Alright people. This is it. The post wherein I endeavour to find something redeeming about Jeremiah Crichton. Admittedly, it probably is the worst episode of the series. If for no other reason than that it is just so darn … earnest. Earnest isn’t really what we come to Farscape looking for. That said, what we get from this mediocre offering is at least a few good interactions between John and D’Argo where we are reminded of two thing 1) just how despondent John has become over his alienation and likelihood of never seeing earth again and 2) these characters have become enough of a crew that when one goes missing the others will spend three months searching for them.
Then a bunch of indeterminately ethnic guest stars in terrible costumes started talking about the Masada and I couldn’t be bothered to finish my rewatch. Also, just never put Ben Browder in facial hair. It never ends well … not even on Dr Who.
Fortunately, Jeremiah Crichton is flanked by two much stronger offerings.
If not the strongest episode in the series, The Flax at least continues the good season one work of building up our central characters. Particularly Rygel. Admittedly, PK Tech Girl introduced us to Rygel’s time at the hands of sadistic Captain Durka. But other than that, we have not seen much that has made him particularly … likeable. Not have we really seen what useful skills he brings to the crew. For much of the episode, the Flax plays on those assumptions we as the audience, as well as Zhaan, have of Rygel. So far he’s given us a low bar of expectations, and he has met it handily. We are pleasantly surprised, however, when we realize how cleverly Rygel hustled the pirates who attempted to steal Moya. Rygel has his uses. He may be obnoxious, self-involved, and irritating. But he is also very often the smartest person in the room–at least in terms of strategy and diplomacy. Let us not forget that it was Rygel who orchestrated the prisoners’ escape in the first place.
Of course, the episode is mostly an excuse to get Crichton and Aeryn alone together for an extended period of time (and, I suppose, an excuse to get D’Argo to interrupt them at a most inconvenient time as well). That alone makes the episode worthwhile for this avowed John and Aeryn shipper. It is worth noting that for all their bickering and misunderstanding at the start, the moment crisis occurs, they are even at this early stage perfectly in synch. Each knows what must be done, and they work as a perfect team, even when they realize the situation must end with one or both of their deaths.
That dynamic is actually a lot more interesting to me than the big moment of passion awkwardly interrupted by D’Argo (as awesome as that moment is). One of the things I love about the John and Aeryn relationship is that for the most part it avoids ever falling into a “will they?/won’t they?” trap. This I feel is the closest it comes to that — “Oh no, in a tense moment we kissed … must be some unacknowledged sexual tension that we can’t ever let happen again!” Going forward, I feel like Farscape is able to play with the central romance in far more interesting ways.
That brings us to…
This is arguably the end of the beginning for Farscape. Beginning with the next episode (“A Human Reaction”) both John and the series as a whole will reach a point of no return. This is arguably the last episode of Crichton’s innocence before all of the events transpire which have their start in that next instalment. Nowhere is Crichton more that innocent, well-meaning human than in his relationship here with Chiana. Crichton brings her food cubes. He argues on her behalf. He is justifiably disgusted by yet another bizarre alien race that would lock a young woman and try to strip her of her free will just for being perhaps a bit too rambunctious. (Side note: I’m not a big fan of the Nebari. I have very little of interest to say about them).
For all that the introduction of Chiana and her captors provide an opportunity to highlight Crichton’s innocence, we cannot overlook the fact that in this episode Crichton willfully takes a life for the first time. We saw him get to the point where he would be willing to kill Crais in “That Old Black Magic”, but now for the first time we have seen him kill. If the first season of Farscape is about the gradual loss of John’s innocence, John’s murder of Durka can’t be overlooked. Sure, it was justified and done to protect Moya and the crew. But still … it is a milestone.
Presumably, there is much more to be said about this episode. After all, it does introduce a major new character, open up the world of the Nebari, and give us some great Rygel-Aeryn interactions. I do imagine that Aeryn meeting one of the great legends of the Peacekeeper realm, only to discover that his a monster willing to kill her and threaten a pregnant leviathan, cannot help but have implications for her psychological state going forward. Also, Rygel’s vendetta against Durka is always compelling, if only because it is so rare that we actually see the little Dominar so emotional and out of control.
Beyond that, though, I have to admit this is not one of my favourite episodes. I always think of it as that one last episode you have to get through before the quality really picks up. I need to save my commentating strength for the next post where I will have …. thoughts … on A Human Reaction. This is where the fun begins, my friends.