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updated through 27-Aug-02
Please note that no effort is made to ensure that links listed below, verified at the date of original posting, are still in working order. Obviously, some of these items are time-sensitive; expect older links to be dicey at best.
¤ hiatus ¤
Wormholes, Time Travel, all that Jazz
I bet you guessed the topic of this week's "Did you know..." before you even got here, didn't you? Well, I debated doing something on the Jose Jiminez quote, or the "Very Morrisey" line, but those were topics that other Scapers educated me on, so I figured I'd stick to something more basic.... like, you know, wormholes.
"The laws of physics do not forbid time travel." That's an actual quote written by a real physicist in one of the links I'm about to give you. It's kind of frightening, isn't it? In a neatly ordered universe, people should not be able to screw around with things that should be immutable, like Time. But you see, Time isn't immutable, we just perceive it to be... do you know, experiments have been performed with atomic clocks that have demonstrated it's possible to slow down time, because mass -- or more specifically, gravity -- has an effect on it? Freaky, I know. But also good fodder for scifi shows. It's important to have at least a pretense of possibility with these plot points, and Farscape's writers are doing a fine job there. Want to know more about them? Don't look at me like that, I'm not about to try and explain it myself -- here are those links I mentioned at the beginning of the paragraph:
For a good start, check out the Wormholes section of John Grant's "The Science of Farscape" article, originally published in the Jigsaw Farscape Special. JAG gives a nice overview, but if you're looking for more details, here's a great place to start, Taking the Cosmic Shortcut. This article, originally published in the February 2002 edition of Helix, was written by Elizabeth Warnes, and includes some beautiful cosmic photos as well as useful and amusing illustrations. One of the other things to recommend this article is its terrific list of links; of them, I highly recommend Time Travel for Beginners. This plain text site is actually a compilation of articles by several authors on different topics relating to time travel, wormhole theory, The Kerr Solution, and any number of other esoteric but related subjects.
Men in Drag, Ben in Drag...
Seeing Rygel and Crichton all dolled up in "Coup by Clam", I couldn't help but be reminded of Some Like It Hot (1959, truly a classic). Ben Browder had a definite Tony Curtis thing going on there. Guys in drag are such cheap laughs you have to wonder how far back they really go, as entertainment. At least I did, which led me to all this:
Reaching waaayyyy back into antiquity, the legends swirling around the Trojan War include the story of Achilles, who was hidden by his mother in a girls' school so he wouldn't be drafted. It wasn't Achilles idea, so we can't blame him for it, and it certainly wasn't played for laughs. I get the impression that not much of The Iliad nor The Odyssey were ever played for laughs. I had an inkling that Shakespeare, who was familiar with low humor of all sorts, had put at least one male character in drag. Searching along that path led to doctoral theses on the role of gender, transvestitism, and homosexuality in his plays, considering the all-male casts of the day -- NOT what I was looking for. Old Will was quite fond of dressing girls up as boys, though, which probably played better. Otherwise you get into a whole Victor/Victoria (1985) thing with a man playing a woman pretending to be a man... who could expect the audience to keep the character's gender straight? No wonder he passed on that idea.
Two theater greats who did not pass on the idea were Gilbert & Sullivan, of Savoy operetta fame. Princess Ida (1884) poked fun at a group of women who tried to retire from the world of men into a (literal) ivory tower, only to have their exclusive all-girls school crashed by the Princess's fiance and his two companions, dressed, of course, in drag. The expected hijinks ensue, and true love conquers all in the end.
Since those cultured days, writers have been putting men in dresses to generate laughs in everything from The Three Stooges (1942's "Matri-phony", for one) up to Tom Hanks' early television role in Bosom Buddies (1980). OK, I admit it: it has been done to death... but that's because it's funny. Or it can be, anyway. John Crichton lifting his skirt to unholster Winona on an unsuspecting brothel crowd? It worked for me.
What about Ben in drag? Mr. Browder was first bitten by the acting bug while at Furman University, studying psychology. He appeared as the tattoo'd, free-spirited Luther Billis in a college production of South Pacific. If you've ever seen the show, you'll recall the song and dance number "Honey Bun" in which Luther struts his stuff in a coconut shell bra and grass skirt. Rhett Bryson of Furman's theater arts department had this to say about Ben's performance, "I will always remember Ben dancing on the stage in that coconut bra. He had no inhibitions and was a real showman." Furman is quite justifiably proud of their graduate and where his talents have taken him.
Celtic influences were pervasive in last week's episode, "A Prefect Murder". Guy Gross's score had a Celtic flair, and he even worked in a few bars of the wistful tune Loch Lomond, following Crichton's recitation of the familiar lines,"You take the high road, and I'll take the low road." What's striking about this particular song, and Crichton singing it, is that it is a song of loss, for the lyric continues: ...me and my true love will never meet again. That's in direct contrast to how John reaches out to Aeryn in the final scene, and Aeryn's acceptance of his gesture.
But the Celtic feeling wasn't just in the music: visually, Celtic motifs were employed. The triangular pattern repeated on the palace walls was very similar to the Celtic trinity knot. In some circles, the knot is said to symbolize strength and unity, which would make it fitting indeed for the Prefect, the unifier of the Clans, and his castle. Others say it symbolizes the Celts' belief that everything exists at three levels: physical, mental, and spiritual, or perhaps earth, sea, and sky; later, the Christian Holy Trinity. Unfortunately, it's not that easy: many scholars agree that any symbolism behind ancient Celtic knotwork is hard to attribute, especially given knotwork's use in borders and filler areas. This article by Stephen Walker gives some fascinating background on the historic uses of Celtic knots. "Celtic Triangle 1" in cast paper by Kevin Dyer, shown left, screen capture from "A Prefect Murder" by Dallascaper, available on FarscapeFantasy, shown right..
There was also a Celtic flavor implied in the political structure of the planet, its organization into Clans. Even the most casual foray into the history of Scotland will show, however, that the Scottish Clans are not so much about big-picture politics. Scotland historically was made up of four smaller kingdoms, within which the Clans dwelt. You can find out anything, and I do mean anything, you want to know about Scotland here.
The last link to anything Celtic in "A Prefect Murder"? Crichton's tortured imitation of James Doohan's beloved Scotty, brilliant and beleagured engineer of the starship Enterprise, of the classic Star Trek series.
Update on last week's miniaturization treatise: many readers emailed me about the 1957 film The Incredible Shrinking Man, which, amazingly enough, did not show up on IMdb in the search results for "shrink"! Most agreed that it was a visually powerful movie, especially considering the effects available when it was produced. A couple of folks mentioned the tv series Land of the Giants, but that doesn't meet the criteria: normal-sized people being shrunk; Land of the Giants gives us space travellers who land on essentially Giant World. This theme was used in the original Twilight Zone series' "The Invaders"; Agnes Moorehead starred as a terrified farm woman struggling to protect herself from tiny alien invaders. The TZ patented twist ending? The miniature aliens were from Earth. It was a nearly wordless episode and very well done -- certainly worth watching if you happen to catch it on SciFi during late-night channel-hopping.
The miniaturization plot device has been around for quite a while. The earliest reference I could find was in the 1866 classic, Alice in Wonderland. Lewis Carroll's Alice was subjected to more organic shrinking methods, though, first drinking from the "Drink Me" bottle, and then nibbling on one side of a gigantic mushroom. Shrink Rays are wildly popular in comics, with the earliest mention in 1943 in All Star Comics; the Justice Society of America defeated the evil Brain Wave. Later, a similar scenario played out in 1958 Action Comics; in 1978, it was Superman (and Supergirl) defeating Brainiac. Other evil shrink-ray-weilding bad guys have appeared in the Star Trek comic (#25, July 1974) and Sonic the Hedgehog (December 1993).
On screen, being shrunk is either some huge government-funded science project that some other government wants to steal, or it is played for humorous effect. The earliest example of the former is 1966's Fantastic Voyage, with 1987's Innerspace cast in the same mold. 1989's Rick Moranis vehicle Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (referenced by Crichton) and its sequels, along with the recent Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius (2001), are examples of the more light-hearted approach.
If any readers out there know of an earlier reference to people being miniaturized, please send me an email. While there are dozens of stories involving already-miniature people (Gulliver's Travels, The Borrowers), I couldn't think of anything earlier than Alice in which someone was actually shrunk and then later restored to normal size, nor did I find any earlier references throughout extensive searches.
alt.tv.farscape newsgroup regular Sorlk Lewis posted this transcription of "The Rules" from the virtual reality game in "John Quixote":
In farthest space beyond the knowing charts
The horrid Human and his band appear
And though they play today at different parts
The core of subtle truth beneath is clear,
The path of choice may draw you dark and deep,
Where flesh deformed doth keep the dream alive
And if the way your compass cannot keep,
Some pearls of wisdom to thee do I give --
Ha, this should do it! --
Your quest is for the princess fair to seek,
The one a Human's fleeting love did rend,
Bring forth the sword and through the darkness peek,
One loving kiss amends and there's an end,
And if we shades with taste do not agree,
A door of green shall set your senses free.
If all that has a familiar ring to it, it's just Ben Browder reaching back to his Shakespearian training from his days in London at the Central School of Speech and Drama for his inspiration. Mr. Browder definitely has a thing for the Bard; the title of his season 3 episode, "Green Eyed Monster," is taken from Iago's speech in Othello: "O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on..."
While the form above is familiar, the words are entirely original to Mr. Browder. Obviously he has nothing to worry about if this acting gig doesn't work out.
Check out this awesome site: Shakespeare on the web.
There has been a tremendous amount of head scratching, discussion, and speculation regarding Aeryn's "suspended" pregnancy. It sounds very "science fiction", doesn't it, having an embryo in stasis?
Turns out it's not that uncommon at all, in both mammals and marsupials here on Earth. In mammals it's referred to as delayed implantation, in marsupials, it's usually embryonic diapause, but they both refer to essentially the same thing. An egg is fertilized and goes through several cycles of cellular division, until it reaches about 70-100 cells total. Then, it stops growing and develops into a "blastocyst", which remains dormant until hormonal changes trigger it to begin its growth again.
Embryonic diapause is common in kangaroos and wallabies, who can maintain embryos in that state for up two years. Another *really* interesting fact about wallabies is that they have chambered uterii, much like we have chambers in our hearts. That means they have more than one "implantation space," and even if they have "paused" embryos, they still go through their normal cycles of fertility (oestrus).
A short list of mammals that experience delayed implantation includes badgers, several species of bears, most bats, European roe deer, ferrets, wolverines, walrus, and grey seals. All of these animals, like the roos and wallabies, use delayed implantation to control when their young will be born. During periods when food and water are plentiful and the weather is favorable, there may be no delay at all. During stressful times, embryos will remain in stasis until weather conditions improve sufficiently to support mothers who are suckling their young.
Given these surprising at-home facts, it's not that far-out to think of Aeryn as being able to sustain an embryo for up to seven years. There are some -other- problems I have with this story line, chiefly, Aeryn's supposed cluelessness as to who her baby's father is, but that's a separate issue entirely.
Read more about embryonic diapause at Species -- a discussion of 'roos and wallabies; check out "Reproduction", and you can also get a glimpse of more detail than you probably want to know about breeding wallabies.
The "tile" found by Crichton in "What Was Lost, part 1", a three-sided pyramid, is marked with symbols that are very similar to Egyptian heiroglyphics. There's something that looks like an Eye of Horus, except the actual eye part is vertical instead of horizontal. There's another symbol that looks something like a jackal, and then there's a swoosh. What does it mean? I don't have a clue, but here's a site that might help decipher it all: Heiroglyphs, a GreatScott site. This site features a great links page for anyone interested in doing more research on the topic. Screencapture courtesy of Dallascaper's FarscapeFantasy.
Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, prominently featured in "Crichton Kicks", was dismissed by its composer as "very loud and noisy." Check out this link on ClassicalNet for a brief history, and learn how David Mugar and Arthur Fiedler used the piece to re-ignite public interest in the Boston Pops Esplanade Concerts in 1974, ensuring its place at the heart of 4th of July concerts all over the US.
In "Season of Death", Crichton kills the Scarran Plonek with an icicle. Back here on Earth, the icicle-as-perfect-murder-weapon idea has been around for ages, but Ask Rat Dog, citing Michael Newton, author of ARMED AND DANGEROUS: A WRITER'S GUIDE TO WEAPONS, says that there is no record of anyone ever actually being murdered with an icicle.
White wedding dresses, such as the beauty that Aeryn finally selects in John's daydream, are a relatively recent introduction to wedding customs. According to the Straight Dope, when Mary Queen of Scots wore white in her 1558 marriage to the Dauphin of France, it was something of a scandal because at that time white was the color of mourning for French queens. It wasn't until Queen Victoria's reign (1837-1901) that white became associated with youthful purity, and became a popular choice for wedding dresses as a result.
"Into the Lion's Den, part 1" marks the return of Jool's flame-red hair. It's actually a human hair wig; there are three of them, and each takes a day of preparation to make it camera-ready. Jool's pratfalls into mud puddles ("Different Destinations..."), bubble baths ("Scratch 'n' Sniff") and crawls through rivers of muck ("Revenging Angel") must give the production crew caniption fits!
Movie references abound in "I - Yensch, You - Yensch." Lively discussion in alt.tv.farscape cited Dog Day Afternoon ("jayembee") as a primary influence, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly ("Nick") for Sko's denial of water for Braca, and Pulp Fiction ("Tante Joan") and Heat ("jayembee") were both mentioned with respect to the diner scenes.
¤ hiatus ¤
Not completely off-topic... it has been an excellent sports year for FarscapeWeekly. My adopted home town team, the Arizona Diamondbacks, won the World Series at the bottom of the 9th inning of Game 7, on my daughter's (and Lani Tupu's [see, there was the on-topic bit]) birthday, no less. Fans everywhere aknowledged that it was one of the best, if not the best, World Series, ever. Fast forward a few months to last Sunday. My original hometown team, the New England Patriots, scored a field goal in the final seconds of the game to win the SuperBowl. Once again, just about everyone agrees that it was a terrific game, one of the best ever.
Sports are trivial in the grand scheme of things. I'm so very grateful I have the opportunity to enjoy them, and to have been doubly blessed this year to have some small connection to two such inspiring organizations. Sports-wise, it doesn't get any better than this. (OK, if the Phoenix Coyotes somehow managed to win the Stanley Cup, I wouldn't complain...)
Stark's impetuous decision to de-corporealize and search for Zhaan in the spirit plane at the end of "The Choice" (3.17) wasn't all that impetuous. Paul Goddard had a previous contractual obligaton. He appeared as Joseph Surface in the Judy Davis-directed production of A School for Scandal at the Sydney Theatre Company.
Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who became the first person to orbit the planet on 12 April 1961, actually could have met Jack Crichton during his world-wide "good will" trip following his momentous accomplishment. There are many sites devoted to Gagarin, but this propaganda piece, part of Russion Archives Online, is well worth a look, featuring dozens of charming photographs.
Alas, there's no mention of whether or not Yuri ever owned a puzzle ring... but you can; they range from nicely affordable to downright gorgeous but pricey.
The shuttle footage used in "Premiere" was real, but doctored to change the name of the shuttle to Collaroy, a favorite beach and surfing hangout. Check out the local surf report and see what the conditions are like. You just might spot Ben Browder out there someday...
Crichton's old school pal and IASA partner DK, portrayed by Murray Bartlett, is indeed named after series Executive Producer David Kemper. Kemper and series' creator Rockne O'Bannon are long-time friends, and have worked together on many projects.
Wayne Pygram's scenes with Ben Browder on that roller coaster in "Infinite Possibilities, part 2" were filmed at Luna Park in Sydney, closed for remodeling at the time of the shoot. Wayne spoke a bit about this shoot at the convention in Burbank this past September, calling the work on the rollercoaster "memorable". Wayne didn't mind the coaster so much, even though he had never been on one before. He managed his takes, but ultimately he was done in by an ill-timed lemonade... fortunately the Scorpius teeth prosthetics are easily removed! Ben had to finish his takes with a Scorpy stand-in, reading his lines from a script with the coaster in-progress.
Most people know that the Peacekeeper Logo is a simplified version of Russian artist El Lissitzky's "Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge". But did you know that the Farscape font has a similar heritage? According to the Identifont website, Martin Wait's Pritchard font was inspired by the Soviet Constructivist movement of the 1920's. Thanks to atf'er GutPageant for this info!
Wayne Pygram actually played those bongos in Won't Get Fooled Again... yes, that's his playing on the soundtrack. He discusses his 20-year career as a musicion in this chat from SciFi.com on 21 September 2000.
Crichton's space walk in Look at the Princess, part 2: I do, I think only stretched the bounds of reality a tiny bit. Explosive decompression is a myth perpetrated by movies like Total Recall; check out this NASA webpage on what really happens to a Human Body in a Vaccuum.
The Halosions in Out of Their Minds aren't the first giant sentient birds created by The Creature Shop. You may remember The Dark Crystal, a 1982 Henson production. Check out this cool Unofficial Home Page; be warned, though, there's a startling audio clip when you first enter! By the way, any resemblance to Skeksis is purely coincidental.
The "Hawaiian" print shirts worn by Crichton in Premiere and Scorpius in Crackers Don't Matter aren't really Hawaiian at all, but native Australian post-surf wear from the ultra-hip Mambo. Click through to see their cheeky logo!