Monday, November 12, 2012

Farscape: I, E.T.

My Farscape re-watch continues with the second episode, "I, E.T." Although it is officially the second episode, it didn't originally air until after "Thank God It's Friday, Again." It really makes the viewer wonder why networks and/or cable channels insist on airing episodes out of order. I can't discern any valid purpose in doing so (in this instance at least).

A Peacekeeper beacon booby-trap hidden aboard Moya abruptly begins transmitting a homing signal, one certain to bring Crais and the Peacekeeper Command Carrier running right to Moya's location in the Uncharted Territories. Not to mention the piercing audio component causes Crichton to suffer uncontrolled facial tics. To muffle the signal while the crew devises a way to silence it for good, they attempt the risky move of actually landing Moya on a nearby watery planet. Leviathans live their entire lives in space, but legends of Leviathans touching a planet's surface and living to tell about it convince the reluctant Moya. They land, and Moya submerges into the mud of a swamp. Crichton, Aeryn and D'Argo leave the ship to look for a particular type of naturally-occurring anesthetic effective on Leviathans, while the diminutive Rygel squeezes into the space behind the bulkhead and begins the process of cutting the homing beacon out of Moya's neural net. Zhaan, the Delvian priestess, uses her abilities to absorb some of the intense pain away from Moya.

Before long, Crichton, D'Argo and Aeryn get separated when a search party of natives--generally human-looking with the exception of odd ears--attempt to capture them. Crichton hides in a barn adjacent to a radio telescope, and is subsequently knocked out by a young boy packing some sort of taser wand. The boy's mother--who initially called in the report of a UFO to the authorities--holds Crichton captive, but eventually comes to realize how lost and unthreatening he is. She lets him go, Crichton rescues D'Argo--who'd managed to get captured--and they escape back to Moya just in time to throw the numbing chemical on Rygel's surgery and effective an escape back into space.

Commentary: Weak episode, I'm sorry to say. As much as Farscape distinguished itself with originality, this plot comes off as a tired re-tread of a basic premise used for at least one episode of every Star Trek series, plus the original Battlestar Galactica and quite possibly Buck Rogers and Babylon 5, although I can't quite recall specific episodes. The military's interest in capturing the aliens is perfunctory, with no socio-political commentary developed to any real extent. The entire plot consists of a by-the-numbers series of events without depth. Huge hints are given out that the "anesthetic" Crichton and friends are out looking for is actually salt, which isn't really clever and has no payoff. In fact, the "quest for salt" has no real payoff as the surgery on Moya is completed without it (yes, the salt numbs her pain enough to launch off the planet, but come on, the whole wrap-up is entirely anti-climactic). The best thing to be said about the episode is that the slower pace of the plot allowed for some much-needed character development. D'Argo is still a one-note "Fight first, ask questions later" dope, but Rygel gets a little depth, showing that underneath his pompous self-importance lies a core that will come through when it counts the most. Aeryn remains angry about her circumstances and Zhaan is the compassionate caregiver. Pilot is still something of a mystery, but his uncertainty and far-from-omniscient knowledge of Moya are interesting touches that hint at interesting backstory to come. Also, we get to see commlink badges used by Moya's crew, which are never used again as far as I can recall. Farscape was great at introducing little bits of detail that were ultimately discarded as not worth the effort.

Crichton Quote of the Episode: "Kinda like Louisiana... or Dagobah. Dagobah. Where Yoda lives."

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