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Throwback Thursday - Farscape - The Way We Weren't

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Throwback Thursday is a weekly article in which we look back at our favorite TV episodes from the past.

“I just wanted so desperately to see the stars.”
This week’s Throwback Thursday reviews Farscape’s season two episode The Way We Weren’t, but, before we get to the review, the possibility of a Farscape revival or reboot must be mentioned.
2019 marked the 20th Anniversary of Farscape. Fans were treated to multiple big events, including San Diego Comic Con’s 20th Anniversary panel, and the Uncharted Territories 20th Anniversary Party at the Jim Henson Company. At SDCC in 2019 we got a new tease about the future of the show. During the panel, Brian Henson spoke of the two-hour movie format not being enough and instead they’re now looking to bring it back in a longer TV format. In response to this, Rockne S O’Bannon announced: “We’re not done with Farscape.”
After the show’s initial cancellation in 2003, fans campaigned to save the show and it was fan support that allowed The Peacekeeper Wars miniseries to be made.
And the fans – the Scapers – are fighting again. Since 2017, FarscapeNow has been the hashtag, the battle-cry, of the new campaign, to bring Farscape back for new episodes or movies. The current, main ways to help with this campaign are: stream episodes on Amazon Prime; when talking about the show on twitter follow and tag @Farscape and @FarscapeNow and hashtag #Farscape and #FarscapeNow. Let Amazon know you’re watching by getting those streaming numbers up, and talk about what you’re watching on twitter, facebook, Instagram, and tumblr.

Most of the cast can be followed on twitter, as well as Brian Henson, and Rockne S O’Bannon. In particular, Gigi Edgley, who played Chiana in the series, has been tweeting about FarscapeNow.
Edgley’s love for Farscape shines through in her support of the FarscapeNow campaign. During episode rewatches on her Twitch account, Edgley recommends Amazon Prime as the place to watch the episodes along with her.
For Edgley, Twitch has been a place to stay connected with the fans while we ride out Covid-19 and await the return of regular conventions. As for how she feels about the possibility of more Farscape in the future, Edgley says she "couldn’t be more over the moon,” about Henson and O’Bannon’s words at the 2019 SDCC panel, and adds, “Don’t tempt me with a good time!”
“Farscape is phenomenal. I have travelled around the world for the past 20 years meeting people whose lives have been inspired by this epic Sci-Fi cult series. It’s absolutely beautiful to share the wonders together.” – Gigi Edgley

In these COVID times, what we need is the type of television that reminds us change, and peace, and healing are possible. A series that offers an almost immersive escapism. So drawn in are we by these stories of transcendence that we feel like we are part of this dysfunctional but wonderful family.
Where, for all of us, anything is possible, and love can survive - and thrive - beyond hope.

Singling out any one episode of Farscape to cover for Throwback Thursday was a monumental task. For a sci-fi show considered obscure, it outshone many of its contemporaries in its intricately crafted, compelling storytelling. The Way We Weren’t, however, truly stands out for me as one of the show’s strongest. This is the episode where Pilot, a stunning Henson Creature Shop creation, stopped being a puppet, and became just as real as Aeryn, Crichton, Zhaan, D’Argo, and Chiana. He is layered and tormented but not without hope. His expressive eyes show pain, both actual physical pain, and the emotional pain of his choices. Not only is this a standout episode for Pilot, but also for Aeryn. Through flashbacks to three cycles previous, we watch as they both make some difficult decisions to further their careers, and now, in the present, see how those decisions still haunt them.
For the crew of Moya, it’s a lesson in tolerance and understanding. In accepting that we have all made mistakes, some monumental, but sometimes what’s more important is the growth we have achieved to become who we are today. When making peace with their pasts, the journey almost tears the crew of Moya apart, before bringing them back together at the end, even stronger than before.

“I guess now I’d say that it was love.”
For 21 cycles Moya’s pilot had been a female, one who refused to participate in the plans of the peacekeepers onboard. As a result of this, Crais ordered her death.
In charge of the project was Lieutenant Velorek, who had a secret side project of his own, one that Crais was unaware of.

In the present, on a recording of the death of the pilot, we see that Aeryn was one of the peacekeepers who fired on and killed Moya’s original pilot as ordered by Crais.
The crew of Moya all watch the recording, including Aeryn. There’s anger in her friends, because she aided in the death of the pilot, and because it means that Aeryn had been onboard Moya before and had never mentioned this. It means that Aeryn was onboard when D’Argo and Rygel and Zhaan were brought on as prisoners, and it’s going to take some time for the reopened wounds to heal.

As a prowler pilot, Aeryn had only wanted to advance her career, not be on the transport duty Velorek had assigned her to. She did it begrudgingly, however, and was the one who delivered Pilot to Moya.

We learn that replacing pilots is a long, dangerous, difficult procedure. And this is when we meet our Pilot. He’s young, inexperienced, and not ready to be bonded with a Leviathan.

Velorek is a complex character. In front of Crais, to keep up the charade, he tortures Pilot with a taser-like weapon. Away from Crais, when it’s just Velorek and Aeryn, he is gentler with Pilot, stroking his cheek to calm him. The audience questions which of the two sides is who he is. A torturer? Or a caring, gentler man?
Because we’ve seen the harder side of Velorek, and don’t know his true nature yet, there’s a flashback scene that for a moment looks like Aeryn is about to be sexually assaulted by Velorek. It’s framed in such a way with present Aeryn telling the story that the harder Velorek seems to be who he really is. But once he has Aeryn in his hold, she is the one who pushes him onto the bed and their seemingly harsh actions turn tender as they kiss.
“We were lovers,” Aeryn says, and this surprises Crichton. He has never heard her use that word before.
Aeryn has spent a little over a year on Moya as part of this unexpected family and she’s beginning to feel love again, this time for Crichton. And because of Crichton and his human emotions, she recognizes the depth of her past feelings for Velorek. This will tie into the final scene, when Aeryn and Crichton discuss this further.

Pilot sees the recording and the reveal of who gave it to him should come as no surprise (I’d say spoiler alert, but did anyone not see Rygel’s actions coming?). Pilot and Aeryn share one of the closest bonds on the ship and he feels the betrayal deep. He lashes out and attacks her, and while he does this we flashback to when he was bonded with Moya.
This is where we learn one of the saddest things about Pilot. A bonding, when a pilot is joined with a leviathan, takes over a cycle. Sometimes two cycles. But they didn’t have that kind of time and so the bonding was forced. Because it wasn’t a natural bonding Pilot has been in excruciating pain ever since.
In the present, Pilot releases Aeryn from his hold but tells her, Crichton, and D’Argo, who are all in the chamber, that the ship won’t move until Aeryn is off it. He means it.
In a later scene Pilot reveals to Crichton how Moya was tortured by the peacekeepers, a torture used to force her to accept her new pilot. Pained by his actions in the past, and the physical pain that has been a consequence ever since, Pilot cuts the connection between he and Moya. “I’m no longer bonded to her,” he tells Crichton. While this has been a long-time coming for Pilot and something he needed to do, it doesn’t bode well for the longevity of the crew on board Moya.

Present Aeryn’s pain goes beyond her remorse for killing the original pilot. Despite being in a relationship with Velorek, one that went far deeper than any she’d had before, for past Aeryn her career still came first. She would have done anything to get ahead, anything to single her out. Unfortunately for Velorek that meant betraying him and telling Crais of his secret project. With Velorek arrested on charges of treason, Aeryn got her moment to stand out.
Crais never found the evidence of Velorek’s attempts to sabotage his project, which, we know from earlier episodes, was to create a Peacekeeper/Leviathan warship. Something the peacekeepers ultimately succeeded in when D’Argo fell through and broke the barrier Velorek had put in place to stop the baby being conceived.

From Aeryn’s face, her words as she speaks with Crichton about the events, it can be inferred that Velorek was ultimately tortured to death – but he never broke, never told Crais how he had sabotaged his plans.

Aeryn and Crichton speak with Pilot, and it’s revealed that Pilot’s anger this whole episode has been misdirected. Although he appears to be furious with Aeryn, he is in fact angry at himself, for his own actions back then. Before arriving on Moya, Pilot met with Velorek. He learned how the current pilot would have to die for him to be joined with Moya, an assassination the peacekeepers were already planning.
“The fate of Moya’s true pilot was sealed at that moment… So, you see, Aeryn. It wasn’t really you who caused her death. It was me.” - Pilot.
D’Argo reconnects Pilot, allowing him to bond naturally with Moya. And his, “There’s no pain. No longer any pain,” and the look of complete surprise and awe on this character’s face is a heart-warming moment that banishes any notions of this being just a puppet from viewers minds.

The last scene brings this episode together with a quiet moment between Aeryn and John. It’s a moment for Aeryn to begin to realize she is in love with Crichton, and it’s a moment where he, already in love with her, sees that such deep feelings are returned. With minimal dialogue, the two cast glances at and away from one another as they both work through what they’ve just come to understand. And it ends an emotional, fast-paced episode with a little peace.

“The pain is finally gone.”

Final Thoughts:

Claudia Black’s acting is phenomenal throughout the episode, but there's one moment in particular that stands out for me: when Aeryn relives the memory and sits through the judgement from her friends. While she tries to remain stone faced through the interrogation, her eyes show every second of her heartbreak.

Chiana plays a pivotal role, despite her limited screen time, by being the one who finds the recording and shows it to Crichton. Edgley’s line delivery of, “So all non-Sebaceans look alike, that is?” is the perfect mix of dark humor, anger, and disappointment. Chiana’s getting her turn at Aeryn in, but for her it’s a little less personal and more about this crew she is now part of. Chiana may have few lines in this episode, but each one hits hard.

Crichton takes a small step back, used in this episode as a way for Aeryn to tell parts of her story she would have been hesitant to tell any other crew members at this point in their relationships. He is present, and he’s very much there for her throughout, but this is about Aeryn and Pilot’s stories. He helps push the story along by coaxing admissions out of her, and he does so with respect – after one slight misstep early on.

This brings us to the, “no means no, John,” line that Aeryn speaks to Crichton when he pushes her to talk. One thing Farscape did, that few sci-fi shows did well, if at all in the early 2000s, was tackle consent. This line is especially significant as the previous episode, Crackers Don’t Matter, had Crichton threaten Chiana in a sexually aggressive scene that almost resulted in rape. In Cracker’s Don’t Matter, the audience - and Crichton - had to work through what he did, what he almost did, and in The Way We Weren’t, the audience, and Aeryn, work through her past actions and how they led to where the crew and Pilot all are now.
Every step – or misstep – on this leviathan has consequences, and all these things add layers to the “no means no” comment beyond her simply telling him to stop pressuring her to talk.
And it’s fair to say that Crichton is still digesting his own behavior from the previous episode in this one, and so in his reminding the crew they’ve all done things they’re not proud of his attack on Chiana is fresh in his mind.
It’s all a reminder that no episode of Farscape can be reviewed as a separate entity. Every episode’s story has tendrils in past and future ones. Episodes reach out in both directions, linking every story in some way to another, and presenting the audience with a kind of continuity others sci-fi shows of its time lacked.

The fact that Crichton can pick Aeryn up off the floor after she has beaten her hands bloody on the punching bag says a lot about where they are in their relationship. Where Aeryn has brought out a harder side to Crichton, needed to survive in her world, he has brought out her softer side. This scene has its foundations in season one’s Nerve and it shows the further growth in Aeryn as she allows Crichton to hold her without fighting him.

There are four main characters telling their stories, or having their stories told in The Way We Weren’t. Two of these characters are Aeryn. The Aeryn from three cycles ago, and the Aeryn we know now, are two vastly different people with different goals.
Pilot too has gone through a metamorphosis of his own, from a naïve, childlike characters, to the confident pilot we know now. We see his backstory for the first time, and it breaks our hearts.

Kudos to make-up continuity. Near the end of the episode Aeryn strokes Pilot’s cheek to calm him, and her knuckles still clearly show her earlier wounds from punching the bag. It’s a little thing, but Farscape was always careful about wound continuity. It never once treated its audience as stupid.

And, finally, Crichton gets to confound the crew with pop culture references from earth, and here he has one of this episode’s more humorous lines when he tells D’Argo:

“Pilot’s etch-a-sketch isn’t operating with all its knobs right now.”

Thanks to COVID-19 I’m feeling that Crichton quote in my soul these days.

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