Of Kings and Chemicals

Being a Dominar isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and two very different prison experiences are contrasted in the fourth episode of Farscape. It’s a thoughtful, exciting episode with mud, chemical addiction, incidental spooning, and more mud.

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Season 1, Episode 4: Throne for a Loss

Again, the original broadcast order is different from the proper episode order. If you’re watching on Amazon Prime, which has the episodes in broadcast order, you can find the proper order on Wikipedia here. “Throne for a Loss” makes more sense as a follow-up to “Exodus from Genesis” because this way we see Rygel (Jonathan Hardy) go from a victory and personal assertion of his identity as a ruler to being captured and held for ransom because of that identity.

Thinking they’re meeting some traders, the crew of Moya are instead met with an attack by the Tavlecs, a group of pirates who specialise in kidnapping intergalactic royalty. Rygel finds himself buried up to his armpits in mud in a cell next to another ruler, someone who looks a bit like Cthulhu.

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Meanwhile, one of the Tavlecs is held prisoner aboard Moya where Zhaan (Virginia Hey) takes charge of him and shows him a very different experience. This is where we get to see Zhaan as a priest and we get to see how her maturity distinguishes her from the other characters. While Crichton (Ben Browder), Aeryn (Claudia Black), and D’Argo (Anthony Simcoe) spend the episode bickering about how to save Rygel—or whether they should even bother—Zhaan conducts a carefully coordinated rehabilitation of the Tavlec boy who’s chemically addicted to a device mounted on the forearm which functions as gun, shield, and stimulant.

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The boy writes her off as “soft and weak” to which she somewhat amusingly replies that she is soft but by no means weak—in fact, she displays greater than average physical strength, something that allows her to take control of the situation at any moment.This strength allows her to pick and choose when to administer her soft side. When he tries to shock her by showing his naked body, she replies by showing him hers, divesting the situation of the tension of repressed sexuality and also bringing another dimension to the show’s blurred boundaries between psychological and biological.

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Zhaan also uses moments of calculated trust, allowing the prisoner moments of freedom, to provide an environment that might allow a personality free from chemical addiction to emerge. Her methods have mixed results but this thread in the plot keeps you with her perspective and I find myself invested in her success or failure.

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In the more action oriented parts of the episode, chemistry between Crichton and Aeryn is starting to become more obvious. I was amused to see how many times the two hide from gun shots in ways that just happen to look like cuddling.

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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:

Episode 1: Pilot
Episode 2: I, E.T.
Episode 3: Exodus from Genesis

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