Mollusk's Farscape Makes Me Think Pages

Episodes: Jeremiah Crichton

Warning: Spoilers!

Crichton on ship

When I first watched this episode, this scene was such an effective intro to tropical paradise shot that I thought it had to be another advertisement. I'd expected the action to pick up in space. On top of that seeing the beard seemed really discordant. Since when does one see men with beards on television dramas? This must be some kind of specialty product being hawked, right? So I returned the VCR to pause, but unpaused it a moment later as I realized this vision of forced tropical vacation was indeed the continuation of the episode.

Once again Farscape earns kudos for great scene setting effects, in this case a great background matte of a ringed giant, along with good pacing and cutting and direction. To portray the change of venue from a spacecraft to that of an essentially technology free blue planet along with the effect of a substantial amount of time having passed is a difficult business. This opening scene of Crichton on the planet does a really good job of setting the mood and establishing how from the events shown at the start of the episode life has changed completely for the lead character. Maybe it's just me, but I'm beginning to think that Australia offers a more diverse set of landscapes for location filming than Southern California does. Or maybe the makers of Farscape are just doing better at capturing scenery for television that others are.

Crichton looks to side

Hey look, there's otter on this planet!

Like so many Farscape plot essentials, this genre of being stranded in a tropical setting is a way old and well developed fictional form. And yet, how many such shows actually go so far as to show an otherwise clean shaven, close coifed, and consistently covered lead actor gone newly native? Not to blubber on, but I was thankful enough for the opportunity to appreciate having a good looking and well spoken southern gentleman weave an interesting story for me weekly, and hadn't even reached the obvious next step of requesting he be presented furry and wet and shirtless and stuff. Unfortunately, unlike Magnum P. I. there's no reason to think that this treatment of Ben Browder will become a staple. Alas, I'll have to keep on travelling to Monterey to watch the otter fishing.

Tastes like chicken?

Hard to say how long it took to assemble and set up the apparatus used for the catch, but it seems to have yielded a lot of food creature for fairly little work. It does kind of surprise me, though, that after a "quarter cycle", however long that is, Crichton, being a scientist, has only managed to assemble a basic camp and primitive gear. What about his water source and purification and testing apparatus? And not even an outhouse level of engineered latrine? It's kind of an irrelevant detail given the nature and focus of this story, but at the same time even when this episode is reenforcing parts of Crichton's character that are scientist-like, he continues to behave more like a test pilot than a scientist. It makes sense in terms of enriching the drama of the show, but in a way it's too bad that the way scientists and engineers actually behave is so seldom fully embraced or genuinely, directly glamorized.

D'Argo with dentics grumpy Crichton

When D'Argo finally meets up with Crichton things are difficult at first because Crichton doesn't know that the starburst that split them up was spontaneously initiated by Moya, and at the same time Crichton has spent enough time in this place to have grown used to life in paradise. Even though D'Argo saves Crichton from an ugly confrontation with some locals, feelings still run high.

D'Argo didn't actually bring dentics down to the surface, but is kind of fun to imagine that as an extended source of amusing conflict between he and Crichton. There is something about basic dentistry that seems well suited to an over-the-top warrior such as D'Argo.

more grumpy Crichton again grumpy Crichton

Ben Browder's evocation of a grumpy Crichton really had me going. His "Yep, ya just might" line had me completely in stitches. Oddly enough, I found the hard edge of Crichton's that comes through in this episode was more compelling in general that the usual, lighter side that Crichton normally projects. It sounded to me like a bit of Appalacian hills brought to the jungle.

Crichton faces tribe Crichton looks forward

As often happens, Crichton manages to bring the contributions of the various characters together and play a critical role in the resolution of the central conflict. Somehow the effort seems to be worth more this time, though, since Crichton is not only very much underdressed and underwashed for engaging in serious diplomacy, but his attitude has become a force to reckon with. Through the action in this episode, the rest of the crew of Moya are forced to explicitly recognize Crichton's value and the extent of their bonds.

Crichton leaves jungle

Sometimes Crichton is played with a level of swaggering self confidence that makes him seem quite unlike the scientists and engineers that I've spent most of my life around, but it probably makes sense for his role in the series for him to be particularly assertive. In this episode Crichton takes a major turn of character that I thought added a great deal both directly to Crichton, and to his relationships with the other crew of Moya. As a rebellious figure Crichton became both more compelling in general, and also became more believable.

Because of all of the successfully developed dramatic elements of this episode, and particularly the way Ben Browder threw himself into the role of Crichton as grumpy hairball, I think this Farscape episode will become an enduring classic of escapist fantasy. This will be especially true among geeks who dream of being marooned in a scenic, alien jungle on another planet where their spacecraft konks out and their machines stop working.

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