It’s been almost a full year since Farscape’s fourth season finale aired— and if the Sci-Fi Channel had had anything to say about it, it would have been the show’s series finale as well. (Thankfully, the series is being revived for a concluding miniseries to tie up all the loose ends; it’s currently in production.) But a few nights ago, Sci-Fi reran that oh-so-tormenting episode, “Bad Timing,” and I made sure to watch it.
It revived my love for this unconventional work of science fiction that kept pulling me in with its edgy, dark heroes and the villains who weren’t quite as bad as you first thought. It reopened the wounds left by Sci-Fi’s betrayal in their sudden and unannounced decision to cancel the series in favor of such awful dreck as Tremors: The Series, Mad Mad House, and Tripping the Rift. But most of all, it made me realize that “Bad Timing” was quite possibly the epitome of Farscape, regardless of whether the cliffhanger was followed up or not.
(By the way, what is it with my tastes in sci-fi that all the shows I love get cancelled early— Crusade, Firefly, Farscape— while awful or mediocre shows like Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda and Enterprise seem to have nine lives?)
But this article is about Farscape and how perfect its final (regular) episode was.
First there was the retrospective... with Ben Browder narrating over one quick flash from each of the eighty-seven preceding episodes, then: “Finally... on Farscape...” It was almost as if the producers knew ahead of time that “Bad Timing” would be the last episode of the series. (However, David Kemper said that they didn’t change a single thing about the episode, even in post-production after they knew the series was being cancelled.) The rapid succession of still images went by too fast to absorb them all, but it was enough to give you a sense of just how far this story has come in the past four years. Glimpses of Scorpius, of Crais, of all the old friends and enemies encountered, all of whom made our heroes’ lives hell.
The situation, with a Scarran invasion heading directly for Earth, was almost too predictable. But seeing as how John told them that Chrystherium utilla was “dime a dozen” on Earth, it seems fairly obvious to me what was going to happen. Nevertheless, discussion of the prospect of a formal alliance with the Peacekeepers and a protectorate over Earth seems both comfortingly impossible and terrifyingly logical. John’s solution— and evading Scorpius’s blackmail— shows just how far he’s come at both avoiding being manipulated, and attempting some manipulation of his own. John has finally “grown up”— and in a way, it’s a total reversal of what he was like in the first season, because he’s become as callously manipulative as Scorpy.
There was no shortage of heart-tugging interaction in this story, either. Pilot and Moya’s contributions to the story fit in perfectly with the ensemble feel of the episode. Pilot’s selfless choice to sever himself from Moya and pilot the travel pod himself might have been predictable, but it was no less meaningful because of it. The parallel interaction between John and Aeryn, John and D’argo, and Aeryn and Chiana really showed the stable friendships that had finally developed after years of up-and-down struggles.
But the tearful goodbye between John and his father really gave this episode its tenor. There’s a real sense of finality in that conversation that makes you realize that Crichton is very likely never going to return to Earth again. He already said goodbye in “Terra Firma”, but there was always the possibility of returning, and it was a choice of leaving that Crichton made. But here, it’s circumstances that are forcing him to say goodbye, and as his interaction with his friends in this episode showed, John has somehow managed to build a life for himself in the Uncharted Territories. Life goes on.
Then there’s the conclusion— the mind-blowing, heart-rending, inconceivable conclusion. Although I will admit that I was just as annoyed as everyone else at the words “To Be Continued...”, I have to say that I wouldn’t have the ending any other way. Would Farscape really be the show we’ve come to know and love it if wasn’t “Situation Normal; All Frelled Up”? If there were one overarching theme to Farscape, it would be that something always comes to bite you in the rear. Nothing more than Murphy’s Law, as John explained to his dad.
And so, just as everything was nearly perfect with Moya’s crew— Chiana and D’argo happily together again, Pilot and Moya safe and recovering, Aeryn having her baby and agreeing to Crichton’s marriage proposal— it was only natural that something would fly in out of nowhere to break things up. It may be depressing, in a way, but it’s also optimistic— the adventure always continues. And I give kudos to the writers for standing firm in their storyline, even though “Bad Timing” would have made a perfect series finale if the last few seconds were cropped from the show. Because the adventure will go on, either on the television screen, or in our own thoughts. Life goes on.