Farscape Rewatch! — “The Locket”
[Permanent Archive Here]
It’s the second week of October already, and I was really hoping to have gotten through season two by now. I was really hoping also that I wouldn’t have just completely stopped writing in this blog for two months (honestly, the only thing that brought me back was Bones, and that was only because a certain person practically begged me to), but life sometimes gets in the way. My life in particular is an asshole that way, and that’s not going to change any time soon. I started studying for my Masters exams last week, and I don’t anticipate having much time for anything else. I haven’t decided what I’m going to do about this project yet, but I do know that I want to get through Farscape season two before I make any final decisions.
Which brings us to “The Locket.” It’s a pretty simple episode, as these things go. But in its simpleness, there’s a great deal of pleasure to be found. As I noted in my last Farscape post, this episode is a favorite of mine. It’s not that there’s anything particularly stunning going on here, just the pleasure of watching a really well-executed story, one with strong, quiet moments that sneak up on you.
2X16 — “THE LOCKET”
Moya and her crew encounter a strange stellar mist floating in an uncharted region of space and stop to investigate. Aeryn has gone out scouting in one of Moya‘s pods and the rest of the crew is waiting for her to return. When we join them, they’ve been waiting for an entire solar day and are starting to get worried that something has happened to her. When she finally does return, she seems to have aged decades and claims to have lived out her life on the planet below, with children and grandchildren, and she urges the Moyans to get out of there while they still can. They’re just like WHAT IN THE FUZZY HELL and think she’s all delusional and stuff. When she escapes, Crichton follows her down to the planet, which is dumb, because he’s stuck, too. The hole in the stellar mist that Moya is resting in only opens up every eight hours for them — but eight hours in Moya time is fifty-five years down on the planet. Aeryn takes Crichton to her home to meet her family, and they grow old together. Meanwhile, all this time Aeryn has been wearing an old locket that Chiana gave her, and when Crichton becomes curious about it, she tells him that the picture inside is of the love of her life. Crichton won’t look inside; he claims he doesn’t want to see her dead husband’s ugly face. When it comes time for the hole to open up, Crichton and Aeryn return to Moya, but Aeryn dies in the pod on the way up. Crichton is devastated, and when he opens the locket, he sees his own face. With Aeryn dead, the Moyans have to focus on getting out of the mist, which is hardening around them. They do so by reverse starbursting. How this is supposed to make any sense is beyond me. Just go with it. Once everything has been reversed, Zhaan and Stark — who made some mystical hoodoo earlier — remember everything and warn the others not to head into the mist. Meanwhile, Crichton and Aeryn puzzle over the crumbling remains of the picture in Aeryn’s locket. It is so torturous.
- “The Locket” was written by Justin Monjo (the man simultaneously responsible for “A Human Reaction” and “Taking the Stone”), and directed by Ian Watson.
- Paul Goddard begins his first brief return to the series as Stark. According to Ben Browder in the DVD commentary, a scene explaining why Stark had returned was written but cut; the scene also would have established a romantic connection between Stark and Zhaan which is heavily implied in later scenes in the episode.
- The outdoor scenes were filmed at Sydney’s Centennial Park.
- The scene where Chiana originally gave Aeryn the locket was scripted but never filmed.
- To make Ben Browder and Claudia Black look old, the makeup department used Hot Flesh, the same stuff used for Scorpius’ makeup.
- As he follows Aeryn through the grove, John sings a traditional sea shanty known as “The Maid of Amsterdam.”
- When Zhaan and Stark ask Old John to go to command, the line as scripted and performed by Browder was, “I’m too old for this shit.” According to Browder’s commentary for the episode, in dubbing (ADR), he was asked to replace the expletive with the word “ship”, but in the end “shit” remained in the final edit (though presumably not the version aired on Sci-Fi). It is one of only a couple of occasions in which a strong expletive has been heard on the series without it being replaced by a substitute word like “frell” or “dren.”
- The DVD commentary by Black and Browder actually contains examples of real-life foreshadowing. The recording was made soon after Black had made her first appearance as Vala on Stargate SG-1. Browder and Black riff on this, with Browder poking fun at Black’s Stargate co-star Michael Shanks, effectively calling Shanks’ Stargate character a Crichton wannabe. Afterwards, Browder ended up being cast in Stargate SG-1 alongside Black, whose character graduated from recurring to a regular, and in the anniversary episode “200″, they had a chance to parody Farscape — with Shanks playing Crichton.
- [SPOILER] Though it initially appears that everyone but Stark and Zhaan forget the events of the episode, and they’re never mentioned again, this is slightly appeased in season Three’s “The Choice”, when Aeryn remembers some of the events from here in that episode, also written by Justin Monjo.
I think the first question to ask about this episode is: What’s the point? It’s a question we ask ourselves about all TV episodes that give us major revelations only to take them back by the end of the episode (the famous “reset button“). Most of the characters don’t even remember the events of the episode by the next go-round, so again, what’s the point? The one episode that comes to mind (although I am sure there are many, many others) is “Tempus Fugitive” from the second season of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. In that episode, Lois and Clark travel back in time to save Clark as a baby from a supervillain intent on preventing Superman from ever existing. Of course, Lois learns that Clark is really Superman and there’s drama and growing and all that romantic stuff that you would expect and the story is moving forward! Only, by an act of insane troll logic on the part of the writers, when they are dropped back in time it is “before the events of the episode,” so they won’t remember any of it. Beyond the fact that this makes absolutely NO SENSE in any possible universe, what is the point? I have two answers: 1) It’s fun and it’s entertaining — this should be a good enough answer, but on top of that we also have: 2) The fact that even though the characters don’t necessarily “remember” the events of the episode, what we learn about them as characters doesn’t go away, and the possible future that we see is very revealing (significantly more so in Farscape, which is — despite my love for L&C — a higher quality of show in almost every regard). In fact, the whole thing is secretly about the importance of possibility.
So, what do we learn about John Crichton and Aeryn Sun? And–even though they forget by the end of the hour–what do they learn about each other? We get to see them at the end of their lives, a time of life when it’s natural to reflect on everything that’s come before: regrets, what was really important . . . In both cases, what we see is kind of unexpected. Aeryn — the Warrior with a capital ‘W’, the closed book — married and raised a family. She “had three sons and watched them die.” She has grandchildren. We even get to meet one: a grown woman, named Ennix. And she seems pretty okay with it, for the most part, except for the little crinkles of sadness she lets slip through every now and then. She’s around 250 years old by the time she dies in Moya‘s pod. She’s lived an entire life. Hell, even before she lives those last fifty-five years out with Crichton, she’s practically done. And through the whole thing, she wears that locket . . . but I’ll get back to that later. As for Crichton — the domestic one, the homebody — he’s miserable. Completely and utterly despondent, and only still alive because of Aeryn, if we’re to believe him (which I do). The events of this episode make it clear to us that as much as Crichton wishes to go back to Earth, his new home is on Moya, journeying through the stars. He could never be confined to just one planet again. And of course, he realizes by the end that Aeryn loved him, and he never told her he felt the same way. Again, I’ll cover this in more detail later.
The main focus of this episode is the John/Aeryn romantic relationship. It’s been hinted before, but we get confirmation for the first time that Aeryn loves Crichton. It’s hard for me to remember when I didn’t know this, but we didn’t always know it, and neither did Crichton. But what I think is great about the way they handle the whole “love of my life” issue is that they kind of sneak up to it, sidle up to it if you will. Until that scene in the forest (see below for Classic Moment #19), we have no idea why this episode is called “The Locket.” It’s kind of a red herring. And then Aeryn busts out with her speechifying, taunting Crichton to open the locket and see her true love’s face, but he can’t. He wants to, but if he opens it and it’s not his own face in there, then he’s done. He’d rather just not know. That the locket is the central image of this episode tells us that it’s not really about death or aging or time travel or any of the other technical things going on here; it’s not even really about love. Aeryn and John aren’t together in this possible future. Sure, they’re together in a companion-ate sense, but the relationship is decidedly unfulfilled by the time Aeryn dies in Crichton’s arms — which, by the way, is the saddest fucking thing I’ve ever seen, except for ten seconds later when he opens the fucking locket. Their lives in this possible timeline are just a culmination of one missed possibility after another. Crichton in this moment physically kills me, for two reasons. First, it’s like when one of your grandparents dies — your totally in love, married for fifty-five years grandparents — and the other one just loses it because their partner, their constant, is just gone. Even without being in a romantic relationship, it’s blatantly obvious that older Crichton and Aeryn were as close as two people could get, understanding and supporting one another, and they’re so freaking cute together. “Damn, baby,” says Crichton, “I miss you already. Who else am I gonna tell this crap to?” She was his person. She can’t be replaced. Which brings me to the second thing, which is the unfulfilled possibility that her death represents. The moment he opens that locket and sees his own face, he knows that he should have looked sooner, that their life together could have been very different, and that they’ll never get it back. It’s fucking tragical.
But it’s not just about unfulfilled romantic potential, although that’s the certainly the climax of it. The whole dang episode is full of possibility. The locket is the perfect example. Crichton doesn’t open the locket when Aeryn tells him to, not just because he’s afraid it won’t be him in there, but because the second he does, the possibility of what is in there, the dream, the image he has in his head, will be gone forever. If he never opens it, he never has to lose hope. Of course, as we see in the end, because he never opened it, he missed out on a host of other possibilities. This is how we live our lives. We don’t want to know anything for sure, because we don’t like knowing our own limits. We don’t like knowing we’re only human, that we’ll die some day. We don’t like having our fantasies stripped away. We don’t like being shown that we’re living in a dream world. It’s the same reason that Crichton is so miserable stuck on that planet, full of nothing but gardeners. What is it about Ben Browder that resists being put in a cage? Aeryn is a realist; it’s why she’s able to survive down on that planet, adapt, but Crichton is a dreamer. He doesn’t do well in cages because he can still see what he’s missing, he can feel it. It’s about possibilities for him, about being able to move around and experience things, it’s about not being stuck in one place, limited. Done.
Probably my favorite moment of the episode is when he tells Aeryn, “I was what I wanted to be. I ain’t gonna forget that.” John Crichton is a man who knows exactly who he is and what he wants, so to be trapped on this planet as far away from that identity is just about the worst thing that could happen to him. Aeryn, on the other hand, was just discovering who she is, just molding herself into the person she was going to become. We do get that lovely moment from her at the end: “I am a Peacekeeper. I was born in space and I will die in space.” She and Crichton are more alike than they realize, I think. They’re both not meant to be chained in one place. They’re meant to be up there, exploring the universe. Their home isn’t down on the ground, it’s on Moya. This is actually made explicit just before they head back: “Let’s get back to Moya,” says Aeryn. “Going home! Goin’ home,” replies John. Not ten episodes before this, “home” meant Earth, humanity. But he can’t ever go back there, not really. Not now that he’s seen what’s out there, the universe full of possibility he has left to explore. And then, at the very end of the episode, both of them stare in confusion at the crumbled contents of Aeryn’s locket, and only we know what it used to contain, what it will contain. That crumbled locket represents the future; they just don’t know it yet.
Other stuff: I love the southern accent out in full force, the older and crazier Crichton gets. It’s such a nice touch. And the fact that Harvey is still with him all this time just adds to the crazy. I love the moment when Aeryn tells Crichton that she’s forgotten how young and beautiful he was; it’s just so astoundingly sad. Crichton IS young and beautiful, but he’s not going to remain that way. It’s 165 years later for Aeryn, and he’s this ghost out of her past, something she thought she’d never see again. I can’t even describe it properly. And even though I’m about to complain about time travel down below, I do have to say that there are nice touches all the way through the episode that make it feel real, despite its ridiculousness. Like the locket, and the plant that Zhaan gives Aeryn for her headache growing wild all over the pod. I love the “shit” Browder just threw in there, even though he wasn’t supposed to, an early example of minor swear words on cable? The return of Naked Zhaan Meditation Hour is also a nice bit of continuity, and the return of Stark. I’m normally pretty apathetic about Farscape‘s score, but it’s pretty haunting in this episode, less techno, more sad. There’s also a pretty significant Chiana/D’Argo moment when they both realize that D’Argo wants more from Chiana than she’s willing to give. “We’re not gonna make it, are we?” she says. But this conversation is erased. We’re the only ones who remember them having this revelation, so we can sense what’s coming by the end of the season before they can. And lastly, I just have to mention, Crichton and Aeryn, man, they just have kids floating out in space everywhere. If the mist really was a center halo, then there’s a pretty strong chance that Aeryn’s sons were still born, and that there are now descendants of Aeryn living out their lives while she remains perfectly unaware of it. I think that might be even worse than Crichton and the daughter he’ll never meet.
Old people make-up always makes people look ugly. Why is that? Contrary to popular opinion, most old people aren’t ugly. Also, most old people aren’t as wrinkly as most make-up artists (at least television ones) seem to think they are. (Unless they’re smokers. Don’t smoke, kids. Your neck will end up looking like a vagina.)
Why no sexy times for Aeryn and Crichton? They had fifty-five years down there; what else were they gonna do? Missed opportunity. I guess they were both too old and ugly to start anything new? But it’s not even like they’ve never done it before! They totally have. It probably would have taken away from the impact of the ending, though, so it makes sense. I just felt like complaining for no reason?
Time travel, time travel, TIME TRAVEL, I HATE YOU YOU MAKE NO SENSE! So many logical inconsistencies in this episode. I suppose the reverse Starburst thing MIGHT make sense if I squint really hard, but the crumbled locket picture (as moving as it is) should just not be there at all. And does this mean that Aeryn’s children and grandchildren still exist out there, or did that get reversed as well? You have to suspend a lot of disbelief for this episode, but it’s worth it to me for what we get out of it.
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- “Don’t you ‘Old Man’ me, woman! You’re two hundred cycles older than I am!”
- “I was what I wanted to be. I ain’t gonna forget that.”
- “Pilot can you hear me? Pilot, anyone, can you pick up the damn phone, you useless pieces of sh– !”
- “I am too old for this shit!”
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“Crackers Don’t Matter!”
- A Farscape Glossary: “Snurching” is slang for stealing.
- It’s in this episode that we’re first introduced to the fact that Aeryn as a Sebacean will age much more slowly than Crichton. She could possibly outlive him by 150 years, and that is just really sad for her, and for him. It’s Superman and Lois Lane all over again! (I’m sure there are other examples, but that’s the first one that comes to mind.) Aeryn is going to stay young and hot for twice as long as Crichton. I’m sure Crichton doesn’t mind this at all . . . but we see what Aeryn gets to deal with in the future: a crotchety, pervy, Southern old geezer. At least he’ll probably be nicer than the Old John we see here, because he won’t be stuck on a stupid planet instead of traveling around the galaxy. Probably.
- I love how this shot mirrors this shot; one at the beginning, and one at the end. Ooh! And this one with this one.
- I love this. I just love it: “Aeryn? We’re gonna try to get out of this. I told ‘em our plan, and, uh . . . well. Aw, baby. There are so many . . . places that I wanted you to see. People. There’s this lake in Maine. Used to spend summers there when I was a kid. Had more mosquitoes than a dog had fleas. Dad and I, we’d camp out there. One night, the astronauts landed on the moon. I remember looking up at the sky — I knew right then what I was gonna do with the rest of my life. I couldn’t have been more than four years old. Huh. Yeah, I really wanted you to see that. Damn, baby. I — I miss you already. Who else am I gonna tell this crap to? I love you.”
- And of course, then he opens the locket and sees his own face staring back. It’s too late now.
- The grove of purple trees was a really nice choice for the setting. It’s very pretty and very calm. Very unexciting, but beautiful. Beautiful and useless.
- Number of times each character has “died” as of “The Locket”: Crichton, 9; D’Argo, 4; Rygel, 3; Aeryn, 2 (+1 for dying of old age in Crichton’s arms); Zhaan, 1; Pilot, 1; Moya; 1; Chiana, 1.
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Classic Moments in Farscape, #19
[Old Aeryn and Old Crichton are walking in the grove. Crichton is singing about roving with maidens. They stop to rest by a couple of tree stumps.]
Crichton: Ennixx and that sleepin’ pill she married have arrived.
Aeryn: He’s not that bad.
Crichton: He’s boring, just like everything else around here. B-o-o-ring.
Aeryn: Well, I warned you. I tried to make you go back.
Crichton: I know you did.
Aeryn: I gave up being who I was, what I was, a hundred cycles ago. Why haven’t you?
Crichton: ’cause I ain’t a gardener. I never wanted to be one. That’s all we do around here — garden. Plant things. I was a pilot, Aeryn. Astronaut. I was what I wanted to be. I ain’t goin’ to forget that, and I can’t accept this.
Aeryn: Do you regret this?
Aeryn: [pauses before she answers] Spending the last fifty cycles here with me.
Crichton: Aeryn. You are the one thing which has kept me from doing a kamikaze in the transport. I just have to try to get back to my old life, just for a day. That’s the hope. Hope. That’s what keeps me goin’.
Aeryn: Right. Just don’t be too disappointed if it doesn’t happen. If you can’t — Oh.
[Aeryn stops and clutches her chest.]
Crichton: You all right?
Aeryn: Yes, I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine. It’s the just the same old pain. Same pain.
Crichton: Let’s, uh, get you back to the house. You can lie down. Come on.
[Getting up, Aeryn's locket falls to the ground and Crichton bends to pick it up.]
Crichton: I got it.
Aeryn: [simultaneously, and a little bit agitated] Give it to me.
Crichton: I got it. I got your locket. [He is still holding the locket.] Whose image you got in here anyway?
Aeryn: You know who’s in there.
Crichton: Your husband? He’s been dead ninety cycles, why would you have his image in there?
Aeryn: Just to drive you crazy.
[He looks at her for a moment, then smirks.]
Crichton: You know what I think? I don’t think it’s him in there. I think you got my picture.
Aeryn: Don’t flatter yourself.
Crichton: YEAH. Yeah, my picture. Surrounded by roses and hearts and yotz.
Aeryn: Open it, then. Take a look inside. You’ll see his image, the only love of my life.
[Crichton looks at the locket, seriously considering it. She stares back.]
Crichton: No. No, I don’t wanna see his ugly face. [He gives her the locket.] Come on, let’s get you back to the house.
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Coming Up on the Farscape Rewatch: “The Ugly Truth,” “A Clockwork Nebari”