This is extremely awesome news for a variety of reasons. First of all, I no longer have to encourage people to figure out other means to hunt down S1 dvds as frikkin' ADV no longer has the rights to the first season and Sony--which does have the rights--has not yet produced any S1 dvds.
It means my show, my beautiful flawed, perfect, brutal, crazy, unique, cliched, overly-ambitious, disgusting, violent, psychologically scarring, emotionally devastating, awe-inspiring and soul crushing One True Show will be available for all to worship. and despair Oh, John Crichton. No matter how much Dean Winchester owns my brain you will always have my heart.
Y'see the problem with constantly pimping a show that no one can purchase is that I always get afraid that people will just skip to the second season (or worse, try to start off watching in S3 or S4--that's a recipe for a disaster because Farscape gets intense and continuity-laden in the second half of the show's run. Even the standalones count.
I have no idea what a person's impressions would be if you started off with The Peacekeeper Wars (the miniseries). Besides the fact that John Crichton and Aeryn Sun are really handsy with each other and that John must have a drug problem with the way he’s constantly hallucinating (his drug problem is in S4). And that Chiana seems to be high for the first half of the miniseries.
(And hopefully the newbie viewer recognized that Scorpius is the coolest evil motherfucker in the universe.)
The first season has this wobbly "is this a kid's show or a show for adults?" style that makes the earlier episodes a bit wonky (at best) and the extreme soundtrack that makes episodes like Throne for a Loss (the one with the John: "Tav-loidss" Aeryn [*punches John out*] :"That's Tav-leks" AND a shot of naked Zhaan in all her blue behind glory) a little less awesome than they could be.
But they figured out how to make the show more adult-oriented even with two of the main characters being animatroic. I don’t think I’ve ever known a person not to sympathize with Pilot, the 8 foot tall animatronic, which is to the credit of the puppeteers and to Lani Tapu for doing some amazing voicework. I especially think when David Kemper sort of took over the creative helm, that this show could be, much like Aeryn, more. When do you pinpoint the moment that Farscape really became a space opera?
(Also: Scorpius = Sweeney Todd - an inability to follow through with his plans? I'll let people fight it out amongst themselves who would be his Mrs. Lovett. I lean towards Sikozu. Her final scene in PK Wars strikes a chord in the Lovett-sensibility, although her love was more for her species than anything else. Hmm. Braca would be…Toby? The one taken from his competitor although of course Scorpius and Braca’s relationship was um a lot more kinky. Heh.)
(Which makes Crais Pirelli! The bloviating braggart who thinks he’s hot shit but he’s just a pretender to the throne. I'm stopping myself now.)
(John would be Joanna. Which would make the Scarran Emperor the JUDGE. Oh god. Aeryn would be…Anthony? At least, an Anthony that wasn't a pussy. Anthony's idealism would be so very John but Joanna's slightly batshit crazy would be all John as well. Er.)
I'm starting to make too much sense. Let me get back to talking about the moment where Farscape finally grew up and took a turn that I am so very grateful for as it made the show become my show.
The change from “what a fun show!” to “OMG SHOW own my soul why don’t you? happened late S1.
It's not quite Durka Returns, which is the episode that introduces the lovely and frustrating Chiana.
If I have to pick the moment where I thought "a-ha! This is what I've been waiting for" it would be A Human Reaction.
What matters to John?
Earth. Wormholes. Aeryn. Hope.
Those are his four constants (no John, you don't have just one constant, despite what you've always believed, because as bad as you fall apart without Aeryn, you have other obsessions that keep you…well, slightly less off-kilter). The order changes a lot. Hope is always linked to the first three and in S1 it's really: Earth/Wormholes/Hope OT3. With a secret fondness for Aeryn that grows a great deal and comes to a head in A Human Reaction.
It isn't just that she looks human or that she's saved John's ass more times that he can count, it's that John hopes that there's this chance, this maybe-dream that…yes. She could love him. Maybe. Yes.
I remember watching A Human Reaction back in '99, on the edge of my seat. "Oh my god, they're going to kiss. They're going to kiss and they’re on Earth, minus the sunshine, because it's raining in Sydney, Australia, and they're going to kiss and…"
After that I got suckered in. Not by the kiss (although! For all that people argue about chemistry and the relatively believability about couples, I don't think anyone will ever quite be as successful as John and Aeryn are, if only because any time someone might call them annoying or too-coupley there was a HUGE consequence for their actions.) but by the awesome twist that a stupid sixteen year old kid fell for hardcore.
Because the John/Aeryn in that episode was a smokescreen for the other OT3 that guided John in the first part of season.
How does the episode end? Not with John and Aeryn speaking about what transpired. But with John walking into an open doorway, a giant wall of bright blue ocean water. Blue. The color of wormholes. John standing in doorways is kind of an important motif. He becomes, in a way, a guardian of the door. (And in a virtual reality, is the guardian of an elevator).
The huge Wizard of Oz theme--which John constantly refers to (amongst so much other pop culture for lo it is the Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland had a baby while tripping on acid and listening to Ziggy Stardust)--is so apparent in that John is freakin' Dorothy.
Only when he finally meets with Wizard he does get his way home. (Even though he doesn’t know that it’s the Wizard, but c’mon, when something shows up wearing the Paternal Figure’s face and body, then that character isn’t just a one-shot nobody.) The fallout from that is devastating.
"There's no place like home." (This line is featured in the strange but very endearing S3 episode Revenging Angel--which also features John’s “Letterman List” of the things that he values above all else.).
But in A Human Reaction, John goes home. He learns the very hard lesson that he can't quite go home. And yet the credits, which changed in S3 and S4 specially mention Earth in very different ways. (Earth is unprepared / helpless) and (to warn Earth), where he used to state, “I’m just looking for a way home.” The meaning of home changes and Earth no longer becomes home.
A change of variables:
Home. Wormholes. Aeryn. Hope.
“John Crichton’s one wish is to find a way back home to Earth.”
(Please mark on your paper if that statement is true or false.)
So the story’s easy then, so easy: see the Earthman show off how S-M-R-T he is and have the lesser species be in awe of his brilliance and watch him finally come back to Earth, Dorothy opening her eyes and saying, “Why! It was all a dream.”
(Again I go off track to say that Won’t Get Fooled Again kind of shows that John Crichton’s DNA must be partly written with The Wizard of Oz’s shooting script. )
But that was never the point of Farscape. And I loved them for that, that David Kemper very bluntly stated that the endgame of the show as he pictured it was never that John comes home THE END. He had a very different idea.
(And better his idea than Rockne S. O’Bannon, the show creator, who apparently once said that he pictured the end of Farscape as John dying. I’m sorry, but no, the death of John Crichton is not how I would ever want the show to do nor would it deserve that ending.)
Not that David Kemper was perfect. To this day, I am glad that the director of the S3 finale Dog With Two Bones and the actors Ben Browder and Claudia Black fought with David Kemper (the writer of the episode) tooth and nail over the most important scene between John and Aeryn in that episode.
Also, it's kind of awesome that David Kemper is onscreen in the beautiful dream sequence of that episode…unseen. For those that have seen it, when John and Aeryn are sitting at the table during John's dream/nightmare wedding, David was hiding underneath it, arguing with Ben and Claudia between takes about the still-unfinished climatic scene. It's kind of hilarious in the (2!) commentaries for Dog With Two Bones that everyone is really amused that David argued with them for so long about how to resolve the very real problem of John and Aeryn’s relationship.
My god, I can't restrain myself from digressing.
Okay. So for me, the pivotal moment is A Human Reaction. And in a hindsight 20/20 way, it's very much true. It fuels a new direction, allows a new antagonist to develop, and has consequences for the rest of the series and miniseries. It beings the death of John’s innocence as seen in the previous episodes of Farscape and while the next episode Through the Looking Glass, has John saying at the end of THAT episode, "This is one of the good days," it’s a swan song at best.
(those were the days)
Frankly, Through the Looking Glass (and yes, it is an Alice In Wonderland reference, John actually says as such in the episode) is the last happyfuntime adventure because everything else after that, even when it's completely crazy and silly, tends to have some fucked-up dark issues lurking in the midst of abject weirdness.
Because next up is A Bug's Life. Where John kills a person. Where Aeryn's heart wasn't damaged but close enough (and where John and the audience assumes she means it in one way when Aeryn probably meant the more physical damage that would have cause some unexpected and thoroughly welcome changes to the show.
A Bug’s Life is also where John puts on leather pants for the first time.
Dude. The moment John Crichton walked onscreen wearing leather pants, I do believe that fangirl nation thanked whatever deity they believe in because damn. Ben Browder is quite fit (and he knows it).
By the way, I can forgive John's horrible accent when pretending to be a Peacekeeper because 1) it is hilarious and 2) it's on purpose. Ben Browder wasn't doing a shitty hybrid British/Aussie accent because he sucks--he's acted in England and his wife is British--oh no, it was because John Crichton does bad accents. (And despite John being quite intelligent, he is also very STUPID as he forgets that the translator microbes only make everyone seem like they have an accent, they’re actually speaking a completely different language...which! Was finally revealed in A Human Reaction when Aeryn speaks to Jack Crichton. It’s an awesome language too, all backwards-speaking and clicking.)
Just like when John really gets anxious/freaked out, he starts speaking with a thick ass Southern accent. An incredibly hot Southern accent. Um.
I know that some would argue (and rightfully so) that the moment that Farcape found its creative groove would be with the arrival of Scorpius and it's kind of hard to disagree. Because the moment he appears in Nerve, this Darth Vader-like figure, so other from the rest of the Peacekeepers (and isn’t that amazing? He’s a symbol of everything the Peacekeepers hate but he’s still clawed his way to the top), John's world and (because John is our POV character) ours changes forever.
But Scorpius wouldn't be linked to John's fate unless the events of A Human Reaction transpired. It’s a beautiful thing how everything kind of piles on itself in the lovely set of episodes Nerve and The Hidden Memory. Because John's rescue from Scorpius's torture wouldn't have been secured if the earlier episode PK Tech Girl had never happened and without Chiana there causing a distraction, John would not have an ally running around a heavily fortified base trying to break him out.
Even fucking Maldis, the lamest villain EVER (so great is my Maldis hate, gah) and his story in That Old Black Magic was necessary.
Continuity! It's alive in Farscape. Hell, a one-off line in That Old Black Magic: "Karen Shaw" leads to a delightful brain-exploding moment in a S4 arc that includes a bit of time-traveling hijinks.
But by the time Scorpius arrives, I’d already taken the kool-aid.
It happens when John kisses Aeryn on Earth and tastes the rain on her lips. He kisses her deeper and yes, he can taste the beer on her tongue, which to her tastes like fellip nectar and John doesn't want to know what that is, too many unexplainable things in the universe for him. Too many things that he cannot ever know, all the wonders he will see, yet it is this unknown in his arms--Aeryn--who is more. More than the universe, more than his dream of Earth and home. More.
It's kind of silly and romantic to say that's the moment where Farscape grew into its potential (in fact, Farscape's always had incredible potential and sometimes it failed miserably but I loved the chaos and mess of it, because man, it went there. The lack of restraint was beautiful and the sometimes flawed execution hurt.). It makes it seem like I watched the show as merely a 'shipper (to be honest, above all else I am a John Crichton fan and a fan of John always getting screwed so Farscape really gave me exactly what I wanted). The US audience got screwed on the morning after scene as it wasn't included in our broadcast. I only saw the scene when I finally got the S1 dvds.
Which would have cleared up a lot of the online arguments about whether John and Aeryn had sex. Oh, the Sci-Fi boards, how little I miss them. So yes, John and Aeryn have sex in A Human Reaction. They have sex before they declare that they love each other. They had sex in S1 and it kind of awesomely messed up later arguments about another wrench in their relationship during S3/S4.
And really? It's the scenes after that kiss. That's the climax, this sweet little moment, and the rest of it is the fallout. You're going to get exactly what you--the sixteen year old kid sitting on the edge of her bed--have always wanted and now you're going to get exactly what you need.
Earth. Wormholes. Aeryn. Hope.
But I'm missing on home and family. That's what you need to survive. And isn't that the cause to the events in A Human Reaction? There's a family looking for a home. And the effects are evastating. A seed planted into a worthy brain but the brain belongs to someone who tends to get himself into sticky situations.
And along comes Scorpius.
It's not that he's a villian and it's easy to root against. He's a complex monster and I have to admit it, I get swayed by the power of his twisted charisma. I mean. He eats a part of John Crichton's brain. He sees no problem with mental torture and he always, always screws you over in the end. But he's compelling. Add John's own personal demon/invisible friend, the mental alter-ego creation of Harvey, and Farscape throws everything and the kitchen sink at you and while you're ducking flying objects they sneak things past you like actual physics. I remember Maayan saying on her blog (when S4 was airing) that "they're not going to deal with Wheeler's Theory." (Wheeler-Feynman theory to be exact.)
Except that they do. Admittedly, S4 can become incredibly dense and Farscape continues its traditions of dropping a lot of knowledge in a little amount of time and rather infamously not giving a shit about whether the technobabble makes any sense. Many times the characters themselves argue about the possibility of their terrible, terrible plans. But they're a crew of (mostly) escaped prisoners--on the run from everyone at some points--and they don't have the luxury to care that it's impossible. Just do it and hope for the best.
And in that hoping, some will die along the way. The unfortunate nature of the beast. Although death wasn't an absolute--hell, you could be buried and still manage to survive--when Farscape killed, it counted.
And, save for the above example, if you tried bringing the dead back, you had some awful consequences to face.
So what came first in making Farscape into the show I fell in love with, the chicken or the egg? My answer's A Human Reaction.