Season 1, Episode 1: “Premiere”
*** 1/2 out of *****
“Compassion? What is compassion?”
“Compassion? What, you’re kidding, right? It’s a feeling you have when you see someone else’s pain and instead of taking advantage of their weakness you help them?”
“Oh, I know this feeling.”
“Yeah, well, it is a fairly common human feeling.”
“I hate it.”
Perhaps the least imaginatively titled episode of Farscape, it nevertheless managed to get the series going on a creative enough note to hook me the first time I saw it. Now that I’m re-watching, the opening shot of John Crichton watching the sun rise behind the Space Shuttle at Cape Canaveral feels iconic to me, given how much we seem to see it later in the series in flashback form. The orange sky at sunrise somehow lends a bit of an alien feel to things already.
Because they only had an hour to work with, the episode doesn’t have much time to get us into the Uncharted Territories. After a few brief moments with (the eventually doomed) D.K. and some good character moments establishing John’s relationship with his dad (with some “something big is about to happen!” subtext that’s only a little heavy-handed), John’s up in the Farscape module and about to try an experimental slingshot maneuver. Then, before you can say, “That’s not a space helmet!”, some “sort of wave” hits the module mid-maneuver and knocks it into a wormhole that flings John across the galaxy into the middle of a big ol’ space-kerfuffle where he commits the grievous sin of floating there and causing Crais’s brother to swerve into an asteroid.
The rest of the episode introduces us to Moya’s “crew” (such as they are), hints at their interpersonal conflicts and separate agendas, and sets up Crais’s personal vendetta that will drive the show for most of the first season. Along the way we’re treated to some darned high-quality FX as well as set design that I’d never really seen anything quite like at the time. On my first viewing, I especially loved Pilot’s den, and, for me, it still holds up.
John spends much of the episode in a state of either terror or amazement as he tries to get his bearings–something that arguably (and, I think, realistically) continues for the rest of the season. Everyone else gets a good bit of starting characterization, too–at least enough to catch my interest–save for D’Argo and Pilot. Pilot gets a little with an occasional frustrated grunt directed at the others, but he’s mostly just functional for this episode. But the fact that he’s something of a non-standard-looking alien for TV adds a little, too. D’Argo comes off as a bit one-dimensional: just a Klingon with tentacles. Zhaan feels Zhaanish from the start. At her most confident. She’s complex: Caring, mature, but playful and, given her imprisonment and comment about being her planet’s “leading anarchist,” likely dangerous beneath the surface.
Officer Aeryn Sun first appears to be only a space-Nazi antagonist. Her first action on-screen is to beat John up in almost annoyed fashion (with Aeryn, beating up John is kind of a defining character trait), but she also shows sticks up for him with Crais later, which gets her deemed “irreversibly contaminated” and shows that she’s got a bit of conflict going on under the surface, too. And Rygel…well, Rygel’s Rygel. Arrogant, scheming, and remarkably expressive for a puppet. He also farts helium for some reason.
By the end, they escape into starburst with the help of the Farscape maneuver. As the episode comes to a close, John tries to come to grips with his situation. Death threats from D’Argo, theft threats from Rygel, and warnings about Crais and trusting people from Aeryn serves to let us know that everything in the Uncharted Territories is very weird and very dangerous. While John may be out of immediate danger, he’s still adrift in unknown waters.
“And there’s life out here, dad. Weird, amazing…psychotic life. In technicolor. You know those rattlers in the stomach we talked about? Well I got ’em now.”
At one point Crais tells Lieutenant Teague to “peel back the image” in order to let them see through the Farscape module’s opaque canopy and John’s helmet. And you thought CSI’s “zoom and enhance” was nuts. Then again, alien tech. Also, Crais looks like he’s wearing a bicycle seat on his head.
 I could have sworn it used to be called “Pilot,” which would’ve been a little more clever.
 Though we’ll see Kent McCord numerous times over the next few seasons, this is, technically speaking, the last time we’ll see Kent McCord playing Crichton’s father for a long while. …And it was a trout!
 Given John’s character’s knowledge of geek culture, I suddenly wonder if he was inspired by Captain Kirk’s preferred method of time travel in coming up with the idea in the first place.
 Something true about the whole series. Occasionally the background puppets/creatures can look a bit stiff. On the other hand, seeing the giant merchant in this ep who looks like a Starcraft hydralisk on a promo was the thing that got me to tune in way back when.
 We’ll later learn that the tough Luxan warrior gig is something of a façade D’Argo’s putting on, though the meta-explanation is that this is a pilot episode and both the actors and writers are still figuring some things out.
 “Special Peacekeeper commando, Ikarian company, Plaizar regiment!”
 How his body produces a noble gas is something I’m sure people on Earth would like to find out. (Hey, he’s a dominar and he farts noble gasses. It’s been over a decade and I just now got that. Think it was intentional?)
 Rygel’s smile as he floats away after asking “Are you a sound sleeper?” is one of my favorite moments of the episode and proof that Farscape knows how to make those puppets real.
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