The potential complications from Aeryn’s past as a Peacekeeper finally come to the fore in an excellent episode of Farscape. The crew of Moya find the seemingly simple moral dichotomy of oppressor versus oppressed becomes much thornier in the reality of personal relationships.
Season 2, Episode 6: The Way We Weren’t
This was the first episode to be written by Naren Shankar who’d previously worked on Star Trek: The Next Generation and who nowadays executive produces and writes for The Expanse. You can see in this Farscape episode a moral complexity similar to that which distinguishes the best episodes of The Expanse.
Digging around on Moya, Chiana (Gigi Edgley) uncovers surveillance tapes from years ago. They reveal Moya’s original Pilot was not the current fellow voiced by Lani Tupu but a female member of the same species voiced by Melissa Jaffar, the actress who would go on to play the regular character Noranti in season three. Female Pilot is swiftly executed by order of Crais (also Lani Tupu) and among the Peacekeeper soldiers who carry out the order is a young Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black).
(This is a tough episode to pull useful screenshots from, there are so many close-ups).
All the former prisoners—Zhaan (Virginia Hey), Rygel (Jonathan Hardy), and D’Argo (Anthony Simcoe)—are enraged, though D’Argo later seems to be a little more understanding. Chiana is the only one to point out they’d known all along Aeryn was a Peacekeeper and what did they think she was doing? It’s a small moment for Chiana but it makes sense given her background in a repressive culture where feelings and attitudes are forcibly regulated.
But it’s different to see direct evidence of Aeryn harming a member of the crew, not just someone like a member of the crew. When Aeryn says, not in defence but in explanation, that she never even realised this was the same ship—she’d carried out assignments on dozens like Moya—it hardly seems to make it better.
Aeryn explains to Crichton (Ben Browder) how rigidly defined every person’s role is among the Peacekeepers. A subplot told in flashback shows Aeryn falling for an officer named Velorek (Alex Dimitriades) who, like Crichton in the series première, had told her she could be “more” than a Peacekeeper—he sees she has the rare innate ability to look outside the box of Peacekeeper social engineering. More than an insight into Aeryn’s character, though, it explains why she can’t let herself off the hook. Claudia Black plays the character’s torment very well.
Of course, Moya’s current Pilot gets ahold of the footage thanks to Rygel who hopes to use the deed as a bargaining chip one day. A lot of references are made to the season one episode “DNA Mad Scientist”—Pilot’s rage at Aeryn is, as he says, even greater because the two of them share a connexion from Aeryn receiving some of Pilot’s DNA in that episode. But also, both Aeryn and Crichton recall how D’Argo, Zhaan, and Rygel had torn off one of Pilot’s arms to use for barter. Pilot had been upset and resistant but ultimately accepted it as part of his role as a servant. Now he unreservedly wants to see Aeryn dead or at least off the ship. He grabs her by the throat and lifts her off the ground, a startling moment for such a normally passive character.
Crichton surmises there must be more to this anger than what Aeryn had done and so indeed it turns out—Pilot’s rage at Aeryn is the long repressed anger at himself for being party to the replacement of the old Pilot. Whether he deserves to feel any guilt is tortuously unclear. The dynamic between Pilot and Aeryn in this episode yields some incredible moments.
. . .
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):
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