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"Unrealized Reality"

Summary

John is having some alone time - something he seems to be doing a lot of these days. This alone time is outside Moya in an EVA suit. According to Aeryn he seems to like this particular wormhole. She's is inside Moya, able to see John out a window and occupying herself by trying to read his journal and practicing her English. Chiana joins her and says if she wants to get John back, that's not the language she needs to learn.

Somewhere else on the ship, D'Argo comms John to say he's caught Noranti replacing drugs in his quarters - distillate of laka. Busted. John confirms that Noranti is right; it helps dull the pain and make him forget about Aeryn ... when he doubles the dose. D'Argo is concerned that John is losing perspective and being adversely affected by the drugs. He tells John he has to let Aeryn go but John says it's more complicated than that and cuts the comms.

Rygel is conversing with Pilot. Pilot reports that Moya is fine now that she has filters in place to protect her from this particularly nasty region of space (Coup by Clam). Rygel tells him that now all he and Moya need to do is get over their fear of wormholes. With John's continued research, forget finding him a way home - he may be able to get them away from the Peacekeepers for good.

Sikozu is visiting with Scorpius and noticing that the others don't seem to take his concerns about the Scarran threat seriously. Scorpy says that the others have only anecdotal evidence of such a threat, unlike himself and Sikozu. She asks if she were to ally herself with him, what guarantee is there that he'd watch her back? "Aside from the pleasantness of the task, you instantly become the most important one to me." She knows that comes with a qualification; "most important, save Crichton." But she agrees nonetheless.

Outside the ship, John counts down and right on cue, the wormhole opens. He marvels at it, but with his own hide in mind, comms Pilot that it's about time for that pick-up. No response. Aeryn comms Pilot as well and starts to comm D'Argo to ready his ship as a backup, but in an instant, John is swallowed by the wormhole.

John wakes up on what looks like a small iceberg surrounded by an energy field underneath and blackness all around. An alien appears, dressed in a very 21st century suit and tie and looking almost human (think Odo from Deep Space Nine). John isn't buying it. "Nice threads. Helps to humanize you. Makes it easier for me to sympathize with your problems." The alien starts saying "time" over and over again. John starts responding. Time- "'s up." Time- "flies." Time- "bandits." Time- "wounds all healed." Time- "rosemary and thyme." John fires a gun at the alien and the alien yells "stop," halting the blast mid-air. Time is- "infinite." Time is- "Relative." That's the ticket. The alien notes that John is a simple organism to possess the knowledge that he does. "Time is meaningless yet it is all that exists." He knows who John is and he doesn't give his own name, saying it's irrelevant to their encounter. Getting frustrated, John asks simply what they're doing here. "You are present to perish, I am present to effect that outcome." He starts towards John and John turns to get away.

When he does, John finds himself on Moya again, only not quite the Moya he knows now. This is Moya of 3+ years ago when he first boarded her. He happily plays along, and things happen pretty much as they did, though John's responses are a bit modified. He decides to hurry it along and jumps right to the part where D'Argo tongues him.

John wakes up not in the cell on Moya, but back on the pseudo-iceberg with Einstein (ok, we don't know the alien's name, but John calls him Einstein). John is also without his EVA helmet. Einstein assures him this atmosphere will sustain him. He also goes on to explain what John pretty much already knew. Space and time are fused, a set of coordinates are required for each to locate a specific event. Movement through space normally moves through time as well. Wormholes bridge that gap. John positions himself at the entrances to wormholes before they open. He wants to know how John possesses such knowledge. John says it's really, really bad luck. He starts having flashes of the Ancients putting the knowledge in his brain (A Human Reaction) and other various occurrences of himself, Scorpy, and whomever else accessing or using the knowledge. He realizes that it's not just him remembering, but his new friend tapping into his mind. "Ancients?" Einstein asks. John responds in the affirmative. He then starts having flashes of people from his past talking about him as if being interviewed. A priest, DK (Premiere), someone who looks like an old sports coach of his, an ex-girlfriend. And they're all singing John's praises. "So in touch with his feelings, you can't help but love him, a real winner, a real genius, rescued me, was so good in bed..." John is pleased with the images.

As the images go away, Einstein continues explaining. Wormholes traverse both his and John's realms which adjoin but never intersect. Misuse could cause an unacceptable incursion of material from John's existence into his, infecting his realm biologically. John would rather hear more about the Ancients. Einstein reports that the Ancients are members of his species who are modified to live in John's realm, investigating, cataloguing ... "spying" John sums up. When Einstein and company lost contact with the Ancients, they began to investigate the status of wormhole knowledge in John's realm. Answering the beacon placed on Moya when she crashed with a pathfinder ship (Self Inflicted Wounds), it was him who pulled Moya into a wormhole at the end of Season 3, leaving John stranded in space (Dog with two Bones). He was surprised to find a Leviathan where he'd expected the pathfinder vessel. He questioned those aboard Moya about wormholes and while they knew nothing, they all said John's the guy to talk to. So here they are. And John is a liability that must be dealt with. He starts towards John again and when John backs off, he takes another trip through a wormhole.

He's on Moya again, though it's hard to say when. What is known is that Moya's taking a beating. He runs into Chiana, only it's Claudia Black/Aeryn as Chiana, not Gigi Edgley, saying that the others are dead - Sheyangs got them - and she and John are the only ones left. He calls out that this isn't funny and we're done here, but no change. No time to suss out why Chiana looks like Aeryn, he asks about his module, transport pods, space suits? No good. This floor is the only one not trashed. She then starts coming on to John, hard. "If I'm going to die, I want to die doing something fun." She starts to go down on him and as he grabs her hair and shouts "no!" he's back on the iceberg again with Einstein. "Great illusion" John tells him. But his new best friend says it was no illusion, it was real. As evidence, John is still holding a bit of Chiana's hair. "The knowledge to unravel events," Einstein laments. "For that alone I should kill you."

John has a couple more 'interview flashes,' Zhaan, Jool, Crais and Stark again lamenting John's praises, making him out to be quite the saint. Back to the iceberg, John still doubts, saying the hair in his hand could be as fake as the iceberg or the alien himself. Einstein continues on anyway, saying what John tapped into was an unrealized reality, one possible outcome. More interviews with his human friends, this time talking about what an egomaniac John was. "Pigheaded, stubborn, I had to cover up all the mirrors in the house just so he'd look at me for a change, he was lousy in the sack." Einstein tells John he had time to locate this last wormhole he lingered in and wants to know that the fascination is. John doesn't know. "It just struck me." Instead, John wants to know about unrealized reality. When he asks, he goes through another wormhole.

John is back in the time where he first boarded Moya and is waking up in the cell after D'Argo tongued him (Premiere). One big difference, he's not naked this time. But Aeryn is still in the back just coming 'round herself. John greets her by saying her own name, rank, regiment. When she goes to throw him against the wall as before, John is ready and doesn't go down. She asks, as before, why he's out of uniform and what his rank and regiment is. Seeing that he's enamored with her, she takes advantage of it and hits him hard, continuing the fight pretty much as it had happened in the Premiere. When she straddles him, she again asks for rank and regiment, and also how he knows her name. He replies, "What you should really ask is how I know that you've got a birthmark on the sweet spot of your hip." She knocks him out. Back to the iceberg.

Travel a wormhole to go 'back' to a place and you must also account for time. John is apparently trying to return to Moya, but he keeps arriving at different times. When he does, and the timeline is screwed, this could become his new reality. It doesn't yet, he hasn't been there long enough, but had the alien not pulled him back each time, then wherever he was would become his reality. Einstein tosses a chunk of ice into the water that now surrounds the iceberg to illustrate the classic ripple-effect/screwing-up-the-timeline game. Normally, this isn't a problem, but John has just enough knowledge - conscious and unconscious - to be dangerous. So why not kill him? Einstein trusts the Ancient who entrusted John and he wants to know why John was bestowed with this knowledge. Is John afraid of it? No. John throws a chunk of ice into the water. New trip through a new wormhole...

This reality has John as a Peacekeeper captain with Braca as his right-hand man. Braca leads John to Sikozu - "The Scarran spy" - standing in what looks like an observation room overlooking a hangar. Despite Braca's protests, John orders Sikozu's cuffs off. He whispers to her to be cool and no one will get hurt. "But what of those already hurt?" An intense and angry Sikozu asks. She says she will never tell him what he wants to know, scratches his face, grabs a gun, and starts shooting. She kills everyone in the room but John, who says he wants to keep her alive. To that, she says "Weak species!" and aims a gun at him. He shoots first. Back to the iceberg.

John - the scratch on his face gone now - protests that can't be him but Einstein assures him it could be, would be, if he lingers in these unrealized realities. And this is what makes John so dangerous. "So just take it out of my head" John says in anger, and he kicks the alien. The alien goes down, a bit stunned. John is surprised that worked and apologizes. The iceberg starts shaking as in a small earthquake and Einstein says he and his ability to maintain this environment are weakening. He asks what John wants with wormholes. To go home of course. "Your place of origin is where you can do the most damage" Einstein reminds him. He has several flashes of Earth; Rygel's corpse laid out on the table in "A Human Reaction," an image of his father in a smoke-filled room, an image of his sister and father being attacked in their home. These are interspersed with more interview clips from his human friends. "He was a womanizer, the booze, the drugs..."

Lesson learned, and they mutually agree; wormhole knowledge = bad. John just wants to go back now, but it isn't that simple. The alien can't just send him back like he did with Moya. John didn't arrive in a ship, there's no propulsion. More interviews with past Moya occupants. "John was arrogant, insane, an idiot, I once shared unity with him and the experience still haunts me..." If this knowledge of wormholes is so dangerous, why not kill anyone who even gets close to it? Because the effort to contact between their two realms is massive. Time is short now and Einstein has to return to his own realm soon. It's possible for John to get back, but not easy. Einstein and the voices of John's human interviewees explain that each wormhole branches into multiple parts and the closer he gets to his original reality, the harder he can expect it will be to stay in the game. And never, ever visit a familiar place once he's left it. The alien shows him...

John is on Earth, only it's long since been occupied by Scarrans. John and his dad are both part Scarran. They're having a fairly normal-looking barbecue on the pier, but are reminiscing that personal freedoms were traded for the Scarrans' version of an ideal world.

The iceberg is disintegrating and Einstein is weakening. John demands to be sent back where the alien found him but instead, the voices of his human friends tell him he can do it himself. They remind him, the closer he gets, the harder it gets to stay focused. Fix the first thing that goes wrong. At the same time, events seem to want to restructure themselves. As this flood of voices tell him this, one stands out; Scorpius. Harvey knew this all along, as did Scorpius.

New reality, and things are good and screwed up. We have:

+ Aeryn/Claudia Black as Chiana
+ Rygel as a pseudo-D'Argo with a bit of Rygel mixed in
+ Sikozu/Raelee Hill as Stark
+ Chiana/Gigi Edgley as a somewhat younger and grayer-skinned Noranti
+ Noranti/Melissa Jaffer as a full-sized, walking Rygel
+ D'Argo/Anthony Simcoe as a pseudo-Jool with a bit of D'Argo tossed in

This reality has Moya under attack from Peacekeeper marauders. Zhaan and Aeryn are out there somewhere trying to make a truce and Moya is in chaos, between D'Argo wanting to leave, Stark unwilling to leave his/her love and reminding John that his love is out there with the Peacekeepers as well, Noranti offering food, and John just plain trying to absorb it all. The scene is interspersed with character bits from past episodes to underscore everyone's behavior. It's also interspersed with scenes of past attempts on John's life and interview clips where people never knew who he was or that he even existed. Finally, the whole thing is interspersed with interviewees repeating their directions to him. "The closer you travel, the more you must maintain absolute engrossment. Destination is the key. Travel can be random or with purpose. And never return to a familiar place prior to the last time you left. Your next journey may lead to a permanent unrealized reality." The scene on Moya grows more chaotic. Turns out Stark is lamenting over Aeryn as his/her love while John's love is Zhaan. Peacekeepers board, lead by Crais. They shoot everyone on command except John, who gets a comrade's hug and a pat on the back from Crais. Back to the iceberg.

The iceberg barely holds the both of them now and John tells Einstein to just leave him to die. After saying all along he's unafraid, he now admits fear. Einstein perks up a bit at this, saying that fear is the answer; to fear this power and fear what happens if something goes wrong. John suits up in his helmet but is still unsure if he can do it, if just dying here wouldn't be better for the universe. Einstein would just as soon see him succeed though, to help prevent other species in his realm from obtaining this knowledge. John focuses; "Moya, after, Moya, after." The iceberg is now barely big enough to hold John as he stands alone, the wormhole opens beneath him, he goes through.

John ends up in space and he comms for D'Argo, comms for Pilot. No answer, but the moon in front of him is familiar. He turns himself around to see... Earth.

"Whoops."


Review

Was that summary long and convoluted and left you saying, "Huh?" Good, then I summarized this episode properly. Not that "Unrealized Reality" was at all bad, but it sure reminded us that Farscape is not lowest common denominator television. Hell, even for the sharpest among us, if you haven't been following the series, this is one episode you really can't bring a newbie in on. It took me about the third viewing to really feel I had wrapped my head around it all and I still keep catching things I didn't see before. It leaves me a little exhausted, but in a good way.

Unrelated to that however, another thought came to mind as this episode aired right around the time that Farscape's impending cancellation without a series wrap-up was announced: "Unrealized Reality" would actually be a good one to end the show with.

Now wait! Put down those pulse pistols and hear me out! Believe me, it's not that I don't want to see the second half of Season 4. But think about it, what a fantastic and very Farscape ending this episode would be! John makes it home, albeit abruptly and left hanging in space. You have that bit of closure, yet so much is still left open and to the imagination. I somehow doubt that's the emergency ending the producers had in mind for the show, but it works in a very Farscape kind of way. But instead (and thankfully), we have 11 more episodes to go (more if a miracle occurs or I win the lottery and can be an independent investor in Farscape), making this just another gut-wrenching cliff-hanger.

Anyway, back to wrapping my head around "Unrealized Reality." Quantum physics, infinite realities. It's a science fiction favorite. But since when does an alternate reality mean Jane looks like Dick wearing Jane-ish prosthetic makeup and body paint? I love seeing one actor play another actor's character as much as the next guy. Very amusing. But in the context of the episode itself, it made no sense. That was part of my needing multiple viewings. I'm thinking, "Wait, so it's a dream and not an alternate reality?" But no, as far as I can tell, it was supposed to be an unrealized reality. A reality that struck this reviewer as totally implausible - even in a world of science fiction where one must suspend a certain amount of disbelief. As soon as Claudia Black appeared as Chiana, it was no longer 'unrealized realities' but 'more forays into the mystery that is John's brain.'

Implausibility aside, it really was fun to see how the actors played each other's characters. Claudia Black definitely gets the award for playing Chiana. I honestly had to do a double-take when I first saw her. "Well, it doesn't look so much like Gigi, but she's moving and speaking just like Gigi..." Double the award when Claudia and Anthony spoke at the Burbank convention shortly after this aired about the difficulties of emulating Gigi. When Anthony tried it in Out of their Minds, he wound up in the hospital. That breathy voice that Gigi does for Chiana is apparently not as easy as it looks. Claudia didn't quite wind up in the ER for her efforts, but she said it sure wasn't easy - the voice, the movements, all of it. Extra kudos then for pulling it off. It's also an exceptional testament to Gigi Edgley and what she does for a living. Talk about truly making a character your own! Anyone can paint themselves gray and claim they're an alien. Gigi really puts her heart and soul into it.

All of the actors put their heart and soul into these characters, and it shows as they try to emulate each other. It really shows what a diverse range of characters Farscape has developed. A close second place goes to Raelee Hill as Stark. I wonder how much she studied past episodes, being that her character came in after Paul Goddard had left? She was nothing short of incredible to watch.

But then the characters go from implausible to just plain ridiculous. I'm not sure I get the point of Anthony as Jool but still with some D'Argo-ish features. Again, if this is supposed to be alternate realities, in what reality was Jool born looking an awful lot like D'Argo, or Chiana born looking like Aeryn in blue-gray makeup? How would John have affected those outcomes?

Another confusing moment that made me wonder if these are realities or dreams was John bringing back a bit of Chiana's hair as "proof" that he was visiting alternate realities. If that's so, then how come he didn't retain the scratch on his face that Sikozu gave him when he was playing Peacekeeper? Inconsistent.

Another inconsistency that killed plausibility for me was - don't call me petty now - Aeryn's hair in the alternate version of the Premiere episode. Her hair really has changed quite a bit. You'd think they could give her a wig or something to keep it consistent.

Then I got to wondering, what if all this adds up the point of "Unrealized Reality" being that he really wasn't visiting different realities, but these really were fantasies. Like John said, "this hair (from Chiana) could be as fake as this iceberg." Is that the message? That the only wormhole trips he really made were one to get to the alien and the other to get to Earth? Our one fleeting clue is Einstein saying he can't just send John back to Moya like he sent Moya back - there's no propulsion. If so, then how would John have been getting to all of these unrealized realities, and what would be the point of the alien lying to him? There's usually a point to the deception. Crais kills Xhalax, but it's noticeably off-camera and there's a point to it if he really didn't kill her (Relativity). On the other hand, Kaarvok tells us that both twins - both Johns - are "equal and original" (Eat Me). He could have been lying, but we were given zero clues that he might be and no motive for him to be lying. In the end, both Johns really were equal and original and the point was to make sure we knew that. In "Unrealized Reality," the alien tells us emphatically that John's visits to alternate Moyas and Earths are real. The clues are kinda/sorta there in the inconsistencies, but they come off looking more like script oversights than intentional clues. What is his motive for deception? What would be the point? It's brilliant if this is the case, but it also leaves me feeling it could have been done a little more plausibly.

So either these were alternate realities, in which case, they were poorly thought out - again, how does John make Stark suddenly look like Sikozu? Or, these really weren't alternate realities, but there's so little "reward" in that revelation.

On the upside, let's suspend all disbelief for a moment, not caring whether Einstein was telling the truth or not. The way this episode played out was quite brilliant. It's quite possibly the biggest scientific brain teaser that Farscape has offered us so far, but the science is explained quite artistically. Most shows tend to "tell" and are quite proud of their complex, technobabble explanation. Farscape tends to "show," sparing us the science lecture and going straight to hands-on. We often get explanations through metaphor, especially the Crichtonisms, which ultimately illustrate so much more than the science lecture could. Less textbook, more Discovery Channel visuals imagining other worlds and, well, realities. Actually, less Discovery Channel and more painting or poem that represents the concept.

This abstract nature is also what makes Farscape episodes like these difficult for newbies I think. Having turned a couple of people on to Farscape, I've found that it certainly has its own rhythm. It's not that these folks are too thick to "get it," but it's so much its own style, it takes getting used to for some. I got to see "Gangs of New York" some time before it was released. Didn't like it so much the first time, loved it the next 2 times I saw it. I just had to get used to watching not a film, but a Martin Scorsese film. That brings me back to lowest-common-denominator programming, or lack thereof. I know I sound like a broken record, but this is both Farscape's greatest appeal and greatest downfall. Appeal for those of us with brains craving intellectual storytelling, downfall in a world where series survival = ratings = appealing to the unwashed masses with the collective IQ of a tick and slightly less taste in entertainment. It's not that you can't dance to Farscape's beat, it's just that the beat is so different from what we're used to dancing to.

Then, it all wraps up with that shock ending. Just when you think it can't get any shockier, watch out!!! I've often said that Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the only other show on the air right now that can compete with Farscape in elements like these. An episode plays out, beginning, middle, end, then a sudden after-shock at the end of the end that's 10 times the jolt. In a flash, John ends up alone in space in his module (Dog with two Bones). Or a shock ending where the shock is that nothing happens ... like both Johns surviving in Eat Me? Here we have quite possibly the mother of all shock endings. Yeah, John goes through the wormhole, but ends up in front of ... Earth?!? And I like how it played out similar to the Premiere episode. In the Premiere, John is spit out of the wormhole a little dazed and radioing for Huston, his dad and DK. The strangeness of that is highlighted by us, the audience, able to see that he's wound up very much not near Earth. Here, he casually comms Pilot and D'Argo only to see he's come full circle, ending up in Earth's orbit.

This is one reason I think the series could well have ended on this moment. Cooler yet, as emergency endings go (had this been one) it would have been incredibly easy to do. Hell, they could have worked it into the last episode in a day's worth of shooting. I guess that makes me the ultimate glutton for David Kemper's punishment, that I would revel in such a series ending. But I would, I really would. In fact, I think I'm going to pretend that the series ended here and just not watch the last 11 episodes of Season 4.

Yeah. Right.




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

Reader Reviews
Average Reader Score
5
2 readers have rated "Unrealized Reality" with an average score of 5. Click here to see what they had to say, and add your own review!
Fun Factoids
Best Line:

Rygel: "...We can't escape."
Jool: "We're trapped?!?"
Rygel: "That's what 'we can't escape means.' Go help Stark hyperventilate."


Click here to read Dani Moure's review for this episode.

Click here to read Dani Moure's synopsis for this episode.

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Episode Credits
Season 4, Episode 11 - "Unrealized Reality" (Part 1 of 3)
Writer: David Kemper
Director: Andrew Prowse
Production number: 10411
First UK Transmission: 16th Dec 2002
First US Transmission: 23rd Aug 2002
Guest Stars:
Raelee Hill (Sikozu); Melissa Jaffer (Noranti); John Bach (Einstein); Virginia Hey (Zotoh Zhaan); Lani Tupu (Bialar Crais); Paul Goddard (Stark); Tammy MacIntosh (Jool); David Franklin (Lt. Braca); Murray Bartlett (DK); Erica Heynatz; Katherine Thomas
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