Farscape: Durka Returns

When Moya accidentally clips a smaller transport ship, the crew meet the Nebari, a race that values conformity and obedience above all else, and have the ability to mentally cleanse those who behave inappropriately, including --- much to everyone’s shock --- Rygel’s presumed dead torturer, Captain Durka.

‘Durka Returns’ is a great episode. It starts off with a shocking twist, brings in a calmly terrifying new race, and introduces Chiana, our first newcomer to Moya’s crew since Crichton’s arrival. The opening teaser, alone, is better than the entire previous episode! Bringing Durka back was a really surprising move, and even though it’s horribly contrived that Moya just happens to damage the ship transporting Rygel’s not-so-dead arch-nemesis, the conflict between the two gives us some wonderfully tense moments. Here Rygel thought he had conquered his demons from his time on the Zelbinion, and they walked in his front door, turning him into an irrational, vengeance-driven soul. I rather enjoyed the “most superb irony” that Rygel’s attempts to destroy his enemy actually reawakened him. At least he semi-redeemed himself by refusing to be cowed by Durka, saving Aeryn’s life and buying Crichton some time to come up with a plan. “You tortured me without mercy, but you never broke me. You only made me stronger.” I’m sure getting a chance to show Durka that he no longer holds power over him was far more cathartic for Rygel than spitting on Durka’s supposed corpse. It remains to be seen if this changes him in the slightest. If nothing else, he earned a modicum of respect from Aeryn.

As strong as the Rygel/Durka interactions were, for me, ‘Durka Returns’ is most notable for introducing Chiana. I seem to recall not being overly fond of Chiana when she was initially introduced, but in retrospect, I’ve come to appreciate the different flavor she brings to the crew and I really enjoyed meeting her for the first time all over again. She’s a tough cookie and quite the little con artist. She hones right in on Crichton’s sympathies and plays him brilliantly to acquire the tool that allows her to slip the control collar. She almost gains the upper hand with Rygel, then adeptly hides from the others when he betrays her. I was really impressed with the bravado and quick thinking she showed when playing bait for Crichton’s trap with Durka. She was incredibly convincing, and I’m still not quite sure what gave him pause and caused him to fire at her. I was also blown away by the implied admission that she killed Salis. It would have been easy to leave that murder on Durka’s doorstep, but instead the writers chose to make Chiana just a little more dangerous and vengeful than she might have otherwise seemed. It certainly leaves us little doubt about how far she’ll go to “defend herself.”

In this case, can we really blame her? The Nebari may be the scariest race we’ve encountered thus far. Not only did their “standard host ship” take out a legendary Peacekeeper command carrier without breaking a sweat, they have absolutely no compunction about altering people’s brains to ensure that everyone behaves in ways they deem appropriate.

Chiana: “Mental cleansing into a … into an obedient zombie.”
Crichton: “They do that to their own kind?”
Chiana: “Yeah. They do that to anybody they please. They think they’re doing you a favor.”

In a series so focused on exploring individuals struggling with their identities, a race who’s raison d’etre seems to be turning their corner of the universe into a place devoid of conflict and individuality is truly frightening. We don’t really know Chiana at this point --- she could very well be a dangerous troublemaker for Moya’s crew --- but knowing that her people intended to completely erase her identity, we can empathize with her plight and maybe even excuse her murder of Salis as an act of self defense. Of course, now the crew has one more very powerful enemy to worry about.

Other Thoughts

This is the second episode in a row in which Moya’s pregnancy is the impetus for the initial problem. “Now I understand why the Peacekeepers tried to prevent this pregnancy.”

I thought it was unfair and highly insensitive for Aeryn to call Rygel’s attitude towards Durka a “childish vendetta.” He was unjustly imprisoned and brutally tortured by Durka for cycles for goodness sake!

Of course, she got a small comeuppance when Durka dealt her worldview yet another blow. She went from nervous awe at meeting a true Peacekeeper legend to discovering he was a remorseless scumbag who abandoned his post to save his own skin. “You deserted your ship?” “I have done far worse in my time.” Is there anything about her Peacekeeper upbringing that she can believe in anymore?

I enjoyed the short throwdown between Zhaan and Salis. “There are many aspects of your character that would benefit from adjustment.” The look Zhaan gives him in response scared me a bit!

This episode was very visually interesting. The numerous hallway tracking shots made great use of the ribbed architecture of the corridors to create intensity and a sickening feeling of vertigo.

Durka taking the time to give himself a neat trim with just that knife strained credulity a bit.

Quotes

Rygel: “A million cycles will not change him. He will always be Durka!”

Crichton: “I don’t give a damn if she’s an axe murderer, Elvis. She was just talkin’ to me.”
Salis: “You crippled our ship. Endangered our lives. Disrupted our plans. Are you now the arbiter of our justice system as well?”

Crichton: “They’re pretty worried about you.”
Chiana: “Of course they are. I don’t respect authority. I do what I want, when I want to do it.”

Chiana: “I apologize for calling you a toad.”
Rygel: “I make allowances for stress on this ship.”

Crichton: “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Nebari mental cleansing doesn’t get the tough stains out.”

Crichton: “Look, I don’t have time to play this game. Durka’s gone Hannibal Lecter on us.”
Chiana: “I don’t know what that means.”

Durka: “I was going to use you for a bargaining tool. But now I’m wondering: do you think your shipmates would really care if I just burned your face right off?!”
Rygel: “Go ahead and find out. I don’t care. Because the all-powerful Durka is a failure.”

Chiana: “… or maybe it’s to my advantage to team up with him.”
Crichton: “Do you have a hearing problem, Chiana? Durka’s insane. He’s a psychopath. Legendary. And nobody knows what a hundred years of Happy Meals have done to him. You could end up with your throat cut.”

Rygel: “Don’t you dare thank me for saving your life.”
Aeryn: “I wasn’t going to.”
Rygel: “You weren’t? Why not?”

Crichton: “We have rules.”
Chiana: “Yeah? Well when I see any of you following them, so will I.”

Final Analysis: I’d been very much looking forward to revisiting ‘Durka Returns,’ and it didn’t disappoint. A tense showdown with an old nemesis and an intriguing introduction to a new character.

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

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

With the benefit of hindsight, the introduction of Chiana is where this series really kicks into gear. With the only exception possibly being 'Through the Looking Glass' every episode from the rest of the first season kicks things up a notch or has far-reaching ramifications.

Thanks for reviewing Farscape Jess! It's always been a favourite of mine (especially being Australian) and you've encouraged me to revisit them along with you.

Diane C said...

Now we’re rocking again – and this time twice over!

First off it was great to see Durka again! David Wheeler played the role perfectly: a little camp but nothing over the time compared to another panto villain in Maldis a few episodes back. There is something extremely understated about Durka that sends shivers down my spine for some odd reason. Yes, he is the type of cranky villain you expect to see in a James Bond film: a man that talks and talks and talks, but never actually gets round to killing his tied-up victims (in this scenario, Rygel and Aeryn). But on the flip side he does have a fairly calming benign disposition at times that makes him feel like your odd uncle you never get to see all that often, and for good reason.

And secondly, I was over joyed to see Chiana! I love her to bits (and being a lesbian that means a lot); and I also love her peroxide hair and great use of eye liner etc. One reason why I love her so much is that she reminded me of my younger goth/punk days and my usual reckless couldn’t-give-a-damn attitude!

This might seem a little odd in saying, but I often wonder how an imprisoned character copes when they want to use the loo? I tried to imagine how Chiana must have felt with her hands clasped behind her back sitting around in a containment cell for hours on end. I kept thinking, what if she needed to pee right now?

Anyway, moving on from that momentary lapse. I really enjoyed the episode as a whole, especially for Rygel again, “manning up” to his old nemesis once more despite being shackled.

The ending was a little silly and improbable, but in a funny way I will miss Durka – at least for awhile.

Oh, and Aeryn looked really naturally feminine in this episode – quite beautiful in fact!

4/5