Farscape: S02E03: Taking the Stone
As the story opens, we see Chiana stumbling and crashing through the ship, having lost all of her usual catlike grace. She is looking for Crichton, whom she finds with his head buried beneath one of Moya’s consoles. He is trying, apparently unsuccessfully, to figure out how the navigation system works, which naturally makes him a bit testy. Chiana is desperate to speak to Crichton – practically pleading with him for his attention — and practically in tears, but John doesn’t “hear” the fact that she needs to talk to him. In fact, he is unusually insensitive, and tells her he doesn’t have the time to talk to her.
She accepts the blow off, and stumbles away, only to literally cut some sort of flashing disk from her own side. The disk stop flashing as she watches, and she raises her hands above her head in some sort of benediction. Then she smashes a DRD and storms off Moya in Aeryn’s Prowler.
The fact that Chiana stole her Prowler naturally annoys Aeryn, and she calls Chiana some fairly harsh words (in fact, she calls Chiana a “tralk” which from contextual evidence I gather means something analogous to “slut”). Chiana was able to slip away unobserved, because Crichton’s meddling with ship’s systems had caused some of them to be temporarily offline. In the meantime, Zhaan and D’Argo find the disk from Chiana’s stomach; the disk is part of a matched set of linked Lifedisks, surgically implanted so that intimates can keep track of how their loved one fares. At this point, John realizes why Chiana wanted to talk to him so badly, and naturally feels very guilty.
Chiana takes the Prowler to a rather bleak, stormy and abandoned-looking planet, and walks around through some of the buildings. Frightened and alone, she hears sounds that seem to be following her, but doesn’t see anyone until she is backed up against a building, when bizarre-looking men are highlighted by the lightning. She’s surrounded by these rather bestial individuals, and as she watches in terror, one of them eats a mushroom right in front of her. “Sweet Niksa!” he says almost reverently, and pulls out a knife, causing Chiana to scream in terror. (Note: The lead thug (Clansman) was really hard to understand, even without the made-up words, so some of the flavor of his conversations may be lost.)
Not being one to let the theft of her property slide, Aeryn, John and Rygel head down to the surface of the planet. Rygel recognizes it as a Royal Cemetery Planet. He is appalled when he finds out that on “Earp” we bury our leaders in the ground: “Next to where you live? That’s disgusting!” as he puts it so eloquently. At any rate, they find Aeryn’s Prowler intact, and call out for Chiana, with no results. Aeryn reluctantly accompanies John when they find a scrap of Chiana’s clothing – her initial reaction was to leave Chiana there. Rygel refuses to accompany them into one of the edifices, and stays outside.
While he is waiting for Aeryn and John to retrieve Chiana, Rygel spots a red gleam in the soil; he tugs on it and turns it, and finds that it is a key to a royal stash of grave goods, gleaming and gemmed in the eerie cemetery light.
John and Aeryn set out to explore the tunnels beneath the surface of the planet, and conclude they are lost, when they hear a sort of whining, shrieking noise. They check it out, and see a pink dreadlocked and leather-clad out Chiana suspended upside-down between two huge, swinging weights. She appears to be the source of the weird and unearthly shrieking noise, and the noise she creates seems to be keeping the weights from crushing her. She is surrounded by the same thugs she met when she first landed on the surface of the planet. John and Aeryn quickly form a plan of attack, and rush in to rescue the lass – only to have Chiana swing down and snap incrdulously, “What are you doing??!!” and, while Aeryn fends off one of the thugs (who actually seem more curious than hostile), “You had no right to come after me!”
This takes John aback, of course; he had thought he was rescuing a damsel in distress, but in actually is confronting an annoyed and defiant teenager. “We were worried about you,” he begins, but Chiana cuts him off coldly. “No Crichton, I don’t have the time,” — which are his own words to her thrown back in his face. She storms off, leaving John rather stunned by her vehemence.
The leader of the thugs (Molnon), chooses this time to address Crichton. “Hey Ancient!” he cheerfully greets him. “Who the hell are you talking to?” John growls, understandably irritated. We finally get a good look at one of thugs. They are sort of copper skinned, with glowy green eyes and rather intricate tattoos on each cheek and forehead. They also sport the pink dreadlocks and leather couture that we saw Chiana wear. At any rate, Molnon hospitably offers John a taste of his mushrooms; he is the person we saw outside when it appeared as if Chiana was being attacked. So. Molnon is a mushroom chewer. It should be noted that all of the Clansmen are in their late teens, at the most.
One of the Clansmen women (if you know what I mean), starts taking a hard look at Aeryn, and Molnon joins in. “Wow!” he enthuses. “Age lines, dead spots, you’re historic, Niksa, HISTORIC!” Needless to say, Aeryn, whom I generally consider to be up there in babe-ishness, is really annoyed by this assessment, and kicks one of the Clansmen she had taken out in the ribs. This serves as a signal to the Clansmen, and they all leave Aeryn and John behind, derisively snorting, “Ancients!” “Did you catch any of that,” asks a puzzled John (Molnon is really hard to understand what with his drugged-out voice and his odd vocabulary).
John asks Aeryn to talk to Chiana about the disk, explaining that Chiana is pissed at him. “And try not to be too angry about the Prowler. Be nice!” “I’m not good at nice,” Aeryn responds flatly. “Just don’t shoot her,” John finishes, apparently hoping for the best.
In the meantime, having discovered a treasure trove, Rygel leaves the planet and returns to Moya, only to be confronted by D’Argo, who wants to know where everyone else is. Rygel didn’t know, because he left so that he could examine his spoils in the privacy of his room; when D’Argo entered Rygel covered it up. “You robbed the dead?” D’Argo asks incredulously, ripping off the covering. “That’s right, and believe me, it wasn’t as easy as it sounds,” retorts Rygel unabashedly admiring one of the pieces.
I am not sure why D’Argo is so surprised, it seems that there are no depths to which Rygel won’t sink: thief, quisling, and now grave robber. Is there something I am missing about why they don’t space the little bastard? Hmm.
Aeryn tracks down Chiana, and finds her sitting and drinking hooch out of a jug. “What do you want?!” snarls Chiana. “You forgot something,” returns Aeryn cooly, and tosses the Lifedisk Chiana’s feet. She then turns to go, but Chiana picks it up and says, “It’s my brother, Mairy.” Aeryn turns and leans against the wall, listening. “It’s terminated, that means he’s dead.” Aeryn (sincerely) tells Chiana she’s sorry, and she and Chiana have a bonding moment – unusual for these two women who dislike each other quite a lot. Chiana asks Aeryn to stay for the Clansmen Gathering. “Molnon says it’s the dradest,” explains Chiana.
While John is heading back to the Prowler, he hears a sort of snuffling, shuffling noise behind him, but as he turns to investigate, two of the Clansman, Molnon and Dass appear, and the noise stops. John greets the second Clansmen, who seems very “disoriented,” and he tells John, “It’s too late. The Lost People know.” Molnon interrupts and tells Dass it’s time to jump, and they both leave.
John follows them into a round, rather well-lit chamber, and meets up with Aeryn there. Two platforms project over a huge hole in the ground, and Molnon begins a speech about where the Clans stand in the place of things. To prove they are alive, the Clans “Take the Stone,” which means jumping off one of the platforms and into the pit.
There’s a trick, of course. The bottom of the pit contains a sonic net, which is voice-activated by the jumper. If the jumper can maintain a certain pitch as he or she is in free-fall, the net will activate and the jumper won’t splat on the bottom of the pit. If, on the other hand, the jumper can’t or doesn’t keep the pitch up, he “takes the stone” at the end of the jump. Chiana is inordinately interested in the jump, even after Dass doesn’t make the cut at the end of his own fall. Dass’s wife or girlfriend, who is heavily pregnant and who also has a clear, bubble covered stomach so you can see the fetus, gives Chiana her blessing to jump when the baby is born.
John wants to sober Chiana up and force her to leave the planet, but an unexpectedly sympathetic Aeryn tells him that the reason Chiana likes the Clansmen is because she can prove to herself that she is alive. She further tells John that if he tries to force Chiana to leave before she’s ready, that Chiana will stay just to spite John. John doesn’t take these revelations in very good spirit and is actually rather snotty to Aeryn, but finally decides to give in and follow Aeryn out.
Unfortunately, he stumbles across Molnon and Chiana in the midst of a discussion. Molnon tells Chiana that everybody dies, and its nothing to fear, and that if you worry about it, it ends up dictating your every move. He also taking the stone is the second dradest thing going; when she asks what the first dradest thing is, he kisses her very passionately and they sink to the floor. Crichton sees and hears all of this, and turns away in disgust when Chiana and Molnon start kissing.
Back on Moya, Zhaan is praying over the stolen grave goods, much to Rygel’s disgust, continuing a Delvian chant to ward off curses. When he begs her to shut up, she tells him primly, “I’m doing this for your benefit, Rygel.” Rygel tells Zhaan the only curse in the room is she, and that if a curse is going to strike, it will only strike him in any case, as the guilty party. Zhaan disgustedly agrees with this assessment, and leaves Rygel to his own devices.
John and Aeryn track Chiana down in the room with the weights; she is practicing the tone that makes the sonic net kick in. They argue, with Chiana telling John that she isn’t his kid or sister, or his tralk either except in his dreams, and that she likes it on the planet, because the people there live their lives to the fullest before they die. She says that life on Moya is lame, and that nothing they do there is particularly wonderful. She tells him that when she came aboard, he told her that if she ever wanted to, she could jump ship at any time. “Well, see ya,” she finishes coldly. Aeryn sits silently during this whole tirade, just listening (and letting John royally put his foot in it).
Angry and frustrated by Chiana’s defiance, and Aeryn’s refusal to take his side, John stalks off looking for Molnon. He hears the shuffling, snuffling noise, and pulls a scabby, diseased-riddled woman from out behind a pillar. “You’re… old! And still you live!” she says incredulously. John asks what happened to her; it is apparent she used to be very pretty, but her face is disfigured and scarred with pus and scabs. She tells him it happens to all of the Clansmen at twenty-two cycles if they don’t take the stone. Because the other clansmen don’t like seeing their disfigured kin, they go and hide in the walls and become the Lost People. Apparently Dass had figure out why it happened, and the cliff they jump from had the answer. But the woman is terrified, and runs back into the walls. John discovers he has one of the woman’s scabs.
John continues to track down Molnon and taunts him with his age: Molnon is approaching twenty-two cycles, so regardless of if he takes the stone or not, he’ll soon be dead. “You’ve been talking to the Lost People, you’re true smart!” says Molnon admiringly, in his stoned-out voice. He waves a bunch of mushrooms (four mushrooms to a stem) at John and tells him that three of the mushrooms will get him high, and one will kill him – you can’t tell by looking which one it is. Molnon tells John if he eats one, he will explain why he is trying to get Chiana to make the jump.
So, John eats one. While John is reeling from his rapidly increasing high, Molnon tells him that mushrooms are the only things he likes to do, and that he’s afraid to take the stone. If Chiana takes his place and takes the stone, then he doesn’t have to jump. John flips out, as much as he is capable of, by this point, and tells Molnon that he’ll tell Chiana the truth. “Only if you remember,” Molnon responds tranquilly. John seems to think he’ll remember just fine, but just then the mushroom really kicks in, and he starts hallucinating (more or less), much to Molnon’s amusement.
Aeryn finds John passed out and sprawled out on the floor with the mushrooms by his head, and she runs to him and shakes him awake. Mostly sober by this time, John explains that he ate the mushroom to get information from Molnon, which he did. Aeryn tries to heave John up off the floor, but his legs don’t work properly and he holds onto her leg while he tells her what he found out. In return, she more or less hugs him while he leans on her. (It was pretty cute, I thought.) John gives Aeryn the boxed up scab, and asks Aeryn to scan it and send it up to Zhaan to examine.
John takes a few pills from a medical kit to counteract his post-mushroom headache, and Chiana runs happily up to him, calling his name. She is obviously in a really good mood, something appears to have made less angry at him. She tells him that Molnon told her that he and John talked, and she’s happy that John now understands why she has to jump. John tries to tell Chiana that Molnon is using her so he won’t have to make the jump himself, but Chiana doesn’t care, she wants to do it. John caresses her cheek, and says “You cannot want to die. Well. Maybe one day you’ll understand,” and takes some sort of injector and shoots Chiana in the neck with it. Before Chiana collapses, she reams him out (albeit incoherently). John picks up the now unconscious Chiana and slings her over his shoulder.
Just then, Aeryn strides up. “What… What are you doing?!” she demands incredulously. John says he is preventing Chiana from jumping, that he thinks Chiana wants to kill herself. Aeryn quietly tells John that he can’t do what he’s doing, that if he doesn’t let Chiana work through whatever issues she has, she can still kill herself some other time, even if not here and now. John is taken aback by this point of view, and puts Chiana down on her bed. “When did you get so insightful?” He asks dazedly. I must say, Aeryn seems to have a pretty good grasp of what makes John and Chiana both tick, at least in this episode.
Aeryn and John decide to contact Zhaan and find out what she’s learned from the tissue sample they sent her. Zhaan tells them that the sample is indicative of long-term exposure to radiation; the Clans are dying from radiation sickness that has been exacerbated by the circular pit-chamber, which is amplifying the radiation. Ironically, the Clan’s tradition of taking the stone is responsible for their having to take it in the first place.
On Moya, Rygel accuses Zhaan and D’Argo of trying to make him think his collection of grave goods is cursed. Some of his new objet d’art had fallen and smashed, and other portents had struck him as well. Neither Zhaan nor D’Argo appear to know what Rygel is talking about, and Rygel defiantly tells them that he’s keeping his collection regardless of what they do or think about it.
Three’s a new Clan gathering, and John takes the opportunity to convey the new knowledge that he has – that the Clans can live longer if they move out onto the surface of the planet. Molnon tells John they don’t want to be old and worn out like John and Aeryn are, and that they like living in the caves just fine, and John grabs Molnon, who is standing on the edge of one of the jump platforms. He threatens to jump with Molnon, which temporarily wipes the smile off his face, but finally he says, “We WANT the stone.” John insists that the Clans vote on it. Molnon agrees to this.
Meanwhile, the objects in Rygel’s room have agreed t o defy the laws of physics. Although initially defiant, after he is nearly impaled by a set of hatpins, Rygel agrees to return the objects to the planet’s surface and rebury them.
John talks to Molnon after the Clans vote, and is thunderstruck to learn that every single one of the Clansmen had voted to keep jumping. Molnon claims that the Clans don’t know what’s killing them, and apparently don’t care. They like jumping, and they’re gong to keep doing it. He tells John that Chiana is all set to take the jump herself now, since Molnon has informed her of the voting results. John takes this opportunity to punch Molnon in the nose.
“Hey old man,” Chiana greets Crichton from the jump platform. She is surprised at the vote result, and John tells her that although the Clans want to die, he doesn’t think she does. Chiana tells John that her brother taught her about courage; John tells her that she has displayed courage to him many times. “I gotta see if I can do this,” she insists, turning her back to the pit. Invoking the net’s tone, she falls backwards into the pit while John watches. She bounces on the net at the bottom of the pit, and triumphantly lands on her feet while John gives her a huge rebel yell, relieved that she survived, but also thrilled that she achieved the jump.
After the jump, Chiana mourns her brother and buries the Lifedisk in a small pile of rubble. Apropos of nothing, John asks Aeryn, “Lately, do I seem a little… crazy to you?”
“What do you mean ‘lately?’” Aeryn retorts.
She and John watch Rygel reburying his ill-gotten gains, then John goes to comfort Chiana. She tells him the jump was incredible, then says, “Let’s get out of this dead place.”
Comments: Welp, this was the latest in a long series of stories of this type, from “Star Trek” (the Old Series, of course), to “Logan’s Run.” Not hideously original, but the main story wasn’t too bad. The Rygel subplot was pretty lame, I have no idea why that was included, if not to show the depths of his depravity. Why, Oh Why is he still a crewmember? Inquiring minds want to know. I did like the exploration of John and Chiana’s relationship. Regardless of what she says when she’s pissed (“I’m not your kid , I’m not your sister, and I’m only your tralk in your dreams!”) they very definitely have an extremely strong big brother/little sister dynamic going on (even though sometimes it slips into other things). The whole scene when John saw Molnon kissing Chiana was a magnificent example of this – at what point does a big brother stop protecting his kid sister from guys who want to take advantage of her? You could just see the wheels turning; the expression on his face was priceless – and very apt. Anyway,
I rate this episode 3/5.
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This episode review is © 1999 – 2019 Andrea Reed
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