Captain Hornblower Rates the Farscape Episodes

The Captain gives "John Quixote" a rating of:

0 Moyas

Captain's Rating Scale:
5 Moyas-one of the best episodes
4 Moyas-an excellent episode
3 Moyas-a good episode
2 Moyas-a fair episode
1 Moya-a less than fair episode
0 Moyas-a poor episode

Review:

Oh boy, where do I begin? Its time for yet another romp into John Crichton's memory/fantasy world/mind, whatever. Its time for yet another experimental episode that experiments just for the sake of experimenting. Its time for "John Quixote", a poor episode in my view.

First of all, the Farscape producers have been in this experimental mode too much lately. First, there was "Scratch N Sniff", then "Revenging Angel", then "Dog With Two Bones", now "John Quixote". Yes, I know some of those eps aired nearly a year ago, but these experimental eps have been popping up with a good deal of frequency since that time. Are they getting to the point of going off too much on the experimental kick or what?

I understand that the producers of Farscape are trying to produce some form of art, and think this kind of episode is probably very avant guard. "Oohh, let's split the screen, that is so cutting edge. Then, let's fuzz up the picture so it looks like its on a bad TV screen." While they do all that, of course, they dump the plot right out the window-if they even had much of a plot for the fantasy sequences in the episode.

I can take a little experimentation, a little weird. After all, I am a science fiction fan. And I have even enjoyed an experimental film now and again, depending on how much experimenting they do in it. For example, I thoroughly enjoyed a German movie I saw recently called "the Nasty Girl", a film about a young lady who seeks to find out about her small German town during the Third Reich for a book she wants to write, and the resistance she meets from the town. It did things like show moving street scenes in the background of people sitting around an office or living room talking. It was experimental filmmaking, but one was not distracted by it to the point that the story suffered.

But, when the weirdness gets to the point of sheer cornyness, and distracts too much from the story, then I respond negatively to it. This episode reached that point, and crossed it.

And the experimental track they used is not even new for this show. We've seen this all before, in both "Won't Get Fooled Again" and "Revenging Angel". Its almost as if they mated those two episodes, and they gave birth to this one. You don't see it? Let me show you.

John Crichton has another in his head fantasy, drawing on memories and placing familiar friends from Moya in the guise of other characters in his fantasy. Also, someone is deliberately keeping him in the fantasy. Sound familiar? Well, that's the basic plot of both this episode and "Won't Get Fooled Again", with the biggest differences being that the tormentor is a part of the simulation and Chiana is along for the ride.

This episode has Crichton moving through an almost cartoon like world, with water color looking castles and a TV falling on him like something out of a looney toon's cartoon. And he is being plagued in the fantasy by the face of a familiar friend. Sound familiar? Minus the TV, I could be describing either "Revenging Angel" or this episode, with the only differences being that John is not a cartoon in this case and its Stark plaguing him, not D'Argo.

So, its experimentation that is not even original for this show. Even at the point where they seem they are out of the fantasy, but we're not supposed to know they aren't. We know they are still in it. At least, its pretty predictable that the fantasy was still going on. After all, this is a plot twist that is so old that my Grandma would figure it out. They did it on various Star Trek episodes over the years in the different Trek series, and they did it in Farscape-the scene in "Won't Get Fooled Again" where Aeryn seems to free Crichton from the simulation. That is even repeated here, with Aeryn being the main character that John thinks is real, but isn't, in the part where he thinks he's out of the fantasy, but he isn't. Even if it wasn't an old plot twist, it happened half way through the episode. One could surmise quickly that he too easily escaped the fantasy (especially since we saw him confronted with an image of Zhaan in the simulation in the previews, and he hadn't at that point in the episode).

The gags in this episode that were supposed to be funny, were not even really funny. Most of them were corny or annoying. Crichton as Max Headroom-great cultural reference, I give them that. But that got very old fast, too, and very annoying. At one point, I was telling the Max Headroom Crichton to "shut up, already!", and promptly took an Tylenol. And, of course, the fat Delvian guy cured Crichton with some bodily fluids-very crude humor, like something out of the latest teen comedy. The only thing that made me laugh a little was Rygel's flamethrower but.

Even the things this episode had going for it were not given good presentation. One of these things was the return of several favorite characters from the show's past (Zhaan, Stark, and Gilina). Stark was okay in the episode-his annoying self. But Gilina-here is a character that we haven't seen in a while, and we don't even see that much of her. And Crichton doesn't even have much of a reaction to seeing her. "Oh, yeah, Gilina, the girl who's heart I broke and who died to save me." No reaction from him at seeing her again? And Zhaan's return, while slightly moving, seemed rather useless. She tells him to not let her death be in vain. This is obviously referencing the fact that she died to bring Aeryn back because John loved her.

And how does Crichton respond in the end, to both Zhaan's advice and to his mixed emotions about Aeryn at the moment? He apparently snorts something to make the pain go away, and subsequently treats Aeryn like dirt. Oh, yeah, what a great solution presented to one's pain. Snort something and make it all go away.

Now, admittedly, John Crichton has never been presented as the perfect hero. He is a flawed, imperfect hero with many weaknesses, which makes him endearing because he is an accessible hero who struggles using faith and heart when his weaknesses get in the way. But now, they have him apparently snort the equivalent of a drug to make his pain go away. John Crichton-experimental drug user? Of course, there are two things about this that alleviate some of my concern over this plot point. One is the fact that we don't know for 100% certainty that he used what Noranti gave him. Two, its pretty clear that if he did do it (thus explaining his coldness to Aeryn), he pushed her away and missed a possible opportunity of an available Aeryn and a chance to start working some things out between them, thus showing in a slim way that the drug only worsened things for him. Still, the overall message here is quite unnerving to me.

When I sat down to write this review, I was really considering toning down what I had to say, to not say what my mind/gut/whatever was telling me to say about this episode, or at least say it in less blunt terms. But then I decided I had to be honest with myself and those who might read this review, as I always am in my reviews. If I love an episode, I praise it to the stars and lavish it with words of admiration. When I don't like an episode, I say so and I say why I didn't like it in no uncertain terms.

This is only the second episode I have ever given a 0 Moya rating. But that is how the show rates in my view. Therefore, I have to be true to myself-I felt this was a poor episode, and I should spare no punches in explaining why I think its poor.

Also making this a hard review to write, and something that made me reconsider before I did write it this bluntly, was the fact that Ben Browder wrote this episode. Giving this episode such a poor review might be interpreted as tantamount to slapping Browder in the face verbally. But, again, I decided that the most honest thing, the fairest thing, was not to take into much account the fact that Browder wrote this episode, and to review it just like I would any other episode. It should also be noted that he was the writer, but not the only creative source for this episode. There was the director, producers, etc. So, its not only Ben Browder's vision that we are seeing, and that I am criticizing.

That being said, I do feel the fact that the lead actor of the show wrote this episode is an issue that should be briefly noted. I do think Ben Browder is a talented actor, and showed his writing ability quite well with the marvelous job he did with "Green Eyed Monster." Of course, that episode and "John Quixote" were two totally different eps, the first a drama/action adventure, this one an experimental comedic episode, with some action and drama thrown in. The only comparison I will make is to say that "Green Eyed Monster" is by a long shot is his better work.

That's my review-straight from the gut, and not edited to protect the innocent (or guilty as the case may be).

What did you think of the episode, or this review?

(Before you answer, I would ask that you please not skewer me just because I dared to criticize Ben Browder's work. Skewer me if you think my review is frelled if you want, but not JUST because it was Ben's ep I bashed. And of course, any feedback or comments from any point of view-agreement/disagreement/ambivalence-are welcomed)

Captain Hornblower
Keeper of Jenavia's Jewel Gun
Worshiper of Aeryn's Remarkable Vessel

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Originally aired in the US July 26. 2002

Written by Ben Browder

Directed by Tony Tilse

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