Monday, August 22, 2011

Classics: Farscape 2:19 - 2:21 - The 'Liars, Guns & Money' Trilogy

Overall: 9.0

Readers should note...the commentary on this and the next couple of episodes is provided by SABR Matt, not Stephanie S, as she is focused on literary works during the summer hiatus.

The presentation is so frenzied and disorganized that what should have been an absolutely terrifying descent into madness is overshadowed somewhat. The elements survive to keep it at the border of feature status, however.

Plot Synopsis:

Part I - A Not So Simple Plan - is summarized here.

Part II - With Friends Like These... - is summarized here.

Part III - Plan B - is summarized here.

(With many thanks to the Farscape Wiki!)

The Skinny:

I think the decision by the crew of Farscape to tell the story of John's loss of freedom and horrible suffering at the hands of Scorpius through one of the most convoluted and overly complicated plots in the history of television is a poor one. My co-author seemed a bit more pleased with this three-parter than I was. I had to watch the entire trilogy twice to understand the major elements of the attempted bank heist plan and the various interpersonal squabbles that ensued. Let me go through the list of the incredibly important things that happened in this three parter, each of which was allocated about 4 seconds of screen time.

---> Aeryn discovered Scorpius's weak point - his cooling rod.
---> Talyn developed an independent (and rather militant) streak potent enough that it made CRAIS nervous.
---> The madness in John's head was in fact a real, technological achievement, not some psychological after-effect from the Aurora Chair.
---> John sided against D'Argo when D'Argo wished to kamakaze the bank to get the money he needed to free Jothee.
---> Rygel got the best of his archnemesis in an incredibly pleasing manner and then carried his head around on a pike (!) for two probably still sits in his quarters.
---> Moya nearly died (!)
---> Stark and Zhaan began getting much closer
---> Zhaan demonstrated that she would endure any suffering (mental and physical) to look out for Moya...including abandonment by her family and incredible pain.
---> Aeryn was nearly swayed to join Talyn.
---> Stark demonstrated that he was very bad emotionally under strain (a fact D'argo failed to realize when he threatened to kill him if he failed...LOL)
---> Scorpius is a sick bastard and so is his blue

Did I forget anything?

The problem is...all of that happens while things are exploding and massive firefights are underway. It's very difficult to keep up with that much when the stage is quiet..let alone in the middle of a war zone. I gotta say...I very nearly took this episode out of the feature bracket for that major problem. I feel that opportunities were missed to hit the emotional high notes.

On the other hand, as my co-author mentioned in a recent e-mail (and as I soon thereafter observed for myself), the rescue operation was filled with this magical thing called continuity! There were a whole series of "let's meet a new alien despicable as the last!" episodes in first season and they all came in handy during this three-parter. Which is cool.

I must ask...why must the writers of Farscape episodes ALWAYS go for the eyes? really upsets my stomach...LOL

The way this long adventure concludes, however, is remarkable. Farscape never fears to tread where other canons wouldn't dare. The horrifying way in which Crichton's mind is overthrown by Scorpius' implant should have gotten more screen time, but the bits we did get were so incredible that they deserve repeat viewings. Browder does such a phenomenal job playing the role that by the time he asks D'argo to kill him, we know it's coming (and yet the actual request is still shocking...kudos Ben...kudos). Crichton is nothing if not defiantly independent...that will to be free is the one asset he brings to the table in this fallen universe...that desire for freedom is his defining feature...and here, he has it taken away, leaving him nothing but a desire to die on his own terms. Truly stunning.

Writing: 8.0

This story has all the elements of an epic...but the execution is WAY too fast paced and convoluted for a feature rating.

Acting: 10.0

On the other hand, Browder and company do everything they can to take advantage of their many brief, yet big moments to shine.

Message: 9.0

The worst thing you can do to a man is take away his free will from within his own mind. How can it be that the crew reaps a gigantic financial benefit from their exploits, rescues D'argo's son, and gets John out of Scorpius' clutches (physically), and yet you feel like the whole thing was a gigantic defeat?


Take a peak under the jump!

John: Are you sure this is gonna work?
Stark: Yes, it will work. I've spent too much time thinking it through.
John: I spent too much time thinking through the Farscape project.
Stark: (suddenly furiously possessive) Your side, my side! My side, your side! Now go! Go back to your quarters, get something to eat, take a nap -- do nothing. That's what D'Argo said you do best.
(John eyes Stark, who is focused now on his hologram, and then whips out his gun and presses it against Stark's neck.)
John: (quiet and deadly) Ground rule: You don't lie to me. Did D'Argo say that?
Stark: (cowed) No. I'm sorry. He didn't.
John: Do you have any other lies you want to confess?
Stark: (very softly) No. (John withdraws his gun.)
John: You want to guilt trip me, that's fine. Just -- don't lie to me. (This scene is interesting mainly because Stark's nasty remark regarding John's supposed uselessness is something he would never have said pre-dispersal.)

John: Hey, Stark! Riddle me this: what's black and white, and black and white, and black and white, and black and white...
Stark: Scorpy!
John: And in the bank!
Stark: Here?
John: You knew! You knew that he had a safe-deposit box in that bank! (He wields his finger like a gun, pointing it at Stark's neck.) OOHO - What - we've talked about lying!
Stark: Yes, I knew, but if I had told you --
Stark: I didn't know he'd be here!
Stark: (defensive) That is NOT true! My people and D’Argo’s son are the reason I'm here. Now, if it's Scorpius' wealth that frees them, well, that's an added bonus. You want revenge!
John: No, I don't. I want to kill him. That's justice. (Nice.)

John: How you doing?
D'Argo: How do I look?
John: You look like crap.
D'Argo: Well, there's your answer.
Chiana: Blood's clear. Not much damage. He's still in a lot of pain though.
John: Yeah. We're, uh -- we're going ahead with the plan.
D'Argo: Because now it's begun and you have no other choice.
John: Yeah. Who exactly got us into this great plan anyway?
D'Argo: Well, someone had to act.
John: You mean someone had to take matters into their own hands?
D'Argo: And you never do? (Zing!)

Rygel: 10% of this plan is lunacy! 50% of these riches is not enough! 100% of dead is dead!
Zhaan: Stark! Which way now?
(Back on Moya, Stark is staring at the hologram and having trouble maintaining focus. His lips move, but no sound comes out.)
Chiana: STARK! D'Argo, are you there?
D'Argo: Stark! They need you. If you fail them, I'll kill you. (Thanks, D'Argo. That's really going to help Stark's panic. /sarcasm)

(And now to the video...)


Chiana: D'Argo? Hey - I - heard what happened.
D'Argo: (he’s near tears) You don't understand. I, ah - I was prepared to give Scorpius what he wanted.
Chiana: What?
D'Argo: On the Command - for a microt - I was ready to take Crichton by force and deliver him to Scorpius. It was all I could do to stop myself.
Chiana: Crichton is your friend.
D'Argo: Jothee is my blood. My child. All I have left of my wife. Now why is that not enough?

(And now let's go back to the video. This time, though, you only need to watch the first 50 seconds of the clip...)

(Again, I say, "Wow." That is completely twisted.)

Zhaan: You’re feeling Moya's pain.
Pilot: What I feel, Moya feels a thousand times worse.
Zhaan: Pilot, I think I’ve found a solution. I want to flood Moyas affected areas with adrexan vapor. After she has absorbed it into her body, you - you’ll be able to ignite it electrically.
Pilot: (sitting up straight and staring at her with horror) IGNITE?
Zhaan: Waves of heat will course through her body, then flames. The creatures will be destroyed.
Pilot: You’d BURN Moya?
Zhaan: To save her.
Pilot: NO! There must be another way!
Zhaan: I haven’t given up hope of trying to find one. And I won’t! But if we run out of time, Pilot - you must believe me. This may be Moyas last hope.
Pilot: (sorrowful) The Builders put our fates in your care, Zhaan. Whatever you decide, we will - abide by it. (Awwwww.)

John: Pilot? What the hell’s going on over there? Pilot? You guys okay? PILOT! I’m seeing flames on Moya!
Stark, over the comm: It’s all right, Crichton.
John: Stark, there are flames on Moya! That is not all right! (Indeed.)

Jothee: Father?
D'Argo: Jothee. (And then, with a joyous shout and laughter, he lunges for his long-lost son, envelops him in a rib-crushing bear-hug and swings him off his feet) JOTHEE! IT’S YOU! IT’S REALLY YOU!
Jothee: Father! You’re choking me!
D'Argo: Everything you’ve been through -- ss many cycles. I’m sorry
Jothee: Not your fault.
D'Argo: I never stopped thinking about you -- trying to find you. I almost lost hope.
Jothee: I didn’t. I knew you would come for me.
D'Argo: My son. MY SON! (A beat.) How did you escape Scorpius?
Jothee: He let me go.
D'Argo: (suddenly a bit of the joy leaves his voice) He what?
(Aeryn’s smile also fades as the dread sets in, she takes a step closer to them.)
Aeryn: W-why?
(Jothee has no answer and looks from one of them to the other with some confusion.)
D'Argo: Oh, no.
(Cut to the depository, where John is currently surrendering himself to Scorpius.)
Scorpius: Hello, John.
John: You want the wormhole technology? I want your implant out of my head. So, finally, the rift between us is not so great. You do what you got to do. You win.
Scorpius: As if there was ever any doubt. (Gulp!)

John: (on recording) This thing in my head - this chip. Part of me now wants it to control me. So I'm gonna go to Scorpy and have him take it out before it's too late - before I no longer want it gone. Goodbye, my friends. At least by swapping myself with Jothee I can do you some good.
Aeryn: (to D'Argo) You see how you misread him?
D'Argo: (ashamed) Yes. (Awwww again.)

Aeryn: We are planning to attack the shadow depository on the planet below.
Crais: And you want Talyn to help?
Aeryn: Scorpius is in the depository.
Crais: Tempting. I thought you didn't want to use Talyn for violence. You all said that from the beginning.
Aeryn: Yes, but this is different.
Crais: How? Is this violence more acceptable because it's for you?
Aeryn: No. It's because Scorpius has captured Crichton, and he's going to kill him if we don't get down there.
Crais: (chuckling at the irony) There's always a reason for violence, Aeryn. Thousands of people die for the most virtuous causes.
Aeryn: You don't have to lecture me, Crais.
Crais: I believe I do! You've lectured me countless times! (To that, Aeryn has no clever reply.) How long has Scorpius held Crichton?
Aeryn: Four arns.
Crais: Then I recommend you bring down a basket without any holes - so that Crichton’s liquid remains are not lost. He's already dead Aeryn. (Ouch.)

Stark: You pay attention! If one piece of this plan fails, then the entire plan fails! You got it? You got it?
Rorf: (defensive) Look! All I understand is that I am going down first!
Stark: With Bekhesh!
Rorf: (with sarcasm) Great! We are going down while you all stay up here out of danger!
Rygel: You are the tracker. You must locate Crichton before we all risk ourselves.
Rorf: What are you doing with that head?
Rygel: He's an old enemy. I like that he doesn't talk back. (LOL!)
Stark: As soon as you locate Crichton, then the rest of us will follow straight down. And then Teurac and I will destroy their generator.
Bekhesh: (sullen) How come I don't get that job?
Stark: (approaching the end of his patience) Because you can't produce a fireball that burns at 7000 klances.
Teurac: How will I know when to start burning the generator?
Stark: (almost losing it) I TOLD YOU! We'll all be on a silent count for the entire battle! (LOL! Ah, yes. You have to love Stark and his obsession with "silent counts".)

D'Argo: I'm, uh -- I'm sorry that we haven't spoken.
Jothee: Don't be sorry. I don't know what to say either.
D'Argo: Who did this to you? Who mutilated you?
Jothee: You did. In a way - you've done everything that's ever happened to me. (Youch!)
D'Argo: Jothee... Son... I had to send you away. After your uncle accused me of killing your mother...
Jothee: (cutting him off) I'm not - angry with you. Look, what's going on on the ship -- you don't expect me to help you save Crichton do you?
D'Argo: I thought you would want to.
Jothee: Listen! I'm interested in saving myself! For ten cycles, I've been running. Trying to survive.
D'Argo: I realize that. I want to know everything that has happened to you.
Jothee: NO! NO YOU DON'T WANNA KNOW! BELIEVE ME - you don't wanna know. I have done things - many things I am not proud of - to survive. I don't wanna shame you - but I am not going back to that planet. I only just got my freedom back. I'm not gonna risk losing it again. (Poor D'Argo.)

Aeryn: Look, Crais -- we're all going to die if you don't help us.
Crais: Will other lives be lost in this attack?
Aeryn: You can have anything you want. Anything.
Crais: Aeryn Sun, are you -- offering yourself? (She makes no response other than to gaze steadily back at him.) Crichton, if he's alive, must mean a great deal to you.
Aeryn: You take what you want, and I won't stop you. (Wow for the third time.)

Natira: Human. You are surprising. I've never seen Scorpius worry about anyone as much as you.
John: Don't be jealous, Frau Blucher. He only loves me for my mind. (LOL!) Maybe you should come in and visit sometime.
Natira: Why would I ever want to go inside you?
John: So the Scorpius in my head can tell you exactly how he's going to kill you.
Natira: Well, I can tell you - you're about to taste blood. (And she lashes out and claws his lip open.)
John: (wincing and licking his lip) Was that good for you?
Natira: Yes. (Which she says as she dabs John's blood with one of her talons and has a taste. Seriously, this chick is frelling disturbed. She's perfect for Scorpius.)

Teurac: Scorpius! Don't worry about her - worry about me!
Guard: Shoot him!
Akkor: (softly) No.
Scorpius: No, don't! He's a Sheyang!
Teurac: That's right! I'll explode if you shoot me! (A beat.) Good-bye, Zhaan. This is not your fault. I always knew it had to end like this.
Zhaan: Teurac! (But with that, Teurac raises his gun and shoots himself there beneath the shadow depository generator. The resulting explosion kills the power. Cool.)

D'Argo: John -- I've brought my son, Jothee, to thank you.
(But John is gone, fumbling with a chess set and singing brokenly to himself.)
John: I'm half - whoa! - crazy all for the love -- of you. (He flails at the air in an attempt to stop Harvey's nattering in his head. D'Argo tries to calm him.)
D'Argo: Sshhhh.
John: He's here and, um - he blames me. Blames me for killing Scorpius, so I've been trying to -- but I can't -- (D'Argo grabs him to keep him focused.)
D'Argo: But you what, John?
(Suddenly lucid, John stares at D'Argo, pain in his red-rimmed eyes.)
John: D'Argo - kill me. D'Argo, please - kill me. (Wow times a billion. What a great ending.)


  1. Regarding Stark and his failure to hold up under emotional strain: I think the dispersal caused brain damage. Previous to The Ugly Truth, he did fine in stressful situations (like, for example, the escape from Scorpius' Gammak base). Whatever madness we saw back then was chiefly used as a defense mechanism. After The Ugly Truth, on the other hand, we see "madness as a strategy" becoming "madness for real."

  2. So in a sense, while John is descending into insanity, Stark is also losing his marbles. It's an interesting bit of symmetry.

  3. Yeah...I am watching Farscape for the first time, so I don't have the full Stark arc to inform my views...but I do think Stark is fundamentally different after his last dispersal. Even without foreknowledge of what's to come, I can see a difference in Stark's seems like he's more emotional all around...he was very calculating when we first met his plans are zany and hard to understand and he loses his shit when in the presence of injustice (having watched through 3:1, I saw a great example of that).