A great character introduction that just barely misses the feature mark.
Farscape World has a summary here.
Some leftwing fans might be surprised by my positive response to the theme of this episode. "As a social conservative," they may ask, "shouldn't you be in favor of conformity?" To a certain extent, yes. I do believe that bucking authority and tradition just for the sake of bucking authority and tradition is highly over-rated. As a matter of fact, I've found that our society's "non-comformists" are astonishingly similar to each other -- that our supposed "rebels" are, in reality, rank conformists when it comes to following their own group's unstated rules. I also don't find Chiana's history as a thief, prostitute, and potential murderer to be all that admirable despite the fascistic practices of her home planet.
BUT - and this is a big but - I still find the Nebari mind-cleansing to be morally abhorrent. For one thing, it seems to be imperfectly effective. But more importantly, as a political conservative and a practicing Catholic, I hate the practice for the same reason I hate communism: they both attempt to make people good by force. The Church teaches that every individual has a right to his or her freedom of conscience. With the discipline of apologetics, we can try to peacefully persuade outsiders that the "rules" make sense, but in the end, we are not to compel people to heed what we say. Moreover, Christ teaches us through his words and his actions to have sympathy for the sinner. I may disapprove of Chiana's chosen lifestyle, but do I like her? Oh, yes! And you can bet I root for her to escape her captors.
As for the episode as a whole? Not only is Chiana a great addition to the regular cast, but Rygel also gets another moment in the sun when he once again conquers his fear of Durka and tells him to his face that he's a failure. One thing's for sure: this episode is a huge step up from Jeremiah Crichton.
The characterization is excellent and the story tight. I particularly like that the writers left us hanging on the "who killed Salis?" question.
I find it a little strange that Durka's brainwashed vibe doesn't disappear once his cleansing is reversed. On the other hand, this second viewing has prompted me to revise (upward) my original opinion on Gigi Edgley's first performance. I still think the directors could've dialed back the weirdness just a smidge (and they do later), but Edgley's debut was better than, say, Anthony Simcoe's.
Conversion by fiat is detestable -- and ineffective to boot.
Rygel: Durka, you are pathetic. Look at you. Salivating at the chance to maim and kill someone who can't even defend herself. Foaming at the mouth like a sick trelkez. Pathetic.
Durka: Why, Rygel - what's this?
Rygel: Something I should have said to you a long time ago.
Durka: Yet you didn't. I was going to save you for a bargaining tool. But now I'm wondering - do you think your shipmates would really care if I just burnt your face right off?
Rygel: Go ahead and find out. I don't care. Because the all-powerful Durka is a failure. It's the truth, Durka! You tortured me without mercy, but you never broke me! You only made me stronger! And even if you kill me, I'll be laughing at you because the last thing I'll think of is you on Nebari Prime for another 100 cycles being ground back down into nothing. (In some circumstances, Rygel can be quite heroic.)
Chiana: I'm sorry. I'm not used to trusting anybody.
John: I suggest you start.
Chiana: How could Durka have broken the mental cleansing? It's irreversible.
John: It's not my department. Take that up with your mental engineers.
Chiana: That's why he wants to get away from here so bad -- because he's afraid my people will -- will recondition him.
John: Well that's something you have in common. We might be able to use that against him.
Chiana: Or maybe it's to my advantage to team up with him.
John: Do you have a hearing problem, Chiana? Durka's insane. He's a psychopath - legendary. And nobody knows what a 100 years of Happy Meals have done to him. You could end up with your throat cut.
Chiana: Maybe. But I know how to hide. I know how to disappear.
John: Do you know how to breathe vacuum? He doesn't have to find you. He could shut off the life support everywhere except for Command. (A beat.) Commit, Chiana. You're with us, or you're on your own.
Chiana: When my people find out what happened to Salis, they're gonna want to cleanse the lot of you.
John: Yeah. I guess that makes us natural allies. (Oh snap! He's got you there, Chi.)