Mark Watches ‘Farscape’: S04E10 – Coup by Clam

In the tenth episode of the fourth season of Farscape, poisonous clams. For real. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Farscape

Trigger Warning: For discussion of cissexism, gender, sexism, and nonconsensual drugging.

Boy, this crew is drugged a lot, aren’t they? Anyway, we have a lot to discuss, so LET’S DO IT.

Unfortunate Implications

I mentioned that while I enjoyed this episode more than the last one, there were a few unfortunate implications to the story that I wanted to talk about. Now, I don’t think anything here was intentionally meant to cause harm or make someone feel uncomfortable, but that doesn’t negate the fact that some of this is… well, it’s got problems. For a universe as varied and complex as this one is, it’s kind of annoying that the deep reaches of space still contain a binary gender, and there’s a whole lot of trans panic and cissexist nonsense that I’d rather wasn’t here. Chiana’s assault on Mujombre is really inappropriate because trans and nonbinary folks are routinely harassed, assaulted, and murdered for “hiding” their gender. Granted, Chiana does become protective over Mujombre, and I appreciate that a lot! Again, I don’t think the writers were trying to flip the middle finger at anyone, but it’s just uncomfortable to watch.

The same goes for Crichton’s crossdressing sequence. There’s no real exploration of how Crichton’s experience is at all different when he presents as a woman, despite that he is clearly harassed almost instantly on Khurtanan. On top of that, I tend not to like crossdressing when it’s played for laughs because it feels insensitive. And this honestly felt like we were supposed to laugh at Crichton because, “Haha, man in a dress!”

And all the gender stuff wasn’t even handled all that well once we find out the complicated political situation that led to Dr. Tumii poisoning them. It’s revealed that the culture on Khurtanan is viciously misogynistic and patriarchal, and then one of the antagonists is… the women? Like, did no one think how bad it might look to dress up a bunch of women in outfits that made them look like princesses and then have them torment the main characters? If it weren’t for Chiana’s scenes with Mujombre, this episode would have completely lacked any sympathy or empathy for the women of this planet. Even then, you can’t divorce this show from the world it was created in. We already live in a sexist society, so this comes off at times as if feminists are just cruel people. What was their motivation to hold Sikozu and Aeryn? Wouldn’t they be more willing to help other woman rather than turn against them? I’M SO CONFUSED BY ALL OF THIS.

Tormented Space

I also said on video that this episode did a much better job of conveying the idea of Tormented Space. There’s a dirtiness to this entire episode that the last one did not have, and I like how that supports the idea that the crew are in the most desperate part of space. People out here aren’t used to visitors, and in the case of the Khurtanans, they’re also paranoid. They don’t have a reason to trust newcomers, and you can see that reflected in the behavior of all the characters we meet here. Hell, in the case of Dr. Tumii, you could easily argue that he specifically took advantage of the crew because they weren’t from this part of the galaxy.

Dr. Tumii

OH MY GOD, I LOVE THAT HE IS THE KIND OF ANTAGONIST WHO CONSTANTLY NEEDS TO EXPLAIN HIS DASTARDLY DEEDS THROUGH EXPOSITION. And I love that not only does the episode acknowledge this, but all of the characters get increasingly annoyed with his need to do so. They don’t care! They just want the cure for the mollusks! Of course, I did find his explanation for the mollusk bacteria’s behavior to be incredibly fascinating, so I’m glad that he got a chance to explain that. But he’s such a strange villain in hindsight. He does an awful thing to these people, taking advantage of them as well as the women on Khurtanan. So I don’t like him at all, but Barry Otto’s performance is so ridiculous that I can’t forget his character. He’s slimy and vicious and silly and a coward all at the same time.

Oh, and Rygel BIT OFF HIS NOSE OH MY GOD.

Noranti

I have a theory that we’ll never really get an episode centered around her because… well, she’s a catalyst within this show. She may cause certain things to happen, but she largely stays in the background. This may be the biggest role she’s played in an episode, and it’s also THE FUNNIEST. Look, she had to have known that she was linked with D’Argo, which means she did not care that she was going to masturbate and have an orgasm while connected with him. BLESS ANTHONY SIMCOE’S ACTING IN THAT SCENE. I’m so happy this scene happened. SO HAPPY.

Antidotes and Sacrifice

I think this episode is funnier more than anything else, but I don’t want to ignore how intense it got at times. Namely, the scene where Sikozu VOLUNTEERS TO HAVE HER FINGER CUT OFF. Now, this was much more effective on me because I had honestly forgotten that she could re-attach limbs. But still! As these characters struggle to find an antidote to the mollusk poisoning, they’re placed in increasingly complicated situations, all while SLOWLY DYING. There’s an air of “I-Yensch, You-Yensch” in this episode, since we’ve already had a story centered on characters being linked. But there’s a clock silently ticking down throughout this whole episode, and I think that adds a sense of urgency to the story. Still, I think it’s fair to point out that Sikozu was willing to take one for the team in order to save the others. The same goes for Rygel, who doesn’t even second-guess dressing as a woman in order to find the clams.

But the most significant thing in “Coup By Clam” is Scorpius. I think we’ve always got to keep in mind that any effort on his part to save Crichton is for some unspoken plan of his. He refuses to let Crichton die because of this. And yet? The dude WILLINGLY EATS THE CLAMS SO THAT HE CAN SAVE EVERYONE’S LIFE AND THEN HE THROWS IT ALL UP AND WHAT THE FUCK. So I have to wonder: Is he trying to win their trust just to betray them? Look, I want to believe that there’s some redemptive arc here, but I can’t. I don’t trust Scorpius quite yet, though I have to admit that he did a good thing here. SO WHAT’S HIS ENDGAME. I’M SO SCARED EVERYONE. SO SCARED. 

The video for “Coup by Clam” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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