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"DNA Mad Scientist"
Just how far will they all go to get home? Quite possibly too far...

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

DNA Mad Scientist is a brutal episode about raw emotion, and how something you desire greatly can affect you and the decisions you make. It's a pretty magnificent episode in that sense. Dark, brooding and even frightening with a lot of deceit thrown in too.

The crew are down on a planet with NamTar, a geneticist, who's taking DNA samples from them so that he can create maps back to their home worlds. Aeryn refuses, since of course she cannot return home, but the rest agree. But NamTar wants more – one of Pilot's arms. But where you'd think that it would definitely be a no-no, or at least they'd wait for Pilot to volunteer, the drive in Zhaan, Rygel and D'Argo to return home is so great that they don't give Pilot a choice, and sever his arm in a rather brutal scene. This scene shows their true colours, that they will do anything necessary to get home. They've been away so long, that right or wrong, their desire overwhelms them all. John and Aeryn are dismayed at what they've done, although Pilot takes it well, justifying what they did because his arm will grow back and he is here to serve them, and they want to go home. It would have been interesting to see what John would have done had NamTar had data on earth too, but even NamTar's eleven million species full database doesn't have a reference for earth – they must be rather far away. Still, the implications of what the other three did were clear: they want to get home no matter the cost.

So they cut off his arm and got their crystal, but they were so taken over by the thought of possibly returning home that they failed to see NamTar's true colours; he never planned to give them the true data, and indeed they find out his crystal contains too much data for Moya to take in. However, they can destroy two maps and keep one, bringing to the table the question of whose map they keep. Of course, Rygel being Rygel, he nabs the crystal and hides it away from everyone in his cell. This leads D'Argo and Zhaan to make a deal with each other – whoever's world is closest they visit first. But obviously neither are content, the deal just being there so they don't have to fight with each other. In turn they both go to Rygel, D'Argo saying he'll get some Luxan warriors to help him regain his thrown, Zhaan offering her, well, services for the chance to go home first. But good ol' Rygel doesn't fall for it, and locks them in his cell. He goes to work on the crystal, but by the time it's ready John has found out that it was in fact made to wipe Moya's data banks. To everyone else that's not surprising, but the other's just couldn't see it coming, their vision clouded by their desires. John manages to smash it though, but the look of anger on Zhaan's face and her tone of voice ("What have you done?") was enough to scare me. I thought we might see some more Delvian anger, which would not have been nice for John. But he tells them it was never meant to work, and the looks of loss on their faces are wonderful, really portraying their feelings of loss well, and that includes Rygel.

Another great aspect of the episode was again the growing friendship between Aeryn and John. She at first would not take part in NamTar's experiment, but the thought of losing everyone, and being alone, was just too much for her. NamTar may not have had a map for John, but Aeryn knows he'll leave her someday too. So off she went, asking NamTar to take her DNA and find her a Sebacean colony outside known territories. But his experiments with Pilot's DNA were going wrong, so he decided to use a real life test subject, and injected Aeryn. When she realised and showed Pilot, then John, all she could say was that she was simply so scared at the thought of being alone. This should be expected – she was born a Peacekeeper and has always been with them. Even since she joined Moya she's been with them, never once in her life has she been alone, and she clearly doesn't ever want to be. Anyway she reveals the rather gruesome transformation that is taking place within her: she's got a Pilot arm growing out of her stomach (everybody say "eeewwww"). John seems to understand where she's coming from, and attempts to help her by getting Kornata on his side. She, Pilot and John concoct a treatment, and take it down to NamTar's lab. One of the interesting things NamTar said to John while Kornata was working was that he strove for perfection. Like so many tyrants, he would stop at nothing to get there, not matter what he had to do or who he had to use. But Kornata manages to shrink him down to size (literally), and we finally get a disturbing look at what Aeryn's become – a creature that looks like a humanoid Pilot! That too was quite gruesome, but Kornata manages to heal her and she eventually goes back to normal. A nice conversation ensues with them at the end, when John asks what the worst part was. She replies that what NamTar did to her was her inside, the real her, so she most certainly is far from little miss perfect, and because of that John says, in one of those nice moments, that she'll fit in on earth just fine.

The other main scene came at the end, and it was just beautiful. D'Argo feels remorse for what he did for Pilot, but Luxans aren't know for their apologies so he doesn't really know what to do. He says he would do the same again if the situation arose, basically indicative that he's trying to justify his actions as if he has no regrets, but he also brought along something he'd been working on. Pilot assumes it's a weapon, but in fact it's a shilquen – a Luxan instrument. In a wonderful moment, D'Argo sits on Pilot's console and begins playing a subtle, in an attempt to soothe Pilot. From the look on his face, it worked. But the best thing about this scene for me was that it showed that D'Argo is more than just the hard warrior – there's more to him than that.

The main new set for this episode – NamTar's lab – had a great design, and looked and felt just right in the episode's context. A big hand must go out to Dave Elsey and the whole creature shop for creating the magnificent NamTar, who looked horrific, mad and just plane odd, but in a cool sort of way. Also hats off to the make-up team, for their work on Aeryn's Pilot transformation, since she really did look like a humanoid version of Pilot. Kornata didn't look bad either; kind of like she was subjected to some of NamTar's test herself.

All in all, I absolutely love this episode. The actions, the reason behind them, the internal conflicts; they all made for a great piece of drama. The episode was almost as if they'd posed the question "What would you all do to go home? How far would you go?" and what we saw was the answer. It may have been brutal, disturbing, and definitely self-righteous for each involved, but the key was it was real. I thought long and hard about the score for this episode, probably more than I have for any other. I really love it, and it's a personal favourite, but should I give it a 5? I decided against it, mainly because the later 5's take the show to a whole new level, but this is quite simply the highest 4 an episode could possibly get, and comes highly recommended.

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
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Did You Know?
This episode was originally entitled "Apogee".

The NamTar creation was partly animatronic, including his whole head. Not only that, but Adrian Getley was on stilts for the entire time the episode was filming. The suit was so complex that they had to cut a whole out of it so he could pee!

David Kemper came up with the idea for this episode when he first saw the Pilot puppet. He asked Matt Carroll if they could cut off an arm in a story, so he would re-grow it later, and stunned he replied yeah, and the story was born.

It's perhaps indicative of her true nature that despite being a priest and all for loving everyone, Zhaan never apologises to Pilot for what she did. Of course, neither does Rygel.

Related Episodes
They've Got a Secret
A Human Reaction
Family Ties

Favourite Quote
Pilot: "It appears your crystal is useless. Lucky for you, you didn't trade anything of real value to get it."
Zhaan: "We can access one of the maps, but only if we destroy the other two."
Rygel: "Well we'll just have to go to NamTar and ask him for three individual crystals."
D'Argo: "Ask NamTar for further help? What will he demand from us then?"
Pilot: "If he should ask for it, what body part are you willing to offer, your eminence?"

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Episode Credits
Season 1, Episode 9 - "DNA Mad Scientist"
Writer: Tom Blomquist
Director: Andrew Prowse
Production number: 10109
First UK Transmission: 14th Feb 2000
First US Transmission: 18th Jun 1999
Guest Stars:
Adrian Getley (NamTar); Sarah Burns (Kornata); Julian Garner (Voice of NamTar)
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