A Villain’s Journey – embedded video below. Click to play.
That is how we are introduced to Captain Bialar Crais. He is presented with all the hallmarks of a classic villain. He is stern, gruff, dark of features and attitude, hot-headed and pig-headed. He doesn’t care about casualties, he doesn’t care about regulations, he cares about his honor, his dominance, and revenge. Crais at first, appears as a simple man fulfilling a simple function in the plot as the violent threat that drives the action.
But as I’ve mentioned in other videos, part of the genius of Farscape is that it demolishes the stereotypes of science fiction. Like Farscape’s other characters, Crais is introduced to us as a stereotype. But Crais diverges from the stereotype and evolves into a deep and complex character. He is not a cartoon villain. If not for Scorpius, Crais would be the most amazing villain in science fiction.
By the eighth episode of Farscape the original series, we had seen the stereotypes demolished in Aeryn, D’Argo, and Rygel. In the episode “That Old Back Magic” we see a new side of Zhaan and more surprisingly, we see the first cracks in the stereotype of Crais. We are shown this scene from his childhood, a scene that explains so much about him.
In “That Old Back Magic,” we see in Crais’s fight with Crichton how much he is haunted by his father’s command to protect his brother. No doubt, Tauvo was Crais’s only purpose and connection with anything outside strict obedience to the Peacekeepers. After the accident that killed his brother, Crais was bereft of a significant part of his identity. He disobeys Peacekeeper orders to go after Crichton in a desperate attempt to salvage some sense of his self apart from the Peacekeepers.
Crais’s motives were similar in regards to his project to create a Leviathan-warship hybrid. As we saw in “Family Ties” and in flashbacks in “The Way We Weren’t,” Why Crais wanted a Leviathan gunship he never explains, but it was more than following orders because he was so deeply, personally invested in the project. And he had no patience for delays.
Zhaan once told Aeryn that Aeryn was the only kind of Peacekeeper she could be. The same could be said for Crais. Certainly, He lacked the emotional sensitivity that is central to who Aeryn is, but Crais too was someone thoroughly squashed down by the Peacekeepers’ and prevented from having any other type of life. Like Aeryn, Crais threw himself into his career, suppressing his emotions until the death of his brother destroyed his composure.
He became obsessed with revenge against Crichton—manifesting an extended form of Sebacean hyperrage, until he was humiliated and forced out by Scorpius. “Unfit for duty by any measure” was Scorpius’s judgment of Crais, and it was a fair condemnation. Scorpius, now lacking his research base, opportunistically took control of Crais’s command carrier, making Crais’s position untenable.
Crais took the only way out he could.
It humbled him, at least for a bit.
Then, he saw against all odds his dream had come true. A Leviathan-warship hybrid existed and what’s more, it gave him a chance to escape.
We never learn for sure, but it was possible that part of his obsession with retrieving Moya was that he knew all along that Moya was the Leviathan who was the subject of his experiment. Regardless, Crais’s unification with Talyn was a major turning point for him.
Crais did change.
It is on board Talyn that Crais finds something of himself. It gives him a freedom he never had in his Peacekeeper career, while teaching him a new kind of humility. He was able to experience power differently than during his time with the Peacekeepers. Outside of their authoritarian and supremacist ideology, he was able to experience how with great power comes great moral responsibility. He becomes a Ronin, a lone highly trained and powerful warrior without a master.
As Aeryn said much later in the post-Peacekeeper Wars comic books, after leaving the Peacekeepers, Crais tried to find a way to reconcile his Peacekeeper training with the spiritual teachings in which he was raised. We also learn in the comics how Crais, when he learned that Velorek shared the same spiritual tradition, released him unharmed. That Crais had a foundation in a tradition of spiritual pacifism prior to being taken by force into the Peacekeepers helps explain his internal conflict that he was finally able to begin to deal with once he escaped with Talyn.
Interestingly, though Crais had every reason and opportunity to distance himself from Moya and her inhabitants, he does not. He effectively joins the team in “Die Me Dichotomy,” partially because he understands Talyn’s bond with his mother and He finds the Diagnosan who heals Moya. But he also stays partially because Aeryn asks, well, begs him to help.
People have read a lot into Aeryn’s statements, understandably assuming she was, as Crais asked, offering herself to him. But this is not within Aeryn’s character and is placing on a Peacekeeper human assumptions about the role of women as property that are quite foreign to Peacekeeper culture. What exactly Aeryn thought Crais would want she never explains, but most likely she was offering for him to take Talyn, something she had up to then fiercely resisted. Crais had no interest in Aeryn, but he did want Talyn.
Crais mourns Aeryn’s death alongside the others. He is still a Ronin, but one with a connection, however tenuous. His motives are sill unclear, perhaps even to him, but he has turned from enemy to ally to the family of Moya.
Crais and Talyn’s presence in “Season of Death” keeps Scorpius at bay and Crais flees with Talyn not out of selfishness but to help Moya and family escape. They reappear in “Eat Me,” sending out a distress call after they barely survive an attack by a Peacekeeper retrieval squad. Both recover and Talyn and Moya split up to best avoid the Peacekeepers and Farscape enters the amazing plot arc of the two Crichtons on the two living ships.
Aeryn on Talyn immediately learns that Crais’s time with Talyn has not been without problems. Crais does not control Talyn, who has entered the troubled teenager phase of being a Leviathan-warship hybrid. His defiance has physically damaged Crais with cybernetic feedback and at times Talyn can control him through the neural link they share. We see in “Green-Eyed Monster” how little power Crais has in the dysfunctional relationship.
It is perhaps this learned powerlessness that causes Crais to offer a deal to Xhalax Sun rather than kill her. He is correct that killing Xhalax would mean only that Peacekeeper Command would send another retrieval squad. Crais, now the hunted, foolishly spares Xhalax when he should have known she would never agree to give up her orders to capture him and Talyn. His foolish choice allows for a more dramatic end for Zhalax, and it is cheap plot device that goes against Crais’s character and everything he knows.
With Talyn, Crais shows a moral sense that he previously had not displayed. He uses Talyn’s massive firepower only for defense. For example, with the Halosians.
Not long after, in “The Ugly Truth,” he decides to try to disarm Talyn’s main cannon.
With power comes responsibility, and Crais understands that. The Leviathan-warship hybrid has some sort of mental, psychological, or spiritual deformity that inclines him to act irrationally and impulsively. Talyn is impetuous like a disturbed child—which he is. We see it in “Green Eyed Monster” when he weirdly tries to alienate and then space Crichton. Talyn’s attitude toward Crichton was definitely affected by Crais, but Crais, once he accepted that Tauvo’s death was an accident, did not act against Crichton.
After Xhalax Sun crippled Talyn’s higher functions in “Relativity,” the Leviathan was even more unstable, culminating in him slaughtering 600 innocents on a defenseless hospital ship in “I Yensch, You Yensch,” Crais, his efforts to keep Talyn sane and peaceful exhausted, reluctantly agrees to put Talyn into a coma, hoping to somehow fix him.
Crais had already agreed to help Crichton in the go-for-broke plan to stop Scorpius’s wormhole project and hoped part of the plan could be to heal Talyn. Crais may have had some desire for revenge against Scorpius, but his motives seem to now be in common cause with Crichton. It is quite the turnaround from when they first met. Crichton still does not trust him, but Crais was working with Crichton. On Scorpius’s command carrier, we first see Crais apparently betray Crichton.
But this was, as Crais explains, a ploy.
He now gets it, understands as Crichton does, the greater purpose.
Crais makes the ultimate sacrifice for Crichton’s plan to stop Scorpius.
He gets in a final dig at Scorpius
and then Captain Crais issues his final command.
Crais says it is a hero’s death that Talyn deserves, but probably it is Crais who deserves it more. Over the course of three cycles after meeting Crichton, he transformed himself and redeemed himself. He journeyed from villain to hero. And Crais’s trajectory is a huge reasons why Farscape is such an original science fiction series.