Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Farscape S1 Ep2: I, E.T.

"We can stick our heads between our legs and kiss our asses goodbye. It's a saying." -John Crichton-

The great female Leviathan vessel of Farscape dubbed Moya, a living ship, and a beautiful, fully-realized invention.

So why do I love the look of Farscape so darn much? O'Bannon explained, "I liked the idea of the show looking as unusual as possible, and I knew with American-influenced scripts but Australian directors, and all production and post-production entirely done in Australia, that we might get something that didn't look like any show that we've seen before. ... - If you look back at the original Star Wars, it had a very American-influenced story style, but because it was shot in England, the supporting players and just the look of it was not what audiences had come to expect from fully American productions." [Rockne S. O'Bannon Farscape: The Illustrated Companion]. This is a genuinely telling point and Farscape captures the precise vibe and alienness that I recall loving so much about Star Wars. Star Wars felt foreign for these reasons. Farscape has ample supply of this kind of energy and weirdness while seemingly amped up on emotional tension. Yes, I believe I'm becoming an addict.

Once again, Brian Henson and company hit all of the right notes in establishing their rhythm. Despite material that is fairly safe and conventional when considering the scope of the show and where it's going, the second installment observes a cast settling into a groove. The show is a revelation thanks to a wonderfully riveting palette of character personalities and crackling dialogue.
 
I've been considering some of the complaints with the opening episodes of Farscape. While I believe those critical of the material as being too rushed or forced to get things moving between characters may be debatable, I think the contrary could also be said. These alien life forms [Crichton included] are clearly thrust into an explosive, hostile environment. When considering these circumstances it's plausible that even the most cautious, skeptical or distrustful of life forms might ally with others for reasons of survival. The crew of Moya is on the run and a primary target of the Peacekeepers. It seems possible that those aboard Moya might suppress their own innate distrusts, prejudices, biases, hostilities or what have you purely for survival in the strictest sense. The all want to go home alive after all. In Premiere, Aeryn Sun essentially spoke on behalf of John Crichton when faced by her Sebacean brethren [the Peacekeepers] despite running contrary to the dictates of her training based upon her own knowledge of Peacekeeper code. She knew where she stood in the context of Peacekeeper rule. Her proximity to an outside, alien influence was based strictly on a time parameter. I believe she took a gamble on siding with Crichton suppressing that which comes natural out of survival. Certainly, the most important intangible of the bunch, I believe there was a mutual and instant attraction between Crichton and Sun while unspoken that was indeed working on a subconscious level from the start -the intergalactic equal of mutual attraction at first sight. These things are extremely unpredictable, but I believe raw emotion certainly harnesses itself in unexpected ways given the circumstances of a dynamic event. This may explain Sun's decidedly unexpected logic in the debut entry. It's safe to say there are a great many emotions, love, desire, attraction, anger that can defy a great many things including, most of all, reason. So the great experiment of Farscape continues.

Do you see the resemblance to John Crichton?
With a play on Director Steven Spielberg's E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial [1982], Farscape, Season One, Episode 2, I, E.T. delivers us a plate of irony. Human John Crichton is indeed the E.T. within the Uncharted Territories of Farscape as noted in the title of this second entry. Expect Farscape to lend its own twists and deconstructions to classic tales. Crichton is indeed E.T. for the latest diversion in this ongoing fish-out-of-water saga.
 
The crew of Moya is alerted by the torturous sound of an internal siren [dubbed a Paddock Beacon] fused to Moya while under Peacekeeper control. The blended wiring is discovered in a tiny segment of Moya. It is adorned with the standard red and black colors that denote Peacekeeper control. The Farscape creators likened the look to Reconstructionist Russian. The Peacekeepers are indeed an imperial throwback to the immense, evil empires of the 20th Century or to those more familiar to us a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. Pilot, Moya's symbiotic navigator, manages to quell the persistent ringing, but the siren mechanism is still broadcasting giving away Moya's location bringing potential harm to the Peacekeeper escapees. The beacon began broadcasting as soon as it lost its connection to the control collar removed from Moya in Farscape, Episode 1, Premiere. Ka D'Argo, understandably suspicious, inquires with Sun how it is she didn't know of its existence. Sun's response, "I'm new to all this escaped prisoner crap alright." A DRD attempts to disable it, but the wiring is armed, equipped with a defense system, and destroys DRDs immediately on sight. The DRDs act as Moya's Immune System. They are the equivalent to Lymphocytes, Killer T and Helper T cells within Moya that protect her. They are her internal defense system. She has many. Crichton wonders if the broadcast signal couldn't be muffled in some manner. Unfortunately, it is broadcasting via Moya's entire hull or external skin. Crichton recommends landing Moya inside a bog on a nearby planet to smother the signal. Pilot shares some Leviathan history.



While landing, Sun displays some mutual concern for Crichton warning him to brace for impact. The two end up in one another's arms. It won't be the last time as the image sets the table for the two characters going forward. Chemistry is everything in Farscape and is indeed a hallmark of the series. It is strong between the ensemble cast and is one of Farscape's greatest strengths. It is indeed the thing to watch as the handful of strangers continually learn from one another. The team, using the word very loosely in this early going, work more out of necessity than out of concern. These things take time. There is plenty of growth ahead for this uneasy alliance.



Rygel is an absolute trip and apparently well-versed in the cons of all things mud.



Clearly, Rygel, a Hynerian, is semi-aquatic, like a frog. There are always bits of new information surfacing about these wonderful characters. The good news is the mud is insulating the homing beacon's ability to transmit. The concerned Pilot insists cutting out the Peacekeeper connection will cause intense pain to Moya. She could even die. Pilot informs the crew that if they were able to obtain clorium, one of the six forbidden cargoes of a Leviathan, it would aid [like anesthesia] in the process of severing the connection surgically. It is forbidden because it numbs the Leviathan's awareness. In this case, the numbing effect might do the trick. The team should be able to find the common element on the planet. Crichton summons Sun to get rolling. Sun is having second thoughts about backing Crichton in front of Crais in Episode 1, Premiere. She is now on the run and questioning her decision to be "stand up" as Crichton calls her. Crichton's twitching as a result of the beacon is driving him insane.



D'Argo, Sun and Crichton strike out onto the planet from their bog location. At night, aliens with flashlights search following information a spaceship was spotted landing on this Earth-like planet. Our fearless trio remains hidden. The flashlights and search are clearly a respectful reference to E.T.'s arrival on Earth in the classic E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. As I mentioned, in this case, Crichton is the disinclined visitor. D'Argo and Sun draw the humanoids away from Moya. Crichton searches for the clorium.

On Moya, Pilot assesses the situation. Zhaan asks how the Peacekeepers were able to place this intricate beacon on Moya. Pilot indicates when a Leviathan is captured the Peacekeepers immediately apply a potent sleep agent. Sadly, the weak and old do not survive. Such Darwinian applications actually strengthens the Peacekeeper fleet, but what Peacekeepers do to the Leviathans, along with their respective Pilots, while they sleep is anyone's guess. During this hijacking, the control collar is applied as well as modifications to propulsion and guidance. The Peacekeeper infiltration is a mighty unknown, but really speaks to the clever concepts built into the series by Henson enhancing it with potential mysteries. Moya's weight in the bog and her ability to lift off the planet is another grave concern.

Later, Crichton has stumbled upon what appears to be an alien version of an Earth farm. A young farm boy, Fostro, with a mutant head, stumbles upon Crichton who has been foraging around in the barn for clorium. Despite assurances that he would not harm the boy Fostro runs into his house and Crichton follows. Crichton is fired upon and zapped by a paralyzing weapon. He lays on the floor unable to move.



Fostro's mother, Lyneea, is a bit like an early era version of the American housewife. She is in disbelief over the "alien" in her house. If only they had a closet full of stuffed animals to hide him.

On Moya, Zhaan implores Rygel, the smallest of the crew members, to begin the separation of the Paddoc Beacon from Moya. As a priest, Zhaan has an empathic ability to absorb or share another creature's pain and will do everything she can to aid Moya through the process.

On the planet, D'Argo and Sun hide in a tree away from their pursuers. The two exchange a bit of character information about one another. Sun talks of the Luxan battle against the Grizolians and how the Luxans ran screaming in retreat taking refuge in trees.

The farmhouse, one of the endlessly fascinating, other worldy mattes created for Farscape. Truly stunning stuff.
Elsewhere, Crichton is gradually welcomed by the family. With the woman's knowledge of star charts and deep space, Crichton believes there is a chance he could locate Earth. Meanwhile, Rygel is in position with a sharp cutting device made of bone taken from D'Argo's belongings. Rygel begins the process of removing the Paddock Beacon. Down on the planet, D'Argo and Sun talk of Crichton's familiarity with the planet as a place likened to Earth. The animalistic D'Argo ironically refers to the retro-grade technology as "savage." In the farmhouse, Lyneea informs Crichton she is funded by the military. She serves Crichton food when suddenly his analyzer detects clorium. In a bit of overreaction, Crichton points Lyneea's own stun weapon upon her and her son. Apologetically he hands it back to them as the military arrives. These are clearly desperate times and mistakes are understandably made by someone as alien to the universe which surrounds him as Crichton.

On Moya, the painful separation progresses. Zhaan absorbs Moya's great pain and is briefly knocked unconscious. Rygel calls out to Pilot. Moya is in critical condition.

At the farmhouse, the woman attempts to send the military away. The military sets up outside of her home. Crichton prepares to be captured, but he has the clorium the ship needs. Later, back on Moya, Sun attempts to physically grab Rygel to put him back to work. He literally bites her in the arm, ripping off a chunk of flesh and eating it. It's becoming clear the Hynerians, this one anyway, love to eat and will eat anything. Rygel fears he is failing Moya and that she will die in his hands. This is one of those small character moments. One aspect of Zhaan's character is her empathic and empathetic, maternal nature. She is a wonderful character and is in some ways the Farscape equivalent to Babylon 5's Delenn. Actress Virginia Hey may not have done much outside of Farscape, but she is a pleasure to behold in this role.



Zhaan attempts to make a case for Rygel to Sun regarding the immense responsibility riding on "those not-so-large shoulders." Zhaan tells Sun she has done her best to take Moya's pain away, but that Moya will shoulder the larger burden. This is one of those small character breakthroughs that makes the gradual development a joy to watch on Farscape.



Crichton hides inside the farmhouse and grows more comfortable with the woman called Lyneea. He realizes she understands now that he is simply lost in space. In the kitchen, the military commander spots Crichton's analyzer on the kitchen table and realizes it is not of his world. The man is summoned to the barn where D'Argo has been captured. Crichton attempts to explain his circumstances to Lyneea and that he is a scientist aboard a prison ship. He can barely articulate the situation and call it one giant, messy "galactic misunderstanding." She tells Crichton to run, but he refuses to leave without D'Argo whom he calls his "friend." Crichton is no doubt the fulcrum or axel of the show. He offers a natural, innate, human perspective amidst the chaos and has much to teach about loyalty to his newfound comrades. Leave no one behind. Crichton goes to the barn to rescue his friend. The woman sends the military off in a different direction leaving behind just two guards. Crichton has D'Argo shake Fostro's hand. Crichton kisses the woman goodbye. D'Argo and Crichton return to Moya.

As Rygel cuts, Moya bleeds profusely and experiences much pain in its neural nexus. Rygel completes the task. Crichton has Rygel spread the clorium everywhere he can. Rygel spreads the clorium while taking bites of it. He is a non-discriminating glutton! Rygel and Zhaan lay next to one another in sheer exhaustion.

Moya lifts off. She refuses to be bogged down. It's splendid sci-fi television!



The music accompanying the pensive, longing look of Crichton upon the planet is one of those highlights of a genre series filled with character and emotion. For Crichton it was about yearning for Earth and his connection with Lyneea and his brief visit was a reminder of it all. It wasn't about the planet. It's about the people, just as it is in Farscape. I love it. And the performances by the ensemble cast are strong out of the gate. Chemistry is not an issue in generating a host of entertaining character studies. I, E.T. cleverly presents Crichton in the home again scenario, but instead turns convention on its head by making him the E.T., whereby everything isn't quite like home. I, E.T. is also the first in a series long run of irreverent titles that truly speak to the episodic content. While arguably a safe entry compared to the series as it progresses, this is still solid entertainment and it only gets better.
 
I, E.T.: B
Writer: Sally Lapidus
Director: Pino Amenta

Pop Culture Reference: "Kind of like Louisiana or Dagobah. Dagobah, where Yoda lives." "Who's Yoda?" "Just a little green guy, trains warriors."
 
Special Guest: Mary Mara [1960-present]. Mara is best known for her roles in Nash Bridges, ER and Law & Order. She also guested on Star Trek: Enterprise [2004].

The Cast: Ben Browder [1962-present]. American born. John Crichton. Browder self-describes his character in Starlog #271 as "Indiana Jones with his head in the snake pit." That's about right. He's also best known for his role Lt. Col Cameron Mitchell in Season 9 and 10 of Stargate SG-1. He also played Sam Brody in Season 3 of Party Of Five. His film appearances include Memphis Belle [1990] and tele-films Behind The Camera: The Unauthorized Story Of Charlie's Angels [2004] and A Killer Within [2004] with Blade Runner's Sean Young. Along with a nomination for the series each year, Browder was nominated for a Best Actor Award by the prestigious Saturn Awards five times. He won the award in 2001 and 2004 [for Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars].

Claudia Black [1972-present]. Australian born. Aeryn Sun. Claudia Black offered some wonderful analysis on her character in Starlog #283. "It's hard being Aeryn every day. She's not a happy person. The polarities within her fascinate me." She's an "emotionally insecure mess" notes the magazine fairly. Black adds tremendous insight into the complexity of her character. "She's part of the show's heartbeat in that she has the most dramatic character arc. She has to develop from this very closed, very frightened but strong individual to someone who can share and trust." Black is best known for her role as Vala Mal Doran in Season 9 and 10 of Stargate SG-1. She first introduced the character in SG-1, Season 7 episode Prometheus Unbound. Black has also appeared in Pitch Black [2000] and Queen Of The Damned [2002]. She received a 2005 Saturn Award for Best Actress for Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars. She received Constellation Awards in 2007 and 2009 for her work on Stargate SG-1, Memento Mori and Continuum respectively. She has also appeared in The Dresden Files [2007] and NCIS [2010]. Black was nominated for Best Actress by the prestigious Saturn Awards four times finally securing a win for her fifth nomination in 2004 for Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars.

Virginia Hey [1962-present]. Australian born. Pa'u Zotoh Zhaan. Hey describes an important aspect of her character in Starlog #276, "There is a yin/yang aspect to her that I find absolutely intriguing." Her most notable appearances are The Road Warrior [1981] as the Warrior Woman opposite Mel Gibson and The Living Daylights [1987]. Hey was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role by the prestigious Saturn Awards in 1999.

Anthony Simcoe [1969-present]. Australian born. General Ka D'Argo. The actor was nominated for Best Supporting Actor by the Saturn Awards in 2002. He appeared in Nim's Island [2002].

Jonathan Hardy [1940-12012]. Australian born. Voice of Dominar Rygel XVI. Hardy fills the deposed, pompous, gluttonous Hynerian ruler of 6 billion subjects with limitless personality. Actress Gigi Edgley on working with Rygel the puppet from Starlog #278: "It's really odd. You're doing a scene with so much life and so much character in there and then Rygel will be having rest time on the side of the set. It's quite weird to look at, because he's just so lifeless. It's like, 'Oh, there a bit of rubber!' Then you get a hand up his bum and there he goes!" She has a way with words. Hardy co-wrote the screenplay for the wonderful Australian film Breaker Morant [1980] starring Edward Woodward and Bryan Brown. Farscape guest Chris Haywood also guested in the film.

Gigi Edgley [1977-present]. Australian born. Chiana. Chiana's first appearance comes in Farscape, Season One, Episode 15, Durka Returns. She continues to work in film and television and has been working on a singing career to boot. Edgley was nominated for Best Supporting Actress by the prestigious Saturn Award in 2001.

Lani John Tupu [1955-present]. New Zealand born. Pilot and Commander Crais. Tupu appeared in The Punisher [1989]. Tupu recounts in Farscape: The Illustrated Companion, "Pilot is as adventurous as any of the other characters in the series. He really does want to see as much of the universe as possible, while taking care of Moya and making sure that she is safe. During the first season, you don't really know where he comes from, and you don't quite know who he is. You just know he fulfills his function." That's what I love about Pilot. He performs an important role in the series and as an important part of that family inside Moya. Wouldn't it be nice if others just knew their function and were happy doing it?

Wayne Pygram [1959-present]. Australian born. Scorpius. Pygram has appeared in Return To The Blue Lagoon [1991] starring Milla Jovovich, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith [2005] and a guest role in TV Series Lost [2006]. Special effects specialist [running the Jim Henson Creature Shop Australian branch] describes how the underrated Pygram brought the wonderful Scorpius character to life in Starlog #279. The pale cadaveric Scarran-Sebacean half-breed is brought to life by Elsey's make-up and Pygram's villainous performance. Elsey recalls, "I started thinking about the Grim Reaper, skulls and lots of images that make you think of evil things. I also thought about Peter Cushing, one of my favorite actors, and how great he looked as Baron Frankenstein. So I mixed all these things together and did a drawing that looks pretty much as Scorpius does now... I think we created the evilest character in SF, ever." Ironically, Wayne Pygram does share similar physical attributes to the late Peter Cushing and Cushing's style even comes across in the character of Scorpius. This landed Pygram the role of a young Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars III: Revenge Of The Sith for a brief, but spot on, cameo filling the shoes of the late Cushing's Tarkin for George Lucas.

Jim Henson Creature Shop [founded in 1979]. The shop was founded by the late Jim Henson [1936-1990]. It has been a dynamic team that has evolved and been the brains behind The Muppet Show [1976-1981] including the insane Pigs In Space segment, The Dark Crystal [1982], Labyrinth [1986], Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles [1990] and its 1991 sequel, the classic Babe [1995] and Where The Wild Things Are [2009]. The shop also provided much work for the television shows Dinosaurs [1991-1994] and Merlin and much more. The Farscape: Illustrated Companion: "The vision and ambition of Farscape was to go where no show had gone before and bring feature film special effects to a television show." The scope of Farscape bears out that mission statement.

16 comments:

le0pard13 said...

Another of your fine examinations, SFF. I'm definitely scheduling my introduction to this series. It's been far too long that I've postponed it. Thanks, my friend.

Anonymous said...

Farscape !!! SO AWESOME, and Jim Henson:Brilliant !!!!,the man was WAY ahead of his time !!! :),as was J.M.S.(Babylon 5).

Anonymous said...

Alright, I'm completely confused about the episode order now. On Wiki the 2nd episode is "Exodus from Genesis". On my DVD set the 2nd episode is "Throne for a loss". Now you're reviewing "I, E.T." as 2nd episode.

People tell me watching it in the right order is important. But which one is the right order?

M.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

L13-

Thanks so much my friend for stopping by. I think the series is well worth your time and gets better and better with each episode
throughout Season One. I would suggest the earliest episodes are the weakest, but even these are very good.

A-

You are right on. I agree completely. Babylon 5 and Farscape are two certfied
classics and will forver remain two of the best in science fiction. Both are unique
in their visions, mythologies and
thoroughly written character arcs. The key is character and story and the creators of these two shows fully understood the essential need for these elements to be at the center of their missions.
This is the key to their timeless
success.

M-

I through you for a loop. Yes, I had to work out the same logic in the beginning as well. When Farscape first aired they ran a number of the Season One episodes out of order.

This was unfortunate as the order
impacts the logic of the character
of the subtle character developments. Taken out of order some interactions may seem awkward or illogical, a frame of reference that is clearly important to people like us. You especially are keenly aware of these
aspects and your senses acute. You definitely want to see them in the proper order.

Throne For A Loss is actually Episode 4 and I will be reviewing Season One in the correct intended order as intended by the O'Bannon/ Henson creative team. Exodus From Genesis is next.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

That's "I threw you for a loop" by the way. Oops.

Anonymous said...

So the Wikipedia list is the order they aired it first? The list on the official website is the correct one then?

Why is the on the DVD set yet another one?

M.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

The official site is definitely the way to go. Wikipedia is a nice, but unreliable, resource.

As for the DVDs, hmm, not sure who issued them, but DVD printers/ companies have been known to get the order on shows wrong before.

Anonymous said...

I thought this episode was better than the pilot. It was nice seeing Aeryn questioning her choices - that was believable.

Why did the people on the planet understand what Crichton and D'Argo were saying? They weren't injected with translator microbes, were they?

Anonymous said...

^This was me, M.

BTW this is one of the episodes that for some reason strongly reminds me of Trek.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

I knew that was you M. You know, I can't recall where, but in one of the episodes someone makes note of the fact that it is a pretty common practice across the Farscape universe for races to utilize the translator microbes. This is the normal course of business for a newborn child. Normally they receive the injection at a very young age, like children receive immunization shots. The translator microbes then essentially act as a built-in decoder for all languages. Makes perfect sense to me. Some would obviously think it crazy, but this is Farscape. :^)

Anonymous said...

It doesn't sound crazy in general, it's just strange because this wasn't a space-faring people. They've never encountered an alien life form before. Why would they use translator microbes? How would they even know about translator microbes?

M.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

You see, you ask good questions. Were you in a debate club once?

Well, I can only offer some thoughts. Apart from accepting things on their face, we certainly don't know who on this particular planet has encountered life forms or not. By all accounts, the planet looks fairly close in development to Earth.

There's no reason to believe some group somewhere hasn't seen something or been somewhere else [not that I'm a conspiracy theorist]. Also, like any planet there could surely be tribes with a variety of language barriers. There's no reason to believe, like the development of microbiology on Earth, there hasn't been the development of medicines on this planet and perhaps the discovery and use of translator microbes. Just one theory maybe.

Anonymous said...

No, I've never been in a debate club :)) The question just occurred to me.

So you're saying translator microbes exist on every planet in that galaxy?

M.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

: )

Well, my understanding is that the microbes are all over the place. So yes, that was the impression I had my friend.

EP said...

Great analysis. Your love of this fine series (my favorite) shines through.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

EP
Thanks for stopping by. I can see why it's a favorite. It's an easy one to fall in love with. Thank you and I hope my excitement for it is contagious. Thanks again.