Captain Hornblower Rates the Farscape Episodes

The Captain gives "Mental as Anything" a rating of:

2 Moyas

Captain's Rating Scale:
5 Moyas-one of the best episodes
4 Moyas-an excellent episode
3 Moyas-a good episode
2 Moyas-a fair episode
1 Moya-a not so fair episode
0 Moyas-a poor episode

Review:

This episode was rather difficult for me to review, because it took some thought as to why I didn't enjoy it as much as I have other episodes. It was a fair episode, but I just found it to be rather boring, and as I was watching it, I couldn't quite put my finger on why. It took some retrospection to figure out why I had a mixed reaction to this episode

But before I get to why I found this episode to be merely fair, let me start with what I liked about the episode. First, I found the mystery surrounding whether or not D'Argo actually did kill Lolaan in a fit of hyperage very interesting. At some points during the story, I thought "no way, Macton is lying". But once or twice, they did make the possibility seem very ominous. The conclusion to this mystery both verified old information on Lolaan's death, but also added an extra twist to it.

Second, Scorpius' machinations continue to be intriguing. The fact that he is assisting Crichton in developing better skills to face his enemies, while at the same time plotting against him, makes Scorpius' every move and every action significant. The writers still never cease to surprise the viewer with the schemes and maneuvering of Scorpius, who remains Farscape's most complex villain, even now as he is a half-ally to Crichton (for now).

Those two areas are where the episode did well, and made it somewhat interesting to watch. But, on the whole, the rest of the episode's qualities were merely fair. Unfortunately, a lot of what fell somewhat flat in this episode had to do with the lead in to its main plot.

We the viewers have known about Macton, Lolaan's brother, and the part he played in destroying D'Argo's life since mid-season one. Since then, the prevailing notion has been that when D'Argo caught up with Macton, the confrontation would be epic. But when it finally does happen in this episode, the confrontation actually is not actually very compelling. Macton really was not a very interesting or believable character. His torturing of D'Argo in the simulation with the false memories of the latter causing Lolaan's death just didn't have any power to it. The dialogue was rather dull and the delivery might as well have been read by a first year acting student. I'm not sure if it was the writing or the acting, but Macton left much to be desired in the conniving villain dredged up from D'Argo's past.

This episode obviously has parallels to the classic season two installment, "the Way We Weren't", in that one of Moya's crew is confronted by past demons, and we the viewers get to see glimpses into that character's past. But "Mental as Anything" suffers from this similarity to "the Way We Weren't" because it doesn't possess nearly the power or intense drama that the other did.

Also, the fact that D'Argo's ultimate confrontation with his rival is in his mind actually hurt the plot rather than helped it. This "confronting your demons in your mind" plot is getting kind of overused and old on Farscape, having been done a lot in the previous season and in several episodes this season. Granted, most of the time, the mind games involve Crichton, while this time it was D'Argo's brain that got picked to be the battleground. But still, the general plot construct is the same for the most part, and has fast become old hat on this show. Thus, it has become less interesting than it used to be. What was new and fresh just...isn't, anymore.

Finally, the whole "mental challenges" thing was not very interesting either. I got bored rather quickly with Scorpius and the "Master Jedi" (as Crichton called him) playing catch with the mental fireball. Same thing when Rygel and the Charrid did it later on. Even though they broke away from it each time for dialogue between other characters, it still made the episode seem slow in those sequences, and was ultimately a distraction from the main plot-the confrontation between D'Argo and Macton.

This was an episode that had so much potential due to the well crafted mystery aspect regarding whether or not D'Argo killed Lolaan, Scorpius' continued surprising ability at scheming right under everyone's noses, and the much anticipated confrontation between D'Argo and Macton. Unfortunately, the first two elements were only enough to make the episode fair at best, and the rest of the episode was just not very well executed. "Mental as Anything" is certainly not a poor episode, and is still quite watchable. But frankly, it could have been better.

 

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Originally aired in the US January 31, 2003

Written by Mark Saraceni

Directed by Geoff Bennett

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