Don't Trust Strange Pictures

It’s too bad Chiana’s never seen or read Macbeth. Otherwise she might have known the portrait she picks up, which seems to tell the future, isn’t the valuable artefact it seems to be for “to win us to our harm the instruments of darkness tell us truths, win us with honest trifles, to betray’s in deepest consequence.” And so, of course, it proves to be, even on Farscape.

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Season 2, Episode 5(6): Picture If You Will

This episode is placed after “The Way We Weren’t” in many episode lists but it was produced first and if you watch the two together it makes no sense for “Picture If You Will” to come after “The Way We Weren’t”. So if you’re watching through the series, I highly recommend considering “Picture If You Will” the real fifth episode of the second season.

Chiana (Gigi Edgley), Aeryn (Claudia Black), and Rygel (Jonathan Hardy) are conducting some trade on a glass space station with a shady dealer as the episode opens. Rygel takes home a Hynerian tiara he’s surprised to find is genuine and Chiana brings home the portrait. First it helps her find a missing favourite necklace and then it foretells a broken leg she gets when she trips over a DRD.

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I love Chiana’s outfit but I do kind of wish the characters changed clothes often enough to support the idea Chiana has a “favourite” necklace among others she wears from time to time. I bet this was mainly a budgetary issue, though, and maybe related to the logistics of applying makeup to Chiana, D’Argo (Anthiny Simcoe), and Zhaan (Virginia Hey). Crichton (Ben Browder) and Aeryn still have wardrobe changes often enough at this point though it’s in this episode that I first noticed Aeryn wearing the leather vest with nothing underneath. I remember this as being her signature outfit for the rest of the series. Or maybe I just really like it.

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But the heroine of this episode is Zhaan whose powers as a priest make her the only one equipped to deal with the malevolent portrait. It soon starts predicting fatalities for everyone and Chiana, D’Argo, and Crichton fall prey to deadly accidents. Or so it seems—in fact, they all end up trapped in what looks like a Man Ray painting.

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And behind it all is none other than Maldis (Chris Haywood), the nigh-omnipotent being, first introduced in season one’s “That Old Black Magic”, who feeds on fear. And there’s certainly plenty for the characters to be afraid of in this episode, much of it very effective. But once again its the moments of character interaction that make this show really shine.

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Maldis, whom I’ve seen described as a more malevolent version of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Q, has some sadistically funny interactions with Crichton. The human’s usual ability to keep psychological distance with his Earthly colloquialisms is undermined when Maldis returns them with the familiarity of someone who’s been reading Crichton’s mind for a long time—”No, [Zhaan] kicked my ass. And saved yours.”

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A moment between Zhaan and Crichton, where they telepathically communicate, refers back to a first season episode and is a nice bit to touch base with their relationship. This is also the first episode to make it really clear Chiana and D’Argo are attracted to each other and Crichton and Aeryn have a partly amusing, partly foreboding scene in the kitchen where Aeryn asserts how quickly she would get rid of some of the more useless members of Moya’s crew, like Chiana and Rygel. Maybe Aeryn needs some more contamination after all.

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. . .

This entry is part of a series I’m writing on Farscape for the show’s 20th anniversary. My previous reviews can be found here (episodes are in the order intended by the show’s creators rather than the broadcast order):

Season One:

Episode 1: Pilot
Episode 2: I, E.T.
Episode 3: Exodus from Genesis
Episode 4: Throne for a Loss
Episode 5: Back and Back and Back to the Future
Episode 6: Thank God It’s Friday Again
Episode 7: PK Tech Girl
Episode 8: That Old Black Magic
Episode 9: DNA Mad Scientist
Episode 10: They’ve Got a Secret
Episode 11: Till the Blood Runs Clear
Episode 12: Rhapsody in Blue
Episode 13: The Flax
Episode 14: Jeremiah Crichton
Episode 15: Durka Returns
Episode 16: A Human Reaction
Episode 17: Through the Looking Glass
Episode 18: A Bug’s Life
Episode 19: Nerve
Episode 20: The Hidden Memory
Episode 21: Bone to be Wild
Episode 22: Family Ties

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Season Two:

Episode 1: Mind the Baby
Episode 2: Vitas Mortis
Episode 3: Taking the Stone
Episode 4: Crackers Don’t Matter

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