Coup 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.
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.
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!?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.