Farscape Rewatch! — “The Ugly Truth,” “A Clockwork Nebari”

WEEK TWENTY
[Permanent Archive Here]

It’s that time again (Farscape time). Hopefully you’re all still with me, although I’m assuming if this is your first time through the series, you’ve already finished by now. You might have even lapped me. Anyway, I’m excited to get back into this project. I’ve really missed seeing Crichton’s handsome mug on a regular basis (and other parts of him as well). Besides, all this time away has made me think, and what I’ve concluded is that The Farscape Rewatch is basically a 200,000 word love letter to John Crichton.* And I’m okay with that.

I wasn’t particularly looking forward to either of these episodes. They just seemed to be in the way of the awesomeness about to come (‘the awesomeness’ referring to the “Liars, Guns and Money” trilogy, and the beyond epic season finale, and series classic, “Die Me, Dichotomy”), but I was pleasantly surprised on both counts, especially concerning “The Ugly Truth,” which I remember being slightly bored with the first time around.

*Including this post, I have written approximately 99,880 words about this show. If I keep going at the same rate, by the end, I will have written more than 200,000 words. That is like four novels worth of words (or one novel if you’re Terry Goodkind or George R.R. Martin).

2X17 — “THE UGLY TRUTH”

Moya and her crew meet up with Talyn and Crais for the first time since “Mind the Baby.” Crais is concerned that Talyn is becoming harder to reason with and wishes to obtain a dampening net in order to prevent him from just blowing people up all the time because he’s a crazy teenage space-ship. This idea is met with confusion and hostility all around, and then before we know it, Talyn‘s fired his giant cannon at the approaching Plokavian arms-dealer ship that’s there to sell Crais his dampening net. The Plokavian ship goes BOOM, Crais and Talyn flee, and all the Moyans excepting Chiana and Rygel (who are still aboard Moya) are picked up by more Plokavians, who are intent on figuring out who is responsible for the slaughter of their fellow Plokavians and enacting justice. One by one, Aeryn, Zhaan, Stark, D’Argo, and Crichton tell their version of what happened in the moments before Talyn‘s cannon was fired. Aeryn, Zhaan, and Crichton all claim that no one is to blame and that it must have been a malfunction, while Stark blames Crais and D’Argo blames Stark. The Plokavians are frustrated that no one’s stories match exactly and threaten to execute them all for lying, until Stark steps in and takes the blame so the others might live (he does so because he believes that due to his power as a Banik, there is a chance he might survive the dispersal process). Later on Moya, while mourning Stark’s death, the others learn that it was Talyn who — having discovered that the Plokavian ship carried a substance lethal to Leviathans, and wishing to protect his mother — fired upon the Plokavian ship.

Trivia

  • “The Ugly Truth” was written by Gabrielle Stanton (formerly of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and since of such shows as Grey’s Anatomy, Moonlight, and Ugly Betty) and Harry Werksman, Jr (also of Grey’s, Moonlight, and Ugly Betty; most recently he’s been linked to Castle). Stanton and Werksman were actually married at the time this episode was written, although they have since divorced. The episode was directed by Tony Tilse (“PK Tech Girl,” “Family Ties,” “The Way We Weren’t,” “Look at the Princess,” etc).
  • [SPOILER!] Linda Cropper (the scary as all get-out female Plokavian, Fento) later returns as Aeryn’s mother, Xhalax Sun.
  • This episode is a clear homage to the classic Japanese film Rashomon, which depicts the same story about a crime told over and over, but each time it’s told from a different character’s point of view, with slightly different details. Many other television shows have paid homage to Rashomon, including The X-Files (twice, in fact: “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space'” and “Bad Blood”), Frasier, Everybody Loves Raymond, Veronica Mars, M.A.S.H., Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Voyager, Leverage, and Life on Mars.
  • In the interrogation scenes, the cast was actually situated above a tank of water on the studio floor.
  • Dave Elsey’s makeup for the Plokavians was inspired by the creations seen in the 1977 sci-fi/horror flick The Incredible Melting Man.
  • We learn the nature of the second of the six cargoes forbidden to Leviathans: Novatrin Gas, a weapon that destroys flesh from the inside out. The first to be revealed was Clorium, which can be used as a painkiller by Leviathans, in the episode “I, E.T.”
  • One of the episode’s goals, according to executive producer David Kemper, was to explain a lot about Talyn and Crais, and to show Stark as someone who would literally die for the crew.

Metaphorically Speaking

Any genre show worth its salt has to pay homage to Rashomon. It’s like a law or something. A large part of this has to do with Rashomon being a classic film that provides a nice basis for an hour of television, a nice “gimmick.” But gimmick is a negative word, and for the most part, the Rashomon formula is a successful one because the ideas it necessitates just by its very premise make for engaging television. The reason that genre shows gravitate towards Rashomon, especially shows that regularly make a habit of waxing philosophical, is that questioning the nature of truth, of perception and language, is something that genre shows are always already interested in anyway. “The Ugly Truth” is certainly no “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space‘” or “Bad Blood” (probably the best examples of Rashomon homage done right), but it holds its own, and in doing so, nicely explores the group dynamics of the characters.

The episode is structured around five characters (Aeryn, Zhaan, Stark, D’Argo and Crichton) each telling their own version of the two to three minute span of events leading up to the destruction of the Plokavian ship. The style behind all of this is very different from Farscape‘s usual thing. Instead of being objective observers as audiences normally are, the shifting of the story into each character’s POV makes us complicit in the events as well. We are literally seeing through these people’s eyes. Each scene was shot through different angles, with different reaction shots, and different performances: five distinct scenes all purporting to represent the same sequence of events. Depending on which character’s POV it is, the portrayal of the other four characters is affected in different ways. Exaggerated movements and dialogue force our perspective into alignment with each character-narrator. The result of this forced perspective is that when we see Crichton through Zhaan’s eyes, for example, instead of seeing just what Zhaan believes he did or what she thought she heard him say, we are seeing him as she perceives him emotionally. We’re seeing their relationship made flesh. Aside from being fun to watch, that is just fucking nifty. Director Tony Tilse also uses way more close-up shots than is usual for a typical episode of Farscape, and more often than not, those faces are profiled against a black background, with the focus on their eyes. And he doesn’t just do this in the Plokavian house of horrors, either. He does it during each character’s POV story as well, further heightening the emotional stakes of each narrative. All of this taken together basically paints a bullseye on the overall theme of the episode.

Let’s take it person by person:

  • Aeryn: In Aeryn’s version, everybody is very subdued, speaking slowly and evenly. Even their exclamations come off as somewhat rational, at least at first. Even D’Argo’s anger is slow. The rage is there, the loudness is there, but the tempo, the rhythm, is very controlled, just like Aeryn. There are other nice character touches that reveal a little something about Aeryn’s inner life. Crichton’s accent is non-existent, and Crichton makes a comment that he doesn’t make in any other characters POV. “Leave D’Argo alone!” he says. I love that this intimates a perceived boys club between Crichton and D’Argo that Aeryn feels left out of. And I love that Aeryn actually rolls her eyes at Zhaan meditating. Aeryn’s version ends with everybody dragging her out; she seems to turn on Crais at the end, even though the whole time she seemed to have been agreeing with him.
  • Zhaan: Lots and lots of close-ups in this one, mostly on Zhaan herself, as if she’s examining the situation. She slips in a line of about how the Plokavians are very advanced in technology, obviously buttering them up, and portrays the crew as giving in quickly to Crais’s plan, which the Plokavians don’t buy. There is a lot of violent language from D’Argo, meekness from John, submissiveness from Stark. Between certain pairs of characters, i.e. D’Argo and John, and Stark and Zhaan herself, there’s a definite touchy-feely vibe which plays nicely with Zhaan’s spiritual intuition. It’s interesting that Zhaan straight up lies; also interesting is that she does so very badly. Everybody is overacting and unnatural, which reflects the false nature of Zhaan’s story. In the end, she haltingly concludes, like Aeryn, that it must have been an accident, that it was nobody’s fault.
  • Stark: Everything is very tense from the moment they step aboard Talyn. People are suspicioius and hostile. Crichton is openly so, as is D’Argo. Crais is rather menacing, reflecting Stark’s distrust of Peacekeepers. Stark introduces a new plot twist for the Plokavians, that Crais cut off his deal with them, and then fired Talyn‘s weapons himself. By doing this, he lays the blame squarely on Mr. Ponytail’s shoulders. He says the others are lying in order to protect Talyn, whom they don’t wish to see disintegrated. The question we as viewers have at this point is whether he is saying this because he knows the Plokavians will never be able to find Talyn (thus putting the blame on someone who can’t be punished), or whether he’s trying to sacrifice himself on purpose by making himself look incredibly guilty, for whatever reason. Either way, it’s an interesting juxtaposition that Stark and Zhaan are both the obvious liars and the spiritual beings of the group.
  • D’Argo: D’Argo’s version begins with Stark raving, upset about the barbarian Plokavians, builders of “horrific weapons.” Crichton is acting like a self-important tiny man, an inferior trying to be superior. D’Argo portrays himself as the leader whom Crichton agrees with. In D’Argo’s mind, he was standing front and center with the others in the background (whereas in all the others’ versions, Crichton held this position). His version introduces the novatrin gas which will “eat you from the inside out.” D’Argo, likely because he just really doesn’t like Stark, tells the Plokavians that it was Stark who pushed the button. D’Argo’s version is the most unselfconsciously clouded (likely because of his anger). I believe he genuinely thinks Stark to blame.

So, what is the truth? Not surprisingly, when faced with the Plokavian’s questions, Crichton is the only one who calls them on it. He says they’ll never know what really happened because “nobody sees things the exact same way.” (“We do,” the creepy pus-heads respond.) He talks them down from basically just killing everyone by saying that he’ll tell them, not the truth, but the truth as he sees it. And that will have to be good enough. Crichton’s version is different. Because he gets to hear his friends’ testimonies (projected on his face, in a cool bit of cinematography) he gets to piece it together, which is fitting for his character. Maybe I’m just biased, but Crichton’s version of events seems the most accurate to me. He is the one that sees things, the most perceptive. Because he’s able to see and understand so much of what’s going on around him at any given time, and because he’s aware of how much a person’s emotions affect how they perceive events, of course his version would be the most accurate. But that’s just my interpretation.

No matter how accurate Crichton’s version of events may be, the point is that we can never know how accurate it might be, how accurate any of their stories might be, not fully. This episode is pushing a lot buttons, about the unreliability of memory, and of language to express it (even if an idea is clearly expressed to convey meaning — and that’s a big if — it’s still not reliable because of the human mind behind it, forming the words); about how memories are always, always influenced by emotion; and about how much of we see is based on a projection of what we think we’re going to see, or about what we want to see. (Remember, Cylon psychology is based on projection.) Is perception lying? How can we tell the difference between lies and differences of perception? How can we ever really trust one another? According to Crichton, humans have no central “truths” because we are incapable of forming memory without being influenced by our own experiences. So, if there is an impersonal “truth” out there to be found, we can’t know it, at least not on our own. That’s what communities are for, for sharing perspectives and agreeing on common truths. That’s how truths are made. Hell, that’s how stories are made.

Other stuff: Crichton is jealous of Crais; he thinks he shares a bond with Aeryn, because of Talyn, and because of the Peacekeeper thing. And UGH, they’re so manly and masculine about it it, it’s disgusting. The “Plakovoids” are yet another example of Crichton being unable to get alien names right. The first time he did it was back in “Throne For a Loss,” I believe. He calls the Tavleks “Tavloids.” What is with Crichton and “-oids”? It’s fitting that D’Argo is the only who got it really wrong (the others were either lying or fibbing gently to conceal the “truth,” which varies for each person). It was Talyn who destroyed the Plakovian ship, not Stark, but D’Argo’s still so hot-headed; he’s unwilling to see beyond his own perception. Hey, look, it’s a patented Crichton scream: “AEEERRYYYN!!” Is that the first time we’ve had one of those? What saves this episode from being a ‘meh’ episode of Farscape is the emotional center provided by Stark. His sacrifice and eventual dispersal radiate out from that one moment, coloring our memories of his actions in the rest of the episode. It’s fitting then that the episode doesn’t end with the characters wondering about what really happened aboard Talyn, thus placing more emphasis on the problem represented by the Plakovians  — that would have been the easy way out. Instead, the episode concludes with the image of Stark’s empty mask. I’d imagine if you’re not really a fan of Stark, or if you don’t like episodes that seem so overtly repetitive, then you’re not much of a fan of “The Ugly Truth.” While this episode certainly is no series classic, I think it’s certainly a solid effort from Team Sex Muppet* that holds up pretty well even ten years later.

*Coining it!

Trash Bin

The interrogation chair is a joke. Who’s idea was that thing? I get what they were going for, I really do. The giant eye staring at them? Yes, it’s thematically appropriate, but really? I mean, first of all it’s okay when the men are sitting in it, sort of. But when a woman is sitting in it, I’m just like: ‘Hell-O, gynecologist! Are we doing a PAP SMEAR TODAY?’ The fact that the eyeball is pointed almost at crotch level certainly doesn’t help, either. Also, the female Plokavian’s neck looks like a vagina. I wish I was joking.

Chiana’s gray body suit has been showing lately. It didn’t bug me the first time through the series. I don’t even think I noticed it, actually, but I hope they get a handle on it soon. It’s distracting.

– – –

2X18 — “A CLOCKWORK NEBARI”

Crichton, Aeryn, Chiana, and Rygel are fresh from hunting information about the whereabouts of D’Argo’s son. Crichton and Chiana are arguing about the interesting means Chiana used in procuring said information, forcing Rygel and Aeryn to stay behind and cover their retreat. While they’re arguing, Aeryn and Rygel enter, strangely calm. They’re acting like deranged space hippies, and for good reason: they ran into some Nebari who treated them to the pleasures of a temporary mind cleanse, and they want Chiana. The female, Varla, is the designated HBIC, now that she’s taken Aeryn out of the picture, and the male, Meelak, is her subordinate. They quickly subdue the crew and begin subjecting the rest of them to the mind cleanse — a truly horrifying process involving a removal of one’s eyeballs from one’s skull and a drug injected into one’s optic nerve, and which we get to see in full bloody color — leaving Chiana hanging in one of Moya‘s cells. While all of this is going on, we get some much-needed back-story from Chiana. Years ago, the government of Nebari Prime let Chiana and Nerri — along with hundreds, maybe thousands of other young, rebellious Nebari — believe that they had escaped their planet, when in fact they let them all escape after infecting them with a contagion designed to eventually subdue a large chunk of the galaxy. When Crichton realizes the cleanse doesn’t affect him, and that Rygel has quickly metabolized the drug, he sets about fucking up the Nebari’s shit. In the midst of this, we learn that not only is Meelak a member of the resistance, but Nerri is alive, and the leader of the Nebari resistance, which is why they wanted Chiana so badly, believing they could use her to find him. The episode ends with Crichton and Pilot staging a Peacekeeper attack, and Meelak shooting Varla in the back. He then leaves to continue his spy work for the resistance, refusing to take a broken-hearted Chiana with him.

Trivia

  • “A Clockwork Nebari” was written by Lily Taylor (who at the time was a script and story editor for the series — this was her first script; she would go on to write one more in the show’s third season, after which she was promoted to associate producer), and directed by Rowan Woods (who also directed “A Human Reaction,” and has most recently worked as a director on the wonderfully disgusting and epic Spartacus: Blood and Sand, which also films in Australia).
  • The title “A Clockwork Nebari” is an reference to the 1962 Novel, A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess in which violent impulses were tortured out of the main character, Alex, through a process called Ludovico’s Technique, where the subject learns to associate violence with pain. It was later made in to a movie by Stanley Kubrick. The mind cleansing is almost identical visually to the procedure in the film.
  • Simon Bossell (Nerri) uses an American accent that Gigi Edgley originated for Chiana, in order to indicate his non-brainwashed nature.
  • This is the first episode where we see Crichton’s favorite pulse pistol, Winona. The pistol is named after actress Winona Ryder, and was apparently an addition by Browder himself. It was not in the script.
  • Although the human eye can be pulled out of its socket, it is not possible for the eye, attached to the optic nerve, to be pulled out as far as is shown with Crichton. Presumably some Nebari or Delvian healing technology must have also been used, otherwise the area around Crichton’s eyes should have been severely bruised.
  • According to Claudia Black, ADR engineer Angus Robertson wondered if she had really taken drugs to give such a convincing performance as spaced-out Aeryn.

Metaphorically Speaking

“A Clockwork Nebari” is basically “Durka Returns” Redux, minus Rygel’s emotional baggage, and then multiplied by one thousand. What I mean by that is that the Nebari as portrayed in “Durka Returns” are like tame pandas compared to the rabid, world-dominating pandas that this episode shows them to be (thanks to Dan for the panda image . . . I tried to think of a better one, but couldn’t, so instead I am stealing it from you). This episode really makes clear what the last one didn’t, that the Nebari are a powerful force in this part of the galaxy. They come off as actually threatening, rather than quaint and delusional. I say this, of course, well aware that we never hear from the Nebari again in the rest of the series, so while an effect of the episode is to make us aware of the potential threat those cheeky little Nebari and their Sexually Transmitted Totalitarianism* pose to the galaxy, the more important and lasting effect is how the episode furthers Chiana as a character, and to a lesser extent, the rest of the crew and the philosophy of the show.

*A distant relative of Sexually Transmitted Crazy-Mouth.

Actually, what this episode does with Chiana is threefold. First, on a storytelling level, it provides her with some much needed back-story. Until this point, we’ve known exactly three concrete facts about Chiana’s life pre-Moya: 1) That she had a brother she was close to, 2) That her brother died, and 3) That according to her own people, she is a runaway and and/or a criminal. Of course, we had assumptions about what most of that entailed (sexual promiscuity, theft, refusal to assimilate . . . that kind of thing), but we never had much in the way of specifics. Now that we have those specifics, things are a little clearer. We learn that Nebari Prime secretly manipulated wayward youth into leaving Nebari, while allowing them to believe in the illusion of their own escape, an escape which was, unknown to them, sponsored by the very people and institutions they were attempting to escape from. Chiana and Nerri’s bodies are used as weapons, to spread the contagion that if activated would supposedly subdue a large part of the galaxy and make it ready for Nebari domination. That they are using the transgressive behaviors of their problem citizens is frankly genius, using the very traits they are trying to eliminate in order to eliminate them. Which brings me the second level of Chiana-ness in this episode, which is the unbelievable level of wrongness achieved by taking what’s good about Chiana and what defines her as a person — her freedom, her fluidity, her inability to be bound by convention, and the paradoxical innocence that seems to follow from all of that — and using it to harm the universe. Suddenly, everything Chiana did up until she discovered and freed herself from the contagion becomes contaminated by the malignant motives of those who infected her with it. It’s like she never escaped at all.

Chiana and the crew of Moya are prime examples of how somebody can be a prisoner without actually being physically imprisoned. They are prisoners of circumstance, of unchangeable systems and power hierarchies. This is the third level of Chiana-ness in “A Clockwork Nebari.” Like it’s namesake, A Clockwork Orange, this episode is concerned with exploring the intersection between powerful, controlling forces and individual human bodies and minds, and as I talked about extensively in my “Durka Returns” post, with the connection between morality and the power of choice. The Nebari government believes it can create the perfect state, made up of perfect, obedient, happy and sin-free citizens by imposing its power on those citizens, by taking away their ability to do evil. They aren’t seeking genuine loyalty or peace of mind for their citizens; they’re simply interested in control. It all hits home for me in that last scene, where with one line, Crichton manages to tie up all the loose threads of this episode into one satisfying package. “I know,” he says, with almost no inflection in his voice or expression on his face, “But since when do people like us get what we want?” Browder’s delivery of this line is just heartbreaking. People like them, the powerless, disenfranchised, impoverished delinquents, who have almost no hope of gaining legitimacy in any kind of civilized society, all they have is what they were born with. That, and each other.

And so, once again, the Moyans are on the bottom of the heap. They aren’t the heroes, at least not in the traditional sense. They are the face of powerlessness, which is why it is absolutely perfect that this episode includes such a plethora of disgusting bodily functions and fixations from various characters. The Nebari are all about perfection and control; the Moyans are about farting and sexing and grabbing and grunting. The Moyans are about thieving and loving and eating, burping, flailing and screaming and going crazy, balls out in the wind. The Nebari have nothing but boundaries, and the Moyans have none. If one of our crew does something bad, no law will punish them, and the only thing stopping them from committing foul deeds of whatever sort against one another is their own in-bred sense of decency, their affection for each other. You take away their ability to do any of those things, as the Nebari do in this episode? You pull out their eyeballs and take away their flaws, the things that make them individuals and not automatons? You are doing something evil. If our memories, our flaws and our experiences, make us who we are, then the reason Aeryn smiling is so scary is because it means she’s forgotten the thing that makes her her. Aeryn doesn’t smile because she’s in pain and she has regrets, but that pain is helping her to grow as a person. The reason that D’Argo crying isn’t funny is because if he had a choice in the matter, he would never act that way (even though I want very, very badly to laugh at that scene). And it’s the reason that it’s so fitting that Crichton fights back against the Nebari by claiming control over his own body at every turn: proving his own sanity by punching (and then groping) Chiana, talking like a stoner, throwing Rygel around. It’s also why his being saved by Harvey once again is so threatening. If there is a spectrum of control, the Nebari would be on one end, threatening to take away your flaws and control you by limiting, and Harvey would be on the other, threatening to control you by taking away your ability to control yourself. Insanity is what happens when you have no boundaries at all, and it’s so genius that this episode gives us both at the same time.

Other stuff: Loved Winona shooting blanks; is that a metaphor for anything, you think? Except for a couple scenes, there’s not much of Aeryn, D’Argo or Zhaan in this episode; it’s all about Chiana and Crichton. I always love it when the Chiana/Crichton relationship gets pushed to the forefront. Those two are so good together. And I love how Crichton calling Chiana “my little trollop” is contrasted with his calling Varla a “foul skank” later. Similar word choice, much different meaning. I had a realization during this episode that 99% of the time I’m watching, it doesn’t register on a conscious level that Pilot is not real. I only remembered he was a puppet this time because of the scene when the Nebari collar digs into his neck. All the time that was happening, I was thinking how much it looked like it hurt, and then, oh yeah. He’s not real, fool. Also loved the small continuity of Crichton being a mama’s boy. And lastly, just because: John Crichton. Astronaut. Master of the Universe.

Trash Bin

Gigi Edgley, whom I love, does overact just a bit in some most of her scenes, particularly the ones involving severe emotional pain. If she would have toned it down just a little bit even, this episode would have been absolutely devastating. Instead, the most emotionally devastating reaction comes from Browder, who completely steals the last scene away from her — and it’s supposed to be her moment. It’s still a very nice moment (see below), but it could have been even nicer. Then again, Varla threatens to fall into melodrama every now and then as well, so maybe it’s just a Nebari female thing . . . ? Nope, total Fanwank.

– – –

Crichtonisms

  • “Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.”
  • “Chiana, my little trollop, he will care.”
  • “No, my thoughts are as dirty as ever.”
  • “No, Pilot, I’m here to tell you that the Nebari are a bunch of GEEKS, and their damn mind-cleansing don’t work on Mama Crichton‘s baby boy. John Crichton! Astronaut! Master of the Universe!”
  • “We would Starburst away from your rendezvous point . . . you foul skank.”

PuppetWatch!

  • The Plokavians are absolutely disgusting, and their voices are great: screechy and preachy. Their faces are deformed and lopsided, and they drip pus (GUH). There’s something wonderful about so awful a creature trying to uphold moral order.
  • Rygel’s looking a bit shiny in “The Ugly Truth.” New/old puppet skin?
  • Rygel: “I’m nobody’s puppet!” Puppet meta-humor!

– – –

“Crackers Don’t Matter!”

  • Interstellar Swearing:  “Bleefiks,” is used by Chiana (as in “chattering away like a couple of bleefiks”), possibly analogous to monkeys? “Grobash” is a derogatory name, used by Chiana as well.
  • Pop Culture References: A Clockwork Orange, Gunsmoke, Winona Ryder, the O.K. Corral, The $100,000 Pyramid, Debbie Harry/Blondie, Star Trek‘s Prime Directive, The Full Monty, The Three Stooges, John Belushi.
  • Like Rashomon, another story that genre shows are fond of spoofing is “The Naked Time,” a first season episode of the original Star Trek, which finds its characters influenced into hilarious mind-altering behavior. Examples from other shows are too numerous to name. Farscape alone did several takes on the “The Naked Time” concept, probably the best known of which is “Crackers Don’t Matter.”
  • The camera work in “The Ugly Truth” is wonderful (which is saying something, I think, as the monotony of the episode’s sets leaves a little something to be desired). It’s not something you really notice unless you’re looking for it, because it’s so simple and understated. Just faces against black, hands on surfaces, people in chairs . . . simple things lit beautifully.
  • It’s the debut of Aeryn’s pony-braid in “The Ugly Truth.” Man, do I hate that thing. But as much as I hate it, it is symbolically relevant. All that hair so tightly pulled back and in control . . . yeah. I could actually probably write an entire essay about the evolution of Aeryn’s hair and wardrobe in relation to her growth as a character (95% sure that I won’t, though).
  • In “The Ugly Truth” when John notes that they’re all going to have to go to the bathroom soon enough, D’Argo laughs at first, and then after the briefest of pauses, says: “I really wish you hadn’t said that.”
  • I can’t tell you how much I love that everyone in Crichton’s version of events says “Plakovoids” instead of “Plakovians,” and that the Plakovians don’t even object to Crichton’s mangling of their name.
  • After D’Argo and Aeryn are knocked out by the electricity in “A Clockwork Nebari,” Crichton says “Bitchin.'” What makes this scene even better is when, just barely before we cut out, we hear Rygel repeat it.
  • I love it when Crichton calls the mind-cleanse “The Nebari Prime Directive.” He’s such a punny guy.
  • John Crichton. Astronaut. Master of the Universe.
  • Number of times each character has “died” as of “A Clockwork Nebari”: Crichton, 9; D’Argo, 4; Rygel, 3; Aeryn, 2; Zhaan, 1; Pilot, 1; Moya, 1; Chiana, 1; Stark, 1 (+1 for being dispersed by the Plokavians).

– – –

Classic Moments in Farscape, #20

[Meelak is about to board his ship, when Chiana comes running into the cargo bay.]
Chiana: I’m coming with you.
Meelak: Nerri asked me not to bring you. [He turns to face her.] He’s my leader; I do what he says.
Chiana: [Running to catch up with him.] Hey, hey, hey, hey. Nerri doesn’t know what he’s talking about, alright? I’m three cycles younger than him, and I had to teach him how to, how to cinch his shoes.
Meelak: I figure if I limp across the Nebari boundary, and tell them everybody else was killed they might believe me. And, I still have information vital to the resistance.
Chiana: [Interrupting, yelling.] But I want to help!
Crichton: [Comes in from behind, and she turns away from Meelak to face him.] Chiana. He’s right. It’s for the best; if you go into Nebari territory you will be recognized and arrested.
Chiana: Nerri’s alive. I just, I want to see him.
Crichton: I understand. But you cannot compromise what he’s doing. Your brother’s alive. He’s alive. Take that. It’s more than you had yesterday.
Chiana: I want to go to him.
Crichton: I know. But since when do people like us get what we want?
[The sound of Meelak’s ship makes Chiana turn around. She realizes while they were talking, Meelak took the opportunity to leave unnoticed. The ship takes off and Crichton folds a crying Chiana up in his arms. They walk away.]

– – –

Coming Up on the Farscape Rewatch: “Liars, Guns and Money,” Parts I-III

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10 Responses to “Farscape Rewatch! — “The Ugly Truth,” “A Clockwork Nebari””
  1. Eva says:

    What a lovely analysis, especially of A Clockwork Nebari. I read on some other blog a quote to this effect: “The thing that makes you good is also the thing that makes you suck.” I think you capture that to some extent when you point out who a smiling Aeryn is frightening, a crying D’Argo isn’t funny, etc.

    My recollection of A Clockwork Nebari is usually dominated by the Dominar’s “I’m nobody’s puppet!” That’s the problem with Farscape–you forget how deep it can be, how much it really can comment on because you’re too busy laughing at the jokes.

    Looking forward to your recap of my favorite episodes coming up! Thanks for all 98,000 words.

    • Ashley says:

      Thank you :) It’s always nice to receive compliments.

      “The thing that makes you good is also the thing that makes you suck.” That sounds like something Jacob would say. In fact, I would bet you $100 that he has said it. Do you read TWOP?

      And I agree. It’s really easy just to watch this show purely on a surface level, to just laugh and cry and enjoy yourself, and not think much beyond that. But what I love about Farscape is that all those surface reactions are built on a much more solid foundation, one that never stops giving the more I think about it. I don’t know, maybe this show just hits my frequency, I just get it, but it always feels like every episode was made with love.

      Well, love, and lots of black leather.

  2. Friso says:

    Happy happy happy to see another one of your awesome analyses. I will reply in more detail later, should I have anything meaningful to add to your thoughts.

    P.S. You were indeed lapped :)

  3. Kat says:

    Oh my goodness. Team Sex Muppet. That’s how I’m going to sell this show to others from now on.

  4. John says:

    With this one and DNA Mad Scientist, the eye stuff just freaks me out!

  5. Larry says:

    The Ugly Truth: This episode didn’t impress me the first time, but it comes off better through analysis and rewatch. I forgot how little bits of what actually happened comes out from each version, things that no one else remembers that are quite revealing.

    The one thing that still jars me is D’Argo wrath at Stark spilling over from last episode. It becomes clearer once D’Argo states what he saw Stark do; he truly thinks Stark endangered them all. Stark is a new and unknown element to the Moyans, threatening D’Argo’s family group. Still, chill out, dude.

    Crichton’s take on it is just as biased as anyone else’s, but the show is told from his viewpoint, a human lost in space, so we naturally identify with his view being the most balanced. But his distrust of Crais still twists his views, because he questions Aeryn as to why she didn’t give up Crais as the shooter, fearing she’s softhearted about Bilar.

    This time, I was struck by the appropriateness of the Plokavians’ appearance to their trade: they deal in weapons of horrific destruction, and undoubtedly researching new ways to cause misery and pain has ruined them physically, making them oozing, twisted creatures (there’s a hint of what could befall Talyn if he fails to control his penchant for destruction). And though they profess to see everything clearly, without individual distortion, how interested are the Plokavians in the truth, if executing a martyr is all it takes to satisfy them?

    The funny (not in a haha way) thing is that the truth of the situation was quite clear: A trigger happy child was protecting his mother from harm. The mess comes from everyone’s imperfect understanding, their suspicions of another’s guilt, and their desire to protect each other from harm.

  6. Larry says:

    A Clockwork Nebari:

    Ooooooooo, my toes curl just at the thought of watching this episode again. One of my top 10 guilty pleasure Farscape episodes. I can’t be sure if it’s 80s throwback with evil Deborah Harry and her sidekick Thompson Twin… I mean, Varla and Meelak, Crichton pulling a stoned surfer attitude to show he’s mind cleansed, a superb addition to Chiana’s backstory (the Nebari Contagion could have been a season unto itself), the older brother-younger sister relationship between Crichton and Chiana, or the complete downer ending which so works for me. Oh right, it’s ALL of it.

    Even the camera work is excellent! A few examples:
    – When Chiana tells Varla that Nerri is dead, the camera follows Meelak, the inside man who has his own reasons for finding Chiana.
    – When Meelak confronts John and Chiana, you see Meelak hand over his weapon through the spaces between his two prisoners, Chiana and Crichton.
    – When the hologram of Nerri chuckles that Chiana is probably safer where she is, the camera focuses on the visual irony of Chiana chained from the ceiling.

    Just one thing: the optical nerve is not a bungee cord! It does not stretch and recompress! Even the idea of Rygel having his little frog eyes pulled out makes me squirm. :: shudder :: I’m hoping later on, when they can find a doctor, they have those implants removed. I continued to shudder through the entire series at the thought of those implants being THERE. An itch you cannot scratch. Guh.

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