Conflict. People who teach creative writing say you can’t have a story without conflict.

Some people do prefer conflict, like the functionary running the Farscape channel wanting to stir up a fan conflict
<that’s frelled clip> I refuse to play that game.
But since art imitates life, it has inspired me to think about conflict in Farscape the original series. And yeah, there’s a lot of it.

After Crichton has his fun little jaunt through a wormhole, he finds himself thrown into the midst of a conflict. Moya and her inhabitants are trying to escape the Peacekeepers; Peacekeepers are trying to bully Moya and her inhabitants; Aeryn says hello through conflict; D’Argo thrives on conflict; Crais gets off on it; and it all goes on from there.

Conflict is an easy way to create tension in a story, and the Farscape writers do an excellent job of filling the episodes with conflict. Every episode has one or both of two types of conflict: physical and emotional.

Physical conflict in its most straightforward is the fight for survival, something our friends on Moya have to do a lot. They are forced to constantly flee for their lives, first from Crais, then from Scorpius, then from Grayza, and in-between, from a variety of nasty, icky aliens.

Emotional conflict is more difficult to portray, but this is where Farscape truly excels as a show. Each character has to overcome internal emotional conflicts, mostly because of a difficult past. I discussed these internal conflicts at length in my videos on each character. Another continual theme in the first two seasons of the original series is the characters having to deal with their exile. They are all lost, far from home and alienated from everything they once knew.

Two characters also have work through the emotional conflict of reconciling their new situation with their propensity for physical conflict. D’Argo and Aeryn are soldiers, and they don’t know how to get along with others. Both of them have to learn how to tame their violent instincts in order to be more effective members of the team on Moya, and ironically to become better soldiers.

The catalyst for D’Argo and Aeryn’s changes is our hero John Crichton. D’Argo and Aeryn both initially treat Crichton with suspicion and hostility. They know physical conflict, so they relate to the alien Crichton through conflict. Once D’Argo and Aeryn start to deal with their internal conflicts, they learn to trust themselves and so can better trust Crichton. D’Argo becomes Crichton’s close friend, and Aeryn becomes Crichton’s close much more than friend.

Crichton is the center of most of the conflict in the show. He’s shot through a wormhole into the midst of a whole mess of conflict. For a long time, Crichton has no time to focus on any internal conflict, he has to fight to survive by escaping from those who want to kill him or slice up his brain.

Crichton is not a soldier, but he is forced to fight and to kill. Eventually, the consequences of the physical conflict creates an emotional conflict for him.

The Crichton body count is huge, and he’s aware of it. We never see him address that psychological damage, so it is still there—that’s a hint to any writers of a continuation series.

Not surprisingly, a group of very different people thrown together against their will have difficulty getting along with each other. D’Argo and Aeryn initially don’t get along with anyone. Rygel is, well, Rygel; he’s above that getting along thing. Zhaan is much better at getting along with people, but her internal conflicts darken her relationships. Pilot of course is the undisputed champion at getting along with everyone. God, I miss Pilot most of all. Crichton has no choice but to try to get along with people, but have you ever noticed how much he bosses around the others in that first season?

As each new cast member is thrown together with the original group, there is conflict. Chiana is the first and wow does she not get along with anyone. Yeah, Chiana is just slightly anti-social. But Chiana comes around pretty quickly, especially after she deals with her biggest internal conflict over her brother.

Crais more or less joins the family on Moya, though he remains an outsider. Talyn becomes an extension of Crais’s emotional conflicts, from his feelings of isolation to his anger at the Peacekeepers for his loss of home. Crais is in conflict with Talyn as an extension of his internal conflict. His emotional conflict is finally resolved when he sacrifices himself through physical conflict.

Jool comes to Moya with a big chip on her bare shoulder. She’s haughty and belligerent, and whines a lot . She’s quick to resort to conflict, and has the hair to prove it.

I’ll put Sikozu and Scorpius together because they both interact with the universe only through conflict. Sikozu blasts into the show and bullies and snarks at everyone. She has an awesome smile but most of the time she’s either rolling her eyes or sneering at someone. Some fans wonder why she’s drawn to Scorpius, but her attraction is because they share a conflict-based view of life.

Scorpius was born an abomination, and what natural sentiment he has, and he does have some, has been overwhelmed by the emotional scars of the abuse he received from the Scarrans. Scorpius is highly resourceful and intelligent, but he is a wounded animal. He knows only two modes of conflict: patiently waiting to strike, and striking. Seriously, what more is there to Scorpius’s life?

Then there are the Scarrans, who also seem to lack any hobbies or sense of fun and know only conflict. Whether or not the truly want to conquer the galaxy as Scorpius fears, the Scarrans certainly aren’t trying to win anyone over with friendliness. While most other species in the galaxy say hi, Scarrans greet you with a heat probe and demand to reveal your secrets. < Staleek and Einstein clip>

Is it possible to do science fiction without conflict? Probably not. Conflict moves a plot by motivating characters to action. Sure, you could watch puppies, pretend they are alien puppies. But, many prefer to watch conflict, because conflict is about control over others, and people who feel a lack of control in their lives, like to see dominance of others on screen.

Of course, that’s not why you love Farscape, right?

1 Comment

  1. Its not true that there must external conflicts to have suspense ….. Stalker, Solaris, Andromeda Strain, Silent running … even Dark Star. We believe that we must fight to survive …. even that is not always true. On the one side side ppl complain about violence in real life and in tv shows on the other side they think it is impossible to make movies without shooting. Yes, movies may reflect the real life ….. but where did FS reflected human action about 2000. What about second golf war …. is this mirrored in any way in FS? We should meditate about our “dark instincts” which are expressed in FS. And our longings like romantic love. What is so interesting in the John-Aeryn-relationship compared to successful sex-series like 50-Shades-of-crap ……

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