In the sixth episode of the first season of Farscape, an angry D’Argo heads to a laborer planet to cool off and gets sucked into a weird… cult? I don’t know what to call this. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Farscape.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of cultural appropriation.
Did anyone else get the sense that this episode felt like part of a larger work? It opened abruptly, which was fine. I mean, let’s be real, I’d only seen five episodes of the show before this, but I already knew that Crichton probably irritated at least one crew member every day. THIS IS CANON. But just one scene later, D’Argo’s on a planet? It took me a bit to work out that three days had passed from one cut to the next. And that’s one of the strange pacing issues in this episode; it feels like entire segments have been cut from a bigger story, and it gives a rushed feeling to the first half of “Thank God It’s Friday… Again.” Without any background on this place or how the crew ended up there, it feels random and hard to get attached to.
While I don’t deny that the costuming and character design is unlike anything I’ve ever seen (IT’S SO DETAILED), I think that the use of the paddy hat was the other distracting element of this episode. I know this is an Australian show, but that hat has a very, very negative image when its stripped of its origin and is often used in racist depictions of Asian people, specifically the Chinese. Granted, I don’t think that’s the intention here, though I felt the design for the laborer force was meant to evoke an Orientalist image. The music certainly contributed to that. (Why are people so obsessed with putting vaguely Asian music in the background of anything that seems vaguely Asian? It’s even more egregious given that all these characters are white.)
The rest of the story was, at times, unsettling, bewildering, and in the case of Aeryn and Rygel, touching and hilarious. This is yet another episode where I thought the B-plot was the strongest part of the story. Down on the planet of Sykar, the crew encounters a euphoric D’Argo, whose Luxan hyper-rage has given way to a peaceful outlook. Actually, that’s an understatement. It’s not just that he seems high as fuck. He’s GIVEN UP. He doesn’t want to run from the Peacekeepers anymore; he just wants to farm magical turnips, party, have lots of sex, and live in his free apartment. Which… doesn’t sound all that bad, okay, yes, BUT IT IS BAD. Of course, the reason why is hidden from us, though there are plenty of hints that something is wrong aside from D’Argo’s sudden transformation.
I think what this episode is trying to address is the idea of an oppressive regime exploiting its working class for labor and capital. On the surface, I think it mostly works, but then there’s the subplot with the worm (NO THANK YOU, I CANNOT DEAL WITH THAT.) (If you’re curious, the episode of The X-Files that I referenced but could not remember the name of is “Roadrunners.” Take the worm insertion scene and make it one billion times gorier and you’ve got one of the most terrifying episodes EVER.) Crichton is tapped to be the “savior” of the people on Sykar, but not because he’s special. He just has a ship that could… help somehow? Tanga and her father only have vague notions of how Crichton can help, and they all amount to, “Go get us stuff.”
I wanted to sympathize with their plight, but there’s not that much interesting character development of these characters. It’s made even more confusing when Volmae is revealed to be merely following orders. She doesn’t really have an ulterior motive here aside from wanting to steal tannot root for herself. I think I would have liked this more if we’d seen Volmae’s desperation to escape the system that the Peacekeepers had set up on Sykar, but, again, I felt like there were scenes missing from the episode. It was just too jumpy for me, and the resolution was only worth it for TOXIC URINATION FROM RYGEL.
Let’s just talk about Rygel, though. I have NOT A SINGLE COMPLAINT for his story and how it eventually intersects with Aeryn’s. Look, I am perfectly fine with any show that is willing to make fart and pee jokes in the midst of ~super serious time.~ And it all deconstructs the image of Rygel as some haughty emperor! He’s actually pretty gross and he’s belching constantly, and he NEVER EVER EVER STOPS EATING.
But this allows for the show to explore two fascinating character interactions. Initially, Pilot recommends cryogenically freezing Rygel after he discovers that his body fluids are LITERALLY EXPLOSIVE. Aeryn, who’s been a combative soldier for most of her life, has absolutely no scientific knowledge and is quick to refuse to do anything. But Pilot guides her through the process by admitting that they are just as ignorant. It’s a bold thing for Pilot to do because we’d always assumed that Pilot knew everything. That’s the kind of character archetype they fill, and this episode deliberately destroys that concept. Plus, it’s nice to see Pilot admit that they trust Aeryn because they’re the first character to openly do so. I’m sure she expected it to take ages to win anyone over, so Pilot’s admission comes as a surprise.
It was also really cool to see Aeryn and Rygel spend time together, too. I’m just super into this idea that Aeryn has such a rough exterior and her interactions with the crew help her to open up to more sensitive aspects of herself. This is usually the kind of story reserved for men, but that’s not the case here.
And I want more of this! Despite that I’m going to regret saying this later, I want more of the emotional sort of storytelling like D’Argo’s ending. Like the last episode, D’Argo must reflect upon the possibly bleak future he’s got in store for him because of what he’s done. He sadly remarks to Zhaan that he doesn’t believe he may be destined for either kind of happiness he wanted as a child. AND IT’S SOUL-CRUSHING. Oh god, this is a bad idea, but I’d like the show to explore more stories like this. It’s what’s keeping my interest.
The video for “Thank God It’s Friday… Again” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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