Farscape characters: Crais & Scorpius
“There is much in life that is unfair. We are all proof of that.”
Peacekeeper Captain Crais is Farscape‘s first attempt at an antagonist, the first hunter and nemesis of the crew of Moya: as such, despite many interesting facets and the great portrayal from actor Lani Tupu (who also gives his voice to Pilot), he does not completely reach the goal in my opinion. Mainly because Crais, in spite of all the power and Peacekeeper might at his disposal, allows himself be ruled by his own inner turmoil rather than by a focused directive.
Not being born a Peacekeeper, but having been forcibly enlisted as a child, Crais must have felt early on the pressure of proving himself to his comrades and superiors: this, more than the accidental death of his brother he blames Crichton for, is the motivation driving his relentless pursuit of the escaped Leviathan. Crais needs to show that no one can cross him and survive, so he acts with more ruthlessness than planning, blinding himself to other means of pursuing his objectives and falling into the role of pawn, rather than player, once Scorpius – the real face of evil – appears on the scene.
Ironically, Crais’ fall from grace marks the beginning of his change into a better person: it’s a long road, granted, and for quite some time he remains, if not an outright foe, at least a very ambiguous character, more inclined toward the pursuit of his own interests at the expense of the Moyans: his most heinous act is the kidnapping of Moya’s offspring Talyn, with the justification that it’s exactly what was done to him long ago. And yet this evil deed is also the first step toward salvation, because being forced to care for Talyn, who is a very unstable hybrid of Leviathan genes and PK weapon technology, he finds again a semblance of the family he lost and also the better part of himself, so that he ultimately chooses to sacrifice them both for the good of others.
What’s more important is that this change does not happen overnight, and that almost until the very end Crais maintains that taint of ambiguousness that keeps the viewers guessing: to do otherwise would have made the transformation unbelievable, while this final surprise turns him from villain to hero and allows him to go out with the proverbial blaze of glory.
“I long ago learned the advantages of patience.”
As an antagonist, Scorpius is a formidable, multi-layered character, the kind of villain we all love to hate, one who is far more complex than the simple label of “bad guy” would make you think of. Scorpius is a powerful entity, one who is able to somehow endear himself to the audience despite his inclinations: for this reason, and because of the huge impact he has on the overall story and on the viewers’ consciousness, he manages to completely overshadow any other antagonist in Farscape‘s complex storyline.
Scorpius’ roots are fascinating, because he’s a Scarran/Sebacean hybrid: the Scarrans, a reptilian warrior race, began an interbreeding program with the goal of creating a stronger strain of soldier, but the mix with Sebacean genes had a dramatic side effect, because the humanoid Sebaceans are negatively affected by the intense heat Scarrans enjoy. This means that Scorpius’ physiology is a veritable battlefield of conflicting needs, since part of his body craves the heat that is pernicious to the other half, so that he’s forced to find the very thin balance between the two through a thermal regulation suit and a cooling rod inserted directly in his brain.
One of the elements that make Scorpius the formidable character he is comes from the strength – both physical and mental – he gained from having to ride this narrow line between two conflicting needs, from having turned a potentially crippling disability into an advantage: the saying “what does not kill us, makes us stronger” is particularly true for him.
We learn at some point that his early years were nothing short of hellish, with his Scarran caretaker/slavemistress berating and torturing him for his flaws and limitations: what’s amazing in this revelation is that it occurs fairly late in the story-arc, when Scorpius’ character has been established as an evil, dangerous adversary. As a viewer I was surprised, and shocked, at the tide of pity that hit me witnessing the endless abuse he was subjected to: shocked, yes, because after all he was the “enemy” and you’re not supposed to empathize with the enemy, are you? Yet this late revelation gives a new insight into Scorpius’ psychological make-up, and if it does not justify his actions, or the ruthlessness he employs in pursuing his goals, it allows for understanding how he came to be what he is.
Like all other Farscape characters, Scorpius is shaped out of many shades of grey: where every one of the “heroes” possesses a dark side, he sports this chink in his armor, this weakness of sorts, something that renders him somehow less fearsome and alien. And that’s no easy feat, not when his first appearance on screen shows without doubt that he’s a force to be reckoned with: the first time viewers lay their collective eyes on Scorpius, he enters a busy bar scene, where the Peacekeepers of a secret base are unwinding between tours of duty. He stops on the threshold, looking around, and suddenly the room seems to freeze: people stop talking, hands that were raising a drinking glass halt in mid-motion, and a chill sense of foreboding falls on the room. Even the base commander, a hardened veteran, is unable to hide his deep unease. All this without any need for Scorpius to say a word, or make a gesture: his very presence, the forbidding look enhanced by the head-to-toe black leather coolant suit, is enough to dampen the casual, relaxed mood, and this says a great deal more about who and what he is than any overt action could.
Hate for the Scarrans and the need for revenge are Scorpius’ main driving forces, and his single-minded focus on attaining them brings him to ignore the consequences of his actions, or take any collateral damage into consideration: what’s more chilling is that he’s not your run-of-the-mill baddie who enjoys inflicting pain and destruction while he twirls a proverbial mustache. What separates him from common evildoers is the total equanimity with which he evaluates his actions, the inner certainty that he’s on the right (and rightful?) path and any ensuing death or suffering is the price to be paid for the fulfillment of that goal. Scorpius is primarily a scientist, and like many scientists he understands and embraces the sacrifices to be endured in the name of science, and little does he care that his victims are evolved creatures – like a researcher, he does not stop to mourn the guinea pigs who gave their lives in the process. Like the ultimate Machiavellian schemer, he believes that the end justifies all means.
This kind of approach is mirrored by the soft, cultured voice he employs when addressing others, a silken tone in sharp contrast with the words he’s uttering and more importantly with his appearance: Scorpius’ face is a study in sharp planes and angles, scaly, pallid skin stretched tautly over prominent bones, sunken eyes. The character has been designed to look unappealing, and yet he’s a fascinating one – another glaring contradiction that underscores the complexity of his personality.
It hardly matters that he’s the enemy, that he’s the main source of pain and grief for the Moyans – especially Crichton – or that he’s a totally amoral adversary: Scorpius is such a rounded, fascinating character that the audience is ready to “forgive” him for his darkness, because he has the uncanny ability to make things interesting. And no one could ask for more from a fictional creature…
With this post ends my journey through Farscape‘s characters: if you know the show, I hope these sketches brought back fond memories, if you don’t… well, my hope is that you were intrigued enough to give it a try!
You will not regret it…