Farscape Rewatch! — “Home on the Remains,” “Dream a Little Dream”
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Two. Episodes. Of. Zhaan. All the time with the Zhaan. I know some of you really like her, but she kind of just makes me go ‘meh.’ Zhaan. Zhaan. Zhaan. It also doesn’t help that the two (Zhaan-centric) episodes we have on our plate this week are just run of the mill and kind of boring, which is probably why I decided to watch Seasons 1-4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer instead of doing this post last week when I should have. Luckily, I enjoy all the remaining episodes of season two (all the clunkers were at the beginning), so there shouldn’t be a problem in getting those ones up on time. Ahem.
“Home on the Remains” isn’t really a Zhaan episode, per se, seeing as how we mostly delve into Chiana’s past, but despite that, Zhaan is till kind of the visual centerpiece. A little confession: I was so bored by “Dream a Little Dream” the first time I watched the series that I kind of just didn’t pay attention at all when it was on and read the summary online instead. Having officially watched it now, I can’t say that I missed all that much on the first go. Both episodes are at least redeemable (unlike “Taking the Stone”) in that I can see where they’re coming from, even if I don’t think they were entirely successful.
2X07 — “HOME ON THE REMAINS”
Everybody is hungry. All the time. They have no food, and they are out of supplies. So it’s probably fitting that Moya is sitting in the mouth of a giant ass space creature called a Budong. A dead Budong. That people live in. Chiana once stayed here (and stole things) with her brother; she says they can get food here. Meanwhile, Zhaan’s face starts to grow flower pimples because that woman needs food, so they’re going into the Budong, Chiana’s enemies not withstanding. This biological reaction of Zhaan’s seems strange. I guess she’s getting ready to plant herself? How do Delvians produce offspring, anyway? Aeryn stays aboard Moya to watch over the flowering Zhaan (because she’s the only one who isn’t allergic to her) while the others head into the Budong. The miners who live in the Budong are seriously ugly, as usual, and not only does the place smell (like a rotting corpse, obviously) and have poisonous walls, but it’s also full of deadly monsters called Keedvas that rip you to shreds while the rest of you dissolves in acidic saliva. Such is the fate of Chiana’s old friend Temmon, who was supposed to help them, but instead, dies. Temmon’s brother, B’Sogg, is an asshole. He looks like Sloth, except not cute. He closes the mines, more out of a sense of power than of keeping people safe. This mean’s Chiana’s friend, Altana, can’t get to her claim (apparently she’s scored big), and Chiana can’t get the share she’s been promised.
Up on Moya, Aeryn has her hands full trying to keep Zhaan’s budding from getting out of control. Nothing she does helps, and some things (like shining light on her) make it worse. The pollen even begins to affect Moya, numbing her inside hull and forcing Pilot to flush the atmosphere. When Crichton brings back food for her, finally, she rejects it, saying she needs meat to stop the budding cycle. There are a bunch of machinations down on the Budong as Crichton, D’Argo, and Chiana try to obtain meat. Mining, possible prostitution, alligator monsters, gambling, jealousy, almost getting eaten, blah blah blah. I really don’t like most of this episode. (Rygel and Crichton biting each other, though, that’s just hilarious.) D’Argo helps Altana collect her crystals, but before they can make it back, they’re attacked by a keedva. Altana dies. Later, Chiana figures out that B’Sogg has been controlling the keedva by whistle, and that he killed Altana and Temmon in order to steal their claims. B’Sogg says the keedva and he have a “mutually beneficial” relationship. Chiana attacks and injures B’Sogg and Crichton kills the keedva, which he brings back to Moya for Zhaan to eat. Barbecue style. D’Argo then informs Chiana of his feelings by making out with her. Chiana just says “Whoa.”
- “Home on the Remains” was written by Gabrielle Stanton and Harry Werksman, Jr. (who have both since worked on Grey’s Anatomy, Moonlight, Ugly Betty, Castle, The Vampire Diaries, and most recently, The Gates, as writers and producers). It was directed by Rowan Woods.
- This episode was the only one of the entire run of Farscape to receive an 18 Certificate from the British Board of Film Classification. These are given when the Board wants to issue a warning against allowing viewers under the age of 18 watch the material in question. Presumably this was due to some of the episode’s graphic violence.
- Though Claudia Black usually prefers to produce her own tears naturally when doing a crying scene, in this episode she used menthol under her eyes to create Aeryn’s involuntary reaction to Zhaan’s pollination.
- The title comes from “Home on the Range,” a popular American folksong.
Part of the problem with this episode is that the overarching thing isn’t apparent until the last five minutes, the thing in this case being the issues surrounding ‘survival’. And as is always the case with Farscape, it’s also about bodies. The Budong is the symbolic centerpiece of the episode, a giant dead creature, its rotting body inhabited by the dregs of the Uncharted Territories, who mine its poisonous walls for rare and valuable crystals in order to survive in a place that few survive in. When you get down to the bottom of the people scale like this, when you’re a member of a group that is considered on the fringe (as the Moyans certainly are), there are certain things that, if you let them, just cease to matter in practicality. Friendship, community, the question of good and evil . . . they take a backseat when your main concern is whether or not you have a reliable place to sleep, or if you’ll be able to eat that day. And the main thing that you have to worry about is your own body, whether it’s been fed, or if it it’s sick. Bodies are dangerous. Other people’s bodies, your body. Hostile environments distill things to their essence; it’s the animal vs. the intelligence vs. the spiritual. I think it’s important to note that the episode is attempting to make a distinction between the Moyans and everyone else at the bottom of the food chain. Like, this is what you could be. Beware. At least, that’s what the episode is trying to convey. Other things get in the way.
Mainly, “Home on the Remains” is concerned with Chiana and Zhaan. Like the dead Budong, Zhaan is the embodiment of what this episode is trying to get at. Wise, rational, spiritual Zhaan disappears almost completely when hunger forces her biology to take over. I was going to use the word animal, but Zhaan isn’t an animal. She’s a plant. She’s a walking Venus Fly Trap. So it’s actually bigger than animal versus spiritual. It’s nature versus civilization, kill or be killed, and in that moment when Aeryn calls her back to herself and she asks for help, she’s making a choice. There are some things you don’t give up without a fight.
On the Chiana front, it moves a couple of pieces into place, for the first time cementing her status on board Moya in her own eyes. The others may have accepted her a while ago, but she’s still ready to run at any moment. Chiana’s a hard one to get a handle on, mostly because a lot of what you see with her is an act (something this episode delves into in her actions with B’Sogg, and his brother before him). She tells D’Argo that she acts out to protect herself, “out” being the key word. She’s constantly projecting an image of herself onto the people around her, relying heavily on her sexuality and her ability to manipulate people with it. It’s the end result that matters, after all: survival. You put on the face, say the words, and do what you have to. It’s a very lonely way to live. She only lets her guard down when she feel safe, when it’s not about survival anymore. And that’s what this episode does in its flawed way; Chiana realizes that Moya isn’t just another way to keep going anymore, but a home, and it’s D’Argo’s feelings for her that bring the realization about. “Oh, hey, these people like me.” Because home isn’t just about safety, it’s also about love, which in the hierarchy of things, just makes you more human.
Other, smaller stuff: The whole living inside of a giant, rotting corpse and prostituting yourself for food thing could also be a metaphor for Hollywood (I’m just saying). I’d forgotten this, but the Chiana/D’Argo relationship gets off to a nice little start in this episode. I’ve always thought it was fitting that they were drawn to each other, being the youngest and most immature of the crew. It strikes me that this episode was Farscape‘s answer to Star Trek‘s sterilized and homogeneous “final frontier.” Even the most savage Star Trek denizen couldn’t hold a candle to the gross places characters on Farscape often inhabit, both physically and emotionally. There is nothing fun or intellectually stimulating or philosophically meandering about living on a Budong. It’s hell, and it’s shit. I also think it’s a fun exercise to compare the portrayal of savages in the Uncharted Territories (as represented by the inhabitants of the Budong) to the the outer planets of Firefly (even though Firefly didn’t premiere until 2002, at which point Farscape was wrapping up its four season run). All three shows treat the idea of the frontier (and safety and survival) very differently. Finally, even though I have a lot of problems with “Home on the Remains” as a cohesive hour of television, I do have to acknowledge all the little moments that did work, i.e the crew being physically allergic to Zhaan’s pollen and spores, Crichton and Rygel biting each other in an episode that is largely about food, and the wonderful symmetry of the keedva barbecue at the end of the episode.
No one except for Zhaan looks hungry. Takes some of the tension out the thing, you know? They could have at least tried to give everyone “hungry” make-up, or something. B’Sogg and the other denizens of the Budong are actively repellent. My extreme dislike of them gets in the way of the story, and in an episode where the main point isn’t apparent until the end of the episode, that really isn’t a good thing. In fact, if not for the last five minutes of the episode, the whole thing would have been a total bust. (Luckily, the keedva barbecue and Chiana’s conversation with D’Argo at least shed some light on the thing, but there should have been light a lot sooner than that.)
It also really annoyed me that B’Sogg’s species were saddled with annoying accents of an indeterminate origin, like they were from Jamaica. Or West Virginia.
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2X08 — “DREAM A LITTLE DREAM”
Remember back eight episodes or so ago, when Crichton and D’Argo were hanging out in space and Aeryn couldn’t get to them and everything was awful, and made even more awful when Moya and everyone aboard it just Starbursted away? Well, Zhaan sure does. She dreams that Aeryn’s Prowler was blown up by Peacekeepers, and that Crichton’ s space helmet cracked and exploded his beautiful face. She wakes up screaming. This isn’t the first time she’s dreamed of their deaths. Currently stuck in a transport pod with said beautiful Crichton, she tells him that they searched for twenty days for Aeryn, Crichton, and D’Argo before happening on a planet stupidly called Litigara, whose population was predictably made up of 90% lawyers. Of course, there was no sign of their missing friends on Litigara, but just as they were about to leave, Zhaan went and got herself hit by a car. Apparently getting hit by cars is illegal on Litigara, because Zhaan was arrested and taken to jail, where she goes batshit insane and assaults her lawyer. And THEN she starts hallucinating! Visions of Crichton, D’Argo, and Aeryn, judging her. Randomly, the Litigaran chick who got her arrested in the first place (by changing the walking signal) helps her to escape, but it turns out it’s only so that she can frame her for murder.
The murdered Litigaran, Wesley Kenn, was a civil rights lawyer who championed the “Utilities” (the 10% of the population who aren’t lawyers), so it’s pretty obvious right away why he was murdered. Zhaan will be executed as the scapegoat. Her lawyer refuses to represent her in a plea of innocence (lest he be executed along with her), so Chiana and Rygel take up the cause. While Chiana and Rygel get legal help from a useful Litigaran bartender, Zhaan is still hallucinating (this time, it’s just Aeryn, who blames Zhaan for leaving). As a result of this, Zhaan acts like the biggest idiot ever and confesses in the middle of court that she murdered Wesley Kenn. Finally somebody gags her, thank God, and the trial continues. Chiana tries sexing up the cop who arrested Zhaan, and the info she gets out of him gets her in trouble the next day. Ja Rhumann (effectively the planet’s leader, who had Wesley Kenn killed) calls her into his office and threatens her. Meanwhile, Zhaan’s D’Argo hallucination tells her to pick up her Delvian Seek again, and then makes out with her. At the last minute, Rygel comes up with a plan. Using the Litigarans’ own ancient texts against them, and some trickery involving Moya, they convince the judge that Ja Rhumann is lying and that it was he who murdered Wesley Kenn in an effort to stall movements on the Utilities’ civil rights movement. When Zhaan finished telling Crichton all of this, he tells her that it’s a good thing for her to have picked up the Seek again, and thanks her for her compassion.
- The episode’s writer, Steven Rae, is a nom de plume for the series’ creator Rockne S. O’Bannon. The episode was directed by Ian Watson.
- According to Ben Browder, the singing scenes in this episode were not in the script, but ad-libbed the day of filming.
- This episode was first filmed for the season premiere, however it was held to allow “Mind the Baby” to air instead. Several additional scenes were shot and the episode was aired later on as a flashback story.
- The original cut of this episode, “Re: Union”, eventually aired as a special presentation in the US on Sci-Fi June 1, 2001, during reruns of the third season.
- The title of the episode comes from the song that Crichton sings to Zhaan, “Dream a Little Dream.” This was a top ten hit for Frankie Laine in 1950, and was also recorded by dozens of others, including Doris Day, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, and “Mama” Cass Elliot of The Mamas & the Papas. It has most recently been featured on Glee.
Basically what it comes down to is that Zhaan has a guilty conscience. Because she no longer has access to the spiritual pathways of the Pa’u, she has no way of reconciling her feelings of grief at the perceived loss of Aeryn, Crichton, and D’Argo, and her guilt at having survived at their expense. She also seems to be placing an undue burden of leadership, and responsibility in general, upon herself. She misses the strong personalities of the others, who she perceived as the decision makers. She even goes so far as to claim that it is her duty to take care of Rygel and Chiana, who are as children to her. Not only does this short-change Rygel and Chiana (who despite their flaws, show themselves to be more than capable of “taking care of things” in the way they save Zhaan from certain execution), it also shows how skewed Zhaan’s sense of perspective has become since giving up the Seek. It is extremely arrogant to be that full of guilt. It’s indicative of an unconscious self-centeredness which presumes that you as an individual are responsible for events that are essentially out of your control. By the end of the episode, Zhaan has her head on straight.
However, if Zhaan’s guilt is going to be the focus of an episode, it needs other story to bounce off of, hence the machinations of the Litigara plot. Essentially, the entire storyline was created for that one moment when Zhaan, overwhelmed by her own sense of guilt for the fate of her friends, declares herself guilty. That is the only connection between the two stories, as it’s played anyway (I’ll get to that more down in the Trash Bin). Even though the two plots don’t really connect as fully as they could, I could see how the idea for this story could have intrigued the writers. The way that Litigaran law is portrayed smacks of satire, although the satire is ultimately ineffective and undirected, as the main focus of the story was on Zhaan, a focus that would have been (and was) hindered by the presence of satire. In an episode about self-discovery, I do love that Rygel and Chiana are fully aware that their strengths lie in trickery and deception, and that this is something to be celebrated rather than bemoaned.
There are a vast number of things wrong with this episode, and because I can see what they were trying to do, it’s easier for me to pinpoint where it all went wrong (in comparison, this is something I was largely unable to do for “Taking the Stone,” so whether that means “Dream a Little Dream” is better or worse I’ll leave for you to decide). Originally, this episode was meant to function as the season premiere, so whatever else I have to say about it, I think we can all agree that THANK GOD that didn’t happen. The cliffhanger ending of “Family Ties,” and all the suspense that comes with it, would have been absolutely ruined by the flat pacing and narrative pointlessness of this episode. Imagine waiting three months to find out what happened to Aeryn, Crichton, and D’Argo, and getting this for your answer. On top of that, the absence of those three characters is one of the things that is working to this episode’s detriment, so to lack them in a season premiere would have been an absolute disaster. The episode works better as a flashback, but it still doesn’t work.
The thing is, this is kind of a neat idea for a story, but the execution is off in almost every way possible: the music, the lighting, the ambiance, the costumes, the acting . . . I’m sure some of the blame can be laid on Ian Watson (the director), but as I’ve noted before, Farscape was largely a collaborative effort, so if an episode went wrong, it went wrong as a result of mistakes made by multiple people, not just a single man. If the Zhaan-guilt story was going to work, it needed to be subtle and serious. Guilt, unlike say, insanity, isn’t something that can be played for dark laughs. Guilt needs pathos; it needs subtle despair. As I said above, the entire Litigara plot is exactly the opposite of subtle. It is over the top parody, and that just doesn’t mesh with the goals of the episode (for Zhaan’s character, at least). As an illustration of this point, the moment in court when Rygel farts from nervousness and the helium affects Chiana’s voice in the middle of her questioning a witness could have been really effective. Imagine if that courtroom had been more dour, actually scary. Maybe it was dressed in blacks and greys instead of blues and purples. Maybe the lawyers weren’t all wearing ridiculous headdresses. Maybe Zhaan wasn’t being hysterical. In that more subtle atmosphere, Rygel’s fart would have contrasted sharply with the rest of the scene, and that would have made it both funny and affecting. Instead, it plays like an element of the ridiculous just being shoved on top of a bunch of other ridiculous things, and we lose any genuine emotion that might have been conveyed. The same thing could be said for every other semi-interesting moment in the episode, including Zhaan’s hallucinations.
But the thing that really kills the episode for me is Virginia Hey’s performance, which is strange for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the acting on Farscape rarely falters, but I just think that (whether it was her choice or the director’s), Hey is channeling Susan Lucci when she should be channeling, say, Mary McDonnell. It’s just too over the top. Even from her very first scene when she pulls Rygel and Chiana away from the bar, she’s almost hysterical. Scratch that. She is hysterical. It’s a shame, I would have connected more with her as a viewer if she had played it more subtly. The hallucination scenes, the bar scenes, even her psychotic break. And, of course, her confession in the middle of court. “I’M GUILTY.” I mean, jeez, woman. Haven’t you ever heard of the phrase “quiet despair”? It should have been applied liberally here. Instead, we get melodrama, which really sucks because that’s not often a place that Farscape goes.
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- “No more Captain Kirk chit-chat!”
- “Yep, Carolina style keedva, best barbecue this side of a Budong.”
- “You’re a tenth level Pa’u. You get to eleven, we get a TV ministry.”
- I did really like the keedva. It was cute! Scary, yet stupid looking. Bet it tasted nice, too.
- Nice call on Crichton biting the Rygel puppet in “Home on the Remains.” (Hands on the puppet!) Similarly, Zhaan forcibly picking Rygel up and carrying him out of the bar in “Dream a Little Dream” was awesome.
- The effects when Chiana melts B’Sogg’s arm off were DISGUSTING. B’Sogg was also exceptionally annoying during that scene, like an even more retarded Jar Jar Binks. “You bitch! What you doOoOoOoOo?”
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“Crackers Don’t Matter!”
- Pop Culture References: The Andy Griffith Show; Gomer Pyle, USMC; Maverick; Star Trek; and This is Spïnal Tap.
- I really like Chiana’s new outfit in “Home on the Remains.” Much more attractive than her other thing.
- The Budong dwellers really are hideous, but the question remains. Are they ugly because they live in a Budong, or do they live in a Budong because they’re ugly?
- It’s kind of cool that Zhaan can levitate, even if she can only do it when she’s wonko.
- Crichton kicks the keedva in the balls! What a classy fellow.
- Crichton can’t sing. It’s cute.
- Rygel: “I thought we might even pull this off. But you and me . . . not lying! Are you mad?”
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Classic Moments in Farscape, #15
[Aboard the transport pod, Zhaan has just finished her story.]
Crichton: But you still have nightmares.
Zhaan: Yes. I keep seeing you and D’Argo and Aeryn dying horrible deaths. I can’t seem to purge the fear.
Crichton: I live, Zhaan. Touch as proof.
[He touches her nose.]
Zhaan: I know, but the experience proves to me that my spirituality was lacking.
Crichton: Is that why you re-committed yourself to the Delvian Seek?
Zhaan: [nods] Mmhmm.
Crichton: Then maybe it was worth it.
Zhaan: Even though my studies fail to benefit the rest of them?
Crichton: Now who says that?
Zhaan: Well, at various times, Rygel, D’Argo, and Aeryn.
Crichton: Screw ‘em, Zhaany. You’re a tenth level Pa’u. You get to eleven, we get a TV ministry.
Zhaan: If I may be honest, John, most of the time I have no idea what you’re saying.
Crichton: Neither do I.
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Coming Up on the Farscape Rewatch: “Out of Their Minds,” “My Three Crichtons”