This review was like pulling teeth and I’ve got to conserve my energy for next week’s three-parter, so fuck it, we’re doing this one Five Things style.
Five Things About Farscape 2×18, “A Clockwork Nebari”
- This episode is really the John-and-Chiana show. Zhaan has like two lines; D’Argo is in maybe two scenes; Aeryn gets a little bit to do, but entirely while brainwashed. We don’t even spend much time having fun with the idea of the mind cleansed characters, outside of one scene with D’Argo and a couple lines from Rygel. That’s fine; I love John, I love Chiana, and I love John-and-Chiana, so I don’t mind spending an episode with them. But it does mean that the episode doesn’t really clean the bones of its conceit, so to speak. A lot of Farscape episodes, given the prompt of “the characters are brainwashed,” would really dig into that idea, and make it funny and dark and memorable. This one doesn’t.
- Probably the reason that “A Clockwork Nebari” skimps on its conceit is that it just has so much to do. The brainwashing is mostly just set-up for the episode’s incredibly dense plot. We have to get through the Nebari’s secret plot to infect the galaxy with a mind-cleansing virus, a secret underground resistance, and Nerri being alive, all of which is fairly complicated to explain, and all of which is vital to the episode, but none of which is actually part of the episode’s immediate plot, except in that it establishes why Varla wants Chiana, and why Meelak isn’t turning them in. Frankly it’s not surprising that there’s no space for Zhaan.
- Given that this is the John-and-Chiana show, it’s worth talking about how this episode portrays that relationship. If you compare it to “Taking the Stone,” which “A Clockwork Nebari” is a direct follow-up to, you can see that they’ve progressed in a lot of ways. Even if Chiana says “I’ve only been sister to one person,” she and John act like siblings (mostly). They start out the episode with Chiana pestering John (“Quit tripping me!”) and John very clearly steps in for Nerri at the end of the episode. That said, this is also an episode where John reassures Chiana that, “My thoughts are as dirty as ever,” while his hand briefly dips out of frame, so. Again, mostly like siblings.
- I was prepared to be annoyed by the end of this episode, because I remembered it as two guys Explaining The World to Chiana about how she can’t be part of the big important dangerous stuff. And to be fair, there is a certain element of that in Nerri’s directive, but the episode actually gives more concrete reasons for why Chiana shouldn’t go with Meelak than I remembered. Meelak is undercover, but Chiana is a wanted fugitive, and going into Nebari space would be incredibly dangerous to both her and the resistance. And Chiana obviously does understand that, but she wants to see her brother. Which isn’t to say that this plot is without paternalism–again, Nerri’s directive is just “keep Chiana from coming to me no matter the circumstances because I don’t want her to be in danger,” and the way John talks Chiana down is a little bit tinged with that kind of “I know better, be sensible” vibe–but it’s better than I remembered.
- This episode has some good dialogue:
- “Look, everybody on board has secrets. We all have secrets. You got one? That’s fine, keep it. Right up to the point where they come to fry my brain.”
- “I’m here to tell you that the Nebari are a bunch of GEEKS! And their damn mind cleansing doesn’t work on Mama Crichton’s baby boy!”
- “John Crichton! Astronaut! Master of the universe!”
- “I’m nobody’s puppet!”
- “But since when do people like us get what we want?”
The Nebari mind cleanse virus is such a clear set-up for a long-term plot, and then it’s never mentioned again. I will forever be bitter about the season five that never was.
This is our first mention of Winona! And right from the start, she’s a metaphor for John’s masculinity.
Please remember to tag spoilers for future episodes in the comments.
Next Monday, October 4, they were gambling in Havana and they took a little risk, as we cover 2×19-2×21, the “Liars, Guns, and Money” trilogy.