Farscape: Vitas Mortis

D’Argo attends a dying holy woman during her last rites, but when she uses the ritual to make herself young again, Moya and Pilot begin experiencing the effects of advanced aging, posing a threat to their lives and those of everyone on board.

I’m conflicted on this episode. After re-watching it the first time, I was so unimpressed I dubbed it the worst episode since ‘Jeremiah Crichton’ and declared that if forced to watch one again, I would choose ‘Jeremiah Crichton.’ Unfortunately, I had to watch ‘Vitas Mortis’ again to complete my review. But, you know, after sitting through it twice, my opinion has moderated a bit. I still don’t think it was a particularly strong episode, but the overall story wasn’t patently ridiculous and we did learn a bit more about D’Argo and Luxan culture, so it wasn’t all bad.

I think my primary problem with ‘Vitas Mortis’ is its stand-alone nature. After six heavily serialized episodes, it was really jarring to open on a brand new adventure with no real sense of what the characters were doing, how they got there, or how long it has been since we last saw them. Apparently the crew visited a commerce planet, heard a rumor about another Luxan living nearby, and decided to check it out. This type of “random new adventure” setup was pretty standard for the first season, but after such a long stretch of episodes in which we started off with a pretty clear understanding of their predicament and the events that led to the mess, I found it very hard to adjust when thrown into an entirely new story. The first time I watched, I spent the bulk of the episode thinking, “What the hell are they even doing there?”

Other strikes against the episode include (1) the “giddy honeymooners” phase with D’Argo and Young Nilaam, which was just awkward and kind of icky; and (2) Crichton continuing to seem somewhat out of character. He veered from quick-tempered and judgmental at the beginning to somewhat disengaged when interacting with Chiana and Rygel back on Moya (before the hull breach). For the latter, you could reasonably argue that he was distracted by D’Argo’s situation, but for the former, it felt very out of character for Crichton to become so viscerally hypercritical of D’Argo’s decision to attend the Orican when he had no understanding of what was involved with the ritual or its significance for D’Argo.

Crichton: “I do not understand, D’Argo, what do you get out of it?”
D’Argo: “You know what? You sound like Rygel!”
Zhaan: “Luxans consider it a great privilege, John, to attend an Orican.”
D’Argo: “No, not merely a privilege. It is the highest honor we know.”

Where does Crichton get off aggressively questioning D’Argo’s choice with such a morally superior attitude? Or going behind his back to confront the Orican? He actually had some very valid concerns about his friend’s safety, and I have no trouble believing that Crichton would raise such issues, but I would expect him to do so in a calmer, more rational “hey, let’s think about this for a minute” manner. Instead he got all shouty and high and mighty, and basically acted like D’Argo was a freaking idiot for even considering the job. What’s more, he tried to undermine D’Argo’s choice by challenging Nilaam directly! This reaction could reasonably be explained by his recent experiences and his confession that he’s afraid of losing his friends, but his demeanor and approach still felt very out of character to me.

Despite my problems with the episode, I did enjoy learning a bit more about D’Argo’s past --- he bears the markings of a general because he once took over for his wounded general to protect him from an interrogation D’Argo knew he wouldn’t survive --- and he had some very nice moments at the end. I was particularly pleased that he stayed true to his character development thus far and refused to trade Moya’s life for a chance to find his son and build a happy life with Nilaam. Their confrontation when she was attempting to run away was quite powerful and Anthony Simcoe was very strong in the scene.

Nilaam: “D’Argo, it is just a ship.”
D’Argo: “Moya is not just a ship! She’s alive. And you are taking her life to restore your own.”
Nilaam: “The life of a Leviathan for the life of an Orican.”
D’Argo: “How can an Orican justify taking life? Have you forgotten who you are?”
Nilaam: “Have you forgotten what I can do?”
D’Argo: “I have not forgotten what you cannot do, which is restore Moya’s life!”

However, I wasn’t quite feeling D’Argo’s subsequent devastation at having to take Nilaam’s life, because I didn’t really buy into the depth of their connection. Would he really go so completely gaga for her after an afternoon of great sex? He was acting like he was losing his wife all over again. Perhaps killing a holy woman against her will is very shameful in his culture. Or maybe something about the ritual of passing (or rejuvenation) enhanced the pull between them, making the loss incredibly painful for him. Or maybe it was all about glimpsing the possibility of a happy ending and having it slip from his grasp yet again. Whatever the case, it didn’t resonate with me in the moment. Of course, now that I’m pondering the possible deeper meanings and thinking back on his final moments in Nilaam’s room after she was gone, I feel pretty darn bad for the guy.

Crichton: “You want me to get lost?”
D’Argo: “Why would I want you to do that?”
Crichton: “In case you wanted some time alone.”
D’Argo: “I do ... but not yet.”

Other Thoughts

They must have picked up some new clothes on the commerce planet, because most of the characters were sporting a slightly new look. I liked Crichton’s long leather coat, and the green shirt/leather vest/ leather pants combo is one of my favorite Aeryn looks. I’m not digging Zhaan’s new high-necked gown with the gold trimming, but it probably makes the makeup chair a lot easier for Virginia Hey.

Zhaan seemed back to her normal self. But she did make me a bit nervous with her envious longing that D’Argo might get to peek into the next realm of existence.

Chiana appears to have developed a thing for D’Argo. When did that start?

Aeryn was rather haughty with Chiana. It seemed strange to me, after all they’ve been through, that she would expect Chiana to just do her laundry. Chiana’s not, nor has she ever been (except as a covert strategy), a serving girl. Plus, for Aeryn to throw her words back in her face after she got stuck in the am-nexus fluid just seemed mean. Sheesh. Not good moments for Aeryn.

On the other hand, her vow to get justice for Pilot was very powerful. “I don’t know if this can be reversed, Pilot, but I promise you this: I won’t let Nilaam keep what she’s stolen.” Although it seemed a bit premature to gun down Nilaam before they knew if she could reverse the process, I loved how Aeryn’s fiery response reflected the depth of her bond with Pilot and, by extension, Moya. Plus I love that slow-mo shot of her firing the pulse rifle. It looks really cool, and it reminds me of when she blew away the Sheyang on the Zelbinion in ‘PK Tech Girl.’ She is so badass.

Nilaam’s intricate tentacle headdress was impressive.

Old Nilaam was played by Melissa Jaffer, who returns in Season 4 in a major continuing role, and it kind of weirded me out to see her in this role. Also weirding me out: Young Nilaam’s freaky resemblance to Dianna Agron (Quinn, Glee).

World-building tidbit: Leviathans can live to about 300 cycles, and Pilot’s species can live 1,000 cycles or more. However, when bonded to a Leviathan, a Pilot only lives as long as the ship does.

Aeryn: “So when Moya eventually does die …”
Pilot: “I will go as well. I would not have it any other way.”

Quotes

Nilaam: “The spiritual realm frightens you?”
Crichton: “Losing those I care about frightens me.”

Nilaam: “You know, D’Argo, I’ve hardly been able to leave this bed for over six cycles. And now that I can, I don’t want to.”
I kind of hate this expression, but I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.

Rygel: “What did you see from the outside?”
Aeryn: “Few gaps in the outer hull and your backside hanging out in space.”
Rygel: “Am I ... intact?”
Aeryn: “You seem to be all there, but I can’t say I looked too closely.”

Final Analysis: Not my favorite episode, but not as bad as I initially thought.

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

3 comments:

Jess Lynde said...

Programming note: I will be away next weekend, so the next review won't post until the following Sunday.

Stephen said...

When will the rest of the Season 2 reviews be posted? it's almost 4 months late :P

Jess Lynde said...

Yes, I'm so sorry, Stephen. After I got back from vacation, I realized I was overloaded with life and other things (including Stargate Universe and Eureka). I decided to push forward with the Eureka reviews, since that show was coming back with new episodes this summer, and I'd be covering them.

I feel terrible that I've left all the Farscape fans hanging (including my husband --- and don't think he let's me forget it!), but I had to make some choices and unfortunately the retro reviews usually take a back seat to currently running shows. (My apologies to any patiently waiting X-Files fans, as well.)

Once the summer season ends in mid to late September, I have every intention of getting back to Farscape. Hope you'll join us then!