If the last thing you remember is falling through a wormhole, you've just found yourself on board the next installment of SYFY WIRE's intergalactic Flight Deck series, which explores some of the most iconic starships to ever blaze through the wild unknown. This time you get to face every extraterrestrial danger imaginable on the coolest frelling biomechanoid ship to ever traverse the cosmos, Farscape's Moya.
SYFY's Farscape was almost called Space Chase before the name morphed into something more intriguing. Not unlike most of the sci-fi TV and film universe, Farscape chronicles the adventures of a band of outcast aliens — some humanoid, some just out there — and one really bewildered human (wormhole travel will do that to you) getting catapulted through the vast darkness and away from enemy forces. Unlike most such series, the crew escapes to the living ship Moya, whose maintenance involves more than equipment upgrades and rocket fuel.
Moya is a Leviathan, a living creature that essentially looks like someone merged a behemoth stingray with a horseshoe crab and sent it flying through space. Not just anyone can take command of this sentient vehicle. Leviathans depend on their symbiotic bond with a Pilot, and usually no more than one over their 300-cycle lifespan. Pilots are able to feel everything their Leviathans feel and communicate it to the crew. Moya barely survived the brutal murder of her original Pilot and experiences complications that almost turn lethal in an attempt to bond with her new one too soon. If their nerve endings hadn't eventually connected on their own, both the crew and the show could have ended up spiraling into one epic crash.
The challenge in dreaming up a ship with a pulse was making it seem less antiseptic and more alive than something made entirely of metal while still avoiding showing a completely biological creature. Farscape co-creator Rockne S. O'Bannon encountered some unearthly issues while trying to bring the concept for such an organic-inorganic hybrid into being. He wanted the ship's interior to suggest that it was a living, breathing entity without its innards squishing underfoot. Rygel probably wouldn't have cared, though, since he's always zooming around on that levitating chair of his.
Proto-concepts for Moya developed by the Jim Henson Creature Shop obviously tried to incorporate O'Bannon's idea, though maybe that door that fills up with a creepy blue gel that drains when it opens was not the greatest idea. It's not so easy to evade the Peacekeepers when you're trying to rid yourself of vicious alien bodily fluids. The Leviathan first manifested on paper as something of a banana-yellow Enterprise with fins, then the vague form of a humpback whale with its intestines exposed before it evolved into its cosmic stingray form. Her interior design also went through several iterations, though I really would have wanted to see what her corridors may have looked like flooded with an eerie, ectoplasmic glow.
With her own neural network that's half-brain, half-computer, this intelligent ship sounds like it has everything. Then you realize Leviathans don't grow weapons.
Enter the starburst. If you remember any scene from Farscape in which Moya took off in an unearthly blast, the crew desperately trying to grip anything in sight to stay in one piece, you probably turned on an episode that was in the middle of one.
Starbursts begin as a surge of energy from the Leviathan's inner starburst chamber that supercharges the pilot's den before exploding from the rear of the ship. This energy (which probably breaks most laws of physics) will rush from the hull to the nose, tearing a hole in the fabric of spacetime that Moya can then plunge through. It makes the average warp drive seem like a battery-powered, remote-controlled toy.
Leviathans in starburst mode will leave anything with a light drive system behind in a cloud of space dust, and the process can't be disrupted unless someone messes with its drive system just before ignition. Pro: Moya can evade Peacekeepers and Scarrans pursuing her crew by covering unfathomable distances in mind-blowing amounts of time. Con: Nobody, even the pilot, really knows where she's headed once starburst is initiated. The only sure thing is that she will end up in another dimension, and she will ride the energy stream through that dimension until being randomly ejected from it.
Obviously, Leviathans don't come standard with GPS. But they do come standard with service robots and diagnostic repair drones otherwise known as DRDs. You'd probably rather have the DRDs, since they are also connected to the ship's consciousness, can stand in for the pilot in case of emergency, search for anything lost in Moya's cavernous body cavity, and carry out repairs with no spacewalk required. They can even shoot lasers at all the enemy intruders D'Argo's Qualta Blade can't handle.
Moya presents an especially dangerous circumstance to her crew because she is pregnant. The mating rituals of Leviathans remain unknown, but while she was in the claws of the Peacekeepers, she had been implanted with an embryo whose Leviathan DNA was merged with gunship weaponry. You're probably better off stranded on another planet than riding a gestating Leviathan. Mood swings make the creature-ship prone to killing anyone on board, and if you survive, it won't be without a really turbulent flight.
Massive hormonal surges aside, Moya actually tries to create a hospitable environment for her crew when she isn't starbursting away from an army of Peacekeepers or pushing out a massive self-replicant that emerges from the womb fully loaded. Who wouldn't want a spaceship that sustains life by automatically producing light and breathable air for its crew and interfacing with the food freezing system so nobody starves? Bonus points for being sentient enough to connect with any Luxan, Sebacean, Hynerian, or human inside. Even NASA technology can't do that. Yet.
Would you risk blasting off on a starship that could think and feel for itself, or would you feel more secure on something non-sentient with metal insides?