Farscape: Crackers Don't Matter   Rewatch 
September 30, 2015 9:41 AM - Season 2, Episode 4 - Subscribe

The crew returns from a Commerce Planet with a load of crackers and an alien called T'raltixx, who promises he can alter Moya's electromagnets to make her untraceable. Crichton is skeptical; it seems too good to be true. As they pass through a constellation of pulsars, an increasing paranoia affects the crew, turning them violently against each other. Crichton must fight against his own paranoid delusions to work out what T'raltixx is actually doing—and how to stop him. [via]
posted by along came the crocodile (14 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Minus points for T'raltixx screaming in a whiney voice, "I NEED MORE LIGHT." That's almost on par with "I'M SOOOO HUNGRY!" Thankfully, this menace was otherwise more enjoyable.

Scorpy in a Hawaiian Shirt! One must wonder if this episode is what inspired the writers to take the route they did with poor John. This episode in general could have been particularly bad, and probably the only part I didn't enjoy was John threatening Chiana.

I felt worse for Rygel, pointedly in the cracker and D'argo scene. He plays vulnerable so well that his puppetness melts away into a character as living and breathing as any of the living and breathing actors play.
posted by Atreides at 10:28 AM on September 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

I say "crackers don't matter!" all the time, and will forever. This episode is great.
posted by curious nu at 11:49 AM on September 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

Not only do I still say "Crackers don't matter," I still go on about "Humans. Are. Superior!" (Having John insist that, when he was best able to confront T'raltixx due to having the worst vision, was just the best.)

This episode really showed off a lot of what I love about Farscape: the descent into madness, the ridiculous situations, the way they can get puppets to emote. Embracing interpersonal conflict within the crew instead of handwaving it. Scorpius in the aforementioned Hawaiian shirt.

Man, now I want some margarita shooters.
posted by mordax at 12:15 PM on September 30, 2015 [4 favorites]

I found that harder to watch than I remembered. It was a bit like witnessing one of those arguments at a party or something where the brakes completely fail and people are just screaming what they really think of each other with no going back, and you're stuck in a corner trying to work out how to edge past everyone without getting targeted yourself.

D'Argo and Rygel was pretty nasty - again you realise how vulnerable Rygel is - and having Chiana laugh off what John said and did to her didn't quite ring true - it was like the writers realised they had to let him off the hook somehow. Possibly the sexual nature of some of the insults he directed at Chiana and Aeryn was supposed to reveal something about the loneliness and strain Crichton's under, and how very out of character he was acting, but it was pretty disturbing. It was a disorienting episode in terms of camera work and trying to follow everyone's logic. Normally that doesn't bother me. Did I like it? I liked bits of it. Other bits made me very uncomfortable, but I guess that was the intention. Having Scorpius turn up - because of course we don't yet know what's going on - made it even more nightmarish. There were some good one-liners, and the humour at the end with John in the vomit paste and crappy hero gear was ok, but... hmm.
posted by along came the crocodile at 12:17 PM on September 30, 2015

Yeah, I don't like when scifi writers imply that all men are rapists, deep down, and losing their inhibitions is all that is needed to get them there. There's no other time on this show that I can think of when John does something like this, and he's often the object of this kind of harassment.

I love that on any other show Scorpy's appearance here would be a one-off goofy moment, while on Farscape it is the seed of an entire storyline.
posted by chaiminda at 1:19 PM on September 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

Wow, I don't remember some of that. I'll need to rewatch after all; this is one of those I thought I remembered pretty clearly.
posted by curious nu at 1:43 PM on September 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

I can always count on you guys. I watched this just after two Star Trek TOS episodes where a major character got space madness and became a sudden rapist, and then I saw this and was like, Crichton now? Are you kidding me?

That aside, this was a super fun episode. Hawaiian shirt Scorpy deserves a spinoff animated series.
posted by thetortoise at 2:51 PM on September 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Wow, I don't remember some of that. I'll need to rewatch after all; this is one of those I thought I remembered pretty clearly.

I was having that feeling, reading the thread now.
posted by mordax at 4:43 PM on September 30, 2015

In "Taking the Stone" Crichton wonders if he's been acting crazy. In this episode it is established definitively that no, we had not yet begun to see crazy. On a more serious note, there's a neat bit of context provided by "Taking the Stone" Crichton takes a bit longer to go completely off the deep end here, and it seems reasonable that it's because he was primed to be thinking about his own instability thanks to poison mushroom kid and the suicide tribe.

Rewatching this made me realize how brilliant Crichton's "Crackers don't matter" speech at the end and how utterly vital it and the segue into the vomit paste, absurd cape, sword and shield outfit was to this episode working. Because as mentioned above, when Crichton went full psycho it was heavy. Hard to watch heavy. If that speech hadn't worked, if Browder hadn't been able to move John back to a more comedic, more slapstick version of crazy in that sequence, the willingness of everyone to revert to normal at the end would not have worked at all, instead of just being hard to accept.

In that vein, Chiana's reaction at the end made a certain sort of sense to me. along came the crocodile mentioned it as being like a witness to a nasty public fight. I've been witness to some situations like that, and there's usually someone willing to play it off as not a big deal. I can see that being a behaviour she'd plausibly have. The other thing I noticed is that she'd only have heard half the conversation we heard. While there are pretty strong context clues as to what "Nice. I like that idea." might mean, given the way it all went it's just this side of what denial and a desire to play things off can plausibly be expected to cover for.

Scorpius was great in this episode as well. When this was written IIRC he was a hallucination with no deeper significance, so that's how I'm going to approach it for the purposes of this comment. Also, this is slightly tendentious, I just enjoyed constructing the theory. There's a case to be made that he doesn't represent John's dark side or nastier impulses here. He's whatever's left of John that's still sane. John doesn't look like he's particularly committed to not murdering D'Argo, until Scorpius shows up, distracts him, and reminds him he's crazy. With Chiana, it seemed like John was seriously ready to blow Chiana's head off with that "My little black book is all full line". The one suggestion Scorpius makes that John listens to is one that diverts him from killing his shipmate. Everything else Scorpius says to convince John to commit murder diverts him as he reacts angrily to reject it. Scorpy's last line is suggestive as well "You're out of your mind John".

Aeryn is really interesting in this episode. Because her brand of crazy is a kind of gleeful nihilism where everyone is the enemy. It's an interesting choice, when it could have easily been played like Crais' breakdown, or more of a straight reversion to form. As for the speeches back and forth, between her and John, I thought it was interesting that she actually got the better of him in terms of verbal back and forth. Her line about his dad clearly hit him in a way that his line about her betrayals didn't.

One final point: The way T'raltixx is played here is one of the things I really like. He's playing this like he's the nefarious, operatic villain with the grand plan, and the Moya crew squash him like a bug the moment they stop trying to kill each other. His dire threats and warnings do not register at all. It's quite neat, and realistic given the crap the Moya crew deals with on a regular basis that they wouldn't give him a second thought while trying to deal with the harrowing shit they just inflicted on each other.
posted by Grimgrin at 5:06 PM on September 30, 2015 [5 favorites]

Something I really like about this one is that the default mood on Moya is always sort of frenetic and belligerent, so when I first saw the episode my reaction was more like, "Is this the show or am I in a weird mood?"

"No, no it's definitely the show."
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 2:30 AM on October 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

I adore this episode, with the exception of the Chiana sexual stuff that has been mentioned before. One of my favorite things is how they incorporate the crackers into the entire episode - people eating some all the time, sort of off to the side or in the background, not just when they are specifically referenced. When poor Rygel gets his mouth stuffed full of them, it's really uncomfortable, though...

Scorpy in a red Hawaiian shirt is best Scorpy.
posted by gemmy at 9:37 PM on October 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

It only gets more difficult to parse the nature of Crichton’s insanity when Scorpius emerges. Wayne Pygram is a delight as this diabolical incarnation of the character, as he tempts John into murder and rape while sporting leftover wardrobe from the Hawaii Five-0 set. Scorpius externalizes Crichton’s worst impulses, which provides some absolutely vital distance between who we believe Crichton “really” is and who he is based on his actions in this episode. His threatened rape of Chiana is the episode’s most abhorrent moment, and it was only added after the completion of principal photography when Ian Watson felt the episode wasn’t quite dark enough yet. It’s a supremely unnerving sequence, because it plays as a horrifically twisted extension of Crichton and Chiana’s typical, physically intimate interactions. It’s Scorpius who says all of the really unforgiveable things, but it’s John who refers to Chiana as “what a slut,” and it’s John who replies “I like that idea” after Scorpius suggests saving her for “dessert.”

AV Club - Crackers Don't Matter

I think it's interesting in the sense that they're really twisting Crichton's position as 'chivalrous romantic sci-fi hero'. In other episodes it's been established that he won't take advantage of Chiana and he's prepared to give Aeryn the space she needs, that he respects Zhaan for her wisdom and her attitude to the body.

So they decide to show one aspect of T'raltixx's effect on Crichton (further complicated by his own growing insanity) by then having him attack the female characters based on terms of their perceived sexual availability to him - Chiana's a 'slut who spreads 'em for anybody, anytime', Aeryn's a 'frigid flat-butted skank', and he's very snide about Zhaan being lost in her own photogasms. T'raaltixx gives form to the hidden potential toxicity of Crichton's loneliness and sexual frustration. (Feels nastily topical given some of the stuff that's happening today).

Is it meant to be a deliberate critique of the dark side of the romantic male hero in Science Fiction - Farscape's harsh reality versus Kirk romancing his way across the galaxy? Are the writers simply implying that, as noted in previous comments, without his normal checks and balances Crichton's some kind of latent sexual predator?

I had warm fuzzy memories of this episode - 'oh yeah, the crackers, the vomit, the shoot out between John and Aeryn, Ride of the Valkyries haha!' and then I watch it for the first time in years and it's that screech of brakes/carcrash moment. Which is not to say I think this is an inherently bad episode. I don't. It's classic Farscape, pushing at the boundaries. They wanted to go dark and they really did, with some goofball humour to make it easier to digest.

Grimgrin - I get what you're saying about Scorpius in this ep. His' 'helpful advice' does seem to deflect John from doing irreparable harm to his friends in the moment.
posted by along came the crocodile at 2:30 AM on October 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

I don't think John's actions can be read as much of a comment on who John is or potentially might be. Look at the others: Aeryn, who even when she was still very much a Peacekeeper was principled and rational, becomes this mindlessly aggressive nihilist. D'Argo who's always been very concerned with honour and duty becomes a conniving, bullying coward. I didn't mention him, but I think it's telling that the only time D'Argo is aggressive in this ep is when there's no chance of retaliation as in Rygel and Zahn. Both times Crichton confronts him, he's noticeably scared and passive. Where before Zahn was frustrated and annoyed that her response to light interfered with her helping others Zahn is now content to just sit in the sun and let everything else go to hell. Chiana is completely flighty. Pilot is hostile, sarcastic, and completely fails to protect Moya from T'raltixx. Rygel, well, Rygel is pretty much just Rygel.

I agree that John's actions feel more like a potential for him or a comment on his character both because he's apparently the least affected and because the threat of sexual violence is much more present in the real world than the actions the others take. However, I tend to read John's actions as driving home the essential horror of what's been done to them. I think most people have had moments when they've said something thoughtless and then just watched helplessly as their words rolled around the room like a live grenade. I certainly have. This episode presents everyone with that moment to the nth power. "What if everything you hate about yourself and your thoughts was all that you could be?".
posted by Grimgrin at 4:59 PM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Interesting thoughts here about "Crackers...". I know that a lot of Scapers say this is the episode that is quintessential Farscape (it is), but it is not my favorite of the season (that would be the next one, "The Way We Weren't") and it is not one that I would show to newbies to try and get them to watch the series. Without the context of how much these people and aliens have grown and changed and rely on each other, and yet they are so easily fractured, I think it would just seem like a dark, weird episode.

I hadn't thought about how John's interactions with the each of the female crew members has some sexual stuff, it's an interesting observation. I'm also inclined to think that how they act and what they say are amplifications of negative feelings that become twisted, but not some revealing of "true" desires. I don't think that deep down Aeryn and John really want to kill each other, but they end up in a pulse pistol fight vowing to do just that. However, I do think that they can get on each other's nerves and that annoyance becomes magnified and darkened. Just as John doesn't want to rape Chiana, but he does have a sexual attraction to her that he never acts on (well, except in fanfic).

This is from the Farscape Illustrated Season 2 Companion: Ian Watson (director) said that he added that attack on Chiana because he didn't think the episode had gone dark enough. "They were meant to really turn on each other." Ben Browder said, "We see that Crichton is capable of horrible things, and if he's capable of horrible things, then him being good, honest, true, and a boy scout is made more significant. It makes John real."

Still, I think there were some uncomfortable creative choices that really push the envelope of what the audience will be OK with. Which is one of the many reasons I love Farscape!
posted by cshenk at 7:12 PM on October 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

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