In the eighteenth episode of the second season of Farscape, Chiana breaks my heart. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Farscape.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of consent and nonconsensual medical procedures.
A good flashback story provides context. It provides us with the information we need to understand a character or a story better, and it gives us a fuller portrait. Farscape is inherently rooted in secrets because of the nature of how the crew aboard Moya converged upon one another. While we briefly flirted with Chiana’s past in a previous episode, “A Clockwork Nebari” finally unpacks the story of why Chiana was on the run, why she was asked about the “resistance,” and why she was threatened with mental cleansing. AND EVERYTHING HURTS SO MUCH.
Before I get into the details of this episode, I did want to touch on two really cool things that this show does here that deserve credit. It’s really fascinating to me how often episodes of this show start with the tail end of an unseen adventure. It suggests that there are an untold number of stories that are happening off-screen. It gives us an idea of what Moya and her crew do “in between” episodes, you know? Here, there’s an element of a serialized story, since Chiana was instrumental in obtaining information to help track down Jothee. But that’s not the focus of the story here, and I kind of love that. Shit happens. There are all kinds of stories at work here, and we just get a few of them.
I also really love how this episode is a companion to “Durka Returns” from season one, and there was absolutely no hint whatsoever that we would get a sequel to that one. I admit that I didn’t re-watch “Durka Returns” at all, so I have no idea if there was a retcon at work here. But I found that watching “A Clockwork Nebari” was fulfilling regardless of that. I understood the shock of Chiana’s brother being alive; I understood the importance of the explanation of the Resistance. It’s a seamless story to me! AND IT CAME TOTALLY OUT OF NOWHERE.
But the shock factor here is just one dynamic to a dense, emotionally rich story. Seeing Nebari on board Moya? Surprising. Realizing that Rygel and Aeryn’s behavior is not part of some elaborate joke? Immediately unnerving. AERYN PUTTING THAT ACID-RELEASING COLLAR ON PILOT? SEVERAL BILLION PARTS NOT OKAY. (If I have one complaint here, it’s that this episode is strangely lacking in Aeryn, D’Argo, and Zhaan. Why wouldn’t Zhaan in particular play a part in Chiana’s story? If she’s a plant, couldn’t she synthesize or metabolize the drug? Perhaps the writers needed a story without these three playing a big part.) Simply put, this episode’s tension just gets worse and worse, as do the emotional risks at stake. It’s an exercise in escalation, and each of the crew are picked off for mind-cleansing, all so that they can be subdued. For what? Well, that’s still a mystery. Varla isn’t exactly chatty about her reasons, and neither is Meelak. And even when she tells Aeryn that Chiana is threatening the Nebari’s plan to eliminate violent and aggressive behavior, we have no real way of understanding what that actually means. I wondered if that was related to the mind cleanse, but oH GOD.
I understood Chiana’s reluctance to tell the truth even before she gave it to Crichton. I don’t think she mistrusts this crew; I think she knew that what was done to her had far-reaching implications, ones that could unfairly involve Crichton and the others in this nightmare. But I think there was also an element of shame to being secretly inflicted with that disease, particularly since it was spread through sexual contact. I got a hint of embarrassment from Chiana. However, that’s speculation at best. It’s understandable anyway if you think of it that Chiana wasn’t exactly eager to tell everyone that she was unwittingly infected so that her people could take over a part of the galaxy. Like she says, it’s not exactly what the crew on Moya needed to hear when she first came onboard.
Thankfully, Crichton doesn’t shame or judge her, and then I have to watch THE LITERAL WORST THING I HAVE EVER SEEN ON TELEVISION
I AM NEVER EVER GOING TO RECOVER FROM THAT!!!!
DID ALL OF THE WORLD COLLECTIVELY RIOT THE DAY THIS AIRED ON TELEVISION
I AM SO UPSET
I AM NOT EVEN GOING TO DESCRIBE THE THING BECAUSE NO ONE SHOULD EVEN BE ALLOWED TO SEE THAT EVER AGAIN.
I AM SO FUCKED UP.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, we can move on. I spoke earlier about this show’s fascinating way of being serialized, so let’s bring it up again because WOW, SCORPIUS’S CHIP IN CRICHTON’S MIND SAVED HIS LIFE AND THE SHIP, AND THAT IS GREAT, AND THEN IT’S ALSO DEEPLY TERRIBLE AND DISTURBING. There’s no altruism here; that chip basically mandates Crichton’s survival solely so that Scorpius can steal part of Crichton’s memories. And we’re not allowed to forget that! The show reminds us of that through those unnerving flashes of Harvey!Scorpius within Crichton’s mind. This is juxtaposed with Crichton’s absolutely beautiful adoption of a surfer persona in order to trick the others into thinking that he’s been cleansed. One of the more charming aspects of Crichton is his willingness to go so far beyond what’s necessary. Seriously, he’s clearly having a lot of fun here being a giant stereotype, and it’s endearing!
Which is a nice part of all this because otherwise, this story is deeply not okay, relentlessly intense, and goddamn upsetting. I am actually curious if we’re going to get an episode devoted to the crew dealing with how Rygel constantly sells the others out. BECAUSE RYGEL, HOLY SHIT. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised because this is what he literally does all the fucking time, but still! For a moment, I thought that Crichton’s plan had all gone to shit. To be fair, Crichton’s plan was literally, “Talk to Rygel and find out if his body metabolized the drug already.” So….. that plan had already died. WHOOPS.
Meelak is yet another surprise packed into “A Clockwork Nebari.” Lord, I don’t even think there was a clue here that could have clued me in to his true purpose. Despite that he’s only here for maybe half of this episode, the writers give us one hell of a story for him. I mean, could you imagine discovering that your own people are participating in something this heinous? Could you imagine the lengths he’d have to go in order to hide in plain sight? It’s fascinating to me how his story about split loyalties becomes a prime plot in the end. WHO EXPECTED THIS? The entire final battle relies on Meelak turning on Varla, risking exposure as a double agent!
On top of that, we’ve got the heartbreak surrounding Chiana’s desire to see the brother she had believed was dead the entire time. The secret message that Meelak carries only makes matters worse. And I think it’s vital that this scene came after Chiana had already told Crichton what had happened to her. One of the significant things about her story was the clear connection she had to her brother. She spoke about him with affection and adoration, and it’s a continuation of what we learned in “Durka Returns.” And then, after accepting and mourning his death, HE’S ALIVE. Nerri is alive, and she has proof that he is, and that proof is in the message he sends her….
….telling her not to seek him out.
It is heartbreaking, plain and simple. Nerri is all that Chiana had for years. No family, no community, no home: just her brother. And now that there’s a very real possibility that she can be with him and help him fight alongside the Resistance, she’s asked to stay away. Ironically, it’s for the “greater good,” isn’t it? Oh god, I JUST REALIZED IT IS. NOOOOOO, I MADE IT WORSE BY THINKING ABOUT IT.
Can I also take a moment to talk about how great the simulation was? This show did such a fantastic job blending reality and fiction. EVEN I COULDN’T TELL IT WAS A SIMULATION TOWARDS THE END. I thought it was a coincidental Peacekeeper attack! Y’all, Pilot is the best. CANONICALLY.
Anyway, this was a thrilling and painful episode of Farscape. I’m also grappling with the fact that I’m about to finish season 2 of this show this week. Are we dealing with Jothee next? D’Argo said that they’re close to the slave auctions, so yes??? That’s happening soon??? And I imagine Crichton can’t keep his secret much longer either. OH, TOO MUCH CAN GO WRONG, Y’ALL. I eagerly await for all this to turn into a chaotic nightmare.
The video for “A Clockwork Nebari” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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