Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Farscape S1 Ep7: PK Tech Girl

We now continue with the outlandish science fiction world of Farscape and outlander John Crichton's adventures within and without.

Farscape The Illustrated Companion discusses the stylistic fusion that was the fabric of Farscape. It generally captures the spirit of the show. Matt Carroll recalls PK Tech Girl as a "stylistic milestone" in the series. "We always talked euphemistically about that Farscape lay somewhere between Star Wars and Alien." He added, "It wasn't the complete fantasy that Star Wars is- and it wasn't as dark and grim as Alien." There are certainly elements of both of these films, and there are many others the series pays tribute too. You'll see.

In the end, Farscape is an entirely unique animal filled with a spirit of adventure and humor that is exclusively Farscape. There is certainly the occasional homage, like the gritty Nostromo look of Alien found in PK Tech Girl, but the series never becomes an imitation and remains deliciously Farscape. This is what I loved most about Farscape. It often takes conventions or ideas and deconstructs them or offers a new spin within its own special mythology. This show transports the viewer to an entirely believable universe. I was completely immersed in it and by God I believed it was out there.

Things are beginning to get more interesting within the Farscape universe as we enter the science fiction atmosphere of Farscape, Season One, Episode 7, PK Tech Girl.

The entry opens with an impressive animatronic close-up of Rygel's eye and in that brief moment the eyes tell us everything. Fear. Rygel expresses fear as Moya comes upon a Peace Keeper vessel called the Zelbinion. The crew of Moya are torn on whether to investigate the ship or pass it by. Zhaan and Crichton vote for moving along. D'Argo believes data spools aboard the crippled girl could pinpoint a way home for all aboard Moya. Aeryn Sun is intrigued. Her inclination, as a warrior, leads her to back D'Argo. Rygel immediately confirms Pilot's data scan. The Zelbinion is a dead vessel. Rygel is clearly concerned. Crichton certainly can't make heads or tails of the craft's importance. D'Argo informs him the Zelbinion was the most feared vessel in the Peace Keeper armada. Sun explains that it has been missing for 100 cycles.

Moya docks and Crichton, Sun and D'Argo go aboard. The mood, complete with flashlights and silence reminds me of the best of science fiction films like Alien [1979], Sunshine [2007] and Event Horizon [1997] to name a few. It really captures a spooky, desolate, tomb-like vibe. These kinds of scenes are often the essence of the fan boy's dream capturing the eerie stuff of nightmares. The creaking sound effects genuinely add to the haunting atmosphere. Sun explains to Crichton he may have enjoyed many years around rivers and trees, but she enjoyed the confines of walls like the ones found in the halls of the Zelbinion. Crichton's reply: "I'm sure it looks better with carpeting." The timing of humor on Farscape is often perfect and never takes us out of the moment. That's no easy feat. Although it's dark, the sequence captures the entry's mood including Crichton's classic pop culture references.

It's clear the Zelbinion is not the once thought impregnable, invincible war craft it was believed to be. On Moya, there is indeed unease by Rygel. He shares the sad facts of his past with Zhaan that he was once taken and tortured aboard the Zelbinion. On the Peace Keeper vessel, as the crew prepares to leave, Crichton notes some electrical activity on the ship's consoles. Sun believes activity is the result of a life form. Enter PK Tech Girl. Enter a very cute PK Tech Girl. The girl immediately recognizes Sun and the prisoners of Moya. In turn, Sun immediately recognizes the girl as a Peace Keeper Tech from Crais' vessel.

The girl's name is Gilina Renaez. Sun falls back on her command status and the Peace Keeper way for a review stance of Gilina. The abrasive Sun rears her ugly head and Crichton is none too pleased to see that side of his new comrade again. There is clearly a distinct class difference between the soldier class and the tech class in the Peace Keeper world. This is very much a mirror to our own law enforcement and military hierarchies. Crichton wishes to see Sun "lighten up." Sun makes a valid point taking the hard line against one of Crais' own. The tech's duty would be to lie and this is a grave concern for the stationary crew of Moya. "Point taken" relents Crichton. "This is my world John... don't interfere," warns Sun. Rygel is nearly cowering in unease over the memories of the Zelbinion. This is a humorous, but genuinely cutting moment as Zhaan speaks of life's truths to Rygel.

Meanwhile, the sympathetic Crichton attempts the 'you get more with sugar' method.' It may also be that Crichton empathizes with Gilina likening her situation of being alone to that of his own lost-in-space scenario. Not only does she look like a good, old-fashioned American girl, but she appears legitimately frightened. He understands.

Gilina explains how Crais came upon the Zelbinion. The tech team went aboard to review. Two days after arriving a vessel appeared with great power and destroyed everyone. She was the lone survivor. D'Argo intervenes indicating a scavenger race of aliens has also been aboard the Zelbinion called the Sheyang. The data spools were removed. Gilina doesn't hold any punches and makes it clear she considers Sun a traitor. Elsewhere aboard the ship, Rygel faces his demons in the form of a cruel and evil soldier called Durka.

Sun and team investigate around the craft. Gilina speaks with Crichton in disbelief he is not Sebacean. "Human-it's kinda like Sebacean, but we haven't conquered other worlds yet so we just kick the crap out of each other," explains Crichton. How clever right? Gilina thanks Crichton for defending her from Sun. "I try to save a life a day- usually it's my own." Is Farscape not woven with some of the funniest, seemingly off-the-cuff, refreshingly natural dialogue you ever did hear? The exchange is followed by a moody piece that really illustrates just how entrenched the Peace Keeper indoctrination is in a Sebacean. Sun is heavily influenced by her old ways while inside the Zelbinion. There is an unstoppable power about the Peace Keeper life and Sun is certainly feeling its pull. Cultural indoctrination certainly has that affect.

The subtle sounds of Guy Gross generally heightens the tension. Weasel, Spanky, Sparky, Fluffy. There is no limit to the nicknames Crichton heaps upon his Hynerian friend. Rygel is terrified by the ghost of his former torturer Captain Selto Durka. There is a terrific, sinister flavor to PK Tech Girl as the crew moves through the Zelbinion. The crew of Moya stumbles upon charred remains. It is one of Gilina's former colleagues. The man is a victim of Sheyang incineration, a trademark technique used by the Sheyang. Sun is puzzled why the deceased officer would be on the Zelbinion guiding Gilina and company to do essentially grunt's work. Gilina indicates Sun's unit was demoted following her defection. Reinstatement of such demotions can only be reinstated upon Sun's death. Good times. It has been anything but a picnic for Gilina and company since Sun's departure.

Aboard Moya, Pilot and Zhaan pick up a Sheyang ship entering their airspace. On the Zelbinion, Sun absolutely flips into pit bull mode when she learns of the Sheyang ship's arrival. Sun is all over Gilina suspecting some kind of conspiracy. Crichton calls Sun off Gilina, but also backs Sun by definitively telling Gilina that Sun is no traitor. Crichton serves up some good old-fashioned American diplomacy. Gilina knows the Sheyang had filled their ship to capacity with Zelbinion supplies and goods and they planned to return for the DS [defense shield].

The Sheyang vessel has Moya in its sites targeting her with a plasma conductor. Zhaan suggests signalling the Sheyang of their impending departure. D'Argo, now back aboard Moya, makes it clear the Sheyang respect only strength and will flee only then. If weakness is demonstrated, they will attack without mercy. Zhaan reminds the audience of course that Moya has no offensive capability. By the way, isn't that such a refreshing conundrum for a vessel on the run? It's a bit like the prisoners of Alien 3, weaponless against a powerful enemy.

Inside the Zelbinion, Gilina hopes to restore the defensive grid. It will take 8 arns [hours] to repair. Crichton and Gilina clearly demonstrate a slight physical attraction given their intellectual and scientific interests, but of course. With this in common, they are drawn to one another for other obvious reasons.

The latest episode presents an exciting new race of creatures in the Sheyang fully realized by the clever and meticulously detailed work of the Jim Henson Creature Shop. The creatures look part fish/ duck/ lizard or mutant-sized Howard The Duck complete with classic aviator caps. The alien ship prepares to fire upon Moya. D'Argo whispers to Zhaan so as not worry or concern the physical safety of the living vessel that is Moya. Still, they may need to retreat to the Zelbinion if Moya is badly damaged as a result of attack. Pilot appears on screen indicating he and Moya are quite fearful of fire. Does your heart just break for them people? Moya and Pilot are sitting ducks. D'Argo is enraged with frustration in his inability to battle and take out the Sheyang vessel. In his unintelligible, clearly profane tirade Zhaan transmits his angry image to the Sheyang in the hopes of frightening their would be attackers. Zhaan's plan works as the Sheyang power down their weapons buying Moya some time.

On the Zelbinion, Crichton believes he can shorten the stalling tactics to four hours if he aids Gilina with half the workload.

On Moya, D'Argo is uncomfortable with the ruse Zhaan intends to present to the Sheyang. Luxans do not lie in battle. Zhaan emphasizes the plan is to mislead them and that their lives clearly depend on it. Despite his discomfort, D'Argo understands the fragile reality of their situation.

On the Zelbinion, Crichton and Gilina are getting all hot and bothered as they make repairs to the DS. Gilina doubts her ability to repair it. She tells Crichton she didn't want to be executed for failure to try. Crichton reassures they aren't killers. Gilina points to Crichton's killing of Crais' brother. Exasperated, once again, he explains to her the accidental nature of that incident.

Meanwhile, D'Argo and the Sheyang converse over salvage rights to the Zelbinion. One of the Sheyang pilots does not believe D'Argo's claims that he has Luxans aboard the Zelbinion. The two boast their way to a temporary Mexican standoff or stalemate giving Moya more time, but the noose is clearly tightening. D'Argo worries the fourth non-substantive conversation could result in their imminent destruction.

The burst of steam is fitting. On the Zelbinion, the re-writing continues. Gilina zaps her eye and the floodgates open to a little hunk-a-chunka Crichton affection. There's always time for a little love in the best of science fiction programming amidst the heat of battle and the heat of human contact [Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica and now Farscape]. Gilina willingly embraces the human as the two waste valuable time desiring one another. The two break from their mutual heat for one another and get back to work lest they want a hot shot of plasma conductor.

Elsewhere on Moya, Rygel hides in terror remembering the torturous ways of Durka. Rygel cowers in fear and once again Hardy's vocal portrayal of the Dominar once again walks the line of annoying and sympathetic. It's flawless in its brilliance really. Zhaan implores Rygel to find Durka's corpse aboard the Zelbinion so he may set himself free of the demons. It's nice to see Rygel so self-absorbed in his own personal problems, while the fate of Moya and her crew hangs in the balance. Good ol' Rygel.

On board the Sheyang vessel, mutiny is brewing as one alien disagrees with another over tactics. The leader has never known a Luxan to be on a ship without defensive or offensive capabilities. He is concerned about the situation. The underling attacks his superior knocking him unconscious. Once in charge he requests the plasma generators be activated and the leviathan be destroyed. Inside the Zelbinion Crichton, Gilina and Sun work quickly to activate the DS by linking a host of cables. The shield is activated enveloping Moya inside along with the Zelbinion. It's a terrific effects sequence.

The weapon has no affect and Moya is safe for now. Pilot reports there are gaps within the defense grid as the equipment is not fully functional. The beauty of the adventure is nothing ever goes according to plan on Farscape. Gilina indicates there are two DS packages and they have only one activated, thus the defensive holes. Crichton suggests bringing the second DS aboard Moya. Gilina indicates her oath to never compromise Peace Keeper technology, but her attraction to the Kirk-like Crichton allows her to break her sworn oath. Laws are made to be broken. The Sheyang leader regains consciousness and scolds the protege Sheyang pilot. The failed pilot must now fly through the gaps of the defense shield to land on the Zelbinion. The elder leader tells the younger they may one day sing songs of his early demise.

On the Zelbinion, Gilina and Crichton grow closer as they work. Gilina falls back into Crichton's arms and its game over. Crichton continues to earn his Kirkian stripes bagging babes left and right across the galaxy. Intergalactic French kissing commences. Sun interrupts and is mildly jerked off by the incident making every effort to suppress her own creeping jealousies. Crichton, likewise, harboring his own attractions toward Sun, feels required to apologize and explain himself. There is clearly a connection between them they have yet to acknowledge. Here is one of the wonderful scenes that builds upon the Sun/Crichton relationship that Sun finds "interesting."

This is a wonderful illustration of the character-driven series. There is so much explored between these people and there is a slow burn to its development. These relationships are rarely given a chance to evolve properly in the short span of a single science fiction film. Elsewhere on the Zelbinion, Rygel believes he has found the corpse of Durka. Rygel enjoys a bit of a revelatory catharsis informing Durka's rotted body "you lose," while he enjoys the satisfaction of hocking a giant plop of red phlegm on his face. Nice.

The Sheyang have launched roughly twelve fighter pods toward Moya with their plans to breach the Zelbinion hull. Gilina passes on a bit of good news. If the two DS units activate, in the same spatial area, they must be kept separate. The polarity will draw them toward one another, but if the units touch everything in the room will be vaporized. Again, good times on Farscape. The Sheyang mutineer informs all pilots to aim for the gaps in the defense grid, which is still near impossible as they are constantly moving and shifting. The two units are activated inside the Zelbinion and draw toward each other powerfully like magnets. D'Argo notifies the others that a Sheyang vessel has breached the shield and may now aboard the Zelbinion. Sun is on the move with her big mama gun. Damn! I love that gun! It's very Aliens like in style. I love this little Sun moment. She shines!

Clearly the Sheyang have a thing for firepower literally. Sun is forced to handle the Sheyang firebreather carefully to find Crichton and Gilina. This is classic Crichton.

Sun saves the day, because she kicks ass. Back aboard Moya, the crew, with Gilina present, determines what is best to do about the PK Tech Girl. Some feel they have successfully evaded Crais thus far and she should remain behind, while others are uncertain she can be trusted not to inform the Peace Keepers of their whereabouts. Sun expects she will remain quiet given the operating Peace Keeper tenet that alien contamination by a potential enemy results in death or banishment. Meanwhile on the Sheyang space vessel the creatures discover the Zelbinion has sent a signal to the nearest Peace Keeper carrier and it is enroute at top speed. One last transmission between the Sheyang captain and D'Argo reveals the Sheyang now know the Luxan had "nothing," but that he "used it well." He vows to kill his "clever" opponent someday. I love this brief moment between Gilina and Sun. Sun is changing, walls are crumbling, but the battle between who she was and who she is capable of becoming is indeed a war of personal will within her. That's a great aspect to her character and one to watch in the coming entries. This is lovely stuff.

There is some real affection between Crichton and Gilina. She wishes to go, but Crichton assures her she cannot live the kind of vagrant, on-the-run life they are leading. He can't stay or when the Peace Keepers arrive he would clearly be killed. This is a telling scene of the future.

The boy does alright. Crichton visits Sun in the closing moments. Once again, the creators pile on with genuine emotion, nothing gratuitous, just part of the journey. The moments are also important, because ultimately the best in science fiction centers on the characters and how they change and interact. Farscape is abundant in this arena.

I've been taking my time with Farscape, absorbing each episode twice. There is much to enjoy and I'm finding I enjoy them that much more the second time around. PK Tech Girl is a delicious piece with wonderful cinematography that will transport you to another place. This is a solid piece of science fiction entertainment and really captures the best a fan boy like myself enjoys mixing a bit of the conventional with it a touch of the Farscape weird or as Crichton references, Farscape's own "The Good, The Bad And The Ugly."

PK Tech Girl: B
Writer: Nan Hagan. Director: Tony Tilse.

Pop Culture Reference: Crichton: "I had a poster of Clint Eastwood. The Good, The Bad And The Ugly."

Special Guest: Alyssa-Jane Cook. Gilina. Cook's character was originally slated to die according to David Kemper, but the script was re-written to bring her back and generate another angle to the complex relationships within Crichton's world.


le0pard13 said...

Always a great read, SFF. You gather some great screencaps and clips in your examinations, my friend. Thanks.

John Kenneth Muir said...


I think you absolutely nailed your review of Farscape, and this episode. In particular, I appreciate these words: "It [Farscape] often takes conventions or ideas and deconstructs them or offers a new spin within its own special mythology. This show transports the viewer to an entirely believable universe."

I couldn't agree more. I love the program's flamboyant, colorful visualizations of aliens and alien worlds, but more than that, even, I appreciate what the show really seems to be about: how we communicate about what it means to be human, or from planet Earth. Crichton's pop culture references -- so timely in the post-modern late 1990s/post-Scream era -- actually serve a terrific thematic purpose; revealing how, even in the uncharted territories, human beings are the sum of their experiences/contexts/art. I really love it.

This episode is a very good one, just as you note, and it's a good thing that the Tech Girl survives. Some episodes down the line, Crichton's going to need her help...again.

Great review of an early classic of Farscape!


SFF said...

Thanks L13.

Thank you JKM. I love your input guys. I appreciate it.

Yes, this PK Tech Girl is something special. When you consider all of the shows that come and go, how special was this show?

I mean the time and energy and attention to detail. It feels like they spared no expense. Every bit of their budget is on that screen. Amazing.