|We're So Screwed, Part 2:|
"Hot to Katratzi"
John walks in on a meeting that could change the future, and finds opportunities and deceipt at every turn...
Click here to read the Farscape World synopsis for this episode.
"Hot to Katratzi" is a complete tour-de-force in all things Farscape. It really has all the ingredients of an episode that really appeals to me. On first viewing, I wasn't completely in the right frame of mind, but as I've watched again and again, the episode just shines. Finally we're at Katratzi. Inside the Scarran Empire. At the heart of negotiations between the Scarrans and the Peacekeepers. The political situation is heating up, and with revelation after revelation and some excellent character moments, this episode is a winner.
The first thing you'll notice, after the chilling opening scene which sees Ahkna torturing Scorpius in a gruesome device, and John strapping a bomb to himself, is the sheer number of Scarrans in this episode. The scope of the story certainly qualifies as "epic," and I was quite simply stunned to see no less than five Scarrans throughout the course of the episode, often in the same scenes. It must have been something of a logistical nightmare, but the makeup and costume department, and the Creature Shop, deserve serious praise for their amazing work in this episode. The sets also look fantastic, and the Scarran base is totally believable. The Scarrans themselves all look different, and commanding in their own ways. They look the part, though, and entering Scarran space is something I've waited for a long time. I was not disappointed.
You have Emperor Staleek, fierce and yet intelligent, with a lot of tricks up his sleeve. He drives a hard bargain with John, but you could always see that there was more to his negotiations than what there first appeared. We also have the return of War Minister Ahkna, the feisty Scarran female played by Francesca Buller, first seen in "Bringing Home the Beacon", and her attaché, Pennoch. Ahkna leads the torture of Scorpius, and has an arrogance about her that is so devilish. She's certainly not worried to question her Emperor at times ("This is my jurisdiction!"), and she's a character that I wish we could see so much more of. We're also privy to another appearance from Captain Jenek, who debuted in "Prayer" and has been seen ever since. He is another multi-faceted character, with a lot more than at first appears, although he certainly seems far more loyal to the Emperor than Ahkna. Finally, you have the Scarran with no name (or, strangely, a credit). The funniest Scarran ever. I was in fits of laughter when he started giggling when Chiana kneed Jenek and fell over, and again when Noranti used her herbs to knock him out. This is another Scarran I'd love to see again.
So, Grayza is here, at Katratzi. Absolutely no mention whatsoever is made of the possibility of her being a bioloid, so unless her appearance is just a rouse by the Scarrans to lure John here, once they lost Aeryn (which, let's face it, is unlikely), my thoughts were completely wrong. Nevertheless, she is here, with Braca, and is still going ahead with her peace negotiations. She's very stressed, and also noticeably very blue. Far more so, in fact, than ever before. The blue of her face stuck out like a sore thumb, and whether it was just meant to indicate her high stress levels (just look at her hair), or something more, I couldn't quite tell. But what is most interesting is that she offers John, Aeryn, and presumably the whole crew, full pardons from High Command, not if they give the Peacekeepers wormholes, but as long as they don't give it to the Scarrans. That term was most interesting, as it seems that she must be very confident that Peacekeepers will harness wormholes soon enough, or simply she doesn't care as long as the Scarrans don't get it. Hopefully, we'll see more of her plans in the next episode.
Of course, everyone in "Hot to Katratzi" is vying for one John Crichton. They want his wormhole knowledge. So why don't they take it? Simple; he walks in on the meeting with a thermonuclear bomb attached to him, set to detonate should anyone pretty much attempt any funny business with him. The Scarrans work to find a way to disarm it, but they haven't found a way, yet. In many reviews, I've mentioned John's deteriorating mental state, how he's gradually lost it to save Aeryn, and yet with her back, he does something even more worrying. Attaching a bomb to himself clearly says his mental state is far from stable. This is not something I'd have even expected back in seasons two or three. But now, John has just been pushed so far, and seems so emotionally detached from all but Aeryn, that he doesn't even seem to care.
Perhaps even more worrying is Aeryn, who goes along with it all and is constantly cracking jokes. Last episode she had just been broken, and was rescued, and looking past the fact that her physical recovery seems dubiously quick, clearly she is not quite as stable and level headed as she once was. She was broken in "Prayer", and doesn't seem to have gotten over that as yet. Indeed, she doesn't even seem bothered about what John is potentially doing. She just goes along with it. Both Aeryn and John are, mentally, not in a very nice place, and the impact of that could quite well be catastrophic. The term "crazy" comes to mind to describe the pair of them. But then, one probably has to be a little crazy to walk onto a top secret Scarran base either as or with the most wanted man in Tormented Space, to rescue a former enemy, who could hardly be called an ally.
As well as for the interesting emotional states and politics between the major players, this episode will probably be remembered for some of its revelations. The first came straight out of left field, and I admit I hadn't really considered it at all. Sikozu is, apparently, a bioloid, or something similar. It would seem, quite a different one to the Aeryn bioloid in "Bringing Home the Beacon" since Sikozu was torn apart and no one noticed her bioloid tendencies in "Twice Shy". And yet, the hints have been there. She can reattach her limbs; whether that's a trait of the Kalish (like shifting the gravity centre) or of a bioloid (or whatever) remains to be seen, but the additional hints with her burning the panel on the border station, not wanting an x-ray on Earth, and Scorpius scanning her, all in past episodes. Which brings me to Scorpius, who I think likely knows. She also probably knows more of what he's up to than anyone else. They've been close since they've been on Moya together, and both seem to have revealed themselves to each other far more than what we have seen on screen. The impact of Sikozu's origins will probably be felt eventually, perhaps even in the next episode.
Then there's Grasshopper. He's a Scarran spy, or so we're led to believe. He's apparently been faking the pain that's dealt out to him in this episode by Ahkna and Stark, as he tells Staleek. If anyone believes that is where it ends, I'd advise you to look again. It's highly unlikely that is all. Surely he is some sort of Peacekeeper double agent, or something else. The hints of him being a Scarran spy have been dropped for a while, and I even briefly mentioned it in my review of "Prayer". But his anti-Scarran passion over the course of the series has been clear, and there's little way it could conceivably be turned around to all be an act to think Scorpius was loyal to the Peacekeepers. He tells John at the end that he may stay alive long enough to learn the truth, and Scorpius being a plain old Scarran spy is definitely not it. For a start, even the Emperor seems blissfully unaware that Scorpius holds the wormhole knowledge in his mind (if what Harvey said last time was true), and the Emperor is the only one that is even aware that Scorpius is in the employ of the Scarrans. If he is a Peacekeeper double agent, it makes a lot of sense as to why he'd be given such leeway as he has in the past, and also why he has been acting rather more Scarran in several episodes recently. The fact that no one seems to know he has the knowledge left me pondering if he's keeping it a secret to keep John alive. After all, if they know that Scorpius has the knowledge that John does, that makes John far more vulnerable, and conceivably expendable. Either that or he doesn't know it at all. The end with Scorpius on top of John was a great cliffhanger, and echoed the cliffhanger in last season's "Lambs to the Slaughter".
This episode also sees the long awaited (by me, at least) return of Stark. He's here to "torture" Scorpius, apparently having made a deal with Ahkna to get some time alone to torture Scorpius as Scorpius once tortured him. Stark's motives seem clear, but since he only makes a brief appearance (clearly causing Scorpius great pain), how he factors in to the thick of things as they currently are is definitely still questionable. For starters, none of the crew are yet aware that Stark is even around, and their reaction should be most interesting. Stark's brief appearance left me wanting more, and I can't wait to see how he factors in to the final part.
One other thread that was subdued, yet really peaked my interest was the whole deal with the Scarran's flowers. Why exactly are they so special? At first, they appear to be a delicacy (as seen in "Fetal Attraction"), and yet they also appear to be the same flower that Scorpius has in memory of his mother (as seen in "Incubator"). The Scarrans appeared to be awfully protective over a flower they simply eat, suggesting that they're far more than just food. Perhaps they physically enhance the Scarrans in some way, or have some other meaning. I'd be lying if I said that the thought of the bunch hanging on the wall in the cavern being the Scarran's god hadn't crossed my mind, simply from the music that plays as the camera pans past. But in all seriousness, what exactly their purpose is remains to be seen, and it's quite possible that they could hold the key to the crew getting out of this situation in one piece.
With so many wonderful pieces making up "Hot to Katratzi," it's clearly an excellent episode. Often times the centrepiece of a trilogy is the bridging of the story, and is far more subdued and can often seem worse than the rest. Not so here, as the story is pushed forward far more than it has been in past episodes, with several threads set up that hopefully will be somewhat resolved in the next episode. The episode stands so well because it is, for the most part, extremely well plotted. I could pick several minor holes in it, but there'd be little point in taking away from what is a totally wonderful experience that continues to redefine and expand the Farscape universe on an epic scale. The way the crew manipulated events to their advantage worked extremely well. The characters were well written, with a great mix of comedy and drama thrown in. The final showdown between the Charrids and the Kalish was excellent, and who can say anything bad about a fight that sees the protagonists running up the walls? It was all going so well, too well in fact, right until the end. An excellent cliffhanger that leaves one yearning for the next episode, just as it should be.
This is Farscape of the highest calibre. Even if you don't agree with some of the stories this year, or where the characters have been taken, this episode still stands out as one of the finest episodes of the season. It works, and it works very well. This episode should be remembered fondly down the line, as a classic.
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?
Duncan Young, who plays Emperor Staleek, also appeared as the ruling caste Scarran Axikor in I Shrink Therefore I Am.
Sikozu is revealed to be a bioloid, or something similar (since she can swivel her eye), and part of a Kalish resistance.
Scorpius is apparently a Scarran spy, working for Emperor Staleek. It is unlikely, though, that is where his loyalties lie.
The Scarrans have a flower, Chrystherium Utilea, that serves as a delicacy yet they protect with great importance, suggesting it is more than just food. It's the flower first seen in season three's Incubator, in which Scorpius is shown to have one in his quarters.
The shape and design of Katratzi resembles the Death Star from Star Wars.
The line "Feel the love Mr. Burns" is a reference to the hit animated series The Simpsons. John has referred to Braca as Mr. Burns' lackey, Smithers, in the past.
John tells the Scarrans, "I can leap tall galaxies in a single bound," a reference to Superman, one of his catchphrases being "I can leap tall buildings in a single bound."
Won't Get Fooled Again
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
I Shrink Therefore I Am
Bringing Home the Beacon
A Constellation of Doubt
We're So Screwed, Part 1: Fetal Attraction
Vakali: [of John] "You're crazy!"
Aeryn: "Isn't it fun?"
Rahzaro: "Ordering biscuits and repairing urinals has never won a war."
Vakali: "And neither have you, as I recall."
John: "Yeah, feel the love Mr. Burns."
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