Paul Goddard

10

“When your body is dead, your mind will live here with us to strut and fret forever, you poor player.”

10 bonus points for anyone who noticed the villain quoting (well, paraphrasing) Shakespeare, a la Crackers Don’t Matter.

I tip my hat to Ben Browder for this fantastic episode, it operates on a surprisingly large number of different levels. I was particularly intrigued by its inversion of characters and fairy tales - D'Argo is an oversized Hansel planning to feast on a pair of eager, caged witches - Rygel is the *cough* fire-emitting slug AND the knight - Aeryn is a Southern ‘Belle’ with a beast boyfriend - and Zhaan is an overweight man living in a van. And Stark? Oh, Stark.

Dear Mr Browder is not only a talented, intelligent writer, he’s also a great observer of character - and not just his own. Actors who also write episodes almost always write for themselves, so it’s a delight to find someone who knows how to craft a story for the rest of the cast as well. As the version of Stark we see here is the one responsible for this surrealistic nightmare Crichton finds himself in, it follows that this Stark is a prime slice of inversion too - an inversion of himself. He is what I like to call the Stark-of-Darkness, the part of Stark which is normally hidden, suppressed. Actual-Stark has referred to this before (literally as his 'darkness’), and we’ve seen glimpses of it in times of high stress. It was the darkness which peeked through the crazy and threatened Crichton back in The Hidden Memory, a flash of lucidity that gave the game away. It was the darkness again in Self Inflicted Wounds when the stress of Zhaan’s situation wreaked havoc on his self-control. But Stark is not his darkness - it is an ugly remnant of the souls he has crossed over, a burden he suffers for his selflessness. Stark-of-Darkness is his opposite, all the internalised, unrealised impulses that actual-Stark fails to express. Consider, after all - if Stark’s mask normally covers the light encompassing the right side of his face, what are we to make of the fact that Stark-of-Darkness’ mask is on the left? Stark-of-Darkness is malevolent, vengeful. He wants recompense for Zhaan’s loss, a life given for Crichton’s sake, for Crichton’s love. Why should Crichton’s happiness be more important than his own? Actual-Stark’s feelings are normally raw nerves, open and exposed, and any negative impulses he has are relegated to that contained part of his mind wherein the darkness resides. Therefore, it is left to this fractured shade, this inversion, to pursue the fulfillment of justice in the absence of happiness, to be whatever unconscious bitterness the real Stark cannot be. And that is a DAMN impressive piece of characterisation. I mean really. Wow.