Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Farscape: Rhapsody in Blue

Rhapsody in Blue
My Farscape rewatch continues with "Rhapsody in Blue," one of those punnish titles the writers were ever so fond of.

Crichton dreams himself back on Earth, at an earlier time, lounging around the bedroom with his girlfriend, Alex. After exchanging pillow talk/banter, Alex informs Crichton that yes, she has accepted the position at Stanford, which will separate her and him, effectively ending their relationship. A heartbroken Crichton reaches down and pushed an engagement ring under the bed to hide it from her. A sudden starburst jars him awake, and reaching the bridge he learns Moya's detected a pregnant leviathan's distress call. Other crew members experienced dreams reuniting them with lost spouses. Upon reaching the location, however, they find no leviathan, only a planet with a small enclave of Delvians. The leader, Tahleen, apologizes for mental deception she used to draw them to the planet, but she needs to meet with Zhaan. Wary, Crichton, Aeryn, D'Argo and Zhaan descend to the planet, where they are greeted warmly. Many years before, Zhaan was an angry, violent anarchist, but used the mental disciplines she learned as a Delvian priestess to gain mastery over her impulses. Tahleen wants Zhaan to mind-meld and share this discipline with her, because this enclave of Delvians had unlocked great mental powers that are slowly driving them all insane. Without Zhaan's discipline, they are all doomed--which conveniently explains why they can't wait around and learn it themselves over a period of years/decades as Zhaan had.

Zhaan is suspicious and reluctant. She goes to Crichton for advice, and so that he truly understands what is at stake, has Tahleen project a mental image of Zhaan mind-melding (they call it "Unity" here, but who are we kidding?) with her lover, Bitaal, a high Delvian muckety-muck who participated in a coup on Delvia, ruining lives and imperiling their world. So Zhaan killed him with her mind during their unity. Cold. Crichton's not too happy, but Zhaan needed him to see what she had once been. Conflicted that Tahleen may use her powers to harm whilst also freeing Delvia, Zhaan waffles, but eventually agrees to help. Determined that the crew of Moya not interfere, Tahleen has her followers distract them with mental projections and false memories. Crichton suddenly finds himself with Alex, who was his co-pilot on the Farscape project. D'Argo chases after Peacekeepers who appear to have his son, Jothee. Rygel shrinks to a very tiny size. Aeryn's pulse rifle falls apart and she cannot reconstruct it. Tahleen and Zhaan complete unity, and while Tahleen is clearly stronger, the madness has also taken root in Zhaan. Tahleen is not satisfied, though, as she still doesn't have all the mental power she craves. She intends to mind-meld with Zhaan again to take every last bit of mental discipline, even if it kills Zhaan. Crichton argues with Alex about helping Zhaan, and Alex plays every sort of guilt trip card available. Finally, the the Delvian reveals herself and admits Alex was a construct, and says Crichton's devotion to Zhaan convinced her Tahleen's path is wrong. Crichton finds Zhaan, who is halfway into the deep end, and mind-melds with her to save her. Zhaan, obsessing over the darkness within, sees herself as Crichton sees her: Noble, gentle, caring, wise. This gives her anchor and she regains control. Tahleen attempts to destroy Crichton's mind, but Zhaan blocks her--the unity worked both ways, and Zhaan picked up some of Tahleen's mental abilities, rising to a 10th-level Pa'u in the process. They then return to Moya, but Zhaan leaves the vestments of a Pa'u behind, as she deems herself no longer worthy.

Commentary: This episode gives some much-welcome backstory on Delvian society, although the big reveal about the biological nature of their species still remains in the future. Curiously, some Delvians have hair. This is never explained. Considering the fact that Vinginia Hey departs the series, in part because of the need to remain bald for the role, I find this quite curious. It is obvious from the first moment Tahleen appears on the screen that this benevolent religious sect is anything but, but seeing the power-grab play out is interesting. As far as allegory goes, portraying the double-edged sword that is religion works pretty well, even if it is heavy-handed. And although Zhaan has been a Vulcan analog from Star Trek from the get-go (raging, dark emotions threaten to take control and lead to madness if discipline is not maintained, anyone?) the politics of their society along with their amplified mental abilities distinguish them and help stake out their own identity. Zhaan is progressively less of a Vulcan analog from here on out. Not anywhere close to being among my favorite episodes, but it's entertaining nonetheless.

Crichton Quote of the Episode:: "It's like Disney on acid! Ten years of really great sex all at the same moment!"

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