Sunday, December 30, 2012

Farscape: Back And Back And Back to the Future

Farscape episode 5 Back And Back And Back to the Future
My Farscape rewatch continues (after a bit of a break through December) with "Back And Back And Back to the Future." The fifth episode produced, this is the first one filmed in the "American style" as opposed to the "Australian style" for series, in that all the production effort focused on the single episode as opposed to the filming of two simultaneously. I'm not certain there is any difference apparent to the casual viewer, but to me,it seems as if character development takes a strong step up to the forefront of the show.

The episode opens, as they often do, with an alien space craft disintegrating amidst a strange green cloud. The crew of Moya rescue two survivors in a shuttle--Ilanics, a race that is a genetic offshoot of Luxans. D'Argo immediately feels kinship to them, and pledges to help the elderly male, Verell, and his female companion, Matala. Crichton, checking the shuttle for any other survivors, gets zapped by strange green glowing energy and begins to experience strange time-loops, like deja vu set to stutter. D'Argo is hot to trot for Matala, not having enjoyed female companionship for many years, and gets all esprit de corps when he learns the Ilanics and Luxans are at war with an invading race known as Scorvians. Crichton's flash-forwards grow progressively more disturbing, starting with Matala sexually assaulting him and culminating with her killing pretty much everyone on board Moya, Crichton included. His attempt to discuss the situation with D'Argo only generates hostility and jealousy from the Luxan, while Zhaan and Aeryn are skeptical. Aeryn, though, doesn't like Matala and invites her to a "friendly" martial arts sparring match. Aeryn essentially kicks Matala's butt, to the point Matala responds with a scorpion-like hand-strike that leaves Aeryn paralyzed in the workout room. When Aeryn recovers, she finds Crichton and Zhaan in conversation--one Crichton experiences over and over. Aeryn reveals Matala is a Scorvian in disguise, exposed by her distinctive hand-strike. Crichton finally convinces them of the accuracy of his future flashes by finishing their sentences before them and generally predicting everything that happens moments before it does. They uncover that Verell is a weapons expert, and has harnessed a singularity to use as a weapon against the Scorvians--and Matala is a Scorvian spy intent on stealing it.

Most future courses of action result in the deaths of Moya's crew, or even the destruction of Moya by the captive black hole weapon aboard the shuttle. As a Scorvian ship approaches to collect the weapon, Crichton has a flash-forward in which he overhears D'Argo telling Matala he has not revealed to his companions on Moya the true crime for what he was initially imprisoned by the Peacekeepers for. Once back in the present, Crichton confronts D'Argo with this information--which D'Argo has revealed to nobody at this point--proving his time-jump story. Reluctantly, D'Argo joins Crichton in confronting Matala, who stabs Verell and flees D'Argo and Crichton. She gets into the shuttle and flees to the approaching Scorvian ship, but Verell, in his last, dying act, remotely triggers the singularity which consumes both the shuttle and Scorvian ship. Moya escapes via starburst.

Commentary: This is an interesting episode in many ways. As I mentioned above, character takes center stage more than it has in previous episodes. D'Argo, apart from the arrogant bluster, is shown as vulnerable and isolated. His character deepens considerably, although his true crime is not revealed. The fact that he has a secret burden is fascinating. He also develops an unwilling bond with Crichton, since Crichton was astute enough not to "out" D'Argo's secret with any other crew around to witness, thus preserving a portion of D'Argo's private dignity. The appearance of the Ilanics further defines the broad universe of Farscape, laying out alliances and a sprawling interrelated universe of widely- and closely-related species. And while the Moya crew is just as dysfunctional as ever, the classic Jim Henson theme of "family is what you make it" shows up pretty overtly here for the first time. D'Argo is quick to abandon, or at least sideline, his crewmates on Moya for a race that is historically and genetically closely allied with his own. But this alliance of blood turns on him and leaves him vulnerable--it is the uneasy friendships he has forged on Moya (namely Crichton, but also Zhaan and Aeryn) who really have his back when the chips fall. Also, Crichton unambiguously takes command of the situation for the first time.

Quote of the Episode:: D'Argo: "Crichton, I am normally unaffected by females during a crisis... it is just... it has been so long..."
Crichton: "Now that, I understand. Man, do I understand."

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