|"The Ugly Truth"|
Talyn gets trigger-happy, and the quest for truth begins...
Click here to read the Farscape World synopsis for this episode.
I rather like "The Ugly Truth." Taking a cue from the old movie Rashomon, it portrays the mysterious destruction (at least in the viewer's eyes) of another vessel, and we then receive an account from five different crewmember's viewpoints. It makes for an interesting ride, as we constantly ask the question "what is the truth?"
First things first, it's great to see Talyn and Crais back. Believe it or not, this is only their third appearance (not counting pseudo-Crais in "Won't Get Fooled Again"), one of which was a cameo, albeit one that is well referenced here (the encounter with the Halosians in "Out of Their Minds"). So, it's good to have them return, and get in the thick of things. Well, their role is really just another cameo, since they mainly exist in the flashbacks, but regardless, appearances from Crais usually make emotions run high for the crew, so it's all good. Anyway, Crais has decided he wants to disarm Talyn, and has made a deal to trade Talyn's main cannon for a "dampening net," which is apparently a non-lethal weapon that merely restrains other vessels. He wants Moya's crew's help to persuade Talyn it's the right thing to do. No sooner do we see this, than we switch to Moya to find Rygel and Chiana wondering what they're discussing, and Pilot announcing that a Plokavian ship has arrived (which is, apparently, "bad"). Talyn destroys said ship, and we are all left wondering what the frell happened. As Moya's crew return in the pod, Crais and Talyn take off, and the pod is caught by another Plokavian ship. And so the search for the truth begins...
The Plokavians want to discern who is responsible, so they can be executed, and try to discover the truth by interrogating Aeryn, Zhaan, Stark, D'Argo and John one by one. And this is where it gets interesting. Since we see their testimonies from their point of view, we get some wonderful nuances which are really indicative of the absolutely stellar direction from Tony Tilse in this episode. Each story is different, and yet sort of the same.
We start with Aeryn's story. She is a Peacekeeper, battle-hardened, and has a long history with Crais. Naturally, she makes herself look completely innocent throughout her testimony, and really emphasises the character traits of the other crewmembers in the way she sees them. D'Argo comes off as a complete brute of the "act now, ask later" variety, generally having nothing positive to say and being nothing but confrontational with Crais, with D'Argo apparently wanting to kill him. She also somewhat inflates John's animosity towards Crais, perhaps indicating that she doesn't quite understand why he still holds a grudge against him, and as such John opposes almost everything Crais says and looks at it in a negative way. Zhaan doesn't say much, but when she does speak she tends to be very spiritual, particularly when she mentions not knowing what to do and considers going to meditate it over. Stark on the other hand stays particularly quiet, barely saying two words and just looking on. Aeryn also has a tendency to agree with Crais, or at least hear him out. It definitely indicates that she doesn't take much notice of Stark and considers Zhaan a bit too spiritual (maybe because she is not spiritual herself), and that she also sort of trusts Crais' good intentions. But then, could just be a smokescreen so as not to implicate herself.
Zhaan on the other hand tells quite a different story. She brings herself to the fore a lot more than Aeryn portrayed her, and asks questions and makes comments that Aeryn said other people made. She must see herself as quite decisive and in control, since that's exactly how she makes herself look. She plays down D'Argo's aggressive side a lot, with him being less negative and softer in his tones. She doesn't seem to think highly of Crais (it probably didn't help the way he addressed Stark when he saw him for the first time), since he comes off as a lot more patronising and arrogant, with his constant talk along the lines of wanting to be their friends again. She clearly still sees John as somewhat incompetent, unless again she was just exemplifying that to influence the Plokavians, because here he just acts very stupid and lost (but does make some hilarious comments as a result). Of course, in her story Stark is much more involved in things, and in discussing things with her, whereas Aeryn is portrayed with quite the Peacekeeper attitude. It's interesting to guess whether she really still sees everyone like that now, or was just building on what she thought of them in the past to give her testimony. However, she clearly does implicate John as the only one who went near the console, as opposed to Aeryn who said Stark did.
Then we get Stark's version, which is the shortest of the bunch. He openly admits his hatred of Crais to the Plokavians beforehand, so it comes as no surprise that he portrays Crais as some sort of mad man/psychopath, constantly shouting and snapping. Given the animosity between them, it's also no surprise that D'Argo is portrayed as very aggressive, and in his very lop-sided version everyone is distrusting towards Crais, who he blames. Thing is, his explanation of Crais' actions make sense, and kind of have you wondering if he's really telling the truth, and the others are just protecting Talyn.
D'Argo's story was a blast, and I kind of look at it as a superhero and his sidekick type of thing. In his version, he is well in control, leading the questioning, and the group, always standing in the middle with everyone else a little behind him, almost as if he's protecting them. He blames Stark, and makes it look like Stark really, really hates the Plokavians, and blatantly fired the cannon. His distrust of Crais shines through, as does John in the aforementioned "sidekick" role, always agreeing and backing up what D'Argo says. You've definitely got an alpha-male thing going on here! Zhaan is portrayed as you would expect D'Argo really views her - passive – and he seems to suspect something more between Aeryn and Crais since he blatantly suggests that Aeryn was the only one to stick up for him, although she did join the gang in standing behind him shortly after. One thing's for sure, regardless of how ridiculous and exaggerated D'Argo's testimony appears at first site, he considers himself in charge.
The final testimony is John's, and this is where the pieces of the puzzle really start to fall in to place, and throw everything else in to question. He apparently portrays the "truth;" the events as they happened, but as we try to ascertain the truth for ourselves, a number of things are certain, and others aren't. From his testimony, it would appear that Stark really did know of the Plokavians, and they really do enslave worlds and did that to his people, and he hates them because of it. Zhaan doesn't do much, other than bring up the Halosian encounter (which must have been true since almost everyone mentioned it), and he also explains Crais' intentions as being the same as everyone else did. D'Argo was still acting somewhat aggressive, but this is more the D'Argo-of-late aggressive than the early-D'Argo aggression that he portrayed in his own testimony (although it would seem he did always want to break Crais' neck!). Aeryn seems to believe Crais' intentions, whereas John is still doubtful. But here is where you see the way people involved themselves more (like you would if you were telling a story from your point of view yourself) was untrue, as there's a more even spread this time. So John pretty much portrays everyone how we see them week-in, week-out. It is clear though that the Plokavians apparently really were carrying novatrine gas, and, almost following D'Argo's story, John portrays a struggle with Stark over the weapons console just prior to the cannon firing.
I found this aspect very interesting, because at first I had thought, based on his aggression towards Stark throughout the episode (which follows on from "The Locket"), that D'Argo's testimony and implication of Stark was fabricated, however it would appear not. Indeed, by the end of the episode we discover that Stark really was at the weapons console and pushed the button, so while his over-emphasis on Stark's hatred for the Plokavians was a little too much, the undertones ring true, that Stark does hate the Plokavians and did press the button. Of course, John had disabled the console, so it was actually Talyn who decided to fire, but Stark did try. I found this most interesting as it proved once again that Aeryn will do whatever she can to benefit the team (she warped her story to her personal views, but also so no one was implicated), whereas Zhaan outright lied about Stark's involvement (she reveals later she also saw him push the button) to apparently protect him. And while Stark's testimony always seemed really exaggerated, his reasons behind Crais firing did seem sound (or at least, his reasoning that Aeryn and Zhaan had lied to protect Talyn seemed plausible), throwing what I thought was the truth in to question. I found that while I watched I was swayed as to what was true and what wasn't a plethora of times, and was thoroughly surprised when it turned out that D'Argo's story was the closest to the truth (presuming John's was the truth, which we are led to believe it was). It's interesting to look at the testimonies as a reflection of the way the characters are at the moment, and what they will do under pressure.
One other burning question remains at the end of the episode: will Stark be back? I don't know, but despite John's grim outlook in the final scene, I wouldn't bet against it. It would be rather a waste for the writers to bring back Stark for just to initiate a new story arc for D'Argo (search for his son), then to vanish again. I think we'll see more of Stark in the long run. Anyhow, I found "The Ugly Truth" a thoroughly enjoyable romp. It's not for everyone; I'm sure some will find it boring, contrived and/or repetitive, but I found it interesting from a story standpoint and as a look at the characters. A good outing as we draw ever closer to the season's climax.
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?
This episode is a clear homage to the famous Japanese film Rashomon, which depicts the same story over and over, but each time it's told from a different character's point of view.
One of the episode's goals, according to Executive Producer David Kemper, was to explain a lot about Talyn and Crais, and to show Stark as someone who would literally die for the crew.
Stark was supposedly "executed" via dispersion in this episode, however it's possible he could return, because knowing what was coming he transferred part of himself into another realm before dispersion, and that could be enough to allow him to reconstitute himself.
Mind the Baby
Out of Their Minds
John: "Oh, God! I missed you so much! I was so worried about you!" (whispering) "Play along."
Aeryn (flatly) "I missed you too John. Hold me."
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