Farscape: S01E14: Jeremiah Crichton
A bit of background before the overview: the title of this episode is taken from the 1972 movie Jeremiah Johnson, about a disaffected cowboy who seeks to hide himself in the mountains of Utah and lives off the land, only to run afoul of the Indian tribe indigenous to the area.
As the show opens, it is apparent that John Crichton is having a very bad day. Nothing is going right for him, and his so-called crewmates aren’t helping matters. Moya’s rapidly advancing pregnancy is making all of her systems very “touchy,” and while pregnancy has been known to have that effect on many females, the rest of the crew either blames John for the problems, or they act very patronizing to the “silly human.” Needless to say, all the condescension puts John in a very bad frame of mind, and he storms off Moya to take a spin in his module, with the idea of getting some “space” between him and the other Moyans. Unfortunately, one of Moya’s touchy systems causes her to starburst, leaving John stranded alone in the middle of the Uncharted Territories.
Luckily for John, he is nothing if not resourceful, and he has managed to land on a tropical paradise called Acquara. The local villagers – including a very pretty girl named Lishala — who happens to be the daughter of the tribe’s chief, have befriended him. John has seemingly settled into the rather idyllic life of a villager, and gone more or less completely native.
Back on Moya, the rest of the crew has been searching for John along a reverse trajectory of their starburst. They have been searching each likely planet they come across for a quarter of a cycle, which is apparently starting to wear on their nerves. Zhaan coldly informs the rest of the crew that whatever happened to John is his own fault, and he shouldn’t have left Moya. An interesting point of view from someone who needed John to pull her back from the brink of madness not two episodes ago (Rhapsody in Blue). D’Argo counters that all of them drove John to his actions, but Zhaan feels that what is driving them is the guilt in their hearts, and not rationality. D’Argo disagrees with this assessment, so Zhaan turns to Aeryn, who has been quietly listening to the bickering. Unfortunately for Zhaan’s temper, Aeryn agrees that they should keep looking for John – for now. After Zhaan sweeps out in pique, Aeryn tells D’Argo that they may have to eventually accept that John has met his destiny. D’Argo responds, “Then I will wait for you to tell me when to abandon the search – when we abandon Crichton.”
Down on Acquara, John’s presence as a very welcome guest in the Grandier’s (the village’s chief) hut has apparently created a bit of a situation. Not only has John seemingly become the same status as the Grandiers best warriors, he has also inadvertently stepped between the lovely Lishala and the proud young warrior who loves her, Rokon. In addition, the Grandier does not seem adverse to the idea of a match between Lishala and Crichton (who is much less enthusiastic).
The Grandier’s partiality does not go unremarked by Rokon’s mother, Neera. She is the head of a religious caste, the Priestans, and she has big plans to expand her base of power through her son and his alliance with Lishala. Neera tells her son in no uncertain terms: “You will do whatever is necessary to ensure that no one stands between you and our family’s destiny. Do you understand?!” Rokon stalks off, but it is apparent that his mother’s forcefulness has made an impression on him. Neera is obviously a force with which to be reckoned.
D’Argo and Rygel have attempted to mount a rescue operation, but their transport pod has lost all power, and in fact they more or less crashed on the planet. In addition, their communication with Moya has ended – something is draining all power to their technological devices. Rygel takes the opportunity to take a nap in Crichton’s belongings, and D’Argo strides off to find the missing John.
Zhaan and Aeryn are alarmed by the loss of contact with the landing party, and Zhaan wants to jet down to the planet’s surface and rescue everyone. Aeryn feels they should attempt to gather more information before they head down, but Zhaan keeps arguing with her. Aeryn finally snaps, “You were a lot more agreeable as a peace-loving priest!” Zhaan is annoyed by this comment, and tells her that her reasons for leaving the Seek are none of Aeryn’s business. It seems there is some tension between the female contingent of Moya’s crew. They finally agree to try and figure out what is causing the power loss, realizing that if they can’t rescue Rygel, D’Argo, and John, they’re all they have left. Neither seems particularly enthralled by the realization.
After John leaves the Grandier’s hut, Rokon and some of his friends ambush him. It is not clear whether they plan to kill him, but they are definitely going to beat the crap out of him at the very least. D’Argo comes upon the group, and leaps to Crichton’s defense. The sight of the huge tentacled guy waving his sword around scares off Rokon and his thugs – especially since D’Argo turns the tables and beats the crap out of them. D’Argo is rather shocked by John’s demeanor, and, calling upon all of his famed Luxan diplomatic skills, says, “You smell like dren. You look like dren.” Which, it must be admitted, is nothing less than the truth.
Despite D’Argo’s tactful greeting, Crichton takes offense, and tells D’Argo to get the hell away from him. D’Argo is surprised by this attitude, since they came back to rescue him. Crichton reiterates that D’Argo should leave and go back where he came from. Crichton also tells him that he would rather have been beaten up than helped by D’Argo.
Rokon goes to the Grandier and complains about being beaten up by D’Argo. Neera, the evil Priestan, takes the opportunity to drop a bit of poison in the Grandier’s ear by telling him that Crichton infects them like a parasite, and has brought evil into their midst.
D’Argo follows Crichton back to the module and campsite, where Rygel is snoozing. Crichton wakes Rygel up and tells him to get up and get out. “This isn’t the happy reunion I had planned on,” cries Rygel. Crichton reveals his belief that the Moyans abandoned him, that they deliberately starburst away to leave him behind and stranded. D’Argo informs John that they came looking for him, and that they have been searching for him for a quarter of a cycle.
The crew back on Moya has managed to create a map of sorts, but it isn’t detailed enough for their purposes. They decide they need to refine their search by isolated the most highly developed organisms on the planet. In order to get some power to the castaways, they decide to develop and send a shielded power source.
Lishala comes to ask John about D’Argo, and after D’Argo explains that John had been attacked, she tells them they need to go speak with the Grandier and explain to him what had happened. on the way to see the Grandier, D’Argo, John and Lishala are ambushed a second time by Rokon and his friends, who wisely use nets to capture them and immobilize them. The thugs return to Crichton’s camp, and gather up his possessions – including Rygel who concealed himself in a flight bag.
Crichton and D’Argo are taken before the Grandier for judgement of their crime: they are charged with assault on the personal guards of the Grandier. The penalty is death, but the Grandier is no one’s fool, and realizes that something is up. He commutes their sentence to that of hard labor at some other camp. Unfortunately, the Evil Priestan Neera takes advantage of the situation to continue her venom drip. She tries to force the Grandier to stick with the original penalty. This leads to a few “words” between the Grandier and the Priestan. It seems as if everything is about to go badly for our heroes, when Rygel groans. He is freed from the flight bag – to be confronted with the sight of the villagers dropping to their knees and chanting “Aluay Matata! Aluay Matata!” Obviously, this is quite a stroke for Rygel’s ego, and he basks in the glory of his newfound godhood. As Rygel beams over the crowd, Crichton sees that a group of rocks, which had seemed to be just a random set of boulders, are actually an idol of a Hynerian head.
Rygel gets the hang of the villagers’ lifestyle quite readily, especially since the Grandier has given him his hut, and young village lovelies to attend to his every whim.
The crew back on Moya has managed to isolate the village on their topographical map, as well as an odd area that they believe represents the focal point of the power drain. Although Aeryn has been attempting to create a shielded power source to send to the planet, she doesn’t know enough science, and rather crestfallenly tells Zhaan that she needs Crichton to explain things to her. By this time, both Aeryn and Zhaan seem to have gained a new respect for Crichton and his abilities.
Back on the planet, the villagers have been planning a huge celebration to commemorate Rygel’s triumphant return, during which they expect him to fulfill his part in the sacred prophecy. Rygel asks Neera for a copy of the villagers’ sacred text, the Timballah, which can only be read by the Priestans. It turns out to be written in ancient Hynerian, which Rygel is unsure he can read. After Neera leaves, D’Argo rather wonderingly asks Rygel how he knew there was a sacred text. Rygel, ever cynical, responds, “Where were you brought up? Every religion’s got one!” This is a truly rare and splendid example of Rygel making himself useful in trying circumstances.
Meanwhile, John is in the process of straightening up his camp from its pillaging, when Lishala comes to him in tears. Her heart is breaking because the prophecy foretells that the Masata – the villager’s savior – will rise up and lead them to the light. This will have the effect of causing the Acquarans to leave the planet, whether or not they desire to do so. She also tells John that if Rygel won’t – or can’t – fulfill the prophecy, he will be put to death by torture – and so will D’Argo and John.
Once the celebration begins, we see many of the villagers sacrificing their belongs in a huge bonfire in anticipation of the Masata rising. Rygel has managed to translate a bit of the Timballah, and tells D’Argo the story.
Rygel X had sent out the ancestors of the villagers as colonists to expand the might and reach of the Hynerian Empire. Unbeknownst to them, a device had been sent with them that deliberately disabled their machinery and technology. The reason was that they would then be unaffected by and ignorant of other cultures. I am not sure why the Hynerian Emperor would want to do that, but maybe he was having a bad day or something. It would have been nice if this point had been explained a bit better. At any rate, after perusing the Timballah, Rygel is adamant in his belief that the prophecy is a metaphor, and that the Acquarans aren’t looking for a savior, but for a leader to guide them to a better way of life (presumably leaving the Grandier out in the cold!) Crichton and D’Argo point out that the villagers are destroying their possessions, and that the Acquarans are expecting him to rise up and part the heavens for them. Rygel, very taken aback, stammers that he can’t part the heavens – just as Neera the Evil Priestan walks into the hut. She has obviously overheard everything, and quickly backs out of the hut, smirking ominously.
The crew on Moya find the bio-signatures of Crichton, D’Argo and Rygel, and launch their probe at that location.
After Neera backs out of the hut, Rygel steps out and falteringly addresses the villagers. They stare at him bemusedly. Neera, never one to let an opportunity go to waste, points out that the Timballah plainly says that the Masata will rise up and lead the villagers into the light, and to get on with it! This speech inflames the villagers, and they begin chanting “Rise up and lead us to the light!” Rygel croaks out, “I… I can’t!” Causing the villagers to swarm over him, reviling him as a false god. D’Argo and Crichton make tracks and flee during the confusion, leaving Rygel behind. John tries to go back and rescue Rygel, but D’Argo prevents him, reminding him that they can’t help Rygel if they are captured as well.
Just then, the probe drops down in the water next to D’Argo and Crichton. They open up the casing and find the topographical map that Aeryn and Zhaan compiled. Crichton and D’Argo realize that the women-folk have sent them coordinates for locating the device that drains their power.
The Acquarans are preparing to execute Rygel, when Crichton and D’Argo stride up and reveal their knowledge of the power-draining device. They also tell the villagers that they have been betrayed and lied to – not only by the Hynerian Dominar who sent them, but also by the Priestan class, who desired to further their own power. The villagers look over at Neera, aghast. Obviously believing that the best defense is a good offense, she accuses Crichton and D’Argo of sacrilege, and urges Rokon to kill Crichton.
Rokon is not really a bad guy, and it must be assumed that he knows his mom pretty well but is perhaps a bit too influenced by her to just shrug off what she says. Rokon demands that Crichton tell them where this device is, but unfortunately, Crichton can’t tell him the exact location, only that it is nearby. He pleads for a chance to find it, but this reasonable request sends Rokon into a rage, and he attacks Crichton.
Crichton is knocked over by the attack, and, from his sprawled vantage, sees a pair of Hynerian-sized handprints at the base of the Masata idol. He quickly recalls one of the variations of the prophecy he has heard, “By the hands of the Masata shall we rise up and lead us to the light.”
Meanwhile, Rokon is continuing to beat on Crichton, attempting to kill him. Crichton dashes past Rokon and grabs Rygel, pressing his hands into the little Hynerian handprints on the idol. The idol breaks up, and a column of light rises from it like a fountain of fireworks. Suddenly the Moyan’s tech begins to work again! The villagers drop to their knees once more to worship Rygel – who tells them he isn’t their deity, but he is their Sovereign. Neera looks very unhappy as the Grandier’s guards surround her.
The villager give the Moyans lots of gifts and provisions, and send them on their way, glad to be able to stay on their beloved Acquara after all. The Moyans are sad to leave, but realize that their destiny lies elsewhere. They leave, with a few lingering glances at Paradise.
Comments: OK, this was really a fairly mediocre episode of Farscape. The acting was splendid as usual, and Acquara really looked like a tropical paradise, but the back-story of the villager’s plight didn’t make much sense, and Neera was just too cardboard villain for words. She could have been really interesting if her motives had been a bit subtler than greed for power, as could have been the conflict between the Grandier and the Priestans. This episode was basically a yawner in most ways, but we did get to see some dawning (if not grudging) respect for Crichton and his abilities, as well as some good use made of Rygel and his abilities. It was also interesting to me that D’Argo is the one who stood up for John, rather than Aeryn. I rate this episode 2/5.
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