Never. Swallow. A dentic!
If “I, E.T.” was Farscape establishing its Planet-of-the-Week framework, “Exodus from Genesis” lays out the boundaries for a Farscape Ship-in-Trouble episode. Moya has been infested by a swarm of extremely large bugs; the temperature is rising precipitously, endangering Aeryn’s life; and, oh yeah, a Peacekeeper Marauder is trailing them.
Despite being a firm believer that Farscape is best watched in production order, I can understand why networks might have wanted this episode to air second. Because it’s a ship-in-trouble episode, it spends all of its time on board Moya, giving the viewer a chance to get to know the setting and the main cast. There’s not much time wasted even on the enemy; the major external threat, the Drak, is literally voiceless for most of the episode, and when it finally speaks, it does so through Zhaan.
When it comes to big ideas, trope subversions, and even just carrying an emotional or thematic throughline, “Exodus from Genesis” isn’t a particularly tight episode. There’s something there about first impressions and perspective—the Drax are a lower life form to John, John is a lower life form to Aeryn and D’Argo, and everyone gets to re-evaluate over the course of the episode—but for an episode that really wants to be about John proving himself and his worth to Aeryn and D’Argo, very little attention is paid to John’s increasing contributions over the course of the escalating crisis. He captures a bug, discovers two replicants, fights two replicants, and discovers the way to distinguish real crew members from fake crewmembers—and this is all before he personally brokers the truce with the Drak.
Not that there’s anything wrong with John being competent—he’s a smart guy—but this is an episode that’s ostensibly about his competence and how it serves as a mark of his status within the crew, and the narrative kind of loses track of that, in between John’s conversation with Zhaan at the beginning and his conversation with Aeryn at the end. Somewhere along the way, John gained a certain measure of Aeryn’s respect, but it’s hard to say where, exactly. Maybe the cumulative effect of all of John’s competent actions is the point, but again, that doesn’t make for a particularly tight episode. Especially because, for a long stretch in the middle, the whole thing gets distracted by an argument about whether or not John will euthanize Aeryn, if she should fall prey to heat delirium.
“Exodus from Genesis” is perhaps best approached less as a discrete story than as a series of scenes about a group of people slowly getting used to each other. John is getting used to the Uncharted Territories, but he’s also getting used to Aeryn and D’Argo and Zhaan and Rygel, and they’re getting used to him, and to each other. Every conversation, every interaction, every problem overcome, in some way increases the characters’ familiarity and intimacy with each other and their environment.
Under this lens, Aeryn’s heat delirium fits much better into the episode. No, it has very little to do with John’s competence or lack thereof; it’s Zhaan, not John, who cares for Aeryn when she’s delirious. But the delirium makes Aeryn vulnerable, in both a physical and an emotional sense, to her crewmates for the first time. It opens up new avenues of insight into Peacekeeper culture. It sparks deeper conversations between other crewmates, particularly D’Argo and John, who argue over whether D’Argo even wants Aeryn to live at all. (I don’t know for sure, but I’d bet that this last is a European insert scene.)
Zhaan and John’s final conversation is also less a restatement of a neat theme—“Bugs! They might just be your friends!”—than it is two crewmates on the verge of becoming friends, feeling out each other’s perspectives on matters of philosophy and practicality. To the extent that there is a neat takeaway from their conversation, it’s “time and patience.” The ingredients anyone needs to get to know anything.
- It has never been more apparent than it is in this episode that Zhaan is a priestess. She counsels John, she encourages Rygel, she tends to Aeryn, she prays over the Drak. Zhaan is a character with a lot of facets, and not all of them are as gentle as the one that she shows in this episode—we’ve seen her be teasing and stern and suspicious in “Premiere,” and determined to the point of self-sacrifice in “I, E.T”—but this aspect of Zhaan is such a vital one.
- John using the Drak replicants to make the Peacekeeper commando think that he’s got self-duplicating powers is a very Crichton genre-savvy kind of move.
- This is, I believe, the first episode where we see Aeryn smile, and it’s really lovely.
- This is also the first of I believe three appearances of CGI Rygel in the series, and it’s really bad.
- The conversation between Pilot and Aeryn is another example of a nice scene which does accomplish some plot beats, but is largely just about bringing two characters into greater understanding of each other. “It is strange to be so close to a Peacekeeper I do not fear. That is a compliment.”
- “For what it is worth, the part of me that wants Aeryn to live is greater than the part of me that wants all Peacekeepers to die.”
- “That’s why Eddie Marx kicked your ass in the seventh grade. You fought fair!”
- “I am Rygel, 16th of my lineage, Dominar of the Hynerian Empire, at once your equal and your humble petitioner, requesting an audience.”
- “It’s just you and me.” “Actually, it is just me… and you.”
- “Easy now, just lean on me.” “I know I can.”
Dentic, yotz, fapoota, the ship is “hotter than squag,” Rygel would like some clothes of “cray-spun shimmer weave,” and the nest is “spitting out replicants like a Billian yard rat.”
Also, they slipped up, and multiple characters reference time in relation to “hours” throughout this episode. Boy, I hope somebody got fired for that blunder!
- John sends the Peacekeeper commandos back to Crais with the message that he’s a self-duplicating murder alien. It would’ve been neat if we’d seen some fallout from that, but I don’t think we ever do.
- This is the only time we see the terrace set until Peacekeeper Wars, and I always wished that we would’ve seen it more, because it’s so beautiful. I guess I can see why they didn’t use it again, though; it must have cost just a shocking number of CGI tokens.
Please remember to tag spoilers for future episodes in comments. And for those watching along, the next episode covered will be 1×04, “Throne for a Loss.”