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Farscape

1.01 - Premiere

By Dennis Matheson - aka tanstaafl

[Cast/Credits]  [Overview]  [Quotes]  [Summary]  [References]  [Questions]  [Commentary]

Cast and Credits:

Original US Air Date: March 19, 1999

Regular Cast:
Ben Browder...................John Crichton
Claudia Black.................Aeryn Sun
Virginia Hey..................Zotoh Zhaan
Anthony Simcoe................Ka D'Argo
Jonathan Hardy................Dominar Rygel XVI (Voice)
Lani Tupu.....................Pilot (Voice)

Guest Cast:
Kent McCord...................Jack Crichton
Murray Bartlett...............DK
Lani Tupu.....................Bialar Crais
Christine Stephen-Daly........Lt. Teeg
Damen Stephenson..............Bio Isolation Man
Colin Borgonon................PK Weapons Officer
Greg Blandy...................PK Guard #1
Laurence Woodward.............PK Guard #2

Writer........................Rockne S. O'Bannon
Director......................Andrew Prowse

Overview:

While testing an experimental shuttle, astronaut John Crichton is thrown through a wormhole to a distant part of space. There, he finds himself aboard a living starship crewed by a group of escaped prisoners and fugitives and is forced to flee with them to escape an enraged Peacekeeper captain who blames Crichton for the death of his brother.

Quotes:

Boy, was Spielberg ever wrong. - John Crichton

Pilot, does Moya know where we are? - Zhaan
Yes! Of course! We're... someplace else. I'll... get back to you on the specifics. - Pilot

Don't move! Or I'll fill you full of... little yellow bolts of light! - John Crichton

And, there's life out here, Dad. Weird, amazing, psychotic life. And, uh... in Technicolor. - John Crichton

Summary:

It is dawn at Cape Canaveral and we see astronaut John Crichton watching the sun rise.

Shortly thereafter, John meets with his friend DK. He and DK briefly discuss the experiment they are about to undertake; attempting to use a planet's gravity to overcome atmospheric friction and exponentially increase the speed of a spacecraft. DK is excited but John is nervous and says that he has the same feeling he has had right before anything big happened in his life.

DK's reply is cut short by the arrival of Jack Crichton, John's father, a former astronaut who has walked on the Moon. He good-naturedly berates John for breaking quarantine and, noticing his distress, asks if he has "rattlers in his stomach".

John insists that he's been up in the shuttle before and everything is all right but Jack replies that he always got them before any of his missions. He also tells John how proud he is of him, since John is flying a mission to test his own theory, something he never got to do.

John interrupts him. "Look. I... can't be your kind of hero."
Jack disagrees. "No you can't be. But each man gets the chance to be his own kind of hero. Your time will come and when it does, watch out. Chances are it'll be the last thing you ever expected."

He then gives John his good luck charm; a puzzle ring that had been given to him by Yuri Gagarin (the Soviet cosmonaut who was the first man into space). John isn't sure about taking it but Jack insists.

The scene then cuts to show the Space Shuttle in orbit. As a reporter's voice-over explains the experiment, we see John's craft, the Farscape 1, being released from the Shuttle's cargo bay. Farscape 1 fires it's engines and starts its dive into the atmosphere.

Everything is going well until, just as the Farscape 1 reaches a critical phase of the experiment, DK reports that an "electromagnetic wave" has appeared in front of the ship. Both DK and Jack yell for John to abort the mission but he can barely control the craft. Suddenly, a wormhole appears ahead of him and the Farscape 1 is pulled into and through it.

After a wild ride through the wormhole John finds himself in an unknown region of space, drifting in a small cluster of asteroids with the Earth nowhere to be seen. Several small spacecraft fly past his ship and John suddenly realizes that he is a long ways from home.

Another of the small ships flies by and collides with the Farscape 1. John and his ship are knocked clear while the other ship collides with an asteroid and explodes. John finds himself drifting towards a space battle in which the smaller ships he has seen are attacking a much larger ship.

Suddenly, the Farscape 1 is pulled towards the large ship and into a large, empty hanger bay. Several small, crab-like robots known as DRDs appear and start doing something to the Farscape 1. A fire breaks out and he opens the canopy to escape, breaking off one of the eyestalks from one of the DRDs in the process.

Crichton extinguishes the fire but several DRDs surround him and, using some sort of electrical zapper device, herd him into the ship.

He finds himself in the command center of the ship. There are two beings in Command, a tentacled male humanoid and a bald, blue female humanoid. The male grabs him and starts shouting at him in an alien language. Just as Crichton tries to explain that he cannot understand what he is saying, one of the DRDs injects him with something and a few moments later the language becomes clear.

The male, Ka D'Argo, is asking him what type of ship the Farscape 1 module is and if they can use it to escape. The female, Zhaan, suggests that he answer quickly. Crichton is in shock and simply stares at him. D'Argo throws him to the ground and yells for Pilot.

Pilot appears as a holographic display. D'Argo asks for maneuverability but Pilot tells him that Moya (the ship) cannot be maneuvered while the "control collar" is in place. Enraged, D'Argo rips open the top of a control panel and starts ripping out wiring.

A third being now enters the room; a small, slug-like alien on a flying sled. This is Rygel. Rygel tells Zhaan that they are the only three on the ship and that they were being taken to Terran Raa; a "lifers colony".

Crichton finally realizes what he has walked in on. "You're escaped prisoners?"

Pilot warns that hull integrity is approaching critical when Zhaan suddenly announces "You've done it!". We see a large collar separating from the outside of Moya and drifting away. D'Argo yells for Pilot to "prepare for Starburst", the only defensive maneuver a Leviathan is capable of.

In the Command center of the ship leading the attack, we see Captain Bialar Crais yelling for the attacking ships to break off.

Moya enters Starburst and flashes away.

Back on his ship Crais is furious that the Leviathan has escaped. His lieutenant, Teeg reports that two of their Prowler craft are missing. One was destroyed and the other was pulled along with the Leviathan when it entered Starburst. Crais says he will send his brother after the Leviathan and Lt. Teeg suggests that he watch a recording taken during the battle.

On the recording, Crais sees the Farscape 1 module. He does not recognize it but he does recognize his brother's Prowler as it collides with the module then crashes into an asteroid and explodes. Crais orders that the image be enhanced so that he can see who is in the module.

Back on the Moya, the prisoners are happy that they have made their escape. Pilot reports that one Prowler was pulled along with them and D'Argo tells him to jam its radio and bring it aboard. Rygel then goes over and spits on John. He yells in surprise and D'Argo knocks him out with a long, frog-like tongue.

Later, D'Argo and Zhaan are talking together. Zhaan reveals that she is a Delvian Priest who was imprisoned for being an anarchist. D'Argo is a Luxan soldier who was imprisoned for killing his superior officer.

John awakens to find himself naked and lying on the floor of a cell. Rygel is outside the cell attempting to open a panel. After scurrying to find his clothes he tries to find out what is going on.

Rygel turns out to be Rygel the Sixteenth, former Dominar of the Hynerian Empire. He was deposed by his cousin. His clothes had been removed so that he could be examined. John can now understand what is being said because he has been injected with "translator microbes". He attempts to convince Rygel that he is trustworthy but Rygel tells him "We can no more trust you than we can trust that."

He gestures and John notices for the first time he is not alone in his cell. Lying on the floor is another figure wearing a black spacesuit. It starts moving and sits up, removing the helmet of the suit and revealing a human-appearing woman. John approaches her but does not get the reaction he expected. She grabs him and throws him across the room and to the floor. She pins him down and demands to know his name, rank and regiment. When he does not answer she stands up and identifies herself as Aeryn Sun, a Peacekeeper commando.

Rygel manages to get the panel he has been working on open and the other former prisoners appear. They start removing items from the panel, Rygel taking a ring and D'Argo a large sword. John attempts to explain to Aeryn that he isn't military, he's a scientist and to the others outside that he isn't a Peacekeeper even though he looks like them. Zhaan admits that they have realized that as he has bacteria in his system that they do not realize. Further conversation is cut off when D'Argo announces that it is time to eat.

Back on the Command Carrier, Crais is still angered over the death of his brother. He swears to Lt. Teeg that he will get revenge on whoever killed his brother.

Lt. Teeg finishes processing the image and is surprised to see John. She mistakes him for a Sebacean, their species. Crais orders the Command Carrier to follow the Leviathan.

On Moya, D'Argo and Zhaan are leading a handcuffed Crichton and Aeryn along the corridor. The reality of the situation is starting to sink in on John and he is almost babbling, trying to find out where he is, what part of the galaxy he is in, realizing that he has actually made first contact with alien life. He does discover that Moya is a Leviathan, a bio-mechanical, living ship. Unfortunately, the others still do not trust him. Even though they know he is not a Peacekeeper they still do not know where his loyalties lie.

While eating Pilot informs the crew that Moya has lost most of her Iriscentent Fluid and so cannot make full speed. They decide to head for a nearby Commerce Planet to get more.

While they talk, John asks Aeryn why the others are keeping them around. Aeryn speculates that they want information from her and we see her slip a fork up her sleeve. Her speculation turns out to be correct when D'Argo asks her if there is a Peacekeeper presence in the system they are approaching. She claims not to know and D'Argo grabs her and takes the fork from her sleeve. She simply sits down and resumes eating.

D'Argo, Zhaan and Rygel go down to the planet for Iriscentent Fluid, leaving John and Aeryn in their cell. John, talking to himself, realizes that he arrived through a wormhole and the only way he will be able to get back home is to find or create another one. Aeryn, frustrated, points out that he will not be able to create a wormhole from inside their cell. She starts to turn away but he whistles and shows her the fork he has hidden in his sleeve.

Somewhat later the two of them are running through Moya's corridors. Aeryn wants to sabotage Moya before the leave but John is opposed to the idea. He points out that the others haven't hurt them and suggests showing some compassion.
"Compassion?" Aeryn asks. "What is compassion?"
Crichton is surprised. "You're kidding right? It's a feeling that you have when you see someone else's pain and instead of taking advantage of their weakness you help them."
"Oh." says Aeryn. "I know this feeling. I hate it."

John is stunned and starts to walk away, saying he is on the wrong team. Aeryn says that if he stays he will be killed along with them. They argue a bit but eventually he goes with her. She ignores the Farscape 1 and both of them go down to the planet in Aeryn's Prowler. Aeryn contacts the Command Carrier.

On the planet, Zhaan and D'Argo learn that Crais' Command Carrier is approaching. They are surprised that Crais himself is after them and surmise that there is something important about either Aeryn or John. They grab Rygel and head back for Moya.

Aeryn and John see the landing pod returning to Moya. Aeryn is going to report this to Crais when they are intercepted by D'Argo. John attempts to get D'Argo to leave by warning him of the impending arrival of the Peacekeeper Command Carrier but D'Argo thinks he is bluffing. A few seconds later, Crais and a group of Peacekeeper troops arrive. They capture D'Argo and John while Aeryn goes to stand next to Crais.

Crais starts questioning John and asks who he is and where he came from. Aeryn responds that he claims to be a Human from the planet "Erp". Crais accuses John of attacking and killing his brother. John realizes that he is talking about the collision and protests that it was an accident but Crais orders John to be arrested.

Aeryn comes to John's defense and says that she believes he is innocent because he isn't intelligent enough to plan an attack. Crais turns his attention to Aeryn. John tries to deflect him but Crais says that Aeryn has spent too much time in contact with John and the escaped prisoners and that she is therefore "irreversibly contaminated". He orders her to be arrested as well.

The guards take the three to a courtyard where they search them, finding John's father's good luck charm. John tries to explain the puzzle ring to them, showing how to take it apart and inviting them to try to put it back together again. One of the guards identifies it as a "field resource exercise" and the two start looking at the ring. While they are distracted, John grabs a weapon away from one of them and gains the upper hand. At his urging, one of the guards throws him the key to the handcuffs. He then convinces D'Argo to get him away from the planet and to take Aeryn with them. D'Argo at first protests, then gives in and unlocks John's handcuffs. John gives the gun to D'Argo and unlocks him then turns to Aeryn.

Aeryn at first refuses to come with them. John reminds her that she was just declared "irreversibly contaminated" and D'Argo points out that it means death to her.
Aeryn shakes her head. "It is my duty, my breeding since birth. It is what I am."
"You can be more!" says John as he unlocks her.

D'Argo, Aeryn and John arrive on Moya in Aeryn's Prowler. Rygel expects a trap but the three run into Command and D'Argo yells for Pilot to plot a course for the Uncharted Territories. Pilot agrees, but reports that the Command Carrier is sixty metras away and closing and that their Frag Cannons are powering up. John is confused again but D'Argo asks Aeryn what the range on the Frag Cannon are. She hesitates a moment then tells him.

Moya cannot Starburst without more time to recharge her energy and the Command Carrier is closing when John suddenly gets an idea and starts yelling for paper. When everyone simply gives him a blank look, he starts writing on the floor and yells for Pilot to turn back towards the planet. Pilot does and he starts to explain the theory he had been attempting to test with the Farscape 1 to them.

Pilot isn't sure that he can steer the ship on the exact trajectory John needs. John asks for manual control but Pilot hesitates until everyone else yells for him to do so as well. D'Argo grabs Aeryn and shoves her in front of the manual control as it rises from the control panel.

Under John's direction Moya flies past the Command Carrier and dives into the Commerce Planet's atmosphere. At the last moment, it pulls out and slingshots away and out of sight. On the Command Carrier, Lt. Teeg reports to Crais that they have lost track of the Leviathan.

Later, John is on Moya and is getting some items from the Farscape 1 and loading them into a bag. He starts walking through the corridors when he is grabbed from behind by D'Argo. D'Argo shoves him into a wall and tells him that he has been a prisoner for over 8 cycles. He doesn't know who John is or where he came from, but if he threatens his freedom he will kill him.

John is shaken and starts to walk away when he sees Aeryn. She tells him that D'Argo's people are extremely violent and that her people would have helped him if he hadn't put them in the position they were in. He reminds her of Crais and she reminds him that Crais thinks John killed his brother and that he will not give up in trying to hunt him down.

Thoroughly shaken, John goes into his cabin and sits down. He sees a DRD nearby, the one with the broken eyestalk. Motioning it over to him, he repairs the stalk with some tape from his bag while talking into a small tape recorder.
"Hey, Dad. It worked. DK's and my theory, it actually worked. Sort of. Look, I know this is crazy, I mean you're never going to get this message, but I just... wanted to let you know that I'm alive. Don't know where I am. Technically, I don't know how I got here. But, I'm not going to stop trying to get home."

John finishes fixing the DRD and tells it to go play. He suddenly grabs his recorder away from Rygel, who has appeared and taken it. Rygel suggests that John's equipment might be worth something on a Commerce Planet but John points out that his equipment is his and that Rygel can't have it.
"Are you a sound sleeper?" Rygel asks as he leaves.

Crichton turns once more to his recorder. "And... there's life out here, Dad. Weird, amazing, psychotic life. And, uh, in Technicolor. Dad, you know those rattlers in the stomach we talked about? Well... I got `em now."

References:

Unanswered Questions:

Now what?

Commentary:

Have you ever been to a carnival funhouse? They usually have a bright, cheery facade or a laughably, cheesy horror house theme to them in front and lots of them have the same cheesy theme throughout. Something that produces more snickers than screams. You find these all over the place, at carnivals, beaches and other tourists traps. And, somehow, they are all the same. You know what to expect going in. The surprises are yawns, because you've seen it a few dozen times before.

But, every now and then, you find the one you weren't expecting. It has the same faded plywood front and the first room or two have the same cheesy look of everything you've seen before. Then, suddenly, the floor falls out beneath you and you are hurtling down a slide into the dark. That's when you get the first indication that this ride is a bit more than you expected and that it may be a while before you see the light of day again.

Sometimes there is a bit of a warning in the front though. A small sign. This is a dark ride. No refunds.

Someone should have put one of those somewhere in the credits for Farscape.

I first saw Farscape a few years ago and, frankly, dismissed it. Sure, it looked good but, thanks to CGI, most shows do these days. It was just a bit too garish. A bit too weird looking. It had Muppets for crying out loud. I shrugged and passed it on by.

But, for some reason, I kept hearing things about this show. An excited buzz on the Internet. The Editor's Choice box in TV Guide. Passing comments from other fans. So, I decided that maybe I should give this show a second chance.

And here was the first surprise. I watched an episode (it was Liars, Guns and Money from the second season, if you must know) and realized that there were things I was missing. Sure, I sort of followed the plot but it was obvious that there was a lot more going on than I was catching. There was a deep background here that I didn't know and the characters were more developed, more three dimensional and more real than I expected. I wanted to know what this show was about. So, I got a stack of tapes, reviewed a dozen or so episodes and brought myself up to date.

And found myself on that slide heading down into the dark.

Farscape reminds me the most of another series I enjoyed, Blake's 7. In both, the main characters are criminals and fugitives. They are fleeing an oppressive regime and are forced to work together due to circumstances rather than choice. But, even here Farscape has the advantage in that its characters grow and change through time, and their growth is completely believable.

There are also similarities to Babylon 5, both in the believable behavior of the characters and in the concept of story "arcs". Both shows tell stories that take many episodes to unfold and seemingly minor incidents in one episode turn out to have major significance many episodes down the line.

In the first episode, Farscape takes us to the "Uncharted Territories". This is a particularly good name in that it also describes the show itself. Farscape does many things that other shows have not.

The characters do not always do the right thing. They are as likely to do the right thing as the right thing for the wrong reasons. Or, the wrong thing for the right reasons. And, their actions have effects. They have to live with the consequences of their actions, good or bad. There is no big "reset switch" at the end of each episode to put things the way they were. Things happen. Characters change, evolve, suffer... and die. It's a dark universe out there. Doing the right thing is difficult. And sometimes it hurts. Doing the wrong thing is usually easy. And it hurts even more.

The interpersonal relationships between the characters feel real also. Relationships, including sexual ones, develop the way you would expect them to. And, people get hurt in their relationships as well. There is a strong sexual undertone through the whole series, one that is handled very well.

Farscape is gritty and realistic, not clean and sterile. It isn't afraid to show the consequences of actions. It portrays people realistically, as capable of making mistakes, as being greedy and selfish. But, it also shows them as being capable of good, of honor, trust, friendship and love. In other words, like real people.

This isn't to say the show is perfect. It has its share of screwups and bad episodes. But, I now rank it among the top shows out there.

Still, there is one downside to all this continuity, character development and backstory. It can be hard for a new viewer to understand what is going on. And, things can get pretty confusing out there.

That's where this guide comes in. Stick around, and we'll have you up to speed in no time.

Now, on to this episode... Well, this is pretty much your standard introduction episode. It sets up the situation, introduces the characters and their motivations and defines the initial direction of the show and it does that quite well. Sure, everything is just a rough outline now but the details will get filled in later.

One thing to notice right away is that there is a major difference here from your normal science fiction series. In them, we typically have a crew mainly made up of humans with a handful of aliens around. Here, we have a single human surrounded by nothing but aliens. And, these aren't just humans with strange ears, these are aliens. Sure, we have Sebaceans, but we also have Pilot, Rygel and D'Argo!

Also, consider our ship, Moya. It's a transport with no weapons and whose only defense is to run away! A far cry from the weapon-filled ships we usually see.

Even though much of the episode is setup there are a few things to notice. Two of the reoccurring themes in the series are introduced here. "You can be more" and "Each man gets the chance to be his own kind of hero" will both be seen again. We'll see wormholes again and even get back to Earth a time or two.

Sort of...

You may think you know these characters. You may think you know how the show will develop. If so, you are probably wrong.

Welcome to Farscape! Glad to have you along for the ride. Just remember one thing...

This is a dark ride. No refunds.

Dennis Matheson - tanstaafl@earthlink.net
Farscape and all related characters and elements are © & ™ The Jim Henson Co. Ltd. All rights reserved.

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