|"The Way We Weren't"|
Examine Aeryn's dark past, which is intertwined with Pilot and Moya...
Click here to read the Farscape World synopsis for this episode.
"The Way We Weren't" is one of Farscape's most intense and amazing episodes yet. It's a delectable feast of characterisation, particularly for Pilot and Aeryn, that fleshes out some back-story for both those two characters and also for the under-utilised Crais. The story takes the tried and tested formula of using flashbacks to the past to make some shocking revelations, but it exceeds in taking the characters on an emotional journey that you simply cannot afford to miss.
It all begins with Chiana finding a recording, in the dark depths of Moya's top tier, which she and John watch. The video shows a group of Peacekeepers on Moya, attempting to get the cooperation of Moya's previous, female, Pilot. The man in charge seems a bit desperate, but has a nice aura that you don't usually get from seeing a Peacekeeper. But then Captain Crais enters and orders the troops to fire, and fire they do, destroying the pilot. When the troops remove their helmets, we see a familiar face – Aeryn Sun.
And so John and Chiana feel the need to show everyone, Aeryn included, the recording, which proves that Aeryn was once on Moya and was responsible to the death of the previous pilot. It's here that all hell breaks loose and the juicy characterisation begins. D'Argo, Zhaan and Rygel, the three prisoners who were on Moya long before everyone else, understandably have a very harsh reaction. All of them are disgusted at what Aeryn had done, because they have all become so close to Moya. The crew together form something of a dysfunctional family, evidenced particularly in "Family Ties", and consider Moya something of a mother/protector type figure. Likewise, they've grown to care for Pilot, and as such they feel the need to protect both he and Moya, as part of this "family", and it's for that very reason that they naturally react to Aeryn in such a harsh manner, feeling betrayed and saying they can't forgive her. Undoubtedly, it is hypocritical, as they all have things in their pasts they'd rather forget (Zhaan did murder her spiritual leader/lover, after all), but what Aeryn did, even if it was three cycles before, hits home more than anything for them. They all feel threatened by it, and flock to her Pilot's defence. Of course, it's this same group of three that cut off Pilot's arm not so long ago (in "DNA Mad Scientist"). Farscape has never been a show to shy away from conflicting emotions, and the characters are far from flawless, and that aspect is played particularly well here, as Aeryn is isolated from half the crew.
Chiana on the other hand approaches it slightly differently. It seems to be quite an awkward situation for her, still in part being considered the "new girl" and not quite a fully-fledged member of the crew (surely she couldn't feel so threatened as them!), and brings up an extremely good point – did they really think Aeryn was harmless as a Peacekeeper and she was the only one who wasn't brutal? Well, of course they don't, but they probably never thought they'd be faced head-on with seeing an act of brutality on one of the "family". Chiana is the only one who maintains something of a level head, sticking firmly in the middle, not taking any sides. Of course, she's in the position of not being here from the beginning, and so has a different perspective from anyone else.
After the initial tension with the rest of the crew, the emotional focus switches, when Rygel shows Pilot the recording. He summons Aeryn, and all hell breaks loose. His reaction to her actions is a complete 180 for the usually passive creature, as he grabs her by the throat and chokes her, and then throws her aside before proclaiming that Moya won't move until she leaves the ship. From here, we get some great exposition of Aeryn's past, and also some of Pilot's through some superbly realised flashbacks.
We finally realise exactly why Aeryn's so emotionally distant towards John, and it's because of something in her past. Back at the time she was last on Moya, she fell for a man named Velorek. He charmed her, and saw her potential. Much like John, he even once told her that she could be so much more. But being a true, loyal Peacekeeper, she sold him out and betrayed him to Crais. Velorek was trying to stop Crais' Leviathan breeding experiments, but she saw this, and recognising a chance to be assigned back to Prowler duty, she informs Crais of his plans to thwart Crais' experiment. But at the time Crais entered and arrested Velorek, he and Aeryn were talking of leaving together and her becoming more than just a Prowler pilot, exploring herself. And so, at a time when she was perhaps closer to a man than ever before, her betrayal came to fruition, and that's why she's scared to get close to John. John said exactly what Velorek said on the day they met – that she could be so much more than a Peacekeeper. Add in that Peacekeepers are naturally supposed to be emotionally detached, and not dabble in long-term relationships, and it's not difficult to see the reasons why she has been the way she has with John in the past. This is clearly something that she will have to, and seems willing to work at, but it will probably be relatively slow. I'm sure that her telling John why will only help in them growing closer though.
As the episode continues, it becomes apparent that Pilot's not exactly as innocent in it all as he first appeared. In fact, it turns out that he agreed to replace the previous pilot, and so had a hand in her death. The emotional level that is portrayed by Pilot throughout "The Way We Weren't" is truly amazing, and not once did it even cross my mind that I was actually looking at, understanding and feeling for a puppet, such was the mastery on display here. It was truly a performance I have never seen from a puppet before, and praise must go to everyone involved with Pilot. The scenes between Pilot and Aeryn, as more story is revealed, through to the revelation that he is to "blame", are just wonderful. Claudia Black is sublime throughout as Aeryn, from the scenes with Velorek in the past to the scenes with the crew in the present, but none more so than with Pilot. The characters are clearly intertwined and are emotionally attached, and their final scene is particularly poignant, as Aeryn strokes Pilot's face, and he does the same to her. The expressions on Claudia's face, and this scene as a whole almost brought a tear to my eye; it was a truly emotional scene to watch. It's clear that these two characters will continue to be close, and will take the journey together. Never has a line been spoken as that when Aeryn says, "We've come a long way since then Pilot, and we've still got a long way to go. Take the journey with me." It's just a beautiful line that says so much about all the characters on Moya.
The scene with D'Argo telling Pilot he deserves to be bonded naturally to Moya, the final scene with John and Aeryn, the early evidence of some spark between Aeryn and Crais, the revelations of both Aeryn and Pilot's pasts, the internal conflicts within the characters, they're all superbly realised. I'm sure I could talk for pages and pages about how great "The Way We Weren't" truly is, but in all honesty it has to be seen to be really appreciated. It's simply a masterpiece, and Farscape's finest hour to date. If you were a little worried about the season so far, your fears should now be quelled. Naren Shankar's debut script is simply outstanding, and the visual effects and direction equally awesome - the transition to the flashbacks and the slightly off-colour look to those scenes look stunning. More than ever before, we get inside two character's heads and see parts of what made them who they are now. It's a brutal episode, showing what consequences your past actions can have even far down the line, but it's one that thrives on character conflicts and in the end brings our characters closer together. "The Way We Weren't" is simply unmissable.
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?
In one of the flashbacks, Aeryn sees Zhaan being escorted by a Peacekeeper, and they make eye contact.
Crais' experiment on Moya was to test the breeding of Leviathan gunships under duress.
Velorek's secret counter project to Crais' test was to install a contraceptive shield; the same shield that D'Argo broke causing Moya's pregnancy in They've Got a Secret.
In this episode, we get the first glimpse of Pilot's misty home world.
In Pilot's natural language, one sentence can have over a thousand meanings, and so it is too complex for translator microbes. The speaker must simplify their sentences to be understood.
From this episode, the musical scores on Farscape are composed by the one-man-master Guy Gross.
DNA Mad Scientist
They've Got a Secret
A Human Reaction
The Hidden Memory
Mind the Baby
Pilot: "If I hadn't agreed to come, Velorek may never have found a replacement pilot. But, but I just wanted so desperately to see the stars."
Aeryn: "Do you remember when you first came aboard? Velorek stroked your cheek like this..." (She strokes Pilot's cheek) "Back then, I couldn't fathom why he'd do a thing like that, and now I couldn't fathom not doing it. We've come a long way since then Pilot, and we've still got a long way to go. Take the journey with me."
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