Spoilers: through the Peacekeeper Wars miniseries
Notes:Turning this in a day early. I hope that's okay!
Scorpius and Sikozu kissing was one of the first things I ever saw on Farscape. I’d seen bits and pieces of the series before, enough to know that Scorpius was the “villain” (one look tells the casual viewer that), enough to know that Sikozu was one of the “good guys”; at least, she was wandering around with the good guys, helping them fight bad guys. And I vaguely gathered that, by this point, “villain” Scorpius was helping the good guys too, which is always kind of fun. So I was flipping channels, and I came across this “good guy” girl laying a romantic kiss on the “villain.”
“Hmmm,” thought I. “That’s kinda cool.” And then the scene changed to Our Hero talking about how unsettling it is to contemplate accidentally nuking children. While I agree with him, I did not find this a particularly interesting observation. So tuning the moral angst of John Crichton, I thought to myself, “Why was that red-haired gal kissing the villain? When did they get together? Aren’t they on opposite sides?”
Some time later, when I started seriously watching the series and began to get answers to these questions, I was not disappointed. The Scorpius and Sikozu ship embodies what, in my view, every great love story should: it involves two characters who are interesting as individuals but who, when put together, simply fit in all sorts of unexpected ways. Let’s start with the individuals.
Scorpius is the child of a Sebacean who was raped by a Scarran. (Sebaceans are the human-looking Farscape aliens, Scarrans the lizard/sometimes-puppet-looking Farscape aliens.) Since these two species are not very genetically compatible, Scorpius inherited certain physical difficulties. His body perpetually overheats, to combat which, he wears a coolant suit (apparently in the Farscapeverse, black reflects heat) and inserts cooling rods into his brain. He also looks rather unusual, or, as Jothee once put it, “What the frell are you? Some kind of mutant?” ("Liars, Guns, and Money 2, Part 2: With Friends Like These" 2.20).
His mother died in childbirth, and Scorpius was raised by a Scarran foster mother in complete isolation from other individuals. Over time, he grew to hate the Scarrans with a singular passion. When he was twelve, he escaped from them, and roughly ten cycles (years) later, went to work for the Peacekeepers, the Sebacean military regime and most significant force of opposition to Scarran expansion. Scorpius rose quickly through the Peacekeeper ranks. When we first meet him in the series (I’m guessing twenty to thirty cycles along in his career), he is the leader of a Gammak project, which seems to mean a scientific research operation, in this case, to develop wormhole technology.
(Wormholes, in Farscape, are the great weapon of mass destruction. To Scorpius, they represent the Peacekeepers’ best hope for defeating the Scarrans, who outnumber PKs ten to one.)
Scorpius enters the series as “villain,” torturing “hero” John Crichton for the wormhole knowledge implanted in his head by superadvanced aliens. Over the next three and a bit cycles, Scorpius and John develop a tempestuous relationship as enemies, reluctant allies, philosophical sparring partners, possible kindred spirits, etc. But enough about John.
Scorpius is one of the most strong-willed characters I have ever encountered. He does not doubt the legitimacy of his objectives--and he is able to defend his position with a high degree of plausibility. He does not doubt his own status as a major force for achieving his objectives. Possessed of an extraordinarily stable ego, he is almost impossible to insult or embarrass. He is a dogged survivor who, nonetheless, is not afraid to die (and kill, maim, etc.) to fight the Scarrans. Though prone to aggressive "Scarran" impulses, he is highly intelligent, particularly tactically and technically. He is something of a sadomasochist, with emphasis on the masochist: his Scarran upbringing and his physical disabilities have taught him to embrace pain. He is also an inveterate utilitarian: ends justify means, and the many outweigh the few. He is almost completely unsentimental, except, perhaps, over his mother and PK pal Braca, and just maybe. . .
We know comparatively little about Sikozu Svala Shanti Sugaysi Shanu, who only enters the series in its final season. She is a Kalish, a species enslaved by the Scarrans. They are also known for being sophisticated technicians, and Sikozu is no exception: she is at home with all manner of gadgetry and is an expert on leviathan ships (in theory if not in practice). She places a premium on logical intellect and scientific training and generally disdains those who do not excel in those areas.
Sikozu is also a bioloid (read: biological android) who works as part of the underground Kalish Resistance against the Scarrans. Her bioloid status grants her certain nifty skills, including walking on walls and generating a radiation fatal to Scarrans. It also, apparently, renders her body incapable of supporting translator microbes, which means she actually has to learn every language she speaks. She is, as a result, a phenomenal linguistics expert. She is also blessed with reattachable limbs and a metabolism that requires her to eat only ten times a cycle.
Sikozu’s background is sketchy. It is not clear what kind of “bioloid” she is. Theories about her origins include: she is a genetically altered “real” Kalish; she is an altered clone with the memories of such a Kalish; she an artificially created being “born” adult and preprogrammed as an anti-Scarran agent.
If this last is true, she may be only a few cycles old. (I think she cannot be less than a few cycles old experientially because she has too much personality for it to be all preprogrammed.) Even if she was once a natural-born Kalish, she must still be quite young, young enough to protest that she is “not a child,” and young enough for Rygel plausibly to respond that she is, in fact, “an infant” ("I Shrink Therefore I Am" 4.8).
Much of her personality, especially in her early episodes, fits the paradigm of “cocky, adolescent genius.” She is convinced of her own superiority over nearly everyone she meets. She makes no secret of this fact and tends to underestimate her companions, with the result that, while she is more-or-less accepted as a member of the “good guys” on the leviathan, Moya, she is never accepted warmly. Yet despite this lack of social acumen, she is an expert spy, painfully aware that revealing her status as a bioloid Resistance agent could cause the deaths of millions of her people.
The Ship and the Canon (sounds like Horatio Hornblower)
Scorpius and Sikozu meet when she gets thrown into a grave with him (obviously, the start of a great romance), and he tells her a code word that she uses to save her life ("What Was Lost, Part 2: Resurrection" 4.3). Per his request, she tries to rescue him in return--but fails. Being Scorpius, however, he pops up a few episodes later no worse for having been buried alive ("Promises" 4.5). The two find themselves united as outsiders on Moya: Scorpius a barely tolerated “asylum seeker,” Sikozu not so roundly despised but widely disliked. From the beginning, these two are favorably impressed with each other: Scorpius is quick to note Sikozu’s language skills and technical intelligence (as well as her tendency to underestimate others). Sikozu, for her part, views Scorpius as the only other intelligent person on the ship. Though their screen time together is brief, it is put to good effect: they talk strategy, play chess, ponder becoming “allies.”
Their relationship does not involve overt sexual tension until well into the season, which allows the characters to establish a psychological relationship without leaning too heavily on sexual chemistry as an explanation for their connection. In fact, Sikozu even has a brief romance with another character in an episode in which Scorpius does not appear ("A Prefect Murder" 4.9). After Sikozu’s one-episode stand, however, she and Scorpius begin to flirt. When Sikozu, for example, asks him why she should trust him to watch her back, he responds with a crack about "the pleasantness of the task" before promptly moving on to his real, typically utilitarian explanation ("Unrealized Reality" 4.11). Interpretations differ as to who takes the initiative in the flirting. Sikozu is being coy, and I think the interpretive wiggle room lies in whether you read that coyness as a definite advance or more as wanting to keep her options open. (I opt for the latter.)
Their relationship reaches a turning point in "Twice Shy" (4.14). This is one of those alien-agency-screws-with-the-crew’s-emot
This episode also provides canonical evidence against the theory that Scorpius is simply using/seducing Sikozu. Even when his intellect has been degraded to a "find it, kill it" mentality, he recognizes her as an ally and leaps swiftly to her defense when she is injured.
A few episodes later, when Scorpius is captured by the Scarrans, Sikozu is the only one of the Moyans keen on rescuing him (though they all eventually agree to). Adventure ensues, including an oft-cited scene in an elevator in which Scorpius holds a semi-conscious Sikozu in his arms (more evidence that he "really cares," since she’s probably too groggy to be very aware of--and therefore influenced by--what he’s doing) ("We’re So Screwed Part 3: La Bomba," 4.21).
At the end of this episode, Scorpius and Sikozu definitively get together. No question about who takes the initiative this time: Sikozu walks up to him and kisses him. Scorpius looks befuddled (I didn’t know he was capable of it). He turns away from her at first, but she turns his face back, and eventually he gives in and kisses her in return. Shortly thereafter, they leave Moya together and join up with the Peacekeepers. In the next (and final) episode of the series, "Bad Timing" (4.22), their dynamic alters. The sweetness of the "La Bomba" kiss scene is replaced with a more seductive erotic-asphyxiation scene, the editing of which prompted some fans ask whether Scorpius, in fact, broke Sikozu’s neck. He did not!
By the Peacekeeper Wars miniseries, Sikozu has changed her look and toughened up her manner. She and Scorpius don’t get much relationship time in this "season 5" compressed into three hours of action-packed John/Aeryn romance. But there are a few notable moments, the most psychologically revealing of which is a conversation Sikozu has with Aeryn. Sikozu has difficulty comprehending Aeryn’s conception of equality in her relationship with John. For Sikozu, relationships are a negotiation between "superior" and "inferior" (traits, not necessarily whole people). She tells Aeryn that while she used to assume that she was Scorpius’s superior, she has come to realize that, in many ways, he is her superior. In response to her perplexity, Aeryn advises her to stop over- and underestimating herself and consider that perhaps she and Scorpius were just "meant to be together," which appears to be an utterly new thought for Sikozu.
So far, so good for S/SS shippers. Unfortunately, rough waters lie ahead. Toward the end of the miniseries, it is revealed that Sikozu is, in fact, a spy for the Scarrans.
(Take a moment to process this.)
Yes, this Kalish Resistance agent is a Scarran spy. Why? Because they promised to free her people from their servitude. (I’ll come back to this.) Canonically, we’re told nothing about when she became a spy. Most shippers, however, assume that she allied with the Scarrans sometime after the end of season 4, since there is no indication that she is their spy in that season.
Interestingly, Scorpius doesn’t kill her. After tearing a Scarran coms device out of her shoulder, he leaves her to her fate in the midst of a war zone, observing that she has lost something "unique." Sikozu is last shown alive, which indicates that she survives the mini. Scorpius does too. End of story as far as canonical S/SS goes.
An important interpretive question here is how long Scorpius knew that Sikozu was a spy. He tells her that he's known for a long time and was simply using her. Shippers, of course, like to think he's lying, and I think the canonical evidence is on our side. For one thing, if he knew she was spy, he would not have taken her (and thus led the Scarrans) to wormhole-knowledge-holding John Crichton. I can't think of any scenario where such a move would work to Scorpius's advantage. For another thing, his assertion that she's lost something unique suggests that there really was something to lose. Moreover, he makes that assertion hard on the heels of telling her that he was only using her: both things can't be true, which is good evidence that he's--dare I say--flustered and doesn't have his story quite straight. My personal reading is that he first cued in to her treachery in the scene in which he actually confronts her.
What’s a Shipper to Do?
Needless to say, the “Scarran spy” thing throws a kink into the romantic fantasies of any S/SS shipper not prepared to dismiss the canon. So before going on, let’s address this.
First, a brief (I promise) sociopolitical digression. It is possible to imagine Sikozu becoming a Scarran spy. However, it is not plausible for her to have become a spy for the reason she states. Her statement suggests that the Scarrans promised to free the Kalish in exchange for her services. In season 4, the Kalish are a prominent element of Scarran society, managing much of their technology. For the Scarrans to free them, at best, means that the entire Scarran infrastructure would undergo a major upheaval. No government--from the Scarran Empire to the USA to the United Federation of Planets--would risk hurtling its economy into chaos to reward the services of a single agent. No rational adult would expect it to, all the less if that person hates and distrusts that government to begin with.
This presents S/SS fickers with a problem: how to plausibly explain such an implausible statement. I’ve seen two strategies adopted.
1) “I didn’t really mean it.” Sikozu misspoke or was under some sort of external mind control.
2) Sikozu knew there was almost no chance they’d keep their word, but she was so desperate that she took that tiny chance.
Each of these strategies presents problems and advantages. Number 1 is a cop out (I say this as someone who prefers it to 2). It’s almost going AU. On the up-side, it’s plausible. Number 2 has engaged with the canon in some very moving and creative ways. On the down side, it’s not plausible. No, there isn’t even a one-in-a-million chance that the Scarrans would keep that promise. And Sikozu--even a naive and desperate Sikozu--would know it.
A third option might be: Sikozu’s words have some true but misleading meaning: what does "servitude" really mean? This would be optimal because it could be both plausible and deeply engaged with the canon. I'd love to see someone tackle this one. I myself don't begin to know how.
The good part about this situation is that it leaves the field wide open for lots of terrific, angsty fan fic. In fact, one of the things that’s fun about S/SS in general is that their relationship is open to so many interpretations.
Interpretations of this pairing range all over the board--with at least some canonical evidence to back each one up. Are these two mostly using each other for their respective (or common) political ends? Are they really allies? Are they, in the main, a healthy couple or woefully twisted? Are their feelings more mutual or one-sided (which side?)? An interesting example of this interpretive openness is the question of Sikozu’s virginity. Is Scorpius her first lover? Fan opinion appears divided almost precisely 50-50, each side marshaling several pieces of canonical evidence. But perhaps the most enthralling question is...
Is It Love (at least up to the "spy" thing)?
Well, they never declare it is, which is part of the charm of the relationship, I think. Like the characters themselves, the relationship keeps a hard edge and eschews sentimental displays. As a person, neither Scorpius nor Sikozu is very oriented around interpersonal relationships; both are more concerned with the task of defeating the Scarrans. And because they believe so devoutly in this task, their interest in each other is always embroiled with this broader interest in the universe they live in. Thus, their relationship avoids the romantic solipsism of so many TV couples who--somewhat selfishly?--seem to count their love as the most important thing in existence. At the same time, this tendency toward emotional restraint places Scorpius and Sikozu, especially Scorpius, in a perfect position to be caught off-guard by intimacy: a fun angle to read and write.
As for whether "love" is an appropriate word for what they feel, the question is provocatively open to interpretation. They seem more comfortable with the concept of "alliance," a much more vague and, therefore, safer word. That doesn’t mean that the love can’t be there. I remember once hearing that when Lerner and Loewe wrote the song, "I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face," for My Fair Lady, they meant to write a love song that never mentioned the word "love." I’ve been known to adopt that same strategy in writing Scorpius and Sikozu. The word itself does not seem very prominent in their lexicons, and this makes the question all the more fascinating. How well can someone love without calling the feeling "love" (perhaps even to him- or herself)? How long can someone love without recognizing the love? But whether or not they are ever "in love," they seem to me to have a deep connection.
One of the surest indications to me of how deftly Farscape constructed Scorpius and Sikozu as a couple is that I could not, from just watching the series, tell if the writers created Sikozu to be Scorpius's love interest or an "independent" character. She certainly does not seem "designed" for Scorpius. In fact, in some ways, she's a peculiar partner for him. It's a bit surprising to find Scorpius, who is enormously emotionally self-sufficient, involved in any type of seemingly serious emotional relationship, especially with someone who is something of a "cocky teen," in many ways far less savvy than he is, someone who gets into trivial scraps with other characters (notably Chiana), and who early on even has some very sweet romantic scenes with a lad with funny hair. Sikozu is very much her own person, with her own quirks and her own relationships with the other Moyans quite apart from her relationship with Scorpius. In fact, she works well as his love interest because she works well as a strong individual. How could Scorpius be interested in anything less?
Yet though they are clearly differentiated individuals, these two fit together remarkably naturally. In their shared dedication to defeating the Scarrans, in their common adherence to logic and their suspicion of sentiment, in their intelligence and their respect for intelligence, and conversely in their emotional immaturity and inexperience, they are alike. They can appreciate one another.
I read Scorpius and Sikozu as highly individuated people with a great deal of mutual understanding and respect. I'm tempted to say that they treat each other as equals, except that--as Sikozu's chat with Aeryn exemplifies--it seems clear that they don't perceive each other as "equals." Both seem to regard "equality" as a measure of comparable accomplishment or potential. Our belief in innate equal rights/souls does not figure prominently in their cultural backgrounds. In their own minds, they could not regard each other as "equals" because there is no way to sum up their respective strengths and weaknesses into some sort of comparability: Sikozu is better with languages, Scorpius (at least in some ways) better at manipulating people, Sikozu healthier and armed with all those bioloid powers, Scorpius older and more experienced, etc. But if they are not "equal," their relationship is, nonetheless, more one of partnership than domination. They work well together; they play well together. They may not be "equal," but they match.
Explorations in Fic
Though there is not enough S/SS out there, there are a number of fine stories scattered around. My preferred Farscape archive is Leviathan, which has a lot of high-quality fic and can easily be searched by pairing, as well as by several other criteria. The most prolific S/SS writer is ScorpSik, and she's a fine one. Particularly if you enjoy the more romantic side of S/SS, you'll want to check out all her fics. My favorite S/SS fics include:
Andraste's Sparky-winning "Travelling Light", a mid-season 4 story, mainly a Scorpius character study but with nice insight into the pairing.
Andraste's "First and Last", a nice, short, season 4 AU.
ScorpSik's epic, "Strength", an action story with a deep, shippy undercurrent, told from both characters' points of view. It's set directly after the end of season 4 and is now AU for the miniseries.
ScorpSik's "Skin Deep", a study of vulnerability.
ScorpSik's "Out of Time", a post-PKW fic dealing with the ramifications of Sikozu the Spy. It doesn't actually deal with the ship much, but it's quite therapeutic for those traumatized by the mini.
Anna S's "Mother Tongue", mostly Sikozu character study with a strong sense of S and SS's common bond of Scarran-hating.