Monday, January 24, 2011

Classics: Farscape 1:12 - Rhapsody in Blue

Overall: 7.8

This episode explains Zhaan's backstory quite well, but the other elements are pretty dull.

Plot Synopsis:

Farscape World has the recap here.

The Skinny:

Farscape stands out to me as a series primarily because of its gray areas. As we saw in DNA Mad Scientist in particular, Our Heroes are not exactly paragons of innocence; on the other hand, they are equally capable of displaying decency, compassion, and many other virtues.

All along, the writers have been offering up hints about Zhaan's violent past. She mentioned to Crichton that she was once a savage. She used her inner darkness to defeat Maldis and then struggled to put the genie back in the lamp. And she willingly participated in the amputation of Pilot's arm and subsequently used every dark skill in her repertoire to try to convince the others to go to Delvia first. If there's one thing that Zhaan is not, it's a saintly priestess. That's been clear for several episodes now.

Still, the writers needed to explain how Zhaan ended up on Moya to begin with -- and that's what the current episode is all about. Rhapsody in Blue finally confirms what we've suspected all along: that Zhaan is the only guilty man - or woman, rather - in Shawshank. But Zhaan's backstory is marked by a great deal of nuance. While the Peacekeepers are correctly portrayed as villains, it's certainly not as simple as all that because, often, someone else has to ask the Peacekeepers for aid. This is what happened on Delvia: a certain political faction wished to remain in power and called in the Peacekeepers to serve as their foot soldiers in the resulting civil war. On the other hand, it's equally facile to say that those in Zhaan's faction were unambiguous victims. Though they are on the right side of this particular conflict, that doesn't mean that they aren't themselves tempted by the same desire for power. If Zhaan had succeeded in driving the Peacekeepers from her homeland before she was imprisoned, what do you suppose would've happened next? If Tahleen had gotten her way, what would she have done? In either case, I'm pretty sure that mercy would not have factored into the equation.

Fortunately for us, the writers evidently understand that revolutions frequently don't end with a victory for all that is good. On the contrary, it is often the case that the revolutionaries turn out to be worse than the faction they deposed. The monarchs of pre-revolutionary France and Russia were not ideal rulers, but Robespierre and Stalin were themselves tyrants of the most heinous type. And can replacing the shah of Iran with the ayatollahs really be considered a positive outcome?

In a nutshell: Zhaan's backstory is quite compelling. Unfortunately, I can't say the same thing about the rest of the episode. The writers don't really take advantage of the Delvian mind-messing to really explore the other characters. Crichton gets the deepest treatment out of everyone besides Zhaan, but even his "girlfriend" - who may or may not have been real - leaves me feeling pretty meh.

Writing: 7.5

As I said, this script is not uniformly effective, though it holds together a little better than last week's offering.

Acting: 8.0

The acting is solid across the board.

Message: 8.0

It's good to be reminded that even revolutionaries are subject to the effects of original sin.


John: That's my underwear.
Aeryn: (stretching the waistband of the boxers out to reveal the tag) What does this say?
John: Calvin.
Aeryn: Then they're not yours. (LOL! Aeryn snatched Crichton's jockey shorts out of the laundry. Cute.)

Aeryn: It amazes me how people mistake theosophy for superiority.
John: Y'know, I don't think anything amazes you. (He grabs another creature out of the pool.) I mean look at this. You ever seen one of these before? What would you call this? I dub thee - trigapod! (Aeryn rolls her eyes) But - what? N-n-no reaction from you!
Aeryn: Incredible! How special! (A beat.) They're a food source John.
John: No, Aeryn. It's unique. It's a squidcalamaricucumber and it is incredible! Look up. Look at this. This is a ship, Aeryn, and it's incredible. (He looks up at the ceiling.) It's also a little creepy. (We cut away for a brief interlude between Tahleen and Zhaan, and then return.) Almost everything we see, almost every day, is brand new to both of us. It's worthy of response. (Aww. Crichton is so innocent in these early episodes.)

D'Argo: Something Crichton said is disturbing me.
Rygel: Finally! I've been saying that since he arrived. (Zing!)
D'Argo: It's what he said about us all having the same dream.
Rygel: It wasn't the same. Mine was better than yours. (Zing again.)

Zhaan: John! John - you asked if I dreamt the other night. I did. I too was reminded of the last person I ever loved. Open your mind, John. You must keep an open mind.
Tahleen: Are you sure Zhaan? His capacity is well below even a Level One.
Zhaan: (to Tahleen) He will understand. (to John) You must. (back to Tahleen) Show him. (Tahleen hesitates.) Show him!
(Tahleen gazes intently at John and he sees a vision of Zhaan. She is sharing Unity with a Delvian man.)
Zhaan: In the fires of Tadesh I search for unity with you my companion.
Bitaal: Oh magnificent Zhaan. Ease the burdens of my flesh with your soul. Envelop me.
Zhaan: Release your mind, Bitaal. Surrender your demons. For I have others replace them. (And with that, she begins to inflict pain on him.)
Bitaal: What are you doing?
Zhaan: Avenging the lives you have ruined. The world you put at risk.
Bitaal: No! Zhaan! ZHAAAAAAAN! (Zhaan cries out in grief.)

(And we return to the present.)
John: What the hell was that?
Zhaan: The crime I was imprisoned for.
John: You - You killed the guy you were having sex with?
Zhaan: I admit I have not revealed all parts of myself to you.
John: No, no you haven't! You killed the guy you were having sex with, Zhaan!
Zhaan: I need you, John. I need you!
John: For what? Target practice?
Zhaan: I am adrift. As the past is sweeping over me, I must rely on the judgment of someone I trust. Please understand. Please!
John: You want me to understand? Then tell me why the hell did you show me that?
Zhaan: Because they want me to do it again. (And thus Zhaan's secret is revealed.)

Aeryn: Any more from Crichton?
D'Argo: He says they want Zhaan to participate in some ceremonial mating.
Aeryn: This is such a bad combination. I never should have left them. Zhaan distracted. Crichton confused...
D'Argo: Crichton is always confused. (Hey, cut him a break. He's learning.)

Zhaan: You wish to share Unity with me?
John: You guys are always going on about how hot it is, so I thought I'd give it a go.
Zhaan: This is not sex. The fusion of our two minds will surely kill you.
John: Not if you're careful. I hear you can protect me... If you want to.
Zhaan: I see no purpose to this union.
(Crichton makes chicken noises.)
John: Can your translator microbes handle that one?
Zhaan: Although... I must admit - I have always wondered what could possibly go on in there...
John: Not a lot. I'm a guy. (Heh.)

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