The Wonders I’ve Seen: 2×08, “Dream a Little Dream”

“Trust me. I’m a lawyer.”

Is this the silliest episode of Farscape? We’ve got funny hats, Chiana taking speed, helium fart voices, and Chiana and Rygel doing their best Law & Order impression.

“Dream a Little Dream” was (in a slightly different form) the original planned season two premiere. You can see echoes of that version of the episode in its finished form: the fake-out cold open, the emphasis on Zhaan’s grief and confusion. The choice to move the episode to mid-season was, I think, an extremely good one, but it also makes the episode’s emotional stakes feel a little bit underwhelming. Zhaan is lost and afraid—but we know that her fears are unfounded.

Most of what Zhaan gets to do in this episode is sit in a cell and hallucinate people who we know are alive. The interactions we see are informative, if a little dated (the show has since basically dropped the Zhaan/D’Argo romance angle): John provides grounded and realistic counsel, Aeryn challenges her, D’Argo feeds her spiritual self. That all feels very in keeping with both the characters’ real dynamics and with how Zhaan probably thinks about them. Unfortunately, it’s not the most interesting thing to watch, because a) we already know a lot of this, b) none of the conversations are real, and c) it’s a lot of Zhaan sitting in a cell grieving people who we, again, know are alive.

Farscape can get away with truly weird and silly set-ups when the character work is compelling or storytelling is smart and unexpected. But because of the low stakes here, and because “lawyers sure are lawyerly” is not a particularly new trope, I spent a lot of time getting caught up in the details of Litigara. If 90% of the citizens are lawyers, how does society function?  They sure seem to have a lot of security guards—are the security guards also lawyers? Who produces the food that they eat? Who delivers goods? Who cleans up? Who takes care of their children? They’re really obsessed with laws, but who actually makes the laws, since they don’t have a government? How was the murdered reformer planning on implementing reforms? If almost the entire planet is lawyers, why are the lawyers we meet all so busy? These are all questions I probably wouldn’t ask of a more compelling episode, but here we are.

It’s not an episode without its charms, though. Chiana and Rygel hang out a lot, but we’ve never gotten to see them really work together for a common goal. The dynamic they present is a lot of fun—each, by turns, is the competent one holding the thing together, while the other falls to their baser instincts.

Similarly, it’s nice to see Zhaan getting to interact with Chiana and Rygel. Her dynamic with them is distinctly different than it is with the others on Moya. Zhaan views D’Argo, Aeryn, and John as equals, but as she says in this episode, she sees Chiana and Rygel as children. (This despite the fact that, as far as I can tell from various clues laid in other episodes, Chiana and D’Argo are both basically adolescents.) “Dream a Little Dream” not only allows that dynamic to come to the forefront, it lets Zhaan reevaluate, a little, when Chiana and Rygel come through for her.

So let’s go ahead and chalk “Dream a Little Dream” up as “fine, I guess.”

Random Bits

  • I liked the reference to last episode’s keedva.

  • It always interests me that Chiana’s tears are black. I think we’re meant to see it as their natural color, and not eye makeup mixing with the tears.

  • “If I may be honest, John, most of the time I have no idea what you’re saying.”

Please remember to tag spoilers for future episodes in the comments!

I’m taking next week off, so come back on Monday, July 5, when the crew of Moya jumps off their bodies and moves their minds, in 2×09, “Out of Their Minds.”