|Look at the Princess, Part 1:|
"A Kiss is But a Kiss"
Crichton kisses a princess, and the trouble begins...
Click here to read the Farscape World synopsis for this episode.
The "Look at the Princess" trilogy is Farscape's biggest attempt to tell a story of truly epic proportions, and as such is the show's first three-part story. Sure, there was the arc at the end of season 1, but this story is completely different to anything we've had before, and will have a much bigger impact outside of just the usual Farscape crew than any other. The attempt, originally penned by David Kemper as a two-parter, only to be expanded after filming into a trilogy, works extremely well, at least in the first part. Starting with the basic characters, the webs of deceit and layers of plot soon come thick and fast, producing a truly wonderful story.
At the heart of the episode, like so many others, is the ever-evolving Crichton/Aeryn relationship. Much because of Aeryn's emotional detachment, it's very much on-off depending on what mood she is in. Often, she gets lost in the moment and lets her emotions run free, but then the Peacekeeper in her takes control. Other times, she just keeps herself at a distance to avoid any possible situations where she might "lose control". At the start of this story, the former occurs. Having scented her hair with oils from Zhaan, she's teaching John some manoeuvres in his module, and he smells her hair and likes it. Passionate kissing ensues before Aeryn gets up and storms off, proclaiming that she will not be a slave to his hormones. Of course, she did very much provoke him, but when the time came she just didn't know what to do, and once again decides to keep her distance from John. The chemistry between Ben Browder and Claudia Black has never been so high as it was here, and it's just oozing from every scene they share, and it really adds another layer to the episode, mainly because you really believe these characters' emotions.
From here, the crew find themselves in a sticky situation, but eventually out of frustration when Aeryn won't speak to him, John asks Chiana to go down and hang with him on the planet. As he does, he walks in on her and D'Argo having sex! Yes, I've mentioned in past reviews that there was something fishy going on between the two characters, but I didn't think it'd go this far this fast. It kind of crept up on us, but nonetheless they are apparently happy. Both lonely souls, it's not that surprising that they've become companions, even if their characters are polar opposites. D'Argo, perhaps sensing the sexual tension often viewed between John and Chiana, even asks John not to ruin it for him. Nice.
So off the characters go down to the planet, although this leads me to my one gripe about this episode. Whilst Zhaan's bond with Pilot and Moya continues to grow here, it's frustrating to see her once again remaining on the ship out of the main action. It's becoming increasingly apparent that Zhaan is getting a little less airtime, as she's generally becoming a b-plot character, rarely coming to the forefront. There's clearly something going on for her here, joining Moya and Pilot as they meet the "builders", but nonetheless I'm hoping that Zhaan will get back to being a major part of the action. Maybe I'm just over-reacting because I would've loved to have seen her down on the planet, but I don't think that's the case.
Anyway, down on the planet, there's plenty of kissing going on. It turns out that the point of all this kissing is actually to test whether your DNA is compatible with the person you're kissing (in this case "compatible" means capable of having healthy children with this potential mate). Now the princess, who is the next heir to the planet's throne, has had her DNA contaminated so that she is incompatible with every Sebacean male, and without a compatible mate by her birthday (days away) she cannot succeed the throne, and instead it will fall to her brother. It just happens to be said brother who, working with a Scarran emissary, actually poisoned her DNA because he is hungry for the throne, and also his gold-digging wife-to-be won't marry him unless he does take the throne. Of course, there is now one non-Sebacean (although no one knows he isn't) on the planet, and so John is asked to kiss Katralla, and the whole problem begins. The Empress, knowing that Clavor is not trustworthy, doesn't want him to succeed her, and so forces John into proposing to Katralla, by offering him a choice of her daughter, or Scorpius!
Backing up a little, Scorpius, who it's no secret is a big menacing favourite character of mine, gets a fantastic introduction here, and is menacing throughout the episode with just a few lines. His calm and whole persona comes across superbly in his brief confrontation with D'Argo, and even more superb were the few lines he got when he first saw John. Scorpius is truly a character who plays plenty of mind games, and his role comes across perfectly here.
We also get our first glimpse of the "other" half of Scorpius, in that we get our first look at a Scarran. They finally emerge, here attempting to gain a strategic advantage with this world, which is a breakaway former colony of the Peacekeepers. It would appear that they're interested in advancing, albeit slowly, towards Peacekeeper territory, perhaps for some sort of strike. But our first look at a full Scarran is very interesting. It would appear that they have some sort of mind control ability, by breathing something from their mouths, which also seems to cause pain. Here, the Scarran emissary, Cargn, uses it on both Clavor and his fiancée Jena to great effect. The Scarran has a very unique look; standing extremely tall and looking very menacing, it would certainly appear that the Scarrans are not only intelligent, but also extremely strong. This is only backed up in the awesome fight between Cargn and Aeryn, which ensues because he presumes that John and the others are actually working for Scorpius, and he wants to know Scorpius' plans (he is not happy that Scorpius may mess up his plans). I for one was extremely impressed with this first showing from the Scarrans.
Rygel is one character who is often under-served by some writers, some of whom write him as more of a comedic character more than anything else. David Kemper on the other hand, takes a different approach, and serves Rygel extremely well here. He's written as very wise, very intelligent and important to the plot here. He's always in on the action, using diplomacy with Counsellor Tyno and the Empress, being straight up and honest with John and Aeryn, and generally showing that he's very knowing in situations like these. That's not to say he gets no comedy value whatsoever, as there's that priceless scene in which Aeryn is offered a test by a couple of men in a row, and to get rid of them she takes the compatibility test with Rygel. It's an absolutely superb scene, and is simply a must-see, if only to see their reactions once they're left alone! David Kemper just proves how good a character Rygel is, and also how useful he can be to the crew.
The web of deceit on the planet is just another plus of the episode, as the story clearly runs extremely deep. It's led by the Empress, who is driven by peace for her people, with a number of other relationships, such as Katralla and Tyno and Clavor and Jena, not at first being what they seem. That's the biggest plus of this story so far, and one that sets it apart from the other episodes to come before it, is that with three episodes in which to unravel the plot, just as you think you've got it, another twist is thrown in there. There's plenty of mystery and intrigue, and a real sense of political games as the pieces of the puzzle are gradually moving into place.
Many other facets of the episode shine, but I just don't have the space to go into them all here. For instance, the scene in which Crichton sees a projection of one of the possibilities of what his and Katralla's offspring might look like is just wonderful, and superbly played by Ben Browder, with some great lines that Rygel also gets in. There's also the intrigue of the "statue for 80 cycles" plot – surely the lead of the show can't be turned into a statue for 80 years, so how will they get out of this one? The aptly named "A Kiss is But a Kiss" is a superb episode, that sets up this epic story perfectly. With so much going on in terms of story, great acting, a huge guest cast and a great look (the effects are awesome), you have an exceptional episode. Follow-up episodes are notoriously difficult to produce to such a level of their predecessor, so the only problem that arises is how do they follow it up?
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?
The "Look at the Princess" story was originally written by David Kemper as a two-parter, however after filming, there was about eighteen minutes of footage left over, all of which was considered good, and so the decision was made to expand the story, and in three weeks David Kemper wrote eleven extra scenes and threaded them in throughout the story. The bulk of the "new" scenes take place in Part 2: I Do, I Think, and it's because of this that Part 2 is out of sequence in terms of production number (Parts 1 and 3 were already assigned 10210 and 10211 respectively, and the late Part 2 was assigned 10221).
This episode gives us our first look at a full Scarran, who looks slightly different to others seen in the future because he's modified his appearance to look more acceptable and less menacing as an emissary. Scarrans also have mind control abilities and beyond-human strength.
Scorpius apparently left something in Crichton, as John recalls a memory of Scorpius telling him that he left him "something to remember me by".
This colony is one of many "breakaway" colonies that severed ties with the Peacekeepers hundreds of years ago and spread themselves over the Uncharted Territories. It would appear that the Peacekeepers would like to regain control in these colonies, and the Scarrans are also interested in them for some strategic purposes.
The royal servant, ro-NA is played by Ben Browder's wife, Francesca Buller, last seen in season one's Bone to be Wild.
Moya has apparently met her Gods – the builders.
The Hidden Memory
Bone to be Wild
Mind the Baby
Crackers Don't Matter
Look at the Princess, Part 2: I Do, I Think
Look at the Princess, Part 3: The Maltese Crichton
Pilot: "A representative of the inhabited system has been signalling us..."
Rygel: "By the yotz! Run, fight, surrender - pick one!"
Rygel: "Was I right?"
John: "Yeah, I guess so."
Rygel: "Was I right?"
John: "Yes Rygel, you were right."
Rygel: "Don't ever forget it!"
John: "If I do this, you have to be my best man."
D'Argo: (bewildered) "Uh... I'm with Chiana, now John."
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