Farscape: Bad Timing

"You and your timing."

In the immortal words of Darth Vader, "Noooooooooo!!!!"

I promised a little bit of backstory a few reviews ago. Specifically, I mentioned how I felt when these episodes aired. Coming into this finale I knew two things. First, that this was it our last adventure with the crew. And second, it was probably going to end on a cliffhanger. I didn’t know the nature of the cliffhanger, but rumors were that they didn’t change the end from before the cancellation.

I have no idea what kind of behind the scenes stuff happened, but you have to wonder why the producers simply didn’t edit out the last minute of the episode. Have it end on our two heroes finally getting together, and having one final farewell kiss. Would that have been so hard? It was kind of the perfect ending. We had goodbyes and some basic closure for most of the plot threads.

Instead, we ended on perhaps the worst series ending of all time. I’m not being hyperbolic here; there is literally no thematic or narrative reason to kill off John and Aeryn as an ending to this story. It doesn’t work on any level. It is not just heartbreaking, it is rage-inducing. It is horror for the sake of horror. Especially since it was so visceral. They aren’t killed in a glorified way. They are helpless targets that are literally diced into small pieces. What a final shot, Aeryn’s ring sitting on top of her and John’s almost liquified corpses.

I distinctly remember screaming at the television. I was angry, and I’m nearly positive every other Farscape fan was as well. At least those that weren’t in emotional pieces (sorry couldn’t resist). Leading to a letter campaign that actually worked. Because this ends up being a happy story. Yes, we got that ending. But it isn’t the end. "Bad Timing" is the final episode of Farscape, but not the end of the story.

Getting The Peacekeeper Wars means that coming back to this episode so many years later feels markedly different. I can appreciate all the really spectacular moments in this pretty excellent episode. A lot of care went into this finale, which was clearly setting up another season without some of the constraints of previous seasons. This was designed to wrap up John’s home arc, leaving him in a very different place.

Farscape up until this point is about John being shot through a wormhole and ending up in a distant part of the universe on a ship, a living ship of escaped prisoners who end up his friends and family. Watching the pilot, could you ever imagine John saying I love you to Rygel? Well, in this episode, he does. I believe the whole point of his season was John saying goodbye to Earth and fully accepting his life on Moya, his true home.

That would mean in a theoretical fifth season, he would no longer be obsessed with wormholes as a way to get home. Sure, he has the knowledge, and that still makes him a target for the Peacekeepers and Scarrans, and he would’ve probably had several more major conflicts with his enemies. But he would also be able to move forward with his life with Aeryn and the rest of his strange extended family. I think that would’ve been a lovely sentiment on which to end the series... if only they had cut out those last few seconds. Ah, well.

Bits:

Anthony Simcoe gets the gold stars for that final moment of the episode. The shock, horror and anguish on his face felt not only genuine but acted as a mirror for what the audience was feeling at the same time.

John recording the speech he gives in the credits is sad in a way that is hard to describe, as if we have come to the end and he is finally writing his story.

Aeryn is for some reason worried that John has commitment issues, I don’t know where this comes from. It was a weird framing device for an otherwise well written episode.

John standing up and shouting about the baby, and Rygel and D’Argo giving a play by play commentary to a blind Chiana was just perfect.

Pilot is one of the most important characters in the show. He is selfless and brave and makes some truly amazing sacrifices for the crew. I just needed to mention it one last time.

Scorpius and Sikozu getting kicked off the ship like that was just wonderful and a long time coming.

Having John, Aeryn and Pilot kill Aeryn’s torturer in the wormhole was satisfying.

John’s goodbye call to Jack was the kind of conversation you would want to have if it was the last time you were ever going to talk to your family. It was difficult emotionally, and perhaps effusive, but lovely and hopeful. Jack saying that they were already starting to come together as a species just made me smile.

The "previously on" features frames from every episode of the series.

Quotes:

Jack: "You tell my grandkids about me."
John: "Ha, that's a no-brainer. They gotta know who my hero is."
Jack: "You're going to find, when you have your own, you want them to surpass you. Be better. Climb higher. I guess if that's the measure, I'm the greatest dad on Earth."
John: "I love you, Dad."
Jack: "You're the heart and soul of my life, son. I love you."
John: "Goodbye."

Harvey: (in a bunny suit) "Curious holiday, Easter. A religious leader dies, comes back from the dead, and you end up celebrating like this."

The episode was a worthy end, wrapping up a lot of plots while giving us some emotional closure. If the episode hadn't ended like it did, this would be a four star episode.

4 out of 4 Lovely moments
2 out of 4 Horrible deaths

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.

11 comments:

magritte said...

I had no idea that this was the original end of the series and that the Peacekeeper Wars hadn't been planned as a finale beforehand. But even watching the episode knowing there was one more, it was still bizarre and shocking. I knew that couldn't really be the end of Crichton because it would make no narrative sense at all to have the show continue without him. I can't imagine what they were thinking.

Billie Doux said...

magritte, "I can't imagine what they were thinking" -- indeed. It was almost like the so called series finale of La Femme Nikita. How could they do that and call it a finale?

Terrific review, J.D. Looking forward to your final review of The Peacekeeper Wars.

Mark Greig said...

I think they ended it this way to try and weaponize the fandom against the network so they'd have second thoughts about cancelling it. If they'd ended it without the cliffhanger I expect the majority of people would've just accepted that the show was over and moved it. But this got people upset, this got them raging, this got them demanding that the show be brought back. And it worked, although I expect the producers were hoping for a lot more than just a wrap up mini.

Lynda said...

Is anyone going to the big Farscape 20th Anniversay Event at Henson Studios in LA later this month? Rockne, Brian Henson, Ben Browder and Gigi Edgly all appearing.

If i had any holiday leave days left i would have total lky considered a trip stateside to go, alas I cant and can only hope there is some sort of event at one of the cons here next year (since it aired a year later in Aus).

Excited these reviews are back on track, i should be finished my rewatch by the end of this weekend, which means i actually get tojoin the conversation in near real time for Peacekeeper Wars.

Lynda said...

At the start of season 4 the show had been already been renewed for 2 seasons, there were always meant to be 5. Then part waythrough season 4 they cancelled season 5.

All previous seasons ended in cliff hangers. Season 1 Crichton and D'Argo floating space, Season 2 Aeryn is dead, and season 3 our crew headed their separate ways and John is stranded in his module, so given the expectation of a 5th season the writing team planned for season 4 cliff hanger.

The producers could have edited out the final attack scene and had the series end on a happy note with the proposal but wanted to keep options of a late rescue or future revival in play, so having the cliffhnager helped to galavanise fans into lobbying for resolution.

Fyi someone needs to add a link to this review to the main Farscspe page.

Billie Doux said...

Lynda, it's linked.

Anonymous said...

What Lynda said. Some idiot (Bonnie Hammer?) thought that after all they were going to concentrate on Stargate, and retract that Farscape season 5 that they had signed, and they had told the writing staff "take your time, you have two years".

Probably Rockne & company left the cliffhanger there as a big fuck you to Sci Fi (it was SciFi then, it was SO appropriate that they renamed it as SyFy, since they demonstrated again and again over the years that they hate SciFi), I don't think they ever believed that the fans could get the series back, even if it was just a couple of minimovies. But hey, these things work when the quality is exceptional (looking at you, The Expanse).

In any case, one of my biggest memories of then, and something that comes to me when I think of 2003, is a huge, stinking, FUCK YOU to SciFi. And I haven't followed the careers of the managers involved then, but I hope all were summarily fired and never ever ever again came close to TV. Wishful thinking, I know, but such idiots don't deserve to make decisions about anything regarding creative content.

Anonymous said...

Wow, still so bitter after all this time that my Engrish sparks.

The FUCK YOU is still genuine, though. Really hope they all were shown the door and given a painful kick in their ass. And that they've been working at a McDonald's since then (no disrespect to McD workers intended).

Lynda said...

Despite the sad ending it is a stellar episode; and much easier to appreciate when you know Peacekeeper Wars is still to come.

I think Aeryn's concern over commitment is just that she has yet to tell John the baby has been released from stasis, she made the decision without checking with him (mirroring fact that he made the decision to nuke Katrazi without consulting her). Love the way Chiana and D'Argo both trying to read more into John and Aeryn's conversation that they wanted, they didnt see the look between them.

Evicting Scorpius and Sikozu by spacing them was great, as was Bracca's reference to having to sedate Grayza. A little karma.

Giving Pilot a pivotal role risking his life is so fitting, in the lead up Pilot and Moya havent been very visible, but Pilot is so important and Aeryn has always had a special relationship. Likewise Chiana has made a huge sacrifice losing her sight.

John's goodbye to his Dad super touching, and key in allowing John to move forward to a life on Moya with Aeryn and the baby.

Am i the only one who wondered where the rowing boat came from? It doesnt seem like something that would have been on board Moya after all this is only the second time she has descended onto a planet. And the crew had all assumed the planet was uninhabited.

I can forgive this because of the John's reaction to Aeryn's baby news and the proposal that follows. And Anthony Simcoe's viseceral reaction to Aeryn and John's crystalisation so heartfelt.

I agree had there not been Peacekeeper Wars then the ending would have been too painful for words, and not at all fitting for the journey so far, but i was lucky not to have had to wait for Peacekeeper Wars because Farscape never had a decent run on Nine, and it took me years to find it again, so i moved on immediately.

Looking forward to discussing the Peacekeeper Wars.

Lynda said...

Who is reviewing Peacekeeper Wars?

Billie Doux said...

Lynda, J.D. will be doing it. He's been covering fall stuff for the past few weeks, so he'll probably be getting to it during the holiday break.