D'Argo finds an Orican, and decides to help restore her life, but at what cost?
Click here to read the Farscape World synopsis for this episode.
"Vitas Mortis" is a D'Argo story through and through. It's great when we get an episode that primarily focuses on one of the main cast, especially one of the aliens, and given the recent events, it's a great time to give D'Argo a bit of exploration, particularly on the religious front. Unfortunately, "Vitas Mortis" fails miserably in being anything compelling. It's dull, boring and quite frankly sitting through it again is quite a chore. It's not completely awful, but it barely scrapes through, and only then thanks to few scenes. Given his previous script, the great "Durka Returns", this latest offering from Grant McAloon is highly disappointing.
The story itself starts off well, with some nice intrigue. D'Argo, Zhaan and John have found out about a Luxan supposedly on a planet in the Uncharted Territories, and visit said planet. There they do indeed find an extremely old Luxan female, Nilaam, who when she meets D'Argo, sticks her hand in his chest and throws him back, calling him a fraud. The opening credits then roll, and we're all left to wonder what's going on. Sadly, it doesn't really matter, because what went on was more than a trite boring.
Something that really stuck in my mind after watching "Vitas Mortis", and something that really brought the episode down, was just how annoying a character Nilaam was to me. Whilst I have no problem believing that she thought she used D'Argo's strength and not Moya's, and that she did regret what happened, and I could even sympathise in many ways with her not wanting to die but rather to hold on to the gift she stole, there was a sense of selfishness there that really bugged me even though she came through in the end. Whether it was the dialogue, or just the acting for this character I'm really not sure. I can't put my finger on the exact reasons behind it, but as I say, Nilaam was just really getting under my skin by the end of the episode, so much so that I wasn't upset when she performed the Ritual of Passing at the end and died. Let's face it, she's a revered Orican (Luxan holy woman), who is supposed to stand for all sorts of good things, and yet she expels D'Argo as a fraud and then soon after takes his strength (which turns out to be Moya's) without his consent. That was one of the things that didn't make sense; Luxans seem to have a clear sense of honour, and there was really no reason for her not to ask D'Argo once she found out how strong he was, but instead this holy woman just took it from him, even though he would have been quite willing. Many of her choices I could sympathise with, such as her not wanting to give up her rediscovered youth, and then coming round in the end. Yet by the time these choices took place, I was just not liking the character whatsoever.
What also didn't help the episode's cause was the plot itself. On the surface, there was nothing wrong with it. It had some interesting ideas, made an attempt at explaining some of D'Argo's religious beliefs (and in doing so helping flesh out the character), and it had some interesting character conflicts. But the trouble came in the execution of the story. It was just so bland, so dull, so by-the-book (this could've quite easily been an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation with Worf taking D'Argo's place) and dare I say it, so boring, that after about ten or fifteen minutes I was just itching for the episode to end. I have never felt so bored watching Farscape in its entire run (even last season's "Jeremiah Crichton" was more exciting than this), and that for me is a great shame. Where was the witty dialogue? Where was the fun? Where was the excitement? All the usual traits of Farscape were missing, except for some good acting from the leads (one thing we can always bank on), and it just led to a highly disappointing episode.
Luckily for us, there were a few saving graces, so if you like to watch every episode, there are a couple of things that might interest you. There were some great scenes with D'Argo and John, further solidifying the portrayal of the two as great friends. John's concern for D'Argo was wonderful, as was the way Zhaan, a highly spiritual being, supported D'Argo all the way. John kept his head, and doubted Nilaam's true intentions from the very beginning, as perhaps Zhaan should have too given all they've been through. I did like the way D'Argo trusted her completely from the moment he saw her, as he has already proven very na´ve when dealing with his own race (or similar, see "Back and Back and Back to the Future"), so this was true to character. The scene between John and D'Argo near the end was also very good in terms of character, as D'Argo struggles with the internal conflict of what he knows he must do – kill Nilaam to save Moya. In fact, throughout the episode, as D'Argo began to question Nilaam's loyalty, the internal conflict became apparent and was well portrayed by Anthony Simcoe.
Chiana and Aeryn also shared a couple of good scenes, when Chiana is stuck in Moya's frozen amnexus fluid. The way both Aeryn and later Zhaan came in and asked Chiana "What have you done?" was hilarious, and gave me something to laugh at in an otherwise dull episode. Chiana's concern for D'Argo was also extremely apparent, and there definitely seems to be something brewing in the way she feels about him. When Aeryn asks her to do her washing, Chiana replies that she's only doing D'Argo's because "I like D'Argo"... I can't see Chiana doing someone's washing if she doesn't really like them.
Sadly though, the few interesting sparks, whilst keeping the episode from being a total failure, can't hold "Vitas Mortis" that far above water, and it wouldn't be much of a shame if this episode sank. It's sad, because episodes devoted almost entirely to one character aren't that frequent, and D'Argo should have had some healthy characterisation from this outing, but it turned out so boring that it was a difficult episode to watch, especially more than once. Not only was Nilaam annoying, and the story boring, but the special effects, particularly for the first ritual performance, looked awful and tacky, which I found rather disappointing considering the usually awesome effects on the show. But then, disappointing sums up my feelings for this episode in general. Whilst the story has some interesting ideas, they're executed in a typical and uninteresting fashion, without any of the usual Farscape finesse, so this slice of the Farscape pie is sadly rotten.
I love to hear your views, whether you agree or disagree, so feel free to e-mail me your feedback. Review by Dani Moure.
Did You Know?
Luxans consider attending an Orican the highest honour for them to attain.
Chiana: (about Nilaam) "How could she possibly help us?"
D'Argo: "She's an Orican."
Chiana: "Oh, okay. I'll repeat the question."
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|Season 2, Episode 2 - "Vitas Mortis"|
|Writer: Grant McAloon|
Director: Tony Tilse
|Production number: 10203|
First UK Transmission: 19th Jun 00
First US Transmission: 24th Mar 00
Melissa Jaffer (Old Nilaam / Voice of Nilaam); Anna Lise Phillips (Young Nilaam)