Farscape: The Flax   Rewatch 
August 15, 2015 2:50 AM - Season 1, Episode 13 - Subscribe

John's flying lessons with Aeryn come to an abrupt end when he is caught in a net left by Zenetian pirates to trap ships. D'Argo must choose between potentially finding his son and rescuing John and Aeryn. [via]
posted by along came the crocodile (10 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
OK, so finally got a chance to sit down today and watch this one. Bit's of a curate's egg, I think. Still trying to sort out my thoughts but I'll post what I've got so far.

I really liked Rygel as he hustled Kcrackic like a pro. Rygel driving Zhaan to the very limits of her patience. Rygel in general. I also still like the idea of the steam-powered space ship and the crappy kid's toys that fuel it. I liked the look of the Zenetans too.

The transport pod was... well I don't know what the exact trope name is, but this was Farscape's take on 'protagonists forced to admit feelings for each other in life or death situation', but with less angst and more basic lust and comedy. The whole set up was a bit ridiculous with the killshot and breaking the antidote which of course led to emergency CPR (though I can't blame John for freaking out about that). I dunno, at least we got the first evidence that CB & BB kiss really well. I get that it was a deliberate take on the cliche, and it was all interwoven with more development for Aeryn in terms of her learning stuff and going against her training, which was a nice continuation. I still eyerolled a couple of times. And why are there no seatbelts on the transport pod?

Staanz. Hmm. I found Staanz amusing, sweet and problematic. I felt there was some misdirection with the 'sing for daddy' line that implied Staanz was trying to hide her gender from D'Argo? I'd be interested to hear other's opinions on the character. There's a strong comedic element in there, but combined with D'Argo's reaction and Aeryn & John's scene at the end (where exactly did she put John's hand?) it felt like the show was once again bordering on something potentially offensive?
posted by along came the crocodile at 2:04 PM on August 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

I think it sort of veers out of potentially offensive into plain offensive, with the Staanz reveal feeling like a cheap tacked on homophobic joke, and that might be why this is one of my least favorites. I do like Rygel scamming the Zenetans; I like the design of Kcrackic's ship, too, and that we learn that Peacekeepers are so conditioned to function as a group Aeryn would rather just die with John and get it over with.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 4:47 PM on August 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

I can see how it seems like the show is using a sci-fi gloss to invoke the typically radically offensive trope of someone dating a trans person and being upset by this. At the same time, I think it skates by that particular pitfall. YMMV of course, but it didn't strike me as hostile. Staanz is lonely and D'Argo is a sexy Luxan. D'Argo reacts to Staanz's profession of love with the same sort of embarrassment anyone might have if someone they're not at all attracted to (and had just chained to a chair) started talking about how much they're in love. It's the same sort of embarrassment that's displayed in the immediately preceding scene when D'Argo walks in on Aeryn and Crichton's desperate adrenaline fueled make-out session. By the same token, Crichton's line to Aeryn reads to me as playful teasing, there's no suggestion of worry or fear in his voice. Having said that, this is my personal read on it, I realize that what for me seems like skating past will for other people seem like 'plunges headlong into'.

This episode starts to soften and modify the dynamic set up in "DNA Mad Scientist". It looks very much like Rygel and D'Argo are acting purely out of self interest (arguably, Rygel is) and we're primed to believe that Rygel really would sell Staanz and D'Argo out, or that D'Argo really would let John and Aeryn die to get his maps. True to form for the show, the fact that D'Argo doesn't is presented ambiguously. He views the entire episode as a debacle. It's also not clear that D'Argo would have made the same choice if there was the absolute certainty of finding his son against the possibility of John and Aeryn dying instead of the certainty of John and Aeryn dying for the possibility of finding his son.
posted by Grimgrin at 5:17 PM on August 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

ACTA, are you thinking "Locked In A Freezer"? [warning: TV Tropes]

I personally liked the transgender* Staanz at the end because it really bent expectations at a time when there wasn't a lot of support for transgender issues. It also added another dimension to Staanz- why she is running from the Zenetians. Is it purely as described, or might there be some issues with a scorned lover too? And is that the reason Staanz is trying so hard to get D'argo to the Luxan ship?

*I am not entirely sure it is exactly transgender within the show because Staanz is the female of the species . . . But for turning the audiences expectations on its head, I guess it is for us.

Staanz operating the ship reminded me of Matt Smith (I think? Some episodes and doctors have blurred together in places.) operating the Tardis. I think there was even the hand crank at one point, right? I don't remember Old Who well, but I don't think it had anything like that. If that is the case New Who totally stole this from farscape.

I love love love Rygel being a selfish shit that turns out to be helping all along. He plays it so well. Especially with the little stick he whacks Zhaan with. And his petulant whining about being bored. I think if there is one episode so far where Rygel really stops being a puppet, it's here. Here he becomes his own independent character. You can see both sides of him as a pampered ruler, but also a clever, ruthless ruler, which you clearly need to stay in power in Hyneria. (Which he didn't, but that's clearly because other Hynerians have similar mechanations.

The glass vial, yeah. If it's life and death - literally - why use glass and not some more rugged materials. I wonder if Crichton is really that bad at learning new things, or of Aeryn just enjoys poking fun at Crichton; who confuses and vexes her.

I do think there is a lot to be said too that she decided to save Crichton to die together when she could have completed the repairs. Still uncertain, but more of her peacekeeper mentality breaking down and thinking of others.

Also. Stupid space suits.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 7:00 AM on August 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

One thing I wondered after posting: Do we know that Kcrackic and goon aren't also biologically female? The pronoun confusion could be explained if the Zentian pirates are drawn from a species where females occupy a roughly similar social role to what is traditionally expected of males in our society. Translator microbes just rendered their pronoun for 'female, which is the gender you would expect to predominate on a ship full of of murderous pirates' as 'he' because they gave more weight to the second part of the meaning than the first.
posted by Grimgrin at 10:02 AM on August 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

[icnh] - Locked in a Freezer is close enough. It's that whole 'running out of time and romantic/sexual tension thing.' Usually involves a bomb in a locked basement - hang on a minute... it's that scene from The Abyss isn't it? Where whatsherface deliberately drowns and the guy has to bring her back with CPR. Heh. Wow.

The handling of Staanz does feel off to me - there's the feeling of the cheap homophobic joke aspect for one thing as RW,LD said. Probably an element of Aussie humour in there but but even so. FS is so on the ball with certain things that those kind of gags are really jarring for me, a bit like the Vorcarian stuff.

But at the same time I understand what Grimgrin is saying about how it isn't intended to be hostile. I also think Staanz' clinginess does inform D'Argo's reaction, but then is that a comment on how females are perceived to behave?

It's kind of playing on both character and audience expections of 'male' and 'female'. Staanz isn't transgender as far as I understand it (I have read some things on MeFi about this but always need to learn more) because she is a biologically female Zenetian. It's just that her appearance conforms to what we the audience and the characters expect to be male. I guess you could even delve into the perception of 'butch' women generally as part of that. I was a bit disappointed that apparently aliens also share those perceptions and expectations, right down to males having external genitalia (Scarren males don't have external genitals, which is a minor gag in a very future episode). Although the Farscape Encyclopedia Project entry for this episode states that Aeryn grabs Crichton's crotch at the end of the episode, that has to be wrong, it has to be the other way around? And the incident itself felt a bit off for me too, a sort of final comment on Staanz. Crichton embodying that fear of being deceived in that way.

The thing is, Farscape does play around with these themes, often in Crichton's mind, so I guess that's a window onto his fears and ideas about gender and sexual identity?

It's an interesting idea that Krackic & co might also be female. I think generally Staanz has had a pretty rough time of it and that shapes her responses to the crew and to D'Argo. I still think the 'sing for daddy' line was a writer's trick to fool both D'Argo and the viewing audience, one that wasn't really needed.

And finally, yes, that was very Nu Who with the ship. I thought exactly the same thing.
posted by along came the crocodile at 12:07 PM on August 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

I didn't consider the possibility of the other Zenetians being female too. Which I'm sure says more about me. Because I knew Staanz was the female, I was trying to look for what differentiated her form the other two, and I came up with hair (Kcrackic and pal was bald), different energies (Staanz was more frenetic, But relied on her wits), and Kcrackic seemed to be about bravado. But all those can be chalked up to different personalities, not gender.

I do agree Staanz isn't transgender. That was my inartful explanation of how I think we as the audience were supposed to make sense of it back then, but I think I'm confusing gender presentation and transgender and ultimately Staanz's gender could have just been a joke in poor taste. (Who's your daddy definately felt like a deliberate and unnecessary deception.)

Project entry for this episode states that Aeryn grabs Crichton's crotch at the end of the episode, that has to be wrong, it has to be the other way around?

Whoa okay I never notice this. I had to go back and watch the end five times because it looks like Aeryn just lunges at him in that macho "boo, I can make you jump." Which I didn't think made much sense other than maybe to say "if you keep joking with me, I'll kick your ass." And that's sort of how I read it. But no, it definitely is an off screen cloth grab. I think she's answering the question of "are you the female of your species with" "well I've got an interest in dick." I suppose it could also be responding a question with a question "are you the male of your species?" But I think it's the former. Which of course changes their whole ending conversation - not that it was even a little bit believable for the audience. But clearly they didn't even come close to believing it themselves. Not even a little.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 2:10 PM on August 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh right... but I thought it was meant to be Aeryn grabbing Crichton's hand and forcibly applying it to her lady bits to indicate the desired lack of male bits. Well. Hmm. (No other show would have this discussion. XD)
posted by along came the crocodile at 2:29 PM on August 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

My memory of the episode treated the episode a lot worse than reviewing did. I also really appreciated Rygel's playing of the pirate captain, and loved his jabbing of Zhaan with the playing stick at the beginning of the episode. The sex reveal for Staanz came across more as a joke to me, but I can concede the humor could be used as a means to convey the idea that sexuality and appearance are not necessarily found in the usual expected package. I'm also mixed on his ship as I tried to figure out how the engine actually worked. It's sorry shape kind of reduced Staanz much more into a comic figure than a serious character.

Crichton + Aeryn = 4VAS.
posted by Atreides at 4:03 PM on August 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I also have always thought Aeryn grabbed Crichton's crotch to show that yes, she's the female of her species, because he has (obvious) male parts. I've seen other commenters say how they thought she put Crichton's hand on her crotch. And, yes, only with Farscape do these kinds of discussions happen...
posted by cshenk at 8:56 PM on August 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

« Older Movie: The Curse of the Were-R...   |  Project Runway: It's All In Th... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments