Farscape: Dream a Little Dream

Zhaan tells Crichton about her misadventures with Rygel and Chiana, following Moya’s escape from the Gammak Base assault.

When it takes me forever to write a review, it’s a pretty sure bet that I found an episode “average to slightly below average.” For truly great or truly terrible episodes (and even for most “better than average” episodes), the thoughts and analysis generally flow freely and quickly, whether I’m singing the show’s praises or tearing it to shreds. But if an episode is relatively uninspired or just plain “meh,” it can be a real struggle to force myself to sit through it a second time, then come up with something interesting to say about it. When an episode like that comes along, I can turn procrastination into an art form.

It took me a month to write this review for ‘Dream a Little Dream.’ Which, as noted, doesn’t mean I thought the episode was bad. It was perfectly serviceable, but there was nothing particularly remarkable or noteworthy about it either, for good or for ill. It just kind of was. Sure, the story filled in the blanks on the side adventure hinted at in the season premiere, but it turns out that what happened to Zhaan, Rygel, and Chiana during that time wasn’t terribly compelling. They just had the misfortune to get caught up in some political maneuvering on a random planet full of lawyers, and then found themselves in a really strange episode of Law & Order.

The most interesting aspect of ‘Dream a Little Dream’ was the insight it provided into how the “non-warrior” portion of our crew coped with the seeming loss of their friends and protectors. Chiana and Rygel initially turn to drunken and generally unruly behavior to assuage their grief and anxiety, leaving Zhaan to struggle with the role of leader and mother hen. But as the strain nears the breaking point and Zhaan suddenly finds herself in real trouble, the wayward “youths” manage to pull themselves together to save her life. In the past, both Rygel and Chiana have proven themselves worthy allies when the chips are down and their interests are at stake, but I thought their refusal to leave Zhaan here, even with the deck stacked against them, was a strong testament to the bonds they’ve formed with their shipmates. Other than not wanting to abandon a falsely accused friend, they had no real reason to fight for Zhaan. They could have easily ditched her to pursue their own interests, but they didn’t. Coming so soon after Rygel’s attempt to save his own skin by selling out the crew to Scorpius and Crais, this was a particularly notable stand for him. (Ah! So there was something noteworthy about the episode after all!)

Interestingly, Zhaan --- the one you’d expect to be the calmest, toughest, and most resilient --- completely loses her head at being imprisoned again, with seemingly little hope of rescue. While Chiana and Rygel double down and stand by their friend, Zhaan succumbs to her grief and desperation, resigning herself to death and then retreating into her spirituality. I found it fascinating that she seems to only obliquely recognize her inner strength, choosing instead to see Crichton, Aeryn, and D’Argo as her source of strength, or to only see herself as strong through their eyes. Then again, given the pressures she’d been dealing with --- fighting grief, guilt, and anxiety over missing friends who may be counting on her for rescue, and having to corral the unruly children --- I can see how being back behind bars and facing a certain death sentence would break her spirit, leading to hopelessness and self-deprecation. Still, given that we know the depths of her strength, it was rather disconcerting to see her quaking in her boots and doubting herself.

Other Thoughts

Based on its production number, I believe that the bulk of this episode was intended to be the second season premiere. Yikes! I’m really glad they moved it. Aside from the devastating opening sequence --- which would have been killer (sans hazy dream fog) --- this would have been a very strange and fairly weak episode to kick off a new season, especially after that stellar first season finale. Can you imagine how awful it would have been if they’d left us hanging on the fates of Crichton, Aeryn, and D’Argo while taking us on an awkward side adventure with half our cast and a bunch of evil lawyers? Sure, Zhaan’s vision of Aeryn, Crichton, and D’Argo coming to her rescue would have had more impact (because we might have believed they were really there until they dissolved), but that brief dramatic punch would have been a poor tradeoff for the continued wait.

The episode did have some amusing (and yet disheartening) commentary on lawyers and the complexity of the law. “As more and more of our people devoted themselves to the law, the law had to grow more complex to justify them all.”

Moreover, Rygel and Chiana playing at attorneys was pretty darn funny. Especially Rygel struggling not to lie --- “[Resigned] No questions, your honor” --- and Chiana in “hangover recovery” overdrive. “Yes, your honor, yes. I have questions for the witness, yes I do. Oh-oh-oh, I definitely do. Oh, I definitely, definitely do. Did I say I did? Because I do.” Plus, after his failure at the mining colony last week, it was nice to see Rygel cheat and win. He is an excellent cheater.

I really loved the little touch of Rygel holding Zhaan’s hand as she sat, silently chanting in her cell. He’s a self-interested slug, but he still cares.

Moya and Pilot also got a brief moment to shine (no pun intended) when they forestalled the search for Talyn after realizing the depth of the danger Zhaan, Rygel, and Chiana were facing. “She could not leave you like that.”

Overall, I found the framing device with Zhaan and Crichton in the transport pod awkward and forced, but it did lead to a lovely little closing moment between the two.

Crichton: “You okay?”
Zhaan: “I think so. [Rests her head on his shoulder.] Thank you for your compassion.”
Crichton: “I thank you for yours.” [Gently leans his head against hers.]

Quotes

Zhaan: “You getting dren-faced is not helping, Rygel.”
Rygel: “Well, it’s helping me.”

Zhaan: “I’ve seen the way that you two have handled your anxiety over the fate of Aeryn, Crichton, and D’Argo. I hate to think of how you’re now going to handle your grief … [voice breaking] and your loss.”

Rygel (to Chiana): “I thought we might even pull this off. But you and me, not lying? Are you mad?!”

Zhaan: “I do not want you and Rygel to die with me. I refuse to carry the guilt of any more deaths into the afterlife.”
Rygel: “We haven’t lied yet. Of course, the trial’s only been on for a few microts.”

Ja Rhumann: “Trust me. I’m a lawyer.”
Funniest line in the whole episode.

Pilot: “Moya wants to know --- I want to know --- if you stay, will you be able to save Zhaan?”
Rygel: “I think I may have a way. It’s chancy, and will require lashings of deception and trickery.”
Chiana (smiling): “Finally. You and I get to play to our strengths.”

Crichton: “Screw ‘em, Zhanny. You’re a tenth level, Pa’u. You get to eleven, we get a TV ministry.”
Zhaan: “If I may be honest, John, most of the time, I have no idea what you’re saying.”
Crichton: “Neither do I.”

Final Analysis: “Average to slightly below average.” With a couple lovely grace notes.

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

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've recently seen this episode but have already forgotten much of it..Not a good sign. Great review though. Better stuff is to come.
Anna

Suzanne said...

When I began reading your review, I couldn't even remember any of the highlights of this episode even though it hasn't been more than a year since I watched it. However, your review did a very nice job of explaining some of the highlights that I began to remember. This episode really should have been better than it was, but I agree it was just so-so. It wasn't bad, but it sure could have been better. Thanks for writing your excellent review even when the material didn't make it easy.

Patrick said...

This was in fact originally supposed to be the Season 2 premiere... sort of. Someone decided they shouldn't wait until episode 2 to get everyone back together. So they trimmed down the premiere and added the framework of Zhaan recounting the events as flashbacks. I've seen the original cut of this episode, neither version ranks among my favorite Farscapes :)

Jess Lynde said...

Thanks for the comments, all! I'm glad to know I wasn't alone in my reaction to this one. Here's looking forward to better episodes and quicker reviews! :)