The first time I watched this episode, my dominant reaction was, "What the frell is going on here? Jeez, Monjo, were you smoking crack and dropping acid simultaneously while you were writing this script?" The second time I watched this episode, however, I decided it was AWESOME. No, seriously. It is. Trust me. After all, I'm human, and as we all know:
Farscape World reports on the insanity here.
I've decided that Crackers Don't Matter is a better-acted and grittier Dramatis Personae. For those of you who don't understand that reference, Dramatis Personae is a rather weak first season episode of DS9 in which the main characters (save Quark and Odo) fall under the influence of a telepathic matrix and become paranoid and inclined to scheme against each other. In his original review, SABR Matt complained that the performances in Dramatis Personae were way, way over the top and that the conflict was not written in a particularly interesting way. Both of those charges are true, but I would add that Dramatis Personae also fails because it pulls its punches. Okay, yes - Kira did give Quark a serious case of whiplash at one point, but on the whole, the writers avoided actually going there. When you get right down to it, the Kira/Sisko divide was pretty tame and lily-white.
Crackers Don't Matter, meanwhile, also features a ship-wide outbreak of paranoia - this time caused by T'raltixx's attempts to enhance Moya's bioluminescence - but writer Justin Monjo doesn't hold back when it comes to injecting real danger into the proceedings. D'Argo almost chokes Rygel to death by shoving crackers down the Hynerian's gullet (and by the way, great puppet work there - you really feel Rygel's absolute terror); Pilot electrocutes Crichton; Crichton comes within inches of either raping or killing Chiana; and Aeryn nearly wastes Crichton with her pulse pistol. There is no question in my mind that if T'raltixx had been allowed to continue messing with Moya, somebody would've died at the hands of someone else. Who would've been the victim and who would've been the perpetrator? Well, that's a real crap-shoot.
But lest you think this episode is all Heart of Darkness-type material, allow me to emphasize that Crackers Don't Matter also features a downright hilarious final sequence in which Crichton, smeared in Zhaan's puke and dressed like a six-year-old pretending to be a superhero, goes off to save the day (and everyone's sanity). And then there are the parts that play like an LSD-induced nightmare - like the scene, for example, in which Crichton shoots his hallucination of Scorpius and Scorpius' head fragments into floating bubbles. Duuuuuude. I'm really trippin' here, man.
And speaking of the Scorpius hallucination, there's one other thing that's great about this episode (besides its wacko - and gutsy - juxtaposition of humor and horror): its arc relevance. This episode triggers what will become the dominant continuing story of the second season: Crichton's slow and steady descent into madness. You see, Scorpius has secretly implanted a chip in Crichton's brain, and -- ah, but we'll save that discussion for later.
As I said, Monjo obviously wrote this script while he was under the influence of some powerful mind-altering substances, but that doesn't detract from the episode in the slightest.
This cast does crazy very, VERY well. Damn.
There isn't really much of a message here, but I'll give the episode an extra point for acknowledging - at the end - the potentially permanent consequences of the hurtful things we say and do.
There are actually quite a few great lines here, but I'm going to try to be selective so you're not overwhelmed by an over-long highlights section.
(This moment is genuinely frightening.)
Pilot: I'm only judging on my experience with you, but I've never seen such a deficient species.
John: (trying to ignore Pilot's insults) Have you run a scan on the pulsar light yet?
Pilot: How do humans make it through a cycle - even half a cycle -- without killing each other?
John: (growing increasingly annoyed) We find it difficult. Have you run the scan?
Pilot: You have no special abilities. You're not particularly smart, can hardly smell, can barely see, and you're not even vaguely physically or spiritually imposing. Is there anything you do well?
John: Watch football. Have you run the scan?
Pilot: Nobody trusts you, Crichton. Do you know that? Sometimes they pity you because of your incompetence, or you amuse them --
(At this point, Crichton finally loses what's left of his patience and starts climbing onto Pilot's console.)
John: Mama always said - you want something done, you do it yourself.
(Crichton and Pilot start to struggle with each other.)
Pilot: Don't touch my console!
John: Oh, you want to talk about incompetence --
Pilot: Get off! Go away!
John: Moya would dump your ass in a heartbeat if she had a choice --
(Flash! Boom! Crichton is hit with an electrical discharge which throws him off Pilot's console.)
Pilot: I warned you. (Damn. Genuinely frightening moment number two.)
Chiana: D'Argo? Zhaan?
John: Hi, baby.
(Crichton grabs Chiana and slams her into the bulkhead.)
Chiana: Crichton? Don't! I-I can help you!
John: Nonononono. I'm still achin' from the last time you helped me. What a sllllllut! (Chiana tries to get away, but Crichton holds her fast.) Is that why your family abandoned you? Because you'd spread 'em for anybody, anytime?
Chiana: (whispering with terror) John, please. Please, don't.
John: Nope! 'Fraid not. My little black book - is all full.
(Crichton aims his gun at Chiana's neck and gets ready to fire -- but his Scorpius hallucination interrupts.)
Scorpius Hallucination: John. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Show a little bit of patience. Tie her up. Then we can save her for dessert. Kill the others. Then we can have a little bit of fun with her.
John: Nice. I like that idea. (At that, Crichton hits Chiana over the head with his pistol, knocking her unconscious. Genuinely frightening moment number three.)
John: Okay. T'raltixx said that we're attacked through our optic neurons. That's how he's getting to us. But I can deal with it. You just gotta find a way to keep the light and heat off of me, and I'm gonna go in there and kill him.
D'Argo: YOU? We're not sending YOU in there after him!
John: Oh, yeah? Well, I'm the only one around here keeping it vaguely under control.
Rygel: Tch! Says who?
John: Says me, Buckwheat!
D'Argo: YOU are no warrior. I will kill T'raltixx.
Aeryn: No, you will not. I will. You're wounded.
D'Argo: No way! I want the first shot!
John: Look at you two bozos. You'd kill each other before you got anywhere near T'raltixx.
Chiana: He's right. He's gotta do it.
Chiana: Don't you get it, furball? Look -- Crichton's the only one not affected by T'raltixx because he's deficient.
John: Who you calling deficient?
Chiana: You. You've got the worst eyes out of all of us. That's why your optic nerves aren't being affected.
John: I got GREAT eyes. They're better than 20/20 and they're BLUE!
Chiana: Okay. So, can you read the symbols on the basin over there?
John: There's nothing there.
Rygel: (with a little laugh as he looks at the fancy sink and reads) Warning -
D'Argo: (continuing) - don't flush corrosives -
Aeryn: (finishing with a hand over one eye) - down the waste tunnel.
John: That's all right. That's a joke.
Aeryn: Excellent. If we're gonna let blue-eyes save the day, we'd better come up with a very good plan.
(She and the others leave Crichton alone.)
John: I'm not deficient! I'M SUPERIOR! Humans - are - superior. (LOL!)
John: What the hell is this?
Zhaan: Heat-deflecting paste. You'll burn up in there without it.
John: Smells like puke.
Zhaan: I pre-digested it to increase its potency.
John: IT'S PUKE?! (LOL!)
D'Argo: We're going to have to move fast. All of Moya is glowing. (He hands Crichton a pair of goggles.)
John: I hate these goggles. They look like crap.
D'Argo: Stop whining. You sound like a zelmat. (He gives John his Qualta blade.) They're the only thing that's gonna stop you from going blind in there.
Aeryn: Probably will anyway. (She gives him a shield to carry.) Here, this may be of some use to you. I made it from a piece of my Prowler, and it will withstand a Zakkian laser pulse.
John: Thank you.
Chiana: (as she throws what looks like a tarp around him shoulders) Solar-reflecting flare wrap. Pull it on tight.
John: Does this strike any of you superior beings as a little bit ironic?
John: I'm the deficient one, and I'm still saving your butts.
Chiana: Bend over! (She pulls what looks like an old-fashioned aviator's cap over his head.) We soaked it in Zhaan's bio-paste for as long as we could.
John: (straightening up) Great. I look ridiculous, don't I? (Aeryn, D'Argo and Zhaan are standing and gazing wordlessly at him. Aeryn nods a bit excessively.)
Rygel: (reassuringly as he brings the final component of their Champion's armor) Don't worry. This is T'raltixx’s disappearing device. (Chiana takes what looks like a particularly large and tacky rapper pendant and hangs it around Crichton's neck.) So it won't matter how ridiculous you look. (He and Chiana join the rest of the crew to survey their handiwork - with some dismay. Crichton begins to hum "The Ride Of The Valkyries" and strikes a "Masters Of The Universe" pose with the Qualta raised over his head.)
Aeryn: (wryly) We are going to die. (ROTFLOL!)
Chiana: (to John) Some of the things you said...
John: (abashed) Yeah, look - I'm sorry - really sorry. I'm sorry --
Chiana: Oh, no, no. Look, don't apologize. I was impressed. How did you come up with all that crap?
John: I don't know, Pip. It's just there.
Zhaan: (approaching Chiana) Did I - did I say anything awful, Chiana?
Chiana: You don't remember?
Zhaan: No. T'raltixx triggered such a-an intense reaction in me I blanked everything out.
Chiana: Whoa. I wish I could do that. No, no, Zhaan. Look, you were the best out of all of us. You looked like you were having - a great time. (She chuckles a bit and leaves.)
John: (to Aeryn) Listen, uh - Anything I said, I uh --
Aeryn: (stopping him) Ah - I know. Me too. (She leaves.)
John: (sitting and muttering to himself) Humpty-Dumpty sat on the wall... And all the King's horses and all the King's men… Hey, Zhaan. How do we take it all back?
Zhaan: I don't know.
John: (whispering) Yeah. (Unfortunately, what's done is done.)