Friday, December 31, 2010

Classics: Farscape 1:9 - DNA Mad Scientist

Overall: 9.2

This is the first truly brilliant episode in the Farscape canon. Back in the day, it was this episode that finally convinced me to give the entire series a try. Yes, that's right -- when the main characters started forcibly amputating limbs, I became a fan. Which -- okay, that probably indicates that I'm a little disturbed.

Plot Synopsis:

Get thee to Farscape World and read the summary here.

The Skinny:

They cut off his arm! THEY ACTUALLY CUT OFF HIS ARM!


Obviously, the first thing I love about this episode is the fact that the writer actually goes there. Characters whom we have so far accepted as the show's protagonists brutally maim one of their own to serve their self-interest. And they don't do it because they're being manipulated by mind-control rays; they don't do it because they've snorted some alien crazy dust. Zhaan, Rygel, and D'Argo are entirely within their right minds the whole time. They truly believe that Pilot can afford to give up one of his limbs for his shipmates -- and what's more, they truly believe Pilot should because he is, as D'Argo put it, a "servicer." The decision Zhaan, Rygel, and D'Argo make is a calculated one. Yes, it is driven by the temptation that a map home unquestionably represents, but as D'Argo states at the end, that doesn't mean they wouldn't do the exact same thing if given another chance.

The second thing I love about this episode is Pilot's fascinating reaction to the aforementioned maiming. On the one hand, there are a few moments in which Pilot permits himself to express just a smidgen of outrage over the indignity he has just suffered. The sarcasm that creeps into his voice when he asks Rygel whether he would be willing to give up a body part to appease NamTar is especially telling. On the other hand, he generally displays an acquiescence to his shipmates' cruelty that borders on Stockholm Syndrome. The weird contradictions we see in Pilot here raise an interesting question that, happily, will be answered in a later feature episode: What has convinced Pilot that pain is a necessary price to pay to "see the galaxy"?

The third thing I love about this episode is the vulnerability we see in Aeryn. Faced with the prospect that the others will leave her, she opens up to Crichton and, without her customary sarcasm, admits that she's lonely and scared. This is a big breakthrough for the character -- and Claudia Black's performance here is so beautiful that it deserves special mention.

Last - but certainly not least - this episode sends a firm message about the place of science in the hierarchy of knowledge. NamTar is evil because, like Mengele, he refuses to let morality govern his research. He is also evil because he quests after an idol -- in this case, earthly perfection.

I do think that this episode's attack on Darwinian ethics could've been stronger. Evolution is a natural process that responds to the exigencies of the moment. If it is advantageous at a particular time for a species to have rear-facing eyes, then those individuals who have eyes in the back of their heads will be more likely to survive and reproduce -- and, after many generations, we will end up with a population with rear-facing eyes. There is no particular direction built into this process. As I said, it is entirely mediated by the demands of the environment. NamTar's idea that evolution ultimately leads to the creation of super-beings is not scientific, but religious. Crichton, at least, should've called him on it.

On the whole, though, this episode is one of the first season's finest. It demonstrates conclusively that Farscape's writers possess the bravery necessary to tell genuinely challenging and creative stories.

Writing: 9.5

This script is dark, compelling, and very bold. Blomquist deserves high praise.

Acting: 9.0

As I mentioned above, Claudia Black's performance in particular is absolutely gorgeous.

Message: 9.0

NamTar's views on evolution should've been challenged -- but this episode is still a creepy illustration of what can go wrong when a scientist rejects traditional morality.


John: What's your problem? Hey, you know, you didn't even let him poke you in the eye. You don't even know if he's got your home world in his big ball of wonders.
Aeryn: Have you forgotten? You and the others are trying to get home avoiding Peacekeeper territories. My home is Peacekeeper territories. It's just that I can't ever go back there. Ever. (Ouch.)

Pilot: Don't concern yourself Crichton. I will be fine. My species has superior regenerative abilities.
John: So, you, uh... you let them cut off one of your arms?
Pilot: I didn't exactly 'let' them. They have the opportunity to go home. The drive is... very strong.
John: I will never understand you people. How can you not be angry? Insanely angry?
Pilot: When one of my species is bonded to a Leviathan, we give our lives to the service of others. Ship first... then those who travel aboard her.
John: No matter what those aboard do to you?
Pilot: My species is incapable of spaceflight on our own. If we wish to journey beyond our home planet, this is the trade-off we make for the chance to see the galaxy. I consider it a perfectly equitable arrangement. (Heartbreaking. Of course, Pilot is not being entirely honest here. We'll catch a glimpse of his some of his true feelings in a later highlight.)

Aeryn: How could you? Pilot is defenseless.
D'Argo: Compassion? From a Peacekeeper?
Aeryn: For a comrade. You attacked one of your own. Would you do the same to the rest of us?
D'Argo: Of course. (Wow.)

John: Aeryn, what's the matter?
Aeryn: They are going home. And someday, you will too.
John: Yeah. Sure. I mean... if I ever find a way home. Yeah.
Aeryn: I was born a Peacekeeper soldier. I've always been one among many. A member of a division, platoon, a unit. A team. I've never been on my own, John. Never been alone. Ever.
John: When I find a way home - if I find a way home - I'll take you with me.
Aeryn: Me? On a planet full of billions of you? (Heh.)

John: You guys getting all this?
D'Argo: We don't have to get all this. Moya is.
Pilot: (on the clamshell) Moya isn't.
Zhaan: Pilot, how are you?
Rygel: The yotz with pleasantries. What do you mean Moya isn't assimilating the data? Is that her doing, or yours?
Pilot: I have nothing to do with it.
Zhaan: Pilot is right. The data is being processed directly by Moya. But there is too much.
D'Argo: There is a great deal of data, but Moya will just have to --
Pilot: Moya can do nothing about it. It appears your crystal is useless. (Sarcastic.) Lucky for you, you didn't trade anything of real value to get it.
Zhaan: We can access one of the maps. But only if we destroy the other two.
Rygel: Well, we'll just go to NamTar and ask him for three individual crystals.
D'Argo: Ask NamTar for further help? What will he demand of us then?
Pilot: If he should ask for it, what body part are you willing to offer, Your Eminence? (BURN!)

Aeryn: It's NamTar. He took some of Pilot's DNA and he --
John: And how did, uh -- ?
Aeryn: I went back there. I wanted him to find me a place where I could belong. I didn't want to get left behind. I'm so scared. (A very nice moment that is well-performed.)

Zhaan: You know, Delvian Pa'us such as myself are - are open to all manner of experience.
Rygel: Are you saying what I think you're saying?
Zhaan: I'm not saying anything. I believe talk is... very overrated as a means of connection between two consenting beings.
Rygel: You know, I'm not really a body breeder - I mean - well, I'm not made that way.
Zhaan: But you understand pleasure. (She starts to stroke Rygel's eyebrows.) I know the Hynerian earbrow is very sensitive. I can be very gentle. This can be a very remarkable journey for you.
Rygel: (succumbing to Zhaan's seduction) Journey?
Zhaan: Mmm-hmm.... to Delvia.
Rygel: Delvia... of course.
Zhaan: Rygel? The crystal?
(Abruptly, Rygel snaps out of it.)
Rygel: Is safely hidden! Where it will remain. You honestly think that I could find you appealing? I mean, you're so - so - blue! (LOL!)

John: How can you do this to her?
NamTar: Is that how you speak to someone who is fast approaching perfection?
John: You're a long way from perfection, NamTar.
NamTar: But nearer possibly than any other corporeal being has ever come. Give credit where credit is due!
John: You expect credit for using innocent life-forms as specimens in your research? You of all people should understand the horror in that.
NamTar: You know of
John: Yeah.
NamTar: What I didn't understand then is that all species are seeking perfection. That's what evolution is: the road towards perfection. How many generations of your species have lived and died to lead to you? How many will die after you? All in the name of achieving a state of perfection.
John: You don't think I understand you. Do you? Oh, I understand. No, believe it or not, we've had men like you on my planet. Educated men. Men of science and medicine. Men who were searching for some self-described ideal and willing to maim and murder untold thousands to find it. There was one. His name was Mengele. To him, anyone was fair game as a subject of his experiments. The weak, the handicapped... men... women... children...
NamTar: The quest for perfection demands our unwavering devotion. This Mengele sounds like a visionary.
John: He was a monster. (Awesome.)


  1. Totally agree with your analysis.

  2. I'm happy you enjoyed it.

    And by the way, thank you for reading!