Welcome to the second Farscape Deep Dive. And we turn to the second episode of the original series which is “I, ET.” Yes, I, ET is the second episode no matter what any other source says. Several if not all of the media channels currently showing Farscape episodes are showing them in the wrong order.
<I’m new to this clip>
I did a video on this, please refer to it to get the correct order.
“I, ET” is definitely the second episode because the inhabitant of Moya are awakened by the paddac beacon.
<siren clip >
This is the consequence of them removing the control collar in the first episode. “Premiere.”
<Aeryn explains clip>
The paddac beacon is a basic Peacekeeper security measure, similar to one of those invisible fence collars you put on dogs.
<Rygel Tronkan reference clip>
Crichton, establishing a pattern, comes up with a plan to save them from the two-headed Tronkan shrill singer, whatever that is.
And further establishing a pattern, the others look around dumbly and go along with Crichton’s fahrbot plan.
<she can do that right clip>
So, before the opening credits, we are treated to the dramatic scene of Moya landing in the mud of an unidentified planet.
<Rygel mud clip>
Now, I want to break in here briefly and acknowledge that quite a few Farscape fans don’t much like this episode. I can understand why. This is one of Farscape’s few Star Trek-like episodes, by which I mean an easy-in, easy-out plot that doesn’t always make sense, with far-too-human aliens, and too many standard sci-fi cliches.
In the episode’s defense, because it was intended as the second episode, the plot and secondary characters are deliberately made more accessible to the audience who are familiar with standard TV fare. That’s why the main writer on this episode was someone who wrote for regular sitcoms. Hey, planet Erp was not yet ready for the full craziness of Farscape. Those who unfortunately, first saw “I, ET” out of order, as the seventh episode, understandably came away with the feeling the show had taken a step backward.
But as the second episode, “I, ET” offers us important world-building and character establishment, in a somewhat familiar mise-en-scène.
Obviously, the main objective of the episode is to reverse the standard science fiction trope of aliens coming to Earth. Crichton is the alien in a first-contact scenario. Crichton’s part in the plot is pretty pedestrian: he meets aliens, scares the dren out of them, makes friends with them, avoids the bad guys, and saves the day. Unlike Captain Kirk, Crichton doesn’t start making out with the alien female.
The more interesting plot elements in “I, ET” are found in the pairings of Aeryn and D’Argo and Zhaan and Rygel.
On the planet, Aeryn and D’Argo have their hands full with each other. Two clashing egos sitting in a tree, continuing the tension between them from the first episode. There can only be one alpha male per tree.
That, unfortunately, is the last we hear about Luxan history in the original series. Such a shame.
Aeryn returns to Moya, leaving D’Argo to rescue Crichton, but D’Argo the warrior is the one who ends up needs rescuing.
I mentioned D’Argo’s inadequacy in my character study video on him. He blusters a lot, but he isn’t that good of a warrior. This is the first instance of that and we will see others in episodes to come. This is the first step in Farscape’s demolishing of science fiction tropes and stereotypes.
Meanwhile, on Moya, Zhaan and Rygel have to save Moya. We learned in the first episode that Zhaan is a priest and Rygel is a deposed Dominar. Rygel, showing his sense of privilege, is initially reluctant to help.
<Rygel I have a say clip>
Zhaan, showing her calm spiritual presence, has to persuade him.
Rygel rises to the occasion, as does Zhaan.
<Rygel cutting clip>
Farscape again demolishing science fiction tropes, shows us Rygel’s vulnerability.
<Or I kill the ship myself clip>
This is one of our early glimpses into the complexities of our characters. Rygel’s bluster is his attempt to cover up his feelings of guilt and inadequacy. But the plucky little slug does manage to come through and remove the paddock beacon.
<It’s done clip>
That’s not a selfish, egotistical, self-centered little Dominar. That’s the elation of someone unsure of their capabilities. Throughout Farscape, Rygel vacillates between strong feelings of self-doubting inadequacy and self-centered bravado attempting to hide his inadequacy.
Zhaan shows her strength, though in a fairly expected gender role of caretaker and suffering healer as she helps save Moya.
Almost as a side plot, Crichton returns to Moya, having rescued D’Argo and finding the clorium to help heal Moya.
So what does “I, ET” accomplish? We see the compassionate side of Crichton. We see that the inhabitants of Moya can work together though not without considerable tension. <Rygel biting Aeryn clip>, and we get strong clues that Farscape is not going to stay on the standard trajectory of science fiction shows. “I, ET” is definitely not in even the top 50 Farscape episodes, but it serves its purpose. Again, as the second episode of the series.
This episode takes a satirical swipe at human society. The unnamed aliens on the planet are obviously an allegory for human shortcomings.
<Crichton on militaries>
Farscape is never as strident in its criticism of the 20th century as Star Trek always was, from its original series, but Farscape doesn’t deny that we have a lot of awakening and growing up yet to do.
I’ll initiate two deep dive regular features here.
What We Learn in This Episode
- Hynerians are aquatic, but clearly are air breathers.
- There are six “forbidden cargos” for Leviathans; clorium is one of these, because it has a numbing effect.
- Peacekeepers are divided between techs and infantry.
- Zhaan is a Ninth Level Pa’u priest.
- A standard unit of time is called an “arn.”
- Rygel uses the word “shaltan” as an expletive—the first of many euphemistic swear word in the series.
- The Luxans fought a war with the Grisoldians.
- Rygel has a deep affection for Moya.
“I, E.T.” makes several homages to the film E.T., including the strong white back lighting as Fostro opens the barn door, the anxious mom protecting her son, the sinister military men, and so on.
Rockne O’Bannon said in a 2000 interview with SciFi channel that “I, E.T.” and “Throne for a Loss” (1.04) were filmed at the same time (apparently the first six episodes were filmed in parallel). “It just became impossible for the director, cast, everybody to work on two very disparate storylines at the same time… By “PK Tech Girl” we went to shooting linearly…and notice how much stronger the eps got after that…”
Crichton should be able to understand the inhabitants of the planet well enough because of the translator microbes, but they do not have them and so should not be able to understand Crichton.
One or maybe two fictitious substances were invented for this episode. One is “twinium” which is fake, and obviously not a term for helium, the element with the atomic number of two, because we hear of helium in episode 1.01 (see flatulence, Rygel). The other is “clorium” which the subtitles spell as “clorium” and not “chlorium” the Latin name for element 17, known in English as “chlorine.” Zhaan refers to “clorium” as an element, “an atmospherically induced isotope of twinium.” Chlorium in the real world has 25 isotopes, only two of which are stable. It is not an isotope of anything else, much less of something called “twinium.”
Crichton asks Lyneea for star charts and deep space photographs hoping he “might recognize something… constellations, galaxies.” Constellations seen from Earth can only be seen from Earth because a constellation is nothing but the alignment of stars at a particular location. To navigate in interstellar space, Crichton would need to have memorized a three-dimensional map of the galaxy, not star charts of constellations on Earth or Lyneea’s planet.
This is the only time in the series that D’Argo misses attacking with his tongue.
The behavior of this planet’s military foreshadows the actions in “A Human Reaction” (1.16).
We never hear the name of this planet or its people in the episode, but the writers referred to the planet as “Denea.”