Farscape Rewatch! — “Picture If You Will,” “The Way We Weren’t”
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I am a wordy person. Sometimes this works to my benefit. I never have to worry about not meeting page limits, for example, in fact I frequently exceed them, most of the time by way, way a lot. I’m verbose, I have trouble being concise, I use more words and sentences than I should in spaces allotted to me, and I probably talk too much. Actually, this entire paragraph proves my point. I could have easily left it at “I am a wordy person,” and moved on from there. But I didn’t. My personal philosophy is that sometimes more is more, but it’s nice to change it up once in a while and talk small. Consider this your notice that I’m changing things up. Since I started this project, I have accidentally and consistently written at least two paragraphs more of episode summary than I wanted to. I wanted that section to be two paragraphs, max, in each post. We all see how that turned out.
Starting with this post, I am keeping the episode summaries to two paragraphs max, dammit. Why? Because A) It takes a lot of time, B) I don’t need to do it, you’re supposed to be watching these episodes as we go along . . . right? And even if you’re not, you don’t need more than a basic summary as a reminder, and C) I get the most out of writing the Metaphorically Speaking and Trash Bin sections anyway. If you want to read great, and way thorough, recaps of Farscape, I’d suggest heading over to TWOP, where Couch Baron, Strega, and Jacob spent a summer revisiting the series a couple years ago. In the meantime, we’ve got “The Way We Weren’t” and “Picture If You Will” on our plates. One is what I like to call a “quiet classic” and the other should then accordingly be called a “quiet dud.” Who thought up that Maldis guy, anyway?
2X05 — “PICTURE IF YOU WILL”
Chiana receives a psychic glass painting as a gift from an ugly motherfucker space gypsy woman named Kyvan who is living aboard a strange space station. The painting keeps changing according to what’s going on, or what’s going to be going on. It predicts that she will find her lost necklace, and that she will break her leg. She becomes very possessive over it, but Crichton and Zhaan are skeptical. D’Argo tells Chiana that keeping the painting is foolish, so she tells him to leave her alone. Meanwhile, Zhaan is off analyzing the tiny fragment of the painting she managed to weasel out of Chiana. She starts hearing weird noises, but Crichton interrupts before they can really get going. He says he doesn’t believe any of this nonsense, but Zhaan vehemently insists that it’s real, and that Chiana is in danger. She makes him promise cryptically to follow her instructions to the letter and without question, when she asks him to. Crichton goes to retrieve the painting, which has changed to show Chiana surrounded by flames. She is very scared, and those fears appear to be warranted when she spontaneously combusts, despite being locked inside of a freezer. When the freezer opens, there’s nothing left of her but ashes and a necklace. No one is exactly sure what’s going on, but it’s clear that the painting has something to do with it. Zhaan lights it on fire. But later, it appears completely un-burnt, and now with an almost complete D’Argo picture. They smash it and shove it out an airlock. It comes back, and this time kills D’Argo.
Aeryn heads back to find Kyvan’s ship to “make restitution,” but in the meanwhile, D’Argo finds himself inside the portrait with Chiana for company. By now the portrait has changed again, this time showing Crichton being immolated by purple beams of light. Upon finding Kyvan, Aeryn manages to learn that Maldis, apparently reconstituted from last time, is behind the painting. Zhaan pulls Crichton’s head towards hers and tells him through their Unity bond to distract Maldis for as long as possible, and to ignore everything she says out loud. Which is good, because the next thing she says is that she gives up. Then she shoves him into a DRD and he explodes, waking up in the painting. He forces Maldis into some villain exposition, but soon Maldis has taken Zhaan as well. Pilot relays Zhaan’s instructions to Aeryn, who kills Kyvan (really Maldis, in another incarnation) and vamooses out of the space station before it folds in on itself and shatters like glass. This weakens Maldis, which is Zhaan’s cue to get all bad ass. She manages to free the others, and Crichton drags her out of the painting with them. A giant Maldis hand comes wanking on out, but Crichton shoots it ZAT ZAT until it explodes, and hopefully Maldis is gone forever because I hate that guy.
- “Picture If You Will” was written by Peter Neale (his only Farscape episode) and directed by Andrew Prowse. Prowse directed “Premiere,” along with seventeen other episodes throughout the series’ run, including “DNA Mad Scientist” and the awful “Taking the Stone.” Prowse would go on to become a producer in season four, after having served as assistant producer and co-producer in seasons one through three.
- “Picture, if you will . . .” was frequently the opening of Rod Serling’s monologue at the beginning of each episode of The Twilight Zone.
- Virginia Hey’s martial arts training came in handy for the fight scene with Maldis. As a teenager she studied both Judo and Karate, earning a blue belt in Judo and an orange in karate. She really enjoyed filming the scene because she got to “kick Maldis’ ass.”
- This episode was broadcast after “The Way We Weren’t,” yet it should come before it in production order. Aeryn and Crichton’s scenes here makes more sense if “Picture If You Will” is shown first.
Fuckin’ Maldis. That guy ruins everything. “Picture If You Will” started out good. It really did. The painting was an interesting little idea, and it could have gone a bunch of different (and more subtle) ways, but it didn’t. Instead, it turned out to all be about Maldis’s revenge, which took any oomph the freaky glass painting might have had out of the story. In fact, this episode holds together right up until D’Argo shatters and “dies.” It starts out just being creepy, predicting Chiana’s broken leg, but when she actually dies, the sense of terror and guilt the crew feels is wonderful, and underneath that you have Zhaan sensing that something awful is going on, but not being able to talk about it. It just works. I also really like the idea of the painting itself, and the production department created a prop that is visually interesting as well. Sometimes these kind of sci-fi props end up really cheesy and you have to work hard to suspend your disbelief, but this isn’t one of those times. The whole first half of the episode seems to be setting something up. If you haven’t seen it before, you’re expecting something along the lines of “art being a window in time,” because you know, what would be the point of creating an object that could predict the future if you weren’t going to follow through with it, right?
Wrong. Any interesting thematic set-up that occurred as a result of the painting is thrown out the window and ignored when Maldis shows up. He doesn’t care about the future, or even the painting itself. It was just a way for him to trap the others and get his revenge on Zhaan. I suppose you could make the argument that the painting was being used by Maldis as some sort of metaphorical trap, like he knew the others would become obsessed with their supposed “futures,” but it doesn’t turn out that way. The only one fooled is Chiana, and it doesn’t matter anyway, because the painting was able to do its work even if its victims didn’t want to see the future it was showing them. You could also argue that not everything is about metaphor, and why don’t I just think simple for once and blah blah blah it was just a way for Maldis to scare the crap out of them, but no. I don’t buy it. Farscape isn’t that kind of show. There’s always something else going on. The main problem with this episode isn’t even really Maldis, it’s that the two halves it’s split into don’t match tonally. The first half is subtle and eerie, and the second half has giant hands trying to kill people. Certainly, Maldis is part of the problem. As I talked about with “That Old Black Magic,” he isn’t a great villain because there’s nothing complex about him. He’s predictable, one-note, boring. In fact, he’s such a simple (if annoying and evil) bastard that as soon as he shows up, any sense of tension goes out the window for me. I know right off the bat that he’s not going to have any lasting impact on these characters, except for maybe Zhaan, because what he represents to them is piddly in comparison to the other stuff this show regularly throws at us.
But let’s talk about the characters for a second, because at least they redeem the episode somewhat, starting with Zhaan. One of the reasons that I do buy the Zhaan/Maldis conflict is that Virginia Hey’s performance is exceptionally solid and believable, but it’s also because she’s the only one he is any real threat to. Zhaan exists on a spiritual plane that the other Moyans don’t inhabit, so she has more to lose from a spiritual predator than anyone. Add to that her own predilection for going kind of evil and heartless, and her terrified reaction by the end of the episode makes perfect sense. But even then, the tension is one-sided. Maldis is not scary to me, even if I do buy that Zhaan is frightened of him. I also like that the episode gives her the opportunity not just to save the day, but to do it in such a way that we can see how much faith the other Moyans have in her. So, even though this episode has Maldis in it, it’s not a total waste. The writers have allowed these characters to grow and interact in such wonderful ways that the end result is an episode that comes nowhere close to the levels of awfulness previously inhabited by “That Old Black Magic.” “Picture If You Will” also gives us a couple small character moments with the others as well. D’Argo and Chiana appear to be growing much, much closer. He is very concerned for her when she breaks her leg, and as their body language indicates, his feelings are more than just friendly crew type feelings. I also liked Rygel openly showing his affection for Chiana after her supposed “death,” and Crichton asking Aeryn if she’s always going to keep the world at a distance. All three of those moments will pay off in upcoming episodes.
This episode seems to be under the impression that we liked Maldis the first time. Just to be clear, we didn’t. And you know it’s bad when you have to have a character get all meta and clear up the events of the plot. Even cute little nods like “Just sit back and enjoy the happy ending” can’t change the fact that the episode was so unclear that that scene needed to exist in the first place.
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2X06 — “THE WAY WE WEREN’T”
Chiana finds an archive of old PK video surveillance footage from Moya and shows it to Crichton. The footage shows that Moya once had a female pilot, angry at a Peacekeeper named Lt. Velorek. She’s telling him that she doesn’t like the control collar or the “experiment.” Crais enters. He orders the PK squadron surrounding them to kill her, and they do so violently and without remorse. One of the PKs turns out to be Aeryn. Aeryn is very upset when shown the footage, as are D’Argo, Zhaan, and Rygel, who accuse her of being a monster. Only Crichton defends her as the same Aeryn they know and love. She remembers the mission, but claims that she didn’t know it was Moya or she would have said something sooner. She recalls her experience three years before when she was assigned to fly the transport carrying Moya‘s new Pilot. Velorek’s project to install a cooperative Leviathan existed so that Crais could carry out an experiment. Aeryn is so upset by the memory that she breaks down in Crichton’s arms after bloodying her knuckles raw on a punching bag. She tells Crichton about her life with the PKs and relationship with Velorek. She says they were lovers, that she felt something she’d never felt with any of the men she “recreated” with. Pilot interrupts the confession having seen the tape, and she goes to talk to him. Pilot goes nuts, attacking Aeryn in a furious rage. He remembers being installed in Moya, and that it was long and very painful, and Velorek didn’t do it the natural way, which takes one to two years. Pilot demands that Aeryn leave Moya.
Crichton knows there’s more to the story, but Aeryn won’t tell him. Zhaan is a snippy bitch while fixing up Aeryn’s injury, agreeing that Aeryn should leave, but then Aeryn decides to really leave and Zhaan gets her head screwed back on straight. She tells Aeryn she had no choice back then, that she was the only kind of PK she knew how to be. But then flashbacks of her and Velorek making love show he that asked her to be more, to run away with him, and that he thought Crais was a madman. Crichton goes to talk to Pilot. We learn that Velorek accelerated the bonding process to less than a day, and that as a result, Pilot would be in constant pain that won’t go away; he is in pain now. Moya was tortured into accepting him, so he rips out his nerves and severs their connection. We also learn that it was Velorek who installed the birth control shield that D’Argo kicked out back in “They’ve Got a Secret,” so that Crais’s project would never come to fruition. Severed from Pilot, Moya is bobbing about and life support is null. Aeryn goes to talk to Pilot, knowing that she is the only one who can understand what he’s going through. Three years before, Aeryn witnessed Velorek’s treason and turned him in for a promotion. As he was being arrested, he told her she was special, and wasn’t angry. The memory of it is horrifying to her now. Crichton and Aeryn infiltrate Pilot’s den where she tells Pilot to kill her but not the others, but he admits that it’s he who deserves death. He knew the old Pilot would die if he chose to accompany Velorek against the wishes of the elder Pilots, who deemed him not yet worthy to be bonded to any Leviathan. But he wanted to see the stars. Aeryn tells him they’ve come a long way since then, and they still have a long way to go. Later, D’Argo bonds Pilot to Moya naturally, beginning the year long process. In the mess, Crichton and Aeryn share a moment, a long look, and some secret smiles. Both Velorek and Crichton knew she could be more.
- “The Way We Weren’t” was written by Naren Shankar (Star Trek: TNG, Voyager, Deep Space Nine, CSI) and directed by Tony Tilse (“PK Tech Girl,” “Family Ties;” he also directed many of Farscape‘s upcoming season two episodes).
- In this episode, we get the first glimpse of Pilot’s misty home world, Doien, which until the events of the “Red Sky at Morning” graphic novel released in 2010, had no name. “Red Sky at Morning” is the fifth volume of the Farscape graphic novel series, following “The Beginning of the End of the Beginning” (1), “Strange Detractors” (2), “Gone and Back” (3), and “Tangled Roots” (4). The original Farscape writing team is involved in the project, which is considered canon and takes place after the events of The Peacekeeper Wars mini-series.
- The film itself for the flashback scenes was processed using a technique known as “bleach bypass” to give them an aged look.
- From this episode on, the musical scores on Farscape are all composed by Guy Gross.
- The title “The Way We Weren’t” is a play on the 1974 film The Way We Were, starring Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford.
- Lani Tupu decided that Velorek’s arrest was the first time Crais met Aeryn and played the scene accordingly. He considers the scene where Velorek visits Pilot’s planet to entice him to come to Moya as one of his favorites in the series.
- Aeryn also met Pilot and Zhaan for the first time during the flashbacks in this episode.
I always forget, but I love this episode. It’s one of the rare non-John centric episodes, and it works beautifully from beginning to end. The main focus is Aeryn, and through the use of flashbacks, we can see not only how far she’s come as a person, which is the goal, but we also get a little window into the past, which is enjoyable (despite the subject matter). What’s great about the flashbacks is that they don’t only just show us what we already knew about Aeryn, which was that she used to be a heartless Peacekeeper. Like Rygel, Zhaan, D’Argo, and Chiana (who I’ll get back to later), we as viewers prefer not to think about all the horrible things Aeryn did before we knew her. The flashbacks force us, and the Moyans, to confront their feelings for Aeryn in the face of something real, and more importantly, they force Aeryn to confront her past actions in light of what she knows now. I also enjoy how the flashbacks show us that yes, Aeryn was a heartless PK, but also that meeting Crichton and the other Moyans wasn’t the first time she’d been offered the chance to be a better person. Velorek offered it to her, and she turned around and hung him with it. That together with the fact that “she killed a Pilot” gives us, and the Moyans, some concrete evidence that we just can’t pretend doesn’t exist. As Chiana says, what did we think she was doing all that time she was a Peacekeeper, petting fluffy bunnies?
For whatever reason (and I have some theories), Aeryn could not begin to change on her own. It was only when she was forced by circumstance away from the Peacekeeper influence that she began to change. She was a Peacekeeper, born and bred. She flew Prowlers, took orders, and never asked questions. And she never, ever got attached. She tells Crichton that her relationships before coming aboard Moya were painful, which is an odd choice of words, and Crichton thinks so, too, but it’s present day Aeryn that uses that it; I don’t think three-years-ago Aeryn would have even known that what she was feeling was pain. Her intimacy with Velorek was fine until he brought it to her attention that it was different, and then it became scary. She didn’t understand it, so when he asked her to come with him (something she would never do on her own), she turned him in and buried him. I like to think of Velorek as the proto-Crichton; they have the same type of personality, and I think what draws Aeryn to Crichton is the same thing that drew her to Velorek, consciously or not. She tells Crichton that her priorities, relationships, and values were different back then. She valued being part of a team, the professional connections between officers and subordinates, and above all else, Peacekeeper protocols. Velorek was different; he valued life. We can see this in his actions: when he touches Pilot’s cheek to calm him (and then quickly covers by Tasing him when Crais walks in the room), and installing the shield. One of the reasons this memory is so crushing to Aeryn now is that it takes away the comforting idea that she didn’t know any better. She had a chance and she turned it in for treason, and she can feel without doubt that it was one of the worst mistakes of her life.
The other wonderful part of this episode is what happens with Pilot. At first you kind of get mad at him for being so irrational, just like you get mad at the rest of them. Like, hello? You knew she was a Peacekeeper and that she did awful things, and she is your friend so how about you calm down and LISTEN TO HER. But it soon becomes apparent that something more is going on with him. He’s dealing with his own repressed feelings of guilt and responsibility over the death of Moya‘s first Pilot, and Aeryn’s actions are dredging all those old feelings up. He never wanted to think about any of that ever again. I would assume after having been Moya‘s Pilot for three years, he’s also come to feel guilty as her protector, and as a violator of “the covenant between Leviathan and Pilot.” Never having been bonded with Moya naturally, I can only imagine that he feels like a fraud, an interloper. Not to mention the constant pain. It’s a reminder twenty-four hours a day of what he did. I love that Pilot is young. Because he’s so big and speaks so wonderfully slow, I always assume that he’s old and wise, but it’s just the opposite. He’s just as big of a dumb-ass as the rest of them. And the thing is, I can’t really fault him for his decision. We all make mistakes; it’s how we learn. As far as I’m concerned, you’re only really in trouble if you keep making the same mistakes over and over again, or if you refuse to acknowledge that they’re mistakes in the first place. Growing up is realizing how stupid you used to be.
Other stuff: I thought the reaction of the other crew-members was very well played. They pissed me off, a lot actually, but in the end they realized that she was still the same Aeryn and that she deserved their compassion, not their anger, so everything turned out okay. On a related note, the continuity of Farscape continues to be awesome. I loved Aeryn throwing the whole arm-cutting-off thing back in Zhaan’s face. I laughed out loud. And later, Crichton wonders why Pilot didn’t fly into a murderous rage when they cut his arm off, but he’s doing it now with Aeryn. Recalling these events provides clues for Crichton that something else is going on. It’s a really nice touch. Another continuity moment: Crichton and D’Argo Rock-Paper-Scissoring it, calling back to “Mind the Baby.” The PKs digging the old Pilot’s guts out of Moya’s systems and then wiping them on Aeryn’s clothes was a nice way to show-not-tell us that PKs are assholes, and I especially enjoyed how over the top asshole Lani Tupu got to play Crais. He actually comes across as scary, unlike in most of Season One where all the camp kept getting in the way. But despite all the nonsense with the PKs, this episode is very intimate. The scenes aboard Moya are all very confessional and real emotions pass between characters, and I noticed on this time through that everyone’s faces were exceptionally well-lit. The flashbacks were very intimate as well, what with all their delving into Aeryn’s past. In particular, the scenes between lovers Velorek and PK Aeryn felt very personal, which was surprising. And of course, the final scene between Aeryn and Pilot was what the whole thing was building towards.
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- “Haven’t you read the Super Villain’s Handbook? This is where you’re supposed to twirl your moustache and gloat.”
- The Creature Shop did an amazing job at building the rest of the Pilot body for “The Way We Weren’t.” He’s like a giant lobster out of water, except likable.
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“Crackers Don’t Matter!”
- A Farscape Glossary: “Recreating” is Peacekeeper for “Sex.”
- Pop Culture References: The Way We Were (obviously), Peanuts, Rod Serling, The Twilight Zone and Night Gallery, The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour, and The Sound of Music.
- Claudia Black’s face is the star of “The Way We Weren’t.” It positively glows, even when she’s crying. And it looks like director Tony Tilse was aware of it. He kept her very well lighted throughout. When she and Crichton are up in the vents looking down at Pilot, her face is like glowing from the inside, and during the Pilot confession scene, watching her cry makes me want to jump through the screen and get closer just to look at the pretty.
- Zhaan’s Season Two wardrobe is much more modest than what she wore in Season One. She often wears a blue turtle neck and a dress that leaves nothing but her head and hands uncovered. This was most likely done, I think, to limit Virginia Hey’s exposure to the blue makeup, which I believe was starting to make her ill by this point.
- Number of times each character has “died” as of “The Way We Weren’t”: Crichton, 6; D’Argo, 4; Rygel, 3; Zhaan, 1; Aeryn, 1; Pilot, 1; Moya; 1; Chiana, 1.
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Classic Moments in Farscape, #14
[Pilot's Den. Pilot has just backed down and admitted that it's not Aeryn he is ashamed of, but himself.]
Pilot: I didn’t only replace the old Pilot.
[There is a flash, and suddenly we're on Pilot's homeworld. We see two tiny figures among the misty marshes. One is a pilot, one is a Peacekeeper.]
Young Pilot: The elders have already judged me. They said I was not yet worthy to pilot a Leviathan.
[The camera moves closer and we see that it's Velorek.]
Velorek: If you believed that, you wouldn’t be here right now. So why are you?
Young Pilot: I want to be joined so badly.
Velorek: I can make that happen, young one.
Young Pilot: But the elders. The elders have not yet decreed it to be my destiny.
Velorek: I offer you the chance to make your destiny. Look up. [They both do so.] What do you see?
Young Pilot: [dreamily] Stars.
Velorek: That’s what I offer you. The stars.
Young Pilot: I dream of nothing else.
Velorek: I offer you a Leviathan. All you have to do is agree to help me.
Young Pilot: But you said that for me to be joined, the old one would have to die.
Velorek: That Pilot will die no matter what you do. [Pilot looks down and sighs.] If you don’t come with me, I’ll find someone else who will. Someone who isn’t afraid to take their place amongst the stars.
[Fade back to present day, Pilot's den. Aeryn has tears in her eyes.]
Pilot: The fate of Moya‘s true Pilot was sealed at that moment. So you see, Aeryn, it wasn’t really you who caused her death. It was me. If I hadn’t agreed to come, Velorek may never have found a replacement Pilot, but . . . but I just wanted so desperately to see the stars.
Aeryn: Do you remember when you first came aboard Moya? [She reaches out to touch his face.] Velorek stroked your cheek like this to calm you. Back then I couldn’t fathom why he’d do a thing like that. And now I couldn’t fathom not doing it. We’ve come a long way since then, Pilot, and we’ve still got a long way to go. Take the journey with me.
[Pilot reaches out to touch Aeryn's face in turn. They are both crying now.]
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Coming Up on the Farscape Rewatch: “Home on the Remains,” “Dream a Little Dream”