In the eighteenth episode of the fourth season of Farscape, this is too upsetting. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Farscape.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of forced pregnancy, consent, abortion.
WELL, THIS WAS REALLY INTENSE AND HARD TO WATCH. Oh god, I wasn’t ready.
I definitely had a moment watching this episode where I realized just how strange it is that Crichton and Scorpius were in the Farscape-1, traveling through a wormhole, all so they could interrogate an alternate universe version of Stark for the location of the secret Scarran base. That premise is ridiculous out of context, but this is Farscape. This show does shit like that all the time. But putting Scorpius and Crichton undeniably on the same side??? It’s just… christ, this show has come a long way since the end of season one.
“Prayer” doesn’t waste time pointing out the humor of this pairing as well as the clear (and horrifying) differences in their styles. The two do have a rapport at this point, enough of one that it’s almost unfathomable to think that they were once mortal enemies. (Bless character development, you are my very favorite thing.) But once the two board the variant Moya, it’s also obvious that their rapport only extends to a certain point. It’s not necessarily surprising that Scorpius has little time for affection or emotional complexity. That’s part of his ongoing characterization. He’s here for a very specific reason: to assist Crichton in getting Sikozu!Stark to reveal what he knows about Katratzi. Initially, I was a little confused as to why Scorpius had to be the one to come along, but you know what? None of Moya’s crew could have come to Variant!Moya because… well, there’s a version of each of them there. There was too much of a risk if they interacted with their own self. (I can’t quite remember if this was explained, but where is Variant!Crichton? They clearly know who he is and recognize him, but we never see a version of him there.) Scorpius, however, doesn’t exist in this world, and there’s less of a chance for this to go horribly wrong.
Which means that everything goes horribly wrong. Despite that “Unrealized Reality” established that the timeline in this universe includes everyone’s death, that doesn’t make this any less upsetting. With the knowledge that Sikozu-Stark likely helped a Scarran cross over, Scorpius retrieves Noranti!Rygel and KILLS THEM IN FRONT OF STARK. It doesn’t matter that this isn’t our Rygel; it’s still massively disturbing. The same goes for D’Argo!Jool (I miss Jool!) and Aeryn!Chiana’s deaths as well. They’re so fucked up to watch, y’all. But I think that’s how this episode conveys Crichton’s desperation. He shoots D’Argo!Jool because he has to in order to find and save Aeryn in his universe. Maybe Crichton and Scorpius aren’t all that different when it comes to getting what they want. Still, Crichton ultimately can’t shoot Aeryn!Chiana, so Scorpius doesn’t hesitate to do it for him, and WHY IS THIS EPISODE SO RELENTLESS FUCKED UP.
Crichton gets the location of Katratzi, but at what goddamn cost, y’all? He just killed his friends (albeit in another universe) in order to save Aeryn. IT’S SO MESSED UP.
I think that this third subplot was always going to suffer because what’s happening in Crichton’s and Aeryn’s storylines is a billion times more interesting. There are a few scenes on Moya interspersed with endless tragedy, and they are largely used to add tension. We know there’s a Command Carrier on the way, Sikozu and Rygel want to leave, no one else does, and YAWN. We’ve seen this unfold so many times, and the writers don’t do anything to tweak the pattern at all. This has to be like the hundredth time Rygel has been willing to leave everyone behind just to save himself. Well, at least he’s consistent.
I have… issues with what happens here. I’m not at all a fan of forced pregnancies in genre narratives. Not only are there tons of gross implications to them, but they’re so common. Practically every sci-fi or fantasy show I’ve watched has a mystical pregnancy or a forced pregnancy in it. Angel, Buffy, The X-Files, Fringe, Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica, American Horror Story, countless horror films, A BILLION TIMES IN COMICS… I need to stop. I could keep going. It’s prevalence probably could be spoken to by people well more qualified than I, so I don’t want to appropriate this conversation since I don’t have a uterus.
It’s use here is perplexing, infuriating, revolting, and completely unlike most of what I’ve seen. Of course, Aeryn’s pregnancy is not at all mystical, though there’s one element of it that completely mystifies me. (I’ll get there.) But through her torture onboard this Scarran ship, we learn of the utterly horrifying experiments the Scarrans are conducting. I do admit that this works in favor of demonstrating how awful the Scarrans are, but I don’t know that we needed that at this point. We already know how serious the Scarran threat is, so some of what happens here just seems like gratuitous darkness. I guess it’s weird saying that this show has gone too far because… IS THERE EVEN A POINT IN WHICH FARSCAPE CAN ACTUALLY GO TOO FAR. That bar got raised so ridiculously high that you’d have to come up with some truly absurd shit to even be able to judge it as “too far.”
But there’s a brutality here that isn’t entertaining, that doesn’t shed light on some new aspect of Scarran characterization, and which feels like cruelty for cruelty’s sake. Y’all, there is a forced abortion depicted onscreen. Yes, it is eventually revealed to be fake (PHEW, THAT WAS SO AWFUL), but it was so utterly revolting to watch that it pulled me right out of the narrative. And that is what I mean by “too far.” What we see here feels too gendered for my taste.
At the same time, GIVE CLAUDIA BLACK ALL OF THE AWARDS. ALL OF THEM. She is an unreal force within “Prayer,” and as uncomfortable as the content made me at times, I was wholly transfixed by her performance. If you accept that “A Constellation of Doubt” and the actions within this episode are manifestations of Crichton’s desperation, then I think it’s easy to see that Aeryn’s own desperation is paralleled here. That’s demonstrated through her use of prayer, which culturally is rare for Peacekeepers to participate in. Morrock even comments on this. (AGGGGGHHH I FELL FOR MORROCK SO HARD, GODDAMN IT.) But Aeryn is cast into an environment that’s so completely frightening, one that feels so impossible, that prayer is the easiest thing for her to latch on to. Temporarily, I should say, since the legendary god she prays to eventually is cast aside out of her further desperation.
It’s just really hard to watch, and it’s upsetting to see Aeryn in a state like this. She’s not entirely helpless, though, and she does get the upper hand (HA GET IT???) on Morrock at the very least. But she eventually succumbs to the torture and truth serums, revealing that Crichton is the only person who could have impregnated her. Which… what? Really? Then why did she tell Crichton that it could have been any of her partners over the past 7 cycles? Did she lie about ever having sex? Does that mean she always knew it was Crichton’s but lied because…. I don’t actually know? THIS IS REALLY CONFUSING TO ME AND I DON’T LIKE FEELING CONFUSED. What’s going on here???
Anyway, everything’s messed up. So messed up. I wonder if we’ll get more of Vreena, by the way. She’s a fascinating character because she’s aligned herself with whoever can keep her alive, and in this case, that’s being Jenek’s assistant. Despite being Sebacean, she doesn’t have a particular alliance to anyone. But there are moments where I thought she was sympathetic towards Aeryn, perhaps willing to save her and protect for a reason outside of her own self-defense. BUT I DON’T KNOW. Something’s going on here, right? I’m probably wrong, but that’s pretty common when it comes to Farscape. I would assume that Moya and her crew are headed to Katratzi, but I’m sure that’ll get ruined or sidetracked. WE’RE SO CLOSE TO THE END. 🙁
The video for “Prayer” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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