Farscape Rewatch! — “Beware of Dog,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again”
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Week Eighteen is late because I am tired. It’s really hard to think this much without getting paid. And I am desperately attempting to get several things done at once before I have to get back into the grind of graduate school (and studying for my Master’s exams). So: my apologies. Week Nineteen should be on time, though. It’s only one episode (“The Locket” — a personal favorite, just so you know).
In the meantime, we have “Beware of Dog” which is fun, but ultimately forgettable, and “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” which is basically like being on acid for fifty minutes straight. “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is a really interesting episode, not the least of which because it’s one of the more visually strking episodes Farscape ever did, but also because the crazy intense symbolism that’s packed inside of it makes for a very different kind of Mind Frell episode than “Crackers Don’t Matter” before it. It’s one of those episodes, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s “Restless” and like, the entirety of Twin Peaks, which says one thing while meaning another. It’s the kind of story that begs for a second viewing, and those are always fun to write about (and to watch).
2X14 — “BEWARE OF DOG”
For once there is plenty of food aboard Moya, so of course there’s something wrong with it. Afraid of possible parasites, D’Argo and Chiana bring aboard a creature called a Vorc that is supposedly adept at finding and destroying these parasites. It is decidedly stupid looking and everybody is annoyed with it, especially Aeryn. They also express doubt in its abilities when Crichton catches sight of a large creature aboard Moya that appears to have attacked Rygel. Of course they blame the Vorc, then when they discover that the creature and the Vorc are one and the same, they consider killing it. Luckily Pilot hasn’t lost his head and decides to try communicate with it. It leads them straight to Rygel, wrapped in a cocoon, because as it turns out, the Rygel that’s been floating around all episode is actually a conglomeration of small spiderish parasites impersonating Rygel. Crichton and Aeryn kill the parasites, but not before mortally wounding the poor Vorc, which dies in Aeryn’s arms. There’s also a thing with D’Argo almost dying, but it’s never that serious, and who really cares because it turns out that Crichton is full-on hallucinating Scorpius and keeping it a secret from the others because he’s afraid of what they’ll think. It is kind of sad when the Vorc dies, though :(
- “Beware of Dog” was written by Naren Shankar and directed by Tony Tilse.
- The idea of putting the Vorc on Aeryn’s back was Claudia Black’s idea. She was inspired by Yoda riding Luke’s back in The Empire Strikes Back.
- Much of the dialogue between Aeryn and Crichton was ad-libbed in rehearsal.
- Guy Gross pays homage to Jerry Goldsmith’s Gremlins score with his music in this episode.
- The scene in which the bugs come crawling out of Rygel was inspired by the 1999 film The Mummy.
- This is the first episode where Crichton starts to actively hallucinate Scorpius.
There is nothing incredibly remarkable about this episode, either positive or negative. Rarely (for this show at least), it’s just kind of there. The only really notable thing that occurs is Crichton’s acknowledgment and hiding of the hallucinations he’s having of Scorpius (which we will learn about more in “Won’t Get Fooled Again”), and his realization that it wasn’t a conscious choice not to kill Scorpius back in “Look at the Princess: The Maltese Crichton,” even if he doesn’t know exactly why or what it means.
The central metaphor of the episode revolves around the idea of the parasite, which always connotes danger from within. A traditional parasite is literally within the body of another organism, feeding off of it and potentially doing it great harm (although in some rare cases, the parasites can have positive effects — thank you NPR for being so educational and creepy). In this case, they’re definitely going for the harm. The parasites in this episode are obviously sci-fi parasites. There are an absurd number of them, and they are passing themselves off as Rygel, so they’re more of a metaphorical parasite than say, a bot fly or a tapeworm. The literal danger from within here is that no one knows Rygel isn’t Rygel, so they are unable to fight back against a danger they can’t really perceive (this is why the Vorc turns out to be so helpful). The Vorc itself is another representation of danger from within; the “creature” it transforms into when in its hunter state we see visually jumping out of its own mouth and kind of turning itself inside out. And of course the final level of parasitism in the episode comes in the reveal that something is inside of Crichton and is making him do things, or rather, not do things, and that it most definitely has to do with Scorpius. Even though at this point we don’t know what specifically is going on, it’s clear that the episode wants us to associate the Scorpius hallucination with the parasite, a danger that is growing from within Crichton, and that will probably threaten to break out and harm them all, destroying Crichton’s mind in the process.
Other things to note: Aeryn is afraid John is going crazy, which makes it official, I guess (even though it’s clearly been coming for the entire season). He tells her that his mind is all he has left, so it makes sense that he doesn’t want to admit that it’s going, too, or even that it’s in danger. I do love the image of the chess game that bookends the episode. It evokes this weird sense of playful danger, like a cat playing with it’s prey, and it also gives off this horrible foreboding, like Scorpius is coming. He’s just waiting to make his move. I do enjoy how the episode plays with Rygel. The real Rygel is very upset when he realizes that no one could distinguish between he and the parasitic impersonator. This makes him wonder what the others really think of him, and is just the next in a series of moments that Rygel seems to be having lately in which he lets it slip that he really does care what these people think about him. Rygel will always be the representative of the disgusting and the greedy, but he’s not immune from becoming a better person. And there’s lots of revelling in ignominious acts (all involving the body, of course): Rygel only being recognized because of a fart, and then the Vorc, which pees on D’Argo, shits on Aeryn’s floor, and then has sex with her leg. These moments in the show are always really interesting to me because they’re not looked on as shameful, but something we should accept and laugh at, even find endearing.
Some final thoughts: This episode relies almost solely on tricking both the Moyans and the viewer at various stages. It tricks us into believing that the creature is separate from the Vorc, and then when we learn they are the same, it tries to trick us into believing that the Vorc is bad, but it doesn’t really hold up, both because we’re clearly meant to like the Vorc, and because the main bad guys never get caught only halfway through an episode. That’s just not how TV works. The whole execution of this storyline plays into the not seeing things/seeing things idea that goes along with writing about parasites, but it’s also about trust. What the parasite counts on is that trust the Moyans have for one another, even for Rygel. That trust, that faith that families have in one another, will become important for later on in the season when more insidious dangers from within begin to present themselves.
Do they not understand what a parasite is? Even contemplating for a second that “the creature” might be a parasite seems phenomenally stupid, even for Crichton. Parasites by nature must be smaller than their hosts, and the “creature” (the Vorc in Hunter mode) was way too big for that. A good example of large space parasites done well: those sucker things from The Empire Strikes Back. They are living inside a giant space worm, so: logical. Crichton thinking a giant creature with Rygel as its victim is a parasite? Not so much. (Maybe if the victim was Moya . . .)
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2X15 — “WON’T GET FOOLED AGAIN”
IASA Astronaut John Crichton wakes up on Earth. Again. But he’s not going to be taken in by that trick a second time, no sir. While he tries to figure out who is causing this incredibly complicated delusion, a whole bunch of weird, escalating shit starts to happen. Aeryn and Zhaan are both there, as his doctor, Bettina Fairchild, and his psychiatrist, Dr. Kaminski, respectively, and both try to convince him that the whole Moya thing was just a dream. They don’t actually try very hard, mind you, and don’t seem perturbed when Crichton begins acting extremely bizarre in attempts to fuck with whoever is responsible for this trip down hallucinogen lane. D’Argo, Rygel, Chiana, Pilot and Scorpius show up, too, in altered forms, but DK, Crichton’s dad, and even Crichton’s dead mother also show up. The dead mother really throws him for a loop, and that’s when he starts to lose it. Then another Scorpius shows up and tries to convince him that a Scarran is responsible for all of this, having kidnapped him for information about Scorpius himself, and that his goal is to break Crichton’s brain. Turns out he’s right, and the only way for Crichton to escape the increasingly bizarre delusions is with the help of his new invisible friend, Scorpius/Harvey, who turns out to be a neural clone implanted by the real Scorpius all the way back when he was in the Aurora Chair, in order to dig out all that precious wormhole knowledge. The episode ends with Harvey promising always to be with John and protect him, and seriously? Creepiest Jesus ever.
- “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” the series’ second Mind Frell episode, was written by Richard Manning (Fame, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Sliders), and directed by Rowan Woods. Originally, David Kemper was going to write this script (considered Season Two’s “Earth” episode, in the vein of Season One’s “A Human Reaction“).
- “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is the title of a song by The Who. When Crichton sees Rygel for the first time he says “Meet the new boss. Not the same as the old boss,” which is the last line of the song. The title also refers to Crichton’s previous “visit” to earth in “A Human Reaction.” He first checks out the women’s toilet to make sure he “won’t get fooled again” as he was by the Ancients in that episode.
- Anthony Simcoe particularly enjoyed filming this episode because it gave him a chance to play a more humorous role.
- Ben Browder actually shot some of the footage for this episode himself — on some of the shots which focused on Crichton’s body, there was no room for the usual equipment wielded by the regular cameramen
- At one point, Francesca Buller was going to reprise her role of M’Lee in the scene with the restaurant, casually seen munching on bones.
- Wayne Pygram plays three roles in this episode: Scorpius (in flashback), the mental clone dubbed ‘Harvey,’ and also the drummer. The only other cast member playing more than one role is Claudia Black who plays Bettina Fairchild for most of the episode, and then, briefly, a simulation of Aeryn.
- According to the DVD commentary, the unusual tongue roll performed by Claudia Black was something she added to the scene herself while filming.
- Technically speaking, as the real versions do not actually appear, this is the first episode in which Zhaan, Rygel, Pilot, D’Argo, and Aeryn do not appear, although a simulation of Aeryn makes an appearance.
- There are six separate references to The Wizard of Oz in this episode: 1) After waking up on “Earth” Crichton says he feels like he’s been hit by a house; 2) He quotes the Good Witch’s song at one point, replacing ‘lady’ with ‘man': “Come out, come out, wherever you are, and see the young man who fell from the star”; 3) When Crichton first spots Scorpius/Harvey, he tells him that he thinks he’s “the man behind the curtain“; 4) He calls the wormhole that brought him to Moya “the giant blue twister that sucks me down to Oz”; 5) The dog Officer Crais is holding, a West Highland Terrier, is named ‘Toto’ (the ‘real’ Toto was a Cairn Terrier, just FYI); and 6) During Officer Crais’s final scene, he’s wearing red pumps, an allusion to Dorothy’s ruby slippers.
There are a lot of fun lines to unpack in “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” but for my money, Crichton telling Dr. Kaminski/Zhaan “I have a contextual problem” is the most important. It indicates not only that Crichton is aware that he’s a part of a constructed reality, a constructed narrative, but that the show itself is having fun with its own unreality. In the DVD commentary, writer Ricky Manning admits that since they already tricked Crichton once into questioning his own reality, the challenge of this episode then became about something different. It became more about moving John Crichton down the long road of insanity, about making him question not just if something is real or not, but if it even matters. Farscape enjoys poking fun at itself, and this episode in particular is poking fun at all those TV episodes that ended with the entire narrative having been a dream, like the Newhart finale or the last season of Roseanne or the entirety of St. Elsewhere. Crichton is aware of all those moments, he has them in his pop culture lexicon, so it becomes less about what is real and more about why is this happening and what is this doing to me. It’s about the content, not the delivery system. It’s also Farscape‘s twisted version of an homage to The Wizard of Oz, which is the great grandfather of every single “This was all a DREAM” type episodes and movies. And when you’re dealing with those type of stories, it’s always about something else, about the nature of God, reality, the universe . . . take your pick. When we’re talking about the man behind the curtain we’re not talking about The Wizard.
Because the delusions aren’t being controlled by Crichton, we can’t read the episode as a symbolic representation of his fears, his hopes, his dreams, whatever. His consciousness isn’t trying to tell him something (as the Scooby Gang’s is in “Restless”). Instead, the Scarran is stimulating his mind at random, seeing what has an impact and then multiplying it tenfold each time. It is random and disconnective, and it’s that way on purpose. The fake Earth, fake Cape Canaveral, fake DK, and fake Dad are a kind of sick joke to Crichton, who humors them in order to suss out who’s behind it all. If this hadn’t already happened to him in “A Human Reaction,” the Scarran’s illusions might have worked, even Dr. Bettina Fairchild. Aeryn looks human, so it’s easy to assume that Crichton could have possibly inserted her into some wacky fantasy space dream. But just as we and Crichton are getting our bearings on the rules of this “universe,” they’re all thrown out the window by the appearance of Zhaan, D’Argo, and Rygel, who all have no business being on Earth, but don’t seem to care. Suddenly this is a different game, one that is obviously not trying to mimic any sort of reality. It’s at this point, of course, where Crichton just starts fucking with people, because who cares? It’s not real! The best part about this is that no one even seems to notice. At all. All of these very, very bizarre versions of Crichton’s friends just keep playing it straight. Crichton shoots guns at people, throws Rygel off the top of a parking garage, and purposely drives a car into the path of an oncoming semi. And nothing happens except that things get weirder.
It’s not until after the car crash, when his dead mother comes to visit, that Crichton begins to lose it. Crichton shuts up immediately upon seeing his mother; it’s the first part of the illusion that he genuinely wants to give in to, that he willingly gives in to, even though he knows it’s an illusion. It doesn’t matter. She’s his mother, created from his memories. She looks like his mother, talks like his mother, smells like his mother . . . but she tells him things he doesn’t want to hear. His mom asks him why he’s changed, he says people change to survive. She says he’s lost his sense of wonder, his innocence, he says “I don’t know who I am anymore.” I disagree, by the way, that he’s lost his sense of wonder, but it is certainly in danger, and it is most definitely something he himself is afraid of. Why else would a delusional representation of his dead mother bring it up? We see later on that the manner of her death affected him profoundly and that he feels extreme guilt about the way that he handled it at the time. “This is cruel,” he tells the representation of his mother. It’s completely awful to watch. But things just keep getting progressively weirder and more disturbing as Crichton’s psyche deteriorates.
Most of the power in this episode comes from its visual tone, from the cognitive dissonance that is created by the visual discord that both Crichton and we as the audience are subjected to. The episode is constantly jamming contradictory and impossible ideas down our throats, and it does this by feeding us increasingly bizarre imagery of people and objects doing things and being places they shouldn’t. Like Crichton says, it’s a problem of context. None of the Moyans belong on Earth, for starters, let alone Cape Canaveral. Zhaan/Dr. Kaminski wearing a suit and being a psychiatrist, D’Argo as the hotshot IASA astronaut Gary Ragle who drives a bitchin’ red convertible and wears jaunty golfer duds, Rygel wearing a suit and smoking a cigar, Scorpius and Pilot on drums . . . they don’t belong, and that is both hilarious and disturbing. And then later, you’ve got Aeryn dressed up like a girl for once, with leather boots and a skirt that’s slit thigh high, and then you’ve got her making out with D’Argo, and even later than that, you’ve got Chiana/Jessica the astronaut groupie sucking on her neck. And the images never stay the same. Each time Crichton re-encounters them, they seem to redefine themselves, to change the rules of the game, or to take it even further. By the end, Crichton has literally been sexually propositioned by every single one of his friends, including D’Argo and Rygel. It’s “nothing you won’t like,” says Aeryn/Dr. Bettina Fairchild. You can actually track Crichton’s sanity by what Aeryn is wearing. She goes from normal doctor to a sexy woman in bar to a doctor wearing large blue curlers in her hair and finally to a doctor who looks like she popped in out of some Australian BDSM porn film. It’s a nice progression.
But now let’s talk about Scorpius. It’s a testament to Wayne Pygram’s acting skills that Scorpius/Harvey remains frightening, yet weirdly likable, even amidst the craziness of this episode. We learn that Scorpius inserted the Harvey neural clone as a chip back in “The Hidden Memory” and that it’s been inserting itself into Crichton’s subconscious ever since. This is absolutely terrifying if you stop to think about it. No really. Think about it. I never did before because it was such a cool plot twist, but put yourself in Crichton’s shoes for a second. Your mind is the one place you can go to be alone, the one place that is yours without question, the thing that nothing but insanity can take away from you . . . and Harvey completely violates that. John Crichton’s life is not his own. He’s a puppet in his own body, and there isn’t much he can do about it (especially since we’ve seen that Harvey can literally control John’s thoughts, make him forget things, make it so that he can’t tell anyone). Probably the creepiest thing about his presence in “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is that it’s not just about these two guys being enemies anymore. They’re developing this weird bond because of Harvey, who is an exact clone of Scorpius’s personality. Harvey saves Crichton’s life to save himself, yes, but he still saves his life. It connects them in a way that John wants no part of, but he has no choice. Harvey is inside of Crichton’s mind. He knows everything there is to know about him. In a sick way, he’s the person who knows John best, and what a perverse thing that is. Part of the trick of this episode is that neither we nor Crichton are sure if Harvey can be trusted. As far as we knew, it was a distinct possibility that he was lying about the Scarran, and when we learn he was telling the truth, it makes us grateful for his presence (and that’s just fucked up). It’s a scary world when the only person who can save you is your mortal enemy, when you stop to think about what that means at the other end of the spectrum, how easily he could ruin you, totally and completely. “I’ll be with you always, keeping you safe.” Holy fuck. Talk about your man behind the curtain: here he is.
Other stuff: The imagery in this episode is out of control. There were so many things I wanted to mention, but I just don’t have room. Some particular ones I do want to note: Scorpy as a bug on Crichton’s windshield, Crais holding the Toto Westy, Crichton’s mom coming on to him (yeesh), Aeryn’s “frell you” tongue roll, Officer Crais wearing red pumps . . . I could go on and on. Crichton being sweaty the entire episode has a practical cause (the heat of the Scarran), but it also lends a nice tone to the episode. We can literally see Crichton stifling, going mad just by the amount of moisture on his skin. It’s not attractive. Crichton tells Dr. Bettina Fairchild at the beginning of the episode: “You look a lot like her, ‘cept you have prettier hair.” I just really like that moment. I also really like the cyclic nature of the delusions, like Groundhog Day, everything resets and then goes crazy again, over and over. I LOVE Crais in this episode. He is so completely and sublimely ridiculous, from randomly holding the tiny dog to only fining Crichton $29.40 for a shit ton of serious crimes, including assault of an officer of the law, not to mention his Dirty Harry riff (“You have the right to the remains of a silent attorney!”) and the ladies shoes he’s wearing. Just brilliant. And a nice one-liner from Crichton’s dad: “You’re the one who wanted a child. I wanted a terrier.” Crichton really has Daddy Issues. I love how this episode plays with Wizard of Oz syndrome, but doesn’t actually say it out loud (“And you were there, and you, and you . . . “). I also love that this episode doesn’t end with a return to Moya, but instead ends with the more ominous Harvey/Scorpy tag. And finally, I think it’s important to point out that the “Back to Earth” thing wasn’t going to work not just because it had already been done, but because Crichton genuinely likes being on Moya now. She’s kind of home. Aeryn, D’Argo and the others are kind of family now, and that’s just another thing to confuse the poor guy. “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home . . . ” Which way is home?
I can’t help feeling that this episode would look so much better in a 16:9 widescreen format rather than 4:3. Of course, I think everything looks better in 16:9, but this episode, which was already visually interesting, could have been just that much more awesome.
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- “I hate critters!”
- “On Earth, psychiatrists don’t come in blue.” (Zhaan’s response: “Do you have a problem with people of color?”)
- I’m torn between thinking the Vorc is cute and thinking it’s creepy. I think it would definitely be cute if it wasn’t so . . . fleshy. The color of its skin makes it look like an overgrown, mutated fetus. I don’t think we were supposed to think it was entirely cute, though. I think they were going more for ‘unsettling,’ and in that case, they succeeded.
- Crichton throwing Rygel off the parking garage is comedy gold, but I’m sure the puppeteers had to be sedated when Browder was swinging the puppet around in circles. I think I read somewhere that each Rygel puppet costs nearly a million dollars to maintain. That is one expensive little motherfucker.
- The Scarran make-up/puppet head in this episode is already much more sophisticated than Cargn from “Look at the Princess.”
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“Crackers Don’t Matter!”
- Pop Culture References: Caddyshack, Aliens, Batman, Return of the Jedi, The Incredible Hulk, Lassie, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Star Wars (IV: A New Hope), The Wizard of Oz, The Who, The Beatles, Gaslight, Hamlet, Dr. Strangelove, Harvey, It’s a Wonderful Life, Dirty Harry, and Sigmund Freud.
- Finally we discover that after Crichton was tortured in the Aurora Chair (“Nerve” & “The Hidden Memory”), Scorpius put a neural clone of himself in Crichton’s head to work away and extract the wormhole knowledge that Crichton holds. This Scorpius/Crichton/neural clone story is the driving force in the ongoing arc of season two.
- “You’re Harvey . . . or is it Clarence? . . . Guardian Angel? . . . Invisible Rabbit . . . ?” Scorpius’s neural clone introduces itself and pops up as the Easter Bunny. This is a reference to the 1950 film Harvey. In it, James Stewart plays a man with a six-foot tall invisible white rabbit for a best friend. The rabbit’s name is Harvey. Crichton also references another famous James Stewart movie It’s a Wonderful Life. Here James Stewart is rescued by a Guardian Angel only he can see named Clarence.
- “The human doesn’t want to talk,” says Aeryn in “Beware of Dog.” I love that moment; it makes me laugh every time. Yes, Aeryn, this is normally what men are really like. Do you know how spoiled you are?
- CRICHTON: You’re an alien.
ZHAAN/DR. KAMINSKI: Yes, that’s true.
- In “Won’t Get Fooled Again” the pictures on “D. Logan’s” (Rygel’s) office wall are HILARIOUS, especially Gary Ragel (D’Argo) on a rocket.
- Best Miranda Rights reading ever: “Freeze! You’re under arrest. You have the right to the remains of a silent attorney! If you cannot afford one, tough noogies! You can make one phone call! I recommend Trixie: 976-Triple 5-LOVE. Do you understand these rights as I have explained them to you?! Well do you, punk?!” (Crichton answers “No.”) “Then I can’t arrest you!”
- AERYN/DR. BETTINA FAIRCHILD: I’m a doctor. Just relax.
ZHAAN/DR. KAMINSKI: I can wear a Freudian Slip.
AERYN/DR. BETTINA FAIRCHILD: I find new places to take your temperature.
CHIANA/JESSICA: I can teach you left handed Latvian Rotator torture.
- Question: Why do Scarrans have nipples? I’m serious. Why?
- Number of times each character has “died” as of “Won’t Get Fooled Again”: Crichton, 9 (+1 for Scorpius stopping his brainwaves); D’Argo, 4; Rygel, 3; Zhaan, 1; Aeryn, 1; Pilot, 1; Moya; 1; Chiana, 1.
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Classic Moments in Farscape, #18
[The Scarran’s lair. Crichton has just blown off his head with an exploding pulse pistol. He leans back and we hear clapping. It’s Scorpius/Harvey.]
Harvey: Well done, John.
Crichton: What happened? I feel like . . . I died.
Harvey: I had to stop your brain function for a few microts. To divert the Scarran. No harm done. I’ll go back in your subconscious mind now.
Crichton: Don’t get too comfortable. I’m gonna get that chip out of my head.
Harvey: [cocks his head slightly] There’s no chip in your head, John.
Crichton: Yeah there is. You . . . told me . . . that . . . [He’s clearly having trouble speaking now.] There’s a, um . . . [his face contorts as he tries to get the words out] . . . mmmmrrrmmm . . .
Harvey: You were saying?
Crichton: . . . Mmmmental chip . . . in . . .
[Crichton falls silent, confused. Scorpius cocks his head again.]
Harvey: Er, you were saying?
Crichton: What am I saying? Uh . . .
Harvey: As it should be. I won’t trouble you again . . . until I need to. There’s an exit to your left which will no doubt take you back to the surface of this commerce planet. I leave you to your shipmates, John. But rest assured . . .
[As the camera pans back, we see that the image of Harvey has disappeared as he continues speaking.]
Harvey: . . . I’ll be with you always. Keeping you safe.
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Coming Up on the Farscape Rewatch: “The Locket”