2.3 Taking the Stone
|March 31, 2000
The life-disc that Chiana carries as a link to someone from her past goes out as that person dies, and in a fit of depression she steals Aeryn's Prowler to escape Moya for a while. Landing on a nearby cemetary planet, she falls in with a group of death-worshipping juveniles, and it's up to John and Aeryn to talk her down from the ledge. Meanwhile, Rygel investigates making money the easy way -- stealing from the dead.
John: Be nice.
Aeryn: I'm not good at nice.
John: Just don't shoot her.
John: Lately, do I seem a little-- crazy, to you?
Aeryn: What do you mean lately?
Joyce: I thought I'd hang a few pieces in here. [The mask] cheers up the room.
Buffy: It's angry at the room, Mom. It wants the room to suffer.
Why is that quote from Buffy the Vampire Slayer up there? 'Cause I couldn't stop saying it during the Rygel B-plot. Pretty much sums up my feelings on that whole bit. While you *can* get weird spirits and dead things in the UT, and I'm sure Rygel is just the most likely person in the universe to raise poltergeists with his snerching, the idea that Moya and the others were gaslighting him does seem much more likely. The most fun part of this was watching Rygel eat the icky thing that crawled out of the mask. A decoration that comes with snack treats inside: sort of like a pinata. Yum. < gag >
This week's episode had a paper-thin plot with bits of dandelion fluff stuck to it. Forget popcorn, we're talking air-popped popcorn. Maybe not even that. This might be a pre-processed popcorn cake of an episode. Strangely, there's about 10 to 12 minutes of excellent Chiana character development drowned in totally extraneous and silly Lost Boys meets Logan's Run rip-off. (And our bud Dianne pointed out that the voguing of the clansmen is eerily akin to what would happen if you watched Karate Kid way too many times at an impressionable age. ) I expect better from my popcorn shows than this.
It might have worked if I could have understood a *thing* our guest actors were saying, but between the accents and the made-up words, I just wanted to drop them all off the Singing Bungee-Jump Cliff with gags in their mouths. It might have worked if they were actually saying anything significant about a
death-worshipping drug-tripping youth culture that might bear *any*
resemblance to our own, but they weren't. It might have worked if the plot hadn't been developed in such jerks and starts, and hadn't been so predictable. It might have worked if anyone thought there was *any* hope for this group of unstable nitwits to evolve beyond stoned death-worship. Since none of this was true, we're left with some shiny bright character bits floating in cheese string.
Zhaan had *nothing* to do (except leave Rygel to his own doom), and she was still wearing the silly turtleneck to do it in. D'Argo had *nothing* to do. Pilot got off one good snark at Crichton's expense (for messing with the navigation and sensors) then had *nothing* to do. Rygel was trapped in an episode of Scooby-Doo. Okay, they're covered for this week.
Chiana showed evidence of deep feelings and a cool backstory. Did her brother leave Nebari with her? Before her? Did he stay behind? Did he die of natural causes (at least, the Uncharted Territories' version of them) or was he executed by the psychobabblers back home? I hope we find out at some point, since this story just made me want to find out more. Gigi Edgley did a great job with a silly plot, mostly by having a consistent character arc through the ep, from grief, to anger and self-destruction, to getting past her fear of being on her own and of losing people. Even the bad hair day didn't wreck this concept. I would have liked it if she got past her fear some other way than the sonic-net jump, but hey. That's all it was there for. Starry-emotion music comes up as Chiana dives and doesn't die, and we're not surprised at all; and then John yells in victory. I guess he was worried. Why? I have no idea. Because he didn't read the last page of the script, probably... But it was a pretty sequence.
Aeryn manages to make sense and not come across as more concerned than we can believe of her. She's a fatalist, and she's not going to risk the ship by bringing a suicidal comrade back against her will. She dealt with John fairly well, too: pointing out the obvious, and trying to give him a reality check when he clearly runs a quart low on his Sanity Fuel. < roll eyes > Which brings us to Mr. Impulse Control. I swear, I never wanted to smack him *so hard* as when he took the little death mushrooms from the orange kid. This man is supposed to be an astrophysicist? Jeeez, John, we figured out the plot without taking drugs, what's your problem? < sigh >
Well, at least they're letting him realize that he's been Stress Boy since, oh, Nerve, and had Aeryn mock him for it. He's justified, but he's still been wayyy too wired. Maybe he'll snap out of it soon. Or at least listen a little sooner if Aeryn starts kicking his butt again. (Well, I can dream, right?) The sequences between John and Chiana *did* work; they were both tense and caring, when the cheezy plot didn't get in the way, which saved that portion of the episode from becoming tiresome. Chiana had a lot to work through, John didn't understand all of it, but by the end, both he and the viewers did. Cool.
The sonic jump, as mentioned, was extremely lovely, and bits of the outside planet (the lightening-in-Stonehenge look) were also cool. The claustrophobic interior of the planet was pretty bland and didn't help the plot any, and that woman with the see-through tummy just made me laugh. It looked like one of those balloons with a prize in it, I'm sorry, I kept thinking someone would get a pin and pop out the baby. Distracting. And the orange-skin look reminded me of bad self-tanning lotion. The star-effect on the eyes was very, very nice, though, and the jewelry Rygel stole made *me* greedy, so I don't blame the little slug for salivating over it.
Basically, if this is the worst of the season, we'll be in good shape. So keep your fingers crossed. Watch this one just for the Chiana bits, and maybe the Chiana-and-John bits, and ignore the rest. Unless you really feel the need to mock the Mask of Pouty Death and Rygel, as he cringes and cowers. Because some days you just have to mock Rygel, you know?
My only conclusion is that the writers were all taking drugs, which made doing an episode about druggies seem like a good idea. The writing/directing team that brought us 'A Human Reaction' falls supremely down on the job here.
Okay, that's not entirely fair. There were redeeming points to this episode, here and there. Some nice character development on Chiana, some giggle-worthy moments with Rygel, and some cool bonding between John and Chiana. But when you have no choice but to turn on the closed captions after ten minutes because you can't understand a word anyone in the guest cast is saying, Something Is Wrong. I'm not sure if they intended to do a Logan's Run/A Clockwork Orange crossover, but it sure felt that way.
The good first: Gigi Edgley does her usual impressive job with fairly substandard material. Her first, jolting entrance and desperate plea for John's attention were beautiful (and can we just smack John for being the insensitive male that he usually isn't? His timing to go Guy sucks), and the self-surgery shocking (although the girl has a physiology I don't believe, being able to cut herself open and not go into shock or bleed to death). On planet, she somehow made us empathize with her struggle with sanity/self, trying to get past her grief for her brother. It's good to know that she didn't cut all ties to Nebari, good to know she wasn't actually raised by wolves, and the last scene with her and John, as
she buried her brother's lifedisk, was both slightly tear-inducing and a major WAFF (I was smiling and sniffling, I admit it).
And Rygel was truly hysterical throughout; he's even more expressive this
year than he was last year (thank you to the Creature Shop, which
just keeps getting better) and I was having uncontrollable Daffy Duck
flashbacks through the whole robbing-the-grave routine ("Mine! Mine! All
mine!" Between me doing Daffy and Kiki doing
Buffy, fandoms were colliding all over the place). But I'm with Kiki, Rygel
was being effectively gaslighted by Moya and company. And if he wasn't, the
writers have no excuse for completely ignoring the B-plot the way they did
and not giving us more creepies to go with our poltergeist. And what the hell was Rygel doing on the planet anyway? Wouldn't oh, say, Zhaan have been a much better choice to take in pursuit of seriously disturbed Chiana? Or D'Argo, who's admitted he cares quite a bit about the kid? No, John and Aeryn elect to take Rygel. Yeah, that makes sense. Not!
But apparently John's brain was being deeply affected by mousse poisoning (his hair was even scarier this week than last week; more fandoms collided since he's apparently using the same stylist as Michael Guerin on 'Roswell' -- doing his hair with an electrical socket); very, very scary. Again, the one good thing is that, by the end, he realizes he's been psycho for about six eps (I didn't say he was psycho without reason, but he's still been completely out of control); maybe now he can start dealing with it. Eating deadly psychotropic mushrooms, yelling every three seconds, drugging Chiana.... Well, no, that one I almost approve of. Kiki and I had a running fight over who was right on this one. I gotta get behind John; if someone I care about is being actively suicidal, I'm damn well going to get her out of an environment which actively encourages this sort of thing, to an
environment where she's got a little more chance of working through it,
without people telling her that jumping off of cliffs without a bungee cord
is a Good and Happy Thing. Psychologically, yeah, Aeryn was probably right,
Chiana needed to work it out on her own. But as far as basic survival goes
-- drug that girl and drag her ass back to Moya so she'll have a
chance to work it through before going splat.
Sorry, got off track there. What was I ranting about... oh, right. Psycho
John. Fortunately, he's had Aeryn next to him to keep him reasonably sane
for the last six episodes -- and how much does that blow your mind? Didn't
John used to be the one holding Aeryn's leash? When did they change places?
Claudia Black does a good job with minimal material, holding on to her role
as the sanity of the group by the skin of her teeth, and not hauling
off and belting people who desperately deserve it. Cookie!
Unfortunately, she and Gigi were the only good things about the whole
planetside plot. Kiki dissed this much better than I can, go read hers. < g
> There were about 12 different Messages colliding (anti-drug,
anti-suicide, youth rebellion, the whole Logan's Run 'die before you're 21'
thing, sacrificing for the community, 'live fast, die young, leave a good
looking corpse', the unwillingness of a community to change even when it's
pointed out that they could live longer, etc.) but instead of making any
points, they just sort of ran over each other screaming "Care about me!
Care about me!" until we just wanted it to be over so we didn't have to try
to figure out what we were supposed to be caring about. :P It doesn't help
that we have no idea why that culture sprang up, or even what any of the
other members of the culture other than ScumBoy (aka Molnon) were like;
hell, most of the time, we couldn't even understand what they were
So, combine an incomprehensible A-plot, a drive-by B-plot, silly costumes
and a supremely anti-climactic ending (so Chiana was never actually in
danger from the jump? She could activate the sonic net by herself? Then
what the hell was John freaking about?!?), and not even Gigi Edgley's
stand-out performance could save this from being the second season's 'Jeremiah Crichton', and then some. Whee. I'm gonna go rewatch 'Now & Again'.
2.4 Crackers Don't Matter
|April 7, 2000
A trip through a pulsar field sends Moya's crew off the deep end. But as they begin to turn against each other (verbally and physically), they clear the way for a hitchiker to threaten them all.
John: Barring the Yoda factor, if he gives us any trouble, we lock him up!
John: Pip, whatcha up to?
Chiana: I'm having sex with three Hynerian donkeys, what's it look like?
John: Zhaan, where are you?
Zhaan: I'm up in the maintenance bay, John, about to have a fight with Aeryn.
Pilot: [re: Zhaan being out-of-it] She's probably just enjoying the pulsar light. She's a plant. Put her in the light, watch her smile.
Zhaan: Just enjoy it, John, enjoy it.
John: Yeah yeah yeah, have another one, Blue Girl. [Zhaan giggles] Ionic radiation gives her photogasms. Unless she's faking it, they can do that, you know. Hey Zhaan, you faking it?
Zhaan: No, no, no.... (more giggles)
Aeryn: Next time you'll be a crouton, Crichton!
Pilot: Is something the matter, Crichton?
John: It's that damn Peacekeeper bitch. She's barricaded herself in command, I think she's trying to take over the ship.
Pilot: I'm aware of her actions.
John: Well, shut her down! Lights, power, all of it!
Pilot: [In a dead-on imitation of the HAL 2000] I'm sorry, John. I can not do that.
Scorpius: Revenge is a dish best served cold, and you like revenge, don't you?
John: Shut up! ... I hate when villains quote Shakespeare.
D'Argo: Go on, kill me.
Scorpius: Go on, John, do it! Then we can go to the beach. I know a place with naked Sebacean women and margarita shooters!
Aeryn [after shooting it out with John, during a pause in the action] Have you got any spare cartridges?
Zhaan: Stop bothering me! I'm busy.
John: Yes yes yes, private moment number 344! Tell them.
Zhaan: You tell them.
Zhaan: When I was near T'raltixx, I was more affected more than when I was in the light. He made me feel....
John: Enough! Go for 345.
John: I got great eyes, they're better than 20/20, and they're blue!
Chiana: Okay, so can you read the symbols on that test basin over there?
John: There's nothing there!
Rygel: (snort) [reads] Warning: ---
D'Argo: --- don't flush corrosives---
Aeryn: ---down the waste tunnel.
John: That's a joke, right?
Aeryn: Excellent. If we're gonna let Blue Eyes save the day, we'd better come up with a very good plan.
John: I'm not deficient. I'm superior! Humans are superior.
John: Does this strike any of you superior beings as ironic?
John: That I'm the deficient one and I'm still saving your butts!
[John, clad as a cross between Joxer the Mighty and Don Quixote, strikes a disco pose and stabs the Q'alta blade in the air while humming "Ride of the Valkyries"]
Aeryn: We are going to die.
T'raltixx: You can't stop me, Crichton! I have the light!
John: But humans are superior!
John: Listen, anything I said....
Aeryn: I know... Me too.
(Late, I know. VERY late. But hey: I may have passed that test! This is important too!)
How something so funny can be so wince-worthy is a either a testament to how well-written this episode is, or the genuine over-the-top talent of the actors involved. Personally, I think it's the actors who gave it the edge over the writing: in the wrong hands, "Crackers" could have been simply mean-spirited. One of FARSCAPE's best things is funny conflict, and this episode goes right next to Looking Glass and Throne for a Loss in the sheer insanity department. I can't imagine the cast of any of the ST shows pulling this off, partly because their characters aren't so sharply written, but also because those actors aren't allowed to take these kind of chances. While it's plenty harsh in spots, the unavoidable giggling cushions the blows until the end, and most of those come out of the edgy, manic performances. The directing is equally brilliant, keeping up the mood of a Looney-Toons cartoon on laughing gas until the inevitable hangover after the villain is gone.
T'raltixx definitely has that Yoda factor going for him, not to mention the Spiderman jammies, and the Evil Big-Headed Villain voice and attitude. I'm still a little fuzzy on why, exactly, a glow-in-the-dark Moya would be of use to *anyone*--- but so what? The point is, he did a super job of screwing up the crew's concentration until it was almost too late, and he did it while being creepy and scary because of the sheer chaos he caused. He was subtle, never smug, thoroughly obsessed, and he almost pulled it (whatever "it" was) off. I'm glad he's dead, but I'm *also* glad that the manner of his death, going down shrieking threats and insults and "we shall returns" leaves the door open for others of his wall-crawling light-zapping kind to come back and orchestrate pandemonium. Of course, by using everyone's worst impulses as his defenses, T'raltixx managed to be an efficient villain, and leave the screen free for our Merry Crew to cheerfully verbally (and nearly literally) eviscerate each other while he's busy. Gotta admire that. A true challenge in villainhood is so rare to find; applause for our guest actor, and for Justin Monjo, who managed to finesse a way around having the villain dominate the plot.
Zhaan's--- well, Zhaan's just having *fun*. And can we blame her? I don't think so. I'd like to see anyone in our studio audience straight-facedly claim to handle her situation better under similar circumstances. (Ahem!) Rygel's acting barely any different from usual --- oh, a little more manic, a little more mouthy, maybe, but otherwise, same ol' Cranky. Although that scene of him letting the Farscape run just a *leetle* too long for safety with such wicked glee was just a joy to watch. Nothing will be massively different for these two after this episode, although Rygel will no doubt be making D'Argo pay, and pay, for as long as he can get away with it. (Which, given "The Way We Weren't" couldn't have been long.) Kudos to Virginia Hey for keeping a straight face throughout (well, sort of) and the Rygel crew for actually making me feel *sorry* for the little monster when D'Argo tried to shove the crackers down his throat.
Chiana and D'Argo have lots of interesting little bits of weirdness going on between them this week: their interactions swing from conspiratory to flirtatious to sisterly-brotherly to adversarial with barely a moment to catch your breath, all of it making you giggle as they get more paranoid every second, as well as twitchier and squeakier and moodier. A lot of that was due to the pulsar light--- but it's *really* cool how I have no idea where they're going to end up on the emotional spectrum with these two. Anthony Simcoe and Gigi Edgley are just letting every emotion they can come up with be implied by their performances. Reading anything definitive into these exchanges is impossible as yet because there's too many possibilities. (Side note: D'Argo's tan is more convincing now, but someone, please, check Gigi's body make-up --- in certain lights it looks like she ordered Body Blush by Victoria's Secret, and didn't apply it properly!)
Aeryn's strung-out hysteria would only be insanely funny if Claudia Black didn't dial back her performance every once in a while to an equally hysterical but lower-intensity sarcasm that makes the giggly bits all the funnier. But any actress who'll eat crackers out of her own cleavage while being threatened by John doing his Nicholson impression knows how to make the most of the material she's handed.
Pilot is wonderful in extra-snarky and paranoid mode; now that Moya's not pregnant, he doesn't seem to see any reason to be merciful to anyone. Whoever put Lani up to that HAL 2000 imitation should get major cookies. Not to mention the scene insulting John so very baldly and thoroughly about the abilities of humans; which segues wonderfully into the "inferior" riff that everyone participates in a little while later.
John does save their butts all too often on this show, mostly because he can think outside the box. That's what he's good at, that's his ability that trumps strength-stamina-speed-knowledge. He comes out on top of this week's conflict not because he's keeping it together marginally better than his shipmates (because, actually, he's not; I didn't see anyone else hallucinating Scorpy as Mr. Roarke!), but because he's sneakier than the others, and a tiny bit more focused. Going nuts may be something he can't help--- but it doesn't *distract* him. I'm glad they're acknowledging and mocking one of their own trends, here, 'cause it keeps John's character from getting too predictable, and it makes every instance where he saves them easier to take.
Ben Browder is over-the-top, but it's just barely noticeable in the middle of everyone else's cartoon-vivid craziness (I'm thinking Aeryn with the gun to her head, here, laughing maniacally. Hoooo boy). And most of the time John's half-aware of how nuts he sounds--- which makes the points where he really does go ballistic from frustration even better. The scene with Chiana is, as Perri says, ugly--- but on second viewing, some of the worst ugliness was coming from Scorpy, so it's understandable that Pip wasn't more upset by the end. (Which doesn't make it easier to watch, just to understand, and to believe that it's not all John's head at work here).
The Wile E.-Coyote-meets-John-Woo argument-shoot-out with Aeryn has to be one of the best bits; not in spite of how ugly the insults eventually get, but because of it. They really could've killed each other here, given more ammo and less control, but equally, you can see that their words are hitting their targets, underneath the giggly rage. The two of them vibing at each other, practically mouth-to-mouth in the middle of one of those arguments--- sooo funny, but sooo tense.
John's punch-drunk execution of T'raltixx caps the whole hour's worth of giggling and anger perfectly, and then we're all left with the bad aftertaste of rage and hysteria as they all try to apologize to each other, and forget how nasty things got while they were high on the light. Like coming down from an alcohol binge mixed with caffeine, it'll take a while for the effects to wear off. Meanwhile, we're left with a nifty little device that may (or may not) work as a cloaking unit for the Farscape I, a load of crushed crackers, one extra "wanted" beacon, and a lot of things for the crew to forget, if they can. (Except for the Don Quixote imitation. I don't think *anyone* can forget that. )
And the answer to the question, "Why was Taking the Stone so mediocre?" is "Because Justin Monjo was working way too hard on this episode. I say way too hard because he did too damn well. < shudder >
Picture your Tour Guides on the phone watching 'Crackers'. Watch them prepare for yet another Every Crew Member Loses All Inhibitions episode of an sf series. See them fall off the bed in gales of laughter by halfway through. Watch them have to stop their respective tapes for a laughter break as John prepares to be heroic, because they can no longer hear the dialogue or actually focus enough to be able to see the screen. Join them when all laughter is abruptly stilled, sanity returns and hearts start breaking. We've been on a roller coaster ride like this before, in the unforgettable 'Through the Looking Glass', but everyone was smiling and happy when that one ended. Ain't nobody happy at the end of 'Crackers', except maybe the born-to-repress Chiana and Zotoh 'I Just Got Laid 250 Times and Don't Actually Remember Much Else' Zhaan.
Even hearing everything coming out of John and Aeryn's mouth (Ouch. Was that little snipefest in Command the worst or what? Like hearing your parents fight), and knowing who Aeryn was aiming for with those blasters, it was impossible not to be giggling in the same horrified way we giggle at Rygel when he tries to steal John's boots. The hits of hilarity just kept unfolding, from John's take-off of The Shining to Pilot's dead-perfect Hal impersonation, from D'Argo shoving crackers down Rygel's throat (I know, I know, but... come on. This is Rygel. He almost certainly deserves it) to Pilot's wonderfully snarky "Put her in the sun. See her smile." And Scorpius in a Hawaiian shirt... like Mr. Raines in a leather thong, some things no amount of therapy will erase (they pay Wayne Pygram to do this stuff? Can I be an actor, too?). But Your Tour Guides didn't completely lose it until John dressed up in his best Monty Python meets Joxer the Mighty (that can't have been a coincidence!) costume, and stuck a disco pose as the music swelled heroically, and Aeryn realized they were all going to die.
Yes, a truly, hysterically funny episode, not ruined by a Trekkian 'last five minutes of Act Four, let's explain about the villain in technical detail and give all the reasons why he is like he is, then anguish about what to do with him.' No. John kills his ass and the hell with questions and reasons. Don't know why, don't care why, just make it stop! Yay! (Not terribly good for John's already precarious psyche, as his body count continues to mount, but the viewers certainly appreciated it.)
And then... the tag. As everything they've said and done in the last little while strikes Moya's crew, and the self-loathing hits. As near as I can tell, not one single person, with the exception of Rygel, holds a grudge against anyone else for anything (and Rygel's mostly only holding a grudge out of 'my turn to be self-righteous' pique). It's themselves they can't forgive. Take D'Argo -- he's a warrior, and he's cheerfully threatened to kill Rygel many a time, and I don't think he'd mourn if he had to. It's bullying him that really gets D'Argo -- using his strength and skills against someone so much smaller and weaker than he is. It goes against all those warrior honor codes, and his own personal honor codes, and it's going to give him something to angst interminably about for, like, ever. (I'm sorry, it's Rygel. I can't get too worked up about it.)
Pilot smarts more than a little. Alien Boy played him like a harp, and he must have worked hard to find something to mess with Pilot's mind. Pilot has stated over and over that he and Moya need a crew, to have someone to take care of, if nothing else. T'raltixx driving him to deny his crew, despite everything they've helped do for Moya -- Pilot's not going to handle that too well, methinks.
And Chiana got to watch both of her official Big Brothers go nuts and try to kill each other, then have her favorite, John, turn on her. The only time prior to the tag that I was truly, deeply uncomfortable, was when John had Chiana up against that wall. < shudder > I'm glad she's either just genuinely impressed (which I'd be inclined to believe; they're strange at that age) or she's repressing really well. Yow.
It's a cinch John isn't gonna forget anytime soon. The only ones he didn't inflict damage on (either physical or emotional) were Rygel and Zhaan, mostly because D'Argo beat him to it. He physically and emotionally abused Chiana, whom he has always protected; he shot D'Argo, whom he deeply respects; and he verbally and physically assaulted Aeryn, of whom he is fanatically protective, hitting every weak spot in her armor with an absolutely nasty precision. He could help his crewmates, especially Aeryn, get through any kind of injury -- except the ones he inflicts himself.
And Aeryn wasn't too damn much better, hitting back just as nastily and just as precisely. The wounds these two left on each other are going to be the worst; because they were the closest, they knew where the other was vulnerable and used that ruthlessly. Not only hurt and wounded feelings, but that awful feeling of betrayal. This, from the pair who were quite happily snuggling in Pilot's den together not three episodes ago. Ow, ow, ow.... I hope they figure out that that wasn't the 'real them' talking, just the 'worst them'. And that they figure they're about even as far as insults, verbal attacks and attempted homicide go. Everyone goes DarkSider sometimes, guys, and this time it was out of your control.
< sigh > Somehow, I don't think that's gonna help much. And neither is the next episode, judging from those trailers..... An outstanding episode, taking us to the heights of hilarity and the depths of depression in a whirlwind that left us feeling liked we'd just gotten pulsar stoned, too. Justin, you are hereby forgiven for last week; the Farscape cast is proven, once again, to rock beyond human comprehension (particularly Ben and Lani; John and Pilot were both dead perfect); Ian, man, pass out motion sickness pills before you direct next, time, okay? You do good work, but our stomachs need a little assistance for some of those camera angles. This episode is going to get rewatched fairly frequently -- but wow, am I fast-forwarding through some of it. And no more watching of the tag.