On Friday, Sept. 6, 2002, David Kemper, executive producer and writer, Ben Browder, who played John Crichton, and Richard Manning executive producer and writer, participated in an impromptu chat. They broke the news to fans the Sci Fi Channel had decided cancel Farscape. There would be no fifth season. Fans were devastated.
Eleven months before, Sci Fi announced the show was renewed for a fourth and fifth season. Season four ended with the two main protagonists potentially dead. A write-in campaign was launched and a miniseries was produced, providing a measure of closure.
Farscape was one of those rare shows I thoroughly enjoyed, even the crap filler episodes. It continues to grow on me each time Paul and I re-watch the series. I have the original set of DVDs, the subsequent DVD box set, the Blu-Ray box set, and digital copies from the piracy scene. Farscape remains a brilliant, quirky show that is entertaining and thought-provoking.
My favorite episode, “Different Destinations,” is from season three and aired on April 13, 2001.
Moya is orbiting a planet whilst being repaired. Crichton, Aeryn, D’Argo, Stark and Jool are down on the surface, which is the location of a peace memorial from a great battle in Peacekeeper history. Crichton makes D’Argo put some goggles on, which allow them to see through a time tear, events in the past as they unfold. Aeryn tells Jool that 30 Peacekeepers lost their lives defending a group of nurses and children from a group called the Venek Horde. Jool doesn’t buy it though, and fobs it off as Peacekeeper propaganda for morons, but Aeryn tells her the man who made peace, Sub-Officer Dacon, is a hero among her people.
The crew is also reeling after the death of Zhaan. The trip was to be a distraction before gathering themselves and moving on. John Crichton makes Stark put the goggles on. Naturally, things don’t go as planned. Stark, who is sensitive to such things, freaks out over seeing so much death and they all get sucked back into the past.
Really? You put the goggles on a man with a half glowing face that he uses to help people cross over upon death. What the fuck could go wrong there?
Normally, I hate time travel episodes because everything is fixed by the end of the show. This familiar trope – the grandfather paradox – has been done before in every science fiction television series, but, in the Farscape universe, the end is worth waiting for.
“Different Destinations” covers a well-known topic that is now trite and cliché and turns it on its head.
Problems with keeping the timeline straight occur right away and every single time John and Aeryn try to set things right, they screw it up even more.
The humor is there right from the start, but it also foreshadows the devastating effect the crew of Moya will have once they are pulled into the past.
Aeryn: You know if we did change things, it is possible that we could improve the future?
Crichton: With our record, you think that’s gonna happen?
Aeryn: I guess not.
We see a new depth to the characters. There is a good balance between the humor and raw emotion. The most striking, to me, was seeing how much Stark really feels the pain of others’ deaths.
This was magnified by Stark being forced to feel millions of deaths at once. He hears their souls. We never see them or the events that caused their death, but he show them in such a way that we can feel what he does.
John thinks he can fix things and, without telling anyone else, attempts to do so. Just as he was about to set everything right, Cyntrina’s mother kills Grines, the leader of the Vanek horde, who could broker the peace. It got worse from there.
Time after time, the crew screws things up. They bungled things so badly that, at one point, the entire planet had been destroyed. It’s like they have the Midas touch in reverse. Everything they touch turns to shit.
Next, they think everything will be fixed by letting things play out and we get another heartbreaking moment as Aeryn watches Dacon, the sweet, young, innocent cook, climb the wall, knowing he was going to die and knowing she had to let it happen.
It didn’t work, which forces D’Argo, Aeryn, and Crichton to use their weapons. They pretend to be a huge army to fool the Vanek horde and force the horde to surrender. They kill hundreds of Vaneks in a disturbing act of violence.
The crew then leave before the horde come for peace. When the horde arrive, they want to know where the soldiers are. When the nurses say they don’t know, the nurses are slaughtered.
A peaceful ceasefire turns into a tragic massacre. The crew’s dysfunction with each other and reluctance to listen to one other led to a calamitous outcome. Peace was made, but the Venek Horde wanted revenge for their leader and massacred the women and children inside the monastery.
Television shows that deal with time travel never go this far, but Farscape does and it’s why “Different Destinations” is not only a good episode, but why the series is so fantastic.
The ending of “Different Destinations” is bleak. Innocent nuns and children die as a direct result of the interference of the show’s “heroes.”
Death is woven throughout the episode. We started the show at a peace memorial. We end the show in the same place, but the peace memorial is now a memorial to horrific death.
There is the thought of death, facing death and fear of death. The characters are grieving over the death of Zhaan, who gave up her life so the crew could live. The nurse, Kelsa, and Stark talk about death. Aeryn and Dacon talk about death. Cyntrina talks about the death of her father.
It’s hard not to get choked up when Cyntrina asks D’Argo if anyone is ever going to remember her. He promises he will.
The most gut-wrenching scenes are at the end of the episode. John sits and watches the recording of Kelsa and Cyntrina being slaughtered as they scream out his name.
In the last scene, we see D’Argo walk over to the wall, push away the vines and stare at the carving Cyntrina made. It is a brutal reminder that he is likely the only one who will ever remember her.
“Different Destinations” crushes your soul and you are happy it did so. The emotional consequences of screwing with the time line deeply affects the protagonists as well as the viewer.
The story is a self-contained episode with brilliant writing, fantastic acting from the series regulars and guest stars, and a familiar storyline that’s not so familiar. It is heartbreakingly good. Farscape never lets you believe things will work out in the end. It’s realistic and you’re going to see characters crushed in more ways than one.
Farscape didn’t need to do a time travel episode. There are so many rich, alien species and worlds in the Uncharted Territories to explore that you didn’t need one. Farscape, however, does what it does best – it provides a punch to the gut while breaking your heart and you can’t stop watching.