Monday, November 29, 2010

Farscape S1 Ep5: Back And Back And Back To The Future

Self-effacing humor, genrific sci-fi action, pulsating character drama and a hard-on for sexual encounters- it's in there like Prego and it's entirely the allure of far out Farscape.

D'Argo: "Do you Mock Me?"
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Crichton: "D'Argo, I mock all of us."
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If you're like me, the thing you love about Farscape is its seamless fusion of deadly serious science fiction adventure, unpredictable action, sincere character drama and snappy dialogue often levelled with perfect comic-timing. It is a brilliant marriage for genre fans looking for a series with an edge to it. Ben Browder said it best in Starlog #271, "Just when we're most serious on the show, we're likely to get a joke. It's very Shakespearean. Audiences always laugh at the height of tension." If you hadn't noticed these elements up to this point than I'm afraid to inform you that you may lack either a necessary sense of humor or you may in fact be dead. There's always something to shake things up for the crew of Moya and their Farscape adventures, and it continues starbursting in the the right direction. And while there's plenty for the unsuspecting, Farscape, Season One, Episode 5, Back And Back And Back To The Future serves up another tale with its share of twists. It's easily the first to explore the bizarre and sexually kinky side of Farscape and quite frankly, I loved it. Call me a freak, but this is Farscape's biggest, personal superfreak entry to date.

It begins when Moya happens upon a vessel that is sub-atomically breaking apart. Rygel and D'Argo are in favor of getting the hell out of there. When isn't Rygel ready to turn and run? Zhaan is interested in aiding any potential survivors. A shuttle escapes the exploding mothercraft. The shuttles appear to be crafted by the same shipbuilders as this one appears similar to a craft utilized by the Sebaceans. It certainly stands to reason. Why not? A plea for help by an alien female appears on a holographic display and suddenly the Luxan warrior has a change of heart suddenly interested in bringing the endangered party aboard. The ailing ship is engulfed in smoke when D'Argo and John Crichton save the two survivors. Crichton goes back aboard the shuttle for another review, and touches a green light that has a strange, adverse affect on him for the remainder of the show.

Rygel, with a devilish grin, and Zhaan watch as the mothership breaks apart. It's strange people, aliens too, can take such pleasure in the ill fallen upon others. Rygel has no trouble casting ill will, yet oddly I do like something about Rygel.

Aeryn Sun inquires as to what exactly the survivors were carrying on board. They deflect the inquiry and merely generalize it as "scientific apparatus." D'Argo is far too willing to hand over Moya and her resources to aid these two, new questionable passengers. As the female alien thanks the crew of Moya, Crichton has a weird vision of a kind of sexually intense groping with the newcomer. Farscape takes sexual contact and kinky alien sex to new levels picking up where Star Trek: The Original Series and Captain James T. Kirk left off. It's out there and the women might not be hot and green, but they're hot and weird. With the female character bedecked in leather there's a kind of S&M quality to Crichton's bizarre dream. The labored voice of Matala, as she's known, is played brilliantly by Aussie actress Lisa Hensley. She's a hefty, voluptuous babe of an alien. She's quite sexy if you can look past the head protrusions and tentacles. No doubt D'Argo is aroused by her attributes.
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The use of color in Farscape is an absolute addiction.
D'Argo's infatuation with Matala appears to be affecting his judgment. The female is Illanic, a genetic cousin of the Luxans [you can see the tentacled resemblance], which explains his seemingly irrational loyalty to the strangers, but then there is a sexual component to his affection for Matala as well. The two races have apparently been blood allies for 1,000 cycles [years]. Where are those Translator Microbes when you need them? D'Argo tweaks Rygel who lacks any graciousness as a host. D'Argo informs Rygel his manners "match his size." The mystery guests wish to be transported to a nearby cruiser.

Later, D'Argo speaks with the elder Illanic scientist, Vorel. He indicates he's been away for eight cycles. The elder informs him the Illanics are at war with the Scorvians. The Scorvians slaughtered two million civilians three cycles ago. The Luxans have generously fought by the side of the Illanics further strengthening their bond.

Elsewhere, Sun investigates the Illanic shuttle. She is suddenly greeted by the female of the species. In fact, I'm reminded of the refrain from British band Space and their song Female Of The Species. "The female of the species is more deadly than the male." Sun attempts to look inside the secret compartment when the two nearly enter cat fight mode. D'Argo arrives in a nick of time and the Illanic female manipulates D'Argo by playing on their associations. She expresses to him their hardwork must be protected. Clearly under the influence of the Illanic, D'Argo quickly takes sides and does not side with his Moyan crewmate. Sun exits the shuttle.

Sun reports her suspicions to Crichton and Zhaan. Crichton listens, but is distracted by another vision of hot leather sexcapades. Nice. The intense sexual episodes are not in the least wanted by Crichton and he exits for some air. Sun declares, "We have air in here. What is the matter with him?" Zhaan answers with a near shrug suggesting their human shipmate is a puzzle. "He IS Crichton."

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Meanwhile, the Illanic elder indicates Matala clearly desires D'Argo following D'Argo's own expression of craving for her. This is certainly baiting D'Argo. The scenario continues to throw the audience. We're never certain if the trouble is both Illanics or one or the other. The writers keep us guessing. Matala continues to do a number on D'Argo's head playing the part of alien sex kitten. D'Argo is summoned by Crichton who is attempting to get to the bottom of his vision issues. Instead, miscommunication ensues and the scene plays out like a mammalian struggle for the right to mate on Animal Planet. This is a great character sequence and emphasizes the fine editing and care that went into creating the series and the stories. It's also a terrific example of Farscape's ongoing exploration of sexuality.

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Crichton's hallucinogenic future visions continue with the death of the Illanic elder. Back And Back And Back To The Future is like the exciting science fiction equivalent of Groundhog Day with a little allusion to Back To The Future in comic Farscape fashion. The vision continues with Matala killing Crichton and D'Argo. Can Crichton get his head together in time to save the future? Certainly the "unstuck in time" trick has been employed brilliantly in a number of other series like Babylon 5 [Season One, Episode 20, Babylon Squared] and Star Trek, but Farscape lends its own colorful spin to the magic of the concept found here.

Before long Crichton is warning D'Argo of their impending deaths at the hands of Matala. D'Argo, so caught up in the sexual struggle of the mating ritual, isn't thinking with his head, at least not the one with a brain. He clearly feels Crichton is attempting to steal his girl to put it bluntly.

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I love the character of John Crichton. He is such a representation of 'us' and our thoughts, feelings, frustrations and carries that terrific human sense of humor. Crichton runs into Matala and Sun who are heading to the cargo bay for a little "physical activity." This episode is loaded with it, oozing with it, erect with it even. How many science fiction series have this kind of sexual impulse. It's handled beautifully. Matala grabs Cricton's hand as he passes by. She knows he was affected by what's aboard her shuttle.

Elsewhere, Zhaan inquires about Moya's sound and rhythms with Rygel, who has been aboard Moya longest outside of Pilot. You'll discover Pilot's painful story in Season Two, Episode 5, The Way We Weren't. Of course, Zhaan is very in tune with the living. She senses things others cannot. This is emphasized when Rygel pauses for a moment of silence, listens, and replies, "Moya sounds fine." He's not exactly empathetic. Moya's sound effects are certainly alluding to something specific and this is relative to an ongoing thread. Rygel simply wants to continue eating like a glutton. Zhaan indicates something is "out off balance" about Moya.
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Those Peacekeepers have done a number on the configuration of the Leviathans as evidenced in the symbolism that permeates Moya.
Sun and Matala begin their alien fight sequence. The Smackdown event is Sebacean vs llanic. The sequence is quite well choreographed. Sun serves up some racial profiling pointing to the fact Illanics simply get their way by seducing male after male after male. Sun is kicking Matala's ass until Matala pulls an ace-in-the-hole move that is reminsicent of the last moment in The Karate Kid [the original]. You get the idea. With a quick, sharp jab of her fingers to Sun's chest, Sun falls to the floor unconscious. Sun was not expecting the move for a reason. Zhaan runs across Matala inside of Moya's corridors. It's a brief, but delicious little character moment.

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Crichton continues having flash forwards. Each flash forward is similar, but with slight modifications as Crichton learns from the one that came before it. I'm reminded of Stargate SG-1's Season Four, Episode 6, Window Of Opportunity. Crichton continues to apply his new knowledge in the hopes of fixing the future. Once again, the Illanic elder is murdered by knife and as Matala enters to kill Crichton and D'Argo, Crichton stops her.

Meanwhile, the Illanic scientist informs D'Argo that the Illanics were field-testing a new weapon sure to end their war with the Scorvians. The weapon is so powerful it requires a containment field. That's never good. The weapon was saved from their imploding vessel earlier and now resides in their shuttle. D'Argo, in a brief moment of clarity and clearly thinking with the other head, asks if Moya is in danger. Matala indicates Moya is safe, but that the risk had to be taken. Will D'Argo continue to blindly follow?

Crichton meets with Zhaan to explain his recurring premonitions. He fills in Zhaan on Matala's intentions according to his revelations. Crichton drops a glass mask that shatters in Zhaan's quarters. He apologizes and she quickly discards the matter as insignificant. Both Crichton and Zhaan do not believe Vorel's story about the ship's meltdown. Crichton moves to confront the "old goat." In the work area, Matala greets Crichton and tells him he needs to "rest and revitalize." He grabs an object and quickly replies, "back off nature girl!" That is pretty damn fine, classic, funny, shoot-from-the-hip dialogue. The natural flow of dialogue on Farscape is second to none and that is a great example of what draws us to these far-from-wooden, outrageously fun chracters. D'Argo enters the room and Matala quickly falls to the ground suggesting Crichton has struck her. She manipulates the situation indicating to D'Argo that Crichton demanded she "pleasure" him. D'Argo kills Crichton with his heavy Qualta Blade. Matala turns to kill the Illanic elder and then D'Argo.
Once again another potential future comes to fruition. This is one of the wonderful elements in play in Back And Back And Back To The Future. We simply don't know if Farscape is presenting reality or a simulation of what will be. We are returned to Zhaan's quarters where the events repeat again with a slight twist. The mask shatters. Sun enters the room and informs Zhaan and Crichton that Matala isn't Illanic at all, but rather a Scorvian agent. Sun indicates her appearance must be the result of genetic surgery. It's refreshing to see the story not fall back on the shapeshifter crutch. Sun indicates she was struck by her Scorvian neuro-stroke. Zhaan suggests they confront Vorel alone and separate him from Matala and D'Argo. Pilot reports there is a phased imbalance in Moya's systems. Is this a result of the sub-atomic particle weapon on board Moya? Zhaan requests D'Argo's assistance. Crichton suspects the "noodleheads" won't leave the room. Matala is getting sexually suggestive with D'Argo and requests he join the Illanic cause. Matala arouses D'Argo, but they both finally exit the room as Crichton waits for his chance to speak with Vorel.

Crichton attempts to reason with Vorel and explain Matala's dangerous Scorvian loyalty. He explains to the Illanic elder that the "loose wire" he touched on their shuttle has forced him to have "time flashes." Vorel calls it "temporal dislocation." Crichton demands, "What's in the damn shuttle?" Vorel replies, "a quantum singularity." Crichton responds, "A black hole," and, of course, Crichton understands this because he's a scientist. Although it is a minor particle of one, Crichton can't believe Vorel has captured a black hole. Vorel indicates if Crichton is right, Matala will "kill for it." In walks D'Argo and Matala. Vorel confronts Matala. Matala immediately kills D'Argo and Vorel again. Crichton escapes, but the future is altering once again. Sun finally arrives, but too late. This is an impressive special effects sequence presenting one possible future reality for Moya and her crew. It's not pretty.

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Crichton is back inside Zhaan's quarters where he carefully places the glass mask to the floor and smashes it with his foot suggesting he controls how future events will unfold. In walks Sun and before she can speak Crichton indicates he knows Matala is a Scorvian spy. Sun wonders how he could know that. Zhaan says he is experiencing the future. Sun declares in clasic Farscape fashion, "the future?, he can barely function in the present." Crichton calls D'Argo the key. As he rehashes the potential events John says "we gotta try something new."

Zhaan enters the work area and asks D'Argo to speak with Rygel. She creates a ruse indicating Rygel has generated a bill of expenses for their guests. The crew speaks with D'Argo about Matala while Vorel has solved the containment field instability problem. D'Argo is not so easy to convince. Crichton asks to speak with him alone. Crichton proves his premonitions are real as they share a confidential exchange. Crichton tells D'Argo that it is his prior crime that prevents him from joining Matala in the Illanic Wars. Crichton may not know the specifics of the crime, but knows if D'Argo informs Matala about his real crime that would prevent him from joining her cause. D'Argo appears severely wounded by Crichton's revelation of the fact he has knowledge of D'Argo's past.

The crew rejoins the room and indicates they are close to the Illanic Cruiser. Sun indicates it may be Scorvian on the inside. Starburst is not an option. Sun indicates she can pilot Moya evading a weapons lock. D'Argo storms off incensed, but indicates if the Illanics refuse to make visual contact, then you will have your answer regarding Matala. As fate would have it, the Illanics communicate with the crew of Moya, but their video link is conveniently malfunctioning. Everyone takes positions. Crichton and D'Argo have their answer.

Matala holds Vorel at knife point. She stabs Vorel and the battle with Crichton and D'Argo is on. She escapes on the shuttle. Crichton holds off D'Argo from firing upon her vessel. "You have to trust me," confides Crichton. This is a specific point of note. Trust is a rare commodity aboard Moya and is something that takes time. This is one of those moments that builds upon the Crichton/ D'Argo dynamic. Trust is certainly an ongoing theme between the cast that have been thrown together in their struggle for survival and the creators handle it brilliantly and with emotional resonance.

Elsewhere, Sun takes evasive action with Moya. Vorel wakes with intention of destroying the black hole. His dying moments release the particle weapon aboard the shuttle remotely from his equipment. Crichton pleads with Pilot. "Pilot, I need starburst and I'm talkin' right now!" Matala's shuttle implodes along with the Illanic Cruiser as Moya starbursts and escapes a deadly fate. The Starburst factor is a wonderful device and does conveniently evaporate and materialize when needed throughout Farscape.

Crichton visits Rygel who has been happily binging on food consumption remaining notably absent from the excitement. Once again, a wonderful character moment between the principals here.

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Clearly, getting laid infrequently is something our fearless heroes share as a common point of interest. Perhaps they will build upon such insightful moments going forward. It's another solid little entry in its own myth-building ways. Farscape continues to arrouse the senses among... [ahem] other personal affects. Farscape is proving to be an emotionally interesting rollercoaster ride and Director Brian Henson knows how to deliver the visual excitement like a drug.

Back And Back And Back To The Future: B
Writer: Ro Hume
Director: Brian Henson

5 comments:

John Kenneth Muir said...

SFF: As usual, you've written an amazing review. You state perfectly (and reflect perfectly, with your choice of illustrations...) the magic alchemy of Farscape.

For me, this series was like food to a starving man in the late 1990s.

Space adventure TV had taken such a dull, non-sexual, almost non-colorful tack with shows such as TNG and Voyager. Even the new Star Wars movie Phantom Menace seemed vanilla in terms of human passions.

Finally, Farscape was a production every bit as kinky, every bit as colorful, every bit as funny as the original Trek of the 1960s.

I always like to remind people who complain when science fiction features sex in the mix that it is a critical part of human physiology, human history and human literature (think Lysistrata or anything by Shakespeare...). And by ignoring stories dealing with this critical element of "us," you're really cutting off (castrating?) a piece of "the human equation."

Genre TV shows that ignore sex don't seem fully real, and rarely hold the interest.

Farscape doesn't make that mistake, does it? The characters are living, breathing, sexual beings and by consequence, fully-dimensional. We can identify with them. I love that about this series. It's a show, so often, about passion of all stripes.

Thanks for focusing on this episode, and for reminding us why Farscape is such a colorful, flamboyant, human adventure.

best,
JKM

Will said...

I'll try to ignore JKM's crack at TNG (I know he's just trying to rile me up). ;)

But, to agree with JKM (for once), and add on to his point, Farscape was sexual without making a statement about it. It never seemed like a ratings push (well, except maybe for that one commercial during the third season when Aeryn unzips her top and it says ON THE NEXT FARSCAPE. . .can't recall the exact episode). Rather, as JKM pointed out, it was more biological and normal. . .and it just HAPPENED to have blue people, grey people, and people with tentacles performing the said nasty.

And to further that point, shows like BSG use sex as gimmicks. In the end, shows like BSG make sex seem gimmicky and almost as unreal as a show that ignores sexual content.

See JKM, sometimes we can actually agree ;)

Also, this episode contains the strangest but most compelling scoring from SubVision (it's either track 3 or 4 on the now out of print first soundtrack). Lots of angelic voices, odd hip hop beats, and strange liquid sounds. Beautifully weird.

Great review!

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

John

Thanks so much my friend. I love that word alchemy. I've always loved that word, but you're right, Farscape is an alchemy of elements or an amalgamation [another good word- ha- if I don't mind saying so] of wonderful ideas and variables.

Well, here's the funniest oddest thing- you took the words literally out of my mouth. I was literally driving home today and I was thinking about Farscape and its use of color and I immediately thought of ST:TOS.

I thought, 'this is precisely one of the things that really drew me to Star Trek- The Original'. Farscape has that same kind of hypnotic allure for me. Anyway, I was going to write about that point and then lo and behold you mention it right here in the comments. I literally just had that revelation on the ride home from work and I maby have been channeling you at that moment. Funny. But Farscape is funny and we get it completely.... as does Will.

Also, completely agree on the muted, dulled down tones of the Phantom Menace [at times] and the ST:TNG series [sorry Will]. I mean Farscape must have felt like the antidote to some who were seriously missing out on the much needed energy and passion of science ficiton. Farscape has it in spades.

Thanks so much John for all of the kind words and exceptional commentary. Sincerely, SFF

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Will,

Love your input as well as always my friend.

You have been at ground zero for alot of these programs upon their arrival. Are you like some kind of Highlander? : )

Seriously, you add such perspective from where you stood on these programs.

And while they no doubt employed Farscape ASSETS when needed to sell the show, and I know you know this, that's just good marketing sense. All of the sensual and sexual appeal of Farscape is real as both you and John mentioned.

It doesn't feel like a cheap ride or a gimmick in the least. There are loads of sparks flying and real "flamboyant" personalities which makes this like the science fiction equivalent to Freddie Mercury!

The sex element felt gimmicky to me on Stargate Universe when I saw its pilot. It just felt a little unnatural our of the gate and maybe I need to give that series another look someday based on JKM's feelings for the show.

But, I know we all agree Farscape is a hands down and up and around and general feel good winner.

I'll be sure to pull that soundtrack Will and give it a listen.

Thank you very much Will for your equally colorful thoughts my friend,
SFF

le0pard13 said...

As John stated, another of your fine examinations, SFF. I have to get into FARSCAPE. Oh, and ST:TNG did have a few interesting episodes on sexuality and gender -- see, Will, I'm not totally negative toward TNG ;-). Thanks, SFF.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

L13

Thank you for the kind words my friend and happy birthday to the fierce one. Best, SFF