The Wonders I’ve Seen: 2×01, “Mind the Baby”

“You want to have a midlife crisis? Fine. Ditch the firm, head off to Maui, shack up with a supermodel. But you do not get to keep the Porsche!”

The set-up for “Mind the Baby” is pretty similar to the season one finale: the crew (or part of it) is stuck in the asteroid field around the Gammak base, surveilled by Scorpius, and needs to find a way out. But where in “Family Ties,” the combination of Scorpius and an unnavigable field created a pressure cooker situation, in the season premiere, it’s more of an afterthought. Not that the characters aren’t worried about Scorpius, but that’s not what the plot and character dynamics primarily revolve around. Instead, everyone is worried about Talyn.

There’s something beautiful about how fully Farscape commits to the idea of Leviathans as people. In season one, having a pregnant ship was a great plot contrivance and an expression of the show’s irreverent approach to biology. But now, Moya and Talyn are simply characters who express themselves a little differently from the rest of the cast. There’s nothing irreverent about the Talyn plotline; it’s a tragedy. The story of a child kidnapped from his mother before he could bond with her is compelling and recognizable. This is the Uncharted Territories’ answer to The Face on the Milk Carton.

All of which is to say that although “Family Ties” was basically just a series of emotional conversations justified by a single plot thread, the plot of “Mind the Baby” is fundamentally character-driven. Sure, Scorpius is still there—but it’s the things that Talyn, Moya, Crais, Aeryn, and John do in reaction to his presence that make the episode.

Because of that, “Mind the Baby” is full of fascinating character interactions. The tense partnership between Aeryn and Crais brings shades of personality to both characters that are new, or at least, newly deepened: Crais appears, at least on the surface, to be questioning his Peacekeeper training even as he violently takes a child from his mother, and Aeryn is experimenting with forgiveness and wondering whether her capacity for change could extend to other Peacekeepers.

Meanwhile, Aeryn’s decisions cause overt conflict between her, D’Argo, and John, and while that’s not a new dynamic, there’s something kind of interesting about these three characters fighting with the baseline understanding that they’re all on the same side. In season one, Aeryn and D’Argo and John and D’Argo and even Aeryn and John occasionally came into conflict because of their suspicion of each other. Now, even when they’re screaming at each other, they trust the others’ motivations.

Even characters who aren’t particularly active in the plot get interesting character dynamics to play. With half the crew missing, Zhaan withdrawn deep into the Delvian Seek, and Moya distracted by the loss of her child, Chiana has to step up to try to keep things running and the crew out of danger. She’s only partially effective at it, and is obviously intensely relieved when Crichton shows back up to relieve her of duty, but it’s still a role that we’ve never seen her in. That she’s willing to take it on at all tells us something new about her.

Then, of course, there’s Zhaan herself, who has clearly gone through some shit since we last saw her. Zhaan always walks a strange razor’s edge of pacifism vs. violence and spirituality vs. pragmatism and “Mind the Baby” sees her deep into the pacificism and spirituality side. Both Chiana and Crichton try to pull her back out into the real world, but it’s ultimately Aeryn who reminds her that while she’s praying, the people she’s praying for need her with them. The scene is a neat encapsulation of both Aeryn’s guiding principles and Zhaan’s defining conflict. It’s a great reminder that Farscape has such a deep bench of interesting characters that putting any two of them together can lead to interesting results.

The actual logistics of the episode’s plot—where is Scorpius, how do various characters get from point A to point B, what’s the plan for getting out of the asteroid field—sometimes get a little muddled as the show maneuvers to get the characters into the same place. But the central conflict is clear and compelling, and the characters shine.

Random Bits

  • I love John and D’Argo arguing about Rock Paper Scissors, but I love D’Argo playing Rock Paper Scissors with himself even more.

  • The scene where D’Argo first wakes up is really effectively directed and acted—the close quarters and impeded camera view, and John and D’Argo’s nearly overlapping speech, really convey how confused and tense the whole thing is.

  • Weird alien biology: When Crichton comes back to Moya, Chiana leaps several meters into the air to hug him.

  • I’ve always taken this line to be a reference to D’Argo’s age, though it could just be meaningless repartee: “Besides, if I die, you can eat me.” “You don’t look ripe to me.”

  • “As John once said, ‘I would rather go down on a swing.’”

  • “And how many times have you and I been close?” “Just the once.” “No, not that kind of close.”

  • “Do spaceships have a word for ‘chutzpah’?”

  • “I’m just an ignorant warrior who believes that love means you’re willing to fight and die for your fellow living beings.”

  • “There are always choices, Aeryn.”
Spoilers

This episode was originally supposed to air second, with a (slightly different) version of “Dream a Little Dream” airing as the season premiere. Moving “Mind the Baby” into the premiere slot was a very, very, very good call, but it does mean that there are a lot of references to the plot of “Dream a Little Dream,” without any attempt to explain them at all. It’s both confusing and kind of cool.

This is our first sighting of Scorpius’s brain-cooling rods! Very exciting.

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