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"Suns and Lovers"

Summary

Since the very first word of my summary is a spoiler, this first sentence is pure diversion to keep said spoiler off the front page of the news section.

Sex. What a perfect way to start off an episode. Chiana and Jothee are having about as much fun as two hormonally charged young people angry with their lover/father can have. But we the audience aren't with Chiana, Jothee, and the cryopods containing the two Interons (interesting choice of venue, but Chiana figured it would be the last place D'argo would wander into). We're watching on Rygel-cam and it's hard to tell if Rygel is interested for blackmail purposes or just because he likes to watch.

Moya is docked at a commerce station where a somewhat drunk John is spouting his woes to the bartender and D'argo is showing him the union tattoo templates he's just acquired for himself and Chiana. Oh, he knows Chiana is angry with him, but he has no clue as to how she's venting that anger. Zhaan is there with Stark fussing over her. She reminds him "I'm dying. I'm not an invalid." He reminds her that they're searching for an appropriate planet where she can heal. John joins Aeryn in a booth away from the bar to discuss her purchases - weapons - when security confronts him. Apparently, he's earning himself a reputation for being a thorn in the Peacekeepers' side. Fortunately, they rather despise Peacekeepers around here and he and his friends are more than welcome. All the while there are gamma storms rumbling outside getting stronger and stronger until the station is suddenly hit with a destructive force knocking everyone to the floor and effectively trashing the station.

The blast knocks Moya around a bit too and one of the cryopods is inadvertently opened, its occupant coming around. A reluctant Jothee stays with him while Chiana helps Pilot with repairs on the ship. She runs into Rygel on the way who makes it clear with some not so nice comments that he's aware of her … activities … with Jothee. He doesn't seem like he has much interest in telling D'argo, but Chiana is understandably nervous.

As the rest of the crew gets their bearings on the damaged station one of the security officers, Borlik, tells of a curse that has already destroyed 2 of the 3 stations in this area of space. The stations were built in what some consider sacred space and the gods aren't too happy with commerce dealings in their holy territory. Aeryn notes that you can't aim a storm, but the patterns which brought the storm to the station weren't natural. Curse of the gods or artificial force, someone doesn't want the station there.

In the cargo chamber, the Interon is fully awake and asking Jothee where they are. He explains that he and the other one had gotten sick, apparently right before they were frozen by Greenshlick and the diagnosian. Greenshlick must not have been all lies when he said he froze people an instant before death because it doesn't take but a minute for the Interon to get sick again and die in Jothee's presence.

While making repairs on Moya, Chiana looks out the window to see a child trapped in another room of the station. The barkeep figures it must be the nursery, where parents leave their children to be babysat while they shop. The conventional corridors are no good so John and Aeryn go in through waste conduits to go after the children.

Sex. What a perfect topic of discussion when you're crawling through a waste conduit on a space station that's falling apart. Well, at least in Aeryn's mind it's a perfect topic of discussion. She suggests sex strictly as a tension release. John obviously wants more. He doesn't want her charity, she doesn't want his emotions. She's taking her top off to either seduce or shock John - with Aeryn, it really could be either one - when the conduit gives way beneath her and sends her crashing down to the lower levels of the station. That'll break the mood, eh? She's ok and the fall takes her that much closer to the nursery, so she goes on ahead without John.

Pilot discovers that the storm was indeed aimed at the station and is attracted to a signal being broadcast from the inside. The wounded bartender theorizes that it must be the Kampeks; a group of religious zealots who started all the talk of a curse in the first place. It would seem that, like pretty much all vengeance driven religious groups, they don't have much faith in their gods to do the actual supernatural stuff so they do it themselves with smoke and mirrors. Worse, there's another, even more destructive storm on its way and due to hit in under 2 arns. It's powerful enough that no one left on the station can be expected to survive. They bring in a number of DRDs to search for the source of the broadcast signal to see if they can destroy or move it before the storm hits.

Meanwhile, a stray ship has drifted free of the docking rings and Pilot brings it aboard Moya. D'argo, Jothee and Chiana are trying to figure out how to get past its defense shield and get inside when D'argo, with his acute sense of smell, notes something strange in the air. Jothee and Chiana nervously explain that they've recently bathed and D'argo seems to buy the story … "seems" being the operative word. As Jothee leaves, D'argo wants to talk to Chiana but she avoids him, telling him she still has repairs to make on Moya. Sensing something is up, D'argo checks up on her a few minutes later to find her not making repairs, but in the cargo chamber talking to Jothee. They aren't doing a very good job of playing cool as they get all fidgety when D'argo enters. D'argo proves that liars often expose themselves as he tosses out a few choice phrases and lets Chiana and Jothee's own nervousness expose what's been happening. In a rage, D'argo burns the union tattoo into Jothee's stomach and walks out on a devastated Chiana.

In the bar, one of the DRDs finds the broadcast signal. It's coming from Borlik, the security officer. When exposed, she starts chanting in tongues and suddenly becomes magnetized to a pipe on the wall. She warns that even if they kill her the signal will still broadcast. The bartender warns that they can't just cut her off the pipe as it's made of hydro-honium steel containing frozen exhaust. Translation; bad news for everyone if it's damaged. Pilot tells them that the now empty cryopod is lined with a stronger source of hydro-honium steel and it could pull Borlik free. They can take Borlik aboard Moya, fly away and toss Borlik into space to divert the storm … if they can get Moya free from the damaged docking station where she's trapped by damaged docking cables. To do that, they'll need D'argo with his superior strength and more-space-friendly-body-than-the-rest-of-us self. D'argo isn't answering anyone's comms and Rygel tells them why.

John talks a now inebriated and not-too-interested-in-living D'argo into going outside the ship to help free Moya. D'argo decides that a dangerous mission where he could well get killed is just what he needs. Pilot's idea about trapping Borlik in the cryopod works and, after doing so, John suits up to join D'argo outside Moya both to help him and to make sure he isn't feeling too suicidal. Turns out D'argo is a little on the suicidal side as he ventures to neutralize the power cables trapping Moya by hand. Chiana pleads with D'argo over the comm not to do it as it will likely kill him and she pleads with Crichton to talk D'argo out of it. Too late. D'argo neutralizes the cable, absorbing its immense energy. Crichton gets outside the ship to find D'argo trapped by a cable floating about the station, unable to tell if he's conscious or even alive. Crichton tends to the ship first and when he's knocked off of Moya's surface, he's grabbed by D'argo who pulls them both in on a cable and helps him finish freeing Moya. John gets a reluctant D'argo back inside the ship. Chiana wants to talk to D'argo but he wants her and Jothee to stay away from him. John blasts Borlik into space and the storm misses them, barely.

During all of this, Aeryn has been steadily making her way towards the nursery. Upon reaching it she takes a chance, she blows the hatch with one of the new weapons she's purchased. The chance works and she gets the kids out safely. By the time she gets them back to the bar, John is there to greet her. She tells him that, regarding their earlier conversation, he's probably right and that sex for pure tension release probably isn't a good idea … and just when he was about to decide that it was. On Moya, Jothee tells Chiana that he's leaving quietly out of respect for D'argo. She confesses that her main motive was fear of commitment to D'argo. Jothee promises to return someday and make it up to both of them. Unbeknownst to either of them though, there's a video cam on them and D'argo sees the whole conversation. He seems somewhat understanding, but only somewhat as he burns the union tattoo template.

Finally, we are reminded throughout the episode that Zhaan is still dying and the crew must still find a planet where she might be able to regenerate.


Review

Can Farscape get any more sexually charged? Probably, but in this critic's opinion, they've turned the heat up enough for now and would be wise to back off for a few episodes. Same thing with the dead-or-dying-main-characters thing. This is drama and few devices are stronger vehicles for drama than sex and death, but if you pull out the big guns for every single episode, they start to lose their impact.

That said, here's another great episode from the Farscape writers. They've always done an excellent job of weaving 2 or more storylines into a single episode without cluttering it up or losing sight of one or the other. Now I should qualify that statement; as of this writing, I'm still fairly new to Farscape and while I'm pretty well caught up on all the main storylines, I haven't seen all the episodes yet. In every episode I've seen though, they seem to be breaking an awful lot of rules regarding story structure and doing so with great success. My only complaint so far is that some episodes, such as "Season of Death," could have been even better if stretched out into 2 or 3 episodes. The action in "Suns and Lovers" isn't even really a storyline but rather a vehicle in which to play out 3 other storylines: Zhaan's dying, the Jothee-Chiana-D'argo love triangle, and John and Aeryn.

On Zhaan's dying, we see very few reminders but what we do see is pretty powerful. Paul and Virginia manage to pack some powerful punches in very, very short scenes. Stark is shaping up to be a very deep, very mysterious character. His doting over Zhaan hits hard here and speaks volumes about their very spirit-based relationship. We all know that Virginia Hey is not leaving the show, so we know that Zhaan will be saved somehow. The interesting thing with her being a plant is that she could be "dying" for the rest of season 3 and it would be perfectly plausible. When my sister killed my aloe vera plant by sticking it in her kid's north-facing room for 2 weeks it took a good month for it to die and even seemed to make a little comeback before it did. I'd like to think that Zhaan is more complex than my aloe vera and will have a much longer, more complicated death (and un-death) process.

The Aeryn-John issue doesn't get a whole lot of airtime either but oh what they can cram into a 2 minute scene! I'm probably going to say this in most of my reviews, but it's so worth saying: Claudia Black has an energy about her that can't be acted, it's just there. To watch her feed off the environment around her and to watch others feed off of her is largely what drew me to Farscape in the first place. The sexual tension in that scene is tight as a drum. Yes, Aeryn's timing is pretty odd, but as David Kemper reminds us, she's an alien. We can't be too surprised when she does something that we humans find to be odd behavior. We also have to consider who she is and that she was bred and raised to feel most comfortable in life-threatening situations. Of course she'd pick such a time for an intimate chit-chat.

Also interesting is the role-reversal. I believe it was Ben Browder (or maybe it was David Kemper) who mentioned in an interview that the Aeryn-John relationship would take on something of a role reversal. Suddenly, it's John turning down sex, not Aeryn. I doubt that any straight woman watching this episode failed to pick up on the fact that John doesn't want gratuitous sex; he wants the emotions or nothing at all. A good male friend of mine has a saying; "Sex is friction." Meaning, physical is physical; it could be anyone or anything. It's the emotions involved that make or break the experience. Nice to see that at least one other guy feels this way. To bad for the rest of us that he's stuck in some other part of the universe. The best part of the Aeryn-John relationship here is that the writers probably could toss them into the sack without letting up on the tension and dysfunction which keeps the story interesting. It's when the couple decide they're meant for each other and get into that sickening neither-one-can-do-any-wrong stage that the storyline and the series go downhill faster than a hiker in a rock slide. It doesn't look like our little heroes here are headed to that perfect relationship stage. Still, it would be wise for the writers to back off of it for a while now and not let the audience get too used to this heightened state of sexual charge.

Then there's the Jothee-Chiana-D'argo triangle. I've been reading the scifi.com bulletin board and I just have to say to those who complain that Chiana is the trailer trash slut of the Uncharted Territories: She's an alien folks, just like Aeryn, just like everyone on the show except John. Furthermore, we know she had a less than ideal upbringing in a less than ideal society. Unfair treatment of the character would be to have her become housewife to D'argo and soccer mom to Jothee. She's the proverbial rebel teen and D'argo hasn't just been making plans, he's been making plans based on bad assumptions about Chiana. Even at the start of this episode, John warns D'argo that Chiana could say no and D'argo brushes it off, uncomprehending of the concept that he and Chiana will be anything but the perfect couple. My sincere hope is that now that the writers have pushed the Aeryn-John relationship up a few notches, they'll turn the spotlight on Chiana for a while. She really is one of the juiciest characters on Moya and she's just taken on exponentially more conflict than she had 2 or 3 episodes ago. Gigi has her work cut out for her but everything we've seen so far proves that she can not only handle it, she can run with it. It's also going to be interesting to see how the now heartbroken, tortured-soul D'argo plays out. There's another character we humans don't conceive of much: a tough, hardened warrior with a softer heart than most of the rest of us.

Again, high praise for "Suns and Lovers," but not without some skepticism that the writers might be playing the major-crisis (death, major sex crisis) card a little too often. They really need to back down for a while if they don't want the viewers to tire of the big guns too soon.

And finally a side note. I'm really liking how they're handling Claudia Black's reduced time on the set for these first few episodes (so she can film "Queen of the Damned"). It doesn't feel like we're getting cheated on "Aeryn time," yet I can see in this episode for example, she probably did all her filming in 2 days. She was only ever on 2 sets, the bar and the waste conduits, and it's easy to see where they shot all those scenes together, yet they spread them out over the episode. Good work on the writers and director's part.




Agree? Disagree? Comments? Questions? Email me! Written by Mary Wood.

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Episode Credits
Season 3, Episode 2 - "Suns and Lovers"
Writer: Justin Monjo
Director: Andrew Prowse
Production number: 10302
First UK Transmission: 3rd Sep 2001
First US Transmission: 23rd Mar 2001
Guest Stars:
Matt Newton (Jothee); Leeanna Walsman (Borlik); Thomas Holesgrove (Moordil); Jessica Fallico (Alien Girl); Arthur Percival (Interon Cryoman)
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