Mark Watches ‘Farscape’: S01E09 – DNA Mad Scientist

In the ninth episode of the first season of Farscape, a scientist offers the crew a Peacekeeper-free map to their home worlds, but at a steep price for only one being. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Farscape

Trigger Warning: For nonconsensual drugging and extreme body horror.

I think there are a number of really fascinating and compelling aspects to this episode and this show in general, but I do find myself wishing that Farscape would pull away from some of the genre trappings that I’ve seen in other sci-fi shows. The exploration of desperation in the crew is a great story, but the whole “crew-member-gets-infected-and-turns-into-something” trope is not anything that feels refreshing. If Farscape had always been a by-the-numbers sort of show, this wouldn’t standout as much, but even in this episode alone, the writers destroy our own expectations with the subplot involving NamTar’s crystal.

Seriously, I fully went into this episode expecting a long argument and fight over whether or not to actually give NamTar one of Pilot’s arms. BUT NOPE. THEY CUT IT OFF HIM BEFORE TEN MINUTES GOES BY. WHAT THE FUCK WHAT THE FUCK. The way this is handled is the most compelling part of the episode because it establishes the fact that as close as the crew has grown, they are willing to turn on one another in order to get home. I admit that at times, I was a little confused about Zhaan’s characterization. I totally get Rygel and D’Argo being ruthless and selfish, but Zhaan? I suppose this episode works after “That Old Black Magic” because she’s found the darkness within her again, but there’s absolutely no mention of that here. So I’m left to believe that she’ll turn away from her own sense of peace and reason just ensure that she gets home before the others. It’s a little tonally strange.

Still! I feel like this is an important point in this season’s ongoing story because it packs such a big emotional punch. Despite that all of the people on this ship did something to be rejected by their people, all of them want to return. They entertain notions of what they’re going to do upon making it home, and it all ends up amounting to a dream and nothing more. Of course, this is all complicated by the experiences of Aeryn, Crichton, and Pilot. We’ve got one character who NamTar could not help, since Crichton was the first human he ever sampled from. Then there’s Aeryn, who initially resists his help because SHE CAN’T EVER RETURN HOME. hahaha oh my god, the heartache, the heartache. Her choice to defect from the Peacekeepers mean she’ll forever be separated from what she grew up with. Thanks for reminding me of all the sadness from “PK Tech Girl,” THIS IS WHAT I NEEDED TODAY.

And then there’s Pilot, whose home they willingly left in order to see the galaxy. They can’t ever return home, but that’s their choice. Pilot couldn’t leave their home planet unless they were bound to a Leviathan, and that’s the compromise that these aliens make. Which is why it’s so crushingly sad that Pilot is the one who must lose an arm so the others can go home. UGH WHAT IS THIS SHOW DOING TO ME.

Now, I don’t think that the whole “mad scientist” story is terrible or boring. I mean, first of all, LOOK AT NAMTAR’S CHARACTER DESIGN. This plot was worth it for that alone. The big twist – that NamTar was a LITERAL LAB RAT before he transformed himself into his current state – was brilliant. BRILLIANT. Again, these sort of deviations from the expected story are super fun to watch, which is why I wasn’t all that interested in where Aeryn’s transformation would go. Visually, it was a horrifying thing to watch, especially since the show went way further than I expected in terms of showing us her transformation. But there was no threat that this would be permanent, and it sucks the tension out of her development. It’s gross to see how her body morphs into another species, but without any lasting factors, it’s not that interesting to me in this sense.

Her emotional state, however, was intriguing to me. Aeryn knew it was impossible for her to ever return home, so she relents and allows NamTar to take her DNA so that he can find a Sebacean planet far from the Peacekeeper colonies. All she wants is somewhere to fit in, and despite that Crichton assures her that she’ll fit in on Earth, she knows that ultimately, she won’t. It’s a cultural difference more than a physical one. The life she was raised in will always differentiate her from others, and no amount of physical or emotional transformation will change that. That’s why it’s so haunting that she transforms into another species. Even then? She’s still pushed away from those around her. At the very least, though, Crichton showed that he’d be willing to fight for her, regardless. Do I sense the beginnings of a ship??? oh god mark ABANDON SHIP, THIS WILL ONLY END IN TRAGEDY, DON’T DO IT. Don’t do it.

Anyway, the character design is A+ on this show, I keep wanting more from the plot, but I’m perfectly fine letting Farscape find its voice. It’s getting closer and closer to that, I can tell! And I want it to break free and become its own show, you know? There’s hope, and I’m certainly willing to wait it out.

The video for “DNA Mad Scientist” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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