Monday, August 19, 2019

Sometimes a Vorc is Just a Vorc

Which is the cure and which is the virus? It's not always easy to tell but, on Farscape, there is a right answer and recognising it can mean not only the difference between life and death but the difference between succeeding and doing something really, really stupid.

Season 2, Episode 14: Beware of Dog

In another episode written by Naren Shankar, currently showrunner of The Expanse, Chiana (Gigi Edgley) and D'Argo (Anthony Simcoe) return to Moya with a solution for a problem no-one aboard realised they had. While shopping on a local planet, Chiana and D'Argo learned that there's a virus loose in the system Moya has wandered into and they've been talked into buying a creepy/cute little guy somewhat reminiscent of the alien from Mac & Me.

This "Vorc" is supposed to sniff out and destroy any virus on board. Meanwhile, Crichton (Ben Browder) is busy playing chess with himself and won't give any satisfying explanation to Aeryn (Claudia Black) for why he's doing so. In the previous episode, he'd found himself mysteriously incapable of killing Scorpius (Wayne Pygram) when he had the chance ("Look at the Princess, Part III"), now the hints that Scorpius may have actually done something to Crichton's brain are becoming even clearer--he's starting to have visions of Scorpius, this time without Hawaiian shirts and Margarita shooters and the influence of psychoactive sunbeams (as in "Crackers Don't Matter").

This is something that's not resolved in this episode but it's worth noting that this isn't a story about seeing things that aren't there but about misidentifying things that are, with hazardous consequences. Crichton is the first to spot some kind of giant bug monster in an air duct and both Aeryn and Pilot (Lani Tupu) find themselves inclined to put this down to Crichton being crazy. But then Chiana, Rygel (Jonathan Hardy), and D'Argo find themselves confronting it in the maintenance bay. D'Argo helpfully informs Crichton that "it's real" as the Luxan warrior lies injured on the floor after trying to fight the thing.

Meanwhile, the Vorc is being more of a pest than a solution and even bites Aeryn on the tummy--significantly, she isn't poisoned by the bite, something no-one mentions in the episode but which has significant implications later in the plot. At some point, it becomes ambiguous whether the Vorc is a cure for the virus or if Chiana had been effectively sold the problem in the form of its solution.

On top of all this confusion, a twist near the climax adds another layer of misapprehension. But there are always clues and always a real solution.

Stories like this are pretty common in Science Fiction--Crichton himself even references Invasion of the Body Snatchers within the episode. "Beware of Dog" makes a point of showing how many other factors can be added to a single point of interpretive error, adding to the difficulty of untangling real truth from apparent truth. In some cases, as in this episode, even suspecting an error in interpretation leads in itself to the error. Is Crichton simply hallucinating on his own? Is the Vorc the real monster? Or was everyone right the first time?

. . .

Farscape is available now on Amazon Prime.

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):

Season One:

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
Episode 21: Bone to be Wild
Episode 22: Family Ties

Season Two:

Episode 1: Mind the Baby
Episode 2: Vitas Mortis
Episode 3: Taking the Stone
Episode 4: Crackers Don't Matter
Episode 5: Picture If You Will
Episode 6: The Way We Weren't
Episode 7: Home on the Remains
Episode 8: Dream a Little Dream
Episode 9: Out of Their Minds
Episode 10: My Three Crichtons
Episode 11: Look at the Princess, Part I: A Kiss is But a Kiss
Episode 12: Look at the Princess, Part II: I Do, I Think
Episode 13: Look at the Princess, Part III: The Maltese Crichton

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