Last action hero.
Click here to read the Farscape World synopsis for this episode.
"Look upward and share the wonders I've seen." Yes, the new opening kicks serious butt, and that one line really sums up the three seasons of Farscape that have gone before. But here we are, starting afresh with an all-new season (and an all-new aspect ratio what with the show in widescreen now), and it's strange. "Crichton Kicks" is... different. In an interesting twist, the season kicks off with a fun action romp that was probably partly designed to hook new viewers. If not, it certainly felt that way, with the story being a little light on plot and resolving little that left us hanging in last season's finale.
With John left all alone in space, he's rescued by an ancient Leviathan called Elack, with only Elack's Pilot aboard to keep him company. It's clear from the outset with the words "some time later" that a lot of time has passed since last we caught up with the crew. This John is more like the crazier John that we've seen in the past - a little on edge, singing and wisecracking but clearly feeling very lonely. All this comes across in the first couple of minutes of the episode, where John is solely conversing with the Pilot. It's the quick entrance of a character that comes as something of a surprise (or I suppose it would do, if it wasn't obvious it was her on the ship straight away having seen publicity shots), as out of the ship steps a beautiful redhead with some interesting words for John. Meet Sikozu Svala Shanti Sugaysi Shanu, whom from here on in we shall call Sikozu because to be quite honest her name is even more out of hand than Jool's.
Now a lot of attention from the show's fan-base on seeing season four publicity shots, which heavily promote the addition of Sikozu to the crew, was that she has been brought in as a replacement for Jool. Many said that they just looked too similar. Well, I will say this: there are obvious similarities in appearance, but they still do look significantly different. But for me, that's not the most important thing. The key point is that, as a character, in background, abilities and just general traits she is significantly different from the child-like whinging that Jool was renowned for when she first joined the crew. Sikozu is much more sure of herself, and she enters with an immediate presence, giving John vital information before asking what he will do for her. She is extremely sly and manipulative, attempting to ensure her survival at all times. In many ways that's the only similarity between the two characters from Sikozu's opening appearance – they are both primarily out for themselves. But not only is Sikozu a much more strong-willed character, although not immune to the occasional whinge when things aren't going her way, her background is different to any of the characters that have been a part of the crew so far.
Sikozu was working for an organisation that was hired to hunt down Leviathans to harvest their neural cluster tissue. She became an "expert" on Leviathans, despite never having been on one, to help the Grudeks in their search for leviathans, and in doing so she found the Leviathan sacred burial place. This was apparently her mistake, since her finding the place breached the Grudeks' contract with her organisation, and hence she was forced to flee. Sikozu was working but forced to run, so her background is a breath of fresh air in many ways. Her race also exhibits some interesting abilities, most notably they can shift their gravity centre to walk up walls and such, and also they can re-bond with their flesh quickly if any part of them becomes separated from the rest. So again, it's different. She's nimble and got plenty of places to hide, and these abilities give the writers opportunities to go to some interesting places with Sikozu that they wouldn't be able to with anyone else. Of course, she is also beautiful, but that's just a peripheral part of her character in many ways; although I'm sure she'll use her abundant sexuality for her own manipulative purposes in the future.
The point is that Sikozu is clearly not a replacement for Jool, in fact the two characters are significantly different (again, that includes appearance-wise), so any fears to the contrary should be swept under the rug as soon as Raelee Hill pops up on screen. And let's just add that Raelee does a fantastic job of getting right into character straight from the get go, commanding her debut scenes with great finesse; she's another fantastic find from Australia and will be fantastic to watch as Sikozu develops. Some of her facial expressions in reaction to others were fantastic, and it really helped the character that there was plenty of room in the story for her introduction. In fact, the entire first half of the episode is mainly made up of just John and Sikozu, with the occasional appearance of the female Pilot. It's a prime example of how to bring in a character at just the right time, something that I have criticised the show for before, including, amusingly, Jool's introduction, also written by David Kemper, in last season's "Could'a, Would'a, Should'a". It really helped here that there was time to breathe and get into the character in relative detail.
One of my favourite parts of the episode that I really wanted to mention, as often I only briefly mention it or take it for granted, is how absolutely first class the score is for this episode. The music really fits the various scenes well, and is used fairly sparsely for added effect. The majority of the music had a real "gung-ho" kind of feel to it, which obviously fits the action scenes from a thematic point of view. But it wasn't just the action scenes, it went all the way down to the great bit of simple, child-like music that accompanied John singing the "ABC" alphabet song, and the use of Tchaikovsky's 1812 overture was superb when used at the beginning and end of the episode. The musical score is often so subtle that it's easy to overlook, but that subtlety is the reason I really wanted to mention how good it was for this episode.
A familiar part of Farscape that returned in this episode was delving into John's mind. We've been there plenty of times, and "Crichton Kicks" was no different. The meat of the plot hanging over from last season was slightly advanced here, as we visit a beautiful beach. The brief appearance of Harvey, and his attempts to influence John's choices, was a great addition, but it's really the conversations with Aeryn that will have most people talking. For starters, in the first two of the three scenes, she appears pregnant, confirming that for all intents and purposes we are to assume that she is indeed really pregnant. The scenes though focus on John trying to work out everything that's going on, from him being the father to feeling the baby kick. Interestingly, for everything he suggests, the Aeryn in his mind has an opposing reaction, and she takes him to task a couple of times for not letting go of points such as perhaps the baby not being his. By the end of this exposition, John has decided to get over Aeryn for the time being, after all he has no idea if or when he'll ever see her again, and move on to focussing on wormholes. It's a choice that seemed to have been gradually made over time, as he realises that for the moment Aeryn is outside of his reach and he has no way of getting answers to any of his questions. It's also interesting that this decision seemed to have been sparked in many ways by a conversation with Rygel about how John is obsessed with Aeryn and he really should get over her. Under Rygel's usual style of berating dialogue, there's actually some very wise advice.
Which brings us nicely to the other major part of the episode: the return of Rygel and Chiana. They were on the same transport pod when they left in last season's finale, and after various mishaps made their way back to this burial place to find the Leviathan, and discover John on board. While, other than the one key scene with John, Rygel is more peripheral to events, in that we don't find out all that much about what he did or how he felt during the time they were apart, Chiana gets some fantastic meat here that will hopefully show any fans dismayed at her relatively scant showing most of last year that our favourite Nebari is here to stay. We first learn that Grayza has, unsurprisingly, put a bounty on everyone's head, and so with this one point, and her one scene in the opening credits (listen to the narration when she appears) it's not hard to see she will be a key threat this coming year. In addition though, we learn that poor Chiana's had a tough time, having been arrested and tortured, and she's dealing with it in her usual suppressive way. She does have a few outbursts at John that lead to him forcing it out of her though, and Gigi Edgley's subtlety in this performance is as always admirable. But that's not all, Chiana's visions, which were only briefly detailed last season have evolved; she doesn't see the future but rather the present, only in super slow motion. This ability also leaves her with literally blinding headaches, and it's this very ability that is a key part of the solution to the crew's problem in this episode. It'll be interesting to see how this use of the new ability is portrayed this season, but best of all about Chiana's appearance was simply how good it was to have her back in a more focal role with more time spent on her. A lot of fans will likely be pleased with her appearance in this episode.
In addition to all of the above, the episode had some excellent jokes, mainly in Crichton's wonderful wit, with the Klingon references from Star Trek being highly amusing. Also nice was further exposition of Leviathans, especially in how they age and various other small points made about their species. Although she was yet another redress of the true Pilot, the female Pilot in this episode was wonderfully done and seeing both an ageing Pilot and Leviathan provided an interesting twist. The makeup on Aeryn when she was pregnant was utterly superb and convincing, and those responsible for that really need to be highly commended. The show also looked fantastic in widescreen; even more cinematic than before.
But where "Crichton Kicks" fails to jump up from the good to the great is the aforementioned lack of plot. This is completely understandable since, with any season premiere, you want to do something not too intricate that will hook new viewers and keep them coming back as well as servicing the fans of the show. It's a tough balance and is perhaps the one area where this episode fails. The focus was on the action more than solving any of the plot threads from last season, and while it's nice to see the threads will be more spread out and presumably have more time spent on each of them, as opposed to the traditional Farscape style of solving a fair few parts of a cliffhanger relatively quickly, more plot might have helped things. The action was great fun and well played out, don't get me wrong, with the alien hunters being a fun distraction to provide some of it (even if they did sound like they came straight out of James Bond or some other movie with Russian bad guys), but I could've personally done with more on furthering the events of the end of the last season. Having said that, I can accept this episode quite easily for what it is, and add that it does do a good job of not being too much for new viewers to take in, with only possibly John's vision scenes throwing them slightly, as the rest of the episode was fairly self contained and easy to follow, with the occasional reference to something a fan would know, and a new viewer would probably be intrigued by, such as Grayza's beacon.
"Crichton Kicks" was not what was expected, which is good in many, many ways, as Farscape's knack for unpredictability is one of its strengths, but mainly on the plot advancement it seemed a little lacklustre. As a season premiere, however, it works well, with plenty of action and a bit of plot to hopefully attract many new viewers and keep them coming back. While the meat and potatoes look to be coming next week in an episode that promises to change the direction of the show dramatically, the season premiere is a fun action romp that is extremely enjoyable, and well worth watching.
I love to hear your views, whether you agree or disagree, so feel free to e-mail me your feedback. Review by Dani Moure.
To see Mary Wood's review of "Crichton Kicks", click here.
Did You Know?
The music that plays at the beginning and end of the episode is a synthesized rendition of classical composer Tchaikovsky's most well known piece, the "1812 Overture". The DRD in this episode is named "1812" after the title.
Commandant Grayza has put out beacons almost everywhere possible offering rewards for the capture, dead or alive, of Moya's crew. Notably, Chiana has a bounty of 5 million currency pledges, while Rygel has a price of 7 million on his head.
New character Sikozu Svala Shanti Sugaysi Shanu is Kalish, and although she grew up in Scarran territory she despises them. She was working as a "Leviathan expert" for an organisation hired by the Grudeks before breaching the contract and having to flee. She has the ability to re-bond flesh and to shift her gravity centre so she can scale walls and such. Her brain cannot tolerate translator microbes so she must learn new languages by hearing them.
Into the Lion's Den, Part 1: Lambs to the Slaughter
Dog with Two Bones
John: [about the baby] "Maybe it's not mine at all."
Aeryn: "You just won't let that rest, will you?"
John: "Nah, maybe it's got a little pony tail and a teeny tiny goatee."
John: "Maybe there's half a metal face on it."
John: "Maybe it's a royal pain in the ass, eats all the time and farts a lot."
Aeryn: "Then we'll know it's yours."
Rygel: [holding Sikozu's hand] [sigh]"Wormholes, Aeryn, Earth, Aeryn, Scorpius, Aeryn." [laughs] "I'm out of fingers. Want me to keep counting on hers?"
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