|"Taking the Stone"|
Chiana experiences a great loss and goes on a journey to live...
Click here to read the Farscape World synopsis for this episode.
What a sadly missed opportunity "Taking the Stone" really is. Following last week's "Vitas Mortis", which was supposedly a D'Argo episode, we were apparently going to get a Chiana episode. This is allegedly said episode, but what starts with a very promising scene (again much like last week) soon veers off in another direction, and shifts focus from the point of the episode. It's yet another episode to chalk up under the "crying shame" category; "Taking the Stone" could have been so much more if it focused on the central character of the story – Chiana.
The episode opens with the aforementioned scene, in which Chiana goes to John, saying she needs to talk. He fobs her off, probably thinking she's just out to annoy him, and he's fiddling with some stuff. Upset, she goes to the maintenance bay and cuts herself open, extracting a disc. Said disc suddenly stops flashing, and Chiana flies off in Aeryn's Prowler. Zhaan proclaims that it was a life disc and that whoever it was connected to is now dead, and of course this makes John feel guilty for blowing off Chi when she came to talk to him. Then, down on a planet, Chiana is confronted by a group of young men, who corner her.
Once again, a strong opening. Once again, it descends into near-rubbish from there. Where this episode should have from here focused on Chiana and her internal struggle, that aspect somehow becomes like a side-story whilst remaining central to holding the plot together. It sounds weird, and it is, but therein lies the problem. There are some delightful character interactions here, but they are sadly glossed over and not expanded upon, and whilst we're wanting more we're fed scenes that simply don't cut it in Farscape (and this is what happens when you expect so much from a show and it delivers something so painstakingly average and flawed).
The initial confrontation with Chiana seemed like a sign of good things to come. After arguing with John, clearly hurt from him fobbing her off, she runs off, but John sends Aeryn to find her. Here's where the best scene of the episodes comes into play. Chiana opens up to Aeryn in a way we least expect, both because Chiana doesn't open up very often and also because Aeryn is perhaps the person you'd least expect her to speak to. After telling Aeryn about Nerri, Chiana asks Aeryn to stay with her until the gathering is over – a calling out for comfort, but again to Aeryn, a person you'd least expect. The acting, which again helps keep this episode from being completely awful, was spot on here, and both Gigi and Claudia played their characters to perfection.
These events spark an almost father-like reaction in John, as he continues to try and thwart her attempts to "take the stone" (i.e. jump into the pit). It was actually really nice to see John react like this; whilst he's always the caring one his reaction is much more violent and protective here, which is a nice angle to take considering hints in season one at an attraction of Chiana to him. But instead of taking the easy route, in which he may have been able to talk Chiana out of the jump, Justin Monjo chooses the harder route – John simply has to come to terms with the fact that Chiana needs to jump in order to overcome her initial grief; she's searching for a reason to live, and the jump is supposedly a way to at least show that you live before you die. I found it particularly poignant that it was in fact Aeryn, in something of a role-reversal, who convinced John that he had to let Chiana make the jump, because had she not she would have just tried another way of killing herself, and her grief could have just got worse.
Aeryn's role with regards to Chiana was as a whole quite surprising during the entire episode. One may have expected her to react to Chiana in rather off-ish manner, since Chi "stole" her Prowler and ran off on her own. Instead, once Aeryn sees her she is completely understanding. She too looks out for Chiana, but in her case it's in more of a sisterly way, being understanding and "on her side", so to speak. I found this previously untapped aspect of Aeryn's personality very intriguing, it's just a shame that Aeryn and Chiana didn't share more screen time.
So that's the good, and it's admittedly enough to carry a good episode. Sadly in this case it doesn't, and one of the main problems was that, whilst some of the youngsters were interesting characters, I found the main spokesman, Molnon, to be a very tired and annoying character. And whilst I'm sure the dialogue looked interesting and fun on paper, and admittedly did add somewhat to the "stoned" atmosphere, it was annoying in that almost everything that any of the youngsters splat out mad little or no sense. It didn't help either that virtually all the scenes with these youngsters were throwaways, and could have been dropped for something more worthwhile (like a scene with Chiana in).
The side-story was thin on the ground, and seemed somewhat tacked on, with Rygel and the haunted stolen jewellery. It was quite funny, and I'm sure was put there for a bit of relief, but I found it ultimately distracting from the main story (much like the scenes with the youngsters on the planet). Sadly, it also meant that Zhaan, D'Argo and Pilot, and to a large extent Rygel also, were shunted to the side and had little to do. D'Argo particularly came across here as little more than Zhaan's lackey.
But, the thing that really bugged me the most was the lack of focus. Whilst she does get some screen time, Chiana's feelings are not explored nearly enough to have the impact they should. We should have really felt for Chiana here, and it just didn't come across because we didn't get to see her enough. She had a couple of scenes with the youngsters, a couple with Aeryn and a handful of good ones with John, and that was it. Far be it from me to suggest how to do things, but in this case I was left wondering why Chiana wasn't onscreen more (and I say again, why wasn't the fantastic Aeryn/Chiana scene capitalised on?). Whilst Gigi's performance here was good, I just wanted more, to get inside Chiana's head and see how she was really feeling.
Admittedly, the scene where Chiana did actually jump was adrenalin-inducing, and I did come off feeling her sense of achievement, but nonetheless even the strong closing and opening scenes can't hold the rest of the episode up by much. I didn't think much of the guest stars, although that could have been down to the material they were given, but I did like the acting from the main cast, and enjoyed the scant interactions between Aeryn/Chiana and Chiana/John. I just wanted more Chiana, something which I surely should have got considering she was supposed to be the stories focus. Instead of more of the goodness, what I got was some contrived tripe with annoying youngsters or a silly plot involving a curse (although Rygel's dialogue in these scenes was fantastic). In short, I found myself bored silly again for most of the episode, and that's a shame considering this episode had such potential.
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?
Chiana's brother, Nerri, is now presumed dead since his life disc ceased functioning.
John asks Aeryn if she thinks he's been acting a little crazy lately... This is a little foreshadowing for the rest of the season.
John: "Be Nice."
Aeryn: "I'm not good at nice."
John: "Just don't shoot her."
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