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Farscape: DNA Mad Scientist

Moya’s crew seeks the assistance of Namtar, a scientist who can create a “genetic map” to one’s homeworld using a DNA sample. When only one of the maps he provides for D’Argo, Zhaan, and Rygel can be read by Moya, the three quickly turn to squabbling and deceit to ensure their own victory in the “voyage home” sweepstakes. Meanwhile, Aeryn becomes an unwitting test subject in Namtar’s eugenics experiments.

What an incredibly dark and disturbing episode. It starts with needles being poked into eyes (shudder) by a freakish overgrown satyr and his Quasimodo/leper assistant, briefly gives us a glorious moment of pathos and wonder with Zhaan’s star map, and then descends into utter madness. I can’t decide what was more disturbing: Aeryn being unwittingly turned into a Pilot; D’Argo, Zhaan, and Rygel forcibly removing one of Pilot’s arms; or the servile and seemingly understanding manner in which Pilot accepts what they’ve done to him.

I think I have to go with Option B, which was absolutely appalling. Regardless of whether Pilot’s arm will grow back or it is his role to serve, the outrageously self-centered actions of Zhaan, D’Argo, and Rygel left me gaping in horror. OK, maybe it wasn’t all that shocking coming from Rygel, but I was stunned to see Zhaan and D’Argo attack a defenseless shipmate. And then to be so callous and unapologetic about it! I was particularly taken aback by Zhaan. I know she tapped into the dark side of the Force last week and is now struggling with her darker impulses, but I would never have expected her to participate in the mutilation of an innocent to serve her own selfish desires. I stand corrected.

At least this shocking turn of events turned the focus to the show’s other major theme: home. The desire to escape the Peacekeepers and return home has certainly been a running theme to this point --- Crichton’s “I’m just looking for a way home” is even part of the saga sell at the beginning of every episode --- but, the “return home” part has mostly been lurking in the background. In fact, the show has largely seemed to be more about running from something, rather than to it. Here, we are explicitly reminded that the escaped convicts are indeed running to something, and the dream of home is what’s kept them going all these years. Returning to their proper place and to their loved ones is their deepest desire, a visceral need. The dream means everything to them, and, as demonstrated by the battle for the data crystal, all other considerations be damned. To have even a chance at returning home proves to be an enticement so potent that it blinds them to reason, integrity, decency, and compassion.

For Crichton, the dream of home also holds powerful sway, as evidenced by his turn to excessive drinking when Namtar has no knowledge of Earth. However, he’s relatively new to this whole exile business, and given his horrified reaction to the attack on Pilot, I highly doubt that he would have been willing to pay Namtar’s price for the map to Earth. D’Argo may be right that Crichton “would have offered up his own mivonks” for a way home, but my guess is he’d view choosing to give up his own (very important) body parts very differently from cutting off a comrade’s body parts against his will. Perhaps after a few more years on the run, his attitudes will shift.

Even Aeryn is not immune to the idea of home, a place where she can belong and be part of the larger whole. As she’s painfully reminded again and again, her true home has been stripped away, and she doesn’t know who she is if not “a member of a division, a platoon, a unit, a team.” On Moya she’s still part of a crew, but if all the others return to their homes, where does that leave her? Who is she on her own, and where does she belong? Crichton’s offer to take her to Earth if he ever gets the chance to return only fuel her doubts about where she fits in, leading her straight to Namtar. Ironically, even though he only put her through horror show hell to further his Dr. Mengele quest, he actually may have helped her begin to answer her questions and redefine her notion of self and home. “I’ve always thought of myself in terms of survival. Life and death. Keeping the body alive. But what Namtar did to me … [sigh] It was me. Inside. The real me.”

Other Thoughts

We also got a little tidbit about what home means for Pilot. While for most of the crew, “home” means their homeworld, for Pilot home is traveling the universe with Moya. “My species is incapable of space flight on our own. If we wish to journey beyond our home planet, this is the tradeoff we make for the chance to see the galaxy. I consider it a perfectly equitable arrangement.”

New fake swear word: we got our first “frell,” which is the Farscape ‘verse’s version of “frak.”

Namtar reminds me of someone, physically. It’s lingering at the edge of my mind but won’t quite crystallize. I’m pretty sure it is an actual person, which is just plain freaky.

The creature chained to Namtar’s wall was a serious WTF moment. It’s a testament to just how deeply unsettling this episode is that this moment didn’t make my short list for most disturbing.

At first, I thought Moya was purposely refusing to process the data on Namtar’s crystal because of what had been done to Pilot to obtain it.

D’Argo said his leaders imprisoned him, not his people. Another tidbit regarding his true crime? Whatever it was, he seems to think his family won’t hold it against him.

Aeryn admitting to Crichton she was scared and “losing it” was an interesting development. She must have been truly terrified to drop her tough fa├žade and open herself up to him that way. She’s becoming a lot more open with him.

Zhaan trying to use her sensuality to curry favor with Rygel was gross. “You know, Delvian Pa’us such as myself, are open to all manner of experience.” Although I was amused by her reference to his “earbrow.” Just a few episodes ago, I was wondering whether to call them his eyebrows or his ears. Turns out it’s both, and they are, indeed, very sensitive.

The revelation that Kornata was the one who set up the research lab and Namtar was originally one of her laboratory creatures was a nice twist. “You expect credit? For using innocent lifeforms as specimens in your research? You, of all people, should understand the horror in that.”

There were way too many needles being poked in people’s eyes in this episode. Very shuddery.

D’Argo’s non-apology to Pilot at the end was rather interesting.

D’Argo: “You understand why I did what I did.”
Pilot: “Your motivations were perfectly clear.”
D’Argo: “And you understand that if I was faced with the same choice again, I would do exactly the same.”
Pilot: “I have no doubt whatsoever. I also know that Luxans are not given to apologies.”

Sharing his music certainly doesn’t make up for what he did to Pilot, especially after acknowledging he would absolutely do it again, but I give D’Argo credit for at least trying to apologize. After a fashion.

By the way, how long has it been since the escape? They must have a lot of down time between misadventures if D’Argo was able to craft what looked like a high-quality instrument. Is that what he was making in ‘Back and Back and Back Again’?


Crichton: “Eleven. Million. Species. Eleven million. And he couldn’t even narrow it down for me?”

Aeryn: “You saw the looks on the others’ faces. What makes you think they’re gonna wait for Pilot to volunteer anything?”

Pilot: “Don’t concern yourself, Crichton. I will be fine. My species has superior regenerative capabilities.”
Crichton: “So you, um ... You let them cut off one of your arms.”
Pilot: “I didn’t exactly let them. They have the opportunity to go home. The drive is very strong.”
Crichton: “I will never understand you people. How can you not be angry? Insanely angry?”
Pilot: “When one of my species is bonded to a Leviathan, we give our lives to the service of others. Ship first. Then those who travel aboard her.”

Zhaan: “The decision was a hard one, Aeryn. Our actions, even harder. But it is done.”
Aeryn: “How could you? Pilot is defenseless.”
D’Argo: “Compassion? From a Peacekeeper?”
Aeryn: “For a comrade. You attacked one of your own. Would you do the same to the rest of us?”
D’Argo: “Of course.”
This whole exchange was pretty chilling. I was starting to feel like the escapees were forming a bond and becoming a cohesive team. Clearly not.

Rygel: “Blue-assed bitch.”

Pilot: “It appears your crystal is useless. Lucky for you, you didn’t trade anything of real value to get it.”

Aeryn: “I went back there. I wanted him to find me a place where I could belong. I didn’t want to get left behind.”

Namtar: “The quest for perfection demands our unwavering devotion. This Mengele sounds like a visionary!”
Crichton: “He was a monster.”

Final Analysis: An intensely disturbing episode, in which we explore what home means to Moya’s crew and discover just how far some of them will go to return.

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


  1. Namtar is Ratman spelled backwards. A nice hint.

  2. What they did to Pilot absolutely sickened me: I couldn't believe they'd actually do it and once they did it left a very bitter taste in the mouth.

    Pilot's servile acceptance of it was pretty disturbing, the whole episode (and several episodes afterwards) I was willing him to get angry, go for some kind of payback.

    There was more good stuff with Aeryn (not the freakish experiments) and her realisation she can never go home and I think that causes her to bond with her shipmates.

    It's also nice that her and Crichton are shown to be going through the same journey: for both of them the environment is completely alien, their homes are gone and there's no clear way for them to get back. It's important for later developments.

    It's episodes like this which make me think that Farscape is probably the best sci-fi series ever: even BSG at its very best struggled to have quite the emotional punch Farscape delivers a few times a season.

  3. "Namtar reminds me of someone, physically. It’s lingering at the edge of my mind but won’t quite crystallize. I’m pretty sure it is an actual person, which is just plain freaky"

    I'm thinking Marilyn Manson, but maybe that's just me.

    Anyway, love the recaps/reviews, especially since I've just started watching Farscape myself. It's always nice to share an experience.


  4. I really hated this episode. The most interesting thing is that it showed Zhaan, Dargo, Rygel and Pilot as uncomfortably alien, while John and Aeryn bonded as the two of them kept her from becoming like one of them.

    For most disturbing, my vote goes to Zhaan seducing Rygel. Gag.

  5. I've been watching Farscape on Netflix and was bonding nicely with the characters when I witnessed the horrific scene where they mutilated Pilot! Appalling!

    I'm finding it difficult to watch the show now as I'm just despising them for what they've done, I'm even thinking of stopping watching it altogether as my empathy for the characters is gone - I was even shocked by Rygel - I mean we all know he's selfish beyond but we loved him despite that - not any more for me - that one monstrous act has left me cold and not wanting more.

    It was a strange choice of script for the makers, to (pardon the pun) 'alienate' the viewers from the main protagonists - I'd be interested in their explanations of the decision.

  6. I never watched Farscape when it was on, but noticed that it was on Amazon Prime, so I decided to give it a try. Finding it a bit uneven to this point, but enjoying the fact that aliens really seem alien (as opposed to the Star Trek Universe). That said, D'Argo, Rigel and even Zhaan's callousness toward Pilot, and Pilot's acceptance of it were really troubling. It was interesting that Aeryn who has not been portrayed as especially warm and fuzzy to this point was the only one as appalled as Crichton by the decision, though she was not as surprised by it. Maybe there's a Peacekeeper part of her that still thinks of them as criminals.

    I'm also wondering why they decided to have three of our main cast behave so horribly at this point in the series. I get the desire to make their desperation to find a way home palpable, but it feels like they went too far and made them unlikeable. I wonder if the experience is different watching it on network television where you have a week between episodes and a lot of the audience probably misses it anyway. When you're binging through the season, the bad taste left by this may affect your ability to sympathize with them in subsequent episodes more.

  7. magritte, this is one of those episodes that I hated rewatching because the characters were so totally unlikable and out of place. They did struggle with that through most of the first season but not quite to this level. The callousness and disregard for Pilot they showed is indeed out of character, and you're right to remark on it.

    There's more character development throughout the rest of the season that helps mitigate the damage done by this episode, and I shouldn't say more because it will be spoilery.

  8. Disturbing is the only way to describe this episode. It was unsettling throughout. It showed us Zahn, D'Argo and Rygel are certainly capable of horrible selfishness. And Zahn seducing Rygel, just wrong on so many levels.

    Pilots acceptance was of heartbreaking. We see the first signs of John struggling mentally with despair through his drinking, thankfully the need to save Aeryn kept him sane.

    The only ppositive being Aeryn letting her guard down to allow Crichton to help her, and her becomming more self aware of who she is inside now that she cant be a Peacekeeper.


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