“Nebari mental cleansing doesn’t get the tough stains out.”
This is a great episode, about which I seem to have written more than usual. After some pregnancy-related starburst turbulence, Moya smashes into a vessel carrying three passengers: a Nebari named Salis, his prisoner Chiana, and the mentally cleansed ex-captain of the Peacekeeper Zelbinion and former torturer of Rygel, Selto Durka, which utterly shocks anyone who did not see the title of the episode beforehand. By the end, Salis is dead, Chiana joins the “crew,” and Durka’s de-cleansed, adrift, and bald, for which he has no one to blame but himself. For the baldness, I mean.
This episode doesn’t want to let us be entirely sure what to think about any of the three visitors to Moya until all its cards are on the table. Oh, sure, we get initial impressions, but it’s all done in such a way to tease us with an uneasy feeling about each of them that there might be something more sinister lurking beneath the surface. It makes for some effective tension. This is one of those episodes that I wish I could watch again for the first time so I could fully enjoy that aspect anew. Plus, at this point it’s hard to remember my original impression of Chiana, since my impression now is obviously colored by getting to know the character through the rest of the show. Suppose the Nebari have a type of mental cleansing that merely rids you of memories of entertainment media?
Now that I think of it, this episode revels in ambiguity: Rygel’s bomb undoes Durka’s cleansing. Or was Rygel correct, and it was already ineffective? Durka claims it was Rygel’s doing, but can we really be sure? Even more so, who did kill Salis? Durka, or Chiana? We never do find out.
Even though I do know Chiana’s character from the rest of the series, this episode alone does a great job of showing us a fair bit of that character. Yes, it’s lacking some nuance and detail, but only because there’s just so much that can be shown within a single episode’s time and the context of this particular story. Within that context, Gigi Edgley brings her to life perfectly. Chiana is a classic rogue: crafty, self-serving, skilled at getting out of (and into) sticky situations, and not at all interested in authority. Yet Edgley gives her plenty of flavor (and a hint of vulnerability) so that she’s never a stereotype. Her wordless reaction to the question of where she was when Salis was murdered is fantastic.
Despite her current relationship with the Peacekeepers, Aeryn still reveres Durka at the start of the episode. She’s a fan meeting one of her heroes. But that fades upon his admission that he deserted his ship and crew to save his own life. Soon she considers him a disgrace. Rygel’s not far behind in changing his thoughts on the man either, and delivers one of my favorite Rygel speeches in the series:
“The all powerful Durka is a failure. It’s the truth, Durka. You tortured me without mercy. But you never broke me. You only made me stronger. And even if you do kill me, I’ll be laughing. Because all I’ll be thinking about is you, back on Nebari for the next hundred cycles being ground back down into nothing! This Leviathan you’ve commandeered is pregnant!”
Of course, coming alongside the introduction of Chiana is our introduction to the Nebari in general. I like ’em. One of their “standard host vessels,” which are apparently not warships, engaged and defeated the Zelbinion, so right away they’ve got some nice ominous-cred. As an empire, they’re insidious, and not quite like any of the other major players in Farscape. As a race, the grey skin and black eyes do a nice job of making them seem alien while being otherwise completely humanoid. It’s just a shame we so rarely get to see any other Nebari.
“This isn’t a prison transport anymore, Chiana, you can get off whenever you want. One question: where were you when Salis was murdered?”
Moya crashes into the Nebari ship after exiting starburst. You know, given how large space is, it’s curious how often ships collide with each other out of nowhere in this show.
With the hair, Durka looks somewhat like Lucius Malfoy. Or, rather, Malfoy looks like Durka, given the fact that this episode came first.
There’s a bit in the cargo bay when Crichton is looking for Chiana that features a pattern of light on the floor that looks very reminiscent of a ring device from Stargate SG-1. Of course it’s coincidental, but given that Ben Browder (and Claudia Black) would join the cast of that show in its later seasons, it amuses me.
John’s answer to whether or not he’s ever been stung by a particular alien plant: “Not yet.” So he’s already gained a bit of genre-savvy.
 I’ve even heard the idea floated that Zhaan might have done it, given her recent instability and obvious disagreement with Nebari mental cleansing.
 And as I understand, that’s why Chiana became a full member of Moya’s crew rather than dying at the end of the episode as originally written.
 Assuming you believe Salis, of course.