Oct 30 2013 3:00pm

Farscape Rewatch: “Coup By Clam"

Farscape, Coup by Clam, CrichtonCoup By Clam
Written by Emily Skopov, directed by Ian Watson
Season 4, episode 10

1st UKTransmission Date: 2 December2002
1st US Transmission Date: 16 August 2002

Guest Cast: Raelee Hill (Sikozu), Melissa Jaffer (Noranti), Barry Otto (Dr. Tumii), David Field (Ho'Ock), Chris Mayer (Mekken), Sara Groen (Mujombre), Kelly Butler (Selva), Susan Prior (Kiryah)

Synopsis: Moya has come to Khatanan, a planet in Tormented Space where she can be fitted with a filter that will protect her from potentially lethal radiation. The planet also provides the first food the crew have eaten in ages. On Khatanan, women are ruthlessly oppressed.

Unfortunately, the crew are fed a kind of mollusc which poisons them and links their physiologies. Rygel and Aeryn, D’Argo and Noranti, and John and Sikozu are linked. The doctor who poisons them (Tumii) tells them he can cure them if they pay. Unfortunately the cure requires more molluscs, and these are in the possession of a women’s resistance movement—who run a nightclub! They are so paranoid that they kidnap and plan to kill Aeryn and Sikozu.

Farscape, Coup by Clam, Crichton, Rygel

Scorpius eats some of the molluscs to link himself to the others and help delay their deaths, which buys John and Rygel time to rescue the girls, steal the molluscs and get the cure. Rygel then poisons the doctor, after biting off his nose. As you do.

Meanwhile, a mechanic (Mujombre, literally woman/man in Spanish) and a minder (Mekken) arrive to fixe Moya. The mechanic is revealed to be a woman in drag. His/her minder finds out and is going to kill her but Scorpius kills him instead. Moya is fixed.

Farscape, Coup by Clam, Scorpius

Buck Rogers Redux: John drags up. He’s the least convincing woman ever.

You Can Be More: ‘Jirl power!’ Aeryn is still trying to speak English.

I Was A Teenage Luxan: When D’Argo is experiencing Noranti’s orgasm, he goes to ask John for assistance—just what the hell was he going to ask John to do!?

Farscape, Coup by Clam, D'Argo

Everyone’s Favourite Little Tralk: Chiana didn’t eat any of the molluscs—can anyone think of a reason she wouldn’t be hungry, other than ‘the plot needed someone to not be infected’?

Buckwheat the Sixteenth: Rygel gets a great moment when he impersonates a doctor, improvising brilliantly. He then goes clothes shopping for Crichton’s drag; typically, he buys everything purple. He steals the molluscs from the club and legs it, and for once he can make a case that it wasn’t cowardice but necessary expediency because he and Aeryn were deteriorating so quickly. When Tumii threatens him, he bites the doctor’s nose off! Then he feeds him half a mollusc, leaves the rest out to be eaten by wildlife and thus kills him very nastily indeed. This may be the most aggressively ruthlessly we’ve ever seen him.

Farscape, Coup by Clam, Rygel

A Ship, A Living Ship!: The electrostatic impulses from surrounding radiation sources are preventing Moya from sleeping and she is at risk of going mad. She needs additional Zintion filtration in order to survive. Khurtanan is the first planet they have encountered which has mechanics aware of Leviathans. The mechanic installs the filter in the primary sensory nerve conduit of one of Moya’s neural clusters, once Pilot has diverted the synaptic flow.

Grandma, we love you: Noranti stays on the ship to analyse samples from her crewmates in the hope of finding a cure. She then uses a kind of chemical shaker as a vibrator and gets herself off in the kitchen, as you do. She’s been hoping to get D’Argo alone for a while, and though she says it’s because she  wants to get to know him, she soon abandons the pretence and just snuggles him.

Farscape, Coup by Clam, D'Argo, Noranti

Bobblehead: Sikozu only eats 10 times a cycle. She’s still trying to tell Pilot what to do, but Pilot is still having none of it. She ensures that her finger is cut off instead of Aeryn’s, since she can re-attach it; while she suffers no permanent damage, she still voluntarily endures a lot of pain for Aeryn’s sake. Her blood is clear.

Nosferatu in leather: Scorpius kills Mekken without a second thought when he threatens Chiana and Mujombre. He eats the discarded molluscs so the bacteria are split between three eaters, and then endures the symptoms to buy the others some time, thus saving the day. He does not need the cure, as he vomits the bacteria straight back out again.

Farscape, Coup by Clam, Scorpius

Disney on Acid: There’s more than a hint of classic crossdress comedy Some Like It Hot in John’s drag performance.

Stats: Transmissible Celestial Dementia, or Space Madness, is a form of contagious insanity that space travellers can contract as a result of the radiation in Tormented Space, presumably the same kind that is driving Moya nuts.

Quatal Molluscs, foodstuff. If eaten whole, no problem. Each mollusc houses a colony of neutrally-linked bacteria. So if the flesh is divided between different stomachs, the two halves of the colony transmit sensations to the other half. This is designed to get the two eaters to merge and re-unite the colony. Since non-molluscs cannot merge, the strain eventually kills the eaters. The symptoms of the fatal poisoning resemble Space Madness, hence the resistance use them to poison their targets—if by any chance the targets were to survive the poisoning, they would be shot anyway.

Farscape, Coup by Clam, Sikozu

There are three types of mollusc—purple, green and yellow. The cure for poisoning by each type requires another mollusc of the same type. The mollusc isprepared in some way, then mixed with the urine of one of each eater—they then consumes each other’s urine/mollusc mix and hold hands for a few arns to allow the bacteria to precipitate out and form a kind of oily substance which can be washed away.

Alien Encounters: Khurtanans are so afraid of Space Madness, that all visitors need to be screened before they’re allowed off their ships, and anyone displaying symptoms is shot on sight. This is not a problem for Scarrans, as they’re not allowed on the planet at all.

Farscape, Coup by Clam, Chiana

Women are oppressed on Khurtanan, and forbidden to do certain kinds of work. A resistance movement exists, and is planning a coup. These women control the supply of Quatal Molluscs.

Khartanan women are incapable of cutting their hair—otherwise how do you explain the mechanic’s ridiculous wig?

Backstage: The last of Ian Watson’s 15 episodes of Farscape. The first and last episode written by Emily Skopov, who is an Executive Consultant on this season. A veteran of Xena and Pacific Blue, she would go on to write five episodes of televisual mogadon, Andromeda. This is the third episode in a row to be written by a newcomer to the show (‘John Quixote’ aside, four out of the last five were by Farscape neophytes), a laudable commitment to new talent and keeping the writing room fresh, but it has led to a certain unevenness of tone and quality.

Farscape, Coup by Clam, Aeryn

The Verdict: As this blog has progressed, this episode has been mentioned time and again as the worst episode the show ever did. I remembered nothing about it, so came to it fresh this time around, curious to see why it’s so disliked. Now I know. It’s dreadful.

Not dreadful like the first three episodes of this season, which were incompetent; not dreadful like ‘Jeremiah Crichton,’ which was just boring. This episode is bad in its own very special way. Farscape has always pushed the bounds of taste, it’s one of the things that makes the show great, but this time around the tone is just… off.

Farscape, Coup by Clam, Pilot, Sikozu

Tumii is fun, I suppose, but Mekken and Ho’Ock, and the resistance women are just really bad, both in the script and in the performance. It’s as if the actors don’t really know how to pitch it.

The gender-war storyline goes nowhere and seems only there to allow John to drag up. It’s superficial and crass, and the sub-plot with Mujombre is just risible. Why on earth does she wear a wig? Can women not have short hair? It’s laughably poor. The resistance are a bunch of ludicrous harpies, the men a gang of preening masochists who seem oddly gay. It could have worked, I suppose, but it’s all very odd and never finds the right balance or tone.

Farscape, Coup by Clam, Crichton

As for the potent mix of piss and kitchen-appliance-masturbation. Your mileage may vary, but I didn’t find it funny-gross, just gross.

So a disaster in my books. But an honourable one, in so far as it failed while trying to push the boundaries, and it’s always better to fail weird than to fail safe.

Scott K. Andrews has BIG NEWS!

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Colin R
1. Colin R
This is not a good episode, but I kind of like it anyway. I sorta like the dark world-weariness that everyone treats their predicament with; they don't want to solve this planet's problems, they don't want to listen to technobabble or stories, they just want to get off this damned planet!

But yeah, the drag scenes are corny and dumb. And combined with the faux-British accent he used when impersonating Peacekeepers, I think Crichton is firmly established as the least convincing actor in the galaxy.
Colin R
2. Fahrbot
Worst episode? Hardly. It's actually quite an entertaining one. People seem to have widely differing standards when it comes to being grossed out. I just found the glee the wrtiers took in playing with various bodily functions hilarious. Something like Scratch and Sniff is probably the worst.
Colin R
3. lvsxy808
Yeah, I think this might just qualify as the worst ep of the entire series. Worse even than "Taking the Stone." I usually try to find something redeeming, but it's tough. The only good things are Scorpius showing how far he's willing to go to protect Crichton, Crichton's extreme reaction to the guy hitting on him which touches on his rape storyline, and of course Rygel being awesome as the doctor. That is it.

@ Colin R: One thing that is very consistent, and that I like, is that while Ben Browder is obviously a very good actor, John Crichton is a terrible one, as you say. And it's a very difficult thing to deliberately act like you're a bad actor.
Colin R
4. lvsxy808
@ Farhbot: Scratch n Sniff is one of my favourite episodes. I go back to it often.
Colin R
5. Colin R
I think it's possible to be of two minds about this stuff--to enjoy an episode while also observing it's faults. Like Scott says, spectacular failure can be more interesting than modest success. Something about this episode makes me think that they started out writing it as straight--the Gang winds up on a planet and has to sort out a Battle of the Sexes!--and somewhere along the line they remembered that this is like the corniest, most tiresome of clichés ever. But it was too late to write a new episode, so they had to salvage it.

Then things got weird.
Rob Rater
6. Quasarmodo
If Sikozu only eats 10 times a cycle, she seems like she was taylor made to be the one who didn't eat the mollusks. But I suppose they wanted the comedy of her gorging out on the bad food. Though one would think that her symptoms would be far worse because she ate so much. As for Chianna not eating any, I guess I assumed there was at least some other food (since D'Argo pointedly asked her if she had eaten any of the mollusks and not just any of the food. And it seems a little weird that they each only ate one type of mollusk, especially considering how Sikuzo was chowing down. You'd have thought she had at least 2 types of mollusks, and very likely all three.

I thought it was strange that after initially eating the mollusks, they all seemed to go without symptoms for the bulk of the episode, until when they were in the night club and started to almost die, just in time for Scorpius to step in and save the day.
Iain Cupples
7. NumberNone
@3: oh, not even close. Maybe, maybe, you can argue this is in the top 5 worst, but Planet of the Lawyers (as I shall evermore refer to it) is miles out on front: it has no redeeming features whatsoever to balance against the crappy premise, horrible world-building, forgettable dialogue, lack of humour, awful costuming, plodding pace and flat-out dullness. This one isn't even as bad as Jeremiah Crichton. It has bad moments, but they're balanced by good ones.
Colin R
8. Colin R
I still love some of the dialogue between Tumii and Crichton.

"Let me explain the qatal mollusk..."

"Please don't. We give up."

It brings me back to Sam & Max Hit the Road. "STOP HIM SAM, HE'S GONNA TELL US A STORY!!"
George Brell
9. gbrell
It's my least favorite episode. Surprisingly, I was able to sit through it on re-watch (John Quixote failed that test for me, though that might have been simply a mood).

So a disaster in my books. But an honourable one, in so far as it failed while trying to push the boundaries, and it’s always better to fail weird than to fail safe.

I feel like that summarizes Farscape for me. It never failed safe. Oftentimes, it succeeded brilliantly. I'm willing to put up with Coup by Clam to get Terra Firma and Constellation of Doubt.
Colin R
10. Colin R
Indeed--it's pretty clear sailing from here on out. Well... very stormy sailing for the crew, but excellent for the viewer. The rest of the episodes of this season have a terrible gravity pulling them toward the end of the Season (and sadly the show).

Season 4 never quite reaches the operatic level of melodrama at the end of Season 2, or the claustrophobic dread of Season 3, but I think it has the most consistent vision. The season begins and ends in darkness, but they are two completely different types of darkness--it begins in hopelessness, and ends in catharsis and defiance.

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