Respectably Grey

If you’re looking for experts on inhibiting unsightly behaviour, look no further than the Nebari on Farscape. Chiana’s people finally catch up with her on Moya and soon the whole crew is in danger of being restricted only to positive, pleasant emotions and manners.

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Season 2, Episode 18: A Clockwork Nebari

Crichton (Ben Browder) ruefully comments their first clue something was wrong should’ve been Aeryn (Claudia Black) smiling for no apparent reason. Returning in a transport pod from a narrow escape in an unseen adventure, both Aeryn and Rygel (Jonathan Hardy) exuded a weird air of peace and contentment it took Chiana (Gigi Edgley) only a beat to recognise as “mental cleansing”. Sure enough, out from the transport pod emerged a couple Nebari, both with injuries.

The elder of the two, Varla (Skye Wansey), assumes control of Moya, putting collars on people and applying temporary, drug induced mental cleansing. As established in “Durka Returns”, and as Crichton points out here, cleansing usually takes a hundred years (cycles). Chiana tells him about the short term drug version, which ends up not working on Crichton, thanks to a still barely suppressed Harvey (Wayne Pygram), but the human astronaut amusingly apes the effects by talking like a slower version of Bill and Ted.

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Why would the Nebari go to all this trouble? This is where we learn a lot more about Chiana’s past. Her brother, Nerri (Simon Bossell), whose death Chiana heard about back in “Taking the Stone”, turns out to still be very much alive and leading a rebellion against Nebari Establishment. It’s not just attacks on Nebari vessels, though—Varla and her ilk have a PR mess to clean up. It seems the reason Chiana and Nerri were able to escape Nebari Prime in the first place so easily was because they’d been infected with a lethal STD. The cleaner minds hoped the libidinous Chiana and Nerri would spread death “for the greater good”. It doesn’t sound far off from the idea of AIDS being spread to wipe out homosexuality. In this case, though, the target is all the forms of sexual promiscuity Chiana’s capable of (and, as we know, that covers just about every form).

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Since her introduction, Chiana had been distinguished from the rest of the crew as being the one who didn’t want to go home. That’s still true though the end of the episode has a significant line from Crichton—”Since when do people like us get what we want?”—that does draw a point of commonality between Chiana and the others. For her, Nerri represents the home she does long for and the home that’s denied to her.

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I love the Nebari stories, I only wish there were more of them. I love the glimpse we get in a flashback to Chiana and Nerri on the run, on some kind of wrecked space station where he’s managed to acquire a cure for their STD.

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Some friends and I used to make Nebari fan fiction in which we fleshed out the nature of Nebari Prime Establishment and society. My friend Caitlin imagined the homeworld would be very cold, which makes sense given the icy demeanour of Varla and the guy escorting Chiana in “Durka Returns”—or Debra Harry and Elvis as Crichton nicknames them. The more they talk about the greater good and forcing everyone to play nice, the worse they get. One case in point is a wonderful effect in “A Clockwork Nebari”, an ode to A Clockwork Orange. Crichton’s eyes are pulled out of their sockets for the cleansing in a shot that shows the Creature Shop are great at making more than just puppets:

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I love the ruff-like collar, it somehow completes the look perfectly. This episode also has several memorable moments for Rygel whose metabolism also helps him beat the cleansing, resulting in his immortal line, “I’m nobody’s puppet!”

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. . .

Farscape is available now on Amazon Prime.

This entry is part of a series I’m writing on Farscape for the show’s 20th anniversary. My previous reviews can be found here (episodes are in the order intended by the show’s creators rather than the broadcast order):

Season One:

Episode 1: Pilot
Episode 2: I, E.T.
Episode 3: Exodus from Genesis
Episode 4: Throne for a Loss
Episode 5: Back and Back and Back to the Future
Episode 6: Thank God It’s Friday Again
Episode 7: PK Tech Girl
Episode 8: That Old Black Magic
Episode 9: DNA Mad Scientist
Episode 10: They’ve Got a Secret
Episode 11: Till the Blood Runs Clear
Episode 12: Rhapsody in Blue
Episode 13: The Flax
Episode 14: Jeremiah Crichton
Episode 15: Durka Returns
Episode 16: A Human Reaction
Episode 17: Through the Looking Glass
Episode 18: A Bug’s Life
Episode 19: Nerve
Episode 20: The Hidden Memory
Episode 21: Bone to be Wild
Episode 22: Family Ties

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Season Two:

Episode 1: Mind the Baby
Episode 2: Vitas Mortis
Episode 3: Taking the Stone
Episode 4: Crackers Don’t Matter
Episode 5: Picture If You Will
Episode 6: The Way We Weren’t
Episode 7: Home on the Remains
Episode 8: Dream a Little Dream
Episode 9: Out of Their Minds
Episode 10: My Three Crichtons
Episode 11: Look at the Princess, Part I: A Kiss is But a Kiss
Episode 12: Look at the Princess, Part II: I Do, I Think
Episode 13: Look at the Princess, Part III: The Maltese Crichton
Episode 14: Beware of Dog
Episode 15: Won’t Get Fooled Again
Episode 16: The Locket
Episode 17: The Ugly Truth

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