When John is pulled through a wormhole to be executed by an alien, he learns more about wormhole travel than he could ever have imagined...
Click here to read the Farscape World synopsis for this episode.
"Unrealized Reality" is a truly remarkable episode, done in a stunning way, that presents ideas and concepts that answer questions dating all the way back to as early as the first season of Farscape. David Kemper's latest mind-bending masterpiece will long be remembered as one of the show's most pivotal and memorable outings, and one that will, simply put, change the face of Farscape forever; not an easy thing to do, and certainly difficult to do well. The beauty of the revelations in this episode is that they all make sense within the grand scheme of things, and indeed with the help of short flashbacks, it is possible to trace back to earlier episodes that tie in with the themes in this one. "Unrealized Reality" is also the episode that manages to kick this season really in to high gear, being the best episode of the fourth year so far.
Perhaps the area where David Kemper really deserves much of his credit is in the actual script itself, for managing to succeed where so many other sci-fi shows fail, and that is to present some challenging concepts virtually free of the usual "technobabble," instead presenting them through natural language that really served to help us understand the science rather than simply hear it and take it for granted. It is a trap I felt he fell into in his "Self Inflicted Wounds" two-parter last year, which was heavy with technobabble, but thankfully he does not repeat that here. Whether the science itself is correct is not for me say, and quite frankly I really don't care too much as, after all, it's science-fiction, but I really do applaud Mr. Kemper for making this episode understandable, despite spending the 44 minutes on some mind-boggling concepts. It must be said that this episode really does reward multiple viewings, as you're sure to gain a better understanding of it all and pick things up that you had missed initially.
Even the teaser for this episode (that is the portion that takes place prior to the opening credits) crammed in some wonderful pieces. Aeryn is continuing to learn English (something which we saw for the first time in "Relativity" last year, and has been referenced a couple of times this season, in "A Prefect Murder" and "Coup by Clam"). This on its own in many ways proves, for those who may have questioned it, that she clearly wants to be with John now, and is continuing her learning perhaps as a way to show him that, despite him brushing her off because it was too painful, she will wait for him. It's a great way for her to constantly show that she really is serious, and it's not something she's just being impulsive about. Interestingly, Chiana brings up a good point, that if she wants to win him back English isn't the language she needs to learn, suggesting that wormholes is. She brings up a good point: if Aeryn understood his obsession with wormholes then that would be a great starting point for her.
Also early on, D'Argo discovers Noranti replacing drugs in John's quarters, and needless to say he is not happy. He's the first crewmember besides Noranti to find out about John's drug taking, and it definitely seems to upset him. At first, he doesn't seem quite sure whether John was actually taking the drug or not, but when John tells him that he's in fact been taking double, it says a lot about John's mind and feelings, and D'Argo definitely realises this. Clearly, to have to take double the dosage, and to be willing to take double, to forget about his feelings for Aeryn, he must be going through a lot of pain (as we already know he is) and emotions, and this indicates the extent of it. It's nice to see that D'Argo is there for him, having been through similar feelings with Chiana last season (and John being there for him then), and offering his advice, even if at this point John is not up to accepting it.
The other interesting development in the teaser is that, after some thought, Sikozu seems to accept Scorpius' proposal to become allies. Other than Crichton, in Scorpius' own words, this now makes her the most important person to him on board. This definitely seems to be part of his plan on Moya – to get some allies and at the same time at least earn the trust, to an extent, of the rest of the crew. This could definitely put him and Sikozu in a position of power somewhat, especially should a situation arise where the crew are split on a decision or something. We've seen it coming, as Sikozu and Scorpius have gradually courted each other (in a non-sexual way), but now it seems to be set it could really lead down some intriguing paths.
Having said that, much of the episode's focus post-teaser is devoted to the "Einstein" character, in fact an unaltered member of the Ancient's race, explaining the science, or rather "art" behind wormholes. It turns out he was the person behind the mysterious wormhole that gulped up Moya in "Dog with Two Bones", expecting a Pathfinder vessel (since Moya was left with a Pathfinder beacon in "Self Inflicted Wounds"). He then examined those on board (Jool, Noranti and Pilot), who revealed that Crichton was obsessed with wormholes, hence him seeking John out with the intent to execute him, even though he ends up explaining the about the way wormholes work.
While it'd take me forever to explain it all myself (and frankly it's pointless as you could just watch the episode to have it explained), there were definitely a few key things that were re-iterated several times that gave me the impression they were the core concepts. First, we find out that wormhole travel is possible without a ship, but with no propulsion you have to find your own way back. Also, travel through a wormhole isn't merely going from one destination to another, it's also travel through time, and this needs to be understood to really grasp the concept of wormhole travel. You need to account for time, since unskilled wanderings are what create the unrealised realities. Einstein makes it clear that when travelling you must not return to the place before you left, but after, since obviously if you return before you may alter events that already took place, not just for you but the effects will ripple through, potentially changing the future. Destination is the key – you must focus in on where you want to go, because each wormhole branches into several paths, the subdivision continues until you're deposited back into space-time. The journey can be random or with purpose, and John possesses the knowledge, thanks to the Ancients, to recognise subtle differences and travel with said purpose. Every destination is surrounded by several "unrealised realities." If you end up in an unrealised reality, that will become your new reality and you may not be able to get back. As you get closer to your destination, more unrealised realities will exist, so you must maintain absolute engrossment in your destination, however if you end up in one it may be possible to return things to normal. By following a similar course of action, ensuring things you know are supposed to happen do and putting them back on a familiar course, events have a way of restructuring themselves so that things return to how they were. Interestingly enough, this concept echoes exactly what Harvey told John when they had changed the timeline in "...Different Destinations", so presumably Harvey had some knowledge about this wormhole concept, but exactly how much, and so how much Scorpius knows is unclear. Still, this seems to be an important point. It's quite a lot to take in, but basically what it amounts to is that John does indeed have the power to decide where he goes if a wormhole has multiple destinations, and even perhaps has the power to meddle with time in doing so. Given this, it's even clearer now why Scorpius, and many others are extremely eager to get their hands on this, and why Scorpius in particular sees John as so important. After all, John wields this power that could quite easily change the balance of power in all kinds of unimaginable ways.
Of course, perhaps the most outrageous parts of the episode took the form of the unrealised realities themselves. In what seemed to be an effort to fully explain through example exactly what unrealised realities are, scattered throughout the episode are several of them. Although some will likely lay criticism on just how extreme some of the realities were, I can't help but feel that was the point. The way they were presented seemed to be to emphasise just how different and messed up these unrealised realities could be, or at the other extreme just how similar they could be to what was reality.
Take for example the first unrealised reality. It simply takes the form of John reliving his first moments on Moya, including meeting D'Argo, Zhaan and Rygel for the first time. The presentation of this scene is exemplary, and the integration of new shots, including some re-shot footage (such as D'Argo grabbing John), with the archive footage from "Premiere" was flawless. I really can't commend the effects team enough for their work in this episode, especially on the unrealised realities. Subtle though they were, they were just excellently done. Anyhow, it really was believable that John had just been thrown into the past, himself (and his memories) intact, but just knowing what was going to happen around him. As this was the first unrealised reality, it served to ease us into the concept. Travelling through a wormhole, one can clearly just go back to a previous point in their reality, which is simple enough to understand. The remake of John's first scene with Aeryn was similar. Almost exactly the same as what did happen in his reality, only he knows what's going to happen, and I thought, intentional or not, it was quite significant that he didn't wake up in the cell naked as he had originally, and then the rest of the scene with Aeryn played out very similar to the original, but with some quite large differences.
The second reality is different. It is presented before the concept has been explained, and is an extremely striking difference. It has Claudia Black playing Chiana (and I must add that she does so extremely well), and trying to get down and dirty with John. The approach is similar to one the Chiana we know and love might take, but it's different enough, even if you don't notice the difference between actresses, to let us know something is not quite right. Claudia is the icing on the cake though – Aeryn playing Chiana? It's a little mind-bending.
Then we returned to a harsh completely different reality. Here, John is a Peacekeeper captain, and serving under him is none other than the consummate Peacekeeper Lieutenant Braca. They've captured the Scarran spy, who turns out to be Sikozu. John decides to set her free and then all hell breaks loose, as she massacres everyone, apart from John who ends up having to shoot the glass right out from under her. This is obviously a drastic change to what we know, with John as a Peacekeeper, but also in the character of Sikozu, mainly because it will help fuel the suspicions of some people. Here, she's a Scarran spy, something that is definitely feasible in the reality we know too. There, she's aligning herself with Scorpius and it's definitely possible she could be a Scarran spy sent to infiltrate Moya and find out the crew's secrets. I don't think that's the case, but I think the point was that it's completely different, but plausible.
There's also the unrealised reality that is a short scene back on Earth, where John meets up with his father (played by Wayne Pygram here). Both are severely aged (and their makeup is similar to that of Scorpius). Here, the Scarrans have conquered Earth, and as such humans now have prolonged life, no diseases and so forth. While this is an unrealised reality that takes place in the future, again it's somewhat plausible. The Scarrans, should they manage to find Earth could probably quite easily conquer the planet, so it's something for John to consider; that this is how things could turn out.
The final unrealised reality is similar to the first, in that it seems completely implausible, as it's just so different to what we are familiar with. Here, the crew is coming under attack from the Peacekeepers. Only this isn't quite our normal crew. Zhaan and Aeryn have left the ship to launch some sort of attack that will probably get them killed. Meanwhile, we have several of the characters playing others. Aeryn (Claudia Black) plays Chiana, Sikozu (Raelee Hill) plays Stark, Chiana (Gigi Edgley) playing Noranti, Rygel (voiced by Jonathan Hardy) playing D'Argo, D'Argo (Anthony Simcoe) playing Jool and Noranti (Melissa Jaffer) playing Rygel. All this and Pilot is super-attitude boy. This is a fantastic way of showing us a truly extreme example. Each character/actor plays someone different, the situation is somewhat different, John loves Zhaan and Stark loves Aeryn. It's a great sequence to watch as John just bluntly refuses to help as he doesn't want to be here, and then at the end he is hugged by Crais, the Peacekeeper Commander calling him a comrade. It's all so completely and utterly different that I just loved watching it play out.
The whole point of these sequences seemed to be to illustrate each end of the spectrum. An unrealised reality can be something as simple as being similar to your reality, but in the past, as slightly altered version of your reality, which you'd end up reliving, or they could be completely different, be it plausible or completely implausible. It can be completely messed up in comparison to what we know and yet, as was demonstrated by Einstein after John enters the first one, they are real. Like I say, I'm sure some people will find these unappealing and pointless, especially the reality with the switched actors/characters, but I'd have to say I think that if that's the case then you've missed one of the key points, that an unrealised reality really could be anything. Short of the unrealised realities being pretty darn awesome sequences, especially the one with Sikozu, and featuring sublime performances (in the switched ones each of the characters does one of their usual trademarks, and they all seem to have the characters they're playing nailed), the whole concept just sounds very different and therefore quite appealing.
Throughout the episode, all these various elements were enclosed with the interaction and discussion between John and Einstein. The way this was presented was really good, with Einstein explaining many of the aspects of wormholes, as well as analysing John's character (presumably to show how different things could be if he existed in one of the unrealised reality) through the use of people from his past. I really felt this was an extremely unique way to use the guest stars, and indeed it was nice to see so many returning faces (Virginia Hey, Tammy MacIntosh, Lani Tupu, Murray Bartlett...). Presented like the vignettes you see on documentaries on people's lives, it just seemed so unusual, and some of them were hilarious. When the woman comments on how bad he is in bed, and makes that gesture with his fingers, that was simply hilarious. As he got weaker, Einstein started to use these familiar faces to convey further explanations and to ram home some of the key points. One of the more interesting points about their interaction though is John's reaction. When he first gets there, he almost immediately shoots his pistol at Einstein, who luckily can stop the blast. But he also later kicks him, which he soon apologises for and realises this is not him. I've harped on about it a lot, but John really has changed so significantly since entering the Uncharted Territories. He is now much more battle-hardened, pessimistic and of the shoot first, ask later variety, and I was very glad that they had John notice how out-of-character this was (which he's gradually referenced in past episodes too).
Finally though, we have the bombshell. It wouldn't be a short break coming up (at least for the original US airing) without a lovely cliffhanger. And what a cliffhanger it is! John is left floating in space having gone through the wormhole to return to Moya. He was told to focus and not to be distracted from his destination. So he was thinking of Moya; going "home." Clearly, he sees Moya as his home now. Or at least, he thinks he does. His subconscious would probably disagree, because he does in fact return home – to Earth! Yes, John Crichton is left floating in space, with the moon and Earth within his grasp. The implications and ramifications of this are endless. For a start, he is in an unrealised reality, by the definition given in the episode, so this could potentially be a future-changing event. Second is at what timeframe has he returned? Is it the future? Past? Present? Regardless, again, he's now going to have to work to either put events back on course so they restructure themselves in a familiar way, or somehow return to where he was through another wormhole. I think his final comment of "Whoops!" just about sums it all up perfectly! One of the key things that really stuck with me though was one of Einstein's comments, "Your place of origin is where you can do the most damage." That says a lot, and yet here he is, back at his place of origin. I mean, if something goes wrong, he could potentially change the future into something akin to the unrealised reality we saw where the Scarrans ruled the planet. Or perhaps even end up causing the decimation of the planet. It's one of those cliffhangers that has endless possibilities, much like last season's finale "Dog with Two Bones". It's also a bold move, having John return to Earth for real this time, as opposed to a hallucination like in the earlier "A Human Reaction" and "Won't Get Fooled Again". I'm sure seeing him back on Earth, and where this all leads, will be a blast and I'm drooling with anticipation.
We've had several fun episodes this season, and a few notable ones such as "Lava's a Many Splendored Thing", "Promises", "John Quixote" and "I Shrink Therefore I Am", but as good as those episodes are, "Unrealized Reality" just surpasses them all. The revelations, presentation and style of this episode are superb, and the way it successfully ties so much of the past years of the show together is nothing short of astounding. By the end of this one single episode, the face of the show has changed completely. There are any number of possibilities around the corner, and given the extraordinary cliffhanger, who knows what will happen next. I for one can't wait to find out, and this episode is firmly placed up on the pedestal with the episodes that I consider the very best the show has to offer.
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 "Unrealized Reality", click here.
Did You Know?
This episode was being filmed before David Kemper had completed writing act four and the tag.
From his comments in ...Different Destinations that echo those of "Einstein," it would appear that Harvey, and therefore Scorpius, knew something more about wormholes than they let on, and definitely knew about the elasticity of time being able to restructure itself.
Einstein expected to find a Pathfinder vessel when he pulled Moya through the wormhole in Dog with Two Bones. This is because Moya was left with a Pathfinder beacon infused in her hull after the accident in the Self Inflicted Wounds two-part story.
When Moya was swallowed in Dog with Two Bones, Noranti, Jool and Pilot were on board. They were interrogated and revealed that while they knew nothing of wormholes, John is obsessed with them. Therefore it seems as though they were purposely holding out on telling John what happened, knowing Einstein would be coming for him.
The knowledge implanted in John's mind is what allows him to understand the space-time concepts of wormholes, and why he is able to travel through a wormhole without propulsion, and guide himself.
Several recurring stars returned to this episode, to add their comments on Crichton's character. Virginia Hey returns for the second time this season to play Zhaan, as does Paul Goddard to play Stark, and Lani Tupu as Crais. All three also appeared in John Quixote. Tammy MacIntosh stars in her fourth episode this year, following the earlier Sacrifice and Resurrection, and also John Quixote. Murray Bartlett returns as DK, who is John's best friend, and also worked on the Farscape project (see Premiere). We also got glimpses of two of John's teachers, a cousin and a reverend. There was also a female scientist who worked on the Farscape project, and one of John's girlfriends. It's possible this was supposed to be Alex (see Rhapsody in Blue), but it's unclear as shortly after she speaks one time he mentions "Carolyn" (hence I referred to her as "girlfriend" throughout). David Franklin also reappears to play Braca, back in his role as Lieutenant in one of the unrealised realities.
Several key concepts of wormholes are pointed out. See the synopsis for in-depth details.
Aeryn continues to learn English (which we first saw her do in Relativity). This follows on from her saying an English phrase in both A Prefect Murder and Coup by Clam.
D'Argo has discovered that John has been taking Noranti's drug (that she offered in John Quixote and has been taking ever since). He has in fact been taking double the dose.
Sikozu agrees to an alliance with Scorpius, having been reassured that she will now be the most important person to him on board, other than Crichton. This has been building since she saved him in Resurrection.
John's continuous references to Kansas, and Dorothy from Kansas, refer to the film The Wizard of Oz.
A Human Reaction
Won't Get Fooled Again
Self Inflicted Wounds, Part 1: Could'a, Would'a, Should'a
Self Inflicted Wounds, Part 2: Wait for the Wheel
Infinite Possibilities, Part 1: Daedalus Demands
Infinite Possibilities, Part 2: Icarus Abides
Into the Lion's Den, Part 1: Lambs to the Slaughter
Into the Lion's Den, Part 2: Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
Dog with Two Bones
Girlfriend: "He was a cheap date, a lousy drunk and a redneck. [...] He was lousy in the sack." [Makes finger gesture suggesting he has a small package]
Noranti: [as the Peacekeepers board Moya] "If company's coming, I could bake some skinberry muffins."
Crais: [hugging John] "Well done, comrade."
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