Farscape Rewatch! — “Mind the Baby,” “Vitas Mortis”
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At this very minute, as I sit here writing this, I am preparing physically, mentally, and spiritually for the series finale of Lost. So while this entry won’t be posted until Thursday, in the interest of full disclosure, I’ve got more than just Farscape on the brain. Specifically, I also have Sawyer and Jack and Hurley and Juliet and Charlie and Ben and maybe even Kate on the brain. Looking back on both Lost and Farscape, actually, I’m just very grateful that Lost had the chance to finish it’s story in the time it was promised. Farscape had to make do with a three hour mini-series to wrap up what should have been the fifth season it was promised (it wouldn’t even have gotten that if it wasn’t for some seriously devoted/crazy fans who managed to pull together funding from nowhere . . . but we’ll get back to that in a couple of seasons). And hell, Firefly only got half of a piddly (but genius) season, so I guess there’s always a bright side.
Which brings us to the opening episodes of Farscape Season Two. Pat yourselves on the back for making it this far, and remember, if you quit now, I will kill you.
2X01 — “MIND THE BABY”
We drop in in media res. Things are really going to shit on Moya. Who knows how long it’s been since the events of “Family Ties.” Moya is under fire from a Sheyang vessel, unable to Starburst, and Zhaan has literally gone insane, calling out for D’Argo, despite Chiana’s insistence that D’Argo has not been with them for some time now. D’Argo, meanwhile, wakes up on a floor far, far away with a super sweet “suntan” (spacetan?), having been out for days and days. Crichton informs him that, no, they’re not dead. Aeryn managed to save them, and now they’re hiding out on a barren, abandoned asteroid, waiting for her to come back with food. Elsewhere, Aeryn is talking to Crais (who is still aboard Talyn) about something sneaky he’s planning, and some deal she’s made. It’s very foreboding. She’s still acting wonky enough upon returning to the asteroid for Crichton and D’Argo to pick up on it; they want to leave but she says ‘no.’ There’s lots of yelling. Up on Moya, the world is ending: Rygel can’t eat. He’s too pissed at Pilot and Moya, who are heading back to the asteroid field to search for Talyn, despite the danger.
Aboard the Command Carrier, Scorpius is having his cooling rod changed. He and Braca, who has apparently been promoted, are discussing the relative merits of allowing Aeryn’s Prowler to pick Crichton up. Scorpius is pissed that she has managed to evade capture since rescuing his prey. She, meanwhile, is en route to Talyn, where she finds Crais yelling frantically at the poor Leviathan baby. Together, they manage to calm him down enough to learn that he’s being completely freaked out by signals broadcast by the Peacekeepers which have been designed to do just that. It soon becomes clear that whatever deal Aeryn has made involves partnering with Crais, and from the way he leans over her and in way too close, it is also clear that he has more than just platonic partnership in mind. Waiting for Aeryn to come back, Crichton and D’Argo have started a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, and D’Argo just says what no one else wants to acknowledge: why the fuck does paper beat rock, anyway? Once Aeryn’s back, Crichton immediately demands to know what she’s hiding from them. She says they’re not going to like it, that she promised to help Talyn learn to follow Crais’s orders in exchange for coordinates to an oxygen rich asteroid. D’Argo’s so pissed that he tongues her. After winning at Rock, Paper, Scissors, Crichton is off to Talyn to kick Crais’s ass while D’Argo waits for an unconscious Aeryn to wake up.
On Moya, Zhaan is in the middle of some sort of meditation ritual, an attempt to once again become a Pa’u. Chiana asks her for help, but she’s completely useless. Over on Talyn, Crais reports in to Scorpius, who wants to know what’s taking so long, so it might be tempting to think that Crais has really been working for the PK’s all this time, but no. He’s just playing all the angles. He’s in the middle of turning Talyn against the PK’s so he and Aeryn and Talyn can all be a big, happy ex-PK family, when Crichton comes storming in, loud as usual. They have a little territorial battle and then Crichton removes Crais from Talyn at gunpoint. With Moya speeding faster back towards Talyn, an unidentified Prowler tries to board her, which turns out to contain Crichton and Crais, who Crichton plans to place in one of Moya‘s cells. After saying hello to a whacked out Zhaan, who seems to think Crichton is dead, he’s off to pick up D’Argo and Aeryn. Just in time, too, because Talyn is freaking the hell out, revealing his position to the PK’s. Scorpius gives orders to cripple the ship and to capture Crichton alive, but he doesn’t care if the others live or die.
It’s a big happy reunion on Moya. When Rygel sees Crichton, D’Argo, and Aeryn, he starts having spasms he’s so emotional. But Talyn is still freaking out. And then a bunch of stuff happens: Aeryn knocks some sense into the blissed out Zhaan, D’Argo has it out with Crais over their differences, and then the Command Carrier shows up, and Talyn fires on Moya, demanding that Crais be sent over to be his Captain. After some more yelling, Aeryn agrees to accompany Crais, to keep him in line, though neither she nor Crichton are happy about it. Refusing to say goodbye yet again, Crichton and Aeryn link fingers in a decidedly non-platonic manner right in front of Crais, and then she’s gone. Once they’re aboard the young Leviathan, Aeryn instructs Talyn to move closer to Moya so they’ll be carried along in her Starburst, but first, Talyn offers Crais the Hand of Friendship, a painful, direct neural link to Talyn himself. Crais is essentially Talyn‘s Pilot now, and both want Aeryn off the ship. As Aeryn reboards Moya, Crais contacts Scorpius to shove everything in his face, but at least he tells Scorpius that Crichton is dead (to piss him off, most likely), and then he and Talyn Starburst away. Moya quickly follows suit. And finally things are quiet again. D’Argo and Zhaan talking about spirituality, Crichton sitting with Aeryn and twirling her hair . . . wait a minute. And then they start cuddling. While talking to Pilot. Like it’s no big deal (that’s my favorite part). Okay, so I literally had to rewind that three times just to understand what they were talking about because I couldn’t stop watching the cuddle. I didn’t remember it being this soon! Anyway Aeryn’s upset about Talyn running away from home, and Crichton wonders if Crais can change, and it’s sweet, but who cares because look at the cuddle!
- Chiana displays for the first time her ability to leap prodigious heights and distances without any apparent effort when she jumps across the shuttle bay into Crichton’s arms to welcome him back to Moya.
- This is the first episode where we see the central feature of Scorpius’s suit: a complex device that injects cooling rods straight into his brain. This exact explanation is not revealed until later in Season Two, “Look at the Princess.” We learn how it was installed in “Season of Death.”
- D’Argo’s appearance changes somewhat in this episode. Dave Elsey, the creative supervisor of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, justified the changes as being due to D’Argo’s exposure to space.
- This is the first episode in which the effects are done by Animal Logic, who would do the SFX for the rest of the series’ run. This was also the first episode shot at Homebush Bay, which is located west of Sydney.
- This episode was originally scheduled to be the second episode of the season. An episode called “Re: Union” was supposed to be the premiere, however it was felt to be too weak and was eventually reworked into “Dream a Little Dream,” which aired later in the season. It’s that episode which includes the trial of Zhaan Chiana mentions in “Mind the Baby.”
- A puppeteer’s hand is clearly visible at the bottom of the screen when the Hand of Friendship is offered to Crais.
Something that I’ve learned over the course of writing about Farscape‘s first season is that it’s much easier to write about the “MoTW” episodes (for lack of a better term . . . maybe I should call them CoTW “Crisis of the Week” instead?) than it is to write about plot heavy episodes like “Family Ties” and “Mind the Baby.” The finales and premieres in this early stage have so many pieces moving back and forth (and with Farscape you’ve also got the added onus of having more happen in a single episode than happens in entire seasons of other shows) that it can be hard to pin it all down. Later, the show will become very adept (to the point of genius) at juggling the balance between theme and plot, but right now it is mostly all about plot (not that that’s a bad thing, necessarily, just messier than I remembered). It’s easier to write about theme than plot because theme is something you dig your teeth into and examine. In writing about plot, it’s difficult to avoid simply summarizing what you’ve already seen on the screen. And in the case of “Mind the Baby,” it’s also about setting up what’s to come and reaffirming the character evolution we saw throughout season one.
Considering the series as a whole, and the season yet to come, this episode is concerned with two things: reuniting the Moya family (an affirmation/reversal of the goodbyes in “Family Ties”) and determining states of trust (who has it, who doesn’t), both of which encompass all of Farscape‘s main characters. But, to a greater extent, this is Aeryn’s episode. I really enjoy how it sort of unconsciously structures the episode in the viewer’s mind through her perspective. When she’s talking to Crais, and when she goes over to Talyn, we’re in on the secret with her, which makes us trust her despite her seemingly treacherous actions. Of course we also trust her because of the twenty-two episodes in season one that fleshed out her character as someone loyal to this dysfunctional family they’ve created. I also love how it sets Crais up as Aeryn’s foil. Even though the events of this episode prove finally that Crais is ready to put the Peacekeepers behind him, with Aeryn right beside him as a contrast, it’s clear not only that his actions are the “wrong” ones, but also that he’s not going to be able to develop as she did by going off on his own with Talyn. He needs people. The scene in which this is most clear is when Crichton and Aeryn are following Crais to the hangar bay and stop to say “goodbye” to one another. Their intimacy, even though it’s technically not romantic yet, is definitely intimate and very apparent. When the camera cuts to Crais, discomfort and puzzlement is written all over Lani Tupu’s face, and yes, there is jealousy there, too. So I guess the Crichton/Crais conflict hasn’t really gone away, it’s just morphed into something more undefinable, but the more threatening for it, I think.
Crais is certainly a threat in this episode. On top of being a threat to the Aeryn/Crichton relationship, he also affects the group in a much larger way. Yes, he helped save D’Argo and Crichton, but he did it for a price, and the ramifications of his commandeering Talyn reverberate long afterwards. The biggest consequence is the possible break up of the Moya family, which has only just reunited itself. Aeryn doesn’t want to leave Moya, but she wishes to protect Talyn, to keep him in the family by tempering Crais’s influence. And when Talyn instead offers Crais the Hand of Friendship, effectively making Aeryn’s presence ineffective, she returns to Moya, who is now even more estranged from her son. Any way you slice it, Crais is a douchebag (but at least he’s an interesting douchebag now).
Other things of note: We gain a clue into Scorpius’s strange physiology in this episode, with the first appearance of the cooling rod technology, although we won’t learn specifics until the middle of the season. Character appearances and behaviors are finally stabilized: Chiana’s accent (which alternated between light Australian and British throughout season one) is now fully Americanized, Aeryn’s eyebrows are much smaller (although her appearance is still changing, and will continue to do so throughout the series), Crichton has a new haircut (they must have found a good barber in the Uncharted Territories), and of course, D’Argo’s new tan (which looks much, much better). On rewatch, I’ve also noticed that Crichton likes to kiss, and not just Aeryn. When he’s angry or stressed or feeling particularly crazy, he kisses. He’s done it to Rygel (twice now), Crais, Zhaan, Aeryn, Chiana . . . I guess all that’s left is Pilot and D’Argo. And, last but not least, even though I didn’t remember the physically affectionate part of the Crichton/Aeryn relationship starting so soon, I suppose it makes sense. There’s nothing like rescuing the guy you had sex with that one time and who you also kinda play house with from hanging balls-out in space to fast track the relationship.
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2X02 — “VITAS MORTIS”
CGI planet, CGI castle: John, D’Argo, and Zhaan approach. Inside, a freaky cat-faced alien greets them. They have come to this planet, all three wearing ugly coats, in search of a Luxan. Inside, they find this old as shit Luxan woman with her snakey hairs all tied up in a swoopy thing. She identifies D’Argo as a general, much to Crichton’s puzzlement, and bids him come closer. He realizes she is an ‘Orican,’ and is afraid, but she is dying. He offers to attend her, whatever that means, but she deems him unworthy after sticking her freaky-ass hand into his chest. She calls him a fraud and then throws him out the door with her voodoo powers. She’s probably a witch.
Back from the credits, Zhaan tries to convince Crichton that Nilaam doesn’t mean to hurt D’Argo, that she’s a holy woman, but she turned me into a newt! (I got better.) D’Argo tells Crichton and Zhaan that he is a fraud. The tattoos on his tentacle beard mark him as a general, but he is not one. He took on the markings to save the real general, who was mortally wounded, from a torture that would certainly have killed him. Their little pep talk convinces him to talk to the Orican again, and it turns out the crazy biznatch was just testing him. Up on Moya, Chiana is washing clothes in Moya‘s amnexus fluid when Aeryn enters and throws some more clothes at her, but Chiana says she’s washing D’Argo’s clothes because she likes him. Conflict! D’Argo agrees to attend the Orican, and John isn’t happy about it. He doesn’t like the sound of “energy transfer,” and doesn’t understand the great honor that D’Argo considers this. He stays down on the planet to, I don’t know, lecture the dying lady? But she ends up winning him over with all her talk about being separated from her own kind. He can relate, so now they’re pals. Sort of. Meanwhile, D’Argo is lying to Chiana and Rygel about the ritual being dangerous, but Rygel doesn’t believe him. Chiana gets a funny look in her eye.
Later, D’Argo and Nilaam cut themselves on D’Argo’s “blade,” starting the ritual. Some freaky stuff happens with like, floating swords and weird chanting, and then BOOM! Granny Applepants decides to change course when she feels D’Argo’s “strong spirit.” Things go all wonky and Crichton breaks down the door, trying to stop the ritual. But it’s too late: the ritual is done, and Nilaam is young again. Up on Moya, Chiana is stuck in Moya‘s amnexus fluid, which has solidified, in a totally non-coincidental manner that has totally everything to do with the wonky ritual, except we’re not supposed to know that yet (even though it’s obvious). John high tails it out of Nilaam’s lair when she starts licking D’Argo’s nipples (for real), and then D’Argo and Nilaam have lots of dirty Luxan sex, ’cause hey, it’s not fair for John and Aeryn to be the only ones getting laid on this show, am I right? And after the sexin’, Nilaam promises D’Argo that she will solve all of his problems, and help his friends get home. While they’re having, er, fun, a number of Moya‘s systems begin to fail, including pieces of her outer skin. Pretty soon there’s a full-on inner hull breach, and everyone is like WHAT IS GOING ON.
And then the best thing ever happens: Rygel gets pulled out of his Thronesled by the escaping atmosphere and his ass plugs the hole Winnie the Pooh style. In the midst of this crisis-type situation, D’Argo enters with Nilaam. She tries to heal Moya‘s outer hull, ignoring some seriously evil looks from Chiana, but it only quickens the deterioration. Nilaam tells D’Argo she needs a place to meditate, and later it’s clear that both of them know they’ve caused Moya‘s sickness, although Nilaam says she didn’t know at the time. She didn’t know that D’Argo and company were in possession of a living ship, otherwise she would have been more careful. Aeryn is expressing doubts about Nilaam’s desire to truly heal Moya when Pilot calls her to his den. He, too, is dying, thanks to his connection with Moya. Upon learning that D’Argo and Nilaam are leaving the ship, Aeryn’s knee-jerk reaction is to kill Nilaam, but Nilaam is a witch, remember? Crichton and Aeryn end up encased temporarily in pillars of glass (or something). Down on the planet, D’Argo and Nilaam fight. D’Argo won’t abandon his friends, and he won’t allow Nilaam to kill Moya simply because she doesn’t want to be old again. She is acting anything but wise, even asking D’Argo to tell her what to do. After some man tears with Crichton, D’Argo and Nilaam once again attempt the Ritual of Passing. Nilaam dies, old again, and D’Argo makes out with her dead body (sort of for real . . . I like hyperbole). Crichton is crying for some reason, supposedly because this is sad. Freed from Nilaam’s “spell,” Chiana, Pilot, Moya, and Rygel are recovering nicely, but D’Argo is all emo. Whatever, he’ll be fine in a couple of hours.
- Nilaam is the only female Luxan shown in the entire Farscape series.
- Though two different actresses perform the role of Nilaam (Melissa Jaffer as Old Nilaam & Anna Lise-Phillips as Young Nilaam), Melissa Jaffer provides the voice for both versions.
- Additionally, Melissa Jaffer, who plays “Old” Nilaam would later return as a series regular in the role of Noranti in seasons three and four.
- The episode’s title is a Latin phrase which roughly translates as “life from death,” “life death” or “to seek to escape death.”‘
- Crichton’s reference to ripping out D’Argo’s liver and supping it with Chianti is a reference to Dr. Hannibal Lector in The Silence of the Lambs.
As much as I love those intense and dramatic episodes of Farscape like “The Hidden Memory” for their emotional range and metaphoric resonance, it’s episodes like “Vitas Mortis” that I like to write about best. Over the top, ridiculous what-the-fuck action all over the place, plus a smidgen of “that is really stupid” shoved in here and there, and a huh? over there. It makes for this wacky magical writing space where I get to love episodes I hated or that I just felt ‘meh’ about before just because I’m writing them, or rather, rewriting them. It’s the power of the snark. (I can’t wait to deploy it on “Taking the Stone” next week, my least favorite episode in the series). “Vitas Mortis” has some nice things going for it, but ultimately, there are just a bunch of narrative dead ends mixed in with a main storyline that ultimately isn’t very effective because it doesn’t let the audience in on the fun (more on that second part in the Trash Bin).
Very simply this episode is about learning to appreciate life while you have it, and being able to let it go when it’s time. This is, frankly, one of the main reasons the episode doesn’t work because that theme is way, way too big to ever be effectively conveyed in the space of one episode, and never mind that the main source we’re supposed to be getting this from is a one-off guest character. Despite its best intentions, Nilaam is just too small of a person for this story. Her death has no effect on us. (I mean, hell, it turns out that learning to appreciate life and then letting go were the main themes Lost was working with the whole time and it took them six frakking years to get the most of them, so . . . this episode was basically doomed from the start). Even in the end when we get the scenes of Chiana and Rygel articulating their newfound appreciation for life after their “experiences,” it just doesn’t really matter. Moving on.
The only character whose emotions I bought in this episode were Crichton’s, and he had the least amount of screen time of all four of the main players. This is largely because of his scene with Nilaam in which he empathizes with her loneliness. “Losing those I care about frightens me,” he says to D’Argo. What Nilaam is giving up is pretty intense, being given the chance to do it all over, but seriously, we don’t care. We do care if Moya lives or dies, however. We’re on her side. D’Argo feels torn because she’s the first Luxan he’s met in years and years, and she’s this holy woman to boot. It is kind of nice that the ‘holy woman’ thing doesn’t even matter in the end. In the end, she’s just like one of us, mortal and afraid of dying.
I start to lose patience with the episode when D’Argo is crying about Nilaam. They’ve known each other for, like, five seconds. I did not feel the emotion that the characters, including Crichton, seemed to be feeling, at the end. Their emotions are disproportionate to the amount of time they’ve spent with this woman. The pieces just don’t fit together.
The conflict between Aeryn and Chiana kinda goes . . . nowhere. I can see where it might be trying to setting up the next episode, which is all about Chiana, but it doesn’t work. We have been given no indication for the reason for Chiana’s dislike of Aeryn. It could be Crichton related, but I think that’s a stretch. It’s just narratively a very weird choice, and I’m pretty sure it’s something the writers don’t return to. And Aeryn’s distrust of Nilaam is kind of out of left field as well. I suppose violence is a reasonable reaction, considering how sick Moya is, but we aren’t shown the process of how that anger came about. She’s just fine one minute, and then BOOM, she’s shooting a very large space grenade launcher (which is admittedly bad ass). Very weird.
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- “You wanna have a midlife crisis? Fine! Just, ditch the firm, head off to Maui, shack up with the supermodel . . . but you DO NOT GET TO KEEP THE PORSCHE!”
- I’ve always got to mention a really good Hands on the Puppet! moment, and we have a great one in “Mind the Baby.” During the Crichton/Rygel reunion scene, Browder was squeezing the ever living crap out of that puppet, but it only made the scene funnier.
- Even better is the scene with Rygel’s ass acting as a space plug. Priceless.
- Nilaam’s head is very large for having such a tiny body, but she’s weirdly hard to stop looking at.
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“Crackers Don’t Matter!”
- A Farscape Glossary: “Intonns” is a Hynerian affliction — an airway seizure caused by very strong emotions, which is similar in effect to hiccuping.
- Interstellar Swearing:
- Pop Culture References: Rocky, The Menendez brothers, The Silence of the Lambs.
- Aeryn is very dirty and sweaty in “Mind the Baby,” but she still manages to look awesome. Explain.
- There were way too many awesome Aeryn/Crichton moments in “Mind the Baby,” and I could only pick one for the Classic Farscape moment ↓. Others include when Crichton asks Aeryn how many times they’ve been close, meaning trusting one another, and she’s thinking sex so she responds, whispering, “Just the once.” Makes me laugh so hard. Another is when they say “goodbye” for the second time and link their hands together. They don’t say much, but they don’t really have to.
- Crichton calls D’Argo “brother” in “Vitas Mortis,” and it makes me feel all warm and tingly inside.
- While watching “Vitas Mortis,” I had a realization. The Luxans are an entire species full of angry redheads.
- I always forget that Pilots can live for such a long time (1000+ years). 300 years (Leviathans) is small in comparison.
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Classic Moments in Farscape, #12
[Pilot's den, John and Aeryn are sitting down below Pilot. Aeryn is sitting in front of John, and he is twirling a piece of her hair in his fingers.]
Aeryn: I failed.
Crichton: No, you did everything you could.
Aeryn: In other words, I failed.
Pilot: Officer Sun, Talyn told Moya he was choosing Crais of his own volition.
Crichton: Yeah, for what that’s worth.
Pilot: He will contact her from time to time and let her know he is okay.
Crichton: Well, they say they’ll call home, Pilot, once a week . . . they never do.
Aeryn: [The camera pans out; Aeryn leans back into John's chest. He wraps her in his arms.] Talyn will be all right, won’t he?
Crichton: Well, he’s young. And he’s gonna make mistakes. But he’ll learn. And if Crais ever mistreats him, he’ll bounce him.
Aeryn: Maybe Crais won’t mistreat him. [Crichton grunts.] He could have killed me, you know. He could have killed all of us, and he didn’t.
Crichton: Yeah. Maybe he just needed to save the energy for Starburst.
Aeryn: Or maybe he’s changed. [Crichton snorts in disbelief and rolls his eyes.] Well you do believe people can change? Don’t you, John? [She looks up at him, he smiles and nuzzles her head.] Well?
Crichton: [laughs] Well . . . you have. Hmm. I have. But Crais . . .
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Coming Up on the Farscape Rewatch: “Taking the Stone,” “Crackers Don’t Matter”