There is reasonable debate over which episode in Season 1 was the episode when the original series really finds its groove. I have my opinion, but I respect those who choose “Durka Returns.”
It’s a fascinating episode, a step up in intensity from previous episodes. What’s best about “Durka Returns” is that the show takes risks by revealing new sides to existing characters and adding a new character who changes the dynamics of the show.
Let’s begin at the beginning. Yes, Durka returns.
<It’s Durka clip>
Durka was prominently mentioned in “PK Tech Girl.” Everyone thought, quite reasonably, that Durka was dead. But we find it was worse than that.
<faked his death clip>
<Durka, you coward clip>
Yes, even more of a coward than anyone realized.
Durka is the fourth Peacekeeper we meet, after Capt. Crais, Lt. Teeg, tech Gilina, and of course, Aeryn. Durka continue s the theme of Peacekeepers being cold, self-centered, and calculating. But Durka may be nastier than the others put together.
<you brought this monster, not anymore clip>
Yes, a new species, the Nebari, not to be confused the Minbari (1993-1998) Salis is a blue Liberace, creepy as all get out. We quickly get to meet a second Nebari, introduced to us as a mysterious threat. <perp walk clip> It’s a fabulous character introduction.
We quickly learn that the Nebari are, well, just plain evil.
<Salis with Zhaan clip>
Chiana is their next victim-to-be.
<Chiana with Crichton clip>
Chiana is an immediate enigma. Who is she? What has she done? Can she be trusted?
<Salis found dead clip>
<Chiana confronts Rygel clip>
Rygel is the other major character in “Durka Returns.” He has a legitimate complaint about Durka, not that he addresses it maturely.
< bomb clip>
Rygel not only almost kills Crichton, he also seems to have knocked Durka out of his mental cleansing.
<Durka awakens clips, attacking Rygel >
We are treated to some classic villain action as Durka tries to take over the ship.
<Durka knocks out Aeryn clip>
Durka’s villainy is foiled, not really by our heroes, but by Moya’s pregnancy.
<The one thing I’ve always admired … check the nutrient levels clip>
Kudos to Farscape for keeping plot continuity.
But Rygel gets to have his verbal revenge on Durka.
<Rygel chastising Durka clip>
Durka is still in control of the ship, which means …. Wait for it … Crichton needs to come up with a plan to save them.
<Crichton/Chiana talk clip>
Crichton’s plan doesn’t work… get used to that.
<Durka in doorway clip>
Then there’s a chaotic scene of Durka about to shoot part of Moya, Chrichton trying to bomb Durka, a lot about doors.
< doors clips>
It all works out for the best.
<Durka/Crichton conversation clip>
Bye,bye Durka, be seeing you later?
In any event, there are several outcomes of all this, one is a reproachment between Aeryn and Rygel.
< Aeryn-Rygel end of story clip>
And of course, Chiana arrives.
<Chiana the brat clip … whenever you want>
What We Learn in This Episode
There is a lot of new information in this episode. Much of it is about the Nebari. They are a new species in the show, but yet another totalitarian society. They seem even more repressive than the Peacekeepers or Delvians.
The Nebari can control sentient beings through a procedure they call a “mind cleanse.” They seem to be quite obsessed with and driven to cleanse people who didn’t fit their model of conformity.
<Crichton help me understand clip>
Chiana is not it making up when talking about the Nebari obsession with conformity or how much they brutally enforce it.
<didn’t you want to travel clip>
The mystery of who destroyed the Zelbinion is solved.
<Salis: had it been possible … clip>
The Nebari are capable of destroying the strongest warship in the Peacekeeper armada. Salis is rather nonchalant about it. Scary thought.
We glean a little information about the ages of our heroes and lifespans. We learned in earlier episodes that Rygel was deposed 130 cycles ago and that the Zelbinion was destroyed over 100 cycles ago. In this episode, Aeryn says that Durka would have died of old age over 50 cycles ago and Rygel says that the time he was imprisoned on the Zelbinion was nearly 100 cycles before Aeryn was born. Crunching the numbers, that means that Aeryn is under the age of 30. Claudia Black was 27 at the time of recording this episode.
Most importantly, we learn about Chiana.
<she’s a brat clip>
Yes, a brat, but perhaps not without reason.
<Mental cleansing into a … clip>
There’s no question that Chiana has real reasons to be afraid. The problem is that it is difficult to tell when she’s putting on a show.
< seductive clip>
With Chiana, what is an act and what is real? Gigi Edgley’s sterling performance steals the show, and this being Farscape, we are given a character who at first seems stereotypical, but there is much more beneath the surface, as is hinted at in the last seconds of this episode.
<last seconds clip>
Yes, who killed Salis? The inhabitants of Moya seem to assume that Chiana did it.
<Chiana did this clip>
And Chiana is willing to play along, as we just saw, but I don’t think she did it. I say that on the basis of Chiana’s actions in this episode. She could have easily killed Rygel, but she did not. She had motive to kill Salis, and perhaps opportunity, but I think the real culprit was Durka.
<he’s a psychopath clip>
<Durka remembers clip>
Durka had opportunity, which he created by misdirecting Aeryn.
<I can’t find Chiana clip>
It’s Durka who’s capable of anything, and it’s Durka who could attack Salis in the corridor. Salis would not suspect Durka as being a danger, but he would have definitely suspected Chiana. Durka would have been able to attack an unsuspecting Salis like he attacked an unsuspecting Aeryn.
<Durka knocks out Aeryn clip>
He held Aeryn and Rygel as hostages, but he had no reason to keep Salis alive. I am convinced that Durka murdered Salis.
<Crichton! Durka murdered Salis clip>
I never argue with Aeryn.
It’s never explained why Durka was partnered with Salis to capture Chiana. Both psychopaths, yes, but why send Durka out as a Nebari bounty hunter?
What is the Nebari mind cleansing procedure?
<Salis explains clip>
A sentient being’s brain is complex, but 100 cycles? That length of time is mentioned frequently enough that it must be the standard length of the procedure. Seems a bit overly dramatic for the episode to claim 100 cycles, but maybe that’s just me.
It is an effective brainwashing technique, working even on a psychopath.
The other mystery about the Nebari mind cleanse is why their obsession with it.
<Salis demands they turn over Rygel clip>
It’s one thing to want to subjugate your own population, but the Nebari seem willing, and maybe actively trying, to use their mental cleansing on other species. Are they trying to conquer the galaxy?
Then there’s the beguiling mystery that is Chiana. At first glance she’s a rogue young woman, wild and disrespectful.
<I know how to hide clip>
Chiana’s way of talking in this episode is clearly putting on a show, and she seems to have a practiced way of seducing men.
But her first appearance is setting up her character as rebellious but scared.
This is just the beginning of a very wild ride with Chiana.
And our deep dive ride is only accelerating. Next up, a very, very, very important episode, as the grand story arc officially begins.
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