Farscape: Thank God It's Friday ... Again

After a bout of Luxan hyper-rage sends D’Argo down to a nearby planet, the crew is surprised to find he’s gone native and become uncharacteristically happy as a field laborer. Crichton and Zhaan stay to figure out what’s happened to him, and Aeryn returns to Moya with Rygel following an apparent assassination attempt on the dominar. Zhaan soon falls under the planet’s spell, while Crichton learns that the root they eat on the planet causes everyone to seriously mellow out and become highly susceptible to suggestion, which is why they always think it is the final day of the work cycle. Meanwhile, Aeryn discovers the attack on Rygel was caused by his body fluids turning explosive, and with Pilot’s help she must determine how to save him.

This is not an episode I remembered fondly. When I saw the title, I thought, “Oh no. This is that one with the albino chick, the red people, and the weird root that made everyone act like potheads.” But in re-watching the episode, I was pleasantly surprised by all the memorable bits that were layered in. The main plot with the “happy plant” and Crichton getting caught up in the resistance movement was rather average, but the episode is actually very strong thematically, particularly for Aeryn and D’Argo.

Many Farscape fans will tell you that the series really hits its storytelling stride later in the first season with the introduction of iconic villain Scorpius, but even in these early “crisis of the week” episodes, the series does some strong exploration of character and identity. Identity is one of the primary themes of the series (at least at this point) --- who we believe ourselves to be, who we try to convince ourselves we are, and who we discover ourselves to be when circumstances radically change and the chips are down. Our characters all start the series with a very strong sense of who they are, and by the end of the premiere, the audience, too, can see how each fits a specific role: Crichton, the astronaut and scientist, who favors brain over brawn; Aeryn, the dispassionate soldier; D’Argo, the quick-tempered warrior; Zhaan, the serene priestess; and Rygel, the imperious, materialistic, and self-centered ex-royal. But the events of the premiere force them all into uncharted territory (figuratively and literally), and ever since, we’ve slowly been discovering their hidden depths as they contend with their lives being derailed from what they should have been and the idea that they can be more.

Aeryn, in particular, has had her entire sense of self stripped away from her. Being a Peacekeeper solider was her entire identity. It’s what she was bred and raised for, and she doesn’t have the faintest clue who she is outside of that world. Crichton has been trying to get her to see that she can be more, and in this episode circumstances finally force her to try. I suspect her initial resistance to helping Rygel is not just fear of stepping outside her comfort zone or fear of her possible limitations, but fear of moving even further away from the person she used to be. All of which made it even more delightful to see her learn that she can do the “Madame Curie thing,” and get so much satisfaction from using her mind to solve a problem. Moreover, I really enjoyed seeing how proud Crichton was of her. His genuine pleasure and amused smiles when she was explaining all she had accomplished to save Rygel were fun. “This is great! You’re trading in your pulse rifle for a junior chemistry kit.”

Aeryn’s struggles also give us a bit of insight into Pilot’s sense of identity, as he confides that he only comprehends a fraction of Moya’s scientific data and would prefer that the others don’t know. Pilot cares for Moya, and wants to appear knowledgeable and self-assured, but it's beginning to seem as though deep down he doesn’t believe he is worthy of the task of being her Pilot. I find it very interesting that he would trust Aeryn with his secret shortcomings, rather than someone more empathetic, like Zhaan. Perhaps he feels a kindred spirit with her because she, too, is a pilot. Whatever the case, I’m really enjoying the slow build of this unlikely friendship.

For me, the episode’s most affecting exploration of identity came in its closing moments. The final scene between Zhaan and D’Argo was absolutely wonderful and moving, and it completely caught me off guard. D’Argo got pretty short shrift this week, mostly being played for laughs with his uncharacteristic contentment and calm. We’ve come to think his entire identity is wrapped up in being a warrior and that his quest for freedom means returning to that life. But here we learn that there is an entirely different side to him, and that perhaps this strange, happy version of D’Argo, working the land alongside loving family and friends, is the man he truly yearns to be. His sense of loss over what he thought was “true happiness” slipping away was so palpable. “Perhaps, I’m never destined to be happy.” His loss seemed even more poignant after his sad, wistful confession to John in the previous episode about it having “been so long.” I actually got a bit misty when I saw his eyes fill with tears as we learned of his childhood dreams and Zhaan assured him, “Those kinds of dreams cannot be found, brave Luxan. You have to build them. And I promise you, your hands are still strong. And there is plenty of time.” The emotional power of this show just blows me away sometimes.

Other Thoughts

We also got some brief insight into Zhaan’s past when she revealed how she came to be a priest. “One moment I was lying in my cell … a savage, capable of anything. The next, the truth was revealed to me. And I knew my true path.” A bit cliché, perhaps, but it makes sense for the character, given that we know she was considered her people’s chief anarchist.

Another week, another female character with a weird and disturbing voice.

Crichton got a new shirt! He switched from a white t-shirt to black.

Rygel’s explosive body fluids were hilarious! Especially when he started raining down neon green urine bombs on the crowd and was so thoroughly delighting in it.

The worm they put in Crichton’s belly reminded me of The Matrix. Crichton’s been bugged!

Overall, Crichton’s adventures with the natives were rather yawn-inducing, but I got quite unnerved when Volmae took him to that deserted corridor and started going on about the blackness and coldness of space in that weird voice of hers.

New fake swear word: dren, which means shit. “Look, all this analysis dren comes really naturally to you.” This word and frell are the two most common Farscape swear words in my household.

Other world-building bits: Luxan hyper-rage (“CRICH-TON!!! Where is the human?!”); Leviathans are born with “a very complete bank of scientific data”; and shakkon oil, which fuels pulse weapons.

I had completely forgotten that the tannot root formed the basis of the fuel for Peacekeeper weapons. Neat twist. I loved that Aeryn was so willing to show the natives how to make it. I guess she’s fully committed to being an “irreversibly contaminated” traitor now.

Quotes

Crichton: “Oh yeah, I think I’ve seen this one. Mel Gibson. Tina Turner. [Ominous tone] Cage match.”
Rygel: “What?”
Crichton: “Oh, don’t worry. Nobody saw the third one anyway.”
I thought this one was particularly amusing because Virginia Hey played a memorable character in The Road Warrior.

Aeryn: “They are a distant cousin species at best.”
Crichton: “Kissin’ cousins. Just like humans and Sebaceans.”
Aeryn [Laughs derisively.] “Yes, well. The day that they prove that, is the day that I let Pymolian meat hounds tear all the flesh from my bones.”
Methinks the lady doth protest too much.

Aeryn (re: Volmae): “She gives me a woody.”

Rygel (indignant): “I’ve suffered many assassination attempts on Hyneria, but ---.”
Aeryn: “Nobody knows you here. It’s only people who know you who want to kill you.”

Aeryn: “We have a situation up here.”
Crichton: “I’m sure it’s not any more interesting than the situation down here.”
Aeryn: “Well, remember Rygel’s assassination attempt? He caused it himself. His body fluids have turned explosive.”
Crichton: “I stand corrected.”

Rygel: “Peacekeepers are trained only to kill.”
Aeryn: “So don’t forget that this Peacekeeper just saved your life.”

Crichton: “I have been out in the sun all day long picking up magic turnips. I got a worm in my gut crawling around down in places the sun don’t shine, and I’m sick of it, OK? So for the moment would you just shut up and help!”

Rygel: “She thinks she’s a scientist now. False superiority!”
Aeryn: “I’m not a scientist. I am, however, what I have always been, and that is superior.”
Rygel: “If I were warmer, I would have an appropriately venomous reply. Be warned: I owe you one.”

Aeryn: “It was nice, for once, to triumph using my mind.”
Crichton: “It doesn’t just have to be this once, Aeryn.”

Zhaan: “There are no guarantees, D’Argo. We take each breath as if it is our last. And hope that the air is sweet.”

Final Analysis: Despite a somewhat ho-hum A-plot, ‘Thank God It’s Friday … Again’ featured some nice character development and a very powerful final scene. A pleasant surprise.

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

7 comments:

Mark Greig said...

Still loving these reviews, Jess.

I remember this episode well and I didn’t like it very much. The various character beats were nice but the A-plot was your typical ‘heroes liberate society for tyranny then warp out of there before they have to deal with any of those pesky consequences’ scenario. It's one I’ve seen a hundred times on both Star Trek and Doctor Who and sadly I don't think Farscape brought nothing new to it.

However, the next episode is where I really started to fall in love with the show and I’m looking forward to your review of that one.

Jess Lynde said...

Thanks, Mark! I'll be posting the next review next week. I should warn you that I'm not a fan of Gilina's and I detest her interlude with Crichton with the firey heat of a thousand suns, so it colors my review a little. :) But there's still lots to enjoy about the episode, so I hope you won't be disappointed in the next review. Or, if you are, hopefully we can engage in a spirited debate!

Billie Doux said...

I didn't care much for this episode, either, but I absolutely agree that it had great character stuff. For me, the best part was Aeryn using her mind. (And cutting off half of Rygel's mustachy thing while he was frozen solid.) Dan loved Rygel's exploding bodily fluids. Blech.

Mark Greig said...

Jess, I’m not too fond of Gilina either but I can’t say I hate her interlude with Crichton with the firey heat of a thousand suns. More like a large bonfire.

Its John Crichton’s other interlude with a Sebacean woman not named Aeryn Sun that gets me fuming.

Suzanne said...

Jess, I am enjoying your reviews so much since I have just begun the Farscape journey in the last couple of months. So far I have watched all of Season 1 and a few episodes of Season 2. I agree that the character development in this episode was good, and I even noticed it on a first viewing. Like Mark, I am turned off when Farscape tries to do a Star Trek:TNG style episode since it has already been done and without Picard, it just doesn't work well. However, I have to give Farscape credit for having much deeper character development than Star Trek:TNG had in its early seasons and for most of the characters more than TNG ever had.

Iago said...

Basically I agree completely Jess: the a-plot was pretty dull but Aeryn's stuff, learning science, was brilliant.

I particularly enjoyed Aeryn's conversations with Pilot, they were very well done and the idea of them two reconciling showed that she was moving away from her Peacekeeper identity more than her having fun with Chemistry.

I think (feel free to correct me) this was Pilot's first bit of real character development, and the role of Pilot and Moya as genuine characters in the show is one of my favourite things about the show.

Diane C said...

Not the most memorable of episodes in the Fs franchise, in fact it really struggled to get out of 1st gear, 2nd at best!

The plot premise has done many times elsewhere and this version brought nothing new at all It has a few moments such as the worm in the belly button ala The Matrix, but other than that I was struggling to stay tuned without the need to FF a few times on the remote control.

Besides the tiresome plot the episode did add a little more weight and dimension to characters such as Pilot, Zhaan and of course Aeryn.

Overall, an episode that doesn't add much to the bigger picture, and as a standalone really doesn't live in the memory for more than a few minutes after the credits have rolled. As a consequence it will not be an episode I will be revisting any time soon

2/5