Farscape Rewatch! — “Out of Their Minds,” “My Three Crichtons”
[Permanent Archive Here]
At this point in the series I keep having the urge to just watch the DVDs straight through and not give a shit about writing anything, because let’s be honest, writing is hard. It takes willpower and energy and organization, all three of which I am in extremely short supply of at the moment. Also, this is about the point, starting with next week’s episodes (the “Look at the Princess” trilogy, which I will actually have posted by Wednesday at the latest), where the mondo-serialization starts to kick in and things get even nuttier than they already are. Like, if Farscape were peanut butter, at this point it would fully come out as that kind with all the crunchy nuts (and don’t even get me started on seasons three and four, which basically turn into the kind that comes with the jelly already mixed in . . . that stuff is whack).
So this week we have “Out of Their Minds” and “My Three Crichtons.” Together, these two episodes represent the ‘status quo’ of Farscape (which is decidedly not ‘quo’). HOWEVER, the ‘status quo’ on Farscape is to constantly kill the status quo, if that makes any sense at all. Their favorite thing to do on this show is to take standard sci-fi tropes and kick them in the face. (And as Dan noted a couple recaps ago, “I’ll even go so far as suggesting that a lot of the ‘misses’ were episodes that didn’t stray far enough from standard television sci-fi storytelling.”) I would say that both of these episodes happen to succeed at inverting cliches, even if one does so much better than the other (and even if one happens to be a personal favorite episode and the other is . . . not).
2X09 — “OUT OF THEIR MINDS”
Moya has been locked and targeted by an unknown vessel. With the defense screen not working, their only hope is Zhaan’s diplomacy aboard the alien ship. She learns that the aliens, called Halosians, were attacked by Crais and Talyn, hence their targeting of Moya. When they learn from the idiot Zhaan that she and the others are defenseless, they fire on a barely shielded Moya, with some unexpected results. Everyone aboard switches bodies. Aeryn into Rygel, Rygel into Crichton, and Crichton into Aeryn. All I have to say is VERY YES. While Rygel is freaking out about being displaced from his own royal body and Aeryn and Crichton try to figure out some sort of plan, we learn that Chiana, Rygel, and Pilot have also been affected: Pilot into Chiana’s body, Chiana into D’Argo’s, and D’Argo into Pilot’s. They take pictures of themselves using the DRDs and hang them around their neck for identification. While D’Argo is learning to control Moya‘s functions in Pilot’s body, the others set about attempting to repair the damage done to the defense screen. Over on the Halosian ship, Zhaan convinces the Halosian commander, Tak, to come aboard Moya in order to prove that they are peaceful. Yoz, the female Halosian, shows Zhaan that Tak was lying: Talyn only fired in self-defense. Zhaan quickly surmises that this also means Moya is still in danger, so she takes the opportunity presented by Tak’s absence to influence Yoz to challenge Tak as commander.
Upon finishing the defense screen, Crichton cops a feel of Aeryn’s body, which he is presently occupying, but gets caught by Aeryn and Chiana, who are disgusted. “I’m a guy! We dream about this sort of thing!” he says, and then accuses Chiana of probably having molested D’Argo’s body as well. Rygel-in-Crichton is showing Tak around Moya when Tak throws up right into Moya‘s neural nexus, and Rygel is too stupid to figure out it’s a trick. The “vomit” starts creeping up and insinuating itself everywhere and Moya‘s systems, once again, go to Hell. Chiana-in-D’Argo is freaking out and tries to proposition Rygel-in-Crichton to run away with her, but despite the crotch-grabbing that ensues, Rygel is steadfast. He wants his body back. They finally detect the creeping vomit just in time to re-route the defense screen, at which point Tak fires and they all switch bodies. Again. This time it’s Rygel-in-Aeryn, Aeryn-in-Crichton, Crichton-in-Rygel, and Chiana has jumped into Pilot, Pilot into D’Argo (who remains passed out, and probably dying), and D’Argo into Chiana. Meanwhile, aboard the Halosian vessel, Yoz kills Tak, but still plans on ramming Moya, so Zhaan rips her arm out of the cuffs that hold her and knocks Yoz unconscious. The Moyans set the defense screen at 62% (to get their bodies back) and Zhaan fires the Halosian weapons. Everyone switches back and then proceed to touch each other as much as possible. Chiana and D’Argo go off to have sex, and Aeryn basically tells Crichton that she didn’t let the merchandise go unexamined, either, if you know what I mean. (And I think you do.)
- Although freelancer Michael Cassutt wrote the original script, it underwent a heavy re-write to get it right in context of the Farscape characters and what they would say. The re-write was done by Justin Monjo. Farscape did not often take spec-scripts due to its serialized nature and the location of the production in Australia.
- The episode was directed by Ian Watson, who also directed “Crackers Don’t Matter.”
- The cast prepared for this episode by videotaping each other to observe and copy their characters’ mannerisms.
- This episode’s title is a tribute to a novel of the same name by sci-fi author Clifford Simak, which is one of Michael Cassutt’s favorite books.
- The Halosians were an homage to the Skeksis, the major villains in an earlier Henson feature, The Dark Crystal.
“Out of Their Minds” is one of my very favorite Farscape episodes. It might even be in my top ten. I know it’s not the most wonderfully crafted episode, the writing isn’t necessarily all that deep or profound, and the Skeksis the Halosians aren’t in the least bit terrifying (they’re ultimately just kind of silly and harmless). But it’s just so much FUN. “Out of Their Minds” is what I would call ‘quintessential’ Farscape. Every episode in the series can be basically categorized into one of two types: 1) The kind that rips your heart out, cuts slivers in it with sharp and serrated knives, pours lemon juice all over those cuts, throws it on the floor and stomps on it a little, and then feeds it to ravenous Wolverines; or 2) The kind that are made out of Lewis Carroll’s most vivid LCD dreams, except funny (but maybe still a little bit horrifying). “Out of Their Minds” is one of the latter. It takes a basic sci-fi/fantasy cliche (body switching) and totally owns it, and it does so largely by capitalizing on the very parts that most television or film narratives avoid at all costs: the nasty and sexy bits, or as I like to think of it, the bits having to do with the actual ‘body’ part of the body switching.
Most of the humor in this episode comes from seeing the actors behave in ways they normally wouldn’t, but also in seeing the way each personality manifests itself in the new body. There is a distinct disconnect between, say, the way Chiana moves and acts as compared to D’Argo, so when Chiana’s mind is inside D’Argo’s body, we immediately recognize that disconnect not just on a story level, but also on a more visceral, physical level. For example, Anthony Simcoe as Chiana has the weird bendy movement, the big eyes, and the sexual slinkiness down cold, and because D’Argo’s body usually acts in a distinctive loud, masculine way, we laugh. It’s also a pretty jarring moment when D’Argo-in-Pilot (the normally serene and quiet Pilot) yells at Chiana to SHUT UP. Or we have Aeryn’s body calling Rygel “buddy,” which is a very John thing to do, but we’re seeing it come out of Aeryn’s mouth. There is also an extensive list of instances involving Rygel: Rygel-in-Crichton picking Crichton’s nose and Crichton-in-Aeryn just watching in bemusement, Rygel smelling Crichton’s boot, Rygel not knowing how to pee, putting his hands down Crichton’s pants, peeing in the cargo bay, etc. Rygel violates all sorts of taboos that we hold sacred as human beings because he isn’t human, and there’s a great joy to be found there, a sort of cognitive dissonance where we both wish to see these taboos being broken as a kind of wish fulfillment, while at the same understanding why Rygel’s behavior is so awful for Crichton. We can have it both ways.
This discussion isn’t intended to be an extended discussion of WHY THINGS ARE FUNNY, because that’s not why you guys show up here, but I do think it’s important to pinpoint the nature of the humor in this episode in order to understand the point of it all. Obviously, it’s funny (and it’s okay sometimes if a story exists just to make you laugh, but things are funny for a reason most of the time), but I also think the writers used this episode and the cliche of it all to their advantage. Breaking those taboos and exploring the disconnect between what we see and what we know provides both an excellent showcase for examining character growth and a sort of mission statement for Farscape itself (I’ll get back to that one later). I’ll give you a great example of how this body switching conceit is used to show character growth. Take the scene where Chiana (in D’Argo’s body) corners Rygel (in Crichton’s body) and asks him to leave Moya with her. This scene is working on multiple levels. First, you’ve got the funny, obvious one. What we see is D’Argo coyly propositioning Crichton and then physically grabbing his crotch, which is something that wouldn’t happen between those two characters in an everyday situation. This is what makes it possible for us to laugh. It’s also quite funny that Chiana is willing to abandon her body and live the rest of her life out in D’Argo’s, and that she urges Rygel to do the same, letting him know that “this body’s better anyway.” But Rygel rejects her. The moment is revealing for both of them. Despite the events of “Home on the Remains,” Chiana’s flight instincts are still very intact. Chiana values survival over her physical identity, but whatever other issues Rygel has, he is very possessive over his own identity. He likes his body, which is firmly attached to how he sees himself. He can’t very well be a Hynerian Dominar without a Hynerian body. “I’m not me,” he says, even though he still retains all of his memories. I could probably get way more into the mind/body/identity discussion, but I’m not writing a book here (despite the fact that I have technically written a book-length amount of words over the course of this project).
But I think the most interesting part about this episode, and about the series in general, is the way that it treats the body. I have this whole huge theory about this being the thing that sets Farscape apart from other science fiction television programs. Although both the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica and Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse circled closely around the same themes, ultimately those shows were more concerned with the ethical and moral implications of the body/identity divide, and both ultimately seemed to be suggesting that the body itself is irrelevant when it comes down to it; it’s what’s inside that counts. That existentialist viewpoint is generally considered the epitome of intelligence in science-fiction, and while I’m not saying it’s a wrong conclusion (I do, after all, love both of those shows), I will say that it seems awfully one-sided. Farscape, more often than not, shuns the cerebral in favor of celebrating the body as an indispensable part of life, and that is built into it’s very premise. I think that’s exactly what makes this episode so enjoyable. “Out of Their Minds” doesn’t just tiptoe around the fantasies inherent in the body-swap trope, it devotes whole scenes to them, right out there in the open. What’s more, those scenes are central to understanding the kinds of resolution that these characters have by the end of the episode. Because we’ve seen deliciously awkward moments such as Crichton (in Aeryn’s body) teaching Rygel (in Crichton’s body) how to handle his new human penis, we’re then able to appreciate the relief both men feel upon getting their own bodies back. We also know instinctively that both men have learned something about themselves and their places within the group dynamic: Rygel has learned that both his small stature and small behavior has led to a loss of respect within the group (the exact opposite of what he intended), and that Crichton is looked up to, and his opinion trusted and respected. It was only the outside perspective gained by the body switch, and through interacting with a clueless Zhaan, that they were able to realize this.
It’s the same for Chiana and D’Argo and Crichton and Aeryn, the two pairs both seem at the end to have come to a mutual understanding about their relationships, thanks to literally inhabiting each others bodies for a few hours. All the blatant sexual references and gags in this episode are just another manifestation of that whole fantasy/body thing, only it’s not just the characters who are living out the fantasies. We’re right there along for the ride. I mean, the best scene in the whole dang episode involves Crichton essentially molesting Aeryn’s body out of primal male curiosity, but it’s not sinister. What Crichton did in that room, aside from making me cry from laughter, is live out a fantasy that, as he says, most guys only dream about. Think about that for a moment. When we’re born, we’re (largely) stuck with what we’ve been given, and it’s only through imagination that we can change anything about the bodies we inhabit throughout our lives. We can imagine ourselves with longer legs or smaller noses or bigger breasts . . . or what it would like to be a different gender. That is like, the unknowable boundary. It’s not even about sex, at that point, it’s about knowing the thing you aren’t supposed to know. I mean, fuck! I’m surprised Crichton waited two hours! And don’t lie and pretend to be all righteous like Chiana, who Crichton rightfully accuses of doing the same thing to D’Argo’s body. There is nothing cerebral about imagination. True imagination is all about emotions: irrational, unpredictable, primal emotions, and that’s exactly what that Crichton/Aeryn’s boobs moment is all about. This episode also officially brings on the Chiana/D’Argo relationship, via D’Argo’s horny mumblings: “I really really liked being inside your body. Er, what I mean is . . . I really like your body.” Great scene. But the thing I love most about this episode is how it is so non-exploitative. It could have gone just really really bad, but it didn’t, and in the end we learn they all “succumbed,” even Aeryn, so hey, it’s really all about equality and all that jazz. Also, Crichton thinks Aeryn is teh sexy, so . . .
Other stuff. I absolutely love how this episode opens with everyone aboard Moya openly acknowledging their patheticness, even attempting to use it to their advantage. They have no pride whatsoever. I liked the usage of the DRD polaroids (even if I didn’t enjoy the double voiceovers, see below); it really helped keep things more simple, which allowed for more craziness on the part of the actors. I’m also really glad Zhaan was out of the way during all the Shenanigans. It would have been too much. Plus, we just spent like a million episodes with her, so she’s had enough for a while. But mostly, I love how this episode lets character personalities shine through even when in different bodies. The way that this experience illuminates things for them, not only things about their companions, but about their own lives. It’s also just amazing hilarious. The writers are just like, fuck you, TV conventions, we’re gonna FUCK shit UP. In other news, I do plan to post the Farscape paper I wrote for my Television Theory class this spring. It’s called “Bodies in Space: Farscape is not Star Trek.” I’ll probably post it at least after we get through season four, because it is hoo-boy spoilerific. There’s even a Power Point!
I could have done without the weird double voice thing if they weren’t going to carry it through the whole episode. In fact, it’s distracting even in the short time it’s used. It gets in the way of the actors’ performances. With that said, however, I do understand that it was probably a network thing, requested because, like most networks, they assume that their audience is full of imbeciles who can’t follow a perfectly clear everyone-swaps-bodies-multiple-times storyline. Ahem.
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2X10 — “MY THREE CRICHTONS”
Pilot informs everyone that Moya is being tracked by a weird ball of energy. (It’s always something.) The thingy enters the ship without permission and proceeds to wander around, like, examining people. It’s unclear whether the next thing happens because Aeryn shoots it or because it just likes Crichton, either way, after she shoots the thingy, it gets all big and sucks Crichton in. Later (after the credits), it shoots him back out, way traumatized, along with a hairy beast of some sort, which quickly gallops away. And right away, like they’ve learned nothing, they’re all the creature, THE CREATURE. We must kill it! First clue, when D’Argo tries to smell out the creature, he can only smell Crichton. Which is because that thing IS Crichton. At least, it possess his DNA and all his memories, if not his sense of evolution. (“Me John. Zhaan blue.”) Just as they’ve determined that Caveman Crichton (or “Neandro” as they dubbed him on set) is telling the truth, the green thingy starts gearing up again, and what comes out this time is yet another version of Crichton, this time a future one. He has serious head issues (lack of hair, brain on the outside, narcissism, etc), but he also contains all of Crichton’s memories.
But the sphere, as they’re calling it (I like ‘thingy’ better), is still giving them trouble, and suddenly Futuro starts being a dick. First to Neandro, who he looks on as barely more than an animal, and then to everyone else, because he realizes how fucking smart he is. Meanwhile, the thingy sphere communicates to all three Crichtons that at least one of the samples needs to be returned or the sphere will take all biological material within a metra of its radius. Futuro’s like, suck it, hairy Crichton, you are expendable, but regular Crichton doesn’t want to give up. But even his efforts are for nothing, and when he goes to find Neandro, Chiana has set him free and told him to hide. But John can’t escape who he is; he sets Neandro free and determines to go after Futuro, but even when he has him at gunpoint, he can’t do it, and decides to sacrifice himself instead. Neandro has the same impulse. Neandro kills Futuro and tells John that it’s not his place or his time, and heads into the sphere.
- “My Three Crichtons” was written by Grant McAloon (previously of “Vitas Mortis” and “Durka Returns”), and directed by Catherine Millar (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, The Flying Doctors, The New Adventures of Flipper).
- This is the first episode of the series that doesn’t feature any guest stars.
- In production, beast Crichton was dubbed “Neandro” and future Crichton “Futuro.”
- Claudia Black feels that the characters in this episode, other than “Futuro,” were all dumbed down a little in the script, and missed opportunities for conflicts with other characters.
- This marks Ben Browder’s first time in full make-up on Farscape.
- The title of this episode is a play on the long-running sitcom My Three Sons, about a widower and his three boys.
I’m going to keep it short on this one, because I went totally nuts on “Out of Their Minds,” but also because there really isn’t that much to say about “My Three Crichtons.” This episode attempts to explore the power of emotion vs. intellect, which is a theme that I can get way, way behind. I feel like I spend half my life justifying the value of emotional things to people who judge value on a separate scale entirely. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that intelligence and education aren’t important (far from it). What I’m saying is that it frustrates the hell out of me when so-called intellectuals piss all over things that I believe hold real, tangible value, just because their worth is not based on the assumption that intellectual concerns are ultimately more important than “sentimental” ones. “Sentimental” is a cheap word that conjures up images of weeping women, and idiots with handkerchiefs. It’s also chauvinistic. The idea that a thing is not valuable solely because mass quantities of people love it is absolutely absurd; dismissing stories like Star Wars and Harry Potter as childish (and therefore not important) is equally absurd. All stories have value in relation to their context, and it is absolutely idiotic and arrogant to dismiss them as worthless without examining that context. It’s about balance, people. You can’t just have one or the other. You have to have BOTH.
With that said, however, this episode doesn’t do a great job of proving my point. Grant McAloon, in his last script for the show, just has no sense of subtlety, and he doesn’t take enough risks with the story. It’s too simple, and it needed to be complex. Essentially, “My Three Crichtons” is asking what makes someone human? And even more importantly, why is Crichton the representative of humanity on this show? What makes Crichton Crichton? I’ve talked before about how Crichton is the heart of Moya, how his superpower is loving everybody (and loving means understanding), but if you take away that capacity for love, what do you have left? According to this episode, a cold fish who is incapable of loyalty and doesn’t value interpersonal connections. When he’s fighting with Futuro, he says, “No, I am widening my perspective. That is what I do, that is what makes me me.” Futuro’s intelligence and quick thinking skips to the most logical outcome and ignores the rest, but the rest is where our Crichton lives. He sees possibilities, he takes dumb chances, he feels his way through. And Neandro does too. As simple as it is, this is a mission statement. Being a good and loving person is more important than being smart.
Other stuff: I absolutely love it when Aeryn is pointing out the obvious differences between Crichton and Futuro and the first two things that come to mind are his lack of hair and his smaller penis (the original of which she has first-hand knowledge, on at least two occasions). I also love Chiana’s relationship with Neandro; she sees that he respects and loves her, even in his most un-evolved state. The symbolism of Futuro and Neandro’s outfits is pretty neat, though, I’ll admit. Neandro wears Crichton’s IASA uniform (representative of a past Crichton has left far behind) and Futuro wears a Peacekeeper uniform (which associates him automatically with the cold, racist ideology of that group). By the way, Future Crichton is annoying. It’s the teeth, and a slower and more southern accent. The slow talking is very calculated and unemotional; some great acting on Browder’s part, I think.
Why does Crichton assume that going with the sphere means death? I mean, it’s a logical possibility, but it’s also a possibility that the “specimens” might live. They should really be talking about this as a “possible” sacrifice. It should be much more uncertain. (Of course, this would have removed the motivation for Futuro becoming a dickhead, but that is no excuse.)
Just awful, awful CGI of Moya‘s floor cracking. Could have done without those sequences entirely; they totally pulled me out of the text.
I also think the episode simultaneously doesn’t go far enough (in regards to the multiple Crichtons) and goes too far (seriously, would any iteration of Crichton be such an asshole? I find it VERY hard to believe.) And even if I didn’t have a problem with the actual concept of dick Future Crichton, the theory of evolution pretty much takes care of the rest. Futuro is taken completely out of context, and is basically impossible. A species can’t evolve without an environment to evolve in, so the sphere may be creating a genetic variation of Crichton, but in no way is it an accurate assessment of future humanity. In fairness, the episode does acknowledge that it’s just one possible outcome, but still.
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- “Have we sent the ‘don’t shoot us, we’re pathetic’ transmission yet?” (D’Argo’s response: “It’s the first thing we tried.”)
- “Unzip, pull it out, point it like a gun, and shoot.”
- The Halosians are way cool puppetry. This is the sort of thing that Farscape‘s access to the Jim Henson Creature shop allows that other sci-fi shows just don’t have. (There’s only so much you can do with a CGI alien on a TV budget . . . especially ten years ago.)
- Future John is . . . yucky. Did they make him unattractive on purpose? Probably.
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“Crackers Don’t Matter!”
- A Farscape Glossary: The “Nova Cluster” is the portion of Moya that can be used to route power.
- Interstellar Swearing: “Biznack” is a Nebari expletive, as in “How in the biznack did it do that?”
- Pop Culture References: The Three Stooges, My Three Sons, The $64,000 Question, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
- I’m such a sucker for funny bad grammar. (“Why I trust?” “Why have if not warrior vessel?” “You lie! But no care.” etc.) Every time the Halosians speak, I just giggle.
- Rygel, just having watched Tak throw up: “It’s all right. We do that sort of thing all the time here on Moya. I just peed in the maintenance bay.”
- Chiana-in-Pilot is absolutely HILARIOUS, almost as hilarious as Chiana-in-D’Argo.
- Rygel: [peeing in Crichton's body] By the Hynerian gods that is GOOD. Let me just put this thing away . . . [He catches the zipper on Crichton's penis and groans in agony.]
Crichton: [slightly panicked] Put it away, and be careful, Sparky.
- Crichton: Well, they say you have to walk a mile in someone’s shoes to understand ‘em.
Aeryn: [smiles] Well, I certainly know what you were doing when you were in my shoes, Crichton.
Crichton: Gimme a break.
Aeryn: It’s okay. It’s okay, you know. You were in my shoes, I was in your pants . . .
[Aeryn gets up and walks away.]
Crichton: Excuse me?
- I really hope Caveman Crichton didn’t die. He was sort of lovable.
- Number of times each character has “died” as of “My Three Crichtons”: Crichton, 8 (I’m counting Futuro and Neandro as Crichton here); D’Argo, 4; Rygel, 3; Zhaan, 1; Aeryn, 1; Pilot, 1; Moya; 1; Chiana, 1.
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Classic Moments in Farscape, #16
[Crichton-in-Aeryn's body has just finished fixing the defense screen, and upon realizing he's alone, takes advantage of the situation. He oh-so-slowly pulls back his "facetag" and unzips Aeryn's vest. Unbeknownst to him, Chiana and Aeryn approach from the hallway and watch as he, er, fondles Aeryn's body.]
Crichton: [rips open the vest and starts jiggling around, cackling pervertedly] Heh heh heh heh heh heh.
[He stops and slowly grasps a boob, squeezing.]
Crichton: Oohhhhh, Mama.
Aeryn: [in Rygel's body] Crichton!
[Crichton spins around lightning fast and holds Aeryn's vest closed.]
Chiana: What are you doing?
[Aeryn shakes her/Rygel's head.]
Crichton: Oh, come on, man! I’m . . . they’re here! They’re right . . . here. They’ve been here for a couple of arns, and I just had to . . .
[While Crichton is trying to find the right words, Aeryn interrupts him.]
Aeryn: You are . . . mentally damaged.
Crichton: No, I’m a guy. A guy. Guys dream about this sort of thing.
Aeryn: I’ll tell you one thing, Crichton. If I find you’ve been dreaming anything else to my body, I’ll break your legs, even if they are mine.
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Coming Up on the Farscape Rewatch: “Look at the Princess,” Parts I-III