“Do not make me tongue you…”
The towering muscular form of Farscape’s Ka D’Argo, as he ripped apart a control panel to take control of the living starship Moya, told the viewer everything they needed to know during the scant few seconds of his introduction. Here was someone you did not want to frell with.
Anthony Simcoe made a memorable first impression as D’Argo. This was not just an actor in platform boots and wearing putty on their forehead, but a stunningly realized alien. Although vaguely humanoid in size and shape, the resemblance ended there.
D’Argo had thick brow ridges, a plated nose and a pointed chin. Eight tentacle-like ‘tenkas’ hung down the back of his head, which swept around as he turned. D’Argo’s prehensile tongue was capable of delivering a potent neurotoxin that could knock out his prey, and his allies too when they annoyed him, which was often.
“I think a lot of those design choices were ‘What are the colors and costumes that are going to show the latex as being fake?’” Simcoe told The Companion. “You could read into that as much as you like, but it was more to do with ‘What’s going to make this not look like some guy in a rubber suit?’ and make it look as realistic as we possibly can.”
As the series developed, and we learnt more of D’Argo’s backstory, we came to understand that there was far more to this alien warrior than just major anger-management issues. Unlike Worf, who remained surly and aggressive throughout the entirety of Star Trek: The Next Generation, D’Argo became someone with far deeper motivations beyond his initial archetype.
One of the most prominent elements of D’Argo was the Luxan symbol for a general that was tattooed on his chin, irrevocably marking him as a warrior. But was D’Argo as much a warrior as he first seemed?
D’Argo the Warrior
D’Argo was strong, aggressive, resilient and assertive; all of which are qualities typically associated with the warrior archetype. His violent rages would define how we first perceive D’Argo’s personality.
Throughout much of the first season, D’Argo remains fixedly within the archetype. For example, in ‘Exodus from Genesis’ (S1, Ep3), when the crew of Moya encounter clones of themselves, D’Argo immediately leapt to a radical solution to differentiate the crew from their clones.
“We will cut off the tip of our small finger for identification.”
John: “How about something a little less permanent?”‘Exodus from Genesis’, S1, Ep3.
This behavior continues throughout much of Farscape’s first season, as the writers sought to establish the characters and their relationships with each other. In D’Argo’s case, it was to take control, trust no one, and shoot the enemy. Not always in that order.
As the series continued, Simcoe’s portrayal of D’Argo expanded the role to explore the character’s deeper motivations. “The difficulty with a character like D’Argo, is that you need to be the archetype,” explains Simcoe. “Once he’s established in that way, then you need to break away from it as quickly as you can, to show that you’re not just the next bodybuilder that rocks up on set and can’t bring any nuance to a character.”
We learn that D’Argo is not the military commander that the tattoo indicated. D’Argo assumed the markings of a general in order to protect his commanding officer, and had only taken part in two engagements before he was captured. This is alluded to in ‘Premiere’ (S1, Ep1), as Zhaan (Virginia Hey) observes, “Ah – you are but a boy!”
D’Argo carries within him the potential for bouts of extreme fury, in the form of the Luxans’ hyper-rage, as well as a capacity for violence and a seeming acceptance of fate. He was fearless in battle and seemingly comfortable with the consequences of his violence. In Farscape’s Season 1 finale, ‘Family Ties’, D’Argo observes, “Fear accompanies the possibility of death. Calm shepherds its certainty.”
As the series develops, so does D’Argo. He begins to learn that immediately attacking is not always the right thing to do. This process is helped by Moya not having any weapons or means to defend herself, other than fleeing using starburst. This reinforces D’Argo’s need to overcome his natural inclination to always attack.
John: “Have we sent the ‘Don’t shoot us we’re pathetic’ transmission yet?”
D’Argo: “That was actually the first thing we tried.”‘Out of their Minds’ – S2, Ep9.
D’Argo the Farmer
Becoming a warrior was a choice that D’Argo willingly made, but it was not his only desire. As the Luxans are typically a warrior culture, it could be inferred that there was some cultural conditioning at work. However, there were other dreams lurking deep within D’Argo’s psyche, which would come to the fore as the series went on.
D’Argo was undoubtedly a warrior, but we learn that D’Argo dreamed of raising a family on a farm. This desire would repeatedly cause conflict throughout the series. When D’Argo learns of the opportunity to find his son, he immediately leaps at the chance, regardless of the danger to his allies.
Luxans, typically, do not apologize. This trait has become so recognized by other cultures within the Farscape universe that it is simply accepted. We soon witness this in the first season episode ‘DNA Mad Scientist’ (S1, Ep9). D’Argo refuses to apologize to Pilot for cutting off his arm. Although the arm could regrow, it was still a painful and humiliating experience for Pilot. D’Argo even admits he would do it all over again. Nonetheless, he wordlessly accepts the guilt of what he had done, by playing music to ease Pilot’s pain.
This was a pivotal moment for D’Argo, as he was forced to ultimately confront, for the first time in the series, the negative consequences of his actions. This moment is the beginning of D’Argo’s journey as he accepts that violence is not always the answer.
This journey comes to a head in the second season episode ‘Crackers Don’t Matter’ (S2, Ep4). During the episode, whilst under the effects of T’raltixx’s light, D’Argo uses his far greater size and strength to force-feed Rygel the crackers that the Hynerian had been hoarding. When freed of T’raltixx’s influence, D’Argo is visibly shocked at what he did and apologizes to Rygel.
D’Argo: “I, uh… I am ashamed of what I did.”
Rygel: “I thought you were going to kill me.”
D’Argo: “I’m sorry Rygel. Can you forgive me?”
Rygel: “No! Not… yet.”‘Crackers Don’t Matter’ – S2, Ep4.
D’Argo’s relationship with the others was argumentative at best, but it was worst with John (Ben Browder). Crichton not only looked like the Sebacean Peacekeepers who had captured and imprisoned him, but D’Argo saw him as a potential liability. Whilst D’Argo disliked Aeryn (Claudia Black) due to her background as a Peacekeeper, she did at least have military training and know how to fire a pulse rifle. Crichton was scientist who could barely master the art of brushing his teeth on Moya.
Over time, D’Argo would be forced to confront his opinions about John and the others. In the process of re-evaluating them, he would come to not only recognise the value of his fellow crew-mates but realise how their shared experiences surpassed the cultural differences that had initially divided them.
In the first season episode ‘Till the Blood Runs Clear’ (S1, Ep11), D’Argo witnesses John confronting Rorf and Rorg, forcing the two blood trackers back down in response to Crichton’s bluff. Thus, he starts to realize that there is more to Crichton than just a smart-aleck from a backward planet.
This comes to the fore in ‘Crackers Don’t Matter’, where only the seemingly deficient Crichton is able to overcome T’raltixx’s mental influences and confront him. Eventually, D’Argo comes to regard Crichton as a friend. This is reflected in his final exchange with Crichton in the Peacekeeper Wars mini-series:
Crichton: You’re the closest friend I have.
D’Argo: You could’ve done better.
Crichton: Nowhere in the universe.Peacekeeper Wars: Part 2
D’Argo the Lover
It would be fair to say that D’Argo’s liaisons were not the most pacific. His first love was rife with interspecies conflict. Prior to the setting of the show, D’Argo met the Sebacean Lo’Lann Tal and decided to flee with her to an agricultural colony, where they had a child, called Jothee.
However, Lo’Lann’s peacekeeper brother, Macton, pursued them and finally caught them. Macton murdered Lo’Lann, but blamed D’Argo for her death, claiming it had been during a hyper-rage blackout. D’Argo was arrested and imprisoned onboard Moya, where the show begins.
D’Argo’s relationships expanded the character, showing that he was more than the muscle. “Our goal was really for him to be less of a meat axe and more of a Cyrano de Bergerac,” says Simcoe. “We would always talk about Cyrano de Bergerac; he’s not only the greatest fighter around, but there is a sense of poetry and empathy and love in him.”
D’Argo’s most prominent relationship during Farscape was with Chiana (Gigi Edgley). The two seemed an unlikely pair, as D’Argo was direct and disciplined, whilst Chiana was manipulative and anarchic, but opposites can attract.
This particular relationship was ultimately doomed, due to their underlying natures coming into conflict. Although they genuinely loved each other, what they each wanted was diametrically opposite. D’Argo wanted to settle down on a farm, with Chiana and his son, whilst Chiana was not ready for such a sedentary existence.
This led Chiana to commit an unforgivable act, which forced D’Argo to leave her. Although their relationship ended, this did not stop D’Argo caring for her. A few episodes later, in ‘Self-Inflicted Wounds – Could’a, Would’a, Should’a’ (S3, Ep3), D’Argo says to Chiana, “I cannot take you back Chiana. But I won’t leave you alone in pain.”
Whilst it seemed that Chiana did not love D’Argo, the reality was far different. Chiana evidently still cared for D’Argo, but her desire to never settle down overcame it. D’Argo knew this, at the end.
Chiana: “Don’t leave me…”
D’Argo: “I’ll find you.”
Chiana: “I love you!”Peacekeeper Wars: Part 2
It could be said that the greatest tragedy throughout Farscape is that D’Argo never had the chance to become the farmer and father he so wanted to be. Being a warrior may have been the desire of D’Argo’s mind, but to be a farmer, husband and father was his heart’s true desire.
D’Argo the Father
Throughout much of the Farscape’s second season, D’Argo’s focus was on reuniting with his son Jothee. He succeeded in this, but it was a bittersweet reunion, as it was underscored by their vastly different life experiences. D’Argo had been raised a soldier, whilst Jothee was a slave. This led to Jothee leaving Moya and his father.
However, D’Argo did become a father-figure one final time, from a certain point of view.
Fatally wounded in Peacekeeper Wars: Part 2, and realising that he did not have long to live, D’Argo chose to defend his friends as they fled from the invading Scarrans. During his final goodbyes to his friends, D’Argo relinquishes his qualta blade, the ancient Luxan weapon that he had carried throughout the series. In that moment, D’Argo lets go of his warrior past, and in so doing he becomes something else.
It is Crichton’s final farewell to his friend that acknowledges D’Argo’s ultimate desire for fatherhood. It may initially seem a throwaway line to add some levity during a tragic moment. Yet, when considered alongside D’Argo’s ultimate desire to settle down and become a father, it takes on a deeper and far more personal significance.
“The first Scarran you see, you tell him who his daddy is. Tell him, D’Argo!”John, Peacekeeper Wars: Part 2.
In a way that is so typical of Farscape, D’Argo becomes the father figure he so wanted to be, just not in the way any of us could have imagined. D’Argo died in order for his friends, whom he had fought for and against, to be safe. In so doing he became a father, one final time.
Shoutouts: A huge thanks to Leanne Haselden-Green and Martin Parsons, two of our Kickstarter backers who made The Companion possible!
Farscape | Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan’s Subversive Brilliance
The Quotable John Crichton Quiz (Season 4) | Farscape
After ten years designing drainage systems, Peter Ray Allison finally realised sewers were full of crap. Rather than having a midlife crisis, he became a freelance journalist specializing in technology and science fiction, and was once called a ‘blessed geek’ by Virginia Hey. Peter’s work has been published by the BBC, The Guardian and The Independent, amongst others. Peter is also regular podcaster for Geek Pride. www.peterallison.netFollow Peter on Twitter @PeterRayAllison