“I, E.T.” (season 1, episode 2)
• Written by Sally Lapiduss, directed by Pino Amenta •
And to forestall a bunch of “what is the ‘correct’ episode order?” questions: I’m calling this ep 2 because it was production number 10102, so I always thought of it as ep 2.
Yes, it actually was filmed “third” (well, in a block with “Throne for a Loss,” ep 4), and it originally aired seventh on the Sci-Fi Channel and fourth on BBC2, but still.
The fact that neither Sci-FI nor BBC2 actually aired it second might be taken as a hint that it wasn’t one of our stronger episodes, so let’s see how it holds up in the rewatch…
We begin with Crichton doing an eye twitch that’s as annoying to us as it is to him, in response to an even more annoying alarm sound that takes waaaaay too long to get shut off. Not the most inviting way to start an ep.
Last ep, we had D’Argo saying “damn,” and in this ep, we’ve got Crichton saying “What the hezmana is it?” Feels a bit early for Crichton to be echoing the local profanity…
I don’t know why D’Argo has to look in the Niche Where the Beacon Lives, and then Aeryn has to take a look, and then Crichton has to take a look.
And now Aeryn says “I’m new to all this escaped prisoner crap.” Everybody, get your swear words sorted out!
Moya lands in a bog. Good golly, our CGI was fantastic. Still looks amazing. Props to the terrific artists of Garner MacLennan Design for their superlative work.
If there’s a drinking game for season one, we should down a shot any time somebody asks “How’s Moya?”
Aaaaand now we’re on the planet surface looking at — guys apparently wearing baseball caps and holding rifles. Cheryl enquires if Moya has accidentally travelled to Earth and landed in Louisiana.
This is a charming little scene between Zhaan and Pilot, but it has zilch to do with the story. Must be one of our infamous season one “Euro scenes.”
Sci Fi wanted 43-minute episodes, but BBC2, having no commercial breaks, wanted 50-minute episodes. Those aren’t the exact numbers — networks specify delivery lengths to the second — but close enough. So we needed to add about seven minutes to each ep for the BBC2 version… and yet our budget was already strained to the limit producing 43-minute episodes. What to do? Solution: write two or three rather lengthy talk scenes between two characters that could be easily shot and dropped into the BBC2 version to get it up to 50 minutes. We dubbed those extra yakfests “Euro scenes” in-house.
(Thankfully, from season 2 on, BBC2 relented and allowed us to give them the same length eps as we gave Sci Fi, so the Euro scenes were solely a season 1 phenomenon.)
For me, the Euro scenes in this ep stand out even more than usual because the rest of the ep is, let’s face it, kinda talky already. Sometimes a Euro scene could be a nice breather from the mad action and weird goings-on of an ep, but… this time, not so much.
Don’t Get Me Started on the logic of how Translator Microbes work… yet in this ep, I was bugged then and am bugged now by the fact that the inhabitants of this planet, who’ve never left their planet, can nevertheless understand Crichton as if they all had Translator Microbes installed regardless. (Or that Lyneea, a scientist who’s looking for extraterrestrial life, doesn’t even seem to wonder why it is that she can talk to this ‘alien’ being…)
It’s not that this is a bad episode; it just doesn’t much feel like Farscape to me. Though it’s a cool idea to turn the tables on Crichton and make him the ‘alien’ outsider, this ep feels like it could very easily be rewritten to be a Star Trek ep or a Stargate ep or a you-name-it ep. And ep 2 feels way too soon to go to an Earthlike (much too Earthlike, if you ask me) planet. We saw the Premiere; we’re on board for ALIENS! CREATURES! LIVING SHIPS! WEIRD CULTURES! SPACE BATTLES! And in our very next ep, we get guys in hats, driving cars and toting rifles. Not surprising that Sci Fi and BBC2 shuffled the airing order a bit…
Ah, and now Rygel takes a big bite out of Aeryn’s arm and then swallows the chunk of flesh he bit off. Now that, for better or worse, is Farscape!
But then we’re back on Planet Bog and D’Argo, our fierce Luxan warrior, has somehow let himself get captured by a bunch of Guys With Rifles, despite his superior weaponry, soldier’s training, and his Stun Tongue. Yeesh. Poor D’Argo’s 0 for 2 on fights in just two eps.
Crichton suggests that (alien kid) Fostro shake hands with (alien) D’Argo. Cheryl, watching, suggests the kid probably wouldn’t know what “shaking hands” was even all about, and points out that shaking hands isn’t even a universal custom among humans on Earth.
And off Moya goes, looking gorgeous. As Bogart once said to Bergman, “We’ll always have CGI.”