Monday, December 2, 2013

Day Three Hundred and Thirty-six - Farscape: Season 1, Episode 15, "Ghosts of the Past and Future Allies."

I don't think I can decide on what it was that first drew me to Farscape.

Sure, there's the obvious fact that its early marketing heavily banked on their Jim Henson Creature Shop connection as all (or, at least, the majority) of the aliens were designed by the famous puppet studio, but it also came into being during the latter end of my adolescence and beginnings of my adult life, when I was strive to find my own way in this world and its narrative of independence, discovery, survival, and friendship rather appealed to me.

Plus, it was set in space.

LEXX has come out just a few years previous and they both had strikingly similar aesthetics and roughness when it came to sets and effects, rather like Doctor Who in that regard, but where LEXX went the soft-core porn route with most of its stories, Farscape, while not without sexual drive to its characters (particularly Zhaan and Chiana), was more grounded in its space opera adventure roots. Throwing human John Crichton (Ben Browder) to the far corners of the universe to mix with several unrecognizable species and quite a few that are decidedly human-like, Farscape takes the pulp scifi adventure serials of yesteryear and has quite a bit of fun with them.

In this episode, a terror from crew regular Rigel's past returns to torment him while an "antisocial" prisoner is held captive by a representative of her brainwashing society. As the episode progresses, Rigel attempts to kill his old foe which leads to a series of events that revives their rivalry, finds the mindcop murdered, and allows the thought criminal to ally with Crichton and become a member of the crew.

Not that I'll ever complain about Chiana as her sensual trickster goddess was a welcome addition to the repressed crew (John and Aeryn denying their feelings, D'Argo still in mourning over his lost love, Rigel a fop, and Zhaan... well... untouchable despite her allure), but I have to wonder at the reasoning of the crew. Was it a transparent attempt to add some sex appeal to the show to attract lonely nerds like me in the late ninties, or was there something deeper involved, an aspect of interpersonal chemistry missing that the producers thought would be fulfilled by adding her character?

Pandering or not, I admit that I liked Chiana. Sex appeal aside, the crew was a bit male heavy and the addition of another female archetype helped balance the weird dichotomy that Zhaan and Aeryn had going, one the peace-loving priestess and the other a violent warrior woman.

Now that I think about it... her addition really does feel like rounding out an RPG party. Zhaan is the priest, Aeryn is the Ranger, D'argo is the Warrior, Rigel the Bard, Crichton the Techno-mage, and Chiana the Thief. Yeah, that definitely makes me much more comfortable.

Getting back to the episode, I like how its mostly about Rigel and his old foe and not so much about introducing Chiana. So often, opener episodes for new characters almost exclusively revolve around them and their troubles... how the crew of the Enterprise or the Galactica or Voyager come upon this individual in conflict and offer them and their people the chance of a lifetime. While its true, by the end of the epi, the same happens here, for the most part, it's Rigel's old jailer systematically dividing and conquering on Moya. Sure, it's a little deus ex that Crichton just happens to be able to repair Rigel's failed explosive to save the day, but my point is Chiana is a bit of an afterthought and that's a good thing.

Overall, this was a fun episode that is only disappointing when it comes to how easily the villain is foiled. I think I would've much preferred to have him regain his old self secretly and slowly torment Rigel and the others over the course of several episodes without revealing himself, making you wonder just who the real bad guy is, him or Chiana. But, that was not for me to decide. As it stands, I'm pretty happy with both the epi and the addition of Chiana to the cast.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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