Farscape: Unrealized Reality

Crichton is sucked into a wormhole and quizzed by an alien who is disturbed by his ability to predict them.

"I am not Kirk, Spock, Luke, Buck, Flash, or Arthur frelling Dent! I am Dorothy Gale from Kansas!"

This episode is pure Farscape – the whole thing plays out like a bad trip, but in a good way. (At least, I imagine this is what a bad trip feels like, having never ingested or inhaled anything stronger than absinthe myself!).

The wormhole aliens are concerned that Crichton's knowledge of wormholes is going to lead him to mess up reality. He can exit at different times and places, and exiting in the wrong time or reality could lead to weirdness. The unrealized realities of the title exist around the 'real' realities and wormhole travel carries with it a risk of emerging into an unrealized reality and making it the 'real' one. It's also important to emerge after you went in, to avoid stepping on a butterfly and killing your own grandfather, or whatever.

This is a long-time viewer or binge watcher's dream. It's full of details and references to the show's story arc from the beginning, and seeing scenes from the pilot re-played with Crichton's new knowledge of his circumstances is fun. The differing views of John we hear from his friends and family are also interesting, giving us insight into very different facets of his personality depending on how his messing around with wormholes has affected his reality – plus we get to see much missed characters including Zahn, Crais, and Jool.

The most memorable thing about the episode is, of course, the unrealized reality where everyone's bodies and personalities seems to have got mixed up. It makes almost no scientific sense but it's such a weird, cool visual that it almost doesn't matter.

Getting actors to play each other's characters is common enough in sci fi and fantasy – most shows include a bodyswap episode at some point, in which one character's mind and personality gets put into the body of another. But Farscape, as it usually does with well worn sci fi and fantasy tropes, has put a unique spin on it. Instead of putting one character in another's body, so the usual actor plays the other character (e.g. Sarah Michelle Gellar plays Faith and Eliza Dushku plays Buffy in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode 'Who Are You'), here the characters are blended together and their look is an amalgam of both actors and both characters. So, for example, in the unrealized reality, Jool is played by Anthony Simcoe, but he is wearing Jool's outfit with just a hint of D'Argo's facial hair. The characters are also entirely unaware that this is not how they are in the 'real' reality.

The whole thing is pretty much as confusing as it sounds! The first of these hybrid characters that we see is Chiana played by Claudia Black (Aeryn) which means, thanks to the heavy make-up, that it takes a good few seconds of staring to work out what's going on (not to mention playing up the sexual tension that has always been between Chiana and Crichton in a really kooky way). Black does a great job mimicking Gigi Edgley's characteristic jerky movements in her performance. Simcoe as Jool is hilarious, and then we have Sikozu as Stark – in a mixture of the Sikozu make-up and Stark costume, and apparently in love with Aeryn (presumably, in this reality, Crichton is with Zahn).

"What you experienced was real," says the alien Crichton nicknames 'Einstein'. How real? Half the cast die in the unrealized reality – it's not entirely clear how upset or otherwise we should be! This episode is a really interesting take on alternate realities, though it's quite the head-frell. The real kicker, though is that final cliffhanger. Crichton thought of 'home' and it looks like he might finally have got there...

Bits and pieces

 - Aeryn is trying to learn English. I love the way Farscape deals with language, and this is sweet (and, of course, plot-relevant).

 - The wormhole alien has gone for the classic bald, clean-shaven, be-suited pale Caucasian humanoid look beloved of alien or other paranormal arbiters everywhere (see also: Fringe, The Adjustment Bureau, etc.).

 - Crichton as a Peacekeeper Commander is dead sexy, and poor Braca, ever the loyal second-in-command, sacrifices himself for him in another reality. I've always had a great fondness for Braca.

Quotes

Einstein: You are here to perish, I am here to effect that outcome.

Crichton (to a vision of his school teacher): I still don't understand the proper use of a comma!

Einstein: You want to die?
Crichton: Not particularly, but I liked my childhood and I don't want to scramble the eggs.

A weird, crazy, trippy extravaganza with a doozy of a cliff-hanger ending – so, a regular week for Farscape. Four out of four bizarro worlds where everyone is spliced with everyone else.

Juliette Harrisson is a freelance writer, classicist and ancient historian who blogs about Greek and Roman Things in Stuff at Pop Classics

4 comments:

Billie Doux said...

omg, I remember this one. It was absolutely nuts, but fascinating and extremely funny. Terrific review, Juliette.

televisionandotherrantings said...

This is my single favourite Farscape episode. As you said it manages to tie in little side comments from the series in a brilliant way. The presentation of the stuff Crichton sees is really fun and creative. Season 4 has some issues but this episode was certainly a strong effort.

Diane C said...

Now this is more like it!

After several bland and uninspiring episodes we have something to really get our teeth into at long last! There's no adventure this time, no problems with Moya, no out-and-out evil bad guys etc. Instead we have John not only lost in space but also lost in his own mind!

But I love the way he meets up with "Einstein" on a gradually melting ice floe. The Einstein character vaguely reminded me of The Caretaker from Kubrick's excellent "The Shining". But I also loved his drollery and idle threats by showing Crighton the dangers of travelling through random wormholes and expecting to find Earth in the right place and the right term based on his current perception of his reality.

Instead, Einstein demonstrates how a turn of events in the past can ultimately affect his present and future. Einstein shows Crighton what might have happened on his first day on Moya, and because Crighton already knows what happened on that first day in his reality, he is prepared to react to things that he wasn't expecting first time round, thus changing his timeline of events.

And this doesn't affect his time on Moya but also his younger days at school at dating girls; in one reality everyone has a high regard for him, and thinks he's great in bed; in another slightly altered reality via a different wormhole he is despised and ridiculed in bed.

There's lots of technobabble mumbo-jumbo of course, but for some strange reason it is irresistible, and I was yearning for more, even though the set design for Crighton and Einstein probably cost no more than 20 quid!

It was great to see cameos from the much missed Crais, Braca, Jool, Stark and Zhaan, but especially Crais- the show isn't quite the same without him. And to a lesser extent I miss Braca for being the arse-licking goody-two-shoes!

A great episode that deserves repeat viewings - very thought provoking with a good mix of action scenes from the gang playing different characters in the same gang thanks to John's wormhole unrealised realities.

And the good thing is that this is a two-parter: for the first time in a long time I really can't wait for the next episode!

Lynda said...

And we are back on track.

I love that we see Aeryn resuming her English lessons using John's journal, readying to go back to the commitment she gave the other John, when/if he lets her back into his heart. Aeryn is trying harder than ever to "be more".

This episode warrants repeat watchings due to its relationship to upcoming episodes. The unrealized realities and John's reaction to them were great for character building, and to provide some comic relief.

Claudia was really good at playing Chiana, had her mannerisms down pat, took me a few seconds to realise it was Gigi that first scene.

In the end John inadvertently leverages the wormhole knowledge he received from Einstein to find Earth, and having the heavy responsibility to tbe Ancients to prevent this knowledge getting into Peacekeeper, Scarran, Nebari or other warlike races reinforced.

Loved that at the end John identifies not as Bucker Rogers or Luie Sywalker but as Dorothy Gale, someone forever changed by being pulled from all that was safe and familiar into another world where he has made strange new friends and epic enemies; such that home can never feel like the home it was.

Love this one.