A Snurcher's Guide to Farscape

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Production No. 108

Best Viewed As 1.8

Aired As
1.8 (US & UK)

Original Airdates
11 Jun 1999 (US)
31 Jan 2000 (UK)

1.4 (US)
2.61 (UK)

That Old Black Magic
Abbreviations: TOBM
Alternate Titles: (none)

Wassup? · Backstory · Reactions · Annotations · Microbes · Quotes · Cast & Crew

Writer: Richard Manning
Director: Brendan Maher
Lani Tupu..................Bialar Crais
Chris Haywood..............Maldis/Igg/Haloth
Grant Bowler...............Shaman Liko
Christine Stephen-Daly.....Lt. Teeg
Jake Blundell..............Lt. Orn
Wadih Dona.................Tauvo Crais
Vic Rooney.................Admiral Josbek
Errol Henderson............PK Doctor
Complete Credits


You can't take humans anywhere...

During a supply stop on a commerce planet, Crichton falls victim to Maldis, a psychic vampire. While Crichton's forced into a gladiatorial grudge match with Crais on a metaphysical plane, the rest of the crew struggles to rescue him, and Zhaan reluctantly gets in touch with her dark side to defeat Maldis.


Farscape World


Terra Firma


Farscape Fantasy
Farscape World


John's mother's maiden name was McDougall. He skipped the third grade, and he lost his virginity in the back of a four-by, to Karen Shaw.

P'au abilities go at least as high as the 12th level; Zhaan is only at the 9th level.

Crais has had the Marauder crews on constant patrol, searching for Crichton, until they're ready to drop from fatigue.

Crais receives orders from High Command, to return to First Command for new orders and to make explanations for his failure to the Council. Lt. Teeg says her first loyalty is to her captain, while Crais' stated first loyalty is to the Council.

D'Argo can track both Crichton and Aeryn by nose, although he says that John has the stronger scent.

Maldis may inflict injury on the metaphysical plane, but those injuries are reflected in the physical body.

Maldis killed half the planet's population and enslaved the rest; he feeds off the life energy of others, and his powers are not limited by physical distance.

Crais now knows (whether or not he believes) that John arrived accidently, via a wormhole, and that all humans live on a single planet.

D'Argo believes in the existence of evil spells; Aeryn does not.

Crais' attaches no honor to his oath as a peacekeeper, agreeing to, then immediately breaking, his truce with John.

John once trashed his motorcycle, dislocating his shoulder, and had to pop it back into place himself in order to get home.

Rather than actually permitting Crais and Crichton to kill one another, Maldis has designs on Crais' command carrier; the more he can lure Crais into chasing John, the more carnage he can feed off of. This plan, however, apparently does not require John to remain alive.

Working with Liko, Zhaan is able to force Maldis into semi-corporeal form, where he is vulnerable to a physical attack; the energy draw is great enough to cause her eyes to go opaque (an effect last seen in "I, E.T.").

Crais is more determined than ever to find John, and murders his second-in-command in order continue the search.

Maldis is not dead, merely dispersed. He will eventually coalesce once more.

John is recording messages to DK, as well as his dad.

Having raised her darker impulses to deal with Maldis, Zhaan is now having trouble controlling them.



  1. How long will it take Maldis to coalesce once more? Once he does, how hard will it be for him to track down Crichton et al?
  2. Liko has a very similar form to Zhaan, albeit red rather than blue (note the ears in particular). Is he from a genetically related species?


  1. "Haloth" speaks in iambic pentameter.

Bloopers (none)


Farscape World
Farscape Fantasy
AV Club
Tourist's Guide


Farscape World
Terra Firma


The title is taken from an old jazz song.

Maldis: "I got a lot o' names, John-boy, call me whatever pops your cork."
John: "Yeah. Right. You're a regular Laurence Olivier."

The late Laurence Olivier, whose career spanned almost six decades, is one of the most esteemed actors of British theatre and film, and considered by many to be the greatest actor of the 20th Century. He was knighted in 1947, and made a baron in 1970.

John: "Oh, it's not Kansas. And you're way too homely to be Auntie Em. But...come here, Toto."

Several references to the film version of THE WIZARD OF OZ.

Translator Microbe Report

Council, the a unit of the Peacekeeper hierachy, possibly analogous to a ruling body
Dekka level, directional vector, or area designation; Crais gives orders to "widen the search to dekka three, deeper into the Uncharted Territories"
Docking Bay hangar area on a Command Carrier, where Prowlers and Marauders are kept
First Command presumably, the headquarters for Peacekeeper High Command
Gavork aromatic herb, stored in dried form
Goddess, the deity recognized by Zhaan
High Command the authority which issues orders to Peacekeeper assets in the field
Hynerian Ceremony of Passage litany recited for a dead comrade (Hynerian)
Jikset Root medicinal herb
Klendian Flu an illness characterized by excessive phlegm and respiratory difficulty
Ointment of Yuvok topical preparation to help clear breathing passages
Trat possibly vulgar, an unpleasant-smelling substance; Rygel says the yuvok ointment "smells like trat"
Trelkez multi-headed, bird-like creatures; because their raw brains are considered a delicacy, their value goes up according to the number of heads they have
Trellon Oil sensual stimulant which enriches the conjugal experience


"You only have a touch of Klendian flu; it's not fatal."
"We only wish it were."
- Zhaan, Ka D'Argo

"Where's Crichton? He keeps wandering off."
"He's over this way -- I can smell him."
"Wait, you can smell Crichton in all of this?"
"Yes, his odor is even stronger than yours."
"I don't have an odor!"
- Aeryn Sun, Ka D'Argo

"I got a lot o' names, John-boy, call me whatever pops your cork."
"Yeah. Right. You're a regular Laurence Olivier."
- Maldis, John Crichton

"You cultivated your power to help others. Can you use it as a weapon?"
"I can try, if you guide me."
"Can you be guided? It's not just a matter of skill, it's intent. You must want to do harm, cause pain, even kill. You are a ninth level Pa'u. You simply aren't capable of that."
"I once was."
- Liko, Zhaan

"I am a Delvian Pa'u. Nothing can frighten me if I do not wish it."
"You can't wish your fear away. Face it, admit what it is you're scared of. Are you afraid of Maldis? You can destroy him!"
"That's what terrifies me."
- Zhaan, Liko

"You rammed his Prowler!"
"He ran into me!"
"You killed him!"
"It was an accident! Why do you keep blaming me? I did everything I could to avoid him!"
"Most eloquent, Crichton. Almost sounded sincere."
"It was sincere, you sonnuva--"
"But futile."
- Bialar Crais, John Crichton, Maldis

"This door is protected by an evil spell."
"There's no such thing."
- Ka D'Argo, Aeryn Sun

"What are you waiting for?"
"A third choice, though I know there are only two."
- Aeryn Sun, Zhaan

"You're beating yourself up because you were supposed to protect your brother. I understand that now. And you can believe this, or you can shine it, but honest to god, I tried to get clear. I didn't mean for him to crash, and I'm sorry he's dead. You understand that?"
- John Crichton

"Death is the main course. All this is the appetizer."
- Maldis

"I'm getting hungry again."
"Breaks my heart."
- Maldis, John Crichton

"I don't know your customs for these situations, not that I care. So, I'll give you the Hynerian Ceremony of Passage and be done with it. John Crichton, valued friend...now wait a minute, valued friend is a bit of a stretch. John Crichton, unwelcome shipmate, may you have safe transport to the hallowed realm. Actually, not our hallowed realm. No, that's for Hynerians. Go find your own hallowed realm. With the Ceremony of Passage complete, I declare you officially dead, and claim all your possessions for myself."
- Rygel

"Only one of you has to die."
"Oh, yeah, and what's the other one get? A free trip to Bermuda?"
- Maldis, John Crichton

"Oh, it's not Kansas, and you're way too homely to be Auntie Em, but...come here, Toto!"
- John Crichton

"Zhaan, I feel I must apologize to you for mocking your courage. I see now that you're more of a warrior than I ever thought. ... What is the matter with her?"
"You called her a warrior. You could not have cut her more deeply."
- Aeryn Sun, Ka D'Argo

Comments from Cast & Crew

Virginia Hey, August 19, 1999

  • Moderator: <ChaoticDreamer> to <Moderator>: What would you say has been the most challenging aspect of Zhaan's character

    VirginiaHey: The most challenging aspect by far has been to portray the conflict between the dark side and her struggle to stay in the light.

  • Moderator: <Solanio> to <Moderator>: Given that you'd played Zhaan as being compassionate and spiritual heretofore - was the darker aspects in DNA Mad Scientist hard for you to portray?

    VirginiaHey: Yes, it was very hard for me to portray. At first, it really did break my heart and they were real tears. I can't bear any form of cruelty whatsoever in my own life, and it was very difficult for me to portray cruelty as an actress.
    VirginiaHey: But the dark side of Zhaan that came out in first in episode 8 (That Old Black Magic) was a stroke of genius from Rockne, David and Richard, and it continued through from there into the episode you mentioned and beyond.
    VirginiaHey: Zhaan's dark side, I feel, adds dimension and depth to her. She has struggled away from her dark nature and moved toward the light. That's more admirable than a fundementally pure person extending their range, so to speak.

  • Moderator: <Solanio> to <Moderator>: What challenges are you interested in seeing Zhaan face in the future that she's not had a chance to face as yet?

    VirginiaHey: I think the ongoing battle with Zhaan's dark side is very exciting for me to play.
    VirginiaHey: But as far as future challenges, we'll just have to wait and see.
    VirginiaHey: I'm open to all suggestions.

  • Moderator: <Ricks8> to <Moderator>: What are your favorite episodes?

    VirginiaHey: That Old Black Magic, DNA Mad Scientist, Rhapsody In Blue...
    VirginiaHey: Back and Back and Back to the Future.
    VirginiaHey: They've Got A Secret.
    VirginiaHey: ...it's so hard to chose because I'm in love with every single episode.
    VirginiaHey: Through the Looking Glass is brilliant, watch out for that one coming up.

Lani Tupu, November 8, 1999

  • Moderator: <Ricks8> to <Moderator> Lani, which is you favorite episode?

    LaniTupu: Apart from That Old Black Magic, the last four episodes as a bunch are probably my favorite to date.
    LaniTupu: And, also, going into the 2nd series, there are some wonderful stories I'm working on now.
    LaniTupu: All I can say is that: hang on to your seats, the wait will DEFINITELY be worth it.

  • Moderator: <Vegeta> to <Moderator> How long did it take you to get down the choreographed fight moves in 'That Old Black Magic' against John?

    LaniTupu: I did a choregraphed session for two hours, then Ben and I did one more rehearsal before we shot it. Then we took two days to shoot that particular episode.
    LaniTupu: The director was Brendon Mahr, and the stunt coordinator was Brian Norris.

Richard Manning & Andrew Prowse, January 6, 2000

  • Moderator: <Gmmas> to <Moderator>: Richard: was it hard as a writer to tap into Zhaan's dark side in TOBM? Impressive and scary, that part of her.

    Ricky: It WAS hard, in a sense, as I'm such a fan of Zhaan's character...
    Ricky: When you're fond of a character, it can take some effort to "darken" that character (that was part of the debate we all had about the Pilot arm-chopping)...
    Ricky: But we (Virginia Hey AND the writers) always thought of Zhaan having many, many levels.
    Ricky: It's rewarding to push ALL our characters further than you thought they might go.
    Ricky: And I hope we can continue to do so without pushing anyone completely over the edge.
    Ricky: I mean, even Rygel has his moments...

Virginia Hey, April 27, 2000

  • Moderator: <Simon> to <Moderator> Virginia, what was your favorite moment for the Zaahn character?

    Virginia: Hello Simon, I don't have any particular moment, however kicking Maldis's a** gave me great joy
    Virginia: Every moment is heaven playing Zhaan, I really do love being her. XXX