Farscape episode
“A Clockwork Nebari”
Episode no. Season 2
Episode 18
Guest star(s) Wayne Pygram (Harvey), Skye Wansey (Varla), Simon Bossell (Nerri), Malcolm Kennard (Meelak)
Writer(s) Lily Taylor
Director Rowan Woods
Production no. 10217
Original airdate September 15, 2000 (US); November 20, 2000 (UK)
Episode chronology
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"The Ugly Truth" "Liars, Guns and Money - A Not So Simple Plan"

Chiana's government (and her past) catches up with her, with consequences on a galactic scale.


John Crichton and Chiana return from a planet where Chiana had used her "talents" to gain information about the slave auctions where Ka D'Argo's son is believed to be. They had to leave Aeryn Sun and Rygel down on the planet to cover them because when Crichton was getting Chiana out of a muddle his pulse pistol (which he's named "Winona") jammed, and so they both expect Aeryn to be mad. But when she and Rygel return, she calls Chiana over to apologize for not looking after her better and she says saving Chiana was in the past and now she's looking to the future. Rygel says that they have a surprise for her when she notices that Aeryn is not carrying her pulse pistol and she always carries a pulse pistol. Noticing how strange this is, Crichton tells Chiana to go and talk to D'Argo, but before she can leave, a Nebari woman appears and says it's time to go home! Chiana realizes that Aeryn and Rygel have been mind cleansed and attempts to run. Aeryn stops her and when Crichton's pistol fails, Varla stuns them.

A damaged Nebari ship docks on Moya, carrying a Nebari man named Meelak who has also been looking for Chiana. Meanwhile, Aeryn places a restraint collar on Pilot who tries unsuccessfully to resist. Varla gives him the coordinates to the nearest Nebari colony, where she wants them to go. Aeryn tells Pilot that their ship had a run in with Peacekeepers, probably from Scorpius' command carrier so they should stay on full alert. If Moya starbursts, the collar will give Pilot a lethal injection.

D'Argo, Chiana, and Crichton are in a cell with Chiana chained up and she explains that the cleansing Varla has used is a temporary, drug-induced version, but it's just as effective. Crichton asks her why Varla would go through hell just to get to her, but before she answers Meelak appears. D'Argo attacks him but Zhaan uses the collar control system to activate the collars on D'Argo and Crichton. She has also been mind-cleansed.

Whilst Aeryn fixes some of Varla's wounds, she says she knows Chiana and she's not dangerous. Varla disagrees, saying that Chiana jeopardizes their attempts to eliminate violent and aggressive behaviour in their society.

When D'Argo's been taken to be cleansed and Crichton realizes he's next, he asks Chiana to tell him what all this is about. She tells him of her brother, Nerri, who is now dead. She and Nerri wanted to escape Nebari Prime at a young age, but were given exit permits by the government. At the time, they didn't question why it was so easy; they just ran. Two cycles later, Nerri found out why. They flushed a contagion from their systems, after someone high up in "The Establishment" (the governing body) gave him the antibody. Nerri left Chiana to get away alone because knowing he could identify the traitor would put her at risk. She says that The Establishment is trying to infect as much of the galaxy as it can with the contagion and they want to find out who gave Nerri the antibody. They infected her and hundreds of others, during a routine physical that they gave, knowing that they would go out and transmit the contagion. Crichton asks her why she didn't tell them this before and figures that they're after her because they probably think she's still in contact with Nerri. Suddenly Meelak appears and activates Crichton's collar, telling him that it's his time.

As a weeping D'Argo apologizes to Crichton for all the bad things he's done, Crichton is forced to undergo the very painful cleansing (complete with having his eyeballs pulled out and having implants placed on the stalked). Meanwhile, Varla invites Chiana to eat and asks where Nerri is. Chiana says that he died a quarter of a cycle ago. To her surprise, Varla shows her a hologram of Nerri being identified as the leader of an assault on Nebari freight convoys less than ten solar days ago. Meelak says that The Establishment has sent out many "messengers" infected with the contagion for over twenty cycles. It spreads quickly, shows no outward symptoms, and waits for a specific time ordained by The Establishment. They expect it to have infected enough people in civilizations to throw those worlds into chaos so when the emissaries arrive they'll be met with minimum resistance. Varla threatens to use Chiana to get to Nerri if she doesn't reveal his location.

Crichton walks through Moya but as he does he sees images of Scorpius telling him to fight what they've done to him. Crichton happily tells Pilot that the cleansing didn't work – he can't explain it, as he was cleansed briefly before it suddenly wore off (the neural chip, which Crichton doesn't know about, having counteracted the drug). Pilot says he can't alter the course because Aeryn keeps coming to check on the status.

As Varla is talking to Chiana, Crichton enters and in a very hippie way says that Moya's speed and safety has been affected by a flood in her amnexus system. Varla leaves so Crichton tells Chiana that he's not cleansed (he hits and gropes her to prove it). He wants to get the others back, and she says that the drugs rely on the rate of the being's metabolism and mentions how fast Rygel's is.

Crichton visits Rygel and finds that the drug has already passed through his system, restoring him to normal. Crichton asks for help in defeating Varla however Rygel has other ideas and refuses to make the Nebari any angrier. Meelak appears and asks why Crichton wants Rygel's help, when Rygel says he doesn't think the cleansing is working on Crichton. This prompts Crichton to hit him and Meelak realizes that it's not working on either of them.

Meelak takes Crichton to Chiana's cell where he asks if it has any communication devices in it. When they say no, he gives Crichton a weapon and says they don't have much time. He uses Chiana's DNA to activate a message from Nerri, who says he's doing important, dangerous work, and the person delivering the message is one of his people, under orders not to take her to him because it's too dangerous at this time. He just wanted Chiana to know he's alive and well and tells her to keep herself hidden. Meelak says that Chiana is the only thing Nerri cares more about than the resistance and when she asks him to take her to Nerri, he reminds her of his orders. He has some important data to take to the resistance, which he'll do when they reach the outpost. He says that if he helps, he's jeopardizing his position and everyone relying on him. Chiana says that she'll tell Varla, but he knows she won't.

Crichton asks Pilot to try and fake a return of the Peacekeepers to convince Varla to allow starburst, but without DRDs he needs someone to reconfigure some wiring. Crichton finds Rygel and after chewing him out he says he and Pilot have a plan and Rygel must help. Aeryn comes in and asks what they're doing and they unconvincingly tell her they're fixing something for D'Argo because he's ill. Crichton then goes and tells Chiana the plan and says that she must do her part at the right time. Aeryn bumps into D'Argo and says it's odd that he's fine as Crichton just told her he was ill.

As Crichton and Rygel are doing the job, Pilot says Chiana already has the Nebari on command. Chiana tells Varla that she'll cooperate without the need for cleansing. Crichton is still not ready when D'Argo appears and asks what he's doing. Aeryn also comes along and says that since he lied they're not cleansed. They try to take them away, but Rygel drops his tools on a wire, which causes a burst of electricity, knocking them unconscious.

Varla says that Chiana is wasting her time, when Crichton enters command saying that PK Prowlers are shadowing them, that their Command Carrier has just entered Moya's sensor range, and Pilot puts a Carrier image on screen. Chiana says that their only defense is starburst, but Pilot is restrained. The carrier fires, and causes explosions and damage. Bialar Crais erratically appears on screen saying they'll be destroyed, but Varla still refuses to let Pilot starburst. As she believes the Peacekeepers will aid the resistance if they get Chiana, she attempts to kill her. Pilot maneuvers, throwing everyone around and Meelak objects to Varla killing Chiana. Crichton jumps on Varla but she turns him around and Crichton tells her it's all a ruse and Pilot stops the broadcast. Chiana attacks Varla, but she fights back so Meelak kills her, saying that she betrayed the spirit of their people.

Rygel has D'Argo, Aeryn, and Zhaan locked up and they're angry, saying that the cleansing has worn off. D'Argo says that they're in the vicinity of the slave auctions for his son, but Rygel says Pilot's plotting a course so all they need to do is stay there and metabolise, obviously enjoying it.

Meelak is leaving and Chiana asks to go with him, saying she wants to help, but he and Crichton say she'd be recognized. She tells Crichton she wants to see Nerri, but he says she can't compromise what her brother is doing. He says Nerri is alive – take that, as it's more than she had yesterday. She wants to go, but Crichton says since when do people like them get what they want as Meelak leaves.

Memorable quotesEdit

Rygel: I'm nobody's puppet!
John: Bitchin', man.
Rygel: Bitchin'.

Background informationEdit

  • The title of this episode comes from the book and later movie A Clockwork Orange which has its own brainwashing element. ("Cool Farscape Facts" - Starburst Edition DVD v2.3) The scene in which Crichton has his eyes pulled out by a machine is a visual reference to a similar torture device featured in the original movie.
  • This was story editor Lily Taylor's first script and David Kemper was impressed with her ability to juggle her regular work on the show with the need for rewriting this episode's script. ("Cool Farscape Facts" - Starburst Edition DVD v2.3)
  • Simon Bossell used an American accent that Gigi Edgley used for Chiana to indicate his unbrainwashed nature. ("Cool Farscape Facts" - Starburst Edition DVD v2.3)
  • This episode introduces Winona, Crichton's gun. It was named by Ben Browder as a reference to actress Winona Ryder. ("Cool Farscape Facts" - Starburst Edition DVD v2.3) The gun was actually found and named by Crichton during the events of Farscape: The Game, a video game based on the series.
  • The human eye cannot actually be manipulated in the manner shown in the episode. ("Cool Farscape Facts" - Starburst Edition DVD v2.3)
  • Crichton's comment about bringing Miss Kitty home is a reference to the radio and TV series Gunsmoke. ("Cool Farscape Facts" - Starburst Edition DVD v2.3)
  • According to Claudia Black, ADR engineer Angus Robertson questioned if she had really taken drugs to give such a convincing performance as spaced-out Aeryn.
  • Edgley recalls that this was filmed just before the Easter break and everyone was eager to get away as soon as she had finished her big emotional scene at the end of the episode. ("Cool Farscape Facts" - Starburst Edition DVD v2.3)
  • Rockne S. O'Bannon felt that this episode was a great example of the strength of episodic television. He said "Any threads you lay down can become a whole huge arc of the show. That's part of the fun of episodic television to me. You're creating this tapestry and when you stand back it's one big picture. [...] With a character like Chiana, you can introduce her brother much earlier in the season, and then that stays bubbling under the surface for Chiana as a character." ("Farscape Chronicles" - Starburst Edition DVD v2.3)
  • Rowan Woods recalls that the episode was tricky, "We were juxtaposing scenes where someone was punching the Rygel puppet and the next scene saw the Nebari torturing someone, pulling their eyes out of their sockets. There was a brilliant balancing act in that script, and we just had to do it justice." ("Farscape Chronicles" - Starburst Edition DVD v2.3)
  • Browder had fewer good memories of the episode saying, "My experience of that episode will always be contained in the fact that they actually built a rig that they couldn't get me in and out of very quickly. I'm hung up there, and slightly leaning back – my arms and legs are shackled – I can't move, my arms are resting and it's cutting off the blood towards my head. They had the collar round my neck with the spikes on it, and I had to hold myself in position, so they put the mask on, and I thought, 'don't pass out now or they're going to take your head off.' Every time I see it, I think, 'that's where I'm about to pass out.' " ("Farscape Chronicles" - Starburst Edition DVD v2.3)
  • After D'Argo and Aeryn are knocked out by the electricity, Crichton says "Bitchin'". Just as the scene cuts to black, Rygel repeats the word.
  • This is the only episode of the series to feature Chiana's brother Nerri.

Links and referencesEdit


Guest starsEdit

Guest castEdit


Voice artistsEdit


$100,000 Pyramid; 3D; amnexus; arn; astronaut; Belushi, John; Bisaric acid; Blondie; Bow, Clara; Buckwheat; Command; command carrier; comms; cycle; Doc Holliday; Dominar; DRD; dren; Durka, Selto; Establishment, The; fahrbot; frag cannon; frell; Gilligan; Gilligan's Island; Gunsmoke; Harry, Deborah; husky; Hynerian; image disc; iriscentant fluid; Ka Jothee; krovash; Leviathan; Luxan; Luxan tongue sting; microt; mind cleanse; Miss Kitty; Moya; Nebari; Nebari Contagion; Nebari Prime; Nebari Resistance; Nebari star runner; Nebari Territorial Control; neural cluster; OK Corral; One Way or Another; Peacekeeper; Pleisar Regiment; plexus cable; Presley, Elvis; Prime Directive; prowler; pulse pistol; restraint collar; Salis; Scorpius; Sensurround; servicer; Smell-O-Vision; solar day; South Walden Prime; Sparky; Star Trek; starburst; The Full Monty; Three Stooges; Ultra-Omnivision; Winona; yotz;

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