2.6 Picture If You Will
||April 21, 2000
A bargain-shopping trip nets Chiana an intriguing painting --- which brings the crew back into contact with an evil adversary.
John:Are you always going to do this?|
Aeryn: Do what?
John: Keep the entire world at a distance? Keep everybody away? Is that ever gonna change?
D'Argo: John.... You've been a good friend. Whatever happens, it's been a pleasure knowing you.
John: D'Argo... Shut up! Have you never heard of a self-fulfilling prophecy?
John: Haven't you read the SuperVillain's Handbook? This is where you're supposed to twirl your mustache and gloat.
Maldis: Have you forgotten? Fear makes me stronger. Fear and the terror of helplessness. These are a few of my favorite things.
John:Oh, could you do that 'Farewell Good-bye" song the kids sing? It's one of my favorites.
Maldis: I don't do requests!
Maldis: Your mind to me is an open book. Full of big print and pictures!
John: Then read this: kiss.... [sends mental image]
Chiana: You don't scare me! Bigger the talk, smaller the action!
John: That was your plan!?
Zhaan: Yes. Like it?
John: Well, what's not to like?
Rygel: Best not ponder questions like these.
Chiana: Forget about it. Just sit back and enjoy the happy ending.
John: So, what do you think, Zhaan? That sum'bitch gone for good this time?
Zhaan: With a being like Maldis, we can never be entirely certain.
John: Zhaan, this would have been a really good opportunity to lie to me. 'Sure, John, he's toast, strike him off your Christmas list, stick a fork in him he's done, he's over, the fat lady is singing....' It does not have to be true. But I certainly would have slept better.
Grumble grumble grumble grumble.... I can't make up my mind whether to be mad at the promos SciFi Channel ran, or not. They pretty much gave away the identity of This Week's Special Friend going into it, so that seeing our old pal Maldis again was no surprise. On the other hand, I have to admit that the second I saw the obviously-in-drag gypsy shopkeep, the first word out of my mouth was "Maldis!" and probably would have been even if I hadn't expected him. Something about the glitter. The guy just can't stay away from accessories. Still, a little more suspense would have been a cool thing. Being fairly sure that Chiana wasn't *really* dead took the edge off the episode for me. I kept waiting for old Yellow Eyes to pop in and cackle maniacally already. |
The important thing to remember about making return engagements is: can you top your last act? David Copperfield doesn't disappear the Statue of Liberty twice. All the magic's gone the second time. Maldis does top himself this time out, drawing not just John and Zhaan into his little Wonderland, but Chiana and D'Argo as well. He's also still as evil, arrogant, and nasty as they come; still pompous as all get out and seemingly invincible, telling people that he knows they're scared, no matter how brave they act. Don't you just want to hit him? Don't you just hate that he'd get a contact high from it? The most frustrating aspect of dealing with Maldis is that he only has to be conscious in order to be halfway to winning; your own dark side does most of the work for him.
Chris Haywood has so much fun chewing the scenery and swishing his new cool drapey-robe-thing around that I almost want to root for him, except that Maldis is malicious enough for me to want something bigger, a space amoeba or a black hole maybe, to come along and swallow him. Ha! There's predation and the food chain for you, Maldis! In my opinion, he is not dead enough. No. He has to come back and be killed again. Molecular diaspora across the surface of a star would give me a happy sunny feeling. Yeah!
And yet, without Crais and the revelation of Zhaan's dark side to give some weight to the story, and missing part of the suspense, this particular ep seems to lack... something. I couldn't tell you what, and maybe it's just that I knew too much in advance of the characters. Focus, maybe? Or maybe it's wondering what the heck is up with that picture, or the reality-realm they got sucked into, or Maldis's hand coming out of the wall like that--- stuff which they never really fully explain (as Chiana's "just go with the happy ending" speech emphasizes a little too well). There's a lot of great smaller bits, but the overall ep lacks some of the zing of That Old Black Magic.
Chiana's a trip to watch here because she's so very much a teenager. The fascination with the painting, the almost-seduction of D'Argo, the sheer terror when she thinks she's going to die --- she's just *fun*, the way screwed-up adolescents are. Because they don't shut up and they don't ever quit and they insist on making things happen; all the reasons that everyone misses her when they think she's 'gone.' The genuine grief they express after her death is enjoyable in an angsty way, especially if you're sure (as I was) that she's not really dead. Lots of guilt to go around, lots of anger, lots of misdirected grief--- detailed dysfunctional reactions from all and sundry.
Aeryn's reaction is particularly poignant after watching last week's ep; half-analyzing the situation, half-accusing Pilot (and herself) of screwing up, Claudia Black does her always-note-perfect job in this small bit, as well as shooting Kyven without even thinking later. Ha! It would be hard for Maldis to undermine someone who doesn't allow fear to influence any of her homicidal impulses. Gotta admire that. John, faced with Maldis, keeps it together pretty well, considering what a picnic he was *not* last time. Which makes up for the gradually escalating paranoia that's becoming part of Crichton's usual attitude. Oy! Yeah, right, John, let's all just hole up in Moya until spring comes, and it's safe to leave the cave.... Pilot (and Lani Tupu) has little to do this week, and after TWWW, I'm kind of relieved. Not sure I could take too much more Pilot angst right now. (Ow.) He's concerned and upset while they think Chiana is dead, but most of the time he's on a fairly even keel.
D'Argo's nicely fatalistic when given a chance, which is consistent with his last brush with this little psycho-psychic realm--- he was completely spooked in TOBM by the implication that John's soul had been ripped out. Not helpful, granted, but in character. And my! My my my. He was perfectly calm and non-reactionary and almost paternal when Chiana was definitely throwing herself at him in the early parts of the ep--- but he was also clearly rattled when she landed on top of him on their way out of Wonderland. Hmmm. Are we going to see more invasions of personal space here pretty soon? I wonder if Rygel will let me buy into the ship's betting pool on those two....
His Sneakiness is just... shake-able. I'm not quite over last week, I admit (even if it happened *after* this ep, in the filming/real-time order). I think he was sorry Chiana was dead, in as far as he can be sorry about such things; but his cold-blooded "compensation" interest made me want to smack him again. Gahhh. Not a good ep for Sparky.
Zhaan remains a mystery. She was faking a lot of her fear--- but how much? Did she help John get zapped in order to buy them some time to set up Maldis, or because she was trying to find a way out for herself? The cool thing about Virginia Hey's performance is you can never quite forget that Zhaan is capable of startling acts of violence in self-defense. Then she justifies them later, and no matter how honest about that side of herself she is when given the chance, it doesn't make her trustworthy. Most of her whimpering was probably making her own fear work for her until the time was right, in order to throw the bad guy off; she certainly recovered and went for his throat fast enough after Aeryn zapped him. But what if that hadn't worked out? How panicked and out-of-it *was* she?
Some questions you really can't answer. Will Maldis show up again? Count on it. Will the crew of Moya get off so easy next time? Ooo, not so easy to call. Will D'Argo and Chiana get closer? Will John ever take a Valium? Will someone space Rygel real soon now?
Tune in this June, campers. We aren't getting any new answers any sooner than that, but you can gnash your teeth along with your Tour Guides during reruns.
Personally, I have no mixed feelings -- I'm ticked off the promos spoiled the plot so much. How much cooler would it have been to be surprised when Maldis showed up, or have gotten to figure it out myself. < pout >|
That aside, Moya's crew really has to learn one basic rule of raising adolescents -- the best way to get a teenage girl to do something is to tell her not to. Particularly *this* teenage girl. Maldis played her perfectly, giving her the picture as a present (and he's probably right; I doubt she's has many gifts in her life), then playing on her imagination and fears -- the ones no one else would believe. While the death of Zhaan or Aeryn might have had more emotional impact on the crew, Maldis judged them well and hit them where it only hurt really, really bad, to start accusations and guilt flying in all directions, without quite crippling them. Poor kid.
Gotta love D'Argo all episode -- fatalist he might be, but not one who actually wants to know his fate. He wants a reason to keep fighting, no matter what. And he does love Chiana quite a bit, putting up with the usual amount of teenage crap with dignity and respect, even when it's making him massively uncomfortable, and not being willing to take even the slightest chance with her safety. If the portrait looks even a little dangerous -- out it should go. If she's scared enough to need to be in the freezer, in there she shall be. And if she's dying in front of him, he'll freak. You almost have to envy Jothee -- when he and D'Argo get hooked up again, he's going to have one hell of a dad.
Aeryn's upbringing is showing; somehow, I doubt a young Peacekeeper girl's imagination was indulged even slightly in the barracks. She's impatient with Chiana because she doesn't see any reason to be otherwise, doesn't see why the others should indulge her. That may, in fact, be why she and Chiana have so many problems -- can we say 'sibling rivalry'? Both of them regard John and D'Argo as the two most important men in their lives (although Pilot probably holds equal status for Aeryn) and Aeryn at least had John's exclusive attention before Chiana came on board. Now she's got a girl being indulged and cared for far more than she ever was at the same age, and said girl is major competition for the guys, for Aeryn's territory. The wonder is actually that they haven't had more chick fights. But Aeryn regretted Chiana's 'death' deeply -- judging by her homicidal rage at Maldis' alter-ego -- which might help instill a little more patience next time.
Zhaan is pretty cool throughout, particularly when assaulting Rygel for playing with her toys. But she's good with Chiana, taking her more seriously than anyone else, and, as before, she's the only one who can take Maldis down. He continues to underestimate her, and I think she keeps underestimating herself, actually; she may have been as utterly terrified as she seemed, but she used it instead of being used by it. And let's face it, Kiki was right -- Maldis just isn't quite as terrifying this time around. Part of that is probably because we knew it was him, which stole quite a lot of the creepiness from the ep, but also... well, Kiki nailed it, go read her analysis. But I did love them bringing the whole Unity thing back into play, even if I'm uncertain how it flew below Maldis' mental radar.
John's trust issues are getting weirder and weirder. His little spat with Aeryn when she idly wishes to get rid of their troublemakers, shows he's still smarting over the 'inferior human' and 'don't need anyone' portions of the 'Crackers' fights, and he was at least partly serious about sealing Moya up and never letting anyone on again. Their track record so far isn't stellar, true, but he's becoming terrified of outsiders now, his paranoia continuing to rise to grand new heights where his family's safety is concerned, and the fact that it keeps getting justified isn't helping! Nor did seeing Chiana and D'Argo 'die'; he freaked at Zhaan when a few months ago, he would have been reasonably calm. (The combination of the Aurora Chair and seeing Gilina die in his arms did some serious damage to that boy's mental health, not helped by the ensuing events of 'Family Ties'.) Can we say 'Therapy'? Something's going to break in him eventually, if it hasn't already....
Aeryn's trust issues aren't helping either. Those two need to be locked in a closet somewhere until they talk, I mean it -- and was anyone else noticing that this episode and 'The Way We Weren't' were shown out of order? It only really showed in the tension between John and Aeryn, left over from 'Crackers' and dealt with in a closet-like way in 'TWWW', but you couldn't miss it.
I'm not gonna talk about Rygel. I'm annoyed with Rygel. Rygel is a jerk. :P And DRDs are busy little guys, hunting down lost necklaces, doing maintenance, helping John and D'Argo, hanging around sticking to the walls for no apparent reason... Good thing there's so many of them.< g >
Not as emotionally taut an episode as last week, but we couldn't handle that every time anyway. Andrew Prowse has us reaching for the Dramamine as fervently as we ever did with Ian Watson, but it makes Maldis' little play world as disorienting for us as it is for our happy crew members. Not quite the return I'd hoped for for Maldis (and we're going to have to find new ways to kill him when he comes back again), but he chewed the carpet in fine form and I'm not actually disappointed. And compared to next week's 'Jeremiah Crichton', this was high art.
2.7 Home on the Remains
|Gabrielle Stanton & Harry Werksman, Jr.
||June 16, 2000
A serious food shortage on Moya leads them back to an old stomping ground of Chiana's, where she, D'Argo, John, and Rygel attempt to obtain supplies. But something deadly is going on in the mining camp, and Zhaan may become a homicidal example of horticulture if Aeryn and Pilot can't stop her de-evolution in time.
John: Breakfast. |
Aeryn: Dentics?! You can't eat dentics!
John: Fried dentics. You can eat anything if it's fried.
Aeryn: I'll pass!
John: Suit yourself, Jenny Craig, but I'm hungry.
[John tries to eat one, gags, then shoves the rest in Rygel's mouth]
Aeryn: Obviously, not *that* hungry.
Aeryn: Oh, that's just great. I get to stay on board with a flaming blue bush and you get to play with your favorite tralk!
Chiana: I have a plan!
John: D'Argo, it's okay. Chiana has a plan.
Zhaan: Aeryn, help me...
Aeryn: All right. I will. [headbutt!]
B'Soog: Over the years we've developed a mutually beneficial relationship.
John: Well, I'm not really interested in your personal life.
John: [to the keedva] Good boy, good boy! < whack! > Okay, no more Captain Kirk chit-chat.
B'Soog: Chiana, you're a thief and a tralk, but you're not a killer.
Chiana: I'm evolving as an individual!
Chiana: D'Argo, I do what I do to survive.
D'Argo: Can't you just let go?
Chiana: I can only let go when I feel safe.
D'Argo:You are safe.
Chiana: Am I?
[D'Argo walks over and kisses her, then quietly walks away]
It's a weird thing to say about a show that has Muppets as main characters, cheerfully blows off the currently known laws of physics, and sometimes features plots straight out of B-Movie-Ville--- but FARSCAPE is one of the most realistic sci-fi shows on the air. I'm not talking about believing in floating space dinosaur skeletons, or sporulating Delvians or John's gymnastic abilities; these are (mostly) plausible enough in the context, but we're not likely to run into any of them in our allegedly real lives. I'm thinking of the hard-core realities that everyone faces, namely: what's for lunch? How do we pay for it? And how much are you willing to do to save your friends from starvation, prostitution, or death? |
Star Trek, Star Wars, and Bab 5 all ignored the question of feast-or-famine 99% of the time. Which is fine for them--- they're supposed to be established military and rebel forces, and they have food replicators. But I like that in the Uncharted Territories, food's a real problem. Moya's crew has previously survived on food cubes and crackers for extended periods, and there have been spates of rationing on board before. This ep just took that reality to its icky conclusion on many levels.
For instance.... Chiana may be desperately trying to fit in on Moya, but I really wished someone would take her aside and shake some sense into her. I understand that she's defensive about her abilities and past transgressions, and feels like she has something to prove. But while I admired her brass in being willing to sleep with Sleaze-boy for food, I also wanted to scream, "Hello! Do you *really* think he's going to give you what you want? He's a creep! He probably killed his brother! He's toying with you! He wants to keep you as a pet! Chi, wake up, girlfriend...."
Most of my pique with the set-up disappeared when Chiana once again demonstrated that she has *no* compunctions about killing someone to protect or avenge her friends. Obviously, B'Soog didn't know her as well as he thought. Either that, or life was even rougher for her after she left the Budong, and Neri split for parts unknown (and what happened to him, you have to wonder). Either way, Chiana murderous is easier to take than Chiana clueless.
Our Villain of the Week is ugggh-ly, nasty, double-crossing, back-stabbing, brother-killing, keedva-keeping trash. And can I just say that Cajun Australian sounds bizarre? Not as bad as the Clockwork Orange Stoners, but still an adjustment. It's hard to judge across (constructed) species boundaries, of course, but FARSCAPE does a good job on zeroing in on what makes someone particularly ugly-looking--- stuff that looks like open wounds is *not* appealing. That said, he'd have been scarier if we hadn't realized he was eeevil two seconds after his entrance, but at least he died well, screaming and whimpering and frothing. Yay. One more place where this show doesn't pull punches: icky deaths, corpses, and wounds are often shown in their entirety.
The Keedva is also less fear-inducing than odd, but it does look big enough and nasty enough to munch someone to death. Plus, because of it, we got that hysterical ear-and-finger-munching sequence from John and Rygel, and got to see John do the vaulting thing in leather pants. (Hey. I'm not the only one that noticed, okay? Okay. This is just a heads-up, for the feminine population who keeps track of that sort of thing.)
John being all wound up about D'Argo working in the mines seems less, on second viewing, due to D'Argo's risking danger than because the big guy didn't tell him. He's just in *such* a mood these days. Anything goes wrong, and he has to bitch about it or utter threats. "B'Soog is mahn." Does it *get* more Southern-fried macho than this? < g > Personally, I think that any declaration of vendetta is grounds for the FARSCAPE universe to then decide the character will not get to extract justice. In this case, John winds up playing hide-and-seek with the bad doggy instead of knocking out the villain. Never, ever warn them that you're coming, even if they can't hear you. This applies to Rygel's ability to gamble his way out of real work, too. He *so* should know better by now.
D'Argo and Chiana: Whoa. I'm with Chi. What was *that*? I could start a *long* debate on whether D'Argo should be with Chiana or getting involved with Zhaan. But I'm not going to do it right now, because there are arguments on either side and I can still see it going either way. The jury's still out. D'Argo's explicit statement that it's up to Chiana makes it clear who his current choice would be. And he's a pretty determined guy, willing to risk an ugly death so Chiana wouldn't have to sacrifice herself to B'Soog's 'interest.' I'm not gonna be the one to argue with him. Perri does a much better job of describing/explaining his reactions than I can, but this is definitely going to be... interesting.
You know, finding out that the "Venus Flytrap with feet" analogy we drew last season when we found out Zhaan was a plant is this accurate is simultaneously really tidy and quite strange. (Between her and the Budong, it's occasionally like we're watching the Discovery Channel on bad drugs.) They do nice work on the scientific details, and Zhaan's reactions are creepy and paranoid enough to emphasize that getting her fed is very, very important. Virginia Hey always has fun when she gets to cut loose and get homicidal.
Aeryn is again coping in a tech role that she feels unsuited and under-prepared for, plus, Pilot's of only minimal help due to changes to his connection with Moya. The scenes of Aeryn and Pilot trying to save her, then deeply regretting Zhaan's possible death are lovely, if predictable; great work from Claudia Black and Lani, as per usual. Following all the angst with that *perfect* scene where Aeryn goes with her strengths and head-butts Zhaan into submission gave me the giggles and kept it from getting cliche'd, though. The silly yummy noises from Zhaan and the later apology, with Aeryn's quick brush-off, were also a nicely civilized interlude after all the desperation and hunger pangs.
So, lots of icky bits, Zhaan having paranoid fun, D'Argo and Chiana dancing and sparring, Aeryn playing scientist, John playing with someone else's pet, Chi adding another body to her count, and proof that Rygel's throne sled *can* hold more than one if they squish. Add in a floating fossil in space, and you have a packed-if-not-outstanding ep to rewatch later for the all the extra details that make the UT real enough to taste. And gag on.
Well, certainly one of the more disgusting settings they've come up with
yet -- actually, it's quite possibly the most disgusting teaser. Nice as it
is to see dentics come up again, I could have lived without seeing them
fried. Yecch. That aside, we've got a good episode here -- not exactly
plot-heavy, but the character development is lovely. Rygel and Pilot mostly
get the short-shrift, but everyone else gets to chew the scenery at some
point. Even if they're not chewing much of anything else...|
Well, we knew Chiana had had a rough time of it out there -- she didn't
learn a lot of her tricks on repressed-as-hell Nebari. And her brother was
with her for a lot of that bad time, which brings up the question of how he
died -- and how they were separated. Every time we get something answered
about Chiana, three more questions pop up... But she's a good kid, and a
damned tough one. What she would have done (and probably did) to survive
herself, she was willing to do again for Zhaan's sake -- and looking at
that guy, sleeping with him would have been a sacrifice on par with Abraham
and Isaac. Ick. Luckily, she wound up just doing severe, and disgustingly
graphic, damage -- once again without batting an eyes. Just when you think
Chiana's a kid... you remember why D'Argo is eying her with askance (among
Also, disclosure that was a little more full would have been a good and happy thing, before they landed. And she fell in love with the hard choice of turning herself over to B'Soog -- but she's a kid and she'd spent too much time psyching herself up for it all. And she's still not sufficiently paranoid for someone who spent as much time as she did racketing around places like this. Trusting anyone on that rock to not have ulterior motives, old friend, old enemy, or otherwise, was not the brightest of ideas, and could have gotten D'Argo killed if she'd been wrong. Er.
Fun to see D'Argo's allergies kick in again, isn't it? Doesn't do much for the rough-tough soldier facade, does it? But then, neither does going into protective/jealous rages at the drop of a mining lamp. We've seen him and Chiana doing the dance at each other before, but never knew how seriously D'Argo was taking it. Guess we know now. < g > I felt for him, trying to work his way around his rising feelings for Chiana, and the knowledge of what she is capable of doing to survive.
I'll let you know in a while what I think of that whole thing -- I'm torn between mentally doing the age-difference math, giggling at Chiana's"Wow", and realizing again just how cute our overprotective, tender,sweet Luxan can be. Even with the serious case of testosterone poisoning taking over his brain every five seconds.... And I so do not blame Chiana for being speechless and my-little-teenage-mind-is-blown over that perfect kiss; any other reaction would have been completely wrong, both for the scene and the characters. As it was, instead of gagging or being annoyed, I was rolling around in delighted snickers. Kudos to the writing team, and to Rowan, for pulling that complicated little scene off perfectly. Oh, and Anthony and Gigi did an okay job, too. ;)
But things are going to get damned interesting on ship when Crichton finds out about this little turn of events. Chiana may not want a brother, but she's got one in John, and he's going to do the same age math I keep getting hung up on. Face it, D'Argo is an adult, by every standard (exceptmaybe Zhaan's) and Chiana is still just an adolescent. An experienced one, but a teenager nonetheless. John is going to have a cow if D'Argo continues this. And it's going to be entertaining to watch, from the safety of a concrete bunker.
Especially since John's psycho levels are increasing again. The man purely hates being helpless, having to watch his 'family' suffer when there's not a damn thing he can do without it. Anyone notice how seriously Southern he was this episode; I can't decide if it was just because of the aforementioned psycho levels, or the influence of the accents around him. Maybe the dead whale thing was giving off spores of its own, touching of the testosterone glands in every male aboard. The only thing I'm sure of is that someone has seen Return of the Jedi recently.
It's very cool to see Aeryn and Pilot working together again, even with the occasional snarking; it's even cooler to see Aeryn use those scientist skills of hers again. And as bad as I felt for Aeryn when she wasn't able to help Zhaan with her light idea, it was good for the realism -- no miracle cures stumbled into here, she had to work and bleed to find a way to keep everyone alive and well. Sucky choice she had to make, though, betweensaving Zhaan and saving Moya; Claudia, as usual, gives great resolved face, and even better grief.
And Zhaan got to go psycho again! It's always fun when she loses her mind, although the transition back to sanity was a bit abrupt for me. But her sitting there happily consuming everything anyone gave her was terrific! Virginia bounces between sickness and psychosis beautifully throughout the episode.
Damn it, Rygel, you just never get tired of trying for short-cuts, do you? Gng. The only reason I forgive is you is because the only person you got in trouble was yourself, and because the scene in the tunnels with John and the throne chair was too hysterically funny for words. Even with the mutual tooth damage inflicted. < snicker > (Oh, I felt for Ben, knowing what he went through in that rig....) Go stuff your face, Rygel, you little menace; they have really got to stop letting him leave the ship....
Deep-Space Cajuns? < blink > Okaaay.... Stupid accent aside (Cajun accents have their place, and a lovely one it is, but a dead whale in space ain'tit), B'Soog is a serviceable, if predictable, villain. Anyone who didn't know he was controlling the creature in the mine, please raise your hands to be thwapped with Chiana for insufficient paranoia. And the creature itself was kind of spooky until we actually saw it. Then the inevitable comparisons to the 'big gay possum' (as the werewolf on Buffy the Vampire Slayer is known) and the giggles took some of the tension out of the scene. But that's mostly just outside association; the creature itself was well-done, it just didn't hit any kind of creep scale past 'ugly and dangerous'. The Creature Shop or the set guys did their usual awesome job; say what you will about the accents, the makeup and sets are damned effective.
Lots of good little touches of continuity throughout this, from the dentics, to D'Argo's comments about his wounds, and nice new stuff -- Zhaan's a plant, why should we be surprised that she'd go to seed? Any more than we'd be surprised that she's able to, um, fly? < shrug > A good, solid episode to return with, setting up some great stuff to come.
2.8 Dream a Little Dream
||June 23, 2000
Zhaan tells John about what the rest of the crew were doing during the time that Aeryn, D'Argo and John were hangin' out in space; Chiana, Rygel, and Zhaan paid a visit to the Planet of the Lawyers, and engaged in a little trial and error with the natives. |
Ohhh, dear. You know, TGUT doesn't give refunds. But if we did, we'd almost hand you your money back for this one, along with a rebate for your next trip. It has all the zing and zip of stale Jell-o with those little mint marshmellows in it. Whoever held this one back from opening the season knew what they were doing.|
Not that Virginia Hey is to blame, although Zhaan's sloooowly going nuts for most of the episode. Neither can we hold Gigi Edgely and Rygel's crew responsible for this; most of the fun during this ep comes from their antics in the courtroom. No, if we have to point a finger (and we don't have to, but hey, why not, it'll help you stay alert the next time the parties at fault offer you some bad tequila eps) then we have to point it at the writer, and to a lesser extent, the director. Taking the Stone and Jeremiah Crichton both had more going for them than this ep. JC didn't take itself seriously, and TtS offered some wonderful Chiana insights. Sadly, the best we get out of this one is some beautiful scenery and F/X, good acting, and some funny moments from the Defending Counselors.
Here's what kept it from being popcorn, and turned it into bad lime Jell-O:
1. The plot lacked suspense. Partly because it was a flashback ep, (so this was unavoidable) and partly because the set-up was predictable, obvious, and badly handled. They got Zhaan off using a trick with a home-made *torch*? This trick worked on a highly technologically advanced society, who probably would have noticed the light coming from Moya? When they could have just recorded the damning conversation with the lawyers, and transmitted that instead? And hey, shouldn't those guys have grabbed Rygel's transmitter too? OY. That's all just... lame. (Okay, I can think of justifications for this --- such as the Utilities being the only ones to notice, then not mentioning, the light from Moya; and the lawyers being so devoted to the letter of the law that they felt compelled to uphold a rule they didn't actually believe --- but still. STILL.). The parallels between Litigara and the more convoluted portions of the U.S. legal system are too up-front and simple to be amusing. And that pillbox hat on the judge is annoying!
2. The pacing and characterization bit, big time. Just as we'd be getting into the little plot from Lawyers Inc., they'd switch to Chiana arguing with Pilot, or Zhaan talking to her imaginary friends. Any time they did this, the show ground to a halt. If these interludes were meant to acquaint us with the missing trio, they failed miserably, because none of them were themselves during these episodes. Zhaan was just barely in character, since we can believe that being re-incarcerated would freak her out this bad, but she was handling it worse than we've come to expect from our Pa'u, without enough explanation for her freak-out. (Except for that jumpsuit, maybe. Wow. That's punishment enough, guys.) It's impossible keep your interest on these bits when you *know* how they turned out, and they're not riveting in and of themselves, no matter how hard Virgina tries. Zzzzzz....
3. The villains sucked. Sorry, that's pretty blunt, but they did. For one thing, the costumes made all the Litigarans look like identical members of Alice in Wonderland's court of cards. (I kept wishing for a bag to stick them all in and sit on them.) For another, they lacked brains, charisma, menace, and I recognized half of them from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Lacking any sense of threat from them or from Moya's continued yelling of "the bus is leaving, people!", we had to settle for watching the scenery.
Okay, that's enough. I hate to trash my favorite shows. Really, I do. The CGI on this ep is pretty. The special effects are good. Virginia Hey gives her all trying to sell Zhaan's breakdown, and Chiana and Rygel's antics are wonderful, snarky, sneaky fun. The framing bits with John and Zhaan had some cute dialogue and a few sweet moments. But oh, this show can do *so* much better. Watch "Crackers Don't Matter" or "The Way We Weren't" or "Mind the Baby" if you want an idea of what FARSCAPE is capable of.
But if you never watch this one again, and just pretend that something else happened to send Zhaan over the edge and back to the Delvian Seek at the beginning of the season, you won't be missing anything. And you won't have to spit the taste of food cubes out of your mouth, either.
As usual, Kiki does a better job of dissing this than I can (mostly 'cause she got hers up first with all of the wisecracks we made while watching < duck >). But I'll echo pretty much everything she had to say. As much as I complain about Jeremiah Crichton (which I do at the drop of a hat. Any hat), I'd rather watch that. It had a sense of humor, and everyone was kicking back having a good time, even if it wasn't a terribly intelligent time. But they expected us to take 'DaLD' seriously, and that's what really louses the whole thing up.|
As Kiki and were observing during the episode (in between the yawning), there was absolutely no suspense happening here. We knew everyone survived, that Zhaan didn't get executed, that Moya didn't leave without them, that Chiana did not strangle Rygel or Zhaan even when they richly deserved it. Since we know all of this, why did we have to watch this stupid episode? < whine >
That's not entirely fair; there were points here and there that had my attention. Almost any time Chiana and Rygel were in court, they were hysterical, fighting their need to "play to their strengths", and finally giving in. The inevitable helium gags, Chiana's manic hangover recovery, the unsubtle pokes and groans whenever they started to forget the 'no lying' thing -- this is high comedy, and Gigi and Rygel's team pull it off wonderfully. They almost manage to keep the stuff outside the courtroom interesting, too. Almost.
I bow to no one in my respect for Virginia Hey, but not even she could save Zhaan's scenes. I'll watch Zhaan go nuts for a minute here and there and be interested and sympathetic and concerned, because Virginia rocks -- she makes me believe. But an entire episode centered around it? No. No way. There was more angst from this woman in 42 minutes than Nick managed in three seasons of Forever Knight, a record I thought was impossible to surpass. You push the buttons long enough and hard enough and they stop working; by the last hallucination, I was almost ready for the Litigarans (and I'm sorry, that's a damned cheesy name) to execute her to put her out of everyone's misery. I understand that Zhaan felt guilty about leaving, really. And the thought of being responsible for the other four from then on can't have been a fun one. But the guilt levels here were so far beyond excessive that it's not funny. Not even slightly.
The framing scenes also had moments -- John getting ticked off at Rygel for the repairs, and that indescribably wonderful moment when he and Aeryn re-establish contact (THTPT on anyone who thinks they don't have any chemistry; the exchange of two sentences just about melted my heart). And Zhaan's first dream, about John and Aeryn dying -- that rocked. That is, in fact, the only scene that makes me regret this not airing as the season premiere -- wow, would our heads have been messed with. But the end shot was just too sweet for my stomach to take. :P
The FX throughout are terrific, up to the usual Farscape standards and then some -- the entire city felt entirely real, and entirely alien. It was the residents of said city that were cardboard. I kept flashing back to Q in that obnoxious judge's outfit in ST:TNG's premiere episode. And that hat? Kill me now. What was Wardrobe thinking?!? And, of course, there's the fact that the entire society is too stupid to live. 90% lawyers? Yeah. Right. This is where the staff of Wolfram & Hart goes when they die. (Gratuitous Angel reference; once again, the in-jokes from other fandoms were flying thick and fast. It helped us stay awake.)
At least someone was thinking enough not to let this start the season -- riots would have been forthcoming, and the new fans would have deserted in droves. And we have to wait two weeks for a new episode to make our brains wake up again....