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Farscape - Season 4 - Episode 17

Farscape - 4x17 - A Constellation of Doubt - Originally Aired: 2003-2-10

My Rating - 9

Fan Rating Average - 4.81

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Having overheard Ahkna, the Scarran Minister of War, mention the secret Scarran base known as Katratzi, Sikozu is sure this is where the Scarrans intend to take their captive, Aeryn Sun. Though Moya's data banks have no record of Katratzi, Crichton's sure he's heard the word "Katratzi" somewhere before, if only he could remember where. Unable to sleep, Crichton pores over a documentary intercepted from Earth that examines the visit by "aliens" - Moya's crew - and discovers that the documentary just might hold the key to locating Katratzi - and Aeryn. [DVD]

Filler Quotient: 0, not filler, do not skip this episode.
- Numerous major long term plot threads are serviced here.

- Once again the plot plays it a bit fast and loose with the aliens being able to converse presumably in English with various human characters. The fact that they've been there for over a month before John arrived giving them all time to learn English helps, but that's still pushing it. Presumably some of the human characters took translator microbes? It would've been nice if the plot buttoned this up a bit.

- Don't skip the end credits! There's more material from this episode's documentary in the end credits.
- This episode has a large number of interesting and notable deleted scenes that are worth watching.
- Both Executive Producer David Kemper and Brian Henson played cameo roles as humans being interviewed in this episode. Kemper played the man whose face was masked and Henson played Professor Edmund Johnston.

Remarkable Scenes
- John watching a documentary from Earth about the fallout caused by his return with aliens and alien technology in tow.
- Bobby: "I'm like the coolest kid in school because of you guys."
- John: "I'll bet this son of a bitch wins an Emmy."
- D'Argo tongue whipping Bobby at his request.
- Rygel boasting about Earth offering him many opportunities to indulge his gluttonous, vulgar, and perverted appetites.
- The documentary host interviewing the sheriff who filed a report about having observed Moya's crew in 1985.
- Chiana unable to reconcile why little girls on Earth would wear sexy clothes if they're not allowed to have sex.
- John pulling a gun on Sikozu and freaking out because no one can remember the name Katratzi except for him.
- John realizing that he heard the name Katratzi in the unrealized reality whilst in the wormhole.
- John offering Scorpius wormhole technology in exchange for help rescuing Aeryn from the Scarrans.

My Review
This delightful episode is just the sort of sequel I was looking for to Terra Firma's exploration of what aliens arriving to Earth would be like. If we had never seen Earth again after the events of Terra Firma, the series would have suffered. Obviously John's not ready to go back, so to continue exploring the fallout of his homecoming I greatly appreciate the documentary style storytelling choice because it takes John entirely out of the context of these events; it forces him to simply watch as a helpless observer. As such, watching John watch TV all episode is strangely compelling because the subject matter is so rich.

Indeed, almost nothing happens in this episode and yet it manages to be such a deep and essential exploration of each of the main characters, especially John. The only actual plot is John trying to remember where he heard the name Katratzi and for once the plot device isn't some mystical science fiction voodoo but simply a highly distraught man having a hard time remembering something that he is certain he experienced. The story is of course resolved when John simply remembers what he saw and heard in Unrealized Reality, but I enjoy that he didn't remember right off. That's very realistic. Memory sometimes isn't instant recall and when you're distracted by a painful loss it can be even harder to remember even the most crucial things. Especially for someone who's experienced as many strange things as John.

Beyond that, this episode offers many fascinating tidbits. The psychologist may have overreacted throughout most of the episode, but she was quite right that John stating that he's always waiting for something bad to happen is a sign of his being constantly subjected to high stress. He's become paranoid, jumpy, and trigger happy. Ever notice how often he pulls guns on people? It's a reflex now. Even in this episode he pulled on a gun on Sikozu for no good reason. And at the end of the episode, despite still having no evidence, paranoid old John once again accused Scorpius of setting him up to extract wormhole knowledge before caving and giving Scorpy what he wants in exchange for help freeing Aeryn.

Another prominent theme of the episode is the disconnect between the aliens and the humans in their reactions to the fact that the rest of the galaxy possesses the capability to wipe out Earth easily. To people like Aeryn and D'Argo this is a harmless fact because Earth is so irrelevant no one would ever visit it. But to the human characters featured in the documentary this is the most terrifying threat in human history. The culture shock is well explored. I especially enjoyed D'Argo's observations about aliens in human movies and his warning that humans won't always win like they do in the movies. 😉 All in all this is a fantastic episode that favors depth and nuance over the speed of plot which is sometimes too rare on Farscape.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From Hugo on 2016-10-09 at 3:58pm:
    Hmm... Everyone masters English
  • From JL on 2018-01-28 at 4:02pm:
    I decided that the interviewers probably had translator microbes, but the documentary had to be broadcasted with subtitles on Earth. John however, being able to understand his friends, switched off the subtitles while watching. Problem solved!
  • From Margaret J on 2019-08-08 at 7:14pm:
    This one was good it even managed to make me forget for a moment or two that what I really wanted to know what was going on with Areyn. Must have been frustrating back in the day when people realized had to wait a another whole week for them to maybe get back to that. I rated this one a seven (7). It may have gotten a higher rating if it had not been framed around or placed in the middle of Areryn's abduction.
  • From Jon Reremy on 2021-01-02 at 8:12pm:
    Even if it's not the best of the season and I more or less agree with the given ratings, this episode was easily my favourite of the season. I really liked the documentary commmentaries, for some reason I was expecting it to be enraging with a finger-pointing conclusion. But it was almost cozy. And that ending with Crichton willingly dooming the universe was awesome, haunting.

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