Recap / Farscape S 01 E 09 DNA Mad Scientist

Season 1, Episode 9:

DNA Mad Scientist

Open on Crichton, who is sitting in a chair and having a needle inserted into his right eye, as a rather mellifluous voice advises him not to blink. After a few tense seconds, the needle is removed, and Crichton staggers out of the chair, apparently none the worse for wear apart from a mild stinging sensation.

It is quickly revealed that Moya has arrived at the asteroid laboratory of Namtar, a reclusive scientist performing cutting-edge genetic research; apparently, he's also developed a technique that can allow him to pinpoint the home planet of almost any given species, provided that they are recorded in the database- and so long as the client can provide a sample of genetic material. So, looking for a map back to their respective homeworlds that bypasses any troublesome Peacekeeper jurisdictions, the crew have payed a visit to Namtar's lab; all of them submit to the eye-poke, except for Aeryn, who can never return to her home. Crichton is similarly disappointed when he finds that humans and Earth aren't present anywhere in the database. Triply unfortunately, as payment for his services, Namtar requests one of Pilot's arms.

To Crichton's shock and Aeryn's disgust, Rygel, D'Argo and even Zhaan gang up on Pilot and slice the requested arm off; to Crichton's continued shock, though Pilot initially protests this decision, he doesn't hold a grudge against the three- after all, the passengers' wishes come before his, and he'll grow a new arm eventually. Meanwhile, as Namtar goes about studying the disconnected limb with the aid of his hunchbacked assistant, Kornata, it's seen that this isn't the first time he's attempted to experiment with Pilot DNA: he still has the failed results chained to a wall, screaming continuously.

While Rygel, D'Argo and Zhaan are all looking forward to going home, Aeryn is depressed: quite apart from not being able to return home, she believes that sooner or later, she'll be left alone- a future devastating to somebody who's spent her entire life as part of a unit. So, she eventually returns to Namtar's lab and requests that he locate a Sebacean colony where she might be able to fit in; however, when Namtar syringes her eye, rather than taking a genetic sample, he injects her with something. As she leaves, he ominously comments that she'll know of the results very soon...

By now, the cartographic crystal with the maps to the crew's homeworlds has been delivered to Moya, and the lucky three immediately start to argue over which particular planet they visit first. Unfortunately, Pilot reports that Moya can't process all the data on the crystal, not without deleting two of the three maps and denying one of the other crew members their guaranteed routes home; "Lucky for you, you didn't trade anything of real value to get it," he snarks. With the option of requesting three individual crystals from Namtar being out of the question, Rygel promptly steals the crystal and hides it away in his quarters until the others are ready to bargain, only for D'Argo to simply lock him inside and leave him to starve until he's ready to bargain.

On the outskirts of the argument, Aeryn is sweating and disoriented; a POV shot reveals that she's seeing double, and her hearing has been amplified to painful levels. After brushing off Crichton's interest due to him being unable to lower his voice, she returns to asteroid facility, where she ambushes Namtar; with the scientist immune to her interrogation techniques and unwilling to say anything other than a vague reference to her being at the end of "phase 1" she has no choice but to depart. Some time later, she goes to Pilot for advice on how to filter out the noise that Moya is apparently producing, and both he and Crichton discover that Aeryn is visibly mutating: she is developing weird growths on her stomach, and her fingers have started to merge together. In other words, whatever Namtar did to her is turning her into a Pilot. Desperate for answers, Crichton takes her back down to the asteroid again, and this time, after casually demonstrating telekinetic powers and the ability to regenerate from lethal injuries, Namtar simply captures Aeryn and imprisons her in his laboratory.

After Kornata tries vainly to dissuade Crichton from going after them, she finally confesses the truth: once, she was the chief scientist in a project studying intelligence, and Namtar was just another lab rat- up until the experiments began enhancing his intellect. Eventually, the specimen became clever enough to operate the laboratory machines on his own, took over the lab, and began altering his body, grafting beneficial traits from catalogued species onto himself in an obsessive desire to reach a state of perfection; Kornata and her research team became Namtar's test subjects, and eventually, his slaves. And now, Namtar is after the Pilot species' Super Senses and multitasking capabilities; since he can't get at Moya's Pilot, he's using Aeryn as a substitute. Thankfully, with a bit of persuasion, Kortana decides to help Crichton.

As she develops a serum to reverse the alterations made to Namtar's body, she also tells Crichton that the cartographic crystal he gave to the crew was designed to wipe Moya's memory banks and paralyze her in orbit if the data on it was ever processed. By now, though, Rygel's managed to escape from his cell, and is readying to use the crystal, and Crichton arrives just in time to destroy it- much to Zhaan's fury. Then, Crichton returns once more to the asteroid for the final showdown with Namtar; as he's no match for him in battle, he distracts the mad scientist with small talk long enough for Kornata to inject him with the serum and turn him back into a lab rat. The horribly-mutated Aeryn is also restored to normal, and Kornata finally has her lab back.

In the epilogue, while Aeryn recovers from her transformation, D'Argo delivers an apology to Pilot for hacking off his arm; however, as Luxans aren't given to verbal apologies, he instead presents the strange device he's been building, and, contrary to first impressions, it's not a weapon: it's a musical instrument, and it's first song is for Pilot. Daaaaaawwww...

Tropes present in this episode include:

  • A House Divided: A whole subplot of this episode is devoted to the already tenuous relationships between the crew beginning to collapse.
  • Affably Evil: Namtar.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Poor Pilot. It does grow back by the next episode, though.
  • Artistic License - Biology: In so many ways. The most obvious and crippling flaw being that it's unlikely that aliens would even have DNA. That's not even getting into the LEGO Genetics problems.
  • Bad-Guy Bar: The asteroid facility has one of these, where Namtar's creators-turned-slaves go to drown their sorrows. Crichton and Aeryn don't notice anything amiss about the place until they see how everyone scurries out of Namtar's way whenever he pays a visit.
  • Bio-Augmentation: Namtar's ongoing quest for perfection involves this.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Zhaan still hasn't quite recovered from unleashing her negativity in the previous episode, and in spite of her efforts to bury it under her usual serenity, it becomes glaringly obvious at points in the story- particularly when she claims that Aeryn disapproves of the attack on Pilot out of jealousy and not out of compassion.
  • Body Horror: Oh, where do we even begin? The screaming Pilot/Sebacean hybrid chained to the wall, Kornata's overgrown skull and right hand, the former members of the research team, Aeryn's transformation, Aeryn's final state before Crichton and Kornata save her...
  • Charm Person: Another of Namtar's grafted abilities, used to force Aeryn into returning to the laboratory with him.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Both D'Argo and Zhaan make separate offers to Rygel, while ostensibly being allied together against him. Rygel (normally quite a backstabber himself) is certain D'Argo would forget any deal they make, while D'Argo calls Zhaan on what she did.
  • Deal with the Devil: The bargain between Namtar and the crew, which not only required a sacrifice of flesh and blood, but resulted in a product that would have eventually forced the crew to spend the rest of their lives as Namtar's test subjects and slaves. For even further Faustian parallels, Namtar has a pair of digitigrade legs that terminate in hooves- rather like a stereotypical devil.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Kornata eventually decides to turn against Namtar, creating a concoction that will revert him to his original state.
  • Eye Scream: Yeah, when the first words in this episode are "If you wish to blink, now would be the time," it's pretty obvious that Eye Scream is going to be another prevailing trope.
  • A Fate Worse Than Death: Namtar's previous Sebacean-Pilot experiment is kept chained to a wall in his lab, unable to do much aside from scream in horror and agony.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: How much more Nobody can you get than an unintelligent lab rat?
  • Gone Horribly Right: Kornata's experiments produced exactly the kind of intelligence boost she'd hoped for. Then her test subject stabbed her in the back.
  • Happiness in Slavery: Crichton is stunned that Pilot isn't the slightest bit outraged over having his arm cut off. Pilot does get a little snippy with Rygel about it when it's learned not all the maps can be used, but he doesn't express anything but understanding to the guy who actually cut his arm off.
    Crichton: I will never understand you people. How can you not be angry? Insanely angry?
    Pilot: When one of my species is bonded to a Leviathan, we give our lives to the service of others: ship first, then those who travel aboard her.
    Crichton: No matter what those aboard do to you?
    Pilot: My species is incapable of spaceflight on our own. If we wish to journey beyond our home planet, this is the trade-off we make for the chance to see the galaxy. I consider it a perfectly equitable arrangement.
  • Healing Factor: During a standoff with Namtar, Aeryn blasts away a huge chunk of his torso; Namtar just smirks and regenerates the damaged tissues.
    • Also, this episode reveals that Pilots can regenerate lost limbs.
  • Hollywood Evolution: In-universe example; in spite of his scientific knowledge, Namtar actually believes that evolution is "the road towards perfection." Then again, this is another reason why Crichton compares Namtar to Mengele- both were scientists who held very unscientific ideals and were prepared to do horrible things in their attempts to prove them.
  • Hypocritical Humor: As the group's about to cut off Pilot's arm, Rygel (the most selfish one one of the bunch) tells Pilot to think of someone besides himself for a change.
  • The Igor: Kornata has been reduced to this by the time Crichton and co show up. Not only is she almost completely subservient to Namtar, but she's quite hideously deformed: her head is bulging with gigantic tumorous lumps, her right hand is swollen to ridiculous proportions, her left hand is shrivelled and tiny, she limps everywhere, and- of course- she has a hunchback.
  • Impairment Shot: These become frequent as Aeryn's transformation worsens; at first, she's just seeing double and at odd angles, but by the end, her vision is being constantly distorted by random flushes of colour, and her hearing has gained an distinctly echoing tone.
  • Insult Backfire: During their final confrontation, Crichton compares Namtar to the Nazi scientist Joseph Mengele. In turn, after hearing of the atrocities Mengele comitted in the name of his own ideals, Namtar remarks that Mengele sounds like a visionary to him.
  • Mad Scientist: Namtar, obviously. Kornata also counts, however.
  • Madwoman in the Attic: The Pilot-Sebacean hybrid that Namtar has chained to the wall. Also, Aeryn ends up imprisoned in a back room of Namtar's lab shortly after her capture.
  • Mind over Matter: One of Namtar's grafted powers.
  • My Suit Is Also Super: Apparent example; when Namtar's stomach is shot off by Aeryn, he also regenerates the bits and pieces of his costume that were destroyed with it.
  • Not So Stoic: Aeryn starts to lose composure as her mutation continues, going from merely disoriented to downright horrified.
  • Ribcage Ridge: The asteroid settlement is dwarfed by the skull of some giant creature lying half-buried in the surface.
  • Sdrawkcab Name: Appropriately, Namtar's name spelt backward is "Ratman."
  • Smug Super: Namtar.
    Crichton: Whatever you've done to her, Namtar, it wasn't part of our deal!
    Namtar: Deal? You felt we had a deal? A deal connotes reaching some point of equality: I'm afraid there's never been anything equal about us.
  • Softspoken Sadist: Namtar.
  • Spanner in the Works: Namtar's plan to sabotage Moya would've succeeded had Moya been able to process all the data from his crystal. She couldn't, so any upload had to wait until two maps were deleted. Rygel swipes the crystal and hides it until he has the opportunity to do so, which provides ample time for Crichton to learn what's going on from Kornata.
  • Squee!: When she agrees to help Crichton, Kornata is introduced to Pilot- and her reaction is a single awestruck squeal of "You're... magnificent!"
  • That Man Is Dead: Odd variation; when Crichton shows up at the lab for the last time, he asks to see Aeryn. Namtar elusively remarks that she's no longer present, and instead decides to introduce him to the hybrid that Aeryn has become.
  • Too Kinky to Torture: One of the abilities that Namtar has grafted onto himself is the power to reverse his pain/pleasure senses. He does this as Aeryn is twisting his arm behind his back, and enthusiastically hisses, "Please... push harder!"
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Crichton and Aeryn are outraged at the rest of the crew cutting off Pilot's arm.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Apparently, once Aeryn's transformation reached its conclusion, Namtar would have taken the genetic traits he wanted and destroyed the rest.