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Farscape - Season 1 - Episode 15

Farscape - 1x15 - Durka Returns - Originally Aired: 1999-8-13

My Rating - 6

Fan Rating Average - 5.31

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Synopsis
Moya's crew encounters an old enemy, Peacekeeper Captain Selto Durka, who is now the brainwashed slave of a mysterious species, the Nebari. Durka and his new Nebari master Salis are returning Chiana, a Nebari criminal, to her homeworld to be 'mind-cleansed'. When Rygel attempts to kill Durka, the Captain's evil personality returns, and he immediately tries to wrest control of Moya from the crew. To save Moya, Crichton desperately needs Chiana's assistance, but she may be better off if Durka succeeds. [DVD]

Filler Quotient: 0, not filler, do not skip this episode.
- Introduction of Chiana, a new main character.

Problems
None

Factoids
- The Nebari possess ships powerful enough to take out a Peacekeeper Command Carrier.

Remarkable Scenes
- Moya colliding with another ship.
- Rygel's torturer from 100 cycles ago appearing on Moya.
- John being mistaken for a Sebacean.
- Chiana revealing her crime and the culture of the Nebari cleansing.
- Rygel attempting to assassinate Durka.
- Durka reverting to his old self and running amok.
- John: "Nebari mental cleansing doesn't get the tough stains out."
- John: "Durka's gone Hannibal Lecter on us!"
- Rygel taunting Durka during the torture session.
- John taking out Durka and almost getting blown into space in the process. A poor DRD wasn't so lucky though. :(
- John suspecting that Chiana murdered Salis.

My Review
We finally have an alien of the week with some long term potential with the Nebari, a fascinating and evidently xenophobic culture who use mind control technology both on their citizens and the aliens they come in contact with. What's more, they have the military resources and technology at their disposal to hold their own against the Peacekeepers!

Having Salis parading around a mind controlled Durka was a lovely choice to give Rygel something truly menacing to contend with and the apparent retaining of Chiana as a recurring character was a nice change of pace. It's nice to see Moya picking up new passengers along the way rather than just an endless stream of aliens of the week we'll probably never see again.

Chiana herself failed to capture much of my interest, but the fate she was running from is truly sinister. Even Zhaan, who strikes me as among the most tolerant of the crew was outraged at the notion of Nebari mind control. It's not made entirely clear how or why Durka's mind control came undone (or if it ever worked in the first place), but I think it would have been disappointing to not see him revert back to his old self.

Aside from the joy of seeing Rygel scared witless at the notion of a reverted Durka, it was also enjoyable to see Aeryn trying to reconcile her mutually exclusive hero worship of Durka with her objections to his conduct both on moral grounds (unwarranted cruelty) and on Peacekeeper honor grounds (abandoning his crew). Perhaps the greatest moment of the episode is Rygel taunting Durka in the midst of being tortured.

What doesn't work in this story is the distinct lack of context afforded to the Nebari. It would have been nice to see their planet or even one of their ships given their amazing stated capabilities. Instead, what we're shown is entirely one sided. The Nebari are wrong and Chiana is right. The issue is presented in such a one sided manner that neither I nor John apparently seems to care much that Chiana may have murdered Salis. I mean, can you blame her? With more context given to the Nebari, the issue might have been more interesting.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Pemmer Harge on 2010-12-11 at 4:03pm:
    Whether it was due to her or not, I definitely think Chiana's arrival marks the approximate point where Farscape got good. Before this, the show felt like a pretty generic space opera - like a more exotic version of Star Trek. From this point on it started getting a lot more distinctive.
  • From Alex on 2011-12-19 at 4:59pm:

    How did Durka survive, exactly?? I can buy him escaping rather than going down with the ship -- but preparing a fake corpse? How did he manage that? I think that should go into "Problems" section.
  • From Kethinov on 2011-12-22 at 3:12pm:
    The plot covers that. Durka while attempting to escape killed a junior officer and dressed him in his uniform hoping the Nebari would believe he had committed suicide so he could escape unnoticed. It didn't work and the Nebari captured him anyway.
  • From DK on 2012-07-30 at 12:44pm:
    What happened  when an over aggressive, bully kind of guy actually would have helped to track down and hunt one renegade bad guy?  Dargo trips over his own shoelaces (or something), drops his gun, and gets shut in a cage for the last third of the show.  His character traits would have been an asset rather than merely annoying for once had he not fell to the first trap set.
  • From HUgo on 2015-01-26 at 8:17am:
    I am a bit suprised that John didn't get more upset with Rygel for trying to bomb him (together with Durka) - he could have died there!
  • From Boscalyn on 2015-02-07 at 10:45pm:
    The most interesting thing about this episode that although the Nebari are ostensibly master brainwashers, the only instances of their technology we see in this episode are a BDSM collar and Durka, whose FULL CENTURY of conditioning is almost immediately undone. So is Durka just really, really evil, or is Chiana playing up the Nebari's evil so that she can make John let her out? The episode leaves it ambiguous whether Chiana's in the right while still establishing her as basically sympathetic.

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