Captain Hornblower Rates the Farscape Episodes

The Captain gives "Terra Firma" a rating of:

5 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 not so fair episode
0 Moyas-a poor episode

Review:

The story behind "Terra Firma" is one that has been anticipated by Farscape viewers really since the beginning of the series. Crichton has been, from the beginning, on a quest to find his way back home again. In this episode, he finally does it. As a result, this episode is really one that will be tremendously scrutinized by fans, and judged by a lot of different expectations. It will be one compared to a lot of different "what I would do" and "what I want to see" scenarios, even fanfic stories written by the dozens about this storyline. Talk about pressure!

But under this pressure, Farscape delivers a fantastic episode, one of their best ever. It is a tricky balancing act that is at the center of this story. Just what does one focus on with such a tremendous event in the history of the show? Just what is the most important things about John Crichton's homecoming? In this area, the producers almost did not give enough focus to certain aspects of the story, while coming close to rushing the telling of other story elements. But the key is ALMOST on both counts.

It would have been nice to see Crichton's companions get to experience more about Earth's culture (personally, I would have loved to see them react to something of Earth's science fiction genre, like Star Wars). But, we really got to see that in "Kansas", and what we did see of this was good, especially Aeryn's interactions with Crichton's family. The little bit more of fan satisfaction that would have resulted was justly sacrificed to keep the story in motion. Also, the bringing together of Earth and Crichton's crew (first encounters, opening dialogue, etc.) also seemed a bit rushed, but Crichton's opening narrative does a satisfactory job in getting through these story elements, and again keeping the plot moving along.

I think the most important key to this episode's success is the fact that with so many complicated and intricate plot elements, all done in one episode, the writers and producers keep the story focused on a few fundamental areas:
1) Crichton faces Earth after his experiences in the Uncharted Territories
2) Earth, and Crichton's family especially, face the very changed John Crichton that has returned from space
3) What Earth wants from Crichton, and what he is willing to give them
4) The danger posed to Earth from Grayza and Crichton's other enemies
5) Crichton's choices about what he wants to do with his life now

John Crichton has returned to Earth, but it doesn't feel like home as much anymore. He feels lost, somewhat, on his own home planet. He actively seeks to deceive his own government, making them think he is ready to open the universe to them, while really he is only going to give them a peek at what he wants them to see.

The Earth obviously wants as much as possible from Crichton and crew, but the U.S. government wants to restrict the knowledge given to other countries. Crichton, of course, being the sole representative of the entire human race to the rest of the galaxy, sees things from a more all encompassing human perspective, not just that of an American anymore. But the home Crichton now faces is also different from the one he knew, as represented by the lessened idealism in his Father. I think it was very adept of the producers to take into account the effects that the events of September 11, have had on us as a people. Crichton, thus, returns to a nation at war with enemies that could be anywhere, and the attitude of his family, friends, and government reflects that.

The dangers posed to Earth from Crichton's enemies, the ones he wants to protect his world from, are adeptly represented by Grayza's monster, who hunts down Crichton on his home planet, and even manages to kill two of Crichton's loved ones. Its one thing for Crichton to fight battles in distant parts of the galaxy. Now, the enemy is attacking him in his family's home, thus representing the threat to Crichton's homeworld. We even see a bit of complexity from Grayza at long last, showing her humorous trait as she makes Bracca think they have recreated together when she uses him as a vessel to contact her monster telepathically.

Crichton, ultimately, is the center of this story. He must choose what his life path will be now. When he left Earth originally, he had no choice in where he ended up. Now, the choice lays before him. Earth, not quite home to him, but still where he comes from and still filled with so much he cares for. Or Moya, his friends, a life of danger, but excitement, and a position from which he can better safeguard his homeworld from the dangers he faces. Aeryn, of course, is part of that choice, but his choice of Moya still leaves their relationship with uncertainty, focused on the conundrum of Aeryn now being the one who wants John, but him not being certain.

All of these elements are explored separately and together in a fantastic, intricately woven episode, featuring action, suspense, intrigue, romance, drama, and even some comedy. The producers knew this episode's story was one anticipated by viewers from the show's Premiere, as viewers were constantly reminded of Crichton's quest for home in the show's stories, and even its title credits narration. They knew this one had to be a slam dunk of an episode, an it is clear from the end result they worked very hard to make this happen. In my view, they succeeded.

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

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

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Originally aired in the US January 17, 2003

Written by Richard Manning

Directed by Peter Andrikidis

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