Thursday, November 15, 2012

Farscape Geekwatch: Late Season 4

Farscape marches on!  The return to Earth has given the show a new purpose that had seemed sorely lacking ever since the gang blew up Scorpius' command carrier.  We start off with what is the last stand-alone episode along the mode of season one: S04E14: Twice Shy.  Chiana frees a pretty slave from some rough traders, but she turns out to be an emotional vampire spider creature! It's not spectacular,  but it's fun.  Some fun pop culture and geeky references in here.  John tells pilot that he's "smart enough, good enough, and doggonit, people like you," slightly paraphrasing the SNL character Stuart Smalley.  He also calls Aeryn "my Achilleus," for the greek myth.  He also riffed on the nursery rhyme when he quips to the monster, "along came a spider, exploded beside her."  We also get some nice continuity lampshading when John describes the spider creature's actions as "doing a T'raltixx."  Cute.

S04E15: Mental As Anything splits up the gang.  The men go off to get anti-Skarran mind probe training, while the women go off to the next episode.   We get some unexpected resolution to the D'Argo / Macton storyline, as he's also here doing training.  In retrospect, it feels like the writers are putting their ducks in a row for the endgame, and that's not a bad thing.  John's references include:
* his frequent "riddle me this"
* the whistling of the Colonel Bogey March
*a nice Simpson's reference when he calls their instructor Mrs. Krabapple
* Doctor Seuss, as he lists off reasons as "Little Cat A," "Little Cat B," and "Little Cat C."
 Scorpius also picks up the nickname Scorpy-Sue. 

S04E16: Bringing Home the Beacon is a horrible pun that isn't apparent until the last minute or so of the episode.  Aeryn and the gals stumble onto a Peacekeeper / Scarran meeting and witness the Scarrans double-cross Grayza and Braca.  They disrupt the Scarran plans, but Aeryn gets replaced with a replicant with a built-in beacon.  Due to the almost complete lack of John in the episode, no geek references here.  

S04E17: A Constellation of Doubt seems to take a detour, as a distraught John watches and rewatches an intercepted broadcast from Earth about their visit.  It was well set up back in Terra Firma, with his nephew Bobby walking around with a video camera.  It turns out, his subconscious was trying to give him some critical information about where he'd heard the word "Katratzi" before.  When Sikozu momentarily covers her face with a plate, he flashes back to the Stark/Sikozu hybrid, a fantastic moment.  The only real geek reference was bobby calling Crichton the "first and only human to boldly go where no man has gone before," another Trek reference.  

S04E18: Prayer is an uncomfortable episode.  John and Scorpius finally come to an understanding; John gives Scorpy wormhole tech if Scorpius helps him rescue Aeryn.   In the process, they wind up taking a wormhole to "Bizarro Moya" (ultimately a reference to Superman, of course, though Bizarro has entered the lexicon.)  Things get downright nasty when Scorpius determines that Sikozu/Stark can only access the Katratzi information when crossing over a soul.  He proceeds to slaughter many of the denizens of this strange Moya, including an Aeryn/Chiana hybrid.  (Claudia Black plays an EXCELLENT Chiana, getting the mannerisms perfect.)  It's also kind of cool to know why Scorpius was torturing Stark back in season one.  Stark had said it was a place... now we know, or suspect, that place was Katratzi. 

There's a bit more geek besides Bizarro.  As John explains the concept of alternate realities to Scorpy, he illustrates it by saying that "somewhere the Cubs are winning the world series," a reference to the perennial losing baseball team.  We also revisit one of Scorpius' nickname when Scorpius insists on sealing their deal with blood.  "Nosferatu... my first instinct is always right." 

And thus is the three part near-season finale set up. John has embraced life aboard Moya with Aeryn as his new reality, but to defend that reality he's forced to make a deal with the devil.  We'll see how things play out in the next, and last, four episodes of Farscape.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Ark Addendum - Traitor

Welcome back, to another edition of The Ark Addendum.  This week, the classic G1 Season Two episode Traitor!

Traitor is quite a fun episode.  Mirage's anti-war sentiments were explored a bit in More than Meets the Eye, so it's fun to see the ultra gung-ho Cliffjumper confront him.  The episode had enough resonance to be echoed decades later in All Hail Megatron, so that's something.  There are some really neat Floro Dery designs, too.  I love the Insecticon lair.  Enjoy!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Farscape Geekwatch - Mid Season 4

Hola, amigos!  Let's return to some Farscape, when S4 starts to pick up again after meandering a bit unsuccessfully around the question 'how will Scorpius fit in with the crew of Moya.'  (Spoiler alert: not well.)  S04E11, Unrealized Realities, introduces some new plot elements and some much needed energy into what had been an unimpressive season.  John, floating in his space suit outside of Moya, gets sucked into a wormhole and encounters a representative of the beings who created the ancients.  Einstein, as he's dubbed by John, is deciding if John should be executed for the good of the galaxy.  We get to see snippets of alternate realities, more and more strange as the episode progresses. From a world where someone who looks a lot like Scorpius is John's father on a Scarran occupied Earth to a Moya where the crew has all swapped species to a world where John is a Peacekeeper captain and Sikozu a Skarran spy, we see all manner of 'unrealized realities. 

It's quite intriguing, especially when Einstein introduces the idea that wormholes bridge not just space but time.  It makes sense... exceeding the speed of light, in a very real relativistic sense, allows travel backwards in time and upsets causality.  The episode ends with John returned home... to Earth, that is, floating above the atmosphere in his space suit, wondering what exactly this portends.  A great episode, and it was fun seeing Stark, Crais, Zhan, Jool again.  There's also a couple of little pieces of foreshadowing embedded, such as when Stark/Sikozu mutters the word "katratzi" during a trance, or when spy Sikozu calls Peacekeepers "weak species." 

Worry not, for it's also probably the geek-heaviest episode in the entire series.  Where to start, where to start.  Well, John, upon meeting 'Einstein' (I won't explain who Einstein is) says "Nanook, Bealzebub," simultaneously referencing Mork and Mindy and Christian mythology.  Einstein repeatedly asks John "time," prompting the responses " 's up", "bandits", "wounds all heels", "rosemary and thyme."  John managed to sneak in Simon and Garfunkle, Groucho Marx, and the cult classic Terry Gilliam movie all in a few lines.  In response to Einstein's philisophical musings on time, John says "very Morrissey," a nod to the indy musician.  The tiny snowy island created by Einstein for the interrogation, John calls the "island of misfit toys," in reference to the Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer claymation.  In response to the alternate worlds Einstein was showing him, John stated "now I know how Copperfield got Shiffer," referring to illusionist David Copperfield's long engagement to model Claudia Schiffer. When Peacekeeper Captain Crichton attempts to save spy Sikozu and she expresses skepticism, he echoes Gone with the Wind and quips "frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." 

But all of that, lovely that it is, pales in comparison to John's final speech of the episode.  "I am not Kirk, Spock, Luke, Flash, Buck, or Arthur frelling Dent.  I am Dorothy.  From Kansas."  So, Star Trek, Star Trek, Star Wars, Flash Gordon, Buck Rodgers, and even Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, rejected, in favor of the frequently referenced The Wizard of Oz.  It's a lovely speech, summing up much of what we've come to love about Farscape. 

S04E12, Kansas, continues the momentum set up last episode.  Moya follows John through the wormhole and retrieves him, but there's a problem.  It's 1986, and Jack Crichton is supposed to be on the Challenger.  The gang has to keep him from going up, to his doom, while avoiding creating a stir with an early first contact. 

It's light on the geek but heavy on the pop culture.  Of milk, John says it "does a body good," the classic advertising slogan.   Of Aeryn's outfit, he says she "kinda looks like Cher."  When D'Argo wonders why their plans never work, John's response is "Murphy's law."  And when the time schenanigans start to make John fade in and out of reality, he grouses that he's "Casper the freakin' joke."  I also noted that, when Rygel is eating tons of candy, John calls him "Mr. Burroughs."  I'm not sure what the significance of that is. 

S04E13, Terra Firma, deals with the team in modern day Earth, and John's reverse culture shock at being home in a post 9/11 world.  His dad seems unrecognizable and he fears what the US government will do with exclusive access to Moya's tech.  I find placing John's homecoming in the middle of a season to be a bold choice.  He's been seeking this for years, but now that he has it, he's not sure he wants it. 

It's light on the pop culture, though.  Caroline, John's ex, calls him Buck Rogers, which is cute.  And John does an ET voice and places his finger on his sister's head.  "Don't worry" was the line. 

It's a very strong trilogy, expanding the universe and putting our characters in terrifically interesting situations.  John finds Earth, only to have to abandon it.  At least this time, it's a choice.  And now, with that out of the way, John can approach the rest of the season with a lighter burden.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Groove High

Friend of the blog Ras, who contributed some excellent pieces for the upcoming Transformers Legacy book, is starring in Disney's Groove High, premiering today!  Check it out on the Disney Channel.  He's playing The Baz, Lex and Sasha. 

Kudos, Ras!  I'm sure you'll knock our socks off.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Ark Addendum - Changing Gears

Happy Election Day, to all my US based readers.  Hope that you informed yourself on the issues and voted.  Sending those politicians a message by staying home as a clown only leads to gargantuan cyborg overlords. 

It's Tuesday, which means it's Ark Addendum day.  This week, we go back to Changing Gears, on of the last episodes that I have substantial background images for.  The centerpiece is the Solar Needle, identified as the Star Needle on the model.  It's quite a lovely design. 

I don't really like the episode, though.  The drastic personality alteration that Gears undergoes should have deeper implications than it does, really.  That it's accidental only makes things worse.  For a better examination of personality shifting, see the S1 episode of Beast Wars, Dark Designs.  Evil Rhinox is pretty badass, as we learn there and confirm in late season one of Beast Machines. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Farscape Geekwatch - Early to Mid Season 4

We enter the midpoint of the final season of Farscape with a truly fun episode, S04E08, I Shrink, Therefore I Am.  A gang of raiders wearing mechanical armor boards the ship, leaving John to, in his own words, go "one by one, the Die Hard way" through the baddies. If that and the title (a reference to Descartes famous rebuttal of radical skepticism) aren't clue enough, there are plenty of geek references, nods, and movie titles bandied about.

Dargo is called "James T. Dargo."  Sweet.  John declares "I'm goin'... wabbit hunting!", a lovely Looney Toons quote.  Even better, John calls the head armored baddie "Imperious Leader", after he comms "Paging the head Cylon," recalling the classic Battlestar Galactica.  John utters "Klaatu barada nikto", the famous phrase from the 1951 classic The Day the Earth Stood Still.  (That line itself has been referenced numerous times, from the Star Wars expanded universe to Army of Darkness.)  After the shrinking starts, John declares that he's "gone from Die Hard to Honey I Shrunk the Prisoners," in reference to the Honey I Shrunk The... franchise.  Less geeky but still of interest is John quoting Neil Armstrong, "one small step for man,"  and the "best laid plans", a paraphrase of the Robert Burns poem "To a Mouse."

Another terrific exchange in the "we're not Star Trek" vein is Sikozu's argument with Rygel about how shrinking is impossible.  If the molocules were shrunk, how could they breath?  If they lost atoms proportionately, how could they think?  Rygel shuts her up with the wry observation that they clearly ARE shrunk, so it IS possible, so just deal with it.  Lovely.

There's less going on in S04E09, A Prefect Murder.  The gang needs some gear to survive in Tormented Space, but Chiana's loose ways and a love affair between Sikozu and a native complicate things, especially when the gang lose control of themselves and start bumping off natives.  It's rather forgettable, really.  There's a bit of the geek, when John assumes a Scottish accent and grouses, "I don't knew if I can get the system back on line, cap'n."  That's about it, except for John singing "You take the high road..." from the old classic song, The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond.  (Also Scottish!)

S04E10, Coup by Clam, is surprisingly fun, though I'll bet most fans don't appreciate it.  True, there's a jumbled feminist message that doesn't really work.   But the idea that the crew gets psychically linked together by eating mental mollusks is cute, and seeing the gang cross-dress is silly and fun in a very Farscape way.  I also like the villain attempting to explain the technical specifics of what happened, only to have the crew moan that they just don't care.  There's one fantasy reference here.  John states that he isn't going to infiltrate a girl's only club "as Maid Marian," Robin Hood's sweetheart.

I think I'll end it here.  As we hit the halfway point of the season, we start off on an exciting new plotline that propels the series through to the end.  Much merriment and mirth awaits!