Recap / Farscape S 01 E 16 A Human Reaction

Season 1, Episode 16:

A Human Reaction

Through sheer happenstance, Moya discovers a wormhole and Crichton sees Earth at the other end. He flies down the wormhole in his module and crashes in Australia, but the homecoming is less than welcoming. The government is suspicious and wants to know everything about Crichton's time on Moya, and even Jack, his own father, seems distant. Things get worse when Aeryn, D'Argo and Rygel arrive in a transport pod and are locked in quarantine, something Aeryn says even the Peacekeepers would never do.

Things reach boiling point when Rygel is killed for the purposes of autopsy and D'Argo disappears entirely. Jack helps John to escape the government lockdown and he reunites with Aeryn, who escaped quarantine when the government came to take her away. They hide out in an old apartment of Jack's, and that night they sleep together. Next morning, Crichton begins to realise that everyone and everything he's seen since coming through the wormhole is based on something from his own memory, including things that couldn't possibly exist anymore: he tests this hypothesis by trying to visit a place he's never been before (the ladies room of a local pool hall), only to meet an energy barrier.

It is revealed that everything was a giant simulation, a test built by aliens known as Ancients, who are trying to find a world where they can settle down. Aeryn, D'Argo and Rygel really did come through the wormhole, but the latter two were spirited away from the simulation when required and treated well in the meantime. "Jack" is really one of the Ancients, who wanted to provoke a human reaction from Crichton to determine how the people of Earth would react to the Ancients arrival. Humanity failed the test, being too destructive and suspicious, so the Ancients must continue searching and examining the memories of other races they encounter. Crichton and "Jack" wish each other good luck at finding their home, and the crew of Moya return to their ship.

So, that was the typical Yank the Dog's Chain "fake return home" episode that every Trapped in Another World series does eventually, and nothing in it will have any future relevance after the Reset Button got pressed. OK?

Tropes present in this episode include:

  • Alien Autopsy: Done to Rygel.
  • Berserk Button: "You made me think YOU WERE MY FATHER!"
  • Chekhov's Gunman: After his arrival, Crichton briefly encounters a man and woman on the beach. The morning after hiding out with Aeryn, he bumps into both of them in a marketplace and begins to realize what's really going on.
  • Continuity Nod: Crichton attempts to make good on his previous offer to bring Aeryn to Earth with him. She refuses.
  • Creator Cameo / You Look Familiar: the men in the toilet are played by director Rowan Woods, designer Ricky Eyres, and Anthony Simcoe (D'Argo) with no make-up.
  • Foreshadowing: "Maybe we'll meet again someday, John."note 
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Aeryn notes that not even the Peacekeepers would be so low as to poison Rygel to kill him, just to open him up for study.
  • Humans Are Bastards:
    "Jack": It also led us to a familiar conclusion.
    Crichton: Which was?
    "Jack": That the highest life form on the planet is also the most destructive. Your humans would kill us.
  • Humans Are Special: Downplayed. Humans as a race fare badly in the simulation, but "Jack" compliments Crichton for figuring out the deception—saying most others don't manage to.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Crichton obviously thinks so after they found new life and killed it for study.
  • Inhumanable Alien Rights: The heroes, save John, are treated as such. It is notable that it isn't the other aliens doing this, but a reflection of John's own deep fears of how humans would truly react if they were to reach earth.
  • Innocuously Important Episode: This episode secretly begins the plot arc that will dominate the entire rest of the show.
  • Mandatory Line:
    • Chiana has one brief scene at the beginning, as this was the first episode made after the decision that she would survive "Durka Returns" and there wasn't time to rewrite it to give her a bigger role.
    • Zhaan's role is similarly limited. (Both did have goodbye dialogue with Crichton, though—limited as they were—were cut for time.)
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: Whenever humans are shown listening to the aliens talk, they are The Unintelligible. If Crichton is talking to them in the humans' presence, he speaks English but they continue to be untranslated to the audience, if no humans are present except Crichton, the Translator Microbes work for the audience as usual.
  • Relationship Upgrade: Subverted - it's made clear that John and Aeryn have sex in this episode, fearing that they might die, but when they don't it doesn't mark a long-term deepening of their relationship. The original US broadcast even left the relevant scenes out.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Was Aeryn in on the Ancients' deception of Crichton from the start? At one point she has a discussion in Sebacean with "Jack" that is left conspicuously untranslated. At any rate, the slight consent issues that would be raised if this were true might be why John and Aeryn having sex in this ep rarely gets brought up again.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Alien: Zig Zagged. The Ancients have the tech to make a detailed false world from John's memories, as well as full mastery of wormholes. However, they are few in number at the moment, so they need to replenish and recover. They also only have enough power left to transport what's left of their race one last time, so they have to be this pragmatic in their actions.
  • Throw It In: When it rained during one shooting day, Claudia Black had the idea that this may well be the first time Aeryn had ever experienced rain.
  • Title Drop: "We needed a human reaction, John; your reaction."
  • Virtual Reality Interrogation: A particularly long and complicated one, although justified by the fact that the aliens were looking for a detailed experience of Earth culture rather than any specific information.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The running theme of the episode.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: "Jack" notes Earth could've been a welcoming place to the Ancients had more humans been like Crichton.
  • Wondrous Ladies Room: Used as a plot point!
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: John thought he made it home. Not this time.
  • You ALL Look Familiar: Invoked. The Ancients recreated everything from John's memory, so the phony Earth is full of various people he's met throughout his life. People he's worked directly with (like Wilson and Cobb) fulfill the same functions, but casual acquaintances make up the various extras (such as the newsstand guy being an old neighbor).
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