Finally back on Earth, John is forced to confront his family, feelings, and his home planet...
Click here to read the Farscape World synopsis for this episode.
One of Farscape's greatest traits is that its creative team is willing to take risks. Few shows nowadays are willing to do so, preferring to take the easy way out by going down the obvious routes. Not so with Farscape, as "Terra Firma" takes a concept that most people would likely have expected to be the focus of the very end of the show, and delivers it half way through its fourth season. And boy was it worth it. Finally, John has returned to Earth, for real, and changed the course of its future forever.
"Terra Firma" is more than that, though, as much time is spent focussing on John, and whether or not he feels as though he even belongs on Earth anymore. Naturally, we also see Earth's (or at least America's) reaction to alien contact, and it's not particularly nice. As one might expect.
The opening part of the first act is an excellent way to move the story forward, as we see John recounting what everyone's been doing since initial contact. It's interesting to once again go back to seeing things from John's viewpoint, as he is the central grounding point of the series. He recognises how the aliens are essentially being locked up, away from the public; confined. He also realises that this is not really the best way to go about things, and that the world needs to share everything that he has brought to Earth. Not to mention that his world, and that of his entire family, has been completely turned upside down by his return home. He has seen so much, been through so much, and now he returns home to find himself somewhat at odds with his Dad and having to hide certain things from his family. While returning home is what he's longed for, it's also not an entirely happy time, and the opening really portrays how distant he seems to feel.
One of the main focuses of the episode concerned the sharing of the technology and wonders that he and Moya's crew brought to the planet. The Americans see the technology as a matter of "internal security", a chance to get one up on the rest of the world and have a vantage point. But John has been in space for nearly four years. He has seen things that most humans couldn't imagine, and he knows the forces that are lurking. He knows that the only way Earth would stand a chance against any assault, or even just to survive in an intergalactic environment, would be to stand united.
This is one issue I was extremely happy to see addressed, as I think it really says a lot about the world we live in today. How can we think of surviving amongst other races, when we can't even stop fighting amongst our own? Some will certainly criticise the comments about September 11th, but it would be so foolish to ignore the impact of that event on our society. Whether people wish to remember it or not, that day changed the world. It changed the way we live our lives. And it's only natural that John, returning to Earth in the present day, should be faced with the issues that this one event brought to the whole planet. John is an American, so the whole viewpoint of not sharing is brought up from an American point of view, but it would be foolish to think that the vast majority of governments in the world today would not react in a similar way. Hide what we know. Keep it. Learn it. Use it to our advantage. It happens all the time, with so much.
But what would happen if we were to make contact with aliens tomorrow? How would the world react? It's a question that the series simply had to pose, and I think it was handled exquisitely and with great dignity in this episode. The message was clear; we have to work together. We have to overcome the boundaries set by borders and unite. It would be necessary. Think about what would happen if an alien culture came to Earth and saw us fighting. They could so easily take advantage of us, and it's a very real problem the world faces (that we are divided, rather than united).
John knows this, and sticks to his guns. And in the end, his Dad realises just how right he is, and goes with him. This was extremely well done. Jack's speech was perfect, as he realises that John has seen things. John knows far more than anyone about what is out there, and he should know what is best. He knows the way we work. As he tells D'Argo, when asked why he's even bothering to offer them what they won't understand, "Cooperation, teamwork, distraction. We give them a few hints, then get the hell out of Dodge and hope they get their act together before the real space monsters show up." He knows the threats. He knows humans. He knows that the world needs to change before they can handle what's out there. And working together is the only way to do so. I really felt that this issue was handled in an extremely mature manner, and was happy to see it addressed. Ultimately, Jack did the right thing, and invited the world in. I can only believe that in such a situation, that would be the only way forward.
The sad thing for John is that he knows he can't stay on Earth. It's been hinted at time and again during the series, notably in "Dog with Two Bones", that John could not return to Earth, especially bringing aliens with him, and go on living like normal. He would be followed; Earth would be at risk. He really can't stay there. He asks Olivia, at one point, "Where do I belong?" And where does he belong? Where can he go? This scene says a lot about his current feelings. Staying on Earth is not an option, and it's a sad realisation that he makes. He knows he has unfinished business in space, and he has little choice but to go and carry on fighting his fight until it's all over, and safe enough for him to return home.
He has finally realised that goal. At least he now knows his family is safe, and they know the same. They have met his new friends and accepted them. That has to mean something to him, the very fact that they seemed to like Aeryn has to give him something of a boost in terms of their relationship. It's just amazing to me that John has now been back home, and in the context of the story it works so well. His departure from Earth is sad, and yet the final shot of him walking away just says it all – he is a man with a greater mission. He was once just an astronaut testing a theory, now he's the only human to have gone so far into outer space and seen all these things, and he is literally caught up in intergalactic politics. That is now where he belongs, at least until all the threats that he sees are out of the way, and Earth is out of danger.
As I mentioned, his goodbye was extremely emotional, and yet another example of one of Farscape's strengths – making relationships feel real. It's extremely rare for any relationship on Farscape to feel forced, and there is a great chemistry between Kent McCord and Ben Browder that just shines through here. One of the subtle things that really stood out for me was when John and his father hug, and John gives him a kiss on the cheek. He did the same to his sister. It just made the whole scene so much more real, like this really was a man leaving his family, knowing what dangers may await. There were tears, hugs, and kisses, just like in real life. When John hugs and kisses his father it just seemed like something of a defining moment to me, as it's a subtlety that so many other shows would – and have – missed over the years.
The other relationship that was really put through the blender, again, was John and Aeryn. These two just can't seem to get a break, as "Terra Firma" introduces the Caroline factor. John is still not trusting Aeryn enough to get back with her, and Aeryn still wants him back but doesn't really seem to know what to do. In their scene on Moya when she's fixing the Prowler, she doesn't know how to take his comments that she doesn't have to take her Prowler back to Earth. Is he rejecting her? Does he not want her there? She doesn't seem sure, so she tells him it's fine, as if to cement the fact that she wants to be a part of all this with John. But the fact of the matter is, she still doesn't entirely understand human emotion.
Her scene in the Prowler with John's Dad was indicative of this, as Jack knows that she has feelings for John, and thinks he has feelings for her too. She has trouble reading what John feels, and always has (not surprising, being an alien and all), and tells Jack that John did have feelings for her once, but now, she doesn't seem so sure. Jack tells her that now John is home, and that's one of the things he has to sort out. He needs time. She still seems to have a tough time understanding it, and doesn't seem to sure about it, but it's clear to us that John is just trying to get his head round everything, especially since he found out she's pregnant and won't tell him who the father is. He needs space to work things out.
Of course, none of this is helped by the fact that she's seen Caroline and John together, and thinks that now he's back he's gone back to her, and that's that. But Caroline is quick to set her straight. Caroline's human, and knows how we think. Aeryn doesn't, and her reactions to what Caroline says just solidify her alien-ness even more. John has told Caroline several times that there's nothing going on, but she thinks he's just trying to convince himself, and in fact he still loves Aeryn very much. This is something that Aeryn can't grasp - why we often lie to ourselves and say the opposite of how we actually feel, and it's brought up very naturally here, but is a good example of the barrier that still exists between John and not only Aeryn, but all the aliens on Moya.
Interestingly, most of their relationship is explored in this episode through Aeryn's point-of-view, which is different as for once we know exactly how she feels, but haven't seen John's reaction. Of course one could not talk about the pair of them in "Terra Firma" without mentioning that final scene, which played out just perfectly. Much Ben/Claudia chemistry ahoy! It says a lot about Aeryn's character that she brought back all of Olivia's borrowed clothes, because her own fit better. She was having trouble fitting in, but now perhaps she realises that she doesn't have to try and wear human clothes to do so. But John comes back, and they're alone for a minute, and this is the time when Aeryn can say what she wants to say.
Aeryn asks him if he wants her to go back to Moya; if he would be happier if she wasn't on Earth. She's trying to give him his space if he wants it, trying to do what he wants. He says she can do what she wants, but she doesn't let it go and wants him to tell her. She often seems to be the one that decides such things, so this is probably a good thing. Of course, they're interrupted by Jack before he can give his yes or no, and when they're alone again, John steps towards her, almost as if they're about to kiss. This is Farscape, though, so before that happens Skreeth bursts in, causes havoc and sends them into battle mode. But the scene says a lot without words. Perhaps John was about to let go and succumb to his feelings that he's been holding out on (with the help of the drug).
Naturally, at the end of the episode Aeryn finds some of the laka and asks Noranti what it is. She tells her it's to make him forget, and while she doesn't name names (rather giving a suggestive look), Aeryn seems to know it's her. It's difficult to tell exactly what Aeryn thinks of this, though her face seems to express some anger and hurt, and it will be really interesting to see if this is addressed in the next episode. It's almost as though John was at a point where he was willing to move on, but this could send them two steps back.
The reactions of the rest of the crew, while somewhat secondary in this episode (as we got the crux of their initial impressions in "Kansas"), were fun. Rygel eating fast food burgers and "cop porn", suggesting that eating would make Sikozu feel better. D'Argo realising that all humans are bigots and they fight each other, which really tied in to the overall message itself. We had Chiana having a whole lot of fun, and it was hilarious seeing her with the bottle of champagne, performing in a way that only Gigi Edgley could bring to life. Sikozu isn't particularly pleased about being locked up or the prospect of being prodded around by humans, and eventually joins Scorpius on the other side of the wormhole. This in of itself brings up interesting questions about their relationship. With Grayza nearby, Scorpius is willing to detonate the pod to destabilise the wormhole should she return, and Sikozu suggests that she would join him in doing so. Her motivations aren't entirely clear, nor is the reason why she would consider joining him. It could just be that she's manoeuvring herself into a position where Scorpius will truly think she's on his side, although I think we all know he'd see through any such attempt. Their relationship is definitely an interesting one. The reactions from the officials to the aliens were interesting but not unexpected, as they want to keep them isolated and study them, although they did at least keep them in a nice place and give them some leeway (even if they were being escorted).
The Grayza threat was not completely glossed over, either. Building on the point I made last episode that she really isn't entirely trusting of Braca to say the least, here she doesn't let on for a moment that she has a spy on Earth. In fact, she uses Braca for her own purposes, in this case communication, and then after her sessions pretends that she and Braca have been "recreating", but that he's forgotten. It's an interesting method of deception, to be sure, but it shows that there's far more to the character than at first some people may think. She has a definite plan and has ways of seeing it through, that's for sure. At the same time, she is still relentless, and even agrees that Crichton should be captured so she can get hold of the wormhole knowledge.
It would be easy in some ways to dismiss this episode as another "Earth" outing, when it is so much more than that. It's a natural follow-up to the last episode, and is crucial to the series as a whole. John got home. John knows he doesn't belong there. Humans get a sample of aliens and their technology. John leaves to finish what he's started. To dismiss it because you don't like some of the messages would be na´ve, because they're important to the point of the episode and the setting of Farscape as a whole. Ricky Manning takes a lot of risks with this one, with the way some things go, and some of the references, but they pay off in spades. This is a pivotal episode that is entirely crucial to understanding the series and it's characters, most notably here, John and Aeryn. It completely changes things, and turns several of the series' concepts on their head. John's goal, which has been ever growing further from "I want to get home", now eliminates that factor completely. He's been home, and knows how to get there again. He can now concentrate on the bigger picture. No matter where the series goes from here, it is sure to be an exciting and wondrous ride.
When I came to scoring this episode, I considered not giving it a 5. I was thinking, "if this was this good, then what if the rest are as good or better, how many fives will I give?" But it doesn't matter. Taken on its own merits, "Terra Firma" is one of the best offerings in the entire series' run. Ricky Manning penned an extremely tight script, and the episode was superbly directed by Peter Andrikidis, who captured the whole feel so beautifully and with such elegance. This episode really does continue the run of fantastic writing and directing that has been present, particularly for these last three episodes, and as such "Terra Firma" should not be missed by anyone.
My only question left is, will they change the voice-over on the opening credits now?
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 "Terra Firma", click here.
Did You Know?
John has finally got home to Earth, completing one of his main goals throughout the series.
Americans, and subsequently the whole world, now have access to details on aliens and alien technology.
Aeryn has discovered that John is using the laka, and doesn't seem too happy.
Caroline was previously seen in Unrealized Reality as John's girlfriend. Laura was also seen in that episode, talking about past work with John and him once trying it on with her.
DK, John's best friend, and Laura are both dead. It'll be interesting to see their reaction.
Braca is still unaware of Grayza's full plans, and had no idea of her deploying Skreeth. As such, Scorpius was also left in the lurch.
That Old Black Magic
A Human Reaction
Won't Get Fooled Again
Green Eyed Monster
Infinite Possibilities, Part 1: Daedalus Demands
Infinite Possibilities, Part 2: Icarus Abides
Into the Lion's Den, Part 1: Lambs to the Slaughter
Dog with Two Bones
What Was Lost, Part 1: Sacrifice
What Was Lost, Part 2: Resurrection
I Shrink Therefore I Am
Sikozu: "Chiana, you know the humans won't let us out unescorted. And the way you make friends, who can blame them?"
Jack: "This isn't the same world you left four years ago, son. It's about survival now."
Sikozu: [on telephone] "Biologic examination? I said no, and I don't care how many of the others have consented. You can go stick your probes in one of them. I'm not interested."
Chiana: "Well, you never know. You might like it."
Sikozu: [still on phone] "No, I will not have an x-ray. I don't care how much it advances mankind's xenobiological knowledge. N... Leave!" [throws the phone into the garden]
Rygel: "Eat something. You'll feel better!"
Aeryn: "Well, merry frelling Christmas."
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