Captain Hornblower Rates the Farscape Episodes

The Captain gives "A Prefect Murder" a rating of:

3 and 1/2 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


This has been perhaps the hardest episode of Farscape for me to rate and review. There was so much in this episode that I just loved, yet there was also quite a bit that I didn't like. As you can see by my rating for it, my mixed feelings made evaluating and assessing this episode extremely difficult. I have always had a hard and fast rule about ratings, that is not to go down the road of doing a whole number and a half, no mixed numerals for ratings. I've rated using whole numbers on the scale, rounding up or down to the nearest whole number as needed. That works for most episodes, because with most of them, I don't have so much ambiguity of feeling about them. I am completely thrilled with an episode, or I really love it, or like it, or thought it was okay, or thought it was less than okay, or thought it stunk.

But with this episode, I found no other way for me to give my honest rating of it. I had to go with a mixed numeral for the rating (3 and 1/2 Moyas). In terms of what the rating means, it scales it as between good and great (I guess "extremely good" would be the label for it).

Now, to explain my ambiguity. I'll start by going over the things I absolutely loved about the episode:

1) The storyline itself was very interesting and compelling. Some outside force in the form of a hallucination inducing insect mixed with mental control causes Aeryn to massacre a whole group of people. She becomes an unwilling instrument of death.

There is an interesting dichotomy in this, because as a Peacekeeper, Aeryn was a somewhat willing instrument of death, though one that didn't know any better. Now, this incident has her, momentarily, being turned back into a merciless killer, and the evolved Aeryn we see after four years away from the Peacekeepers is left with the aftermath. This was an excellent story concept, and a very creative idea on the part of the writers and producers of the series. It sort of reminded me of "The Way We Weren't", to the effect that we see the emotionally evolved Aeryn have to confront her past as a cold instrument of death.

2) I liked the way the story was acted and the characterization in the story. Browder and Black did a marvelous job in trying to fight the force that was compelling them to kill one another, while at the same time combat the ambiguity that haunts their relationship at this point. Then, their performance in the final scene of the episode, even without dialogue, was truly excellent (I will discuss this more in a few moments). Raelee Hill and the actor who played the prefect's son also generated some genuine heat in their intimate scene, which was very tastefully played out and was a truly tender moment. Sikozu's characterization was enhanced by the episode through those moments and her interplay with her love interest in this episode.

3) Aeryn's handling of what she had been forced to do was a magnificent exercise in the power of subtlety. Instead of having Aeryn mope around through most of the episode, weeping over what she had done, we see Aeryn handle it very much like her character would. She is truly shocked by what she has done, as shown in her moment of remembrance about the full circumstances of the massacre she committed. But, she puts it aside, and presses forward with bringing down the true masterminds of the massacre. Then, in the end, she faces what she has done in quiet reflection, with Crichton lending her quiet emotional support. This was handled in a way very much in character for Aeryn, and in a method that didn't have to rely upon blatant emotionalism.

That was what I loved in this episode.

Now, let's get to the bad news, i.e. what I thought were not so good elements of this episode:

1) The first twenty minutes of the episode showcased a classic example of baseless experimentalism for its own sake. We see the same sequence of events repeated at least four times from different perspectives, leading up to the massacre. This plot device didn't work well in "the Ugly Truth", and it didn't work well here. But at least in "the Ugly Truth", there was a reason for showing the same events several times from different perspectives. Here, there was no clear purpose for it. All it did was slow down the plot, make things extremely confusing, and made the first half of the show rather boring in some places, up until the massacre. It was really just a waste of half of an episode, and this had a detrimental consequence for the plot.

That consequence being:

2) The plot of the episode is overly rushed and hurried. After seeing the same thing four times in the first half of the episode, they only had half of an episode to really flesh out the rest of the plot. They had no time really to add substance to the mystery of who was really behind the massacre, Aeryn figuring out exactly how it happened, and the plan to ferret out the real culprits. It took them all of a couple of minutes to figure out the bug element to this, and who was responsible. After you get through the repetition in the first part of the episode, you only really get half of an episode's worth of story and substance.

This was truly an extremely good episode for its great general storyline, excellent characterization and performances from the cast, and the subtlety of the emotional elements in the episode. But, it was an episode that could have been even better, truly excellent, if the producers had not wasted half of it on useless repetition of the chain of events leading up to the massacre, and instead used that half of an episode to truly flesh out and give more texture to the plot of the episode.

But despite its drawbacks, "A Prefect Murder" was still, overall, a well done and interesting episode.

What did you think of the episode, or this review? Feedback and comments are always welcomed.

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

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Originally aired in the US August 9, 2002

Written by Mark Saraceni

Directed by Geoff Bennett

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