The inhabitants of Moya just want to go home. The problem is they don’t know where they are, and they don’t know where home is. Desperate people don’t know discretion and can easily fall victim to crooks and fiends.
That’s what happens in “DNA Mad Scientist.” NamTar is the fiend in question, a mad scientist, sorry,
<Rygel a learned scientist clip>
Which is better than
<Crichton damn scientist clip>
NamTar is also allegedly superior to everyone in every way.
<you thought we had a deal? clip>
He is physically superior, perhaps, but he is mad, and of highly questionable ethics and motives.
<NamTar: Is that how you speak to someone who is fast approaching perfection? clip>
We have our mad scientist so now we need a tavern with villagers terrified by the mad scientist like it’s a Hammer horror movie. Ahh, perfect.
In said tavern, Crichton is pouting.
< 11 million species clip>
Aeryn is pouting with him, and they are so absorbed in their pity party that they miss the desperate evil unfolding on Moya.
<the evil clip>
Definitely the lowest moment for Zhaan, D’Argo, and Rygel in the whole series.
After their crime against Pilot, we get our first insight into Pilot’s character and history.
<how can you not be angry? clip>
Pilot’s resignation in no way exonerates the actions of Zhaan, D’Argo, and Rygel. Even Aeryn is disgusted with their action, and she shows compassion and ethical concern for the first time.
Piercing Aeryn’s emotional armor is the real subject of this episode. Yes, Zhaan, D’Argo, and Rygel squabble over who gets to go home first, a hope later exposed to be pure folly. They were deceived by NamTar, and more importantly, so was Aeryn.
<I wish to participate in your research clip>
A bad decision worthy of a Hammer horror movie. Predictably, asking for help from a mad scientist leads to horrible consequences.
< There is clearly something wrong clip>
Dr. Frankenstein has nothing on NamTar, His dastardly plan is revealed to us by Kornata.
<Crichton and Kornata clip 1>
That’s a classic mad scientist scheme there. But Farscape adds a twist on the classic formula.
<Crichton and Kornata clip 2>
The monster Kornata created has run amok. Did she also genetically enhance his megalomania?
<NamTar’s megalomania clip>
Yes, Aeryn is NamTar’s next victim. I mentioned in the previous deep dive recap of “That Old Black Magic” that Farscape is beginning to explore the nature of evil. Maldis wasn’t real evil, but NamTar is pure, cold evil, having a complete disregard for how one’s actions affect others.
<NamTar condescends to Aeryn clip>
Farscape early on sets the pattern that Crichton saves the day, and sure enough, he does, with Kornata’s significant help.
<Crichton saves the day clips>
Crichton saved Aeryn while Zhaan, D’Argo, and Rygel acted like spoiled children. The side plot of their arguments over the map is far less interesting than the central story of Aeryn’s existential predicament.
Aeryn’s life is clearly in danger, but more important for Farscape’s grand story arc is that NamTar’s evil exploitation of her reveals to her and us hitherto unknown depths of who she is.
What We Learn in this Episode
Humans are not in NamTar’s database of 11 million species which indicates that Earth is well outside of known space.
Pilot’s multitasking capabilities may be unique to his species, as NamTar had not been able to locate them elsewhere, in spite of his large database.
Pilot’s species has rapid healing and regenerative capabilities.
Pilot’s species commonly bond themselves to Leviathans and give their lives to the service of others.
What we learn most vividly in this episode is what Aeryn learns about herself. She sees her actual self for the first time, and the revelation has an enormous influence on her going forward.
The feeling of compassion she claimed to hate in “Premiere” wells up as her shipmates ruthlessly cut off Pilot’s arm in exchange for an alleged star map. “How could you? Pilot is defenseless,” she says to them. “Compassion? From a Peacekeeper?” D’Argo mocks, but yes, Aeryn has been pushed to a compassion she didn’t realize she had. Zhaan, D’Argo, and Rygel are complicit in the mutilation of Pilot, but Crichton is not, and their shared moral position draws them closer. At the idea that everyone else will be going home if NamTar’s maps are accurate, she is forced to face her greatest fear, again, one she never realized she had:
<I was born a Peacekeeper soldier clip>
Separation and solitude unnerve her, but she realizes that it is a path she must take. Having been deviously injected with Pilot’s DNA by NamTar, Aeryn is forced on a path no one else has taken: becoming a hybrid Sebacean-Pilot.
NamTar took advantage of Aeryn’s fear of being alone. Originally uninterested in his “experiments” that located planets by DNA, she went back to him because, as she tells Crichton,
“I wanted him to find me a place where I could belong. I didn’t want to get left behind. I’m so scared.”
Her admission of fear to Crichton, unimaginable in previous episodes, expresses the immediate fear of the disease changing her body, and her existential fear of being separated and alone. Crichton is her only connection, tenuous though it is.
The genetic mutation NamTar inflicts on her is not just a brush with physical death but a brush with the death of her self as she feels her conscious identity slip away from her. Crichton (of course) saves her, but the experience gives her a new way to view herself:
<It was me clip>
What she learns in her near self-death experience is how to look inward to her self, not just outward to how her environment defines her, and that’s bery significant for the rest of Farsacpe.
The biggest difficulty with this episode is the basic premise of Zhaan, D’Argo, and Rygel wanting to go home. Even without yet knowing what we learn in latter episodes, it was obvious in this episode that going home would not be a desire for Zhaan and D’Argo. Rygel wants to go home to Hyneria, yes, to reclaim his rightful place on the throne. But Zhaan and D’Argo are both exiled, and going to their home worlds would mean death sentences. These facts are conveniently forgotten in the plot. Certainly, they both wish they could go home, but they would not take up the opportunity to go home as unhesitatingly as this episode portrays.
The concept of the genetic map is not very convincing. NamTar knows where their home worlds are and is offering them,
<genetic map clip>
NamTar doesn’t need to collect DNA samples from them to map out a route to their home worlds. DNA doesn’t add anything to knowing where they are, where Peacekeepers are, or how to get to their homes. The genetic map is a weak plot element.
NamTar says he has 11 million species in his database. He does not specify if that is the number of species of animals, sentient beings, or what exactly. That seems like a big number, but scientists estimate that there are somewhere between 6 to 8 million species alive on Earth today. So, 11 million is not a high number of species in general. If NamTar’s database is of sentient species, as the episode seems to imply, then we are talking about millions of worlds, and that is an amazing accomplishment.
We could quibble with how quickly NamTar reverted to its original form. And we could say that Aeryn recovering physically as though nothing had happened is a Star Trek ending, but Aeryn has been mentally and existentially altered forever more, and that is not Star Trek, that’s Farscape.