Season 2, Episode 18:
“A Clockwork Nebari”
***1/2 out of *****
“It’s going to be more real THAN real. It’s going to be super-3D Smell-O-Vision in Sensurround!”
It’s our first new Nebari sighting since Chiana’s introduction, and now they’re swarming Moya, injecting people’s optic nerves with pacifying drugs, trying to take over the galaxy, and just plain making all of us terribly uncomfortable.
Okay, so there’s only two of them and “swarming” is probably the wrong word, but they’re not subtle about taking over. The Nebari, as utterly messed up as their conform-or-brainwash culture is, are one of the alien species in Farscape that interest me the most. One can see where their culture may have originally developed from good intentions. (Something-something-road-to-somewhere…) Their plan to pacify the galaxy is as twisted as it is horrifying. It taps into a fear of unknowable diseases lying dormant in our bodies, or our children’s bodies, and combines it with a totalitarian state that dictates how we must behave without leeway or mercy.
It’s because of my interest that I have a love-hate relationship with this episode that has only developed after seeing the entire series, because we get so little development of this in the rest of the series. There’s a biologically-spread ticking time bomb waiting to knock the galaxy on its side so that the Nebari can take over. Their “standard host vessels” can swat Peacekeeper command carriers like flies. There’s no telling how far the infection has spread and no good way to stop it, and there’s a resistance fighting against it. This could be the basis for an entire new series, really. AND WE BARELY EVER HEAR OF IT AGAIN.
I want more.
The rest of the “hate” part has to do with making me watch them pull John Crichton’s eyes out of his head. I mean, damn, that’s an amazing effect, but it’s intensely disturbing to look at. My eyes are watering just thinking of it.
Also, Crichton’s efforts to feign the effects of mind cleansing via channeling a Santa Barbara surf-stoner, while funny at first, get irritating after the first couple of minutes.
Even so, there’s a lot to love here. More Nebari, for one thing. Varla takes Saris’s calm, icy, righteous discipline and adds an edge to it. Saris was just trying to make the journey home to Nebari with his prisoner as innocuously as possible. He was a P.R. man as much as he was Chiana’s captor. Varla doesn’t worry about that. She’s just here to get things DONE. And how do you get things done? Chemically mind-cleanse the entire crew!
Continuing with the good stuff, we learn along with Chiana that her brother Neiri is actually still alive. Gigi Edgley does an excellent job showing the kind of emotion that such a revelation would have on anyone who’d been so certain they’d lost a loved one forever.
Finally, the climax where Pilot and John fake a Peacekeeper attack is good at keeping the viewer (or at least, me) guessing. The first time I saw it, I was expecting the usual twist in such situations where it turns out that there really IS an attacker out there who slips in before anyone realizes it. Pilot did such a good job that I wasn’t sure…until the command carrier was captained by Crais. Even then, I kept expecting a real attack later. I admit, I fell for it when Pilot said the attack was real at first when John told him to turn it off. It’s another example of how Farscape loves to screw with viewer expectations. And the plan doesn’t even work! (It’s Farscape. Plans never work!) But it does lead to Meelak finding the guts to shoot Varla.
I just wish we’d have seen more Nebari later.
“But since when do people like us get what we want?”
In a sense, Nebari are sort of like the Borg. Mind-cleansing, assimilation… But the Nebari are prettier.
I love how Aeryn being gentle, calm, and apologetic lets us all know instantly that something is VERY WRONG.
This episode marks the first appearance of Winona! Pity she kept jamming.
Hey, does John’s willingness to shoot Varla point blank demonstrate growing instability or ruthlessness on his part, or did he only fire because he knew Winona wasn’t working?