Farscape: Look at the Princess: Part 1: A Kiss Is But a Kiss

John: "He's in my head. Back of my mind. Corner of my eye. He scares me, Aeryn, and I can't shake it."
Aeryn: "I don't know what you're talking about but there's never been anything we couldn't overcome together."
John: "Except each other."

From a first run perspective, this was a massively frustrating episode. It teased us with John and Aeryn, and took that romance away in the most permanent way possible. Not only that, but the reasons for this new wedge in their relationship were based on shaky character motivations, and a plot contrivance that bordered on nonsensical.

On subsequent viewings, I actually kind of like it, but it's still frustrating.

This is a complicated (read convoluted) episode. It is all set up for the other two parts, and it does a good job in some respects. We get to meet all the players. There's our crew, of course. John and Aeryn are having an argument about the state of their relationship when they come across a colony of Sebacean's (Aeryn's race) free from the Peacekeepers. From that set up we are thrown into a scene where so much happens that it's hard to track.

There is Cargn (a Scarran) who is plotting with Clavor and his girlfriend/fiancĂ© Jenavian to take the throne from Clavor's sister Princess Katralla. Cargn has facilitated this bit of political machinations by poisoning Katralla's DNA somehow, so that she will no longer be biologically compatible to produce offspring with any Sebacean male. Katralla and Clavor's mother Empress Novia, and Counselor Tyno (who holds some sort of advisory position) have organized a party of sorts so that Katralla can test the waters with as many potential suitors as possible in an attempt to find a match for her before the coronation of the colony's new ruler (because she cannot ascend to the throne without a compatible mate).  Confused? Welcome to Farscape.

I joke. Still, although I love Farscape, it frequently throws us into the deep end along with Crichton and expects us to swim for it.

So when Crichton sees this bizarre kissing ritual he thinks it's awesome, and ends up kissing Katralla.  Of course he's her only shot at ascending to the throne, because he's not Sebacean and thus compatible with her somehow.  Crichton initially says no, but when Scorpius shows up, he quickly changes his mind. On the surface this is an interesting three-way emotional choice, between survival (keeping his mind intact from Scorpius's desires to extract wormhole technology from his head), potential love with Aeryn who is currently rejecting him, and a lifelong commitment to a stranger who is offering him power, riches, and a family. Except he really only has one option. If he tries to run he could get everyone killed, if he gives in to Scorpy he could end up a vegetable. Yet if he marries Katralla he not only alienates Aeryn, he also has to spend 80 cycles (something like 100 years on Earth) as a conscious statue.

In other words, John is screwed. Add to that the political players who don't want the marriage to happen. Apparently the Scarrans want to create a treaty of some sort with these Breakaway Colonies (so dubbed because they broke away from the Peacekeepers 1900 cycles ago). The Peacekeepers want to bring them back into the fold, which is why Scorpy is there, to try and forge a treaty with the new ruler. The main gist is that Katralla believes in maintaining the long held neutrality, and her brother Clavor is obviously throwing in with the Scarrans. So Katralla is the only real hope for this society, and she is willing to do her duty and marry Crichton. Except, Crichton isn't Sebacean so that lie cannot get out. Also Katralla really wants to marry Tyno, who in turn seems to be a genuinely cool guy.

Okay, I've spent two pages explaining it, and even I feel a bit dizzy. To say this plot is convoluted and overly complex is an understatement, but thankfully they didn't even attempt to wrap it up in this episode. What I did like was how after the initial confusion, it settled into more of a character struggle. John is being pushed and pulled from all directions, and has to make this impossible choice. Ben Browder does a great job of conveying the conflict. So does Claudia Black; she does the best she can with material obviously written to prolong the will they/won't they dynamic. They make the emotions work, and that is what's ultimately important here.

Unfortunately, the main plot kind of overshadows a couple of really fun character beats from the rest of the crew. Chiana and D'Argo's relationship has finally come together, and they are frelling like bunny rabbits. Rygel is actually useful for once, and even sort of complements Crichton. Of course the plot that gets the least play is with Zhaan and Pilot who try to do the right thing and lead Scorpius away, and end up encountering Moya's god. Talk about getting sidetracked.

Bits:

I loved D'Argo's reaction to Scorpius showing up. See the picture to the right, no weapons... no matter, he'll just use a big-ass cup.

The DNA compatibility drop was an interesting plot gimmick. Of course, the instant I saw it I wanted to see John and Aeryn use it.

The re-introduction of Scorpius was interesting for a couple of reasons. He seems notably calmer, and his menacing smile and the casual glee in his voice makes him seem even more creepy than usual.

The scene where Crichton gets to see a holographic version of a son he probably thought he would never have was pretty cool. It also establishes that he can have children with Sebaceans, which is what I think this whole plot is about.

Scarrans have some pretty gnarly strength and a heat breath that can be used to interrogate or kill.

80 frelling cycles as a conscious statue... I think I'd rather run for it.

Quotes:

John: "If I do this, you have to be my best man."
D'Argo: "Uh... I'm with Chiana now, John."

Aeryn: "Personal indulgences can fracture a small crew."
John: "I would never tell them that you scented your hair."

Aeryn: "I will not be a slave to your hormones!"
John: "My hormones? Hey, I was lips, you were tongue!"

John: "You keep your mouth shut."
Rygel: "But I am our best negotiator."
John: "Our best self-serving, to-hell-with-everyone-else-iator."

D'Argo: "John, my life has been one crushing disappointment after the next, but with this girl I've managed to find moments of pleasure. Don't blow it for me."
John: "Never. It's cool, I'm happy for you."
D'Argo: "Good."
John: "Good. Why am I always the last to know?"

Aeryn: "It's great, you know. It's a world designed for your rutting hormones."

Tyno: "Is this Crichton intelligent?"
Rygel: "Surprisingly, despite his appearance."

A bit uneven, and overly complicated, this wasn't a bad first part to a three parter. However, I'm withholding my rating until part 3.

An unknown number of DNA kissy drops out of 4.

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.

7 comments:

Namastenancy said...

I think that once I finish the Buffy rewatch, I will be ready to tackle Farscape again. I loved parts of it, liked parts of it, HATED parts of it and got totally bored with the producer's fascinating with Scorpius' black teeth, bony face and leather. B-O-R-I-N-G..plus repulsive. But man oh man, they sure jerked us around with John and Aeryn. Thank heavens for fans screeching their heads off about the 1st ending to the series. Otherwise we would have been left hanging. Joss can do that and I will forgive him. Anybody else. No way. Still, we had Buffy, Angel, Farscape and some nice episodes of SG1 and SGA. From here, that sure looks like a golden age for the Sci Fi channel.

Jess Lynde said...

I wasn't looking forward to re-watching this three-parter, and was pleasantly surprised when I didn't mind this first part so much (the other two, on the other hand, ... oy). The princess plot shenanigans were certainly convoluted, but the episode still had some really nice character beats, and great thematic resonance with Crichton being faced with the potential loss of home and hope of ever returning. Plus, we got the return of Scorpius and met our very first full-blood Scarran (complete with scary heat powers). And D'Argo and Chiana taking so much pleasure in each other was rather amusing. (I especially loved how Crichton just walked in on them having sex at the end and kept talking like it was no big deal.)

As frustrating as it is to watch Aeryn hold Crichton at a distance, I think it all still works really well from a character perspective. Chiana suggested she just wants what she can't have, but that's not true. Rather, Aeryn is afraid to let herself have what she wants. She is very deeply attached to Crichton, and it scares the bejesus out of her because of what happened with Velorek ('The Way We Weren't'). She just can’t let herself get past it. Not yet.

Juliette said...

I absolutely love this entire three-parter! I bought it on an ancient VHS tape with all three parts back when that was exciting and have practically worn it out!

But I saw this after I saw all of season three, so maybe that makes a difference? I knew where it was all ultimately heading.

Jess Lynde said...

Knowing where it is going did not make a difference for me. Even knowing that those fabulous final moments of the trilogy were coming --- which is probably the thing I most remembered before revisiting the episodes --- didn't make rewatching the other parts any better for me, on the whole. If anything, it made them feel more tedious. Killing time and giving us some small bits of set up so we could get to the good stuff. :)

Suzanne said...

I remember being very confused with this one the first time around and not being impressed. However, rewatching it this time, I had a smile on my face the whole time. It was fun seeing the John and Aeryn push and pull this time knowing what we do about their relationship over the long haul. They are probably my all-time favorite TV couple (with competition from a few others), so I loved the dynamic between them in this even if it was frustrating. Chiana and Dargo together was great, too. I hadn't remembered that it came so early. Also, the brief tension between Pilot and Zhaan was great; I loved how he pushed back when she got testy with him. I don't remember how it all works out, so I am looking forward to the other parts.

Thanks for the great review!

Billie Doux said...

I'll have to rewatch, because I honestly don't remember how I felt about the entire trilogy. Although I do remember how creeped out I was about the statue thing. Ick.

J.D. Balthazar said...

Honestly, I can't really remember much about the next two parts. It's been years since I re-watched this. This episode was kind of all set up and a bit too chaotic to really be all that effective. It was fun to see everyone play off each other, not just John and Aeryn, but John and D'Agro, D'Argo and Chiana, Aeryn and Rygel, Zhaan and Pilot, and of course John and Scorpy.

I also feel quite a bit different about this episode than I did the first time around. It is frustrating though, like I said in my review.