Even though it doesn't quite rise to the quality level of the features which precede and follow it, this is very much a quintessential Farscape episode.
Farscape World has a recap here.
Some weeks ago, I remarked in an email to SABR Matt that Farscape may be the most adult of the series currently on our docket. That assessment has less to do with the violence or the sexual content (although the show has both) and more to do with the nature of the universe presented. The world of Farscape, to put it simply, is a fallen world. Cruelty abounds -- and the choices that are presented to Crichton are less often choices between good and bad and more often choices between bad and worse. Normally speaking, a series this mired in the grey areas would turn me off, but Farscape (unlike, say, the reimagined BSG) injects just enough of the redemptive into its procedings to avoid this danger. Moreover, Farscape has a number of comedies that are funny enough to make feature status. That too helps the show to keep its balance.
The current episode is definitely one of the darker ones, however. Consider the following outline of the A-plot: Crichton, D'Argo, and Zhaan fly to a nearby habitable asteroid in response to a distress call. They meet up with a frightened girl who claims that her entire family has been eaten by a ravenous beast. But - oh, snap! - that girl turns out to be the people eater. You see, she's a calcivore - in order to survive, she must feed on skeletons, and Crichton, D'Argo, et. al. are the only prey available. Thus states the local botanist. Ah, but it's not as simple as that. Later, we discover that the botanist's race brought the girl's race to this asteroid to decimate the local herbivorous fauna knowing full well that eventually the calcivores would run out of food and starve to death. I'm sure you're getting the picture at this point. For much of this episode, the identity of the good guy is very much in doubt. Eventually, you end up taking M'Lee's side because she's been exploited and is truly desperate (and also because she exhibits a willingness to control her instincts), but even then, can we really endorse the final decision to sic M'Lee on the pursuing Peacekeepers? That seems an awfully vicious way to deal with your enemies.
In the B-plot, meanwhile, the writers continue to chronicle Crais' downfall and Scorpius' ascension as the series' new principal antagonist - and once again, we are presented with proof that Scorpius is more suited to the role. Crais is not a good guy just yet - notice the Hynerian heads he's mounted and displayed in his quarters - but he's too easily undone by his own considerable passions, and that renders him utterly incapable of playing on Scorpius' level. Scorpius must deal with his inner Scarran, yes, but he can switch it off rather effortlessly and thus has no trouble grabbing onto Crais' mivonks and pulling hard. It's a very interesting dynamic to watch. (See, for example, the video clip I include below.)
Last - but certainly not least - we have the C-plot, which is probably the lightest of the three and also one I adore a great deal. If you want to feel that "sense of wonder" that should be an outstanding feature of any science fiction series, look no further than the scenes in this episode in which Aeryn personally discovers the beauty of Moya's as-yet-unnamed hybrid offspring. I wish I had the technological capability to grab the relevant clips, because a lot of what I like about this plot can be found in Claudia Black's reaction takes. When the baby "talks" to Aeryn, for instance, I love the smile we see on her face. It's very sweet, and it helps us to join in her genuine delight.
The stand-alone story in this script is pretty interesting, and all ongoing arcs are handled well.
This episode also features a relatively solid slate of performances.
Zhaan's scolding John for his animal-centrism is a bit much given that none of the "stinking plants" at issue demonstrated sentience (unlike M'Lee -- or Zhaan, for that matter). Beyond that, though, this episode's stand against exploitation is a good one.
D'Argo: This is the most miserable place I think I have ever been!
Zhaan: Where you see misery, D'Argo, I find the end of misery.
D'Argo: Well, to put it in perspective, Zhaan, you are the least thing on this asteroid that I am allergic to!
John: The big guy's got a point. My rashes have got rashes.
Zhaan: I assure you, the cure for all those ailments and much more is also here.
D'Argo: So you keep saying.
Zhaan: Look around! What don't you see? No animals, no aviary, no insects. Nothing to compete with the flora. This magnificent place is the Goddess' pharmacognosia!
John: Hey - don't forget, happy campers - the girl on the distress signal said "creeeatuuure".
D'Argo: Well, she's probably dead by now. Which is what I'll be if I don't get off this asteroid.
Zhaan: Are you picking up any being’s scent?
D'Argo: Zhaan - let me explain to you what's going on inside my nose right now. There's large pieces of green mucus and gunk-
John: D'Argo! D'Argo - nononono. Stop it with the Luxan poetry. (ROTFL!)
M'Lee: I'm sorry about your female. I was scared.
John: It's not your fault.
D'Argo: (to John) No, it was your fault. You were meant to look after Zhaan. Instead, you went running -
John: (defensively) It was instinct, D'Argo! You understand instinct? Every single thing you do is based on it. (Heh.)
Scorpius: You requested my presence, Captain?
Crais: Did you suggest to my bridge officer that we do not adjust our current position?
Scorpius: Yes. Your bridge officer and her crew seemed to appreciate the merits of my suggestion.
Crais: You've gone too far, Scorpius. You've directly questioned my command.
Scorpius: Your command begs question.
Crais: If my actions were under examination, I would have been recalled.
Scorpius: You were recalled. Do you forget that I have seen your memories? That I know of your insubordination? That I have witnessed the execution of your second officer?
Crais: When I bring in the Leviathan’s offspring, it will forestall any of those charges. Now get out of my quarters.
Scorpius: (with calm disregard for Crais) I'll tell the bridge officer. We won't be changing our course. (You are being replaced, Crais.)
Br'Nee: My ancestors seeded this barren asteroid over 300 cycles ago. I simply led the first team of harvesters.
John: What happened to the rest of your team? (Br'Nee makes no answer.) Sorry. Forget that I asked.
Br'Nee: 26 in all. Including my mate. (He breathes heavily, growing agitated.) There weren't supposed to be any predators here! (In a passionate rage he hurls glass beakers across the lab and screams -) NO ANIMALS AT ALL!
Zhaan: He first encountered M'Lee in her dormant state John. As we did.
Br'Nee: She was cunning enough to live among us for some time and discover our weaknesses.
John: What are hers?
Br'Nee: Satiation. After she's eaten her fill of bones, she reverts to the passive creature you experienced.
Zhaan: It's the only time she is vulnerable. When she becomes hungry again, she loses the control of the transition.
John: Yup. Been there. Seen that.
Br'Nee: We have numbers again. And after she's eaten one of us, the others will have a chance to kill her.
John: Br'Nee, that's a little unacceptable. (They both look up as they hear eerie, yodeling howls wafting in from the jungle outside.)
Br'Nee: That's not your choice, I'm afraid. It's hers.
Pilot: (on comm) Officer Sun? The Peacekeeper scan is sweeping this way again. If you are able, you must reduce the offspring's energy signature to bare minimum.
Aeryn: Yes, Pilot. (She moves to a console and tries to follow Pilots directive - but the console blips stubbornly as the little Leviathan refuses to comply.)
What? Come on - (to the baby) - Do you understand what's happening?
Pilot: Officer Sun - make him understand.
Aeryn: If they try to communicate with you - they are called Peacekeepers, and you must understand they are not to be believed. Look, it's true. In a perverse way, you do come from them. But so do I. Look - I wish there was more time for this, but there isn't any time. You are going to have to decide if you will trust your mother - us - if you're going to trust me. (Talyn is another character whom I love. The poor little thing was just born confused.)
M'Lee: I'm hungry, John!
John: M'Lee? M'Lee, take it outside! Us southern boys don't make good eatin'. Not without a fight. (Silence.) M'LEE!
M'Lee: Have to eat, John.
John: And I'm it, huh?
M'Lee: I've been here the whole time. I've heard all that Br'Nee said about me.
John: What? That you're going to devour our bones if you get the chance?
M'Lee: He didn't tell you all of it. I need you to know the truth!
John: Is that before or after I supply your daily recommended allowance of calcium?
(At this point, M'Lee leaps into view.)
M'Lee: His people brought my ancestors to this asteroid for a purpose - to rid it of all herbivorous life-forms.
John: So what are you saying, Spikey? You saying there used to be plant-eating life here?
M'Lee: Thousands of creatures! Plenty food for my ancestors. Plenty of food. Until - there was nothing.
John: Br’Nee’s kind must have known that your kind would eventually decimate the food supply --
M'Lee: They expected us to do their dirty work for them and be long dead by now. Only their precious plants would remain.
John: How did you survive? (She bows her head in shame and grief.) M'Lee!
M'Lee: (sobs) In the end, we only had each other! (Damn.)
(Dude. Scorpius just went full-blown Scarran on Crais' ass.)
Chiana: So. The baby's real dadyong?
Aeryn: Uh, yes. Whatever that means.
Rygel: Is he fast?
Aeryn: Major part of his design and function, I imagine.
Rygel: Faster than his mother?
Aeryn: (with a weary sigh) Yes, Rygel. Fast enough to take you out of here if the Peacekeepers get too close.
Rygel: Listen - someone should escape this place - carry our message to the outside!
Aeryn: What exactly is our message?
Chiana: That we don't wanna die out here!
Aeryn: Very sensible. Chiana, would you come here for a microt please? (Chiana approaches, and as soon as she's within arm’s reach, Aeryn grabs her with one hand and Rygel with the other and knocks them upside each other.) Now let me get something straight for both of you! Moya will not leave here without her offspring, and he will not leave without her.
Rygel: Where does that leave us?
Aeryn: Very close to being thrown off this Command if you don't shut your wakket hole. (This is a pretty good set up for the next episode.)
M'Lee: I MUST EAT! YOU MUST TAKE ME WITH YOU! GIVE ME FOOOOOOOD!
D'Argo: I'm sorry, but I have nothing to offer you.
M'Lee: (panting, sobbing) Please! Please! Anything! Anything!
D'Argo: Except -- there's a ship of beings out there. Thousands. No one will regret their passing. You can have as many as you can lay claim to.
M'Lee: (sobbing and crying in desperation) How do I-? How do I get there?
D'Argo: They are coming. Soon. As soon as we start the engines and blast off from here.
M'Lee: Oh, you- you promise?
M'Lee: (struggling mightily with herself) I-I-I will control my urge. (And here, D'Argo decides to sic M'Lee on the Peacekeepers. Nice.)
Br'Nee: Step away from my machine!
John: Why would you do this to her?
Br'Nee: She's a Delvian. I have lived over 200 cycles - consumed by my life's work as a botanist! Until today, I could only dream of sampling such an incredible species!
John: She has a name. It's Zhaan.
Br'Nee: She is not dead. Nor will any harm come to her.
John: She's in a test tube, Jack.
Br'Nee: Through her, we might discover medical cures even our future dreamers dare not envision! Is that not a fair trade-off?
John: Not to her. And not to me.
Br'Nee: I WILL SHOOT YOU!
John: (smiles to himself) No, I don't think so. Not without the chakan oil cartridge. (He finds the right button on the machine and hits it yelling -) C'MON! (The blue laser begins reassembling Zhaan’s molecules at her normal size. Br'Nee howls with rage and lunges at John.)
Br'Nee: SHE'S MINE! (But as he seizes John, John manages to push him away - directly across the path of the laser. In a rather horrific puff of red - Br’Nee’s upper body disintegrates, and what's left of him falls to the floor. The machine finishes reassembling Zhaan, and she staggers a bit.)
John: (staring with horror at the twitching lower half of Br'Nee) What the hell am I looking at?
Zhaan: Justice. (Wow. That's pretty dark.)
Zhaan: M'Lee dear, I wish we could help you.
John: Zhaan, we have to find a way to take her with us. Somehow. Some way.
M'Lee: No. Not unless you're willing to sacrifice your shipmates one at a time. D'Argo told me there were others coming called Peacekeepers. I will try to hold on until then. But I must eat something now.
John: Bones. We have bones. Br'Nee. (With a gasp of something like gratitude, she makes a beeline for the remains of Br'Nee and with an ecstatic yowl tears into them.)
Zhaan: (as she and John watch for a moment) There is much cruelty in the universe.
John: Yeah, we seem to have a treasure map to it. Bon appetite.