Farscape: S01E19: Nerve
The episode opens with Aeryn in Moya’s gym, beating the hell out of a punching bag, presumably keeping her Peacekeeper reflexes in good working order. This is somewhat surprising, as John points out to her, because she had recently been skewered by another Peacekeeper, Larraq (In “A Bug’s Life”). She tells him her muscles are all healed, and continues to punch, but John wants to know why she hasn’t responded to anyone’s efforts to call her to dinner. She seems more than usually irate, and essentially tells him to piss off, when all of the sudden she spews some sort of disgusting, chunky substance all over the punching bag.
She stumbles in exhaustion towards John, who tries to catch her, but even then she tries to take a swing at him. She is so debilitated, she misses, and falls on the floor moaning. John wants to get take her to see Zhaan, but all Aeryn wants to do is get to her Prowler, despite the fact that Moya is nowhere near any inhabitable areas. Crichton rather fiercely rejects Aeryn’s efforts to die (I think it is pretty clear at this point that he is deeply in love with her), and she finally tells John that while the damage Larraq caused her muscles has been healed, her perapheral nerve has been severed. Unfortunately, there is no cure for that, other than a tissue graft from a compatible donor. Aeryn only has fifty or sixty hours to live. John points out that although they aren’t near a Sebacean colony, Moya is near a Peacekeeper base – and Larraq and his group left them detailed instructions on how to get there.
John tries to convince the other Moyans they should go to the Peacekeeper base. They all think he’s mad, despite the fact that he bluffed his way past Larraq’s group. Even Chiana skeptically tells him he only made it by the skin of his nivoks, whatever portion of his anatomy that might be. Frankly, the Moyans don’t seem to have a lot of confidence in John’s ability to adequately portray a Peacekeeper! In addition, the difficulties he will undoubtedly encounter once he’s inside the base will put Moya and everyone on her at risk of discovery. Needless to say, the rest of the crew is underwhelmed by the idea of John deliberately entering a top-secret Peacekeeper installation.
John is disturbed by their responses, I think perhaps he expected a little more support for his idea. “So, what are you saying here, that we do nothing, that we let… Aeryn… die?! Is everybody happy with that?!” The other crewmates quickly claim that isn’t their wish, but basically, their cowardice gets in the way of their better side. Finally, John intimidates Rygel into agreeing that they should go, so off they go.
I am not sure why Rygel gets the deciding vote here, or even why he would give it, as he is fully aware that Aeryn more or less despises him. Maybe his better side is actually better developed than that of Zhaan, the supposedly compassionate priest; or his valor greater than that of D’Argo, the Luxan warrior. Or maybe he is just afraid of John, desperate in the defense of his beloved.
Meanwhile, Aeryn is failing rapidly. Crichton has dressed in Larraq’s Peacekeeper Captain uniform (and it must be said he looks very hot in it, and I don’t mean the temperature), and goes to say goodbye to Aeryn. She tries to convince him not to go, but he is adamant. Finally, she wishes him good luck and shakes his hand. While preparing to embark on his journey to the Peacekeeper base, John encounters Chiana (fetchingly dressed in a grey travelling outfit), who wishes to accompany him. She tells him he needs a good burglar to go with him, and that she wants to earn her keep on Moya, but John openly doubts the rather ruthlessly practical Chiana’s motives. “You?! Uh-uh,” he remarks cynically. But Chiana hands him a going-away present – Larraq’s Peacekeeper ident chip, which just happens to be maximum security clearance. Impressed by her thiefly prowess, he agrees to that he could use the help, and further agrees to her coming along for the trip.
The end of this scene is interesting, because John and Chiana stare at each other very intensely, and very definitely enter each other’s personal space, and for a couple of seconds, it almost looks as if they are going to kiss. Hmmmm.
Chiana and John leave Moya in Aeryn’s Prowler, and eventually realize that the secret base is an old mining colony, which John thinks had been “nuked” a long time ago. Chiana tells him that the colony isn’t dead, as a number of targeting systems have locked on to them. “A typical warm Peacekeeper welcome,” John remarks tranquilly. John assumes his Peacekeeper persona, and hails the Peacekeeper base. He manages to bluff his way past the Peacekeeper flunky on the other side – who had threatened to shoot him down. John informs the flunky that shooting down a superior officer without checking his ident chip first is a bad idea; the flunky quickly concurs and tells him the landing vector. Chiana is extremely impressed by John’s improvised Peacekeeper threats and lies.
OK, quick comment here. There is no one who is more into the willing suspension of disbelief than I, but Ben Browder’s Peacekeeper (Aussie) accent is…well… unusual. There is no shame in this, as I couldn’t do that accent to save my life (which presumably John is trying to save his life, when he enters the base), but he is surrounded by Aussies on this show. You would think they would have a word with him. Anyway…
Crichton lands on the base and enters, to find himself surrounded by Peacekeepers holding guns. Big guns. He is confronted by the base’s commander, Talona Javio, and the Chief of Security, Lt. Heskon, who demand to see his ident chip. John hands it over, and they insert it into a little slot and a light turns green. The ident chip is still good, and they think John is Larraq. Javio demands to know how John knew about the base, but John arrogantly tells him to keep wondering, and asks for quarters for himself and his… “server.” Chiana comes drifting up at about that point, and very seductively takes off her travelling coat to reveal her assets. Both Javio and Heskon seem to be very taken by this glimpse of non-PK pulchritude, and offer her, and “Larraq” refreshment. Apparently males outnumber females 5 to 1 on the base, so Chiana makes quite an impression.
In the bar, Chiana more or less seduces Lt. Heskon. Javio watches in frank envy as she chitchats (and writhes in a very cat-like fashion) with Heskon, and tells Crichton that he has never seen a species quite like Chiana’s. He is apparently very smitten with her, going so far as to ask John how much he paid for her! “You don’t want to know,” John replies somewhat wearily. “Does she give good… value?” continues Javio lasciviously. “She has her moments,” John responds with a slight smile.
Off to the side, a group of Peacekeepers turns and watches someone else who has entered the bar. It is a tall, dark, and unhandsome individual dressed entirely in black leather, with an odd sort of black facemask, resembling nothing so much as a skull. He seems to be sniffing the air in the bar, and when Javio sees this person, he excuses himself and attends.
John calls Chiana over (“Chiana, front!!”) and tells her that her acting like a trollop wasn’t part of his plan. Chiana is unrepentant, feeling that her actions have solidified her and John’s position in the base. She also grabs his butt to add further authenticity to their masquerade, but he doesn’t seem to mind much. Actually, he seems pretty annoyed with Chiana drawing so much attention to herself, but as she explains, “The more they look at me, the less they look at you.”
Lt. Heskon escorts Crichton and Chiana to their newly assigned quarters, but as they approach, he asks John for his ident chip again. Heskon slides it into the little chip-reading machine, which again turns the light green. Unfortunately for John, this checkpoint requires special verification, and he needs to put his hands onto a template to have them read as well. John tries to bluff his way out, but when he tries to pass through the checkpoint, the Peacekeepers points guns at him again. Heskon tells them that the area they are entering is Security Three Velcro (?!) and genetic verification is required. John tries the “superior officer” routine again, but Heskon isn’t buying it. He is the Chief Security Officer, and he isn’t taking “no” for an answer. In fact, he says simply, “You will comply, Captain.” John grudgingly sticks his hand onto the template, and… it verifies him!
On the way to their quarters, a voice calls out in a whisper, “Larraq!!” John and Chiana look over, and a petite blonde woman peeks out of the shadows. It is Gilina, from the episode “PK Tech Girl.” She gestures him into her quarters, and tells him that she has been reassigned to this base to develop some sort of new weapon. Considering that John and Gilina shared a few tender moments in “PK Tech Girl,” he is somewhat harsh and untrusting with her, but she seems fairly forgiving. She had seen Crichton and Chiana in the officer’s lounge, and, knowing that he would have to pass through the Security Three checkpoint, overrode Heskon’s security protocols. Chiana admiringly says, “This… is a very good friend!”
In the meantime, Javio and the tall dude are striding down the corridor. The tall dude wants more work to be done on a device called the Aurora Chair. Javio explains that they are understaffed, but the tall dude seems to think that any staffing problems are more due to mismanagement.
Elsewhere, John quickly explains to Gilina about Aeryn’s perapheral nerve. Gilina offers to go to the medical center for John, who tells her he’ll go instead. But Gilina tells him that there won’t be any danger for her, since the med techs are used to secrecy– and besides… what if someone on the base knew the real Larraq? John reluctantly agrees, and Gilina leaves to go drop Aeryn’s tissue sample off, while Chiana leaves to go flirt some more with Lt. Heskon, which she does until Javio chases him off. Javio is quite smitten with Chiana, and offers to buy her away from Crichton, even doubling what Crichton is paying her! Chiana tells him she will think about it (and I get the impression she is thinking about it). Chiana wants to jump ship whenever hardship presents itself, so she might see this as a golden opportunity. In fact, she flat out says “I am getting tired of running from system to system.” Still, she doesn’t exactly leap at the offer, maybe because Javio isn’t exactly an Adonis, and comes across as a bit smarmy.
Back on Moya, things are starting to look bad for our favorite PK. Aeryn’s body is beginning to fail her, and Rygel takes the opportunity to snoop through her things, only to find she doesn’t have anything worth stealing. At any rate, D’Argo chases Rygel out, and Aeryn thanks him and says she wants to die alone. D’Argo leaves her, and he and Zhaan figure out a way to hook Aeryn’s body up to Moya, so that Moya can filter out the poisons from her body. Interestingly, D’Argo is the driving force behind this plan; Zhaan was content just to “ease her (Aeryn’s) journey.” D’Argo and Zhaan hook Aeryn up to Moya, and the filtering commences.
Gilina comes back from the med techs, and tells John that the medics can now synthesize perapheral tissue—they no longer need to find an exact match. She has a syringe filled with the tissue; all the Moyans have to do is inject Aeryn, and her perapheral nerve will start to regenerate. John thanks Gilina, but she tells him he doesn’t need to thank her. She begins to kiss him (they had started to build a relationship in “PK Tech Girl,” and it wasn’t particularly platonic), but Crichton is utterly unresponsive, and looks a bit sad as he draws away. Gilina takes his rejection in stride, and John tells her he has to get back to the ship. Nevertheless, he does appear to be conflicted as he leaves Gilina to go tend to Aeryn.
While John is walking out, the tall, skeletony guy (Scorpius) is striding around a corner. He takes a hard look at John, and says “That man… He is an imposter! Seize him!” John just stands there looking poleaxed for a couple of seconds, then tries to fight his way out of it, but eventually he is subdued –but not before he sticks the syringe full of perapheral regenerating tissue in a hole in a security station. The PK guards basically kick the crap out of John, and, as the camera looks through the hole in the station, we see him literally dragged off.
Crichton is taken and strapped into a dentist’s chair looking device (so we already know it is going to be brutal). And it is. Every time Scorpius doesn’t like an answer that John gives, he gives him a jolt. Scorpius is particularly interested in why John looks like a Sebacean, but isn’t – and whom he’s working for. John tells Scorpius to get stuffed, which is the cue for another jolt from the Aurora chair. In addition to providing extreme pain, the Aurora chair has another trick. It can scan a brain and pick out memories, and display the memories. Retrieving the memories appears to be an extremely painful (agaonizing) process, but Scorpy is nothing if thorough in the pursuit of his duties. He tells John that trying to provoke him (Scorpius) into killing him (John) won’t work, as he prides himself on his patience. He questions John about one of the memories – a Leviathan transport. John is left trembling in fear and loathing.
Scorpius himself is apparently half-Sebacean, which is interesting in light of the fact that Peacekeepers supposedly find interspecies breeding to be repellent (as in the case of D’Argo and his wife, whose brother killed her when he discovered that she and D’Argo were married and with a child). Why did Scorpy get a free pass on that issue? Hopefully this will be discussed and explained in future episodes.
While Scorpius and crew is busy torturing John, they find some of his memories regarding Crais. This brings Crais the attention of both Scorpius and Javio. They decide to try and find out more about Crais from John’s memories, and John is forced to recall a face-to-face meeting with Crais where they tried to kill each other (“That Old Black Magic”). After watching Crais raving at Crichton in Crichton’s memories, Scorpius thoughtfully says, “I suspect our Captain has turned renegade.” (He and Javio are aware that Crais had been floating around the Uncharted Territories, and that the Peacekeepers have lost touch with his vessel.) Scorpius decides to send out a message to Crais that they have John in custody, and to come immediately. “Tell him we have his prey,” thoughtfully orders Scorpius.
Meanwhile, Gilina and Chiana met up in Gilina’s quarters and Gilina helps Chiana disguise her rather distinctive appearance. She covers Chiana’s hair with a short black wig (or maybe hair dye), and lends Chiana a pair of her tech overalls to cover her clothing. She does look unlike her usual self, but definitely not like any Peacekeeper we have so far seen.
Scorpius continues to dissect John’s memories. He believes John is a spy, and wants to know who sent him to the base; nothing that John says dissuades him from this stance. Scorpius is also impressed at the number of alien races that John has come across, which bolsters his belief that John is a spy. While traipsing through the fields of John’s mind, Scorpius comes across a memory that the wormhole alien had hidden from John (via a neural block, which registered as an error to the Aurora chair), about how to construct a wormhole. This interests Scorpius greatly, because, as it turns out, the mission of the secret base is to develop a means of creating wormholes. While he found John interesting before, now Scorpius is obsessed with him—and with prying the secret of wormhole technology from John’s memory. He tells his assistant to segment John’s mind to search for the secret of the technology.
After the torture session ends, John is thrown into a cell with a raving Lunatic named Stark. Stark has had one too many sessions with the Aurora chair, apparently, and it seems that John is heading down the same path. The agony of the chair seems to cause dissolution of personality, and leaves the victim more or less psychotic. After kicking John off his sleeping mat, he crazily asks, “You were just in my Chair, too, weren’t you?!” He starts singing weird little crazy songs, and John realizes that Stark is the result of many sessions in the Chair.
Back on Moya, D’Argo and Zhaan have managed to hook Aeryn up to Moya’s systems to filter her blood. It seems to be going well, when suddenly Moya has muscular contractions, thereby endangering Aeryn. Even Pilot is unclear on whether or not Moya is about to give birth, but they decide to take Aeryn off the filtering system. D’Argo takes this opportunity to tenderly stroke Aeryn’s head (!)
Things are not looking very good for our heroes down on the secret base. The Peacekeepers know that Crichton had an accomplice somewhere, and they also know Chiana is at large somewhere on the station. Nevertheless, they sneak around, trying to get Gilina to a place where she can do a little bit of sabotage. They enter a duct, and Gilina figures out how to bypass the security grid around the base so that Chiana can leave without being shot down.
Crais finally arrives on the base, and very arrogantly demands to know where Crichton is. Scorpius is cut from a different piece of cloth than most other people that Crais has apparently ever dealt with. He is utterly unintimidated by Crais, but simply says, “This way, Captain.” Unfortunately for Crais, he didn’t get a good look at Scorpius’ face when first strode into the Aurora Chair room. It might have given him food for a bit of though. In any case, on the way to go to John’s cell, Crais and Scorpius get into a pissing contest. Scorpius believes that John has vital information, while Crais wants… blood. Crais orders Scorpius to turn John over, but Scorpius holds fast, and in fact reminds Crais that his own adherence to orders is faulty at best. Finally, they discuss how to break John’s resistance to the Aurora Chair, since both of them are afraid that concerted application of Aurora Chair force will kill John.
Gilina manages to locate John and patch up a comm link to him. John tells Chiana where he has stashed the syringe full of perapheral nerve tissue, and also tells Gilina and Chiana to leave him behind and to get to Moya. While he is in the midst of discussion with Gilina, Crais and Scorpius walk into his cell. This cracks John up; at least, he laughs rather wildly. He pretends to be slightly more affected by the Aurora Chair than he really is, but it isn’t too hard of an act at this point. Poor John has been severely traumatized at the very least, and is in pain and afraid in his cell. His eyes also don’t seem to focus properly (at least, he keeps rubbing them). All in all, he is in a bad state.
Crais tells John he has one chance to save the lives of his shipmates, and that he has captured Moya and now holds everyone prisoner. He tells John the way to keep the Moyans alive is to stop resisting the Aurora Chair. John asks Crais if everybody on this ship is all right, and then runs through their names. “They’re all in perfect health?” John continues quietly. Everyone is healthy, Crais assures John, but they don’t have to stay that way if he doesn’t cooperate. John smiles a little bit to himself, then says, “Fetch the comfy chair.”
Gilina has managed to create a blind spot in the base’s targeting array, and she explains to Chiana how to escape the base. She also agrees to help create a diversion for Chiana so that she can reach a Prowler. Chiana manages to retrieve the syringe by faking out one of the guards there (they have no qualms about shoving petite young women to the ground) and groveling a bit. The Peacekeepers have begin to do a sweep of the base by this time in order to catch Chiana, so Gilina creates her diversion — an evacuation warning due to a reactor overload. This shuts down the base while everyone begins to clear out. Unfortunately for Chiana, the way to evacuate is in the opposite direction from where she needs to go, and she stumbles across Commander Javio, or his back, at least. Realizing she needs to get past him, she tries to bluff her way past by saying that a certain Prowler is no longer operational, but he seems to recognize her voice. Plus, she’s a little rusty on her Prowler techno-speak (the fruitium drive?!).
At any rate, Javio is unimpressed with her bluff. “Very good, Chiana,” he says darkly, as he points a gun at her. She offers to leave with him and continue their earlier discussion, but he isn’t interested (!) Perhaps incensed by this cold rejection, Chiana does a nice kick-boxing move and knocks the gun from Javio’s hand, which he picks up again, as she dodges behind an oxygen tank. Chiana jerks the top off the tank, so that the gas is hissing out, just as Javio shoots at her – and misses. His shot makes a spark on the tank, causing a stream of flame to erupt, which Chiana prudently points at him. He goes up screaming in a burst of flame. Chiana seems both thrilled and horrified at the same time; she has a very odd expression on her face as she watches him burn. She takes the Prowler and heads back to Moya, thereby saving Aeryn.
Zhaan gives Aeryn the injection, which prompts her almost immediate improvement. “You make a worse Peacekeeper than Crichton,” Aeryn quips upon sighting Chiana in her PK tech togs and hair. “Ahh. Glad to see you’re OK,” Chiana returns, almost in tears. “Where is he, I want to see him,” continues Aeryn. Zhaan and D’Argo tell Aeryn she’ll see him soon.
This was a very moving scene, not because of Aeryn recovering, but because of the expression on Chiana’s face as Aeryn began to respond to the shot. You could almost hear her thinking, “We did all this, and lost Crichton — for her?? Was it worth what it cost?” She is almost in tears at one point. When Aeryn makes her joke about Chiana making a bad Peacekeeper, you can almost see Chiana visibly restraining herself from making a harsh response. A superb acting job from everyone present in the scene.
Back on the base, the Peacekeeper’s have figured out that the reactor warning was a false alarm, so the torture of Crichton continues apace. Scorpius expects that Crichton will tell them who launched a Prowler without authorization, as well as the identity of his inhouse accomplice. Crichton just sits and laughs.
Comments: Whew, more Crichton torture, and one very creepy evil guy. Scorpius isn’t flamboyantly evil, he is evil because that is his nature. It is hard to convey how evil he really comes across in the episode; he isn’t over the top about it, like Maldis, say (“That Old Black Magic” and “Picture If You Will), but perhaps that makes him even more terrifying. He is very quiet and understated, but you know that there’s only darkness inside him, and that he will blight and corrupt whomever he touches. (If I may wax poetical.) The only thing bad about Scorpy is, maybe he is just a little bit too evil – it may be more “realistic” to go up against someone who is not so straightforwardly evil. But we’ll see.
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