|"A Constellation of Doubt"|
A human TV show displays the reaction to the recent alien visitation, as John tries to recall the name "Katratzi"...
Click here to read the Farscape World synopsis for this episode.
"A Constellation of Doubt" is another somewhat out of the box episode, done in a way that really works within the confines of the Farscape universe and the current situation on board Moya. Taking the format of a TV show within a TV show, we get to see the real human reaction to the events in both "Kansas" and "Terra Firma", something that was, in part, missing from both those outings, since they were both packed to the brim already.
The TV show was a masterful stroke; so often in our current society we look to the media for answers on what to believe and how to think, so what better way than to show us the human bias following the alien visitation than to do so through the eyes of a television documentary? Clearly, the "network" has their own views, and despite the premise of an impartial presentation of unseen footage, by showing an abundance of comments, they are manipulating the footage to what they want it to portray. However, the media often represents the general population's opinions, since it's in their best interests to do so. So here, we see a TV show that presents a human reaction.
"It's not what you get, it's what you hope for." John, like us viewers, knows the aliens. We know they're the "good" aliens, and that it's unlikely they'd cause any harm. Yet the human reaction to their visitation is to be expected. They don't know the aliens, and it's a scary time. The TV show is simply playing up to the fears of the public. Naturally, one of the first questions on alien contact would be that of security; are we safe? How powerful are they? Do we have possible defences? Governments around the world are prone to knee-jerk reactions, hence the US keeping the aliens closely guarded, as we saw in "Terra Firma". Obviously, John was hoping for more, likely wanting a more welcoming view, where the aliens would be embraced, and humans used them to learn, and come together. Perhaps even bring a whole new outlook on how countries and races work together.
But despite that, humans are somewhat ruled by fear. Aliens coming to Earth, all of a sudden, as Aeryn puts it, means it is no longer sacrosanct. We somehow want to restore our perfect isolation; afraid of the change that aliens would bring.
"Earth is under no threat from the Peacekeepers." No matter how much they spell it out, humans will still think the worst, imagine all the bad possibilities, which will often win out over all the wonders that could come about following something like alien contact.
Through the documentary footage, we not only see the pessimistic outlooks of some of the speakers, but we also see some more liberal views from a few of them. They all share one thing in common, though – they're all over-analysing every piece of footage, often looking for, and finding, hidden meanings which aren't really there. It's a typical human reaction, and one that we've come to see is "wrong", as the various analysts have no real understanding of the alien personalities, and are essentially psycho-analysing the unknown. "You can't even fully accept us, and we're the nice aliens." We know they're the "nice" aliens, the good guys. The general populace don't, and so continue to see the worst. It's actually quite an interesting outlook on our society as a whole.
The TV show also gives the cast another opportunity to really shine. The clips of the various aliens and their non-human reactions to their new surroundings on Earth are fascinating to watch, and the cast do an extraordinarily good job of portraying several nuances in the dialogue and through their actions. Gigi Edgley, for one, really shines in most of her scenes. Chiana playing around with the makeup is amusing because, to us, we all know what makeup is and what it's used for, yet her innocence at just fiddling around with it and doing things like eating the lipstick shows once again how different the aliens really are. Her scene in the bathroom is disturbing because we know what a toilet is used for, yet to Chiana it's somewhat inefficient to have so many places with water coming out. Why can't she wash her face in the toilet? It's water, and (once flushed) it's clean. The dead rat scene again portrays Chiana's innocence. The rat was her friend, and is now dead. She is a very fragile character, and has a lot of feelings that she often suppresses, and her reaction to the death of the rat is rather warm and loving, and it's quite sad.
The entire cast plays off their situations so well. Noranti sounds extremely intellectual and spiritual in her outlook, and the comments on what she was saying offered some great food for thought, and were an interesting analysis of her character traits. D'Argo gets some great moments, too, as he is very friendly towards Bobby and provides a most interesting view of Earth from his perspective. Aeryn also had a few good scenes. The interview, in which she was struggling with English a little at first, and was clearly unnerved, was disturbing and yet captivating at the same time. Constantly pressed for answers to questions she's already answered, the fear and paranoia instilled in the human mind came through perfectly.
The analysts themselves served their purpose extremely well. Dr. Anderson was so anti-alien that she was easy to hate, while others such as Chanderpaul were generally pro-alien, though occasionally on the fence. Several different viewpoints were represented, and it was a great interpretation of what a human study of alien contact might be like. You'd have those totally enthusiastic and for it, those completely against it, several in the middle but often swaying through, and the odd "friend" who has inside knowledge that would attempt to set the record straight. In "Constellation", this was Olivia's role. She had a lot of interaction with the aliens, and had the additional advantage that her brother trusted the aliens, so it would be easier for her to do so, too. At every turn, she was there to point out that innocent comments sometimes just are innocent, and of course to point out that, well, it's blatantly obvious that John is in love with Aeryn, and Aeryn is in love with him.
The clips, shot on the handheld camera, in a similar vein to such shots in "Terra Firma", worked really well, and the whole TV show was in stark contrast to the scenes on Moya. The atmosphere on the ship was dank and low-lit, very quiet and tranquil, as only a few bodies appeared in each scene.
The aliens, and John, were watching the documentary, providing yet another great perspective. You had the aliens watching the humans analyse the aliens. Interesting concept that could have fell flat, but it worked very well. John is watching, while at the same time trying to remember where he has heard "Katratzi" before. They think that's where Aeryn has been taken, and John knows he's heard it somewhere before. No one else believes him, but the fact that he just wants Aeryn back comes through loud and clear.
John's reaction to the documentary is downbeat. These aliens are his friends, and lovers, and yet his home doesn't want them. Earth isn't ready for sustained alien contact, but this is now his life. It's sad to see his disappointment in his own people; his hope that they could perhaps overcome the inherent problems and embrace the aliens shattered. Although we'd seen this to a degree in "Terra Firma", it was extremely poignant here.
The performances on Moya were outstanding in general, as you also see the reaction of the others, to both the documentary and Aeryn. Seeing Rygel and Chiana effectively being rejected and left knowing that they simply aren't wanted on Earth is very sad, and the scene between the two heartbreaking. Chiana wants to help John, but doesn't know how. Rygel is on a downer after the loss of Aeryn, and he can't seem to help John either. "Feel sorry for Aeryn," he says, adding that he thinks John will get over it. The delivery of the line was perfect; you could feel Rygel's sadness through that single line.
Chiana says, "No matter how long it takes, I don't think he'll lose hope." It says a lot about John's character and how she really knows him, and also you can feel how much she wants to help, but doesn't know how. Chiana's earlier scene with John outside his quarters, as she was on the other side of the door, seen through the bars, was a great visual, showing through both her words and mannerisms that Chiana really wants to comfort and help John in some way, but in his current state he's unreachable, without the ability to find Aeryn.
D'Argo also clearly wants to help John and stand by him, but they're seemingly out of options, so what do they do? Granted, the fact that they seem to have lost hope in finding Aeryn, while John persists, is something of a plot device, as she can't have been gone that long, but regardless, they think they're out of options, and don't know what to do. D'Argo tries to help – he comes into John's quarters and turns off the documentary, replacing it with football, something more relaxing to take his mind off things. But at this point John is beyond comfort, and all D'Argo can really do is stand by him, as John did for him before. The scene with Pilot at the end, once John knows what to do, exemplifies this. His initial thought is that John wants to go back to Earth, and again trying to help, he says he won't allow that. But once he realises that's not why John wants to get back to the wormhole, he seemingly stands by, knowing that John just wants Aeryn back.
Raelee Hill was on top of her game in this episode, as Sikozu gets something of a mini tour-de-force. Her delivery is perfect, with some standout lines like, "A reasonable interpretation of the word 'no'," and the comment about the Scarrans not advertising the locations of their secret bases. She is equally excellent when one-on-one with John as he comes to realise; she seems to have something akin to guilt amidst her words, perhaps because only Aeryn was captured and she got away (she seemed similarly disturbed at the end of "Beacon"), and her lines about it not being her providence if Aeryn lives or dies, and that she is telling him everything, come off extremely well, and John's persistence exemplifies his state of mind, and perhaps his true feelings about her, when he tells her she's done nothing but lie since she came aboard.
This leads into the revelation - John has heard the word "Katratzi" before. The way everything led up to this moment was perfectly handled. He'd been persistent the whole episode, never losing any of that human hope. He'd questioned each of the crewmembers (except Noranti, who was conspicuous by her absence from Moya) on the word several times. He knew it. Gradually, he began to remember. He heard it on Moya. Chiana was there. Sikozu knew it. And it was great the way Sikozu singing on the documentary attracts his attention, and he sees her holding up a metal plate that covers part of her face. And so it all slides in to place. He had heard it before, on Moya, and the others were with him. But it wasn't this Moya, it was the Moya from the final unrealised reality (in "Unrealized Reality"). When he was about to shoot Sikozu-Stark, s/he had begun chanting what was seemingly a throwaway. But sure enough, Sikozu-Stark said "Katratzi" (twice, too). It's a thread that was superbly intertwined, and I admit I got great kicks out of it, since I was a huge fan of that episode and yet many people knocked it as absurd and throwaway. Things are starting to fall in to place, and make sense.
Then, it happens. Absolutely superb, and this is how I like my characters, and this is how I like my acting. Ben Browder deserves an Emmy for his delivery. Wayne Pygram is fantastic with no words, just minimal reactions. John is forced to make a deal. Think about his state of mind. Aeryn is his all.
"You could go back to Earth," Chiana tells him. "Not without Aeryn." That is where John is at. He is in love with Aeryn. He has been for a long, long time, even when acting as if he wasn't in those earlier episodes. Though his feelings are somewhat exacerbated thanks to the somewhat convenient tag scene in the earlier "Twice Shy", which now seems to have just served the simple purpose of ramming home the fact that John loves Aeryn, even though we already knew that despite his actions and their separation this season, his feelings were always strong anyway. We've known John loves Aeryn. David Kemper has called Farscape a love story. And that is a fairly hefty chunk of the show – John and Aeryn love each other, but pretty much can't be together because, heck, nothing works out for them. But ignoring the heavy-handed tag scene in the aforementioned episode (which in retrospect, leaves me somewhat annoyed, though it worked at the time and in the context of the episode), his feelings are clear anyway.
"I care for one thing. One." John loves Aeryn. Aeryn loves John. Granted, there are times when their feelings become clouded, and it all becomes a little muffled. But it's clear that both love each other. And now, John is making a deal with the devil. He wants to rescue Aeryn, but he knows he needs Scorpius' help. Would Scorpius help him rescue her, regardless? Maybe. But if so, could he be trusted not to manipulate the situation to his advantage? Probably not. Yet John has bargaining power, something that can guarantee that he will get what he wants from Scorpius, because when he does, Scorpius will be freely given what he is striving for. John has what Scorpius wants. Given his current state of mind, all John wants is Aeryn. She is his universe. His home is now alien to him – they can't accept what he does in his everyday life. They can't accept his friends. Aeryn is everything to him. She is effectively all that matters to him. So he makes his choice.
"Aeryn for wormholes." It's the logical choice for John, given his state of mind. He has snapped. He has nothing left to lose, and his final comments just so aptly put his feelings and state of mind in to words. "You set me up." He thinks Scorpius set him up. Quite how, I'm not entirely sure, though I have my theories. Nonetheless, he believes it. "Not that I care." He doesn't – all that matters is Aeryn. "God have mercy on my soul." The delivery throughout was fantastic, but by this point, the emotions expressed not only with words are just amazing. He knows what he's doing, but he's going to do it anyway. He knows that it's morally wrong (by his ideals), and I'm sure he knows Aeryn would never approve, given what is at stake. Ben Browder excelled throughout the episode, and the end of the episode just summed up his performance with such a poignant scene, and that one line was really heart wrenching. You could really feel his pain. And Scorpius didn't have a single line in the whole episode, but his appearance at the end, with no words, just a slight reaction, was perfect.
So where do things go from here? John needs Scorpius' help to rescue Aeryn; presumably he needs Scorpius to help him infiltrate the base on Katratzi. But first, they need to find Katratzi, and presumably, that's where the next episode will take us – down the wormhole, back to the unrealised reality, to find Sikozu-Stark and the location of Katratzi.
It's interesting how things are starting to come together this season. After watching "Bringing Home the Beacon", I went back and watched some episodes from the end of last season and early this season. There are some interesting parallels and dialogue repetition that have been apparent as I've watched, but are now even more clear and fresh in my memory having watched some earlier outings. In particular, "John Quixote", which some people hated, has parallels in dialogue and indeed the entire themes running throughout the episode, and "Unrealized Reality" are prime candidates to take a look at, after last week and even more so now. I'm positive the clues are there, and as the season continues to unravel, I believe all will become clear.
But back to this week, and what more is there to say? A great concept, echoing in many ways similar TV show episodes on Babylon 5, but going even a step beyond, as we see the aliens reacting to the human reaction. The writing was very tight; there was little throwaway and each joke and comment came across well. The direction was excellent, with the glaring contrast between the sombre scenes on Moya and the TV show being apparent. I am a bit of a sucker for these different episodes, and "Constellation" is no different. I loved it from beginning to end, and it easily ranks up top with the best of them this season. Fantastic stuff.
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?
Both David Kemper and Brian Henson have cameo appearances in this episode. David Kemper is the blacked out "High Level Administrative Source", and Brian Henson is " Dr. Edmund Johnston".
D'Argo's tongue contains adaptive venom – the victim takes in only enough to lose consciousness, so it cannot be used to kill.
While on Earth, D'Argo apparently made an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, not the first reference to that show, where he thought the audience were laughing with him.
Nick Tate, who guests stars as the presenter R. Wilson Monroe, is a veteran actor who played Captain Alan Carter in the sci-fi series Space: 1999. He has also appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation, The X Files, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Party of Five, a show that Ben Browder also once starred in.
There are several references in this episode to the earlier Kansas, such as the returning Sheriff describing his experience, and Terra Firma, which featured Bobby filming his footage and Olivia Crichton in a prominent role.
The crew apparently believe Aeryn has been taken to Katratzi, the place Aeryn and Sikozu overheard the Scarrans say they were taking Grayza in Bringing Home the Beacon. Despite asking around, no one had ever heard of Katratzi, and the crew seemingly gave up hope on finding Aeryn rather quickly. John persisted, having heard it earlier from Sikozu-Stark in Unrealized Reality. Now, John must find out the location, presumably from Sikozu-Stark.
At the end of the episode, the credits are squashed, Sci Fi-style and in something of a parody of the network, there is a preview of "next week on Alien Visitation." It is mentioned in the preview that DK's real name is Douglas Knox.
A Human Reaction
Dog with Two Bones
Mental as Anything
Bringing Home the Beacon
John: "Sikozu Shanu?"
Sikozu: "A reasonable interpretation of the word 'no'."
Chiana: "You can't tell when I'm lying."
Sikozu: "Yes we can. We all can."
Sikozu: "You open your mouth and words come out of it."
Noranti: [about humans] "You're so ignorant but you never give up, even in the face of insurmountable odds."
Bobby: "So, all in all, you could live here?"
Rygel: "As long as I get to keep my slaves."
Bobby: "They're servants. They get paid. You don't own them."
Rygel: "What? You're kidding. They come running when I call."
Bobby: "The government wants you to feel at home."
Rygel: "Then give me slaves."
Bobby: "OK, besides eating, what's your favourite thing to do?"
Rygel: "Uh, gamble. You can do it over the phone. You can call females, too. 1-900-SLUT-GIRL."
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