Farscape: A Bug's Life

When the crew encounters a damaged Marauder, Crichton and Aeryn pretend to be Peacekeepers on a special assignment. However, their ploy goes horribly awry when Chiana and Rygel tamper with the Marauder’s cargo, releasing a deadly, intelligent virus.

‘A Bug’s Life’ was pretty standard “infectious and evil intelligence possesses one of the crew” fare. Everyone assumes the wrong person is infected, and the real infected person makes trouble while the hunt for the decoy is on. Naturally, the virus passes to another host once or twice, ultimately resulting in a standoff where no one knows who in the group is infected. Been there, done that. That said, I still found this version of the tale pretty engaging. Especially the Mexican standoff after they foolishly tried to apprehend Crichton using their hands. (You’d think the Special Ops commandos who’d been hunting this thing for almost a year would have known better.) I really had no idea who would end up being infected, although in retrospect, Larraq was the most likely suspect. I mean, they probably weren’t going to kill off one of our main cast and it couldn’t be the big bald guy, because he was infected earlier. Yet, I still found myself wincing in anticipation every time someone new tried the alkaline shot.

In spite of the standard overall plot, I did really enjoy many of the character bits along the way. The few small moments showing D’Argo’s struggle with the need to once again wear prisoner’s chains, even as a part of a ruse, were a nice touch. And it was great fun to see Chiana and Rygel reluctantly collaborating on their latest profit-making scheme. (Of course those two would see the arrival of mysterious and dangerous cargo as a potential opportunity to earn a quick buck, without even considering that their actions could complicate an already tenuous situation.)

But my favorite character beats this week were with Aeryn, as we learned a little more about her background and saw her once again forced to wrestle with her sadness over what her life could have been. It was so nice to briefly see her connecting with fellow soldiers and smiling as she recalled being too small to “reach the pedals” in more advanced fighter craft. But, of course, fond memories quickly turned to shattered dreams when Larraq suggested she join his commando squad because her talents are being wasted in her current assignment. “What are you doing in Ustar Regiment? You’re being wasted there. You’re wasting yourself there.” My heart broke for her when I saw the sad, wistful look in her eyes as she nodded her agreement to talk about transferring and the even sadder look on her face after Larraq walked away. It seems like every time Aeryn starts to accept the direction her life has taken, she’s painfully reminded of who she used to be and the dreams that slipped through her fingers. All of the fugitives struggle with that issue to a certain extent, but for Aeryn the wound is still fresh and, unlike the others, she has little hope that she’ll ever be able to regain some semblance of the life she knew and loved.

Other Thoughts

I actually had a lot of trouble focusing on the story for this episode, because every time they mentioned the Gammak Base my mind would start wandering down the path of things to come. I’m trying to keep these reviews spoiler-free for those who may be new to Farscape, but I will note that that the events of this episode didn’t wrap as neatly as it may have seemed, and they are about to lead us to an exciting new enemy and a serious uptick in the overall quality of the series. Suffice to say, anyone that would be interested in experimenting with an intelligent virus is not someone with whom you’d want to cross paths. (Unless you are a member of the viewing audience, in which case, you surely do. I can’t wait!)

Moya’s crew really took a hell of a risk pretending to be Peacekeepers on assignment. Especially using Aeryn’s real name. I know that she and Crichton were left off Crais’s bounty list, but surely her name is known within Peacekeeper ranks? Would only Crais’s people know who Aeryn is? Perhaps. The Peacekeepers are a pretty big organization, after all.

Crichton doing the Peacekeeper accent did not work at all, and I can’t believe the Marauder crew didn’t expose him for a fraud much sooner.

World-building bits: Gammak Base, a Peacekeeper “science military” research installation; PK Special Ops are known as “Black Ghosts” (are all Marauder crews considered Black Ghosts, or just some?); and the Peacekeepers have been experimenting with using neural controls on the ship’s Pilot to control a Leviathan.

Lots of cursing in this one: frell, dren, serious frelling dren …

It really bothered me that Crichton kept standing so close to Chiana after learning the virus transfers by close physical proximity. And why did they just believe her version of events anyway? She wasn’t exactly behaving like herself. You’d think they would have picked up on her acting weirdly subdued a hell of a lot sooner.

You know, if the virus wasn’t such a vengeful egomaniac, it probably could have just infected the Marauder scientist and taken the ship. If it was controlling her, it’s not like she could have told anyone about a potential antibody. Did it not think she would have the knowledge it needed to get to the base? Was it just trying to log enough time in its current host to incubate and spawn?

I’m also not sure why they were so worried about the virus spreading. Apparently, prior to capture, it existed out in the Uncharted Territories without wiping the whole place out. So why was it now such a threat to “thousands of species”? Was it relatively contained until Larraq’s team found it? Had it been knocked back down to “single host” phase after wiping out a corner of Universe? Was it just biding its time and hoping to hitch a ride to a more populated area before “going viral” again?

I really liked Crichton’s clever maneuver using Starburst to ignite the fuel leak.

We did get a few hints that we aren’t done with the oft-mentioned Gammak Base. Chiana grabbed Larraq’s ident chip before he escaped, and Crichton noted at the end that, even though they are currently trying to get as far from it as they can, the base is still out there, and they don’t know why. [Cue ominous music.]

I’m a bit bothered that there has seemingly been no fallout from Crichton and Aeryn sleeping together on fake Earth. Was that not really Aeryn? It’s obvious they care for each other, so why not acknowledge that they are closer now? Especially in that last scene. I know Aeryn is a tough nut to crack emotionally, but come on!

Quotes

Crichton: “Now I may be na├»ve, but flying around in the Uncharted Territories, ignorant of what the Peacekeepers are doing out here? That, to me, seems dangerous.”

Rygel: “How dare you sneak up on me like that! I should make you wear a bell ‘round your neck.”
Chiana: “Keep your fantasies to yourself, Frog Boy.”

Chiana: “Look. In the interest of not getting caught, I’ll agree to half whatever we procure.”
Rygel: “Half?! I was here first!”
Chiana: “But I have the, uh, the key.”
Rygel: “Oh. OK. Half.”

Aeryn: “This is a disaster, Crichton. It is a grave misfortune that uniform did not fit me.”

D’Argo: “If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this fiasco, it’s that I will never be chained up again.”
Zhaan: “I pray that will be the case.”
D’Argo: “You can pray all you like. I was expressing a fact. Not a hope.”

Crichton: “You got lucky. He missed your heart.”
Aeryn: “Closer than you think.”
I’m assuming she means her dream of becoming a marauder commando, not a romantic interest.

Crichton: “Don’t mention it.”
Aeryn: “Why would I ever mention it?”
Is this a callback to a previous exchange between them, or just her giving a playful response to what she knows is a human expression?

Final Analysis: A fairly standard story this week, but the first step on the path to great things.

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

2 comments:

Jess Lynde said...

Programming note: I likely won't be posting Farscape reviews for a few more weeks. I've finally exhausted my backlog, and although I plan to watch the next couple episodes, I doubt I'll have much time to write reviews during the holiday break. I hope to return to a regular posting schedule after New Year's. In the meantime, happy holidays and a joyous new year to all!

Diane C said...

An interesting episode, that instantly reminded me of John Carpenter’s 1982 classic sf/horror “The Thing”, which more or less tapped into the same paranoia/fear regarding viruses, who’s infected and who isn’t.

The episode also touches on Aeryn’s past when she was a full-on military Peacekeeper, and how for the briefest of moments here she reflects on what might have been, and what could be should she ever want to go back.

The charade played by both Aeryn & John didn’t really work all that well for me, especially in John’s case – he just didn’t look or feel like a Peacekeeper, and am surprised the guise lasted as long as it did.

The final stanza was quite interesting when everyone was jumping around pointing fingers, guns and lord knows what else as their growing paranoia went into overdrive with the virus infestation.

I really liked D’Argo and his understandable resistance to wearing chains and confined to Moya’s confinement quarters, even if it was to play out a planned scenario; also Chiana shone quite brightly in this episode, not least because of her weak resistance to opening the Pandora’s Box!

The ending was a surprise of course, and would have consequences running into the next episode (“Nerve”). I won’t give away details but from this point on the story lines for the remainder of season 1 and for the most part in season 2, really take shape, especially with existing and new arcs that intertwine and make the show into more than just your average science fiction romp in space.

3/5