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"Coup By Clam"


Moya is orbiting the planet Kurhtanan, waiting for a local physician to clear them to be allowed to hang out and get some repairs done on Moya. Contagious space madness is a little too common around here and something the folks on this planet are eager to keep off-world. But, the same psycho-radiation patterns that cause this in people are also tormenting Moya (guess that's why it's called "Tormented Space," eh?) and the crew has hired a mechanic to do a little touch-up. While they wait, they're treated to a meal. Clams. Not very tasty according to some, something like dog food according to John, but it's food. Sikozu is on her 5th helping, explaining that she only eats 10 times a cycle - quite efficient not to have to eat the rest of the time. As she and most of the crew eat, each has a momentary flash of color over their faces to match the color of their respective meals. Aeryn and Rygel have the green clam, D'Argo and Noranti have the purple, and John and Sikozu are eating the yellow. Chiana and Scorpy passed on the clams.

No one seems worse for the wear, until the doctor comes in, assured they've all eaten their fair share and observes D'Argo and Noranti sneezing almost simultaneously. He conveniently mentions that if a single clam - Quatal Mollusk - is halved and shared, the resulting food poisoning is fatal. That done, he calmly announces he'll take 1/4 million currency pledges from each of them in exchange for the cure. D'Argo calmly announces they might as well shoot the doctor. Doc reminds them the mechanic just docked and any violence on their part might cause him to resist offer of repair services, and will definitely cause the doctor to double his price. And of course, Doc claims to be the only one with the cure. "Care to call my bluff?" He also reminds them not to wait long. The symptoms will greatly mimic those of space madness - a disease they shoot on sight for.

The mechanic arrives along with a man who looks clearly military or police. While the 6 affected crewmembers have stomachs growling and churning, Chiana steps up to the plate, welcoming the mechanic, and will stay with him while he repairs the ship. For the 6 who ate the clams, the effects have already become apparent. Sharing a clam links the two who ate it. As Sikozu is having cramps from digesting her overly large once-every-10-cycles-meal, John feels it. Every time D'Argo sneezes, Noranti sneezes. Rygel is already off passing gas somewhere and Aeryn is doing likewise, extremely eager to find the cure. It's decided that Noranti will see if she can find a cure and she collects spit from everyone. Sikozu stays to help Pilot and Moya while D'Argo, Aeryn, and John decide to pay a visit to the doctor.

Chiana stays with the mechanic, who wonders why Chiana is staring at her. "Maybe I think you're cute. Or maybe I'm just here to make sure you don't hurt Moya." Pilot argues with Sikozu that he doesn't need her help.

Alien doctor waiting rooms apparently are no less frustrating than Earth ones, as the receptionist tells Aeryn, D'Argo and John that Dr. Tumii will be with them soon. While they wait, they continue to feel the effects of their new "bonds." Sikozu is apparently someplace warm and John is getting hot too. Aeryn is experiencing the joy of 3 overfilled stomachs and D'Argo gets the hiccups while Noranti is on the ship tasting various medicines and potions. The doctor welcomes them into his office/lab. They train weapons on him. He reminds them again that he's the only one with the cure and they say they'll pay but they want the cure first. Though John says they don't care to know, Tumii explains the mollusks. Each harbors a colony of neurally linked bacteria which, when separated, remain neurally linked and transmit sensations and emotional states to the other, seeking to merge. Since our crew can't "merge" so to speak, the strain kills them and they die.

Really unimpressed with the technobabble, they simply demand a cure. Tumii says he can cure whomever ate the purple mollusk, but the other two will have to wait a couple of arns until he can get proper samples from the same types of mollusks as they ate. So, D'Argo and Noranti are to get an early cure. Tumii mixes some medicine and instructs D'Argo that he and Noranti are to each mix it in the other's urine, ingest, then hold bare flesh to bare flesh for a decent amount of time until the cure takes hold. Hey guys, this is Farscape. If drinking each other's pee is too much for you, change the channel. Of course, while Tumii is mixing the medicine, D'Argo and Noranti are still linked, so when Noranti - for some reason we'll never know because again, this is Farscape - starts having a spontaneous orgasm, so does D'Argo. Unpleased, when it's over, he bashes his own head against a table as a "thank you" back to Noranti. He takes the cure to the ship.

On Moya, Scorpius is babysitting our military guy - Mekken - and displaying those qualities we've grown to know so well of reading people. In this case, he buddies up to him as Mekken's eyebrows raise at the mention that Moya is female. Sensing what concerns him, Scorpius eases those concerns by reporting that Moya is wholly controlled by Pilot - a male of course. Mekken goes on to talk about a virtual outbreak of space madness lately. The real shame being, the victims were all male.

In Tumii's office/lab, a buzzer sounds and he answers the door, figuring the other mollusks have arrived. Instead, it's a woman with a gun who shoots the doctor and escapes. He's not dead, just wounded, but at the mention that the would-be killer is female, he tells Aeryn and John they're in serious trouble then and he won't be able to cure them. They draw weapons on him in reply.

On the ship, Noranti finishes peeing in a bucket, dips a glass into it, hands it to D'Argo, and Sikozu asks why he hesitates. He gets up his nerve, grabs Noranti's hand, and drinks Noranti's urine while she drinks his (took some convincing that she really, really doesn't need to take her clothes off for that much bare skin). The cure seems to start working immediately, though when they comm down to the planet to give John and Aeryn the thumbs-up, Tumii reports they'll need to maintain contact for a few arns until they feel an oily sensation. D'Argo is way not happy about having to spend the next few arns holding hands with granny. Noranti is thrilled at the opportunity to get to know D'Argo better.

In Tumii's lab, John suggests that Doc gives Aeryn a reason not to kill him. Tumii explains that women are oppressed on Kurhtanan and have been planning a coup for some time. He happened to perform an autopsy on one of the males recently stricken with space madness and found the cause to be the mollusks - which the females alone have and control. He struck a deal with them; his silence for some of the mollusks. It would seem, the coup is imminent and they probably tried to kill him to keep him silent. Aeryn wants to know where to find these women.

More establishment of the male/female tensions come when Chiana suddenly grabs the mechanic and opens his jacket, exposing him as a her. The mechanic begs Chiana not to tell Mekken. Chiana suspects the mechanic of being a spy or somehow working against them. But the mechanic explains that women aren't allowed to do this kind of work and this is the only way she could get a job. Simple as that.

Rygel and Sikozu join John and Aeryn on the planet. Aeryn sees the solution as pretty straightforward. The leaders of this coup run a club where females entertain upper-class males. She and Sikozu will simply go and ask for some of the mollusks, woman-to-woman, in exchange for some currency perhaps. As they take off to find this club and the coup leader, John and Rygel hang out in the lab. When a potential patient comes in - another military type - asking for Tumii, Rygel poses as "Dr. Rygel," saying Tumii is tied up (which he is, literally) and the would-be patient goes away. Aeryn and Sikozu indeed arrive at the bar and calmly explain that they find the female revolution to be a worthy cause. Causes need currency and they'd like to do business. The others aren't interested and when Aeryn and Sikozu push, the women shove and a fight ensues - one which John and Rygel can feel as they're still linked to Sikozu and Aeryn.

The fight is lost and our female crewmates are tied up in a back room - and finally granted an audience with the coup leader, Selva. Aeryn explains again that they only want to do business. 2 Quatal mollusks at whatever the price. Selva is taken aback by this and a conference on the mound with her coup-mates results. No one else is supposed to know about the mollusks and they're convinced it's a counter-plot. It also comes out in their conversation that killing Aeryn and Sikozu will cure whomever they're linked to, leaving the partners to seek revenge. But keeping them alive might draw their partners here.

And indeed it will. Rygel has gone shopping and returned to the lab with some women's clothes for himself and John to dress up in and hit the club incognito. Why not just go as men, John asks? Because this is an elite club and the male clientele are likely to all know each other and be known. The fact that the clientele and the help are all Sebacean/Human looking doesn't seem to hinder Rygel from blending in by wearing a dress. John of course looks quite fetching in dress and wig.

On Moya, Mekken happens on Chiana and the mechanic talking about the mechanic's gender. He's ready to execute her on the spot but Scorpy comes up behind him, breaks his neck with little effort, and calmly tells the panicked mechanic to resume her work.

John is dancing with a soldier who wouldn't take 'no' for an answer and Rygel has found the back room with the mollusks. In the back room of the club, Selva says there are too many new faces tonight and assuming two of them belong to Aeryn and Sikozu's dinner partners, she can't tell. She tells her henchwomen to give her 50 microts to get a good vantage point in the club, then cut off one of the prisoner's fingers. That should be enough pain to get a reaction out of the partner. When they decide on Aeryn, Sikozu violently objects and though Aeryn tries to stop her, the women guarding them take Sikozu up on the offer and cut off a finger. Out in the club, John most certainly feels it, but dancing with the soldier, is able to hide the physical reaction. Rygel comms to John that he's got the mollusks and is taking them back to the doctor. His limbs are starting to go numb and it's up to John to find Aeryn and Sikozu. In the back room, Aeryn and Sikozu are hardly conscious and look to be in pretty bad shape. To make things worse, the soldier with John - who has now taken him to a secluded corner of the club - was the one who came into the doctor's office earlier, and he recognizes John.

The mechanic fixes a very grateful Moya and assures Chiana she'll be fine; talk to some connections, get a new identity, new job. Pilot is unable to reach any of their crew on the planet, so Scorpius comes to the rescue. Guessing that they're succumbing to the mollusks, Scorpy decides to ingest the discarded remains, counting on his own strength to give strength to the others. It works. In Tumii's office, though he's tied up, Tumii got his hands on a knife and was about to try and stab Rygel who was about to succumb to the mollusk poisoning and is nearby overseeing Tumii's work on the antidote. Before Tumii can get far with the knife, Rygel bites the tip of his nose off. He reminds Tumii there's plenty more nose left and to keep working.

Just as John was about to pass out even before the soldier could interrogate him, he gets his strength back thanks to Scorpius. A few good punches and the soldier is no longer a threat. Aeryn and Sikozu play possum on the floor and when the guard goes to check Aeryn's pulse, they both kick her hard enough to knock her out. They don't know how they got their strength back, but they're happy to use that strength to get free. When Aeryn asks Sikozu why she volunteered her finger, Sikozu asks, as she retrieves her finger off the floor, if Aeryn's appendages reattach themselves. They get free of their bonds and get out of the back room and into the club, but the exits are all guarded. They're crouched low by some couches when John shows up, telling an only slightly shocked Aeryn the get-up was Rygel's idea. John offers to create a diversion. Standing on a table, he addresses the crowd and asks, "How many of you ladies have one of these under your skirt?" He pulls up his dress, pulls out two pulse pistols, and starts shooting up the place. Yup. In Farscape, that would be an appropriate "diversion." And while John, Aeryn, and Sikozu are shooting and punching their way out of the club, Rygel is forcing Tumii to eat some of the mollusk he brought back, threatening to leave the other half in the alley for some rats to eat.

Everyone returns safely to Moya and partakes in the yummy cure of drinking each other's urine and holding hands - for 3 arns according to D'Argo and Noranti ("No time at all" says Noranti, "Forever" says D'Argo). Sikozu reminds the rest that Scorpius ate some of the mollusks as well, saving their lives in the process. Scorpius is in his cell, retching up the remains.


Well, there's one in every season, right?

One of the prime charms of Farscape is its razor-sharp wit; characters ending up in the kind of situations that aren't funny to them at the moment, but they'll all laugh about it a year from now. Embarrassing situations. Toilet humor. But once in a while, Farscape just tries too hard for the gag and it shows. Here we have an entire episode of trying too hard. "Coup by Clam" had a fantastic idea, but too much quality and plausibility were sacrificed for the obvious and/or tired gags that lose their charm in the over-exertion to get them on screen.

The girl power revolution was a great vehicle. Nothing like a good tale of minority oppression to get our dander up. But unlike A Prefect Murder, I never felt this political conflict. I can only assume that Emily Skopov and/or Ian Watson chose to rely on our immediate familiarity with oppression of women to fill in that gap. But it still felt very sterile and far-removed from the action as Farscape goes. Ok, so the only women we've seen so far are in servitude roles like receptionist or bar matron or posing as a male to be a mechanic, and there was some talk of men feeling they're superior to women. But with Farscape, I've been spoiled on seeing much more than that. This element could have been much better established.

The B-plot of the female mechanic posing as a male would have been a much greater success if the oppression of women element had been better established. It also would have had greater success had the mechanic actually looked male to start with. When Chiana ripped open her jacket and said "Sister," the only surprise to me is that she was supposed to be passing for male. I'd have faulted any show for not making Susan Groen look more male, but this is the Henson Company we're talking about; the geniuses of make-up artists. Especially in a world where women are supposed to be so looked down upon, I'd think androgynous looking guys would have it nearly as hard. The result is that she didn't appear to be hiding her gender very well and she didn't seem as concerned as she could have been about being exposed. I don't put that on Sara Groen, I put that on the material she was given.

Noranti's orgasm. The point was...? I guess it's because the whole episode felt forced, I found myself feeling like I was watching an Adam Sandler toilet humor movie.

They're orbiting an entire planet. Ever notice how everything and everyone they need to contact are apparently in the same building or block? That doesn't often bother me, but in "Coup by Clam," it felt too obvious. Maybe because the whole episode felt like an excuse to have D'Argo feel Noranti's orgasm-from-nowhere and to get John in drag.

So we've run into another race in the Farscape universe that looks Human. Or maybe they're Sebaceans. Who knows. Point is, other than Tumii, everyone looked Human/Sebacean. How exactly did Rygel "blend in" in an exclusive club? You'd think someone would notice the new girl if she looks like Yoda in a dress.

Rygel feeding Tumii the clam. How awfully fake did that look? I realize that Rygel is an animatronic with limited movements, but surely they could have done something to make it look like he was forcing Tumii's mouth open and forcing him to swallow rather than Tumii willingly opening his mouth like he was. It looked like, well, a segment of the Muppet Show. Not the more sophisticated puppetry we've come to expect from Farscape.

So, Aeryn and Sikozu are nearly dead but Rygel and John are still walking around showing little wear and tear?

John in drag. If all of this hadn't added up to an episode trying way too hard, the gag would have worked. For what it's worth though, Ben Browder looked quite good in drag. That and the very "Farscapeyness" of his distraction (Distraction? Sure, we'll just shoot up the place) almost redeemed the episode. Almost.

The other treat in this episode was Scorpius. It was quite fun to watch him quickly size up Mekken. It was also a hard reminder of just how cold and calculated he can be when he snaps Mekken's neck and calmly tells the mechanic to resume her work like he'd done nothing more than squash a mosquito.

So what more can one say? "Coup by Clam" had all the makings of a classic Farscape humor episode, but it tried to hard and it felt forced. Just little better establishment of the oppression of women, a mechanic posing as a guy who actually looks like a guy when she's doing so, just a little more believable performance here and there, and it would have been a classic. Instead, it's about a 2.

Agree? Disagree? Comments? Questions? Email me! Written by Mary Wood.

Reader Reviews
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Fun Factoids
Best line:

Rygel: "We need to blend in."
John: "Blend in? Hell, we got here and the clock stopped. We couldn't blend in on butt-ugly night."

Click here to read Dani Moure's review for this episode.

Click here to read Dani Moure's synopsis for this episode.

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Episode Credits
Season 4, Episode 10 - "Coup By Clam"
Writer: Emily Skopov
Director: Ian Watson
Production number: 10410
First UK Transmission: 2nd Dec 2002
First US Transmission: 16th Aug 2002
Guest Stars:
Raelee Hill (Sikozu); Melissa Jaffer (Noranti); Barry Otto (Doctor Tumii); David Field (Ho'Ock); Sara Groen (Mujombre); Kelly Butler (Selva); Chris Mayer (Mekken); Susan Prior (Kiryah)
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