Farscape: Rhapsody in Blue

Moya’s crew is lured to a planet by a sect of renegade Delvian priests, so that their leader can learn Zhaan’s secret for staving off the madness caused by their darker impulses.

There are certainly worse episodes of Farscape, but I didn’t really enjoy ‘Rhapsody in Blue.’ It was very strange. I felt confused through most of it, particularly regarding what was up with the Delvians. I really had to focus on the various exposition scenes to get the gist of Zhaan’s backstory and the reason these priests lured her there. Throughout most of those scenes, I kept getting distracted by the differences in the Delvian makeup. These new Delvians looked a lot more “made up” than Zhaan. It seems strange to say, but there’s something about the makeup they use on Virginia Hey that looks very striking, but also very natural. She just seems like she is a beautiful blue priestess. Tahleen and her ilk, however, looked like humans wearing pounds of makeup. (The same actress playing both a Delvian and Crichton’s ex didn’t help matters.) I think it was the higher contrast between their skin and their lips, as well as the hair and the additional sparkly details. And the fact that I gave this issue so much thought during the episode really underlines the weaknesses in the main story.

It was nice to get a more detailed backstory for Zhaan. For those who, like me, had some trouble following along: Bitaal, Zhaan’s teacher and lover, was the spiritual leader of the Delvians, but when his time to lead was over, he decided he wasn’t ready to give up the position and brought in the Peacekeepers to enforce his rule. When this resulted in the false imprisonment and murder of “liberal thinkers and voices of protest,” including Zhaan’s father, Zhaan gave in to her dark impulses and used them to kill Bitaal while they were sharing unity. “You killed the guy you were having sex with, Zhaan!” So now we know why she was considered her people’s chief anarchist.

The primary question I’m left with is: did Crichton showing Zhaan her true nature also help to address her lingering rage issues from ‘That Old Black Magic’? Aside from the attack on Pilot, we haven’t really seen her struggling with any darker impulses. (I guess half a day of photogasms will ease the savage within.) I was starting to wonder if that was a dropped plot thread, but perhaps this little experience was meant to address that issue and more definitively put her on the road to recovery. Here’s hoping.

Other Thoughts

So last episode, Crichton and D’Argo worked on their relationship. This week, Zhaan and Crichton got a lot closer. What’s next week? More bonding for Crichton and Aeryn?

Zhaan leveled! And she got a nifty new protective power. I wonder if she also got some additional life and mana points.

It was fun to get a glimpse of everyone in their sleepwear. Aeryn in Crichton’s underwear was particularly amusing.

Zhaan turning to Crichton as someone she trusts to provide counsel was an interesting little role reversal. Clearly, he was the correct person to help her, but given the generally low opinion everyone on Moya seems to have of Crichton’s usefulness --- even Zhaan at times --- it was a bit surprising.

I wish that the writers had used the “attack them with their own hopes and fears” approach to provide some new insight into our characters. Instead, we saw that Aeryn fears being unable to use or remember her training, D’Argo fears the Peacekeepers will capture his son, and Rygel fears being seen as even smaller and more inconsequential. All of which perfectly aligns with their characterization thus far. Yea for consistency, but new perspective is always appreciated and this could have been a good opportunity to explore some new depths.

I guess we did learn a bit more about Crichton’s past. (He had an almost fiancĂ©e that left him for a scholarship to Stanford Med! Who knew?) And we apparently learned that he wishes he could share this great space adventure with someone he loves. Should we assume that his lost love, Alex, is the one he longs to be with, or did Lorana just go to that well because she conveniently happens to look like Alex?

Cool world-building detail: the Delvians have a “missionary habitat” ship, which arrives on a planet, heats the rock to molten, then settles underground. Plus, trigapods! The latest in gourmet fare. It’s a sea cucumber and a squid. Yum!

We saw several episodes ago that Zhaan desperately wants to return home. Given that the overall power structure doesn’t seem to have changed since her incarceration, what exactly is she hoping to do when she gets back? Live a covert existence and free her people? It previously seemed like she just wanted to go home, not lead the revolution.

Crichton implying Zhaan was afraid by clucking like a chicken was pretty funny. “Your translator microbes handle that?”

Quotes

Crichton: “Little long for a Starburst, don’t ya think?”
Rygel: “Hail, Prince of the Obvious.”

Crichton: “What about you girls? Sex dreams?”
Aeryn: “I sleep soundly.”
Zhaan (curtly): “I am unimpressed by your masculine reveries.”

Aeryn: “Amazes me how people mistake theosophy for superiority.”

D’Argo: “Something Crichton said is disturbing me.”
Rygel: “Finally! I’ve been saying that since he arrived.”

Zhaan: “Will she use the ability I give her to hurt people?”
Tuzak: “Certainly. But, she may also free a planet from tyranny.”

Crichton: “The part of Tahleen in tonight’s unity will be played by John Crichton.”

Crichton: “Look at yourself as I see you. Gentle, giving. That’s you, Zhaan.”

Zhaan: “[Sets down some folded clothing.] The vestments of a Pa’u. Feels like a shroud I am no longer worthy of.”

Final Analysis: It was good to fill in some of the blanks in Zhaan’s past, and to see her and Crichton further develop their friendship, but overall not a terribly engaging episode.

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

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

There have been little hints leading up to this episode that Zhaan valued Crichton more then the rest of the crew, except for Aeryn's mostly unspoken attraction towards him. I liked that we got some history for Zhaan, and a reason for her crime, but the Delvian priest rules were a little confusing and convoluted.

Still not a horrible episode like DNA Mad Scientist, but not especially great either. Looking forward to the monochromatic troublemaker on the horizon.

Ez said...

Mostly what I take from this episode is - Aeryn is now stealing John's underwear. Loved her totally deadpan responses when he questions her about it. Nice way to subtly continue the thread of their developing relationship, despite their downplaying the events of The Flax. Is this her version of flirting?

I quite enjoyed DNA Mad Scientist, Anonymous, especially with the DVD commentary by Claudia Black and Ben Browder on. Those two are hilarious together. Maybe you'd enjoy it more that way. :)Highly recommend the season one commentaries. Now, if we can just get them all in a room together for some 20th anniversary edition new commentaries...