Tuesday, May 07, 2019

The Salvation of Mind Sex

In the first episode of Farscape written by David Kemper, the crew of Moya meet some political refugees from Zhaan's homeworld, Delvia. It turns out Zhaan's not the only one who's had to confront an inner darkness and now her former colleagues in the priesthood seek her advice, or something more substantial, to learn how to deal with it.

Season 1, episode 12: Rhapsody in Blue

David Kemper was one of several Star Trek writers who worked on Farscape, having written two episodes of The Next Generation and one of Voyager. But his more significant contribution to Sci-Fi and Fantasy is definitely his work on Farscape and, alongside creator Rockne S. O'Bannon, he became essentially what we would to-day call the showrunner, eventually writing more episodes than any other writer by a considerable margin. "Rhapsody in Blue" dwells on themes that become very important for the series having to do with memory and alternate timelines.

The opening scene is a flashback in which we learn Crichton (Ben Browder) once had a fiance named Alex, played by American actress Darlene Vogel. Vogel had a small role in Back to the Future Part II as a member of Griff's gang which is maybe why Kemper includes a joke in the episode where Aeryn (Claudia Black) feels justified in appropriating Crichton's underwear because the name "Calvin" is written on it. The joke is kind of tortured because Aeryn has to ask Crichton what the word is, when she's already wearing the underwear, before she can know it's a name. Maybe there was an earlier draft where the dialogue was more like, "Hey, that's my underwear!" "Looks to me like it belongs to someone named 'Calvin'."

Later, Crichton makes chicken clucking noises to goad Zhaan (Virginia Hey) into action, then wonders if the translator microbes made sense of the sound for her. Judging from her expression, they seem to have done. Maybe she hears a Delvian animal with a reputation for cowardice?

Vogel also plays one of the priests, a bit of double casting that doesn't really make sense but there is a kind of poetic sense to it when Crichton starts having visions of Alex along with false memories of his former fiance being his co-pilot on the fateful mission and becoming a member of the Moya crew. This is a fascinating idea that the episode really could've played out more than it does but, on the other hand, later episodes would make plenty of hay from similar concepts. This may have been the writers finding their footing, the show deciding what it's going to be.

A fitting subject to a discuss for a show that, at this point, was so much about establishing identity. The climax of this episode is almost like something from a later Neon Genesis Evangelion episode--Crichton and Zhaan share a telepathic connexion in which her ability to conquer her violent urges is based on the reality of her existence in his perception--that is, she draws strength from the version of her that exists in his mind. I could almost hear, "This is the Misato that exists in your mind." It's an idea Twin Peaks plays with a lot, too, being a series that is so much about how people effectively adopt different roles and identities depending on who they're with and where they are.

Crichton describes the fusion with Zhaan as being like having ten years of great sex in one moment. It's so refreshing to watch a show so comfortable with sex.

. . .

This entry is part of a series I'm writing on Farscape for the show's 20th anniversary. My previous reviews can be found here (episodes are in the order intended by the show's creators rather than the broadcast order):

Episode 1: Pilot
Episode 2: I, E.T.
Episode 3: Exodus from Genesis
Episode 4: Throne for a Loss
Episode 5: Back and Back and Back to the Future
Episode 6: Thank God It's Friday Again
Episode 7: PK Tech Girl
Episode 8: That Old Black Magic
Episode 9: DNA Mad Scientist
Episode 10: They've Got a Secret
Episode 11: Till the Blood Runs Clear

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