Farscape: S01E16: A Human Reaction
Crichton is sitting in his quarters making one of the taped journey logs he is keeping as a record for his Dad. He is somewhat pensive and despondent, because he found his first grey hair, and he fears it is a sign that he is growing old and alone out in the vastness of space. Just as he is settling into a bit of moping, Pilot contacts him and tells him he should come to the bridge immediately. When he gets there, he meets up with Chiana and Rygel, and Pilot tells them a wormhole just appeared out of nowhere on his screens. John watches the wormhole writhe around for a couple of seconds, and suddenly they all see a small blue planet at the end of the funnel. Chiana goes so far as to say “Totally unimpressive,” but John suddenly realizes that the insignificant speck Rygel and Chiana are mocking is Earth!
John immediately goes to Aeryn with the news, and tells her he is getting ready to go – he can’t wait because of the wormhole’s instability. He tries to convince her to go with him, but she adamantly refuses, saying she’s not certain she’d belong on earth, or with John, presumably. Pilot breaks in at that point, reminding John that the wormhole is continuing to collapse, and John leaves Aeryn without a backwards glance.
John pilots his module to the lip of the wormhole, then hesitates to enter. The other Moyans convince him that he must enter the wormhole, or he’ll regret it forever. They are all a bit envious of his having found his home, but happy for him as well, and are sad to see him go. John thanks the rest of the crew and dives into the wormhole, which causes him to vanish from Moya’s sensors.
After a harrowing trip through the funnel, Crichton crashes on a beautiful beach. He steps out of the module and walks on the beach for a few steps in utter joy, finally flinging himself on his back and yelling “Helllooooooo Skyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!” and laughing like a lunatic.
Eventually, he hikes back up the beach and asks a girl he comes across if he is in Australia, but she doesn’t answer him, instead staring rather quizzically behind him. John turns around and sees a helicopter and an armed group of soldiers all dressed in black. Rather than fleeing like a sensible person, he calls out and asks them where they’ve been. This prompts one of the soldiers (this one dressed in a white shirt to differentiate him from the other soldiers), to shoot him in the leg with a tranquilizer dart. Shocked and unbelieving, John finally gets the idea that this is not a friendly welcoming committee, and starts to run away, but all too late. He makes it a few yards down the beach before he collapses and is captured and taken to a military facility.
In brief, surreal bursts of consciousness, we see the horror that ensues – indeed we are more or less invited to participate in it! This was an excellent, if horrifying and nightmarish sequence, drawing the viewer into what’s happening to Crichton, with choppy and fragmented glimpses of the medical procedures to which he’s subjected. We also see him unconscious and terribly helpless, while masked, anonymous medical personnel do things to him in white, and utterly sterile rooms. It is clear that to whoever has control of him John is nothing more than a specimen to be used and controlled as they see fit.
After being subjected to numerous medical indignities, John is interrogated by the man who shot him, Wilson. Wilson is the head of the facility, and he is absolutely positive that John’s presence is some kind of threat – that he has some kind of hidden agenda other than simply returning home. John is unceremoniously locked in a cleanroom this is open to observation and has no privacy, and is photographed and taped. Wilson is a perfect example of the banality of Evil; his blandness and seeming unflappability mask a streak of icy-cold ruthlessness that is clearly exposed during Crichton’s interrogations.
Wilson also learns about John’s translator microbes and subjects John to a translation test. He apparently does not believe that they are not some sort of plague sent by the aliens to take out Earth. After the twelfth translation effort, John quietly refuses to answer any more questions until he gets some answers. And with that, he rolls his chair back and says nothing further. Wilson just stares at him impassively.
In the meantime, Crichton is going stir-crazy from boredom. All of the magazines and reading material he has are all seven months old, which is how long he’s been away. It seems the folks who have imprisoned him don’t want him to find out any current events. The guard, Cobb, can’t even tell him who won the Super Bowl! (Although, realistically, neither could I, and I live in the U.S.)
Meanwhile, Wilson appears to be looking at sketches of Rygel, apparently based on descriptions John provided. Just then, a very irate older man plows through the armed security detail, who try and keep him out by telling him that he can’t enter this restricted area. “Back off, soldiers!” he snaps, obviously uncowed. Hoe then confronts Wilson: “I’ve waited two days. I want to see him – I want to see my son!” Wilson tries to explain that John has alien microbes in his brain stem, and that his module has been altered by alien technology, but John’s Dad (Jack) is unimpressed. Apparently in an effort to avoid an international incident, Wilson caves in and allows Jack to see his son.
John’s Dad enters the cleanroom, and John begs his father to get him out of his confinement. Before John can say anything else, his Dad counters, “What happened to you on your 10th birthday?” John seemingly doesn’t want to answer the question, and at first says he can’t remember, but after some paternal prodding, he thinks about it, and recalls the incident. His Dad, a famous test pilot, had been detained at work, and so missed John’s birthday. He arrived later, early in the morning, and they when fishing. Where, John’s Dad continues the story, Crichton caught the biggest bass he’d ever seen. “It was a trout Dad,” John corrects him, perhaps rolling his eyes a bit. With John’s bona fides established to their mutual satisfaction, the two men embrace and communicate via whispers (John’s cell is bugged for purposes of observation).
Apparently things on earth have been tense since John disappeared. The wormhole that sucked him up is still extant – providing a direct link to Earth. Needless to say, everyone is terrified of what might pop through. The problem is, no one has any idea how to close the wormhole. Jack promises to help John leave the cell, and leaves.
Eventually, Crichton is finally allowed his freedom, if under constant surveillance. While out, John sees a number of people that his Dad identifies as watching them. He also reveals that a global alliance was been set up to track the wormhole and to try to come up with some sort of solution to the problems it presents. John is key to this alliance, because he can tell the alliance about the wormhole itself, as well as what lies on the other side of it.
These two scenes between John and his Dad are poignant and revealing. Although there is an obvious bond of love and affection between the two, John apparently had a rather lonely childhood. At one point he tells his Dad that he (the father) now knows what it’s like to be afraid you’re never going to see a loved one again. He makes this comment without rancor, merely as a statement of fact. Perhaps because of his upbringing with enforced self-reliance, John seems to have learned early on that a certain mental and physical toughness is necessary for survival.
Back at the military installation, work is commencing on John’s module. Crichton had apparently met the technician examining it at some point in the past, and offers instructions and commentary on some of the modifications that have been made.
Just then, something pops through the wormhole! F-16s scramble to track down the UFO, and Wilson demands that John tell him what it is. All of his suspicions regarding John have been rekindled with a vengeance. John is unsure what the UFO is at first, but as the F-16s are preparing to fire on the craft, he realizes it is one of Moya’s transport pods. John begs Wilson to tell the F-16s to hold their fire, which he does, after a long, assessing look at John, who is very worked up by this point. After a bit, we see an unconscious D’Argo Aeryn and Rygel being wheeled in and installed in the same cell where John had been incarcerated.
After the Moyans wake up, they tell John that they had been worried about him. The wormhole had started to collapse and they lost contact with him. Aeryn decided to investigate, and D’Argo and Rygel joined her. Unfortunately, the wormhole sucked them in, and Aeryn was unable to escape from its pull. After they landed, they were tranquilized, leaving Rygel feeling very ill, and D’Argo and Aeryn upset and frightened. D’Argo reminds John that he vowed he would never be taken prisoner again, and John tells him he isn’t a prisoner (?!) and that Crichton will take care of all of them. Rygel reiterates that he feels terrible, and John leaves to get Rygel some medical attention.
In reality, John is very worried about the other Moyans. In a conversation with his Dad, John tells him that he trusts the other Moyans a lot more than he trusts Wilson. For the first time, John begins to look at his culture with an alien-eye view, and he doesn’t much like what he sees. John’s Dad seems to accept what John says at face value – that these people are John’s friends and he likes and trusts them.
Cobb interrupts this discussion to tell John that he is needed in the medical unit. When he arrives, he sees a neatly dissected Rygel lying in state on an operating table, still being “attended” by a doctor. Wilson appears at an observation window, with a rather sinister smirk.
None too pleased with the turn of events, John freaks out and hurls abuse at Wilson, pointing out that the people of Earth have practically blazed a trail to our planet, as well as leaving greeting cards for aliens. But now that they’re here, Crichton continues in a rage, Wilson is intent on abusing the very beings that could help us in so many ways. “Just take a step back and take a look at what you’re doing. You think about it!!” John growls in a cold fury. Wilson assures John coolly, “Don’t worry, I’ve thought of everything, Commander.”
John is left with the unenviable job of explaining to Aeryn and D’Argo that Rygel is dead, officially because of a reaction to the tranquilizer. D’Argo asks John what he thinks happened. At first, John tries to say that his beliefs on the matter are unimportant, but with D’Argo and Aeryn staring him straight in they eye, he can’’ bring himself to continue in that vein, and finally admits that he believes that Rygel was murdered. D’Argo and Aeryn refuse to accept any more mealy-mouthed phrases – they know Rygel was killed so he could be studied. D’Argo tells Crichton he will not be taken alive, and that he no longer trusts Crichton. At this point, John kneels in front of Aeryn, and starts to speak to her, but in a voice like a razor, she tells says, “You know, Crichton, Peacekeepers wouldn’t even kill their prisoners to study them.” (I personally have difficulty believing this, especially in light of events of a bit later on in Season 1 and early Season 2, but John seems to take it at face value). Both Aeryn and D’Argo tell John to go, and he does.
John tells his Dad that he gave his word to protect his friends, and asks his Dad for a favor. He asks Jack to pull in every favor from every person of influence he knows, and to let him or her know what is going on. Jack promises to do so, recognizing that John has come to some sort of personal decision regarding his friends. “Son, are you willing to die for those creatures in there?” He asks John incredulously. “I gave them my word, Dad,” is all John replies as he goes back inside.“
Entering the operating room, John sees an unconscious guard lying semi-concealed behind the operating table. He bends down to examine the body, when the lovely and lethal Aeryn Sun points a gun to his head, and asks where his loyalties lie. John tells her he’s on her side, and asks her to trust him and put down the gun. After a long couple of seconds, she does, and tells him that D’Argo was taken away, and when they came for her, she was ready for them.
While Aeryn takes out a guard, John sees Cobb sitting in front of a door, and engages him in conversation. At that point, Aeryn comes through the door, ready to shoot Cobb. John asks Cobb where D’Argo is, but Cobb smirks and tells him that D’Argo has been flown to another base. John points a gun at Cobb, who continues smirking and asks if Crichton is going to shoot him. It is clear that John is seriously considering it, but he finally settles for pistol-whipping him into unconsciousness. John takes Cobb’s badge, and he and Aeryn flee the base.
John leads Aeryn to a place that he and his Dad had stayed a year or so ago, which his Dad had told him to use as a safe house. When she finds this information out, Aeryn believes that Jack will betray them, but John reiterates that he trusts his Dad.
Later, we see John and Aeryn sitting in a bedroom, watching a thunderstorm and drinking beer. John apologizes to Aeryn for getting her involved in the events on Earth, and for getting her stuck on Moya, believing that she’s still be happy as a Peacekeeper if it weren’t for him. “Hmmm. I have a lot to blame you for,” she agrees, but with a smile, obviously quietly joking. She tells John she likes Earth, that it is very beautiful.
Sitting very closely on the bed next to Aeryn , John gets Aeryn to grudgingly admit that she was scared to join him on earth. She also tells John she won’t be taken alive. John agrees, and in a sublime and erotic scene, begins kissing her shoulder, her neck, and finally they tenderly and passionately kiss.
The next day, with a new change of clothes (this scene is great, if only to see Aeryn in a dress), and a new sense of purpose, they prepare to leave the safe house, when John’s Dad knocks on the door. Aeryn wants to search him, fearing betrayal, but Crichton refuses, repeating that he trusts his father. His Dad had come to tell him that he wasn’t able to pull in any favors, and that John and Aeryn need to leave as soon as possible to find someplace safe. John and his father day their good-byes, and he and Aeryn flee.
As they’re making their way across a plaza, John spies the girl he met on the beach right after he landed. He suddenly realizes that he knew this girl from high school. He sees another man he knew from his childhood, and remembers he used to drive his bike past the man’s house. At a newspaper stand, he picks up newspapers and magazines, and sees they’re all issues that were current when he left Earth. Meanwhile, as he’s explaining all this to Aeryn, his voice is getting louder and louder, until he’s finally shouting, and his behavior becomes more and more uncontrolled. Aeryn tries to calm him down and to get him to stop drawing attention to the two of them, but to no avail. Finally, John abandons Aeryn – apparently in the belief that she’s part of whatever is going on – and runs into a pool hall.
Once inside, Crichton realizes that he remembers the pool hall, and recognizes everyone inside. He frankly looks and sounds psychotic, and the people in the pool hall seem afraid of him, as he yells that he’s been here. He bursts into the men’s room, and shouts he’s also been there. But, he realizes, he’s never been one place, the ladies’ room – No Man’s Land. When he opens the door to the ladies’ room, he seems a pulsing orange sheet of light, and enters, to find his father sitting in a chair, in a sort of warehouse.
“Who are you?” John demands. His “Dad” proceeds to explain: everything John has seen has been from his memory. His friends from Moya were the only real elements – they had been investigating the wormhole, so the aliens decided to incorporate them into the scenario. As it turns out, D’Argo and Rygel are perfectly fit, if a trifle bored.
John doesn’t understand why the aliens would cause him the pain of believing his friend was dead. “We needed a Human Reaction, John,” his “Dad” replies simply. In a rage, John rips his “Dad’s” chest off, revealing stuff that looks like skeins of ground beef. The alien Dad is in face rather apologetic, and proceeds to show John why they had to go to the trouble of such an elaborate deception.
The aliens were part of a hive species, travelling the cosmos to find a place they could call home. Their members were dwindling, and they only have enough energy to make one final jump – to their new home. There are only a few planets they can live on, and all they want to do is coexist peacefully and rebuild their hives. Their ancient prophecies tell them that they will eventually find a home, but they are still looking. Unfortunately, they have yet to find what they would consider to be a welcome on any planet, and rather than risk their entire species on a poor reception, they decide to evaluate a species through the perceptions of one of its members, John in this case. John understands the deception, but seems resentful that his memories were stolen and used. However, he also seems sympathetic and compassionate to the plight of the aliens, and doesn’t seem to hold a grudge.
Crichton asks to see the alien’s actual form, and sees that the alien is some sort of insect-like being. They part on a rather ambiguous note, with the alien telling John that perhaps they would meet again, and John agreeing.
Comments: This was an excellent episode, even if it was a “dream” episode, with the military base and Wilson being truly nightmarish. I also liked the fact that for the first time, John makes a decision about where his priorities to the Moyans lie – when the chips are down, he chooses them, and not his own species. That was very powerful: regardless of the fact that his choice turned out not to be an actual choice, it is still psychologically valid. John knows now that his feelings for his friends are possibly the most important thing to him — possibly (probably) even more important than him having a home on Earth. This was a huge turning point for John. I also liked the John-Aeryn scene in the bedroom, but I am a hopeless romantic, what can I say.
Things I didn’t much like (or possibly didn’t understand): At what point did D’Argo and Rygel cease to be part of the experiment? Was Aeryn subjected to all the things John was up until the point he abandoned her in the plaza? It is made clear in later episodes that she was in fact with him in the bedroom scene, so she was with him for a good portion of the scenario, possibly in fear for her life the whole time. Pretty heavy stuff. D’Argo and Rygel on the other hand claim they have been treated well, so I am a bit confused about where the Moyans were, and when. The other thing I didn’t like about this episode was them showing the alien at the end. Bleah! He looked too fake, they just should have hinted at him. They had one shot looking up at him from the floor, and you see him in silhouette, which was very cool, wish they had stuck with it, instead of letting us actually see him in his entirety. Oh well. I rate this episode 4.5 out of 5. Overall, an excellent show.
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The “A Human Reaction” episode review is © 2000 – 2019 Andrea Reed
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