Farscape: Crackers Don't Matter

To avoid detection by Scorpius and those who’ve seen his “wanted” beacons, the crew hires a creature named T’raltixx to outfit Moya with a cloaking technology. During the journey to the transformation yards on his home planet, the crew is exposed to pulsar light that induces paranoia and distrust, causing them to turn on one another.

If we had any doubts about Moya’s crew having developed into a makeshift, dysfunctional family, then we sure as heck shouldn’t any more. We basically just witnessed one of those family holiday gatherings that starts off with exaggerated politeness, then devolves into biting insults and defensive retorts, and ends up either in a massive food fight or in tears. Or possibly both. But then, when the time comes to say goodbye, everyone comes together, hugs it out, and says “see you next year,” because, hey, you’re still family. And while no one can cut you as deeply as those who know you the best, these are also the very same people who will most likely have your back and forgive you when you cross the line.

But forgiveness doesn’t always come easy. It can take time and distance. And it’s the recognition of this truth that makes ‘Crackers Don’t Matter’ such a classic episode for me. For all the hilarity and over-the-top campiness --- T’raltixx screaming “MORE LIIIIIGHT!” and Crichton taking him on in that ridiculous get-up was some seriously goofy stuff --- the episode ends in a place that acknowledges our characters went to some dark and ugly places, and did some real damage to each other. D’Argo’s attack on Rygel was truly terrifying. Though I often dislike the cowardly little slug, seeing him choking and teary, helpless against D’Argo’s rage, really shook me. In addition, some of the things Crichton said to Chiana and Aeryn were incredibly nasty and hurtful. Both ladies managed to land some equally brutal counter-punches, but I momentarily got quite nervous for Chiana when Crichton was pondering whether to kill her or “save her for later” so that he could sexually assault her.

In the end, of course, the team came together to defeat their real enemy, but the specter of their behavior towards each other remains. Crichton’s right that “crackers don’t matter,” but the things they said and did while fighting over those crackers absolutely do. Yes, they each recognize that it was T’raltixx’s influence that “brought out the worst in all of us,” but implicit in that recognition is the understanding that those thoughts, feelings, and impulses are in them. T’raltixx just dialed up their paranoia and turned off their filters. And though they wish they could take it all back, they can’t. They can only find a way to move past it.

Other Thoughts

Full disclosure time: it can be very tough to review a series that you’ve seen before, but only vaguely remember. I know the general shape of things to come for Farscape, and remember numerous specific beats along the way, but there are many, many holes in my memory. I know about key plot developments that are on the horizon, yet I can’t remember exactly how and when we get there. This incomplete knowledge is great for rewatching the show, because there is still a sense of mystery and surprise to the whole thing; however, it can also be a hindrance to critical commentary. Sometimes things happen that beg analysis and conjecture, but because I can’t remember if said events are a one-off occurrence or the first taste of things to come, I don’t know how to address them in an unbiased manner. I don’t want to ignore potentially important developments, but I also don’t want to get into spoiler territory. Or worse yet, draw attention to something prematurely, because I already know where the story is headed. I’m trying my best not to include any speculation stemming purely from foreknowledge.

When this episode started, I couldn’t remember if T’raltixx was up to no good or not. I kept wondering if he was being straight up with the crew or if Crichton was right to be so wary. Until he started questioning Pilot about whether he liked the others. Then it became fairly clear he was bad news. (Shooting the DRD with light beams from his eyes was a pretty big clue, too.)

The looks Crichton and D’Argo exchanged when Zhaan said the light was making her “feel good” were hilarious! “Oh, great.”

I kind of hate it when Crichton goes cuckoo bananas. It can be amusing for awhile, but it invariably becomes grating as he goes too far with the bug-eyed yelling and manic pop culture rants. After about 10 minutes, it starts to wear on me. “Please, softer. Your voice hurts my ears.” Suffice to say, this episode became a bit challenging to sit through. Especially since they kept teasing me with moments of lucidity. Every time I’d get my hopes up that we were done with the Cuckoo’s Nest bit, he’d slide right back into raving lunatic mode (with a dollop of his “humans are superior” smugness --- ack!).

So, was Crichton’s Scorpy-vision just a product of the T’raltixx effect, or was it linked to Crichton’s larger pattern of recent erratic behavior? He worried last week that he’s been acting crazy, and I just put down his over-the-top behavior to near death experiences and his fear of losing his friends. But now that he’s having full-on hallucinations, I’d say we have good cause to wonder if he actually is losing his mind. In the others, T’raltixx seemed to induce paranoia and distrust, but Crichton’s vision of Scorpy struck me as manifestation of his id. Nearly everything Scorpy encouraged Crichton to do was geared towards the pleasure principle and satisfying instinctual needs. He was all about food, booze, sex, and violence. And even though the others were driven by similar issues, they didn’t seem to be interacting with people who weren’t there. So, “frigging nuts” or “minor and temporary” impairment of judgment?

As noted, I’m not a fan of either “overbearing blowhard” Crichton or “cuckoo bananas” Crichton, but a Crichton struggling with the slow loss of his sanity and his sense of self would certainly hit the thematic sweet spot.

I didn’t care for the omnipresent “floating” camera technique. I get that it was supposed to create the same off-balance feeling in the audience that the crew was experiencing, but it pretty quickly veered from evocative to irritating for me.

Loved the speculative look on Aeryn’s face as she pondered the notion of Crichton’s great eyes. “I’ve got great eyes! They’re better than 20-20 and they’re blue!”

I’m rather troubled by Chiana being “impressed” by the things Crichton did and said to her. Since when is a guy roughing you up and threatening sexual violence “impressive”? Counseling may be in order, young lady. Perhaps the crew could get a group rate?

Quotes

Crichton: “Hell, no. I don’t trust him. Do I look stupid to you? No, please. Don’t answer that question.”

Crichton: “Pip, what you doing?”
Chiana: “Oh, I’m having sex with three Hynerian donkeys. What’s it look like I’m doing?”

Crichton (re: Rygel): “That guy eats and craps his body weight twice a day.”

Chiana: “She won’t play me the message. There’s a hidden message on there, and she won’t show it to me.”
Aeryn: “She’s out of her frelling mind. There’s nothing on there.”
Crichton: “Show her the message.”
Aeryn: “What?”
Crichton: “Show her the message. If there’s nothing secret on the beacon, then show her the message and she can get the hell out of here.”
Chiana (suspicious): “Wait a minute. Why do you want me to watch it? What’s on there you want me to see?”

Pilot: “How do humans make it through a cycle, even half a cycle, without killing each other?”
Crichton: “We find it difficult. Have you run the scan?”
Pilot: “You have no special abilities, you’re not particularly smart, can hardly smell, can barely see, and you’re not even vaguely physically or spiritually imposing. Is there anything you do well?”
Crichton: “Watch football.”

Rygel: “I never run away! I strategically maneuver.”

Pilot (channeling HAL): “I’m sorry, John. I cannot do that.”
Because why should Crichton get all the fun pop-culture riffs?

Scorpy: “Revenge is a dish best served cold, and you like revenge, don’t you, John?”
Crichton: “Shut up! I hate it when villains quote Shakespeare.”

Scorpy: “Go on, John, do it! Then we can go to the beach! I know a place with naked Sebacean girls and margarita shooters.”

Crichton (to Chiana): “What a slut. Is this why your family abandoned you? Because you’d spread ‘em for anybody, any time?”

Crichton: “First you betray the Peacekeepers, and every vow you’ve made since you were born, and now poor Sparky here? [Laughs] Tell me, Princess, when you’re old and fat, will you have anything to look back on with pride?”
Aeryn (smiles): “Is that it? Oh, don’t stop. Why don’t you make another speech, you self-important, deficient, little man. All you ever do is talk! Your father was the hero, you know. He did things. You, you’re just this test monkey that screwed up your first experiment!”
Crichton (laughs): “That is good. That is fantastic! Coming from a frigid, flat-butted, Peacekeeper skank!”

Scorpy: “You’re out of your mind, John.”

Crichton: “I’ve been seeing Scorpius like he’s guest starring on Hawaii Five-0. How crazy is that?”
Now I really want to see Wayne Pygram do a guest turn on the new Hawaii Five-0. Let’s take the geektastic extravaganza to a whole new level!

Chiana: “So, can you read the symbols on the basin over there?”
Crichton: “There’s nothing there.”
Rygel (reading): “Warning …
D’Argo: “… don’t flush corrosives …”
Aeryn (covering one eye): “… down the waste tunnel.”

Crichton: “I’m not deficient. I’m superior! Humans. Are. Superior.”

Crichton: “What the hell is this?”
Zhaan: “Heat deflecting paste. You’ll burn up in there without it.”
Crichton: “Smells like puke.”
Zhaan: “I predigested it to increase its potency.”
Crichton: “It’s PUKE?!”

[Everyone sizes up Crichton in his protective fighting gear.]
Aeryn: “We are going to die.”

Crichton: “Hey, Zhaan … how do we take it all back?”
Zhaan: “I don’t know.”
Crichton: “Yeah.”

Final Analysis: Wild, crazy, irritating, hilarious, and even scary and uncomfortable, at times. Another classic Farscape.

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

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well, I don't remember much about this episode (it was SO long ago, gotta rewatch all the series), but I do remember that I *LOVED* the "humans are superior" meme.

In fact, I made me a T-Shirt with it ;)

Anonymous said...

Ah, such good memories:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWkbtpBGqOc

HellBlazerRaiser said...

I love (and use it often) the line from My Crichton: "I got great eyes, they're better than 20/20 and they're blue!"

I substitute golden brown for blue.

Billie Doux said...

I love this episode. I remember laughing through it the first time I saw it. I especially love Crichton and Aeryn with the gun battle, and the way they got up Crichton with the puke paste, goggles, cape and sword. And Scorpius in the Hawaiian shirt with the margaritas. It's a terrific character development episode, too.