Farscape Rewatch! — “Liars, Guns and Money,” Parts I-III

WEEK TWENTY-ONE
[Permanent Archive Here]

Oh, my God, it’s here! It’s finally here! I think part of the reason this post is so late (so very, very late) is that I have a hard time wrapping my head around this trilogy. (Also, that I am so very, very busy.) Obviously, the plot is pretty straightforward; that’s not what I’m having trouble with. It’s more like there’s the thing, which is the on-the-surface stuff, and I’ve got that down good for these episodes, but then there’s the other thing, the more subtle thing, which is the thing I’m having trouble pinning down. What’s going on under the surface of these episodes, what’s tying it all together thematically, is eluding me. Maybe I’m just thinking too hard. Maybe my brain is broken forever. (Just like Crichton’s!)

In terms of production, this set of episodes is an ambitious way to end the season, in what is essentially a four-parter (if you include “Die Me, Dichotomy”), with grander sets and CGI than we’ve seen yet. Farscape is usually a show that travels, with the exception of the Moya set, so it makes sense for them to try and get as much use from these sets as they possibly can, which are even more elaborate than the Gammak Base from “Nerve,” “The Hidden Memory,” and “Family Ties.” It’s all very thrilling, and is even at times extremely moving, but it doesn’t feel cohesive somehow. Bear with me as I try to work it out as I go along.

2X19 — “LIARS, GUNS AND MONEY: A NOT SO SIMPLE PLAN”

Stark contacts Zhaan from beyond the grave — except, as it turns out, he hasn’t been dead at all, just temporarily without physical form. Whatever. He’s got a plan! D’Argo’s lost son Jothee is being sold in a gigantimous slave auction, but in order to buy his freedom, they’ll need money. Enter Stark’s crazy plan: they’re going to rob a Shadow Depository — the place where all the bad guys keep their money. It’s bank heist time. Crichton is hesitant, as this plan sounds even more insane than their usual plans, which is saying something, but D’Argo goes Luxan Nutso-Berserkers and rushes down to the planet, getting himself captured. BUT! Don’t worry. That’s what Stark wanted the whole time, the slimy little worm. D’Argo’s attempted break-in allows Stark to hack the security mainframe, and later after Zhaan has begun dressing as a gay pirate lady named Aralla, she tells Natira (the crab skank who runs the place) that “the Luxan” was just testing their security. With D’Argo released, Zhaan (with Chiana, Aeryn, and Crichton as her henchmen) feigns a need for hasty illegal-type storage of some rather ugly, but priceless Hynerian artifacts (which Rygel happens to be hiding inside). The idea is that he’ll escape and move storage pods, taking the pod ID with him, so that when Gay Pirate Lady Zhaan comes back to claim her “deposit,” she’ll actually be claiming someone else’s. Someone who is much richer. But just as their plan is about to go perfectly — and lord knows, we can’t have that happening — Scorpius shows up, and Crichton’s brain goes on the fritz. After some Scorpius sabotage involving super heated paste and Scorpius’s cooling rods, the Moyans barely escape with their loot (which happens to be Scorpius’s, and not by coincidence, Stark, you rotten little piece of  head cheese!) and their lives, and not before Crichton has an extremely frightening battle of wills with Scorpy himself that he barely wins, and only because of the earlier sabotage. Back on Moya, everyone’s kinda pissed at Stark for not telling them whose loot it was they were stealing, but hey! They got the loot. Which the last scene tells us isn’t actually loot at all, but some sort of creepy crawly bug thing that is sure to wreak some havoc in the next two or three episodes. Whoops! Crichton’s brain is broken and the money ain’t money. So, yeah. Good plan.

Trivia

  • “A Not So Simple Plan” was written by Grant McAloon (“Durka Returns,” “Vitas Mortis”) and directed by Andrew Prowse (“Premiere,” “DNA Mad Scientist,” “Look at the Princess”).
  • The trilogy title is a play on the Warren Zevon song “Lawyers, Guns and Money.” “A Not So Simple Plan” is a twist on the title of Sam Raimi’s 1998 film A Simple Plan, based on the book of the same name by Scott Smith.
  • Jennifer Fisher returns as PK Nurse, having appeared in “Mind the Baby” and the “Look At The Princess” trilogy.
  • Around fifteen takes were needed for the John/Scorpius scene where the two sing “The Star Spangled Banner.” The song was not scripted.
  • This episode includes the favorite scene played by recurring star David Franklin (Lt. Braca). In it, he ruthlessly chops down an ally, steps over the man’s fallen body as it jams the door open, and pushes his way through saying, “Excuse me.”
  • Matt Newton, the actor that plays D’Argo’s son Jothee, was credited as a guest star even though he didn’t appear in the broadcast version of the episode. It can only be assumed that he appears in the unedited version.

Metaphorically Speaking

By the time it’s done, this trilogy covers a lot of ground, and in order for the sense of resolution we experience in “Plan B” to be genuine, we need a good conflict set-up here in “A Not So Simple Plan.” There are many conflicts present here, but not coincidentally, all of the most important ones involve Crichton in some capacity. John Crichton is at the center of this trilogy. It is his mental breakdown that prevents these episodes from descending into utter chaos. His growing insanity is the glue that holds everything together (an irony I’m sure the writers were aware of). Just in the first fifteen minutes of the episode we’ve got: Crichton vs. D’Argo (whether or not to follow Stark’s plan to rescue Jothee), Crichton vs. Stark (Stark keeping secrets from the group), Crichton vs. the Shadow Depository (this one applies to everyone, really — all three episodes center around breaking into the thing, and then overcoming the consequences of those actions), and most importantly, Crichton vs. Harvey/Scorpius (the clone does everything in its power to prevent Crichton from acting in his own best interest, or from harming Scorpius).

So let’s talk a little bit about titles, because there’s a lot of them in these episodes, and they’re kind of important. The title of the trilogy is probably the closest link (besides Crichton’s withering sanity) these episodes have with one another, but that’s really all there is to it. Liars. Guns. Money. Yes, all three of those things are there. But those things aren’t what’s important about these episodes. Trust. Power. Greed. That’s what it’s really all about, although I admit this is where my confusion comes in because I’m not sure exactly what these episodes have to say about any of those things (beyond the rather simplistic and obvious: Trust, good. Power and greed, bad). But I’ll come back to that later. Where are we in regards to those three things in this episode? Stark is a liar. So are the Moyans, if you wanted to think about the heist as a big fat lie (even if it is a well-intentioned, Robin Hood sort of lie). Guns? Well, they’re everywhere, really (from the very first guns being pointed at D’Argo in the Depository, all the way to Talyn’s blasting that same Depository all to Hell in “Plan B”). Also, guns are just penises that can kill you, am I right? I’m not sure how that relates quite yet, but I wanted to say it, so I’m sure I’ll work it in to my argument somehow. Money? They need it to buy Jothee’s freedom, but Natira has booby-trapped it (thinking it would go to Scorpius). So maybe there’s something in here about the mind games of the crazy and power-mad always harming the little guys. Moya is the most innocent being on the show, and she is the one who suffers the most.

We could just blame it all on Stark. It’s his crazy plan that starts all of this, and it’s his refusal to let the others in on the hairy details that eventually results in the implosion of said plan. The whole thing would almost certainly have been handled differently if the Moyans, especially Crichton, had known that not only was Scorpius a regular customer at the Depository, but that it was his vault they were hijacking. Stark’s motives for hiding this information are pretty transparent. He knew the others would never go along with the plan if they knew all the details, just as he knew that rash D’Argo would race down and get himself captured, and he planned accordingly (and no matter how much he denies it, part of him wants vengeance on Scorpius, although we’re left to determine on our own how much of his plan was based on that vengeance, and how much was based on the desire to save Jothee). Stark is a crafty little fucker. Stark is also a giant spaz. As soon as things start to go wrong, as they inevitably do, he falls apart. “This wasn’t supposed to happen. This wasn’t supposed to happen!” he screams. I think it’s a key element to this episode that Stark’s cunningly thought out plan fails so badly, and that Crichton knows it will from the beginning, just because Crichton understands what Stark doesn’t: that you can’t ever really plan things. There are too many variables involved:

“Are you sure this is gonna work?”
“Yes, it will work. I’ve spent too much time thinking it through.”
“I spent too much time thinking through the Farscape project–”
Your side, my side. My side, your side!”

Crichton inherently understands that the thing you never expect to happen is most likely going to happen, and that any plan that doesn’t have room for a little flexibility is going to explode at the seams. Thinking and planning does not affect reality. Stark’s plan exists in an ideal universe, but Farscape‘s universe is messy and unpredictable, and nothing is as it should be. Things just happen. The universe is full of unforeseen circumstances, that’s why their plans are always so shitty, so fly by night, because no other kind of plan would ever work. Crichton and the Moyans are all about improvisation, that’s why they succeed and survive, and it’s why the PKs, who are all about rules and regulations and order, fail. The only rule in this universe is that rules will be broken. This is the show telling us something about itself, about how it sees the world. I wish I would have kept track of all their shitty plans from the beginning of this project. It becomes a running gag by the end of the series, how bad Crichton’s plans are, but this one has to take the cake. It’s an entire episode about how shitty their plans are. But the thing about shitty plans, at least on this show, is that they always work.

And then there’s Crichton, our hero. Our Earthman lost in space, fighting the good fight, trying to get home, looking for love. You know, all the good old cliches. Except that when they’re embodied in Crichton, they’re not cliches. There’s just something about him that resists being boxed up like that. He’s expansive, adaptable, intuitive, and just a little out of control. That’s why a villain like Scorpius is so frightening, because he’s the very opposite of all those things we love about Crichton. He has no home, no family, no loved ones, and he tries to replace these things by exerting control over other people, over his life, and eventually, if he gets his way, over the universe. Where things happen to Crichton, Scorpius makes things happen. We’ll get more Scorpius backstory later, but suffice it to say that this desire to compensate through control (and yes, power) makes perfect sense for a person raised without any sort of acceptance into a normal life or social structure, without a place to belong. Crichton may be looking for a way back home, but the thing that really sets him apart from Scorpius is his ability to create a home wherever he goes. At this point, if Crichton never saw Earth again, he could still live a happy and productive life. Scorpius feels welcome nowhere in the universe, and so instead of trying to inhabit it as one of the many, he seeks to overcome it. That’s why the assault on Crichton’s mind — the one place that is supposed to be truly his, the thing he uses to experience the world — is so horrifically poetic. Wormhole technology isn’t the only thing Crichton possesses that Scorpius does not. It’s why Scorpius won’t simply remove the chip and let Crichton go. Why he must, in the end, destroy him.  All of this stuff exists underneath the surface in every scene that Crichton and Scorpius are in.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. That’s for next time. For now, it’s enough to say that the battle is finally on. The neural clone is exerting control, and Crichton is losing himself. It starts with Stark, and ends with Scorpius. Crichton does manage to fight back by messing with Scorpius’s cooling rods, but he needs Aeryn’s help to do so (which does lead to some topsy goodness). The clone won’t let him harm Scorpius. I sometimes forget how important this episode is in terms of Crichton and Scorpius and Aeryn. Because I know what’s going to happen, it didn’t click in my mind at first that this episode contains the seminal moment when Crichton first reveals the presence of the neural clone, and what Scorpius has done to him. Until now, the others have simply written off Crichton’s odd moments as strange visions, weird human things. It’s fitting that now he has nothing left to lose, he also takes the time to confess his love for Aeryn, and to kiss her, although she won’t actually let him say the words. To her, all this confessing just looks like giving up, and that’s something she’s not going to let him do. And so he keeps fighting. One might be so inclined to draw parallels between the heist and Crichton’s sanity: they break in to the Depository, as Scorpius is breaking in to Crichton’s brain.

“What the hell did you put in my head?”
“A tiny seed that’s been growing in your brain.”

The showdown between Scorpy and Crichton is more a battle of wills than anything, and it’s a battle Crichton wins, for now. “You put a piece of you in me,” he tells Scorpius, “and now you’ve got a piece of me in you.” The way he says that, choking in Scorpius’s grip, punctuating it with a tap on the head, is just fantastic. The most important thing to him right now is the freedom of his own mind. He can’t let Scorpius control it, or Scorpius wins, so his song choice as he crawls away, spittle dribbling down his chin, his eyes crazy and bloodshot, is kind of perfect. And I mean, you guys, that visual of Crichton crawling away to the tune of the Spar Spangled Banner . . . is just . . . insane. This is not a normal show, you guys. This is fucking weird shit right here. And I LOVE it.

– – –

2X20 — “LIARS, GUNS AND MONEY: WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE . . .”

In the middle of moaning about how they have to use all their newfound money to buy the entire lot of 10,000 slaves in order to free Jothee, even more happiness is ruined when the Moyans receive a message from Scorpius informing them that he’s bought the slaves, and will be killing Jothee any day now unless Crichton turns his hot self over for anal mind probing. D’Argo blames Crichton, there’s lots of yelling and breaking things, and then Crichton hatches yet another crazy plan. This time, he wants to get a bunch of people they’ve screwed over before to come work for him: the Tavleks, the Vorcarians, the Sheyang, and the Zenetans. He wants these people to help him break in to the Shadow Depository. Again. Some of them are more willing than others, but all agree in the end. Meanwhile, the money that isn’t money is eating Moya alive, and the crew is finally beginning to notice. Zhaan, Rygel, and Chiana try their damnedest to eradicate the little shits, but all to no avail. The only way to kill them is with fire, and that would harm Moya almost as much as the pests themselves have done. They seal the thingamajerks in to one of Moya‘s sections and blast them through with fire. It is super duper sad and hard to watch. In the end, it’s the harm done to Moya, her insides black and charred, that causes Crichton to give up his plan and turn himself in to Scorpius in exchange for Jothee. He just can’t abide people getting hurt because of him.

Trivia

  • “With Friends Like These . . .” was written by Naren Shankar (formerly of Star Trek: TNG and DS9, he wrote “The Way We Weren’t,” and is currently executive producer of CSI), and directed by Catherine Millar (“My Three Crichtons”).
  • Nicholas Hope (Akkor) returns in the Season Four “Self-Inflicted Wounds” two-parter.
  • John Adam reprises the role of Bekhesh the Tavlek (“Throne For a Loss”), and Jo Kerrigan and Jeremy Sims reprise Rorg and Rorf (“Till the Blood Runs Clear”) in this episode.
  • Linal Haft would later play Grand Chancellor Maryk in The Peacekeeper Wars.
  • David Wheeler (Durka) did not learn of Durka’s death until he found out they needed to make a cast for his character’s decapitated head.
  • Although Scorpius’ nurse appeared to have been killed in the previous episode’s explosion, a throwaway line of dialogue here establishes that she survived.

Metaphorically Speaking

So we’ve got this Luxan running around our spaceship. He’s very large, very passionate, and very prone to temper tantrums (and that’s on a good day.) Add on top of that the nervousness and guilt and anxiousness and who knows what else he’s feeling about the reappearance of his son, and the fact that said son is now being held hostage by Scorpius, and you’ve basically got a powder keg just waiting for a match. This is where we see just how much of an evil genius Scorpius is. “I have Ka D’Argo’s son. Surrender to me or the boy dies,” he tells Crichton, for everyone to hear. This isn’t just a villain holding one of our hero’s kids hostage; it goes way, way deeper than that. For one thing, this is D’Argo’s kid, the kid he’s been searching for ever since he was imprisoned, the kid he had with his dead, beautiful wife, the kid he hasn’t seen in years and years and years. Crichton and Zhaan and Rygel . . . they’re all searching for home. Jothee is D’Argo’s home, he’s the end of D’Argo’s quest. So, then, what Scorpius is really holding hostage is D’Argo’s entire future as he has conceived of it. He could snuff out D’Argo’s most deeply held desires with a quick flick of his leather-clad wrist. What he’s really doing here is pitting Crichton’s needs against D’Argo’s. Whose needs are greater? Will D’Argo forsake his friendship with Crichton to save his son? Should he?

Of course D’Argo blames Crichton for everything, because he is completely and utterly irrational. He comes this close to turning his friend over to Scorpius, but then this happens:

“I’ve come up with a plan.”
“Oh, there’s a surprise.”

Crichton’s plan is staggeringly Crichton-like. I mentioned before about his shitty plans, and here’s another one. Crichton’s big idea is to recruit several old “acquaintances” of theirs to help break into the Shadow Depository — again — this time, to rescue Jothee before Scorpius can lay hands on him. Here’s how Crichton’s logic pans out: 1) We need a way to waylay the transport ship and get aboard, so let’s contact the Zenetan pirates and hope they’ll let us use their flax; 2) Once we’re on the ship, we need a way to find Jothee, so obviously we need blood trackers, which means Vorcarians, which means our old friends Rorf and Rorg; and 3) We need some muscle, which means the scary and explosive Sheyang, and the Tavleks for their gauntlets. As if the possibility of actually being able to successfully execute this plan wasn’t slim enough, Crichton and the Moyans have the added challenge of actually convincing these people — most of whom were enemies the first time around — to participate. Luckily, the promise of loads of money mostly does the trick, and in the case of the Zenetans (and surprise guest Durka), threats of great violence. What I find really interesting about Crichton’s plan, however, is what it means from a narrative standpoint. I think it’s important to remind ourselves every once in a while that Moya and Co. are traveling in “the Uncharted Territories,” and that it would be very, very easy for the show to visit a place and never look back, but that’s just not something Farscape is interested in doing. Instead, it seems rather to be interested in mapping those unmapped places of the universe. It pulls on old connections and draws overlapping lines from place to place, making this a realized world on a grid rather than a simple linear journey. These guys double back, they return. There’s continuity, and memory in this world.

Probably the most significant part of this episode involves the parallel between Crichton and Moya. So Moya is being eaten alive from the inside out by the “money” the crew brought on board during “A Not So Simple Plan.” She’s got the rotting creep, and there’s no cure. Turns out Natira planted the creatures as a trap for Scorpius, and Moya just happened to get in the way. She’s collateral damage. The only way to get rid of the little fuckers is with fire, and in the short run, that’s actually going to do more damage and cause her more pain than slowly being eaten would. In trying to save her life, her friends injure her grievously. And then there’s Crichton, whose brain is being eaten alive from the inside by Harvey, the Scorpy neural clone, and apparently he’s been communicating with it for quite some time. When he sees what’s happened to Moya, Crichton gives up on his plan. He doesn’t want any more collateral damage (ironic, seeing as how he himself is collateral damage — Scorpius doesn’t necessarily want to harm John out of malice, he just needs that wormhole information, and this is the way to get it). Scorpius doesn’t give a flying shit about collateral damage, in fact, he probably definitely likes it.

Aeryn’s face when she realizes what Crichton has done is positively heartbreaking. Just as she’s beginning to admit to herself what Crichton means to her, he goes and does something stupid and heroic and self-sacrificing. So now, Jothee is free, but Crichton is imprisoned, so all that’s really changed is that the Moyans now need to rescue Crichton instead of Jothee. I’m not exactly sure what Crichton was thinking here — the noble and self-sacrificing often behave stupidly — did he think they wouldn’t come after him? Either way, it’s Moya‘s plight that causes John to turn himself in. He just can’t stand for one more person to be hurt when he can stop it, and so he trades himself for Jothee like a fool. Like a stupid, lovely fool.

So let’s talk about that title, then. As so often happens with Farscape, it has multiple meanings. The most literal meaning we can take from “With Friends Like These . . .” is that it references the collection of violent criminals Crichton and Co. bring together throughout the episode in order to pull off their operation in part III. You know, because if these types of people are their “friends,” who needs enemies? I love the way that the “who needs enemies?” part of the title is left for us to fill in with our own minds. It makes it just that more threatening. But the title also has several secondary meanings. It could refer to Crichton and the Moyans — these people are supposedly friends at this point, family, but they’re still letting their own desires come before the good of the group: their greed, their desire for home and the families they had before Moya . . . D’Argo is blind with needing his son back in his life — he can see nothing else. Chiana and Rygel are so concerned with money they are thoughtless about whatever ramifications result from their heist of the Shadow Depository. And of course it refers to Moya. These people who use her body for their home, they are supposed to be her friends, and what she gets in return for her generosity, her loveliness of spirit, is to be eaten alive by a literal representation of greed and desire, and then to be burned from the inside out. And so it comes to be that the two people who are acting the most selflessly — Moya and Crichton — are the two who are harmed the most. It’s awful.

“You want the wormhole technology? I want your implant out of my head. So, finally the rift between us is not so great. You do what you gotta do. You win.”

Trash Bin

D’Argo’s Jothee hallucinations bug the crap out of me. In terms of the storyworld, D’Argo has NO IDEA what his son might look like, so those visions of his completely pull me out of the illusion. D’Argo’s last memory of his son was as a small child, so that should be the image he conjures up while thinking about him. I know that’s incredibly picky of me, but really, it’s the small things in life. Relatedly, the clips to remind us of past episodes (as short as they may be) border on the offensive. Farscape doesn’t usually stoop to treating its audience like children. We remember these characters on our own; we don’t need to be reminded.

– – –

2X21 — “LIARS, GUNS AND MONEY: PLAN B”

Having turned himself over to Scorpius, Crichton is now in what we might call “deep shit.” And worse: he doesn’t really seem to care. Aeryn, for perhaps the first time in her entire life, is experiencing serious emotions over Crichton’s imminent demise. She wants to take the smash crew they brought together for Jothee and use it to rescue Crichton instead, but first she has to deal with the treacherous Zenetans, who try to take over Moya, and all manner of other kinds of griping, and everybody goes CRAZY and starts waving guns around, because that is what happens when literally everybody in the room is a space criminal. Eventually they get it together enough to go ahead with the rescue mission. Meanwhile, in the Shadow Depository, Crichton is tied upside down to some sort of torture ball, preparing to die. Scorpius has taken a Magic School Bus sort of ride into Crichton’s psyche to determine whether or not the neural clone has gotten hold of the wormhole information, and it has. It all seems very inevitable. But when Natira accidentally lets slip that the clone can be removed without killing Crichton, he no longer wants to just wait to die at Scorpius’s hands. He convinces Natira that Scorpius is going to kill her, and she sets him free in return for a promise of escape on Moya. The two of them run smack into the rescue squad, and just in time, as Harvey is having no part of this escape. He tightens his grip on Crichton’s mind until it breaks, and D’Argo is forced to knock him out and carry him to freedom. Trapped on the base, the group is only saved when a previously reluctant Crais shows up. They hide in a deposit box as Talyn blows the Depository to hell, and Scorpius presumably along with it. After it’s all said and done, the Moyans may have gotten everything they wanted — Crichton and Jothee’s freedom, lots of money, and their lives — but it’s come at a great price: Moya‘s health, and Crichton’s sanity. Things aren’t looking good, kids. Not good at all.

Trivia

  • “Plan B” was written by Justin Monjo (“A Human Reaction,” “Crackers Don’t Matter”) and directed by Tony Tilse (“The Way We Weren’t,” “Look at the Princess”).
  • Crichton makes numerous references to Young Frankenstein in this episode.
  • The song that Crichton sings near the end of the episode is “Daisy Bell,” which is a reference to 2001: A Space Odyssey. HAL 9000 sings this song as he is being lobotomized by Bowman. The connection to Crichton’s own imminent mental breakdown is pretty obvious.
  • Claudia Black received a blow to the face from John Adam’s gauntlet during the filming of the bank raid scene because it was so dark on the set.
  • Natira refers to Crichton as “blue eyes,” a nickname given to Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes.
  • Crichton references Army of Darkness with the line “I can’t move. God, I can’t move.”

Metaphorically Speaking

And so the “Liars, Guns and Money” trilogy comes to end in a big, hot mess of action, with even more liars, guns and money. The cast of liars is almost as big as the cast itself: the Zenetans, Scorpius, Rorf, Turok, Jothee . . . all of them liars, to varying degrees. And anyone who isn’t (currently) a liar has a gun. Guns mean violence and destruction. Also violent and destrctive? Plan B. The rescue mission decides to scrap Stark’s overly complicated plan and just go with your basic smash and grab. Half the mercenary crew and everyone in the Shadow Depository loses their lives, and for what? So Scorpius can get his power? So D’Argo can get his son back? So they can have a little bit of cash in their pockets? Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate Turok and Rorf helping out the Moyans on their rescue mission, but I can’t help but think that Rorf’s wife (and their unborn cub) would have much rather had Rorf around for the rest of their lives than a pile of money. The collateral damage racked up by the end of this trilogy is staggering, and Rorf (and before that, Rorf’s eyeball) is just the beginning.

Actually, let’s list it out. Obviously, there’s Moya, and we covered that in “With Friends Like These . . . ,” but there’s also Turok, who sacrifices himself in a move he had long seen coming. Unable to breathe those massive fireballs any longer, Turok is ashamed of himself for being a defective Sheyang, for not being able to do the thing all Sheyangs are famous for, and the only way he can redeem himself is by going on this suicide mission and blowing himself up just so that the others have a chance at the rest of the mission. It’s a selfish motive, but then again, everyone in this fight has a selfish motive. None of them are doing any of this out of charity. Even the Moyans, who love Crichton, are rescuing him because of their own feelings: of love (Aeryn), guilt (D’Argo), responsibility (Zhaan, Rygel, Chiana). Even Bekhesh was only dragged into this mission because of Crichton, and although he didn’t lose his life, he did lose his newfound sense of peace. “Farewell, my friends,” he says at the end, “I thank you for teaching me to kill again.” Even the Zenetans, who die betraying the mission, are collateral damage. And where do we end up? Moya, burnt and almost certainly permanently crippled. D’Argo has Jothee, but it’s a broken version of Jothee that he didn’t expect, one who is angry and fearful. And of course, the biggest piece of collateral damage of all: Crichton’s lost sanity.

Crichton spends nearly 100% of this episode being violated in one way or another, whether it’s his mind or his body, yet again adding proof to my theory that Crichton’s body is Farscape‘s metaphorical center. In “With Friends Like These . . . ,” he turned himself over to Scorpius because he was sick of all the violence and waste, and since his mind was going anyway and he didn’t see a way out of it, he figured why not do some good and get Jothee back. I’ve talked before about how Crichton’s mind is his last sacred place, so for him to give it up so freely says a lot about him as a person, and what he values. Natira, like almost everyone else in this episode, is a selfish creature. She hangs with Scorpius for the fringe benefits, like examining Crichton as if he were her plaything, violating him in the brain pan and the crotch pan. But Natira isn’t important, Scorpius is. He admits to Crichton that all of this wormhole nonsense isn’t about dominating the universe, it’s about power. But what he really means when he says “power” is “control.” But all of this changes for Crichton when Natira accidentally lets it slip that Scorpius can remove the chip without killing him. Until this point, Crichton was working on the assumption that the procedure would kill him, but when he learns he might survive, all the fight comes back and he manages to sway selfish Natira into helping him by revealing that Scorpius plans to kill her. This is a turning point for Crichton. All season, he’s been living under the threat of Scorpius, but if this means that if he hands over the wormhole technology, maybe, jsut maybe, Scorpius will leave him alone, and he’ll be free. After all, what does he care — at least in this moment — if Scorpy can make wormholes. How does that weigh against his mind being his own once more? Of having a future? It’s not even a comparison.

Crichton isn’t the only one to reach a turning point in this set of episodes, and although Crichton’s is more central to the main conflict of the series, I think Aeryn’s is actually more important. What really fascinates me about her revelation is that it’s not something the show calls attention to. You just have to know it’s there. Although she has yet to admit it to him, she’s finally admitted to herself that she loves Crichton, and yeah it’s adorable as fuck, but I actually think the more significant thing is what it says about just how much she’s changed as a person. It’s taken her the better part of two years, but she’s finally living up to that thing Crichton famously said to her in “Premiere“: You can be more. Where once she used to disdain anyone who wasn’t a peacekeeper, she now holds alien life-forms as her family. Where once she scorned love, betraying a man who loved her, she now holds love and the sense of community and belonging that it brings above all else. She’s only just found this version of herself, and she doesn’t want to lose it — she’s not done growing yet. We see this growth in little ways throughout the episodes: Aeryn being a complete badass when the Zenetans try to mutiny (for the first time), how she acts as the center when everything else begins to fall apart. And perhaps most significantly, in her interactions with Crais. Just as Crichton is initially willing to give up what he holds most dear (the sanctity of his mind) in order to free Jothee, Aeryn is willing to give herself to Crais in order to procure his help in the mission to rescue Crichton. “You can have anything you want,” she tells him, and there’s a couple of beats before he responds. Is she offering herself to him, in that way? Her response: “Take what you want and I won’t stop you.” She knows Crais the Creepster has had his eye on her for quite some time, and she’s not afraid to use it to her advantage. It’s her final and most desperate card, and it’s also one of the grossest, most riveting scenes in Farscape‘s whole run. Luckily for her, Crais isn’t that kind of guy anymore, although I’m sure he was sorely tempted to take her up on her offer, the dickbag.

To sum up this last episode, and this trilogy as a whole, basically anything that could go wrong did, and anything that could be lost was. While the Moyans tried to do the right things, the tools at their disposal just weren’t right for the job: The Sheyang who can’t Sheyang, the tracker who isn’t a tracker, the Tavlek who won’t kill, the Zenetans who betray you as soon as they can, Stark going off his rocker every five seconds, not to mention the turbo rocket of emotions that is D’Argo, the creeping threat of Harvey in John’s brain, and Scorpius himself waiting in the wings. In the end it was the rotting creep that got all of them, as everyone was eaten away from the inside with one thing or another: greed, guilt, love, neural clones, bug things that used to be money, fire . . . destruction, destruction, destruction. And so the stage is set for what is quite possibly Farscape‘s finest episode.

Trash Bin

The trilogy as a whole: too much story? I think yes may be the answer. Good god, I think this might be the longest amount of time it’s ever taken me to write a blog post, and while it’s mostly my fault, I think that the basic unwieldiness and wild structure of this trilogy can shoulder at least some of the blame. My logs say that I started it on May 22, 2011! Holy shit.

– – –

Crichtonisms

  • “Tell me, is the rematch ever better than the original fight?”
  • “Oh, don’t stop now, Scorpy. Roll me over and baste the other side.”

PuppetWatch!

  • Natira looks like she just scuttled out of hell. Look at those boots! Or are they her feet? Who knows!

– – –

“Crackers Don’t Matter!”

  • A Farscape Glossary: A “Drackik” is a measure of weight.
  • Interstellar Swearing: “Zeltiks” is Nebari vulgar usage of some sort, as in “What makes you think all these zeltiks are going to help us?” “Frek Face” is Vorcarian slang.
  • Pop Culture References: Warren Zevon, A Simple Plan, Bonnie and Clyde, Batman and The Riddler, Baywatch, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Star Wars, Young Frankenstein, Army of Darkness, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Planet of the Apes.
  • “This mask talked to me . . . unless you all think I imagined it.”
  • Love love love Crichton and Aeryn’s long black coats, and that they are assumed to be PKs. It’s interesting to me that they still dress like PKs even though they aren’t. Also love Zhaan as a pirate. She’s kind of a badass.
  • “Zhaan, can you concoct me something that reacts with heat? And by reacts, I mean explodes.”
  • RYGEL: Stupid plan.
    CHIANA: Really stupid plan.
  • Love the CGI backdrops. The Shadow Depository shot will stick around in the credits for the next two seasons. Also love that it’s raining through all of the scenes at the Depository. We don’t get that a lot on this show.
  • CRICHTON: If Scorpius gets me . . .
    AERYN: I know, shoot you.
    CRICHTON: No, nonono, shoot him.
  • Scorpius’s codpiece never fails to make me laugh . . . and then scare me. It’s the tails, too. he’s like a mockery of a knight and a gentleman. Brilliant costuming, really.
  • Warren Ellis once said of this show that it was like descending into Australia’s BDSM scene. It must have been this trilogy he was referring to. The chair, Natira, all the black leather and pirate costumes and nasty, nasty crab sex. BLEH.
  • “All he’s gotta do is switch containers. If he gets it right, I’ve got one big kiss for him.” You guys, seriously, what is it with Crichton and kissing people?
  • CHIANA: Our money’s alive!
    RYGEL: You realize what that means?
    CHIANA: They’re eating the ship!
    RYGEL: Yes, but . . . we’re poor.
  • Aeryn’s so cute. (That’s all.)
  • “Crichton’s too . . . honorable.”
    “Aeryn’s too dull. And D’Argo is too–”
    “Say it.”
    “Simple?”
  • CRICHTON: [all dopey like] I’m going to go to Scorpius.
    AERYN: Frell you are. [She smacks him in the head with her rifle, and motions to D’Argo.] Carry him.
  • Loved the shot of the guy burning to death behind Scorpius in “Plan B.” Man, he’s an evil bastard.

– – –

Classic Moments in Farscape, #21

[Crichton stands alone in his quarters, rubbing his hands together and muttering something. D’Argo and Jothee walk in.]
D’Argo: John. [Crichton continues muttering, but it begins to sound more like singing.] I’ve brought my son, Jothee, to thank you.
[Crichton places chess pieces precariously onto a board, where a pulse pistol is also sitting. His hands don’t appear to fully be under his control. He is now clearly singing “Daisy Bell.”]
Crichton: Crazy . . . all for the love of you. [The chess piece keeps falling down. D’Argo approaches closer to him, clearly worried.]
D’Argo: John!
[The chess piece falls again, but this time we understand that it’s because Crichton is hearing Harvey’s voice in his head: “JohnJohnJohnJohnJohn.”]
Crichton: He’s here, and um–he blames me. He blames me for killing Scorpius, and so I’ve been trying . . . I’ve been trying to, but I can’t, I just–
D’Argo: [Grabs Crichton’s face and hauls it around, keeping his hands in place.] Trying to do what? John?
Crichton: [Seems to snap out of it once he makes eye contact.] D’Argo? Kill me. D’Argo, please. Kill me. [D’Argo just stares at him. Crichton has officially lost it.]

– – –

Coming Up on the Farscape Rewatch: “Die Me, Dichotomy”

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Comments
6 Responses to “Farscape Rewatch! — “Liars, Guns and Money,” Parts I-III”
  1. Kat says:

    Really, really, really, really can’t wait until you do “Die Me, Dichotomy.” Gawd, there’s so much in that episode to talk about (you know that already). So hurry up, okay, okay, okay?

  2. Friso says:

    Still here! Very happy to continue reading your thoughts on the series. Will post my thoughts on this asap, should I have anything to add to your thoroughly written reviews. Thanks a lot for now for your efforts!

  3. Max says:

    I really enjoyed your thoughts on the series. I was just watching for the first time and it was great reading along with you after each set of episodes. You definitely helped me reach a deeper understanding of the show which payed off big time in the later seasons. You have a great sense for the characters and tone of Farscape and your writing is really entertaining. Don’t give up!

    Thank you.

  4. Katie says:

    Wow I just found this rewatch a few days ago and only now realised it is still being updated…well I hope so!
    I have just started my own re-watch of Season 4, because I finally found a reasonably well version of it, even with German subtitles (yep, I’m from Germany…even though my English is quite good I like to think, I’m still having trouble with the Australian accent at times).
    I had started watching Farscape when it first aired around 2000, then was reminded of it when the PK Wars came out a few years later and I have been a massive fan ever since.

    So I really hope you keep up the re-watching and reviewing, I’d love to discuss that weird show with other scapers :).
    Thanks for your effort so far, I have so much stuff to catch up reading now!
    Do you mind, if I still comment on the older entries?

    Cheers,
    Katie

  5. Farscape is my current favorite obsession – love the discussion. Can’t wait to read more – Die me, Dichotomy is up there for favorite season enders and the princess trilogy next season is least favorite of the series’ two parter/three parters but still a favorite to discuss.

  6. Larry says:

    I’ve been waiting FOREVER to follow up, thank you for continuing!

    I gotta say, I had a lot of trouble with this mini-arc for a number of reasons:

    1) Stark. From the moment he gets on the ship, he’s manipulating everyone else. He has a master plan, and lies/manipulates/pushes everyone’s buttons to get them to play along, from the moment he gets onto Moya. He’s a master planner, until it goes to pieces, and then he fails the group in critical moments. He’s unreliable, even more so than Rygel or Chiana. You can count on them to be disreputable and greedy, but Stark is all over the place! He has this “I’m a noble spiritual being in a simple mortal vessel” that Zhaan grooves on, but that mortal vessel is really badly broken and riddled with cowardice, brittle bravado, and loads of sinful enjoyments.

    2) D’Argo. The Big D is so worked up about saving Jothee that he accuses anyone who doesn’t immediately support him (John) of disloyalty, while praising those who serve his cause, even if they manipulated and failed in critical moments (Stark). He wants everyone to follow his decisions, showing a critical inability to understand others that will bite him later. D’Argo effectively pushes Crichton to trade places for Jothee. He sinks pretty low during this run and his delayed regrets are too little too late.

    3) Reunion of former enemies as comrades(ish). I dislike this trope – “let’s gather together some of the fan favorite bad guys and have them help the good guys against someone else” – even though, I will admit with gritted teeth, that Farscape pulled this off better than most shows. The mercenaries are held together by very thin threads, and it takes constant renegotiation and maneuvering to keep them working together.

    4) Jothee. Introducing a close family character always disrupts the delicate team balance. I like the fact that Jothee is really far from what D’Argo imagined, but he’s going to tug at loose threads and cause trouble (and he does).

    What did I like:

    – Chiana: she may be D’Argo’s lover, but she realizes that he’s way off base about Crichton; didn’t Crichton just help her deal with being able to be with someone she wanted to go to? Why would he undermine D’Argo in his attempt? Makes no sense.

    – Aeryn: she wants no part of Stark’s mad plan (she stands furthest away; the distance/involvement metaphor was well done there) and takes command when things fall apart (repeatedly). Her position and Crichton’s are reversed; he’s the one increasingly lost at sea and she has to hold him together. Plus, in the battle at the Shadow Depository, she tacitly expresses her love for him.

    – the symbolism of money/greed corrupting and how it burns them. Lovely, wrenching.

    The pairings/parallels:
    – Zhaan/Stark: when the madcap plan is laid out, Zhaan (one spiritual being) is repulsed by the act of robbery, whereas Stark (second spiritual being) gushes about becoming filthy rich.
    – Crichton/Stark: two broken people who are on different sides of holding it together. Stark crumbles whereas Crichton improvises. But where Stark is barely holding himself together at the start and calm at the end, Crichton goes in reverse.
    – Rygel: shows that he’s so done with Durka and able to command. Sparky is showing some real mettle.

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