The Wonders I’ve Seen: 2×04, “Crackers Don’t Matter”

“Humans are SUPERIOR!”

I love “Crackers Don’t Matter” because outside of “We’re So Screwed,” it has maybe Farscape’s most direct title. The crackers don’t matter thematically, but they also literally don’t matter—they’re a MacGuffin that does nothing except exist for the characters to fight over. Similarly, T’Raltixx doesn’t matter. His plans and motivations don’t matter. The characters’ rapid descent into paranoia, violence, and lunacy is the only thing that matters; every other part of the episode exists to justify that.

The point of “Crackers Don’t Matter” is to have fun with the premise. It does some character and plot work along the way, but unlike, say, last week’s “Taking the Stone,” that work is entirely incidental to the episode. The story doesn’t really bother with a slow-growing sense of something being not right; from pretty much minute one, people are sniping at each other, and D’Argo force-feeds Rygel crackers at the 10-minute mark. From that point on, it’s a cascade of scheming, backstabbing, gun-shooting chaos. Farscape wants to get to the good stuff as quickly as possible.

And the good stuff is really good! The performances are incredibly energetic and committed; every character has their own whiny, irritated voice, many of which we’ve never heard before. The writing is instantly memorable, as the endless list of quotes at the bottom of this review testifies to. The directing is—well, okay, it probably overuses the tilting camera effect, but look, they’re going for it, pulling out every possible effect to make the camerawork feel off-putting, including a lengthy monologue in which John makes direct eye contact with the camera.

If there’s a problem to be found in the episode, it’s that it maybe gets too dark, in places, for a story that’s entirely about exploring a premise. Crichton threatening Chiana is uncomfortable, and it’s obviously meant to be uncomfortable. It’s there in the grand Farscapian tradition of exploring aspects of tropes that other shows aren’t willing to; in a ship full of people hopped up on violence-inducing alien mind rays, yeah, sexual violence might become a concern. But because the episode never really says anything meaningful about the events within it—even the downer ending is kind of tacked on—that scene just sort of hangs there, being dark to no purpose other than being dark. D’Argo and Rygel’s fractured relationship gets more attention than John and Chiana’s.

That said, “Crackers Don’t Matter” is justifiably considered a classic episode by a lot of fans. In many ways, this is Farscape at its most essential. It’s funny; it’s dark; it pushes way past what most shows would do with a similar conceit. Despite the fact that the characters are all losing it, it’s deeply tuned into their existing dynamics and characterizations. “Humans are superior,” delivered sarcastically, could be the show’s tagline.

Random Bits

  • When the episode opens, everyone is already feeling the effects of T’Raltixx, but because our primary filter for those effects is Crichton, who’s been acting weird and paranoid and irritable for episodes, it takes a couple of minutes to become obvious.

  • I like that although Zhaan spends most of the episode photogasming, when she does talk, it’s clear that she’s irritable and judgment-impaired just like everyone else—it’s just that the high from the light is compensating.

  • Two brushed-past moments from this episode that I adore: Chiana feeding John a cracker in the cold open, and Aeryn eating cracker dust out of her cleavage during John’s speech.

  • How exactly am I meant to believe that Crichton knocked Aeryn out between scenes?

  • “While vaguely concerned about you, I’m much more interested in how this will affect Moya.”

  • “You know, I was only trying to BE POLITE!”

  • “I’m only judging by my experience with you, but I’ve never seen such a deficient species.”

  • “Where’s my damn ice cream?”

  • “Did you kill Zhaan?”

  • “Next time you’ll be a crouton, Crichton!”

  • “I hate it when villains quote Shakespeare.”

  • “Why don’t you make another speech, you self-important, deficient little man!”

  • “Nobody… has margaritas… with pizza!”

  • “I got great eyes, they’re better than 20/20, and they’re BLUE!”

  • “Smells like puke.” “I pre-digested it to increase its potency.” “It’s PUKE?”
Spoilers

I don’t really have anything to say about this, other than that the effect is so cool that I totally understand why they did it, but it’s worth mentioning that up until this episode, the writers had no clue about the Scorpius neural clone plotline. They added it because they loved the dynamic of having Scorpius follow John around in this episode.

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Please remember to tag spoilers in the comments!

Next Monday, May 31, the crew watches some old home movies, in 2×05, “The Way We Weren’t.”