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"Terra Firma"

Summary

Last episode saw John and company return to Earth, 1985 and immediately fix the timeline disrupted by their presence. They return to Moya to find this time, they're orbiting the right planet and the right year, but John is still wary. When his father and a few other human dignitaries are in Moya's hangar to greet him, John aims a pulse pistol at his father, asking "Was it a bass or a trout?"

Jack doesn't get to answer this test of father-son memories as Sikozu comes in to join them. She assures John that Jack and company are indeed human. Jack explains that they got to Moya by way of a shuttle sent to try and open communications. Quite a shock when they got an answer from Sikozu, in English no less (recall that her brain doesn't play nicely with translator microbes, she has to learn everyone's language and has quite a gift for doing so). While Jack expresses his fascination with this living ship and Sikozu and gratitude that John is home and alive, T.R.Holt, special advisor to the American president, congratulates John on achieving Earth's first contact with aliens. John just chuckles and calls out the rest of the crew from the transport pod; D'Argo, Aeryn, Chiana, and Rygel.

While the dignitaries absorb, John pulls Sikozu aside and catches up. Moya got there 42 days ago and John isn't surprised by the time dilation. And where's Scorpius? He's in a transport pod at the other end of the wormhole, keeping a signal open. John chastises Sikozu once more for being so trusting of Scorpius and she asks what the problem is. "Do you think they pose us a threat?" No, John answers. The other way around.

"Earth. Terra Firma. Seems forever it's been my goal..." John is sitting on a pier writing in his journal. He's definitely pleased to see family and friends - especially his childhood friend and Farscape partner, DK (now married to another friend of theirs, Laura). Mostly though, he's pleasantly surprised by Earth's reaction. Instead of freaking out like he feared Earth might (A Human Reaction), they're fairly welcomed. The crew is given a waterfront mansion in Florida for their personal use. "A cage, but at least it's a gilded one." John's family is helping the crew adjust, especially his young cousin Bobby with his palmcorder, getting some good shots of Chiana and Sikozu sunbathing. Noranti and Rygel are mostly occupying themselves tasting the local cuisine. The suits are mostly interested in the technology of course and the Moya crew lets them look. A few of the humans accept translator microbes, but John notes that microbes alone aren't going to make people listen. John and T.R.Holt are almost immediately at odds. John offers a trip through the wormhole and back on Moya for 500 or so of Earth's best and brightest. The conflict; Holt and company want to keep this an American adventure where John wants all of Earth to share the benefits. Jack is on Holt's side. They've already made Jack the director for Extraterrestrial Studies and are looking forward to the good PR a father-son team would make. John... isn't.

Still, the family is trying to make things as normal as possible, starting with Christmas decorations. Aeryn is with them as they bring up childhood memories and threaten to break out the bare-ass baby pictures of John. Then, adding to the plot, John's ex-girlfriend, Caroline, shows up at the door and Aeryn glances just in time to see her kissing him. Not Aeryn's favorite sight, but she says nothing. It's a reminder for John that he can't just go back to normal here on Earth. Still writing in his journal, he muses that he can't possibly tell them everything he's seen, done, or had done to him. They either wouldn't believe him, wouldn't be able to handle it, or both.

As John and his dad chill out in the living room, a TV newscast talks of rising tension and hysteria caused by the sudden arrival of so much alien life. We're no longer the center of the universe. Jack reports it also grows more tense on the political front, with every country on the planet demanding equal access to the aliens and the technology. John sees no problem in giving it to them. Jack used to believe that the space program would unite mankind. What changed? "September 11." Jack speaks of America being under siege and this world now being every man/province/country for itself. John is unswayed and leaves the room, saying that he's going into space tomorrow and if his dad isn't too stubborn, he's welcome to come along.

Next day, John, Jack, and cousin Bobby pay Moya a visit. John sends Jack and Bobby off with 1812 as a tour guide. D'Argo and Aeryn are there as well and D'Argo confirms to Aeryn that the human scientists haven't hurt her prowler. She and John get a moment alone and John says that if she's that concerned, why not just leave the prowler on Moya? Aeryn wonders if she shouldn't stay on Moya as well. She feels she's not fitting in, though John reminds her she's fitting in as well as anyone else. Plenty of tension there though. "But it's up to you" he says to her. She seems to want an answer from him though.

And lurking in the corridors is Skreeth - the creature Grayza let loose on Moya just before John and company got back from 1985 (Kansas). Somewhere else in the universe, Grayza slaps a device on Braca's forehead which apparently allows Skreeth to communicate through him. She reports that they traveled through a wormhole to reach Crichton's home planet, which they now orbit. This definitely gets Grayza's attention and changes her orders a bit. Rather than going straight for Crichton, Skreeth is to gather as much intel as she can about Earth. Grayza removes the device from Braca, who remembers nothing. She tells him they recreated. Might as well give him a pleasant memory not to remember, eh? She orders a weapons' check from Braca. She wants her command carrier capable of destroying a planet.

John and D'Argo are discussing a game plan. In short, the wormhole won't be stable enough for Moya to pass through for another 70 arns. John's made the offer of a trip to the stars to the people of Earth, but has no intention of delivering. The offer is mostly to give them something and keep them distracted. The real plan? Get away from Earth and hope Earth gets its collective dren together before the real space monsters show up.

Meanwhile, Jack's ready to go back to Earth and Aeryn offers to give him a lift. As a treat for a very excited Jack Crichton, she takes the scenic route and next thing Jack knows, he's orbiting Saturn. As Jack marvels at being farther from Earth than any other Human, Aeryn reminds him someone else has made it a bit farther. This brings Jack down to Earth so to speak and they have a heart-to-heart, though Aeryn holds on to her heart a little tighter than Jack. He says he wouldn't be surprised if their geneticists find a link between Humans and Sebaceans. He asks Aeryn if she wishes she were Human. "Why?" Because it's obvious she has feelings for John. "Does that shock you?" she asks. No. Jack says he doesn't think of her as an "alien life form." He also says that while John doesn't say anything about it, he believes John still has feelings for Aeryn.

In the mansion, Sikozu is on the phone with someone saying she will not consent to a medical examination no matter how much it might advance humankind. Noranti starts trying to sing Christmas carols and Sikozu says she just wants to go back to Moya. Chiana shoves some presents at her and tells her if she goes to Moya, take them to Pilot. On the waterfront, John is again asking for Jack's support in making the tech-sharing a global effort instead of an Americans-only endeavor. He urges Jack to see the bigger picture, but Jack says that asking all of Earth to play nicely is an impossible picture. "Impossible is not in our vocabulary" John reminds him - something Jack used to say.

DK and Laura have John with them in the hangar with his module. They're baffled by the technology which, according to everything Earth knows so far, is theoretically impossible. They pepper John with questions that he says he doesn't know the answer to. He says he honestly doesn't know how all of it works but they believe he's holding back.

We also see Skreeth's shadow lurking in the background. When DK and Laura leave for the night, escorted through an empty parking garage by a security man, Skreeth makes her first move, dispatching the security man and attacking DK and Laura. Reporting back to Grayza that these two don't seem to share Crichton's resistance to interrogation, Skreeth says they know little or nothing. Crichton isn't even sharing wormhole technology with his own people. Skreeth is still confident she can get intel from Crichton himself, but doubts she can deliver him to Grayza. Both agree; travel to and from Earth is impractical without wormhole travel and only Crichton controls that. Best solution: get what we can from Crichton, then execute him.

In the Crichton household, John's sister Olivia comes home from a shopping spree with the Moya crew (closed off a mall for them and everything). It's their turn for a heart-to-heart. John is looking at pictures, remembering faces, but it's not his life at the moment. He's struggling with where he belongs and even asks Olivia what she thinks - a question she avoids answering. She brings up that just as John complains that Jack has changed, Jack complains that John has changed. "I have" he admits readily. He talks enigmatically about not being able to tell them everything. "What dad hears, the government hears." Olivia asks if it's really that bad and John beats around that bush as well, saying she shouldn't worry, everything will be ok.

At the mansion 'o Moya, Aeryn and Chiana return from more shopping. Aeryn asks D'Argo if Crichton is there and while he isn't, she seems interested in Caroline's presence out back and heads that way. Chiana says one of these gifts (she doesn't know what it is and neither do we) is from Aeryn to Crichton and D'Argo says it won't get him back - he still hasn't forgiven Aeryn. Chiana is confident though that John will come around. "Some males can actually forgive" she says directly to him.

Aeryn goes out back just as Bobby, interviewing Caroline on his palmcorder, asks how long she's been John's girlfriend. Spotting Aeryn, Caroline tells Bobby to take 5. Aeryn though is politely interested in the answer. Caroline asks why Aeryn wants to know and Aeryn says directly that she and John were in a relationship - a "complicated" relationship. Caroline explains that she and John had a casual relationship; no strings, just laughs. But now, nothing. Aeryn is a bit puzzled, noting that they've been spending time together. Caroline says she thinks John is working out what he really wants, and it isn't her. Aeryn still says with some dejection that while she still wants John, he obviously doesn't want her. Caroline disagrees, saying that when he asked John about Aeryn, he kept repeating over and over that nothing was going on. She explained to Aeryn that sometimes, when Humans lie, it's because we're trying to convince ourselves. Truth is, he still loves Aeryn.

Sikozu doesn't just go back to Moya, she traverses the wormhole to join Scorpius. He's setting up his transport pod to turn it into a bomb. He says his spy aboard Grayza's command carrier hasn't been able to discern her full strategy, but if necessary, he'll destroy the wormhole before allowing Grayza through. It would be a suicide mission. Scorpy would not survive. Sikozu says that 2 pod-bombs are better than one.

On Earth, in the hangar holding Lo'La and John's module, there's a conservative shindig going on with some of the Moya crew and the US VIPs. D'Argo reports to John that Pilot reports only that Sikozu went through the wormhole to meet with Scorpius and neither of them intend to come back to Earth. Fine by John. Holt meantime is talking to Jack, reminding him again of the flack over John's global initiative and that it's his job to get John to bend a little. Without responding, Jack steps up for his speech to the group. He says that he taught John to stick to his guns and that John can't be faulted for that. He says that everyone here thinks John owes them something. Jack now disagrees, saying that if anything, we owe John for the wonders he's brought to show us. "We're afraid of what will happen if we share this knowledge with the rest of the word. John is afraid of what will happen if we don't." He's sticking by John and as the director for Extraterrestrial Studies, he hereby opens up all information to all nations of the world. John doesn't show any excitement, but he leads the applause. When they leave through the parking garage, John asks his dad why the sudden change of heart? "Because I believe in you." They get in the car ... and Skreeth, going invisible, attaches herself to the car's back end.

Aeryn arrives at the Crichton household, asking Olivia if John is back yet. He isn't. Aeryn returns Olivia's books and clothes she'd borrowed, saying the clothes were fine, the PK leathers just feel more comfortable. She thanks Olivia for everything, saying she knows they're preparing a private dinner and she doesn't want to intrude. Olivia asks if Aeryn is leaving and Aeryn says "possibly," being vague on the whys.

Back at the hangar, D'Argo pulls an increasingly flirtatious Chiana out of the party, but when they enter the parking garage, his concern shifts. He smells something bad and when he investigates, he finds DK and Laura dead in their car.

In the Crichton house, Jack and John get home. As everyone else is in the kitchen getting eggnog, Aeryn and John get a moment alone in the living room. Aeryn, noticeably tense, asks John directly, "Do you want me to go back to Moya?" John says emotionlessly that they've been over this and it's entirely up to her. Aeryn gets even more adamant, saying she'll go with whatever John wants. "Would you be happier if I wasn't here on Earth? You don't have to justify it or explain it. Just give me an honest yes or no." Before he can answer, Jack comes in and asks Aeryn to stay for dinner. "I couldn't impose" she says, trying to control her shaky voice. Jack says it's up to her, but they'd love to have her. When they leave the room, leaving John and Aeryn alone again for a moment, it looks as if we're going to get an answer out of John.

That is, until Skreeth interrupts the party. Before anyone can react, she knocks out Olivia, knocks out Jack, and when the security guard starts shooting - the bullets seeming to be more of an annoyance than a threat - she tosses him through a brick wall. Aeryn's got her pulse pistol out now and is firing but Skreeth is too fast. At one point, Skreeth disappears altogether and Aeryn and John wait with baited breath. She appears behind Aeryn and destroys the pulse pistol. Aeryn barely has time to yell to John to get Wynnona before Skreeth dumps Aeryn through a glass table and knocks her out as well. John manages to get to his room and get Wynnona and re-emerges to find this unknown alien. Skreeth is giving Grayza a blow-by-blow of all of this. Skreeth gets to John first and as they struggle on the upstairs landing, they fall to the floor before. As they do, Aeryn comes around. She yells at John to get clear and fires at the chandelier above them, letting it fall onto Skreeth, which seems to dispatch her. She and John tend to Jack and Olivia who are hurt, but alive. Just then, D'Argo shows up in Lo'La outside the glass back doors. Skreeth gets up, D'Argo fires, Skreeth is vaporized. On the command carrier, this knocks out Braca as well (channeling Skreeth). Grayza again revives him and tells him this was the best recreation ever. Braca is nervous as hell.

The crew returns to Moya. Rygel orders all the food to his quarters. Ignoring him, Chiana asks Aeryn if Crichton's gifts should go straight to his quarters. "Not the right time. Cargo bay for now" she says. She then confronts Noranti, holding one of the laka's in her hand and asking what it is. She knows it's Crichton's and suspects Noranti made it. Hesitating only for a moment, she says that it's to help Crichton surmount his feelings and to move on, to forget. "Forget who?" Aeryn asks. Noranti doesn't answer, seeming to feel she doesn't need to.

John says his goodbyes on Earth. Olivia gives him a ring that belonged to their mother and asks John one more time to stay. John says he can't. Jack makes the same request, his voice breaking while John too is teary eyed. "We'll set up a defense shield. Nothing will get through the wormhole." No good. John says he has a job to do and promises to be back.


Review

So, was this the happy-return-to-Earth-episode folks wanted or dreamt of? Just as I didn't recall any speculation about a return to a past time, I also don't recall any speculation about returning to the right planet, right time, for one single episode, only to turn around and head out to space again. But it's all making sense and coming together now.

Right before Season 3 started, there were a series of streaming video interviews on the SciFi site with various Farscape cast/crew, including David Kemper. He spoke then about how John is now facing a greater issue than just getting home, but, as the opening credits for that season spoke of, "Would Earth be ready?" Moreover, he also spoke of John being a changed man now whether he knew it or not. How can someone see all that John has seen only to return home to try and pick up a normal life? Can you ever return to normal? John's heart-to-heart with Olivia summed this up wonderfully in a short span of time. It hardly feels like John's life anymore. This is what we watch Farscape for folks! Decisions aren't easy and they aren't simple. I remember so many BBoard conversations about John picking up where he left off on Earth and homogenizing the Moya crew. John dreamt of it in Dog with two Bones and therein were sown the seeds of doubt. He can't have it both ways. And the picture is even bigger than just choosing between Aeryn and Earth. It's choosing between the person he's become and the person he once was. Well, it's not even a choice at this point. He's coming to grips with the fact that he really can't ever go back to the person he once was.

And as the opening credits said, "Earth is unprepared..."

It was also quite cool to see this alternate Earth reaction to alien life forms. Thinking realistically for a moment, how would that affect us as a global society? We find a rock with fossilized microbes that we believe came from Mars and the news shakes us up and alters our whole galactic view. What about an entire ship of aliens who are so different and yet aren't so different from ourselves? I think both this episode and A Human Reaction are plausible responses from us Earthlings. I think it would largely depend on who makes first contact, in what circumstances, if it's General Jim or Admiral Judy or President whomever. Mob mentality is very catchy here on Terra Firma. The initial reaction could well determine the final reaction. In A Human Reaction that first response was fear, which is to be expected when a craft thought to have been lost 7 months ago comes out of space and crash-lands on the beach. The first response in this episode is also understandable; a gentler introduction as a benign Moya simply hangs in space for a while until an only slightly-alien looking redhead offers a friendly greeting in English. I did find it odd to see Jack and the other dignitaries on Moya wearing suits instead of spacesuits. The implication is that they arrived in our own space shuttle. If that's so, then I'd have expected something more like NASA spacesuits (ok, IASA). I think it would have made for a more powerful image. But that complaint is a tiny one.

Cooler still was the tie-in with current events and global politics. I've often wondered if I were the alien making first contact with Earth, who would I go to? America simply because they're the biggest bully on the block? A more neutral country? The United Nations? But even the United Nations don't include the interests of all Earth's countries. Are the people of Afghanistan any less entitled to meet and greet our new alien friends simply because they've been raised by a strict government with beliefs that you and I don't share in? I think such an encounter would be humbling on that front, as well as on the obvious front that we really aren't the center of the universe. I absolutely love Farscape for touching on all of this without getting cheesy, without shoving flags in our faces, and with seeds of thought for all. I can think of more than one kill-em-all-let-God-sort-em-out type I've dodged flames from off the SciFi board trying to come up with a more intellectual reason as to why they hated the episode other than "John is a nancy-boy bleeding heart liberal."

Cheesy - or lack thereof. Even more so than in Kansas, "Terra Firma" has avoided the major aliens-on-Earth clichés. Perhaps because the crew got their fill of fascination in the last ep, but I would like to think it's the Farscape Powers That Be avoiding the clichés. Or maybe more specifically, it's scriptwriter Ricky Manning avoiding the clichés. Either way, it was quite nice to see a more natural reaction from the Moya crew. Apologies to those who may have been looking forward to "The slapstick, madcap, hilarious adventures of the Moya crew learning Earth (American) customs."

Character bits. What fantastic character bits in this episode, and most of them involving Aeryn. Easily the one that struck me the most was Jack and Aeryn in the prowler and I'm still not sure I've quite pinpointed why. It was just plain cool. I thought it was quite powerful for Aeryn to take Jack on a spin around the solar system - routine and nothing new to her, but absolutely fascinating to Jack. And it was a nice touch that he starts out by saying he's the first human to travel so far, and she politely corrects him. A lot was said in that 2-line exchange about Jack's character. He wants to be a deeply caring father, but sometimes he really does let his own work and goals get in the way of that, even to the point of momentarily forgetting that his son "has a few miles on him." In A Human Reaction it was Ancient Jack in a brief moment of understanding with Aeryn who almost gives away that something wasn't quite right with the Earth they were on. Though he wasn't really John's father, Aeryn had an interesting relationship with Ancient Jack in her few encounters with him. Now she's confronted with the real deal and for all that she feels she doesn't fit in on Earth, he tells her he doesn't see her as an "alien." She keeps her cool when he speaks of John's feelings towards her, but you can see loads of thought behind her eyes. I know I sound like a broken record, but that's the advantage of having Claudia Black on your cast ... among so many other fantastic actors that excel at unspoken dialogue.

You see that thought behind her eyes again in her conversation with Caroline. Go back and watch a few season 1 episodes and just marvel at how far this character has come! Timid, polite, introspective Aeryn was hardly existent at the start of the series. Intense character growth - also what we watch Farscape for!

And it all builds up to her moment with John in his living room, asking if he'd rather she stay here or go back to Moya. The reversal of roles in this relationship really comes full circle here. Compare this scene with the one in the hangar towards the end of Dog with two Bones and I'm convinced this one was written to mimic the other. Ben Browder gets his moment to shine in the spotlight of the unspoken dialogue as they both continue to sizzle and create more tension than most any other couple on television. Towards the end of Season 3, Aeryn was the stone-cold one while John desperately searched for answers and reactions from her. Now, John is the statue while Aeryn, in a very Aeryn way, searches him for answers.

The one character bit I really missed was any kind of closure with DK's death. This was John's best friend since childhood and we don't get so much as tossing a flower off the pier? John putting a photograph in his pocket? Something? Anything? I can only hope the explanation lies in someone else censoring out a scene that really was supposed to be there. That, or we get to see John deal with it in a future episode. As it stands, that was handled in a very un-Farscape manor. One of the show's greatest appeals is that action has consequence and bad things happen to good people - and we suffer for it. I felt a little robbed of what should have been a classic Farscape character bit.

Whipping you away to the B-plots, what is up with Sikozu and Scorpius? Now she's willing to help him with a suicide mission? It's certainly seemed like she's following Scorpius around like a stray puppy, but this has me wondering if she isn't playing a game of her own? Will we find out in the next episode or next few episodes, or is this one of those things that was leading to something great in the now-cancelled-who-knows-when-or-if-it-will-ever-return Season 5? Raelee Hill does get quite a delicious look on her face when it comes to her dealings with Scorpius. How fantastic if that look turns out to be a sinister one!

And the other oh-so-juicy B-plot, Grayza. I'm starting to think she's not very unlike Scorpius in that she has motive behind her actions, yet no remorse for taking the most extreme action to get what she wants. When she casually tells Braca she wants her ship ready to destroy a planet, it's not your typical twirling-the-mustache bad guy who is evil for evil's sake. She wants to get to John, and if destroying or showing that she's prepared to destroy his homeworld gets to him, so be it.

And I still question whether or not Braca is really Scorpius' spy or just showing loyalty to whomever has his balls in their grip at the moment.

So here we have it. John finally gets home, but he is way, way past the point of no return now. He is determined enough to stop whomever is pursuing his wormhole knowledge to leave Earth as fast as he came. Moreover, he is determined to sacrifice his chance to reclaim his life on Earth to protect us from Grayza, the Scarrans, and whomever else might come after fresh pickings like us Humans. Not the return-to-earth-and-homogenize-the-Moya-crew episode many were expecting or hoping for, but since when does Farscape do the predictable?




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

Reader Reviews
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Fun Factoids
Best line:

Aeryn: "Merry Frelling Christmas." {Try saying that in English on network television}


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 13 - "Terra Firma" (Part 3 of 3)
Writer: Richard Manning
Director: Peter Andrikidis
Production number: 10413
First UK Transmission: 6th Jan 2003
First US Transmission: 17th Jan 2003
Guest Stars:
Raelee Hill (Sikozu); Melissa Jaffer (Noranti); Kent McCord (Jack Crichton); Rebecca Riggs (Commandant Mele-On Grayza); David Franklin (Captain Braca); Murray Bartlett (DK); Geoff Morrell (T.R. Holt); Sarah Enright (Olivia Crichton); Katherine Thomas (Laura Kopecki); Erica Heynatz (Caroline Wallace); Amy Salas (Skreeth); Nicholas Hammond; Joshua Anderson (Bobby) [No onscreen credit])
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