Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Plant versus Animal

A distress call from a beautiful woman menaced by a "beast" reaches the beleaguered heroes of Farscape. So begins a thoughtful episode about how stories are passed on from one group or generation to another and how difficult it can be disentangling them from self-interested motives.

Season 1; Episode 21: Bone to be Wild

The first reaction Crichton (Ben Browder) has to the idea that anyone would ask them for help is to laugh hysterically and ask, "How stupid is that?" The crew of Moya are huddled in the dark and cold, power on the ship reduced to minimum in the hopes of avoiding Peacekeeper scans.

But the strange, pale faced M'Lee (Francesca Buller) might have maps to help our heroes escape the asteroid field without running afoul of their pursuers so Crichton, D'Argo (Anthony Simcoe), and Zhaan (Virginia Hey) take a transport to M'Lee's location. After being sidelined for a few episodes, it was nice to see a story that brought Zhaan and D'Argo back to the foreground, and we learn a bit more about Zhaan--significantly that she's a plant.

As in flora, as she puts it herself. Which explains why she was so into sunlight in "Till the Blood Runs Clear". Her plant nature takes on importance in "Born to be Wild" as the conflict between M'Lee and the Beast, whose name turns out to be Bernie, I mean, Br'Nee (Marton Csokas) turns out to be one between a bone eater and a plant lover. This concept is used to create a recontextualised story about the plight of indigenous peoples versus the value of advanced science and medicine.

And, by the way, they're two of the best examples of the show's fantastic makeup effects. M'Lee is a beautiful demonic lady with a cool glowing headpiece while Br'Nee is an asymmetrical marvel of fungi, soil, and plantlife with a weird double mouth I couldn't take my eyes off of.

While Crichton, D'Argo, and Zhaan are forced to choose between two competing narratives, Aeryn (Claudia Black) finds herself having to pitch one to Moya's offspring, the new living ship that was born in the previous episode. Standing on the bridge, Aeryn has to explain to it how the Peacekeepers who created him aren't to be trusted while also convincing him that she, Aeryn, ought to be trusted.

To be honest, I'm a little disappointed Aeryn is so clearly set against the Peacekeepers now. I liked how the ending of "Bug's Life" left her feelings ambiguous about the the Peacekeeper commando she was falling for. Then, in "Hidden Memory", she had a confrontation with Crais (Lani Tupu) during which she took her revenge on him while renouncing everything about the Peacekeepers. I can understand her hating Crais, but since Crais himself is pretty much on his way out from the Peacekeepers it doesn't quite make sense for her to tie him in with the whole organisation.

And we see in this episode Scorpius (Wayne Pygram) taking command of Crais' carrier. Now the show is playing for bigger stakes as the overall story moves away from tales of asserting one's place in a culture or people and becomes one about dealing with physical and emotional survival in a destabilised universe.

. . .

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
Episode 12: Rhapsody in Blue
Episode 13: The Flax
Episode 14: Jeremiah Crichton
Episode 15: Durka Returns
Episode 16: A Human Reaction
Episode 17: Through the Looking Glass
Episode 18: A Bug's Life
Episode 19: Nerve
Episode 20: The Hidden Memory

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