Farscape: “They’ve Got a Secret”

12/23/2011 § Leave a comment

Season 1, Episode 10. Writer: Sally Lapiduss. Director: Ian Watson. Rating: B.

As we saw back in “I, E.T.” (which was incidentally the last episode that Sally Lapiduss wrote), the Peacekeepers didn’t just enslave the infant Leviathan ships — they installed all sorts of secret devices on them, from tracking beacons to communication arrays. It’s only natural, then, that a concerned Pilot would have the crew searching for other hidden installations, though probably a mistake to involve someone like D’Argo in the search. Sure, he may be able to find the damn things, but his idea of uninstalling hardware involves his Qualta blade, and in this case, his tampering with the propulsion equipment ends with him being ejected into deep space. And while Luxans can survive that sort of thing, it’s not without some residual hallucinations that cause him to mistake Zhaan for his late wife Lo’Laan; Rygel for his beloved son, Jothee; and Crichton for Lo’Laan’s treacherous brother, Macton?

As for the rest of the ship, D’Argo’s unwittingly released something into Moya’s systems, which are now failing and has led to Pilot’s incapacitation. (Aeryn, in a nod to her recent mutation in “DNA Mad Scientist” is able to temporarily take over his duties.) Even some of the DRDs have gone rogue, and while these golden-plated, glorified Roombas don’t look like the most menacing of droids, their ability to superglue Aeryn to the floor is pretty effective at forcing her and Crichton to spend some close-up time together. Later on, they seem to have gotten an upgrade: a whole Birds-like horde of them chase Crichton down a corridor while shooting lasers.

Without being able to find the Peacekeeper panel that D’Argo disabled, the crew realizes that they’ll be unable to reverse whatever’s ailing Moya; this means they’ll have to snap D’Argo out of his fantasies sooner rather than later. Humorous as it is to see D’Argo tucking Rygel in for bed, and valuable as it is to see Simcoe showing his emotional side to Zhaan, it comes down to Crichton’s provocations to help D’Argo separate his happier past from the dangerous present. It’s a wonderful payoff on the secret hinted at in “Back and Back and Back to the Future,” which is that D’Argo’s true crime was in having a mixed relationship with a Peacekeeper woman, Lo’Laan. Apparently, the affair was so illicit that Lo”Laan’s own brother, Macten, murdered her and then used his Peacekeeper rank to pin the crime on D’Argo (although not before D’Argo sent Jothee to safety.)

Satisfying and well-acted as these revelations are, they’re unfortunately largely revealed through exposition. There’s little clash between Crichton-as-Macten and D’Argo, mainly because there’s still one giant reveal left, which is “What’s wrong with Moya?” Keeping with Farscape‘s theme of expecting the unexpected, Moya is sick, but not from a virus: she’s pregnant. The device D’Argo neutralized was, essentially, a form of Leviathan birth control, and it’s out of the frightened need to protect her young that the DRDs have been sealing off passageways and attempting to fend off the crew. There’s no bad guy at the heart of this episode, just a series of unfortunate miscommunications — ones that almost lead to Aeryn performing a lobotomy on Moya’s higher functions. (And you thought their willingness to sever Pilot’s arm was rough?)

In all, the D’Argo development is terrific stuff, especially the way this colors all of his past and future interactions with Aeryn, but the episode itself suffers from major similarities to “Exodus from Genesis,” right down to the conclusion, in which Crichton manages to communicate with the pregnant host and to convince it to find a compromise that allows both the crew and the baby to survive. (You’d think Moya would have been smart enough to do this from the start, but I suppose that wouldn’t be very dramatic.) And while Crichton compares the lurking DRDs — innocuous until this episode — to Hitchcock, director Ian Watson fails to deliver on that fearful suspense. He’s not wrong to focus on characters, but the episode would have been stronger had it found ways to use the tension to reveal things about the characters, rather than separating them into distinct and less affecting parts.

Obsessive observations: 

  • The neat thing about Crichton as a character is that he’s constantly comparing things in this new galaxy to things back home on Earth. This week, he compares the symbiotic relationship between Pilot and Moya to its closest correlation: horsemen. “Horses are loyal and intelligent creatures,” he says. “That you capture and make work for you,” retorts Aeryn. “Yeah, but we love ’em, too.” “You love what you enslave?” “We don’t enslave them . . . [thinks about it] Fine, we enslave ’em.”
  • Aeryn continues to press Crichton later in the episode as to why he’d want to return to a planet so riddled with disease and destruction. It’s a good question; Crichton’s answer is better: “You guys don’t have chocolate.”
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