Deconstructing Moya

A Farscape Re-watch Project

Episode [4.10] – “Coup By Clam”

Today, on Farscape

“Excuse me, ladies, can I have your attention? Does any of you have one of THESE under your skirt?”
*rapid gunfire*
“Yeah! Girl Power!”

When a mechanic is found that can upgrade Moya to survive in Tormented Space, things are looking up – until an opportunistic doctor infects everyone with a fatal disease. He’s willing to trade the antidote for large bags of money, but Crichton and Company must move quickly, because anyone caught with similar symptoms will be shot on sight…


Given the travesty of last episode, I was much happier to be watching this week, which could very well have served as a decent introduction to Tormented Space. Moya is being constantly bombarded with Plot Device Radiation, which prevents proper rest and will eventually drive her mad. The only mechanics in the area that are familiar with Leviathan biology are on a nearby planet, and will only work on Moya once everyone’s been cleared of SPAAAAAAAAAACE MAAAADNEEEEESSSSSSS.

The plot is silly, singular, simplistic, and I loved every bit of it. Sure, it doesn’t advance the season’s story arc in any noticeable fashion, but it dialed back the oppressive sense of doom that our crew has been under – without removing it completely, mind you – and brought us back to the quirky, gross, and undeniably fun show that we’ve been missing this season. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been loving Season Four unreservedly (last week notwithstanding), but it’s good to get back to the roots.

And what roots they are! We have Sikozu, an even more incomprehensible lifeform in an already incomprehensible universe, adding snake-like metabolism to her already impressively inscrutable biology. D’Argo, our King of Physical Comedy, who completely steals the show without having a majority of screen-time. Rygel using his guile and poise to out-ruthless the crooked doctor. Nana Peepers, who is… unquantifiably glorious (I love Melissa Jaffer’s completely shameless and yet somehow graceful portrayal of Noranti).

Hell, even Scorpius is getting in on the Classic Farscape Action, being suave, controlling, coldly and efficiently homicidal, and ultimately one-upping everyone with his personal efforts to save the crew. He’s keeping in complete character as someone that the crew still doesn’t trust but has earned a bit of free rein on the ship, and is staying true to his word about keeping Crichton alive for whatever reason may be dominant.

There’s no epic saving of the day, aside from a scene that my fiancée will kill me once she realizes she missed Ben Browder in somewhat convincing drag. There’s no overarching moral dilemma, since the Women’s Suffrage Movement are just as nasty as the men they’re trying to overthrow (and in the end everyone acknowledges that it’s Not Our Business). There’s simply a quality episode that’s filled with equal amounts fun and nausea.

“Hello, boys.”

Which is really what Farscape has always been about, and I’m glad to see it return.


As with the last episode, this story takes us into a strongly divided culture barely maintaining order as dissent and mutiny boil beneath the surface. Last week failed because it put this struggle front and center, expecting us to care about dry people we’d never heard of in a cliched pissing contest over clan leadership. This week succeeds because it holds that in the background. Seriously, this story is about our crew getting screwed by a doctor who poisons them and promises a cure in return for every cent they have, and all of the stuff about women’s suffrage and corrupt politicians is merely background flavoring to heighten the stakes and give it an extra bit of zing. And instead of infodumping all the exposition on us in a non-linear opening act that keeps looping us back and back and back again to make sure we know all the parts that will be played before we see them play, this one does things smart and fast, only revealing info to us as it becomes relevant to our hero’s main struggle. The Moya crew couldn’t give two frells about the current political climate of this world. They want their filter, they want their antidote, and they want to take off, and they only pay attention to the complexities of their surroundings when they have no choice but to dive into those waters. This is how you build a culture over the course of a single episode. Sure, it’s a little thin, but we have the pecking order of the males over the females and the slimy doctor playing both sides, until the ladies decide to silence the middle man in preparation for a huge coup d’état that’s on the verge of launching, the execution and effects of which we never see because our heroes are out by that point and have no interest in looking back.

As Kevin pointed out, there’s very little in the way of ties to the broader season arc this week – unless you count bonding time between D’Argo and Noranti, or Scorpius winning a little more respect as he steps up to the plate for the team – but it more than makes up for it with yet more of the classic Farscape fun and games. Noranti pissing in a pot. D’Argo drinking said piss while Noranti drinks his, then the two cuddling for hours until a layer of slime forms between them. Rygel bloodying himself up and pretending to be a doctor. Aeryn farting. Sikozu parting with a finger. And John. Oh, John. Always having to steal the show whenever the crazy must be brought. John dressed as a woman is really quite fetching, thanks to Ben Browder’s prettied face and good taste in dress and wig, but I love that John barely does anything to sell this disguise as a character. There’s a few sways and “delicate” hand work, about on the level of Captain Jack Sparrow, but he otherwise looks like the proverbial man who lost the bet as he doesn’t even really change his voice at all beyond laying on a bit of his formal Peacekeeper accent. Again, it’s not that Browder isn’t selling it, it’s that he’s nailing Crichton’s absolute disinterest in wanting to sell it. And I love the twist of the military leader, initially played as the buffoon that doesn’t see through the costume, who takes on a much more interesting air as it’s revealed he’s completely aware of who and what he has his hands on, and he’s all the happier for it.

It’s a great episode. Not as wild and zany as some of their other caper one-offs, but rich, clever, and full of the attitude that makes this show a classic.

A few thoughts:

  • Still not sold on Tormented Space. The “Moya maddening radiation” is yet another plot device we hear about but never experience and, really, any other random situation on the craft could have easily routed our heroes where they ended up. If I don’t see some genuine tormenting soon, I’m going to be mightily disappointed.
  • Aeryn farts when Rygel farts, okay. But why do her farts sound like his fart, instead of the cheek ripper one would especially get in leather pants like hers?
  • If they need the same type of mollusks they ate from for the cure, why don’t they just use the actual mollusks they ate from? Y’know, the ones that are still revealed to have active bacteria in them when Scorpius scarfs down a bit. And don’t say that they were back on Moya because there is some ferrying of the crew back and forth over the course of things, and they easily could have grabbed the leftovers on their way.
  • I find myself strangely smitten with Noranti’s pissing stance.
  • Please tell me I’m not the only one wondering if Dr. Tumii and Grunchlk are from the same species.


This is the episode where Scorpius fully integrates as a member of the crew. He’s not trusted by any measure, no more than anyone was back in season one. Or two. Or… y’know, there hasn’t been a whole lot of trust in this group. In that respect, yes, he’s fitting right in. He’s no longer confined to a cell, has free roam of the ship, gives the official escorting the mechanic a tour, visits Pilot to chat about the complications encountered on the settlement. He adapts quickly to the official’s prejudice, telling him what he wants to hear, then kills him when he interferes with the installation of Moya’s new radiation filter. And then, in a moment of awesome, saves everyone by introducing himself into the mollusk neural network. He soaks the effects long enough for everyone downstairs to get started on the cure, then manually eliminates it from his system. They could have done it the regular way, but I’m not sure Scorpy has enough exposed skin to make it work.

Two notes on the Scorpius clam scene: I love the music while he’s setting up the clams, and I love the immediate segue to D’Argo and Noranti. Big dramatic scene with major chord chorus and the major antagonist solidifying his heel-face turn leading straight into D’Argo stuck with an old woman sleeping on him.

Related note, Wayne Pygram has a nice set of molars and one obvious cap. And it looks like he still has his wisdom teeth.

Sikozu’s unusual biology comes up again. Only eating once every five weeks or so must have significant advantages for things like spaceflight. Reduces the amount of mass you need to set aside for things like dehydrated ice cream. She still thinks she can operate Moya better than Pilot, but that isn’t so much a biology thing as it is psychology.

I completely agree with Noel, this doctor Tumii could definitely be a Grunchlik cousin. I wonder how well they would get along as business partners.

Tumii asks for one-point-five million in currency pledgers to cure our heroes. They pay immediately, in a subversion of the usual blackmail trope, but he can’t actually follow through on his end of the bargain. The lesson, of course, is that if you’re going to poison someone for money, have the antidote immediately available. The following question is how much money Moya’s flying around with if they can part with it that easily. Quite a bit, apparently, even after splitting the loot from the Shadow Depository four ways.

Noranti and D’Argo. Already said it, need to say it again. The paint-shaker, the three arn handshake, the “one little pop”. All hilarious.

Chiana takes lead with the guests while everyone else is either incapacitated or Scorpius. She hasn’t been exactly stable since returning to the ship after the events between seasons, and it’s still showing, but she’s pulling back together.

I want to work in a “Women Who Hate Men” crack, but I didn’t see a single dragon tattoo in the entire episode. Sad face.

Rygel shaved his mustache and eyebrows to get into the club! It’s a little thing, but wow. Also, Crichton hates his fashion choices.

In conclusion: Hey. Hey guys. Y’know what’s coming next week? I AM EXCITED.


Okay, totally with Noel here, they cannot keep on dodging the issue of Tormented Space having almost no functional difference from the Uncharted Territories. Same as last episode, we get told that there are problems and that things are harder, but there’s nothing of substance to convince us of that. Even worse, the “Moya can’t cope” problem would appear to be mitigated by the repairs that have been made, meaning the problem we just got told was a problem isn’t a problem long enough to actually be a problem that has any real impact. That’s a problem.

We need to be shown, not told. So far there’s been a lot of telling, but we have yet to be shown anything that wouldn’t have been right at home in the Uncharted Territories. That really needs to change if they want to sell us on this concept.

There’s not a whole lot I can say about this one that the others didn’t already cover. As usual we have some great acting on the part of just about everyone who has to deal with the mollusk disease. I really like the character design of the doctor, and I could easily see him being the same race as Grunchlik. Both his design and the slimy opportunistic nature of his character really reminded me of Thénardier from Les Miserables.

I am glad that they didn’t overplay the suffrage angle. It could have turned into “let’s fix this planet’s problems” by making the crew the weight that tips the scales in the battle for gender equality (other shows have done exactly that), but instead the conflict is just an obstacle in their way to getting what they need. With the exception of Chiana, who can relate with the revolutionaries due to her own experiences, none of the crew seem to even particularly care much about the situation beyond the fact that they’re pretty much forced to deal with these people. In the end, it isn’t their fight, and they’re out of there as soon as they’re able to leave.

Episode [4.09] – A Prefect Murder || Episode [4.11] – Unrealized Reality

2 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. Kernezelda

     /  January 6, 2012

    Lovely reviews! This is a fun, gross and eminently re-windable-for-certain-scenes episode. 😀

  2. Kat

     /  January 7, 2012

    John Crichton in drag? What’s not to love! Hysterical!


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