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"That Old Black Magic"
Crais gets to confront Crichton, and Zhaan goes over to the dark side...

Click here to read the Farscape World synopsis for this episode.

That Old Black Magic is a highly enjoyable episode that finally gives us the insight we've been waiting for into Crais' true character, and what drives him to do what he does. Not only that, but we take quite the look into Zhaan's rather dark side.

The intense battle between Crais and John is very good, with Maldis instigating so much of it. From the moment Haloth brought John to his little temple place, you knew it would mean trouble. He knew so much about John, and got Crais. Of course, he was just trying to fuel his own needs, but ended up perhaps submitting John to a much worse fate. The battle began with John, as usual, attempting to talk his way out of the situation by explaining to Crais that his brother's death really was an accident. Crais doesn't believe this, though, but we later find out that the true reason is due to his own inadequacies. Crais is clearly driven by something more than just revenge for his brother, since as John points out (and Crais agrees), Farscape-1 is no match whatsoever for a Peacekeeper prowler. So if Crais knows this, then he must realise that John had no intent to kill his brother, so why could he still be going after John with such desire? Well, Maldis gives us the answer. Crais and his brother were not in fact selected for PK duty, but rather shanghaied from their home. The last thing Crais' father did was make him promise to look after his brother, no matter what. He did well for a while, getting Tauvo a place on his Carrier, but ultimately under his command Tauvo died. This is the burden which Crais is carrying – he promised his father he would look after Tauvo so blames himself for his death, and in his eyes all he wants to do is exact revenge on John for causing, inadvertently or not, his brother's death.

It's this drive that Crais cannot let go of. He had been trying to forget, and as Maldis reveals near the end of the episode, Crais had been thinking about giving up his pursuit. But on being reminded of his promise, and seeing the image of his dead brother, he thinks he must again continue the pursuit and has the drive he needs to do so. John tried to do the human thing – to reason with him – but it did not work. Crais will now pursue John at all costs, and just to prove it he brutally murders Lt. Teeg, with no remorse, and orders his carriers pursuit.

Interestingly, John also makes quite a considerable transformation over the course of this episode too. Though he begins by attempting to talk, over and over again, after numerous attempts when he's thought he had finally gotten through to him but hasn't, he decides to finally take him on, and in the final showdown he has Crais in a position where he could quite easily kill him, and he was actually about to before Maldis transported Crais away. It's as if John has reverted back to the old human ways of brutality. I found this very interesting, because at first he's thrust into this new world, which brings hundreds of races and ways of life. Despite warnings, he really believes he can get through to Crais, but by the end of the episode the transformation of sorts has taken place – he's realised that the Peacekeepers have a completely different way of life, and they are truly ruthless and Crais will stop at nothing to kill him. In essence, and he says so in his message to DK, he's realised that it's him or Crais, so he must make the decision either to kill or be killed. It's a conscious choice he has to make, and I would say he makes the right one under the circumstances.

The other aspect of this episode was Zhaan's apparent transformation. As she says herself to D'Argo and Aeryn, "I know there are only two choices. Let that evil flourish or unleash another evil against it. How would you choose?" She has to make what is clearly one of the hardest decisions of her life since she became a Pa'u, to open up her dark side for use against Maldis. Virginia Hey pulls out a stunning performance, portraying the rather scary return for Zhaan to her dark side. She first couldn't kill the beast, but after making that conscious decision she actually harmed Rygel, her shipmate. She then eventually helped John by dispersing Maldis, but the implications of re-opening that side of her personality will no doubt be felt for a long time yet. Indeed, her confrontation with John at the end of the episode, in which she says no one can help her now, is very disturbing, but also indicative of the pain she feels. I must mention it was nice to see Zhaan for once really helping out, hands-on style.

The other small subplot of the episode was Rygel, who had the flu yet showed that he's always out for himself, declaring John dead and claiming his possessions. His shock when John awoke was absolutely hilarious, as was his fumbling words inadvertently trying to cover his back for thinking John was dead.

The visuals of this episode were also very interesting, with Maldis' arena of sorts really setting the tone of the episode and the feel of the confrontation. Also, Maldis made for an interesting enemy, with his three different forms making him interesting, and the fact that he thrived off conflict wasn't original, but suited the episode, as did using him as the force to drive Crais back to his raging desires.

In the end, this episode was mainly about choices: Crais had to choose to continue pursuit at all costs, John had to choose to fight for his life rather than be killed, and Zhaan had to choose whether to unleash her dark side to help John. They all made the hardest choices they could, driven by various goals. To that end this was a very interesting episode, with a great premise and story, and it was enjoyable to see Crais back in a prominent role. He's now more of a formidable threat than before, since we all know why he's after John, but there's another formidable enemy that came to light – the enemy within. For Zhaan, this may only be bad news.

I love to hear your views, whether you agree or disagree, so feel free to e-mail me your feedback. Review by Dani Moure.

Reader Reviews
Average Reader Score
3 readers have rated "That Old Black Magic" with an average score of 3.33. Click here to see what they had to say, and add your own review!
Did You Know?
Much of the fire on the set had to be added digitally, since the real fire couldn't have been that big and stay safe.

Crais wasn't chosen for Peacekeeper duty, but he and his brother were stricken from their homes by the Peacekeepers.

This is another episode where brute force won't succeed, as Aeryn and D'Argo find out when they unsuccessfully attempt to burn down Maldis' door.

In this episode we finally see what makes a Luxan warrior worried and scared – the supernatural magic of Maldis.

Related Episodes
Rhapsody in Blue
The Hidden Memory
Family Ties
Picture if You Will

Favourite Quote
Maldis: I admit it, I feed on death. But don't we all? Some eat plants, some meat. I consume the life essence itself. Preferably medium rare!"

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Episode Credits
Season 1, Episode 8 - "That Old Black Magic"
Writer: Richard Manning
Director: Brendan Maher
Production number: 10108
First UK Transmission: 31st Jan 2000
First US Transmission: 11th Jun 1999
Guest Stars:
Chris Haywood (Maldis / Igg / Haloth); Lani Tupu (Cpt. Bialar Crais); Grant Bowler (Liko); Christine Stephen-Daly (Lt. Teeg); Jake Blundell (Lt. Om); Wadih Dona (Tauvo Crais); Vic Rooney (Admiral Josbek); Errol Henderson (PK Doctor); Gerry Day (Crais' father); Duane Johnson; Leilani Johnson (Young Girl)
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