“Throne for a Loss” (season 1, episode 4)
Written by me, directed by Pino Amenta
Now, where were we…?
Oh, right. 104!
This was my first script for Farscape. I’ll save the long, boring behind-the-scenes stuff for another day, but here’s the short, boring behind-the-scenes stuff:
I pitched Rock & DK some story ideas, and one that they liked included the notion that Peacekeeper “armor” injected the wearer with a strength-enhancing (and addictive) drug to “improve” their soldiers.
Rock & DK didn’t like that the soldiers were Peacekeepers, so the three of us tossed around variations on the concept, making it an alien species instead and adding in other elements such as Rygel getting kidnapped and D’Argo, Aeryn, and Crichton all having to wear the “glove weapon” and having it mess with their heads.
In an hour and a half of fun and frenetic brainstorming, we sketched out a rough story, and — once Sci-Fi approved it — off I went to write it.
And now I’m off to watch it, for the first time in yonks!
Love Jonathan Hardy’s Rygel voicework in this ep (and in all eps).
Gotta say nice things about our guesties as well; Jeremiah Tickell (Kyr) and John Adam (Bekhesh) not only gave terrific performances, they did so under pounds of alien makeup — and John Adam could barely even see out of his getup.
D’Argo loses another fight. Oh, well…
“Tracterbeem!” Yup, John’s seen Star Trek, but nobody else on Moya has. We don’t do tractor beams here; we do Docking Webs.
My first Farscape writing credit falls over a shot of Pilot looking horrified! Can’t ask for better than that.
(Here begins a Farscape tradition of my credit winding up on a shot where a character doesn’t look happy. I don’t think it was deliberate.)
D’Argo gets nasty! Go, Anth!
Zhaan gets nasty! Go, Virg! “Soft, yes; weak, no.”
This script was written so early in the scheme of things that “Zhaan” was still named “Zenn” in my first draft.
Blue foliage! If I recall, it was the brainstorm of Craig Barden, our marvelous DP, to key in on a specific range of green tones and replace ’em with blue. Works great.
The Consortium of Trao. My favorite early-seventies progressive band.
Crichton gets clocked with a Panthak jab and Aeryn perfectly delivers “Tavleks” as a button. And that’s Act One.
Ah, the Zhaan flash. This caused some consternation at the network; many arguments ensued, and (if I recall) Bonnie Hammer, head of Sci-Fi Channel, had to step in and declare the butt view “harmless.”
Let’s overload the Peacekeeper gun. Hey, that trick worked on Trek‘s phasers, so… why not? The ability to turn a gun into a grenade got us out of more than one plot difficulty over the course of the series…
Did Crichton just say “shit”? Sure sounded like it, though Ben swears he never pronounced the “t.” I dunno; I’m more surprised we got away with this than with naked Zhaan…
Zhaan bleeds white! It’s a Clue! Sometimes we did, pardon the expression, “plant” things for payoffs way down the road. Other times we just retconned like bandits. (Truly, I don’t remember which this was…)
Aeryn belts Crichton again! Take another drink.
(But don’t they make a nice Action Couple in this ep? Look at those intense poses, those open mouths, those furrowed brows…)
Also surprised we got away with D’Argo saying “lumpy blanket” re Aeryn atop him.
Props to puppeteer Tim Mieville who was also the voice of Jotheb. Perfect alien contrast to Rygel’s down-to-earth gruffness.
When DK & Rock sent me off to write the script, they told me not to stick blindly to the story outline but to go ahead and toss in a new idea or three along the way. “Surprise us,” they said. I took them at their word — and killed Rygel at the second act break.
He Got Better, thanks to Jotheb’s tentacle-to-mouth resuscitation skills, but DK & Rock loved that I’d been brash enough to Go For It. My draft ended Act Two like this: “Bekhesh lifts his boot. Rygel’s dead. END OF ACT TWO.”
Rock suggested that I amend that to “Rygel’s dead. Really.” …just to give everyone heart failure that we were killing off a million-dollar animatronic in the fourth episode.
Kyr doesn’t want a “damn” sermon. (The Translator Microbes are still working out which swear words to translate and which to leave alone…)
Nice but rather talky and off-point D’Argo & Aeryn scene here, which I suspect is a “Euro scene” added to pad out the episode for the BBC version.
Ah. The Qualta Blade Expansion. (Sounds like a Big Bang Theory episode title.) First time we see it, too, which messed up continuity when these early eps were aired out of order and therefore Aeryn in a “later” ep didn’t seem to know the thing was also a Qualta Rifle.
We’re running around Middle Head! That’s a Sydney location we used more than once, because — well, look for yourself, it’s a Way Cool Place to Shoot.
D’Argo takes out three baddies! Finally the lad gets to win a fight. Aaaaand then he gets shot. O, well. The writers giveth and the writers taketh away.
The Gauntlet works via willpower, “like Green Lantern’s Ring.” I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to write for a character who knew all this geek stuff and could reference it when needed. This not only made writing easier — if an alien looked kinda like a Klingon, Crichton could beat the viewer to the punch and remark that it looked like a Klingon — but also, per Rock & DK’s plan, reinforced the notion that Crichton was from our universe and not Yet Another Fictional Universe Where Nobody’s Ever Watched Television or Seen Movies or Read Comic Books.
Zhaan has a temper! Rock & DK had also told me that the alien characters’ various traits (serene peacenik, angry warrior, etc.) were merely starting points and that we should all feel free to deepen the characters and add other levels as the stories progressed. I thought that perhaps Zhaan’s saintly patience ought not to be inexhaustible and that she should just plain lose it now and then when provoked. So I went for it; everybody liked it — and lo, Zhaan now had a temper.
This Crichton-running shot somehow reminds me of The Six Million Dollar Man, which is kinda fitting as Ben later played Lee Majors in a TV movie…
The Gauntlet’s out of gas! “Let’s call it a draw,” says Crichton, because of course I was thinking of Monty Python and the Holy Grail where the Black Knight always triumphs!
I wrote Rygel’s “I’m unloved, unwanted” line, but I didn’t write him perfectly capping it with “unconscious”… and I wish I knew whose idea that adlib was so I could thank them.
John Adam is so good in this post-standoff scene. It’s no wonder we brought the actor and the character back in later seasons…
Crichton holding the unbagged Rygel is such a lovely two-shot. We discovered early on that the puppets really came to life when the actors touched them in some way, shape, or form.
And Crichton calls Rygel “Fluffy,” and another Farscape running gag is launched. Fluffy, Spanky, Little Camper, Buckwheat…
D’Argo in black satin pajamas? He looks like he’s just stepped out of the Playboy Mansion.
(Great idea, though, to give all the characters some changes of clothes, so they aren’t just wearing their One Alien Outfit constantly…)
Rygel craps the gem! Yup, it’s not Farscape without some body fluid and/or function playing a crucial role.
Kyr, back on the planet, holds up his arm to show that he’s not Staying Straight after all but is in fact wearing the Gauntlet again… except that isn’t 100% clear when we see Kyr on the viewscreen, so… we dropped in an added line, recorded later, of Kyr saying “…now that I have the Gauntlet back on.” Sometimes you need a bit of what I call “remedial dialog.”
We all agreed going in that Zhaan’s attempt to Talk the Kid Out of Doing Drugs wasn’t going to work, because those sort of easy answers just weren’t Farscape, and Zhaan underscores the point in the last line of the ep, “No sermons.”
AND FINALLY: The (crummy) working title of this episode was “Gauntlet,” so when I handed in my first draft, I also gave Rock & DK a list of alternate titles. Never thought they’d pick the one they picked. Here’s the list; see if there’s one you like better!
A Royal Pain
Forearmed and Dangerous
Delusions of Royalty
Throne For a Loss
In Arm’s Way
Forewarned is Forearmed
The Invincible Man
King For Sale
Rygel Goes to Camp
Fit for a King
Unfit for a King
Hissy Fit for a King
Bungled in the Jungle
The Royal Mistreatment
Where There’s Swill, There’s a Way
Fits Like a Glove
Penalty for Early Withdrawal Symptoms
The True Enemy
I’ll Take Rygel
You Take Paris, I’ll Take Rygel
Call It a Draw
Rygel the Conqueror
Unloved, Unwanted, and Unpopular
Unloved, Unwanted, and Uncouth
One More Skull for the Collection
The Royal Snatch