In the eleventh episode of the third season of Farscape, I can’t fucking deal with this show anymore. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Farscape.
Trigger Warning: For child abuse, violence, imprisonment, consent, body horror, gore, rape, and suicide. This episode is super fucked up, be wary!
WHAT HAS THIS SHOW DONE
Let’s deal with the less fucked up plot first, and I also need to sit here and acknowledge that the “less fucked up plot” involves SOMEONE’S SKIN TURNING TO LIQUID AND SLIDING OFF THEIR FACE
Goddamn this show.
“Incubator” does double duty, and it does so impressively. It was an ambitious thing to split time between the unreal and shocking flashbacks that Scorpius provided Crichton and the events onboard Moya, and I imagine that this could have failed in any number of ways. But I cared about both plots. I found both of them to be interesting and challenging. And both stories were deeply shocking and unexpected.
It’s clear that Crichton and Scorpius will always be on parallel journeys and have paralleled character developments. “Incubator” tracks Crichton’s own obsession with wormholes and how it has begun to grate on the rest of the crew. For fifteen solar days, he’s had Moya explore space, certain that he’s close to a wormhole, positive that he can “smell” it. And while he does end up being correct about that, it’s pretty much immaterial to the rest of the crew. They’re tired and exhausted from being cooped up for so long and by defaulting to Crichton’s desires and indulgences this whole time.
So when Linfer arrives, having survived a trip through a wormhole and ready to offer up wormhole travel to Crichton, it’s not surprising that he’s interested in her offer. He’s beyond biased at this point, and he’s completely unwilling to engage with that idea. That’s not to suggest that the threat of wormhole technology falling into Scorpius’s hand is not real because it absolutely is. It’s important to Crichton for valid reasons. But he’s rarely willing to see how that obsession affects others; he’s quick to be defensive, especially when D’Argo tries to call him on it.
And really, I think Linfer was being utterly sincere, and “Incubator” gives us no reason to disbelieve her. She valued her own life, so escaping Scorpius made sense. Perhaps Chiana was correct in theorizing that she just wanted to use Moya to get further from Scorpius, but can you blame Linfer? WOULDN’T YOU WANT TO DO THE SAME THING? At the very least, I appreciated that Crichton wanted to respect Moya and Pilot’s stake in Linfer’s offer. That was nice!
It was also a futile effort, because Linfer’s shield only delayed the inevitable liquefaction of her own tissue. Her suicide suggested to me that she really did want to betray Scorpius. She chose to end her own life instead of suffer the horror of liquefaction or get captured again. Like it has been for a long time, the crew on Moya get a glimpse of hope, and then it’s rapidly taken away.
Like I said on video, I never even thought to question what Scorpius’s origin was. Admittedly, I did like the idea that he was the kind of antagonist who just showed up; the mystery of his past wasn’t necessary to make him an intimidating or intriguing character. So, I never thought to question it or ask for it.
So yes, I was deeply shocked to see his birth and then his adolescence and then the horrible, terrifying way in which he was raised. I don’t really want to go over the details of that treatment because I imagine that could be triggering for those who’ve been through abuse like this. But this entire episode doesn’t reinvent Scorpius as a villain; it forces us to think about the motivations for his behavior. It helps explains why he acts the way he does, but it also never excuses Scorpius for what he’s done. And to me, that’s ultimately what I wanted out of this. Oh, how I love a tragic villain, y’all, but I am not very interested in stories that aim to absolve people of the terrible things they’ve done. It’s undeniable at this point that Scorpius has tortured Crichton, violated his consent, imprisoned him, killed his friends or indirectly led to their deaths, and he continues to do whatever he wants in order to get what he needs.
But why? Why has their been such a longstanding hatred between the Scarrans and the Peacekeepers? We’d already gotten confirmation earlier this season that Scorpius wanted to stop the Scarrans from wiping the Sebaceans out, but “Incubator” delves so much deeper than that, and EVERYTHING HURTS. Scorpius’s entire childhood was an endless cycle of pain and rejection, of repeated psychological and physical tests that taught him that the only parental figure in his life, Tauza, viewed him as a degenerate being because of his heritage. I mistakenly believed she was his mother, but OH NO. She was just there to torment him, and he was the only surviving result of a program of forced breeding with Sebaceans.
There’s a bit of shaky ground in that reveal, and I admit that’s for more personal reasons than anything else. I don’t really like the unfortunate (and clearly unintentional) implications of the trope used here to explain Scorpius’s heritage. It’s terribly common for narratives to make villains the product of rape, and there’s a whole mess attached to that that’s hard for someone like me to ignore. I also think that the trope is portrayed differently than I’m used to. Scorpius doesn’t hate his mother, and I’d actually suggest that he reveres here as much as he can. Why else would he keep that bird-of-paradise-style plant in his quarters? Plus, Scorpius’s desire to wipe out the Scarrans is entirely based on his hatred of them as a species because of what they do and are capable of. He hates the use of rape as a conquering technique, and he hates their forced breeding. He hates their insistence on viewing other species as inferior. He hates their contempt for everything that’s not Scarran.
That, of course, doesn’t absolve Scorpius of what he’s done, and I was SO THRILLED that after all of this, after trying to show Crichton why he needed help dissecting the Ancients’ knowledge, Crichton points out the elephant in the room: Hasn’t Scorpius done terrible things to Crichton and his friends? If Scorpius wants revenge for what the Scarrans did to his mother, why is it out of the question that Crichton ask for his own revenge? Scorpius tries to appeal to Crichton’s sense of reason, which this episode also gives us context for. We see how well he’s able to ascend rank, to give others what they need so that he gets what he wants as well. That’s precisely what he attempts here, too. He tries to appeal to Crichton’s desire to protect Earth, but it backfires.
Scorpius is left unsatisfied at the end of all this. The neural version of Crichton is gone, and he’s only able to remember parts of the Ancients’ equations. So while Scorpius isn’t at a dead end, he doesn’t get what he wants for once. It certainly leaves this show in an odd place because there’s a (very, very small) part of me that gets why Scorpius does what he does. He was raised in a nightmare at the hands of a creature who basically tortured him for years, and the only people who offered him any sort of positive attention and respect were the Peacekeepers. It’s why he’s devoted to them in his own way; they allowed him to escape the cycle of abuse, they allowed him to get revenge on Tauza, and they welcomed him back with open arms.
The whole thing is mind-bogglingly complicated, and it’s yet another sign that Farscape is willing to take their characters to uncomfortable, challenging places. Just… WHAT THE HELL DID I JUST GO THROUGH.
The video for “Incubator” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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