Farscape: I, E.T.

‘I, E.T.’ finds Moya’s new crew dealing with a Peacekeeper failsafe device that broadcasts a Leviathan’s location if it somehow manages to escape its control collar. To muffle the signal, Crichton suggests that Moya land on a nearby planet and submerge herself in a bog. The crew must then work together to locate an anesthetic for Moya and to disable the beacon without killing her. Along the way, Crichton inadvertently makes “first contact” with the planet’s natives and finds himself in the unaccustomed role of being the alien interloper.

The second episode out of the gate is not one of the series’ stronger episodes, which I suppose is why it was aired much later during the original run. Although it’s second in the production order and appears as the second episode on the complete DVD set, ‘I, E.T.’ was originally aired as the seventh episode. This may have been a bit confusing at the time, because the triggering of the locator beacon certainly seems like an event that would occur relatively soon after the control collar was removed. Moreover, some of the dialog and the nature of the character interactions clearly seem as though the crew is “new to all this escaped prisoner crap.” But I guess when you are trying to attract new viewers, you want to put your best (or at least better) foot forward.

The “Crichton meets the natives” material was the weakest part of the story. It was kind of interesting to have Crichton experience being the alien on a world so much like Earth, but this part of the plot just wasn’t that compelling, despite some fun nods to E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. At least I got a good chuckle out of Crichton’s reaction to being stunned. “Why can’t I move? I can’t feel my body. Oh my bones are … I’m gonna recover from this, right?! Completely, right?!!”

On the other hand, the “helping Moya” parts of the story were fairly engaging and provided some nice insight into several characters and their capabilities. The beats with Rygel, Zhaan, and Aeryn (in various combinations) were particularly intriguing. We got to see several new sides to Rygel, including sheer terror at being suffocated in mud and his fear about his own limitations. “I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve always had others to do for me. Even in prison, I … [deep sigh]. I don’t even know how to hold a tool.” He managed to put his fear aside with Zhaan’s help, and came through for Moya in the end, but in the interim, we also got a disturbing glimpse at what a nasty little piece of work he can be. The level of violence and aggression in his attack on Aeryn was shocking and rather gross. When he spit out that chunk of her arm, both my husband and I simultaneously exclaimed, “Ewww!!!” Yet, for all it showed us about Rygel’s own nature, the hostility in the attack also reflected just how reviled the Peacekeepers are. At least by their prisoners.

We also got to see some deeper shades of Zhaan’s personality. Beneath that peaceful and empathetic exterior lies some serious steel. I was impressed not only with her willingness and ability to share as much of Moya’s pain as possible, but with her reaction to Rygel’s attack on Aeryn. The way she quickly restrained Aeryn and firmly said, “Wait outside. Please. Let me,” provided the briefest glimpse of the hard and scary woman at her core.

Other Thoughts

The title sequence got a “saga sell” this week: “My name is John Crichton. An astronaut. A radiation wave hit and I got shot through a wormhole. Now I’m lost in some distant part of the universe, on a ship, a living ship, full of strange, alien life forms. Help. Listen, please. Is anybody out there who can hear me? I’m being hunted by an insane military commander. I’m doing everything I can. I’m just looking for a way home.”

We got our first fake swear word: hazmata, which means “hell”, as in “Where the hazmata is that siren coming from?” “Sounds like from inside my head. What the hazmata is it?”

Why was Rygel so surprised they were sinking in the mud? That was the whole idea, right?

I found Zhaan’s exchange with Pilot regarding what happens to Leviathans when they are captured very interesting, particularly in retrospect. “Pilot, how did the Peacekeepers ever get such a device aboard without you or Moya knowing about it?” “I … thought I had discovered all they had done to Moya. Obviously I had not.”

D’Argo and Aeryn sitting in the tree was pretty funny. ““If I was still a Peacekeeper would I be sitting on this planet, next to you?” It provided some interesting world-building tidbits regarding Luxan battle strategy and their history, and showed D’Argo and Aeryn they can agree on at least one thing: Crichton’s primitive nature. “No interplanetary travel. Retrograde technology. Fossil fuel burning ground vehicles. He is a savage.”

It really bugged me that the natives could understand Crichton. Why would they have translator microbes if they thought they were alone in the Universe? How would they have them? It was pretty clear from the ‘Premiere’ that Crichton couldn’t understand D’Argo and Zhaan until he got the microbes. So Lyneea and Fostro shouldn’t have been able to understand Crichton, Pilot, or D’Argo.

Funny world-building detail: “This is a tokar knife! Do you know what ceremony young Luxan males use this for, on themselves, at that certain age?”

Editing error? When Rygel is yelling at Zhaan to wake up, her eyes look open but clouded over. But then when she’s coming to, it looks like they’ve been closed the whole time.

Quotes

Crichton: “The sound frequency is doing something to my eye. Feels like it’s melting my brain. [Pause.] Couldn’t actually be doing something to my brain, could it?”

Crichton: “Well, if she can’t, she can’t. We can stick our heads between our legs and kiss our asses goodbye.” [Puzzled looks.] “It’s a saying.”

Rygel: “Oh no. You covered me in mud because I had no say. But in this I have a say. And I say, no. Get someone else to do your dirty work.”

Crichton: “… those Peacekeepers you’re so concerned about? They’d kill you right now. The Peacekeepers---”
Aeryn: “Turned on me for speaking up for you. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
Crichton: “Well, back home we call it being ‘stand up.’”
Aeryn: “Well, I stood up. And I no longer have a home.”
Crichton: “Well, join the club.”

Lyneea: “… I mean, in one flash ---“
Crichton: “You’ve learned that you’re not alone in the Universe. That interstellar space travel’s possible. That a zillion of your empirical facts about science, religion are wrong, or completely suspect. I do understand.”

Aeryn: “Your greatest fear will come to pass, Hynerian. Some day you will die at the hands of a Peacekeeper.”

Aeryn: “Are you laughing at me?”
Zhaan: “No. No, my dear, I’m not laughing. You just seemed very briefly to be concerned for me.”
Aeryn: “I’m concerned only that you’re able to complete your undertaking to share Moya’s pain.”
Zhaan: “Yes, of course.”

Rygel: “I did it. I did it! I DID IT!!!”

Aeryn: “Don’t tell me you’re gonna miss that rock.”
Crichton: “No, not that rock.”

Final Analysis: The first regular episode after the premiere certainly isn’t the strongest effort, but it does have some funny bits and some good character development.

Jess Lynde is a highly engaged television viewer. Probably a bit too engaged.

3 comments:

Mark Greig said...

As with most of the early first season episodes I don’t have a good memory of this one. I tend to only really re-watched the episodes with Chiana and Scorpius.

Luckily the Not-So-Complete Collection DVD is finally out here in November so I think a massive sanity shattering marathon weekend is in order.

Suzanne said...

My husband, son, and I are watching Farscape for our first time and really enjoying it. We just finished Season 1 after only watching for a month or so. Yes, we are addicted! This episode was not in the same league as some of the great ones later on in the season, but we found Crichton's position as alien kind of humorous. Watching this episode is like watching another kind of SciFi show, though. It certainly doesn't appear to have the atmosphere of most Farscape that we have seen now.

Billie Doux said...

Suzanne, your comment is right on. This one just didn't feel like a Farscape episode.