Pondering Preludes

Spoilers for Farscape: the third part of “Liars, Guns and Money” in Season 2 and, in Season 3, “Season of Death” and something you really really really won’t want spoiled for the second part of “Self-Inflicted Wounds”.

I like to keep DVD boxsets on hand for my study breaks, and my latest show is a 1990s/2000s Australian/US television show called Farscape. It’s a really fun show about an astronaut who gets sucked through a wormhole and is forced to align himself with a bunch of aliens in some far-off part of the universe – watch it, do! – but that’s not what I want to talk about.

Towards the end of the second season, a minor recurring character called Rorf loses an eye to an enemy, to put it in the least graphic terms possible. I started to get a sense of premonition, although I wasn’t sure what it was about just yet. Rorf is killed in battle towards the end of the episode. At the start of the third season, Zhaan, one of the main characters, saves the life of Aeryn, another key character, at the cost of her own health. She’s dying, she tells her fellow crew members for a number of episodes. No, they say, we’re going to get you to a planet, not too far away, where you can be healed. No, she says, I’m going to die. And, good as her word, she ends up sacrificing her life for the good of the crew before they can get her to a planet where she can be healed.

What I got out of these two instances is the idea that injury is a symbolic prelude to death. That, if you’re altered from what you have been, life isn’t worth living anymore, that you’re only good for giving up everything for those who are “whole”. That’s a pretty distressing message to be putting out there.

Have you found similar representations of disability or injury in popular culture?


  1. In all fairness, the Zhaan thing was because Virginia Hey had developed an allergy to her blue makeup and was having severe kidney problems because of it.

    Of course, they could always have pulled a Trance Gemini* and drastically redesigned her makeup. (Assuming Ms. Hey wanted to do so, of course.)

    *I think that was the character’s name. I only vaguely remember the show, and I don’t remember the title, but it had Kevin Sorbo in it. One character had a drastic appearance and personality change midway through the series, and I think she was played by the same person before and after.

  2. Also, yes, Farscape is awesome, and it just goes to show how even the most awesome things can be faily. But you (general you) shouldn’t have to weigh the pros and cons of “excellent show, but fails at this, this and this… should I watch it or will it suck more energy than it deserves?” (It’s what I’m going through with Eureka now — another Skiffy production. This season’s arc involved time travel and the erasure of a character’s disability because of it. I still can barely rant coherently about it.)

    Also, I remembered the name of that show! Andromeda. I think it was one of those ones that was billed as “created by” Gene Roddenberry.

  3. Pamela Barnes, season four Supernatural. Blinded in the first ep, killed in the fifteenth because she was the only person available to play bodyguard (it’s complicated) and she couldn’t dodge a knife she couldn’t see.

    Bobby Singer, season five Supernatural. Perfectly healthy in the first ep of the season, never going to walk again in the second ep, literally gambling his life for a chance of healing in the seventh ep, and between the twentieth and twenty-first eps of a twenty-two-ep season he sells his soul (setting his death date for ten years hence) in exchange for information vital to a successful conclusion to the five-season arc.

    In Farscape, Zhaan’s the blue one, right? I know that character was written out because the actress was sick of being bald and covered in blue makeup.

  4. @HopefulNebula: Yes, I’m aware of what happened to Virginia Hey, but that doesn’t change the disturbing dynamic within the show as I’m sure you’ll agree!!

    @ElliMurasaki: Yes, she’s the blue one.

  5. I suppose one good thing about reading comics is that almost everyone ends up disabled at one stage without getting killed off (and then of course they get cured, then disabled again, then cured again…and maybe randomly killed off with or without disability…)

    Losing an eye or a wound to the thigh can be symbolic castration and therefore loss of power – I wonder if the characters in your above examples have been initially reduced in importance and then killed because their value now lies in death (and the ~drama~ for the remaining characters)? Just like female characters are raped and then killed, not necessarily in the same event – devalued because they are not male/main characters. I know Farscape was generally good with female characters, so I’m not saying that this is a problem with Farscape itself, just a common pattern in media.

  6. @Chally: Yes, I certainly do agree, and didn’t mean to come off like I wasn’t.