Thursday, May 21, 2020

Aeryn's Resistance and Crichton's Reluctance

Farscape dips its toe into the realm of torture porn for a particularly cruel episode. Certainly it's one that affirms the severity of the threats facing the crew of Moya, even when those threats come from among their own ranks.

Season Four, Episode Eighteen: Prayer

We join Aeryn (Claudia Black), held captive by the Scarrans, and apparently talking to herself. She explains how the Sebaceans once had a deity, a sadistic or uncaring goddess, whom Aeryn, in her desperation, now resorts to praying to. One can hardly blame her when she's placed in what looks even more like a gynaecological exam chair than the one from the season two episode "The Ugly Truth".

Claudia Black is quoted by the Farscape wiki as saying it reminded her of something from Dead Ringers, David Cronenberg's movie about deranged twin gynaecologists played by Jeremy Irons. That movie also concerns pregnancy though it indulges in no scene as explicit as the one in "Prayer" where a Scarran heat ray visits a slow and painful death on a foetus.

This was censored in U.K. broadcasts. Speaking as someone who doesn't believe in the usefulness of trigger warnings and who enjoys Eli Roth movies I don't personally object to the content though I find it amusing that, according to the Wiki, David Kemper and production staff felt better about the scene because it's later revealed to be a sham. It was staged to coerce Aeryn into believing her fellow inmate is not a spy. This is surely a rarefied trick of the mind. Regardless of whether Morrock (Sacha Horler) was really pregnant or not within the confines of the story, the violent late term abortion is of course fake. It's a TV show and the foetus is a puppet and any trauma or moral offence incurred seems unlikely to be mollified when the fake violence is revealed much later in the episode to be fake fake violence.

Meanwhile, Crichton (Ben Browder) and Scorpius (Wayne Pygram) are on a mission that's more Saw than Hostel, visiting an alternate reality where they find they must kill alternate versions of Moya's crew in order to find a clue to Aeryn's location. John knows the timeline is fixed, that these people are going to die anyway, but the episode is ambiguous enough on this detail to present a conundrum more thought provoking than the shallow torture puzzle of Saw (I like the Hostel movies much better). It's also great seeing Raelee Hill playing the Stark/Sikozu amalgam. She does a pretty good job imitating the real Stark's mannerisms and ticks.

The episode reminds the viewer of the brutal and unforgiving nature of the galaxy on Farscape. For Aeryn's story, in which she prays Crichton will come and rescue her, it ironically links a more traditional story form--the hero rescuing the damsel in distress--with forsaking religion. In this, there's an interesting echo of "John Quixote" earlier in the season. One wonders if this was part of a planned overall theme for the fourth season from the beginning.

. . .

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
Episode 14: Beware of Dog
Episode 15: Won't Get Fooled Again
Episode 16: The Locket
Episode 17: The Ugly Truth
Episode 18: A Clockwork Nebari
Episode 19: Liars, Guns, and Money, Part I: A Not So Simple Plan
Episode 20: Liars, Guns, and Money, Part II: With Friends Like These . . .
Episode 21: Liars, Guns, and Money, Part III: Plan B
Episode 22: Die Me, Dichotomy

Season Three:

Episode 1: Season of Death
Episode 2: Suns and Lovers
Episode 3: Self-Inflicted Wounds, Part I: Would'a, Could'a, Should'a
Episode 4: Self-Inflicted Wounds, Part II: Wait for the Wheel
Episode 5: . . . Different Destinations
Episode 6: Eat Me
Episode 7: Thanks for Sharing
Episode 8: Green Eyed Monster
Episode 9: Losing Time
Episode 10: Relativity
Episode 11: Incubator
Episode 12: Meltdown
Episode 13: Scratch 'n Sniff
Episode 14: Infinite Possibilities, Part I: Daedalus Demands
Episode 15: Infinite Possibilities, Part II: Icarus Abides
Episode 16: Revenging Angel
Episode 17: The Choice
Episode 18: Fractures
Episode 19: I-Yensch, You-Yensch
Episode 20: Into the Lion's Den, Part I: Lambs to the Slaughter
Episode 21: Into the Lion's Den, Part II: Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
Episode 22: A Dog with Two Bones

Season Four

Episode 1: Crichton Kicks
Episode 2: What was Lost, Part I: Sacrifice
Episode 3: What was Lost, Part II: Resurrection
Episode 4: Lava's a Many Splendoured Thing
Episode 5: Promises
Episode 6: Natural Election
Episode 7: John Quixote
Episode 8: I Shrink Therefore I Am
Episode 9: A Prefect Murder
Episode 10: Coup by Clam
Episode 11: Unrealised Reality
Episode 12: Kansas
Episode 13: Terra Firma
Episode 14: Twice Shy
Episode 15: Mental as Anything
Episode 16: Bringing Home the Beacon
Episode 17: A Constellation of Doubt

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