Subverting standby tropes for the win!
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There are three main reasons why I personally love this episode. First of all, it sheds some light on Peacekeeper history -- and in the process challenges our assumptions about that history. Up until this episode, the Peacekeepers have generally been portrayed as a hyper-militarized and bigoted force for evil. But, as the writers suggest here for the first time, they were not always that way. When we cast ourselves several centuries into the past, we discover that their original mission was humanitarian -- and that's very interesting. It certainly makes you wonder what has happened to so warp the Peacekeepers in the meantime.
Secondly, I really, really love how this episode ends. The "oh no, we've traveled back in time and accidentally changed the future!" trope has been a sci-fi staple since time immemorial -- and generally speaking, the characters involved are able to fix what's broken by the end of the episode (though it may involve a moral dilemma or two, as in The City on the Edge of Forever). Not on Farscape! On Farscape, the consequences of our heroes' inadvertent trip to the past turn out to be irreparable. The only choice presented to John, in fact, is mitigation of said consequences. Oh, he's able to prevent the planet's irradiation -- and its total destruction. But he fails to restore the original historical narrative because his very presence among the Jocacean nurses throws a wrench into the works that he just can't remove. And just in case you're wondering, I think that's totally awesome.
Third - and this is probably just a me thing - this episode inspires within me an overwhelming desire to jump through the screen and cuddle Stark. I'm sorry, but I just can't stand to see sadness or pain in his soulful eye. And when he cries? Forget it -- that completely destroys me. Poor, poor Stark. (*Squeeze*)
This script puts a fabulous new spin on an old plot and adds some interesting layers to the show's established universe.
The performances are also very good. Probably the only weak link here is Basia A'hern -- but she's a kid, so I don't want to be too hard on her.
This episode reminds us that well-intentioned actions often have unintended results, especially when we're dealing with something as unbelievably complex as human (or human-like) society. If only our elites could absorb this message and its call for humility!
Aeryn: This recording device is accurate. I learned about this Jocacean Memorial.
Jool: Well, need I say more? If you learned about it in military school, it's certain to be farko.
Aeryn: Five hundred cycles ago, thirty Peacekeepers lost their lives defending this monastery, and Sub-Officer Dacon is one of our greatest heroes!
Jool: Propaganda for morons.
Aeryn: (infuriated) I don't believe --
D'Argo: (cutting Aeryn off) Enough, ladies! Some decorum, please. This is a peace memorial. Let's not kill one another. (Heh.)
Chiana: What are you doing in Zhaan’s quarters?
Rygel: You know why I'm here. Same reason as you.
Chiana: And why am I here?
Rygel: To steal whatever's left.
Chiana: (with a deep breath) Yeah. That's right.
Rygel: Well, we're sensible, you and me. Leaving this to rot won't bring Zhaan back.
(But Chiana can't bring herself to agree. She's near tears, in fact.)
Chiana: No. You can have whatever you find. I don't want it.
Rygel: (sighing) No. Neither do I. (Aw. Even Rygel has a heart of gold deep down.)
John: Aeryn, I think Stark's mask might have pulled us sometime into the past.
Aeryn: I kind of figured that one out.
D'Argo: John's right. If we change anything here - change the past - the future might not happen as it's meant to.
John: And we won't get back!
Aeryn: So we don't get back. But I'm not dying just so that things don't change! (An understandable sentiment.)
Aeryn: You know, if we did change things, it is possible that we could improve the future.
John: With our record, you think that's gonna happen? (No.)
Kelsa: (pressing gently at Jool’s wound) Do you feel this?
Jool: Nothing! Look! (She slaps her arm.) This is great! I've got to get some of this to bring home! What is it?
Kelsa: One part water, nine parts fellip urine.
(Jool spits out the drink.)
Jool: You made me drink piss?
D'Argo: (looking embarrassed) Okay! Okay, Jool. Let's get out of here -- away from the children. (LOL!)
Aeryn: Dacon, have you been a soldier long?
Dacon: Were you talking to Officer Tarn?
Aeryn: No, it's just that I - once heard you - killed a dozen Veneks when they breached the sack wall.
Aeryn: Did you not also save the nurses convoy?
Dacon: No. Officer Tarn did all that. He was a very noble man. He always gave credit away. He, ahh -- (Unwary, he steps in front of one of the battlement crenellations, exposing his head and chest to the enemy.)
Aeryn: (hissing) Get down! (They crouch.) This - (She reaches over and rips the unit emblem, a blue PK symbol on a white field, off the front of his uniform.) - snipers might see it.
Dacon: Who am I kidding? I'm not a soldier. I was attached to this unit as Comm Supervisor - and Sustenance Preparer.
Aeryn: You were the cook?
Dacon: Yeah. And with everyone getting killed, I was terrified I was going to be ranking officer. I'm so glad you turned up. (And in this way, Aeryn learns that the stories in re: Sub-Officer Dacon aren't exactly accurate. Oops!)
D'Argo: Now focus, Stykeran - where is the tear? (Stark shakes his head and flaps his hands in confoundment and tries to turn away, but D'Argo pulls him back.) Ah-ah-ah- specifically.
Stark: (ripping off the visor in agitation) Find it yourself! You find it yourself!
D'Argo: (as he yanks Stark back a second time) You will LISTEN TO ME! Tell me where the tear is, or I will use YOUR FACE to create a new one! (Ah, D'Argo. We can always count on you to use the "attracting flies with honey" approach.)
John: (more gently) Stark, what's the problem? Jool went through, then we go through and everything's made right again.
Stark: That's the lie! That's the lie! That's what's wrong! That's the lie!
D'Argo: Oh great. Yeah, now we have to put up with this dren again.
Stark: When the foul woman pierced the membrane back to our times - death!
John: Jool's dead?
Stark: Others. Thousands. Millions. Billions. Trillions!
D'Argo: (loud and impatient) Yes, yes. All right. Very many. We get the idea!
Stark: Not when we came through!
Aeryn: The people you're sensing weren't dead before?
(Stark nods with big child-like nods.)
John: Ooooohhhh yeah. We did it being here. We changed the future.
Aeryn: We don't know that, John.
John: (indicating Stark, who continues to nod silently) Well, look at him. He knows it.
D'Argo: (annoyed) Can't we just go through and sort this out later?
Stark: We must do it here! Now! As Zhaan always says - "Do right by the wrong. Goddess helps us all along."
Aeryn: Feeling left out, D'Argo? We're the only ones who don't have voices in our heads.
Dacon: Those recruitment holochips never said anything about this.
Aeryn: About what? Fighting with primitive weapons?
Dacon: Dying. Knowing you're going to die. Having time to think about it.
Aeryn: Well, as a soldier you don't think about it.
Dacon: I'm a cook. I like to think about food. (A beat.) Why did you join up?
Aeryn: I didn't.
Dacon: You were born into service?
Aeryn: Aboard a Command Carrier.
Dacon: No wonder you're fearless.
Aeryn: No - it's easy to be fearless around here. This is what Peacekeepers are meant to do - help the defenseless. (And this actually turns out to be true. Unfortunately, over the centuries, the PK's have lost their way.)
John: Why is this cloister so important?
Grynes: Your superiors sent you into battle without an understanding of the antecedents? You really are barbarians.
John: No, we're Peacekeepers. Barbarians butcher children.
Grynes: Yes, the Horde is bloodthirsty and almost impossible to control. I am trying not to be a barbarian - and I've never harmed a child in my life.
John: Why is your army here?
Grynes: My soldiers used to share the waters of the Kritland River with the cities on the plateau. Now our supply - has dried. And we're dying.
John: So this is about water?
Grynes: Inside this mountain is the source of the river. If we don't gain access to it, the Horde will attack the cities. And millions will die.
John: But you - you want to offer a cease-fire.
Grynes: How do you know this?
John: Doesn't matter. We accept your offer.
Grynes: But the Horde will not offer it while opposing soldiers are still here.
John: We won't be here. By the time you and your soldiers arrive, we'll be gone.
Grynes: And why would you do this?
John: Same reason you'll offer amnesty. We're not barbarians.
D'Argo: There seems to be too many nurses here and not enough fighters.
Kelsa: We were on a healing caravan when the Horde began the conflict. This detachment of Peacekeepers found us. Brought us here for our protection.
D'Argo: Are the Peacekeepers contracted to defend your world?
Kelsa: They uphold all that's good. It's ironic. We might have been safer if they'd never found us. (A beat.) Do you know what the Horde does to children? If they overrun us, and I'm too weak or unable, I'd rather my girl were at peace than in their hands. Please - I depend on you.
John: (to Kelsa) That guy you shot? He was their general. He wanted to offer you a cease-fire.
Kelsa: I don't believe you.
Aeryn: Why didn't you tell us anything?
John: There wasn't time.
Aeryn: Oh, like frell there wasn't! And since when do you make decisions for me?
John: Aeryn - we get him back to his lines and this war's over. You know that!
Kelsa: (lunging forward with her weapon) Liar! He's a liar!
Cyntrina: (jumping in front of John to shield him) NO! Don't kill anyone else, Mother!
John: The Venek leaders want to offer you peace. They're desperate for an excuse to offer you peace. Give them a sign, and I promise, they won't hurt you.
(But the Veneks choose that moment to up the ante with a sign of their own. A flaming spear comes flying over the wall and embeds itself in the dirt as the nurses huddle away from it. It puts off a great puff of pale green smoke followed by a sheet of white fire. It's a Venek-style hologram - and the leonine image of Colonel Lennok appears in the flame and speaks his message to the occupants of the monastery fortress.)
Lennok: Jocacean civilians and Peacekeeper Militia - hear me! You will never know how close to salvation you came. How near lasting peace you brushed. The death of our General in battle we understand and accept. But to disgrace him in your female's cloth? You have the nights stars to make peace with your deities. On the dawn, your severed heads will be nailed to the walls you defend. (Oh, crap. That didn't work, did it?)
John: Scroll through that digipamphlet you got at the peace memorial - (Aeryn looks away and begins to shake her head even as he speaks.) - look for anything that may be out of synch. that we can fix. What?
Aeryn: Oh, what? You think I'm stupid? That I don't know what you're saying? Sub-Officer Dacon does not have to die.
John: (insistent) He's Davey Crockett at the Alamo. He stands on the wall and he takes one for the home team. I've thought about this! It's the only thing I could come up with to fix the timeline!
Aeryn: Oh, you and your stupid timeline!
John: What? You think I want to do it? Think it's my first option? Read the history! It's in your pocket! If Grynes lives, he's a hero who averts a war. Dead, he's just another guy in the Laura Ashley Spring Collection! (A pause.) It's you and me now - we've gotta do something.
Aeryn: He's not a soldier.
John: I know that. But the way history unfolds, that doesn't stop him from taking an arrow.
Kelsa: You deal with the dead?
Stark: Someone must.
Kelsa: Death is when my expertise ends.
Stark: When you shot the general - how did you feel?
Kelsa: I felt hatred - fear.
Stark: Fear is good. Keep that. But travel light. Forget hate.
Kelsa: If we die - will I be with my daughter - after?
Stark: Different beliefs, different destinations. I cannot tell before the end. Should the worst befall - you will not be alone. (The theology here is a little suspect, but I still like the scene.)
Cyntrina: You're scary looking.
D'Argo: You should have seen my father.
Cyntrina: My father wasn't scary. My mother says when loved ones die, we must remember them forever.
D'Argo: Well, your mother is right.
Cyntrina: Do you think when I'm dead - someone will remember me?
D'Argo: You know what? I know a secret - that will guarantee it. Make your mark. (He unsheathes a small knife and gives it to her.) Carve it into the stone. That way, in the future, anyone that reads it will think of Cyntrina. (Awwwwww.)
(During the heat of battle...)
John: Two guns, Aeryn! We only have two guns!
Aeryn: Well, make it look like more!
Aeryn: Well, keep firing, running forwards and backwards, and pretend you're an army!
John: (sarcastic) Oh, yeah! That's gonna work! (LOL!)
John: I screwed up.
Aeryn: You - We - did what we could.
John: Why would they do that? What's the point?
Aeryn: There probably was no point. (John looks sorrowfully down at the visor and the scene segues, through its electronic eye, to the changed history of the planet.)
Lennok: TELL ME! WHERE ARE THE SOLDIERS WHO WERE HERE?
Kelsa: I-I know nothing! They-they just left. I don't know where they are!
Lennok: NO ONE COULD HAVE GOTTEN PAST MY FORCES! TELL ME WHERE THEY ARE! I can't control the Horde unless -
Kelsa: Crichton said that - that they planned to escape from the cliffs but --
Lennok: (cutting her off as his soldiers yell their fury behind him) Too many Veneks have died here! THE BLOOD LUST IS ON THEM! I need to give the Horde something. WHERE ARE THE PULSE WEAPONS THEY FIRED ON US?
Kelsa: Crichton took them! Please! Please! I don't know where they've gone! I don't know! (Lennok's armored soldiers are restless and jostle closer as he tries to hold them back.)
Lennok: I CAN'T STOP THE HORDE UNLESS YOU TELL ME WHERE THIS CRICHTON IS!
Kelsa: I don't know! I don't know! (She screams.) CRICHTON! (Her screams seem to inflame the Venek soldiers, and they push forward. Cyntrina and the other nurses begin to scream with terror as well.)
Lennok: NO! NOT YET!
Kelsa: CRICHTON! (But, alas, the Jocacean nurses are slaughtered, and it's all because of John and the others. What a great ending.)