If you ever want to know about my first real experience with fandom, I will tell you all about my time on the Farscape message boards. It was there that I learned about fanvids and fan fiction and fan art. It was also there that I learned about shipping. Sure, I'd been shipping characters all my life, but I only learned that there was a name for my obsession with fictional coupling on the walls of that old board (which is still very much in operation nearly a decade later -- such is the devotion of the Scaper community).
While there were several ships to choose from in the world of Farscape, none could hold a candle to John and Aeryn, the show's stated hero and the actual hero of the story. Forget star-crossed; these two literally crossed the galaxy to find each other. They loved, they lost, they died (more than once), but in the end, they managed to be together despite the odds, some light cloning, and the fact that technically they were different species.
John and Aeryn are definitely relationship goals, and to prove it I've assembled a list of essential episodes so you can see so for yourself without having to wade through all that other plot stuff. Fair warning, though, Farscape was a show that relied heavily on building its narrative from the episodes that came before, so while many of these episodes may stand alone, there's a good chance you're gonna be a little confused if you're not doing this as part of a rewatch.
"The Premiere" (Season 1, Episode 1)
When John first met Aeryn, he didn't know what hit him. Literally. He'd just fallen out of a wormhole into a completely strange section of space, collided with an alien craft, was captured by escaping prisoners and injected with alien microbes. Then, all of a sudden, he's getting beat all to hell by this very attractive soldier who's been thrown in the cell with him. If all that isn't a meet-cute, then I don't know what is. Plus, on their first date, he gets her irreversibly contaminated and exiled by her own people. A match made in heaven, really.
"The Flax" (Season 1, Episode 12)
Sometime after they meet, John and Aeryn are on slightly better terms. She's even giving him driving lessons when they get trapped in a giant space net and stuck in a disabled ship with no knowledge of when or whether they might be rescued. Nothing to do but talk, right? Oh, and stop John's heart and nearly kill him.
"A Human Reaction" (Season 1, Episode 12)
In the first of several "back on Earth" episodes, we find out what happens when some of Moya's crew end up following John to his home planet. Turns out, people suck. But it also turns out that being on the run for your life is totally romantic. (Psst! They have sex.)
"Nerve"/"The Hidden Memory" (Season 1, Episode 19/20)
Aeryn is dying. John needs to save her, but in order to do that he has to adopt a strange English accent and pretend to be a Peacekeeper. It doesn't go great, so then Aeryn has to save him, as usual.
"Look at the Princess Pt. 1-3" (Season 2, Episodes 11-13)
An alien society has discovered a way to tell if you're biologically compatible with another person so you don't waste all that time on all that pesky dating nonsense. John is apparently the only man in the universe compatible with the princess, so he's pretty much screwed, literally and figuratively. Meanwhile, Aeryn isn't dealing so well with John's impending nuptials. Jealous Aeryn is one of the best versions. Next to snarky, just-saved-your-life-for-the-40th-time-this-week Aeryn, of course.
"The Locket" (Season 2, Episode 16)
Aeryn ends up on a planet where time moves much faster than it does off of it. By the time she returns, she's an old woman with a life and a daughter. John ends up stuck down there with her and they live together for another 40 or so years before they figure out how to set time back on track. The best part, though, is that for her entire life on that planet she kept a photo of John in a locket because IT'S TRUE LOVE GUYS.
"Die Me, Dichotomy" (Season 2, Episode 22)
John has a chip in his brain that was put there by Scorpius way back in "The Hidden Memory," and it's pretty much taking over his mind. Moya and the crew have come to find a doctor who can take it out without killing him (plus they need to fix Moya since she was set on fire in the last episode—look, a lot happens, okay?). Before they can go through with the procedure, though, the chip takes over completely and makes John kill Aeryn in a really excellent spacecraft race. I literally screamed the first time I saw the end of this episode, so make sure you've got time for one more when you're done.
"Season of Death" (Season 3, Episode 1)
Aeryn is dead, John is in a very precarious position, Scorpius is here, and so are the Scarrans. Things are very dire until Zahn does the one thing that could turn it all around: bringing Aeryn back from the dead! At great personal cost. You'll scream during this one too, but for a very different reason.
"Green-Eyed Monster" (Season 3, Episode 8)
The short version? John met a really scary dude on a dead leviathan who shot him with this thing that cloned him. Now there are two Johns, and one of them is on Moya while the other one is off somewhere else on Talyn (Moya's homicidal gunship baby) with Aeryn and Crais. Since there isn't a second Aeryn, we're gonna focus on the latter John for now. Got it? Good. Cause in this episode the two of them finally get together for real, but not until after Talyn, who hates John for reasons, tries to kill him, a lot. He's only stopped when Aeryn shares her love for John with Talyn psychically because this is sci-fi and we can do that.
"Meltdown" (Season 3, Episode 12)
Technically, if you're just after the plot version of their ship story, you can skip this one. There's just SO MUCH KISSING.
"Infinite Possibilities Pt 1+2" (Season 3, Episodes 14/15)
Are you ready to cry? 'Cause you're gonna cry. So much. John and Aeryn are stuck on a planet plagued by solar flares as they investigate a mechanic who has recreated John's Farscape module in order to make her own wormholes. The wormhole knowledge in John's brain is finally unlocked, and as the Scarrans attempt to attack the planet, John races to build a weapon that will stop them. Of course, this is war, and there are casualties, and radiation is very deadly in large doses.
"The Choice" (Season 3, Episode 17)
John is dead. Aeryn is very drunk and lonely when a man arrives claiming to be her (presumed) dead father. There's more to it, but it's hard to explain satisfactorily except to say Claudia Black is an underrated actress and you're gonna want some alcohol for this one.
"Promises" (Season 4, Episode 5)
The crew has been separated since the Season 3 finale, but they finally make it back to Moya in this one, where John discovers Aeryn and Scorpius. Aeryn is in the throes of Heat Delirium after a mercenary job she pulled, and John has to finish what she started in order to get the cure. (Also Aeryn is pregnant.)
"Kansas" (Season 4, Episode 12)
Hey, they're back on Earth again, only for real this time. One problem: It's the 1980s. Stuck there for the time being, the aliens have to try to fit into Earth society without screwing things up or exposing themselves, and Aeryn gets her first real look at John's home and his past.
"Terra Firma" (Season 4, Episode 13)
More or less a sequel to "Kansas," as the crew makes it to Earth in the here and now and must contend with the very public arrival of their alien selves on a planet that previously thought it was alone in the universe. Aeryn gets the chance to meet John's family and even puts in the effort to learn English and fit in with his people, while John gets some much-needed advice from an old flame, and a family heirloom.
"A Constellation of Doubt"/"Prayer"/"We're So Screwed 1-3"/"Bad Timing" (Season 4, Episodes 17-22)
There's a point in the series when you're better off just riding out the rest of the episodes, and this is it. From here on out it's just one big story, and John and Aeryn's relationship is at the center, even if the overarching narrative is about interstellar war over wormhole weapon technology. Aeryn is kidnapped by Scarrans. John mopes, then mounts a badass rescue before discovering he's gonna need to go back into enemy territory to rescue his nemesis. There's bureaucracy and bombs and weird alien torture, but mostly there's this really great scene where they dance in an elevator and talk about their feelings. The whole thing ends with the most romantic and frustrating series finale of all time (and yes, that includes what happened at the end of Chuck).
If you're pressed for time or you just don't want to watch John mope around about Aeryn, you can skip the first one. Technically you can skip right to "We're So Screwed Part 1," but then you'd be missing "Prayer" and what is hands-down the best performance of the entire series. Do yourself a favor.
BONUS: The Peacekeeper Wars
If you still want more after that horrible finale cliffhanger, then you're in luck! There was a mini-series that wraps everything up, and it is a shipper and fan-fiction writer's dream come true. More war, lots of shooting, pregnant Rygell (don't ask), Aeryn giving birth in the middle of a firefight then leading the charge out of there with a newborn infant in her arms and a gun in her hand, heartbreaking monologues. Seriously, this thing has everything.