Trigger warning: this post contains discussion of rape, forced pregnancy, child abuse, and abuse of people with disabilities.
Spoilers: all of Farscape, including the miniseries.
The time has come, my friends, to introduce my absolute, hands-down, favorite character with a disability in all of fiction. Much like Madonna, Prince, and Yoshua, he goes by one name: Scorpius. Did anyone else feel shivers down their spine? Just me? Okay. Aaaanyway, here’s your primer on Scorpius, the central villain on Farscape. (If you’re reading/hearing this and you don’t watch Farscape, what is wrong with you? Seriously. Think about your life, think about your choices.)
Every villain needs an origin story to explain why they’re making the hero’s life hell. Typically, a villain’s origin story is roughly ten times more interesting than a hero’s origin story. (You were in an accident in a science lab and your parents instilled you with good morals? How fascinating.) Scorpius is no exception.
Scorpius is born and raised in a Scarran research facility, where he was created as part of a genetic experiment. You see, Scarrans appear to be a species without weaknesses. They have a tough, reptilian exterior immune to pulse blasts and they have all the best military tech. The one chink in their armor is their need to consume a certain flower regularly to maintain their brain size and intelligence. The Scarrans are rightfully concerned about this genetic quirk. If the Peacekeepers found out, the Scarrans would be toast. The Scarrans try to remedy their dependency on the flowers by creating Scarran-Sebacean hybrid offspring through genetic experimentation. And by “genetic experimentation,” I mean “kidnapping Sebacean women, raping them, and forcing them to give birth.” This is how Scorpius is born.
The experiment is a success; Scorpius doesn’t need to eat flowers to compete intellectually with other species. Of course, there is one small side-effect of his mixed parentage. Scarrans, as a species, love heat and exude a great deal of it. Sebaceans, on the other hand, can’t handle the heat and will lapse into a permanent coma if exposed to too much of it. (Join me in asking the Scarran science corps, “What the frell were you thinking?”) Predictably, Scorpius has some thermoregulation issues. As an adult, he deals with them by wearing a special suit that regulates his external temperature and by inserting rods filled with cold chemicals directly into his brain.
(See that, TOS writers? That’s the kind of sci-fi adaptive technology I was looking for.) As a child being raised as a Scarran science fair project, Scorpius doesn’t have a thermoregulation suit, cooling rods, or much of anything to ease his pain and discomfort. Scorpius is reared by Tauza, a Scarran woman seeking to turn Scorpius into a true Scarran who can withstand high temperatures. Her methods include depriving Scorpius of water, physically and verbally abusing him, and telling him that his father was a Sebacean male who raped his mother, a Scarran female. Tauza isn’t the first adult tasked with a disabled child’s well-being to try to cure them with abuse. For some caregivers, anything less than abusive douchefuckery is obviously “babying” the child and making their impairment worse. These caregivers, to borrow a concept from Firefly, go to the special hell.
Scorpius eventually sends Tauza to the special hell, but it takes him a while to get to that point. As a teenager, Scorpius develops the ability to read heat signatures, which he uses to tell when someone is lying. Through this Disability Superpower, Scorpius discovers that Tauza’s abusive bullshit is just that–bullshit. She’s been lying about Sebaceans being inferior and how he was conceived. Scorpius escapes, gets himself a cooling suit (an early version of the one he wears in that pictures in this post and the rest of the series), and surrenders himself to the Peacekeepers. He offers the PK all he knows about the Scarrans for info about his parents. Scorpius finally discovers the truth and journeys to the site where his mother was kidnapped by the Scarrans. Tauza is waiting and brings him back to his old cell in the Scarran science lab. To torment him, Tauza shows him the video of his father raping his mother, shares how his mother pleaded for death while carrying him, and tells him how he killed his mother in childbirth. Scorpius has one of his many Crowning Moments of Awesome–he snaps one of his cooling rods in half and jams the halves into Tauza’s eyes. After a scuffle, he locks her in his old cell and turns the AC on real high. The funny thing about Scarrans is that they are just as bad in the cold as Sebaceans are in the heat. Tauza dies an excruciating and highly ironic death. She is first disabled when Scorpius blinds her with very adaptive technology she denied him as a child, and then she’s killed by the same temperature controls she used to torture Scorpius.
Scorpius isn’t done yet. He leads the Peacekeepers to the Scarran Dreadnought where the lab is located. Being the arch enemies of the Scarrans, the Peacekeepers quickly destroy the Dreadnought. For the information he supplies, Scorpius is welcomed into the Peacekeepers, where he works to get his revenge against the Scarrans.
Over all, Scorpius craves vengeance and he will do anything to get it. Anything. This is one facet of Scorpius’ character that falls directly into negative disability stereotypes on film. Martin F. Norden, in his seminal work on disability in film, The Cinema of Isolation, identifies the trope of the “Obsessive Avenger”: a crippled guy hellbent on getting revenge. Lon Chaney, Jr., when he wasn’t busy walking with the queen doin’ the werewolves of London, made approximately five billion films where he plays an Obsessive Avenger. Scorpius carries on this legacy, but kicks it up a notch. Unlike other villains who are a tad obsessed with image and showing all those folks who teased them in high school who’s the cool one now, Scorpius does not care how badly he looks or even what happens to him as long as the Scarrans get what’s coming to them.
Scorpy don’t care. Scorpy don’t give a shit. He just takes what he wants. Mainly information from other people’s brains. He tortures Stark in the Aurora Chair to find out where the Scarrans keep their flower stash. He puts a chip in John Crichton’s head to learn how to make wormhole weapons to destroy the Scarrans. He also puts a clone of himself inside Crichton’s head to persuade the Human to reveal wormhole secrets. In the later seasons, Scorpius follows Crichton around like a puppy dog, hoping to convince him to wipe out the Scarrans with wormhole tech. He even moves in with Crichton. At one point, Scorpius actually begs Crichton to use wormhole weapons, going as far as “pretty please with a cherry on top.” Scorpy’s willingness to submit to Crichton sets him apart from other more ego-centric villains. Scorpius isn’t thinking, “I’ll show them all and then they’ll think twice about crossing me!” He’s thinking, “I’ll show them all and then they’ll be dead.”
Scorpius is a grown-up in a world of adolescent villains who let their need to be loved and feared get in the way of revenge. Scorpy doesn’t need to be loved or feared. He just needs to kill some frelling Scarrans.
Portions of this entry are adapted from my senior thesis, “In the Uncharted Territories, Everyone’s Disabled and No One’s as Straight as They Think.”