Farscape Rewatch! — “Back and Back and Back to the Future,” “Thank God It’s Friday . . . Again”

WEEK THREE

It’s fitting that these two episodes should be put together in this Rewatch, as they both suffer from the very same ailment, although to vastly different degrees. Just exactly what that ailment is I’ll get into later, but for now let’s just say that people be annoying me.

What we have here are two episodes that are very interesting conceptually, but which come off less than perfect for various reasons. Crichton has flashes of the future and must prevent it from happening, plus black-holes and intrigue into D’Argo’s past? Sounds awesome. The crew of Moya encounters a planet where everyone is ridiculously happy, then Zhaan and D’Argo are ridiculously happy, and then Rygel explodes things with his pee? Yeah. Well, actually, I have a personal vendetta against “Drinking the Kool-Aid” episodes of television (even the one on Veronica Mars, aptly titled “Drinking the Kool-Aid“). Cult stories are boring to me, and an easy way out, but Farscape at least lends it a little sci-fi twist, so there’s that. But don’t worry, I’m not judging it because of that.

1X05 — “BACK AND BACK AND BACK TO THE FUTURE”

Moya takes on two new passengers when they happen upon a disintegrating ship in the middle of space, but only after D’Argo — the only one averse to bringing more people aboard — sees that the two passengers happen to be Ilonics. Meanwhile nosy Crichton — it’s always Crichton — gets zapped with a green thingy aboard the new guys’ shuttle. No one seems to care that Crichton is injured except for Matala, the female Ilonic, who is super super SUPER annoying. I hate her. All Verell — the male — seems to care about is the safety of their scientific equipment. The Ilonics, by the way, are even more tentacled than D’Argo, but in a bad way. Also, their clothes are stupid. I can’t remember right now, but when does the first attractive alien make its debut on Farscape? Then Crichton has a weird flash of himself and Matala, and Matala is basically sexually assaulting him. He becomes confused. Meanwhile D’Argo is basically trying to hit that, Ilonics being genetic cousins to the Luxans and all.

Verell asks that D’Argo and Co. drop he and Matala off at their rendezvous point, informing D’Argo at the same time that since his imprisonment eight cycles before, the Luxans and Ilonics have been at war with a race called The Scorvians. Aeryn confesses to Zhaan and Crichton that she doesn’t trust the Ilonics; Rygel doesn’t trust them either, and now Crichton keeps having more flashes. He goes to D’Argo, asking stupidly whether Ilonic women have psychic sex pheromones or whatever, which doesn’t help him, and only makes D’Argo mad and jealous. Through a vision of Aeryn, Crichton determines that what he’s seeing is the future, and after having another flash immediately afterwords, that it’s murder he now has to prevent. He confronts D’Argo again, but it only convinces him further that John is after Matala and that he “will do anything to get her.” D’Argo is being super dumb right now.

Aeryn takes Matala down to the cargo bay to spar like velociraptors or whatever. Girl fight! Where is Crichton? He would probably enjoy this, but also he would have been useful when Matala Fuckface started attacking Aeryn for real, knocking her out cold. Everyone is still going about their business. D’Argo learns that Verell and Matala weren’t researching for scientific purposes, but for weapon-type purposes. When Aeryn finally recovers, she tells the others that due to her fighting skills, she has determined that Matala is a Scorvian, not an Ilonic. Matala tries to recruit D’Argo, messing with his head, and we get this: “No one aboard this ship knows my real crime.” So D’Argo’s keeping secrets AND being a huge slut. Crichton confronts Verell, who tells him that what he’s experiencing temporal dislocation as a result of the tiny black hole he carries in his ship. Say WHAT? Anyway, Matala kills Verell and tries to make off with the shit, but Aeryn shoots her ship which causes a black hole to implode Moya. Luckily, he has another flash, and one more chance. But this time he’s got to make sure D’Argo is on his side; D’Argo seems to be the key.

Finally, Crichton manages to convince D’Argo that Matala is a Scorvian spy by giving him information that he learned in the future, specifically that D’Argo’s crime was not killing a superior officer as he said, but something else. Together, they confront Matala, who gets away, but not before Verell sets a self-destruct weapon aboard the shuttle. She and the Scorvian transport are enveloped in the resulting black hole. D’Argo makes sure that Crichton understands that he’s normally unaffected by females in a crisis, but that it has been so long. Man, does Crichton understand.

Trivia

  • The carpet on which Aeryn and Matala fight is based on a Russian propaganda poster called “Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge” by El Lissitzky. It is also the Peacekeeper symbol/flag.
  • The equipment that Verell is using appears to be Peacekeeper and is identical to that used by Gilina in “Nerve” and “The Hidden Memory.”
  • This is the first indication we see that the true reason for D’Argo’s imprisonment is not what he claimed in “Premiere.”
  • This episode marks the first appearance of John Crichton in a tight black t-shirt. All hail. Afterwords, Ben Browder very consciously made sure only to wear the black t-shirt for “Black T episodes,” or darker episodes.
  • Death count: Rygel, 2; Crichton, 4; D’Argo, 3; Zhaan, 1; Aeryn, 1; Pilot, 1; Moya; 1. (There were a shit ton of deaths in this episode.)

Metaphorically Speaking

The A-story for “Back and Back and Back to the Future” is relatively simple, at least thematically. In terms of plotting and time issues and dialogue, it’s a bit of a headache, but the important stuff is the themey stuff anyway, at least as far as I’m concerned. The most important thing that came out of John’s story in this episode is his role as the Seer. No one else knows what is going on, no one else can understand. They have to trust him on blind faith, and he has to make them do so. Also important is the fact that he must understand in the first place. It doesn’t do much for this episode as a whole, but for the future this will remain very important. Another thing that is hinted at in this episode is John’s fear of losing his mind. It is literally all he has left in the universe, the only thing that is familiar, that is his. So when he starts having these flashes, they are jarring because they are violating the one place that Crichton felt safe. The threat of going crazy is always an issue on Farscape, and doubly so when it’s John we’re talking about.

The other main thing going on in this episode is D’Argo’s homesickness. D’Argo misses his kind, he misses women. He’s been eight cycles without either, so when Matala and Verell come on board, D’Argo is blinded by race. It’s the same thing that Aeryn was doing back in “Premiere” with John: you look like me, you must be safe, we’re the same. But this is false. Matala is the enemy; she is a spy, but he can’t see that. We really begin to see what these characters are holding on to as time goes by. D’Argo is holding very tightly to the idea of home, to his people. It’s going to be a long time before he can come to terms with it.

Trash Bin

I hate Matala — in fact, the episode was kind of ruined for me because I just knew Matala was the bad guy the whole time because I hated her so much. Lisa Hensley is (or was) apparently a well known Australian TV actress, and the director of this episode claims to like the direction she took her character — riffing on American soap operas — but I think it was absolutely awful. In order for the plot of this episode to work, Matala needs to be likably mysterious, not instantly hatable. I remember not liking this episode originally, but honestly, on rewatch it’s just her that I don’t like. The rest of it is absolutely fine, great even.

Other thoughts: 1) All I have to say is that it’s a good thing that Crichton started having those future flashes, otherwise everyone would have ended up dead. Unless we are supposed to imply that those flashes of Crichon are divine in origin, they are highly improbable, even for this show. 2) D’Argo kills Crichton with the Qalta blade, and it looks really funny. 3) This episode should have gone darker, they missed the emotional center by not going there, but this is a forgivable mistake. If this episode had aired in season two, or even late season one, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. They were still fine tuning the tone of the show.

1X06 — “THANK GOD IT’S FRIDAY . . . AGAIN”

D’Argo is in a fit of Luxan Hyper Rage, and is screaming for CRICHTON! “Bring me the human!” Crichton is hiding. Three days later, we learn that Crichton has been in hiding all this time and did not know that D’Argo had been off the ship for almost that entire period. They head down to the planet to find him, and find him they do. They also find that the planet is scorching hot, even at night, and that everyone there seems to be some sort of white Rastafarian, but with, like, orange tans. Tall Oompa Loompas with white dreadlocks. Anyway, D’Argo attacks Crichton . . . and bear hugs him, laughing and smiling: “It’s so good to see you, Crichton!” It’s pretty weird. D’Argo is weirdly contented, and Aeryn can’t believe it, but all desire to be a warrior seems to have left him and he just wants to have sex with the Oompa Rastas. And then scary white alien chick comes in, Volmae. She welcomes them to Sykar: “I am their leader, as much as anyone is our leader.” She talks all slow and shit. And she’s freaky as hell. Did I mention that? Anyway, they leave the bar, and D’Argo wants them to stay, but Aeryn says they should just leave. D’Argo seems content. Oh, also, a crazy Oompa Rasta pushes Crichton’s face into a wall. That will be important later.

Then shit starts exploding, and they find Rygel in his Thronesled claiming that someone tried to kill him with a bomb. Aeryn takes Rygel back to the ship. She can’t be in the heat, and he’s causing trouble, so Zhaan and Crichton git on over to D’Argo’s. He lets them sleep on the floor. Crichton thinks that something really weird is going on because the city is falling down around them, and the people don’t even seem to care. Back on Moya, Aeryn figures out that it’s Rygel that’s the danger: his body fluids are explosive, and he’s very scared. She calls Crichton, who tells her she’s going to need to do some tests, despite her protests. The next morning, D’Argo heads to work, even though John remembers him saying that today was a rest day. “No,” D’Argo says, that’s tomorrow. Then he’s abducted into a train car and a worm is shoved down his belly button. HIS BELLY BUTTON. That is my worst fear. I think Rygel has it worse, though. Poor little guy’s frozen stiff. Literally. And Zhaan starts drinking the Kool-Aid. She doesn’t want to leave, either. At the celebration for the next day’s “rest,” the people gave Crichton the worm tell him it is the only thing keeping him from becoming brainwashed like the others. Then creepy whitehead comes over and interrogates him, about his ship, about his friends, and he pretends to have drunk the Kool-Aid, too. Up on Moya, Aeryn is having trouble dealing with all the science, so Pilot confides in her that he often has the same troubles.

The next day is a work day, again. Always Friday, never Saturday. John is pissed and confronts Tanga — the worm girl — who tells him that Sykar was once a garden, but The Others came and made them plant the Tannot root, which they collect twice a year. Everything has decayed since. That night Volmae pulls John out of the celebration, and basically tells him that she wants to use his ship to steal part of the Tannot out from under the Peacekeepers’ noses (of course it’s the Peacekeepers, who else?). She requests Aeryn and Rygel’s presence, who come down the planet grumbling and whining, and then Aeryn gets really funny with John, but moving on. There’s a smackdown, and John lets everyone within hearing distance know, via demonstration, that the Peacekeepers use the Tannot root to fuel rifles and spaceships, which gives D’Argo pause. Volmae renounces the Peacekeepers and takes Aeryn up on her offer to teach them how to turn the Tannot into weapons so they can fight the Peacekeepers. Back on Moya, while Aeryn is doctoring Rygel and Crichton in her superior way, D’Argo mourns the loss of his happiness. Zhaan tries to comfort him, but she’s blue, so basically what are you going to do. Just kidding. It’s real nice.

Trivia

  • Jonathan Hardy — the voice of Rygel — refers to Rygel’s urination scene as one of his favorites in Farscape‘s run.
  • The “Mel Gibson, Tina Turner cage match” is a reference to the third Mad Max film, Beyond Thunderdome. One of Virginia Hey’s earliest roles was in the second Mad Max film.
  • If you watch carefully, you will see that the warehouse where Volmae takes Crichton for a private conversation has the same design on the wall as the floor where Aeryn practices her martial arts on Moya, the first indication that Peacekeepers are involved with the planet.

Metaphorically Speaking

Firstly, this episode is about Crichton and how his body is invaded by a worm, but not a bad worm. A good worm. Mark down another Farscape first: the first time that John’s body is violated, against his will, by some sort of foreign object. But he’s not the only one. All the people of Sykar have been violated by the Peacekeepers, their planet practically razed to the ground, their will to progress stolen from them. And it’s all due to this Tannot root, a thing that makes a person highly suggestible, willing to believe that every day is Friday and that soon there will be rest. Political metaphor much? And not even the partisan kind. This is straight up an episode about the way that more powerful bodies exert their will over less powerful bodies. In this episode’s case, it’s literal bodies, but in real life, it’s all mind games. Change will come, just keep working hard, doing your thing . . . It also might be a play on religion — you know, the opiate of the masses kind of thing — but honestly I’m too tired right now to think it through, and that doesn’t seem to fit anyway.

Aeryn also deals with hierarchies in this episode; she has to come to terms with ending hers, especially in terms of class. At the beginning of the episode, the very idea of Crichton and Aeryn being “kissing cousins” is repellent to Aeryn, but not because of John himself, but because he is lower than she is. She still retains that core belief, despite her progress, that Sebaceans are highly evolved beings, and thus, better. “Have you been laboring?” she asks D’Argo. And later, “I am not a scientist!” Furthermore, Peacekeeper society is based on hierarchies. Without them, it would fall apart, be obsolete. Aeryn is a warrior. She is not a worker, or a scientist. She has been trained to think that way out of necessity. What good are your worker bees if they start thinking for themselves? So yes, of course the Peacekeepers would have no problem with subjugating an entire planet in order to obtain fuel for their guns; they already do it to themselves. Also out of necessity, so that Rygel doesn’t blow himself and the ship to smithereens, Aeryn has to deal outside her comfort zone, and she does it kicking and screaming. In the hands of a lesser actress, the Aeryn character could be brackish and shallow, even petty, but Claudia Black brings depth to Aeryn even when she’s whining about how hard this learning thing is, because she’s not really whining without cause. In this instance, Aeryn is acting like a child because she is a child, and this is one of her growing pains. The end of the episode is very gratifying, then, when we see how proud her accomplishments have made her, that she used her brain for once instead of her fists.

The episode also brings up questions of identity, specifically in the case of D’Argo (but also relating to Aeryn). D’Argo says that he’s been a prisoner and a criminal longer than he was ever a warrior, so which is he? All of our main characters are being asked to define themselves in relation to situations, places, and people that they have never had to before. How can you define yourself in that kind of environment? They all seek “home,” but what is home? What is real and what is false? Zhaan tells D’Argo that it doesn’t matter if the thoughts he had while on Sykar were real or not, what matters is that he had them, and so they were real to him.

Trash Bin

Volmae, like Matala, is a problem for me, but if we’re going to compare the two on a scale of 1-100, I’d say that Volmae is maybe a 5, and Matala is a 99. Actually, Volmae is more of a problem for me on a conceptual level than a performance level. She is supposed to be of the same race as the rest of the people on her planet, but it’s unclear why she’s so different from them (aside from the obvious answer, which is that she is their leader, and this is a story about hierarchies, blah blah). It makes sense that she would be pale from a lack of exposure to the sun, where the rest of her people are tan and reddish, but her eyes are red. Is she an albino? It’s unclear. Also unclear is why she speaks LI . . . KE . . . THIIIS. Was she dropped on her head as a child? Is she autistic? WHAT is her deal?

– – –

Crichtonisms

  • “D’Argo, I mock all of us. You’re not the first guy to have his head snapped off by a chick.”
  • “This is the end of hyper-rage? I get hugged to death?”
  • See Classic Moment #3, below.

– – –

“Crackers Don’t Matter!” (Miscellaneous Thoughts):

  • Farscape Glossary / Interstellar Swearing: “Mivonks” is an expletive literally meaning “testicles.” It is also used across genders in the slang sense of guts or courage. “Dren” is a vulgar term meaning excrement, aka “shit” or “crap.” “Hyper Rage” is a Luxan state of excessive anger and aggression.
  • In “Back and Back and Back to the Future,” Aeryn is sporting a sports bra with a vest. It’s a nice look is what I’m saying.
  • Aeryn: “What is the matter with him?”
    Zhaan: “He is Crichton.”
  • Also, Zhaan: “He thinks he can see the future.”
    Aeryn: “The future? He can barely function in the present.”
  • I thought Crichton cracking his neck after having a vision of himself having his neck broken by Matala was a really nice touch. Probably Browder’s idea.
  • Aeryn: “D’Argo’s been off the ship for three whole days, but we couldn’t find you to tell you. You hide very well.” The fact that Crichton is a coward is really endearing for some reason.
  • Aeryn: “She gives me a woody . . . [strange look from John] . . . ‘Woody’, it’s a human saying. I’ve heard you say it often. When you don’t trust someone or they make you nervous, they give you . . . ”
    John: “Willies! She gives you the willies!”
  • Continuing a trend, the second time through, I liked both of these episodes a million times more than I did the first time through. It would be a bitch to write about these episodes if I hated them.
  • You guys: EXPLODING PEE. Exploding pee as a WEAPON. If you didn’t know by now, this show is insane.

Classic Moments in Farscape, #3

[Crichton and Aeryn are moving quickly beside an out of order train car. She wants to know what’s going on.]
Crichton: [Gritting his teeth, spazzing out Crichton-style, and fake smiling to passersby.] “Aeryn, not today! I have been out in the sun all day long picking up magic turnips. I got a worm in my gut crawling around down in places where the sun don’t shine, and I’m sick of it, okay, so for the moment, would you just shut up and help?”
Aeryn: “Help?! What do you think I’ve been doing up there in the ship playing games with Rygel?”
Crichton: “Oh, look, I know it’s sooo difficult up there in the ship . . .”
Aeryn: “Difficult?! I had to stop him from blowing himself up to bits, I had to figure out what was causing the problem, [smiles fakely at a passing local], and I had to fix it.”
Crichton: “Yeah, I know. And we’re all grateful that you did the Madame Curie thing . . .”
Aeryn: “What? Who?”
Crichton: “Madame Curie. She’s a scientist.”
Aeryn: “Scientist.”
Crichton: “Yes.”
Aeryn: [Talking very fast.] “What I had to do up there was like a field strategy exercise, only the enemy wasn’t trying to kill me, the enemy was a puzzle, and there were lots of different . . pieces, and independently, separately, they didn’t make any sense [Crichton starts to smile], and I had to think it through really hard and I had to work out and try different combinations and putting them together, and then finally I worked out what had happened, and I worked out what I had to do.”
Crichton: [Pauses, chuckling at her.] “This is great. You’re trading in your pulse rifle for the junior chemistry kit.”
Aeryn: “My pulse rifle wasn’t any use to me this time.”

– – –

Coming up on the Farscape Rewatch: “PK Tech Girl,” “That Old Black Magic”

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Comments
9 Responses to “Farscape Rewatch! — “Back and Back and Back to the Future,” “Thank God It’s Friday . . . Again””
  1. Emily says:

    Thank you for the review! I appreciated the trivia and, as always, love your writing :) Keep them up!

  2. myoctober says:

    Where are all the people?!

    So, these two episodes don’t excite me. The villains are obnoxious (particularly Matala, who is absolutely horrible) and we’re just not into the MEAT of this story yet. But, come to think of it, I never thought Farscape’s strengths ever really included their villains. Except for my favorite creeper- but not even right away. And Crais, who get better after a season or two.

    I don’t like PK Tech Girl, either, but that’s because I’m all Crichton-Aeryn shipper. And That Old Black Magic, again, with the villains!

  3. Jen says:

    Hey look, it’s me! I’m watching! I’m catching up!

    What was with the main female aliens in both of those episodes talking so annoyingly? Could they not fill the allotted 50 or so minutes so they asked them to talk really slowly and stretch it out? All this accomplished was to make me want to kick them in the shins.

    Matala’s stabby finger thing that makes beings of all species pass out was very weird. It’s like the Vulcan neck pinch, only dumb. I need to stop brining up Star Trek.

    Aeryn’s “she gives me a woody” faux pas was the funniest thing ever.

    I know what you mean about Kool-Aid episodes, people acting all nutty and losing their free will always frustrates me.

    • Ashley says:

      Yay for catching up! (And I promise, most episodes are way awesomer than these two.)

      • Jen says:

        I have no doubt! Plus, I’ve never been one to judge a show based on a handful of episodes. I know too many people who would stop watching a show as soon as they hit an episode they didn’t think was super fantastic. Think of all the wonderful things I would have missed out on had I done that!!! Overall, I am really enjoying it.

  4. Larry says:

    I had the same reaction to Matala and Volmae, Matala was like the Emperor from Return of the Jedi: “c’mon, could be be in the least way persuasive? Seriously?” But it was explained to me that the Emperor was beyond caring at that point, and who knows? Matala figured she had D’Argo over the barrel, she could kick Aeryn’s ass, so what risk did anyone else pose to her? “I’m bad, you know it, and there’s very little you can do about it.” The fact that the old researcher didn’t notice… well, he’s old and absorbed in his science project.

    This is the first episode where I thought, maybe things are weird because this is an Australian production (beyond the accents). At the very least, the worker bees in Thank God It’s Friday Again reminded me of drugged out Aussie surfers. I figured Volmae was also drugged out, but on something different; probably much MUCH better because she was the leader and could get choice drugs from the Peacekeeper overlords. Fanboy rationalization, mebbe.

    Classic moment #3 is a gem. Aeryn learning to be more and John is so proud of his little student! Awwwwww.

  5. Kaato-7083 says:

    Damn, I wish you all realized how amazing Matala is. Seriously, she is such a cool blend of 80’s madness. Her tentacles are tied back like a headband, she’s wearing exercise/uniforms-from-‘V’ that are wonderful, dances and kills and speaks like an old time phone operator or “Love Magic” radio dedication show. AND she’s a rapist. What’s not to love?

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