch: “The Flax,” “Jeremiah Crichton”