"I got shot at a peace memorial!"
This is a very good episode of Farscape. It's about a number of fairly heavy themes. One of those themes is history, how we perceive the past, how we tell stories about the past, and the sometimes gaping chasm between the stories we tell and what actually happened. Unsurprisingly, this is a theme I have a lot of appreciation for! (It's also the subject of one of my very favourite episodes of Star Trek: Voyager). Dacon is not quite the hero or the officer Aeryn thought he was - but on the other hand, he is genuinely brave and rather sweet, so her history books were not entirely wrong, which is nice.
It's also an episode about death and grief and how we deal with them. Aeryn and Dacon talk about thinking about death, facing death and fear of death. Cyntrina talks about the death of her father. Kelsa and Stark talk about death, and the afterlife, which according to Stark is of the "you end up where you think you will" variety and gives the episode its title - "different beliefs, different destinations." The episode begins and ends at a memorial, one which commemorates more death by the end than it does at the beginning. Most importantly, though, the characters are still grieving the death of Zhaan, and despite all the high emotion in the episode, the most touching moment is Chiana and Rygel in Zhaan's quarters, not wanting to loot them.
It's also a bitter twist on the ancient idea of fate and its unavoidability. There are many, many stories about how impossible it is to change the future, whether it's a future predicted and outlined by the gods, or you've travelled in time in a universe where everything you do simply makes the future happen and nothing can be changed. Equally, in science fiction, there are many stories of the opposite type, about the dangers of the butterfly effect; you step on one butterfly, you save one peace campaigner, you change the future, nearly always for the worse, and have to fix it. This story looks like it's going to be the second type, but our heroes find that their desperate attempts to restore the original timeline are doomed. Harvey tries to reassure John that with the same people involved, things should be able to restore themselves, and they almost manage it, but not quite - once they've started affecting things, they are unable to save their friends. It's a twist on the idea of a fate you can't avoid - in this case, it's a mistake, an accident, that is impossible to fix.
So, this is a very good episode. The only thing is... it's not really an enjoyable episode. Once you've watched it the first time and experienced the gut punch of the ending, there's very little reason to want to watch it again. The few scenes of some characters working through their grief for Zhaan are satisfying, as the viewer needs to grieve for the character as well, but these occupy a fairly small proportion of the running time. Most of it is given over to a story that, once you know the ending, is simply deeply depressing, and coming right on the heels of Zhaan's death, I have to confess - I usually skip this one. Sometimes, something that is undoubtedly high quality just isn't all that entertaining.
Bits and pieces
- I love how quickly Aeryn invents a cover story for them. John's fondness for the Peacekeeper uniform comes in handy there, as well.
- Jool keeps saying "bullfrell", but "frell" is a stand-in for the f word, so surely she should be saying "bulldren"?
- The sound of a mouth organ playing 'Home on the Range' on the soundtrack followed by the reveal of Harvey playing it is brilliant.
- Once again, Crichton and Aeryn end the episode in an embrace. Just get over yourselves and get a room, you two, seriously.
Crichton: Sorry! Don't die! Don't die!
Aeryn: You know if we did change things, it is possible that we could improve the future?
Crichton: With our record, you think that's gonna happen?
Aeryn: I guess not.
Crichton: Yeah, bonnets are always a risk, but it's the little touches that put you over the wall.
Stark: It's not my fault!
Very good, but it's just too bl**dy miserable. Three out of four trampled butterflies.
Juliette Harrisson is a freelance writer, classicist and ancient historian who blogs about Greek and Roman Things in Stuff at Pop Classics.