Role reversals: John
Click here to read the Farscape World synopsis for this episode.
I, E.T. originally aired as the fourth episode in the UK, and seventh in the US, and I can really understand why SciFi wished to hold this one back. Though the underlying tones of the story are undoubtedly worthy of an episode, and would look very good on paper, as does the premise, at this early stage of the series it just doesn't work. Most likely this is due to the fact that it was filmed as part of the second block of back-to-back filmed episodes and the actors were still finding their feet with the characters. A problem also arises with the episode when you watch it out of order, in that the character continuity, which is an important part of Farscape as a whole, is completely messed up, since this was supposed to be the second episode with the characters still new to each other.
One of the good things about this episode was indeed the premise. The idea of John himself being alien to the Deneans was a great concept. The shocking reminder to him that he is alien to others in the Universe clearly has a profound impact on Crichton's character, and you get the feeling that he will keep his feet firmly on the ground, not going all hero on us – at least not yet. Ben Browder definitely gives a fine performance given that this is the second episode, portraying Crichton's overwhelming feelings very well indeed. Also, Mary Mara does well as Lyneea, showing her reaction to extra-terrestrial life in a believable fashion (maybe because it's so similar to the way humans would tend to react).
The other main aspect of the episode was the parallels between the Denean's planet and Earth. Clearly, the idea was to make John feel somewhat comfortable and at home, since the planet was basically similar to Earth, especially scenery-wise, and even the military take on E.T. life bore something of a similarity to the US military's view. The Deneans seem to have a similar response to alien life that we would expect from an every-day human. But it is perhaps to soon to throw John into a world so similar to Earth when he is coming to terms with the fact he may not see Earth again for a long time. Though it has an emotional impact on him, since the similarities to Earth aid the feeling of loneliness and homesickness, it may be better served as a reminder to his character a few episodes on.
Also, the way John gained the trust of Fostro and Lyneea was quite interesting to watch, since you could never quite work out if one of them might panic and then alert the military, and turn John in. In the end, and something of a telling tale, we saw them trust the unknown, and believe John in most of what he said. Most societies resist the unknown, but there is always a handful that embraces the unknown and would really love to see some alien life. It is somewhat convenient though, that John just happens to stumble across believers, who he can talk around and gain their trust.
The interplay between Aeryn and D'Argo whilst hiding from the military was interesting and suggestive of the sort of relationship that could or will form between the two. Their dialogue was sharply written and performed well, and their warrior-to-warrior type interplay will be interesting to watch over the course of the show.
I found it interesting to watch Zhaan's behaviour over the course of the episode too. She seems to be taking a motherly role over the entire crew, being the pacifist among them. She clearly doesn't want to be the instigator of any arguments; rather she seems to want to keep everyone happy, taking the passive approach. Case in point – Aeryn tries to force Rygel (literally) to continue to work on Moya, but he bites her since he's unsure if he can do it. Zhaan sends Aeryn out of the room, recognising Rygel's fear. She tells him they can all face their fears together, and manages to boost his confidence so he will continue the work. She then goes outside and looks deeper into Aeryn's words, thinking she recognised some concern and laughs. But Aeryn doesn't like being laughed at, so Zhaan quickly explains that she's not laughing at her. Add to that the fact that she did nothing but help ease Moya's pain, and our sweet blue alien is already becoming the mother figure, and rightly so – she is the oldest by far, at 800 cycles! She also helps Pilot through some insecurities which are beginning to surface, that's what a nice love she is.
So, this episode is extremely hard to judge. Whilst a lot of what I described above sounds good, and it does sound good, and look good on paper, the episode sadly just doesn't work on screen. As mentioned already, much of the reason for this is that it's just too early a stage in the series for events and character situations like those that occur in this episode. With that said, it also doesn't work when you hold this episode back, since then it's like resetting the characters and risks alienating the viewer. So I understand why the networks wished to hold this episode back, but that doesn't work. I do however believe that this episode would work much better had it been made later in the run. It just seems a bit awkward and rushed at this stage, and far too early to put John on a planet that looks so much like Earth and makes him miss his home. So, it looks good on paper, and the producers have little reason not to produce this potential blockbuster, but in doing so at such an early stage in the show's run it doesn't gel and falls fairly flat on it's face.
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?
This episode was broadcast out of order during Farscape's first run – it is actually the second episode of the season, hence the odd conflictions in character continuity during this episode if watched at a later stage – references to the control collar from Premiere, Aeryn yearning for Peacekeepers and little functionality between the crew.
This episode was part of the second block of back-to-back filmed episodes – which is how they filmed the first six.
Series creator Rockne O'Bannon admits that whilst the episode suffered in execution because it was filmed so early in the series, he stands by the script since it keeps John down-to-earth and serves as a touchstone for the writes for all the episodes that follow.
Rygel: "We're in mud! Under the mud!"
Aeryn: "You're Hynerian. You're aquatic – what's your problem?"
Rygel: "Aquatic – that's water, not mud! Mud is... mud! You can't breathe in it, you can't move in it. It holds you, it grabs you, it sucks you down! You wanna know about mud? I know about mud!"
John: "The guy knows mud."
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