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"The Choice"
Aeryn goes on a voyage of emotional discovery following John's death...

Click here to read the Farscape World synopsis for this episode.

If you've ever experienced a great loss in your lifetime, one that profoundly affected who you are and the way you lead your life, you no doubt have a great appreciation for "The Choice." Not to say that this has to be the case, but perhaps it's right to say that you will really only understand the nuances in the writing and performances if you've been there yourself. "The Choice" deals with the aftermath of John-black's death (in "Icarus Abides"), and the effect it has had on the crew, particularly Aeryn. She had really started to open up with the John on Talyn, and had come to love him more deeply than anything else. You might say she had reached a state near emotional bliss. But he was snatched away from her, and how does she deal with this?

"I can help find the dead one you seek." In the opening scene, Aeryn sees John; it's something that happens to everyone who has lost someone they cared for. She doesn't acknowledge his existence, but knows he's there. When she walks up the steps, she glances back, but he is gone. This is a typical reaction - to see or hear something and be reminded of the person you have lost, only to find them gone when you look more closely. This simple scene, with its eerie atmosphere and talk of finding the dead, really helps set the tone of the episode. The next time we see Aeryn, she's sitting on the balcony of her room, dressed in street clothes with drink in hand, and she picks up a knife. She looks at the knife, before glancing at her nearby gun. Again, this is a totally natural reaction captured extremely well, as she is just looking for a way out, and contemplates both the knife and the gun.

"I am Talyn Lyczak." When a person experiences death, they often look for a way to go on, something to hope for. In "The Choice," Aeryn latches on to the thought of finding her father, probably thinking that he can help bring some sort of stability to her life. Unfortunately for her, the person she finds who claims to be her father in fact turns out to be someone who knows so much about her, and even has "proof" that he is Talyn, but is in fact yet another fraud, and is in league with someone else who Aeryn is close to.

"Is that Aeryn's mother?" Said person is indeed Xhalax Sun. She is alive, and has set up an elaborate plan to, in conjunction with seemingly everyone on the planet, get to Aeryn and finish her off. Not completely unexpected, her return brings another of Crais' lies into the fore. Stark forces him to reveal that back on the jungle planet (in "Relativity") he did not kill her, but instead, knowing her death would only signal the arrival of another retrieval squad, he let Xhalax live on the condition that she report Talyn and crew dead, so the matter would be closed. This twist has people up in arms, proclaiming "yet another character back from the dead!" Well, in this case it's simply not true. Xhalax was never seen dead; in fact, the only reason we assumed she was dead was because Crais said so, and we know how untrustworthy he can be. But the hints were all there – the alternate scenario for what happened at the start of "Meltdown", and the fact that so many shots were heard being fired during Xhalax's "death" scene. But she is, much to my joy at least, back and out for her daughter.

"We're close, very close." Stark and Crais both want Aeryn back from the planet, and their reactions to her leaving are both indicative of their feelings towards her. Both care, and she knows this. Crais has always subtly appeared to have an attraction for her, which we have seen expand over this season. Stark on the other hand, has taken a strange liking to her since the death of Zhaan ("Wait for the Wheel"). He's called her beautiful on many occasions, and continuously mentions how similar she and Zhaan are. Perhaps it's his loss of Zhaan, and knowing how much Zhaan loved Aeryn, that has made Stark feel this way. Both men want her, in their own ways; Crais as a companion and lover, and Stark for... whatever he wants, yet neither have admitted that they do.

"If I squeeze my eyes closed tightly enough, you could be someone else." Aeryn knows this. She knows that Stark and Crais both want her, and the superb scene outside her room with the two illustrates the emotionally unstable state she is in. At first she's calm, listening to what Stark has to say, before passing everything off as somewhat wacky (Xhalax being alive, seeing John, meeting Talyn). However, she quickly snaps and guns for Crais, being extremely aggressive. It's not only a way for her to vent some frustration, but mainly a means to drive the two of them away. She needs the space, and needs to deal with things alone. She doesn't want either Stark or Crais hovering around her telling her how to get better. It's another completely real emotion, and to get rid of them both she simply attacks both of them in a way she knows will get to them. This was a very powerful scene, and is very indicative of Aeryn's emotional state.

"Was it easy to be a hero; leave me behind?" Much like in the opening scene, Aeryn sees John at various times throughout "The Choice." She sees people doing things, such as kissing, that remind her of times when she did similar things with John. In a particularly poignant scene, she steps out on to her balcony, and calls for John. When he appears sitting on the ledge, she re-enacts the scene from "A Human Reaction", in which she and John kissed on the end of a bed. Here though, she takes his role, as the instigator, whilst the John she sees is on the receiving end, as she was in the earlier episode. The reversal of roles indicates somewhat how her feelings have changed; back then, she didn't know how to express her feelings by kissing like that, whereas now she simply does.

"I knew, as I'm sure you do, that self-sacrifice is not the answer." When the image of John vanishes, Aeryn steps onto the edge of the balcony. She's met by Rygel, who proceeds, in his own way, to try and help her. This scene was wonderful, as we previously learned that Rygel also lost someone who was dear to his heart, so he knows and understands her pain. Rather than try to be with her or go on at her, he simply reminds her that this is not what John would have wanted. It was nice to see that there was one person who could give Aeryn sound advice (that suicide should not be an option), having been through the experience himself before. This scene worked extremely well on a number of levels, and even though she sends Rygel away, it's clear that Aeryn takes in what he has said.

"He made me better." Something that we all wish for when we lose someone is the ability to bring them back. We want to be able to see them, hear them, feel their presence again. Aeryn's life was profoundly altered by John; he helped shape the woman she became. He broke down her emotional barriers, and helped her, in fact made her become more. She has grown, and more so than any other character on Farscape has changed so much since we first saw her. She truly believes he made her a better person. As such, she also doesn't think that she can continue alone, and so gets a Seer who can supposedly resurrect the dead. This rather odd-looking, yet unique, puppet was very strange, with a weird voice, but added to the atmosphere of the scene in which he tries to find John for Aeryn. It's another good job by the creature shop for this episode. But the Seer could not bring John back, and Aeryn knew this. She knew deep down it wouldn't happen, and this was shown when she lies on the bed, and is joined by John, who tells her it won't happen. It's then that she expresses her feelings of the situation, asking him if it was easy to be the hero and leave her behind.

"I want your pain." At this point, when it's become clear how Aeryn feels, Xhalax makes her move. Knowing that Aeryn will be at a low point, she makes an entrance. It becomes clear that Xhalax was driven somewhat insane by being forced to kill Talyn. Having been forced to choose between the life of her mate and the life of her child, she made the choice that I would suggest almost anyone would – the child. She sacrificed Talyn for Aeryn, but this one move drove her over the edge. She was once a pilot (ironically as was Aeryn), but once she was forced to kill Talyn, she was made to kill again and again, and stopped caring. Now again, I've heard people complain about why Xhalax would go after Aeryn. In my mind, she is out for revenge. Naturally, she blames Aeryn for what she has become. Had she not given birth to her, and been forced to choose, she would still be a pilot, and not a killer. So following their reunion in "Relativity", and Crais letting her go, she set up this whole charade, just to get even. She wanted Aeryn's pain, wanted Aeryn to suffer, as she had. A lot of the time, people who have been hurt seek to hurt others, as a means of retribution, and it appears that's what Xhalax is out for here. She set up the plan with "Talyn" because she thought that killing Aeryn's "father" in front of her would drive her over the edge, but Aeryn saw through it.

"I died a long time ago... You live for me." When Xhalax shoots at Aeryn, it's clear that she misses on purpose. The fight is indeed over, and Xhalax has not got what she wanted. She steps out onto the balcony, but is shot by Crais just as Aeryn is getting through to her. At that moment, Xhalax is at peace. She knows her pain will end. She doesn't have to blame Aeryn anymore. She no longer needs Aeryn's pain. And I thought this was encapsulated beautifully by Linda Cropper who, with Claudia Black, made this final scene with mother and daughter a joy to behold. Xhalax tells Aeryn that she died a long time ago, and asks for Aeryn to let her go. There's a brief gaze into each other's eyes, and Aeryn seems to realise that her mother just wants the pain to end, and after Xhalax tells Aeryn to live for her, it becomes clear that Xhalax now understands that it's not Aeryn who is to blame, and it's that moment of understanding between the two, and Aeryn's subsequent look over the ledge, that made this scene outstanding for me.

"If you'd lived I could have truly changed. But you are gone, and I am what I was bred to be." With John, and now her mother, truly gone, Aeryn retreats to her roots. Again, a completely natural reaction, she goes back to what she knows, what she was before she met John. She returns to the emotional state of a Peacekeeper. Why would she do this? It's a way out. With no emotional attachments, there is no pain. She doesn't feel she can be better alone, and the final scene in which John and the Seer both call for her to go to them, and she doesn't, shows that she is truly trying to detach herself emotionally once again. This is far from a character reset; if you've ever experienced pain you'd know that in the initial stages of grief, you revert to what is familiar to try and make the pain go away. In time, you continue to evolve, as Aeryn will, but for now she has returned to a state where she knows she will not have to deal with pain.

Make no mistake, "The Choice" was Aeryn's episode. Yet there were other things thrown into the mix that foreshadowed what was to come. Stark's arrival on the planet made him hear Zhaan's voice, and this led to his decision to (temporarily) leave the crew. He is gone, but I've no doubt he will be back. He left his mask to be given to the John on Moya, and tells Crais and Rygel that John will know what to do with it. Presumably, this will be because John and Zhaan shared unity. This could be some sort of hook for the season finale's story arc, perhaps a search for Stark, who is in turn searching for Zhaan (or something more). Nonetheless, his mask can be used to communicate (see "A Not So Simple Plan"), and so it's likely he will return. Additionally, Crais has said that he will leave Talyn once they can find a more suitable pilot for him. Now that Moya has been located, that shouldn't be so hard, and a reunion between the crews is coming next week. Despite the focus of this episode being on Aeryn, it still managed to set up future stories.

In conclusion, I really don't believe I've done this episode justice. You may have noticed I've referred to the characters quite intimately, as if they were real. The reason for this is simply that this whole episode felt real. Every time I've watched it so far, it has felt as if these characters, and their feelings and pain are real, and for that I can only praise Justin Monjo for a script that is nothing short of stunning, Rowan Woods whose direction is kept simple yet beautiful, and completely fitting with the tone of the episode, and Claudia Black for taking Aeryn to a level of reality I've not seen before. The other actors did extremely well too, with Lani Tupu, Paul Goddard, Linda Cropper and the puppeteers for Rygel playing of Claudia's performance extremely well. Who cares about a few plot points that aren't explicitly mentioned, such as how Xhalax managed to set up the whole plan? That's what your imagination is for; something that we get to use often on Farscape. For Justin Monjo, Rowan Woods and Claudia Black, I can only say "thank you" for such a touching, emotional performance that deals with the impact of death in a way rarely seen on television – the way that death impacts real people in real life.




I love to hear your views, whether you agree or disagree, so feel free to e-mail me your feedback. Review by Dani Moure.

Second Opinion
To see Mary Wood's review of "The Choice", click here.

Reader Reviews
Average Reader Score
4.67
3 readers have rated "The Choice" with an average score of 4.67. Click here to see what they had to say, and add your own review!
Did You Know?
During their first meeting, Aeryn tells the Talyn impostor that Talyn was her father numerous times, and yet he continues to question why she wants to meet him.

The Seer's voice was performed by regular puppeteer Mario Halouvas.

The biggest question is how did Xhalax Sun manage to get all the people on the planet to participate in her plan? Although she paid them, how could she have enough money?

When Stark, Crais and Rygel were questioning the Hotel Owner, they were attacked by a number of townspeople. Were they acting under Xhalax's orders?


Related Episodes
The Flax
A Human Reaction
The Locket
Liars, Guns and Money, Part 1: A Not So Simple Plan
Self Inflicted Wounds, Part 2: Wait for the Wheel
Thanks for Sharing
Green Eyed Monster
Relativity
Meltdown
Infinite Possibilities, Part 1: Daedalus Demands
Infinite Possibilities, Part 2: Icarus Abides

Favourite Quote
For this review only, see the main text of the review for the quotes.

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Episode Credits
Season 3, Episode 17 - "The Choice"
Writer: Justin Monjo
Director: Rowan Woods
Production number: 10317
First UK Transmission: 7th Jan 2002
First US Transmission: 17th Aug 2001
Guest Stars:
Linda Cropper (Xhalax Sun); John Gregg (Talyn Lyczak); Raj Ryan (Hotel Owner); Mario Halouvas (Voice of The Seer); Steve Bowers (Tenek)
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