Season 1, Episode 9: “DNA Mad Scientist”
**** out of *****
“I wanted him to find me a place where I could belong. I didn’t want to get left behind. I’m so scared.”
A geneticist offers the crew a way to get each of them home with DNA-based starmaps. All it will cost them is one of Pilot’s arms, and for Aeryn to find herself an unwilling participant in his latest experiment.
I was in a forum discussion once where people were talking about the best way to introduce someone to Farscape. It was a general consensus that it would be showing them this episode first. It’s running on all cylinders, showcases all of the characters (with the possible exception of Moya), and shows off the settings, attitudes, and unique flavors of Farscape. It’s really one of the best episodes of the season. Plus: eye-poking and Farscapian body-horror!
It certainly starts off with a bang. If this were an episode of Star Trek, or Babylon 5, or pretty much any other sci-fi show, we’d have lots of agonizing discussions as the crew tries to figure out a way around Namtar’s demand for Pilot’s arm, or people talking it over with Pilot, or general hemming and hawing. Farscape? None of that. 7 minutes in, cut to them cutting his arm off. Hey, it’ll grow back, right?
Having turned on one of their own, then begins the process of turning on each other as they scheme (or play diplomacy, depending on the term you prefer) to be the first to go home. Everyone has their own agenda on this show (even as the series continues and people grow closer, they’re still individuals with their own agendas–it’s just that they become influenced by the relationships they’ve developed), and this episode is particularly good at showing it.
Pilot’s reaction to having his arm sliced off without permission gives a lot of characterization. To John’s shock, he’s reasonably okay with it after the fact–just a price to pay for being bonded to a leviathan and seeing the galaxy. As with anything of this nature having to do with Pilot, I wonder how much of his reaction is influenced by his guilt of the agreement that got him bonded to Moya in the first place. Perhaps he views it as less price, more penance. Even better, this isn’t something that just happens and is forgotten. It gets referenced multiple times later on in the series, if I recall correctly.
Meanwhile, Aeryn’s starting to develop some abandonment issues, in a sense. Her fear that the others are going home, that John will eventually leave, and she’ll be on her own without a group to belong to leads her to finally give in and submit to Namtar’s test to find a Sebacean colony on which she can live with others of her kind.
I love the way this episode ends. Everything is most definitely not all better, but all of the characters remain very real. D’Argo doesn’t apologize in words–in fact he even says he’d make the same choice if he had it to do over again. But he does play his newly completed shilquen instrument for Pilot at the episode’s close. What makes the moment so poignant is the look on Pilot’s face. He’s not a puppet. Guy’s alive.
Last line:“It is not a weapon.”
Despite how much I enjoy this episode, the concept of maps to homeworlds based on DNA tests seems a little odd. One would think they could just ask, “Hey, where’s Delvia?” if he’s got a whole database in there. But, of course, he has other reasons for asking for the DNA…
Curious how when the datacrystal shatters it spews all its data up in one big hologram for a few moments before it all dissolves. I wonder if I can do that with my flash drive?
The shot of Zhaan touching the starmap is an iconic image that they used many, many times in promos and still shots.
It bothers me that “food cubes” on Farscape are not actual cubes.
 I not only agree, but I can attest that it works.
 Sheesh, multiple eyes poked with needles, and yet this still isn’t the worst eye-horror Farscape gives us in its run…
 Zhaan, at least, seems to be apologetic, but her compassion for what they did to Pilot is obviously in conflict with her having a hand in doing it.
 Which is not to say he’s not above getting snarky about it: “It appears your crystal is useless. Lucky for you, you didn’t trade anything of real value to get it.”
 So far, she’s rejecting the idea of going to Earth with Crichton if he ever finds a way to get there: “Me, on a planet filled with billions of YOU.”
 First mentioned in Back and Back and Back to the Future.
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