A Snurcher's Guide to Farscape

A Clockwork Nebari

HOMEFAQSearchPrevious EpisodeEpisode IndexNext EpisodeRatings IndexAnnotations IndexPeople IndexWriters IndexDirectors IndexCast IndexSnurchables

Production No. 217

Best Viewed As 2.18

Aired As
2.18 (US & UK)

Original Airdates
15 Sep 2000 (US)
20 Nov 2000 (UK)

1.4 (US)
2.45 (UK)

A Clockwork Nebari
Abbreviations: ACN, CN
Alternate Titles: (none)

Wassup? · Backstory · Reactions · Annotations · Microbes · Quotes · Cast & Crew

Writer: Lily Taylor
Director: Rowan Woods
Malcolm Kennard............Meelak
Skye Wansey................Varla
Simon Bossell..............Nerri
Wayne Pygram...............Scorpius
Lani Tupu..................Capt. Bialar Crais
Complete Credits


Spoogy Chi & Her Poogly Droogies are Tolchocked by a Nadmenny Forella ...kinda like David Kemper at a SACC meeting. ;-)

Chiana's past catches up to her at last, but not for the reasons Moya's crew was led to expect -- or prepared to defend against. And, whatever the Nebari are really after, they're willing to mindcleanse the entire crew to achieve it.


Farscape World


Terra Firma


Farscape Fantasy


Crichton has named his pulse pistol "Winona" (this bit was a Browderism, i.e. not in the script; Ben has stated that it was a reference to Winona Rider).

The crew has been working to track down D'Argo's son; interestingly, D'Argo himself did not go down to the planet with them on the latest recon mission.

Nebari bleed blue.

Nebari women have white hair, while the males have black hair.

Although Nebari were able to destroy the Zelbinion, the vessel on which Varla and Meelak were traveling was apparently vulnerable to a Peacekeeper patrol. During its attack, the rest of their crew was killed, and the ship is leaking something as it docks on Moya.

Pilot's species is able to nullify the effects of the mental cleansing process; Varla can control Pilot only through use of a control collar which injects bisaric acid. From Pilot's reaction, this apparently causes him pain; Varla states that the collar will inject a fatal dose if Moya attempts to starburst.

The Peacekeeper attack on the Nebari ship evidently took place some time ago, since Aeryn states that Varla's wound is badly infected. This would indicate that the Peacekeepers are no longer necessarily in the immediate vicinity of Moya.

Nebari mind cleansing normally takes 100 cycles.

Non-Nebari can be temporarily but effectively mindcleansed by attaching a mechanical patch to their optic nerve, which dispenses a drug directly into their neural system.

The optic nerve patching procedure does not work on Nebaris.

The Nebari have a master plan to eliminate violent and aggressive behavior.

There is some form of Nebari resistance movement.

Although Chiana and Nerri were "on the run", they actually left Nebari Prime 10 cycles ago on offically sanctioned exit visas. It was two cycles before they found out why they were permitted to leave.

Purging the contagion from her system was extremely painful for Chiana, but according to Nerri, she is now no longer contagious.

Nerri states that he received the antibody [to the contagion] from someone high up in "the establishment". Because he can identify this person, who is now wanted by the establishment, he must stay on the run to protect the resistance movement. Nerri felt he and Chiana would be less conspicuous if they split up.

Chiana and her brother were infected with the contagion during their "routine physical examination" before leaving Nebari Prime. The contagion is passed through carnal contact.

Chiana has known about the Nebari's plan since before she came aboard Moya, but was afraid to tell her crewmates, for fear they would not permit her to stay aboard.

The temporary mindcleansing procedure "removes all negative impulses".

Varla offers John the choice of mindcleansing or death, justifying her actions on the basis of a "greater good".

Chiana's brother Nerri is still alive, and active in a Nebari resistance movement; he led an assault on Nebari freight convoys ten days previously.

The Nebari government has, for the past 20 cycles, been implementing a plan to spread a (dormant) contagion throughout the region. The plan does not require an infection rate of 100%, but merely sufficient levels to create social chaos when the contagion is eventually activated; this would minimize local resistance to Nebari "emmissaries" as they expand into the infected area.

John's mindcleansing can be counteracted by the chip Scorpius placed in his brain.

Nerri has given message chips to some number of his people, in the event one of them encounters Chiana; the chips can only be activated by contact with Chiana's DNA. These messengers, however, have strict orders not to bring Chiana to her brother.

Varla would kill Chiana, rather than let her lead the Peacekeepers to Nerri.

Chiana is approximately three years younger than her brother.



  1. Why was it Aeryn tending to Varla's wounds, rather than Zhaan (who normally serves as Moya's medical expert)?
  2. If Nerri wanted Chiana to know he was all right, why did his life disk cease functioning? Do such devices offer one's enemies a tracking mechanism?
  3. What exactly is the relationship between the Nebari and the Peacekeepers? The Nebari destroyed the Zelbinion, but apparently this fact is not known to the PK, since the Zelbinion's fate was considered a mystery. (Unanswered question: when Crais returned to retrieve Gilina from the Zelbinion's wreckage, was his crew able to determine that the Nebari were responsible for the ship's original destruction?) Nonetheless, Varla's ship came under attack by a Peacekeeper patrol -- why? Is there some level of open hostilities between the two races? And, why is she so convinced that Chiana might be able to bring them to Nerri's aid in supporting the resistance? Do the PK know of the Nebari plan and the resistance movement?


  1. The title is a nod to Anthony Burgess' novel "A Clockwork Orange" (see also IMDb & ClockworkOrange.com).
  2. Meelak's willingness to sacrifice Chiana to the Nebari "establishment" seems inconsistent with her value as a bargaining chip.
  3. Human eyes cannot actually be manipulated as shown in this episode. See:

Bloopers (none)


Farscape World
Farscape Fantasy
AV Club
Tourist's Guide


Farscape World
Terra Firma


The title is a variation of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, Stanley Kubrick's brilliant 1971 film, based on the novel by Anthony Burgess. One of the common story elements to both the film/novel and this episode is the use of drug therapy to control violent, antisocial behavior, and the elimination of free will in the process. Another is visual: the scene of John strapped into a harness and having his eyeballs pulled from their sockets recalls scenes from Kubrick's film in which Alex (Malcolm McDowell) is strapped into a chair and his eyes held open by clips while he's being programmed against violence.

John: "Pilot, I'm bringin' Miss Kitty back from the O.K. Corral. Any word on Aeryn or Doc Rygel yet?"

Mixed allusions here. Miss Kitty [Russell] is the character played by Amanda Blake on the long-running (20+ years and 600+ episodes) TV Western series, GUNSMOKE. It's perhaps a fitting metaphor for Chiana, as Miss Kitty was the local "madam" in the show (though the series was never explicit about that).

The O.K. Corral, however, has no direct connection to GUNSMOKE. It's the site of the famous showdown between the Earps and the Clantons, and is located in Tombstone, Arizona (GUNSMOKE was set in Dodge City, Kansas). It's been the subject of many a film, from the classics MY DARLING CLEMENTINE and THE GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K. CORRAL to the more recent TOMBSTONE and WYATT EARP.

(An indirect connection between the two is that the real-life Wyatt Earp was a marshal in Dodge City prior to moving to Tombstone.)

"Doc Rygel" might be a reference to either source. It could refer to Doc Adams, the GUNSMOKE character played by Milburn Stone, or to Doc Holliday, friend of Wyatt Earp.

Chiana: "You're just cranked 'cause Wynonna jammed."
John: "Hey. Wynonna has been very reliable. It's not her fault that she jammed."

Here's the first reference to John having named his pulse pistol "Wynonna". No one is sure what the name alludes to (accounts have it that Ben Browder came up with the name), but one possibility is a 5-issue comic book series titled WYNONNA EARP, published from December 1996 through April 1997 by Homage Comics. The title character is a kick-ass U.S. Marshal who fights various supernatural creatures in present-day New Mexico. It's obscure enough that I doubt it's the actual source, but the Wyatt Earp connection, especially in light of the earlier quote by John, makes it worth mentioning.

Chiana: "I'm their prize."
John: "Aw, hell, you must be the top of the $100,000 Pyramid if they're gonna mind-cleanse Aeryn and Rygel just to get on board."

THE $100,000 PYRAMID is another well-known game show (see "DNA Mad Scientist" and "Picture If You Will" for previous game show references). It started life in 1973 as THE $10,000 PYRAMID, then "grew" to 20, 25, and $50,000 before finally hitting $100,000.

John: "Chiana, let me ask you a question. When you first came on board...Elvis had you in cuffs dragging you back to Nebari Prime. Now we got Deborah Harry doing the same thing. Why are your people so jazzed about gettin' you home?"

As annotated already for "Durka Returns", John seems to think there's a resemblance between the Nebari Salis and Elvis Presley. Likewise, here he's making a comparison between Varla and Deborah Harry, the singer from the rock band Blondie.

John: "Chiana, when these people came on board, they were after you. That makes you the 'it' girl. You got something they want. What is it?"

The original "It" Girl was the silent screen star Clara Bow, so designated after appearing in her most famous film, the 1927 production IT, based on a book by Elinor Glyn. The film's opening credits contain a title card which quotes Glyn's definition of the term:

"'It' is that quality possessed by some which draws all others with it's magnetic force. With 'It' you can draw all men, if you are a woman, and all women, if you are a man. 'It' can be a quality of the mind, as well as a physical attraction."

Although this description could certainly be applied to Chiana, it's possible that John is also playing on the phrase from the children's game, "Tag! You're it!"

Varla: "It is either mind-cleansing or death."
John: "Hey, isn't that against your Nebari Prime Directive?"

An allusion to the United Federation of Planets' "Prime Directive". In the Star Trek universe, it's their foremost law, one which forbids interference in more primitive cultures, though here John simply means "the most important law".

John: "I don't know. They gave me the Full Monty, and it was working, and then I got this...this...this...this...flash! And...it was like it was soakin' up the drug. I snapped out of it."

Most people are familiar with the term "the Full Monty" (meaning the whole deal) from the 1997 movie of that title, though the phrase pre-dates it. The Phrase Finder says of "the Full Monty": "Although the phrase has been in circulation prior to the film there don't appear to be any instances of it appearing in print before 1986."

The origin of the phrase "full monty" has sparked some dispute. One common explanation is that it derives from General (later Field Marshal Viscount) Montgomery of El Alamein, commonly known as Monty; he preferred to start the day with a full English breakfast, hence the "Full Monty". Anecdotal evidence supports its use in this context dating back at least four decades. Other suggestions include references to Monte Carlo, and the Montague Burton suit. More recent usage, particularly the movie it titled, links it to total nudity and strip-tease.

Varla: "Will that affect the safety and speed of this ship?"
John: "Shyeah! Hey, totally screw the pooch, babe."
Varla: "Very well, proceed. Thank you for your service." [exits]
John: "Cool. It's for the greater good. She's gonna getcha, getcha, getcha, getcha."

John's continuing the Deborah Harry connection by quoting the beginning of one of Blondie's songs, "One Way or Another", from the album PARALLEL LINES:

One way or another, I'm gonna find ya
I'm gonna getcha, getcha, getcha, getcha
One way or another, I'm gonna win ya
I'm gonna getcha, getcha, getcha, getcha

"Screw the pooch" is a phrase used by test pilots to refer to accidents which result in destruction of the aircraft, and/or death of the pilot. It's use came into popularity with the publication of Tom Wolfe's THE RIGHT STUFF.

Crichton exits this scene uttering the "woo woo woo woo" shtick of Curly of The Three Stooges.

John: "Oh...munchies. Good idea, man. Don't eat so much, though. You'll Belushi-out, cat."

A reference to the late comedian John Belushi who was often made fun of after a sudden weight gain.

John: "No..no...no..no... D'Argo, he's, uh, he's not well, so we, ah, told him that, ah, we could do it. Hey, it's no problem. No problem at all. C'mon, Little Buddy. Up you go, Little Buddy. Oh, yeah, hey, we're gonna do our service for the greater good."

"Little Buddy" is possibly a reference (see "Crackers Don't Matter") to the sitcom GILLIGAN'S ISLAND, in which Gilligan would often be called "Little Buddy" by the Skipper.

John: "It's gonna be more real than real. It's gonna be super 3-D Smell-o-vision in Sensurround, but you have to do your part [...] Ultra-Omnivision, man. Whoa!"

All (well, the real ones, anyway) film gimmicks:

  • 3-D was developed in the early 50s, using special polarized glasses to create a three dimensional effect. The first film to use 3-D was the 1952 film BWANA DEVIL.

  • According to the Incredibly Strange Film Book by Johnathan Ross, Smell-o-vision "used pipes on the seats to waft 30+ smells contained in vials on a rotating drum, triggered by a 'Smell track' on the film." THE SCENT OF MYSTERY (1960), which employed smells as clues to the mystery, is the only film it was ever used with.

    There were other attempts to add smells to films. The 1958 documentary LA MURAGLIA CINESE ("BEHIND THE GREAT WALL") added smells after the film was completed, in a process called AromaRama. Its advertising tagline was, "You must breathe it to believe it!"

    Another process called Odorama was developed by John Waters for his 1981 film POLYESTER (the ad slogan was "Smelling is believing") for which scratch & sniff cards were handed out at the theater. When a specific number appeared on the screen, one was to scratch that numbered square on the card, and sniff.

    According to Bill Bryson's Made in America, "the problem [with smell track films] was that the odors tended to linger and mingle in a perplexing manner, and the members of the audience situated nearest to the smell dispensers weren't particularly gratified to find themselves periodically refreshed with a moist outpouring of assorted scents."

  • Sensurround was a process that used large subwoofers to emit very low frequency sounds, causing the theater to vibrate. It was used on only four films in the 1970s, all from Universal: EARTHQUAKE, MIDWAY, ROLLERCOASTER, and the theatrical release of the pilot for BATTLESTAR GALACTICA.

  • Ultra-Omnivision isn't a real process, but it seems to be a conflation of Ultra-Panavision, a 70mm anamorphic filming process used during the 1960s, and Omnimax.

Translator Microbe Report

Cinch the Nebari equivalent of tying: "I had to teach him how to cinch his shoes."
Cleansed adjective used to describe individuals who have been subjected to the Nebari mental cleansing process
Contagion, the Nebari STD that factors into the Establishment's long-term plan to subjugate the galaxy
Cranked pissed off: "You're just cranked because Winona jammed."
Debra Harry Crichton's nickname for Varla
Directional stabilizers component of Moya
Establishment, the the Nebari government
Exit permits an authorization required to leave Nebari Prime
Expresser form of fast transport: "As soon as we hit the outpost, I'm going to take the expresser out of there." (Nebari)
Forward portal Moya's front window
Grolash derogatory name: "You grolash!"
Iriscentant fluid bladders where Moya stores her iriscentant fluid
Kelled idiomatic equivalent of baked: "What is this, some half-kelled attempt to make me tell you where Nerri is?"
Klestron filters component of Moya
Little buddy Crichton's nickname for Rygel
Miss Kitty Crichton's nickname for Chiana
My little husky Crichton's nickname for Rygel
Nebari Prime Chiana's home world
Plexus cable wiring used in the neural cluster
Razaric acid substance used in Nebari control collars; small quantities cause discomfort, larger doses are fatal
Resistance, the Nebari resistance movement, attempting to overthrow the Establishment
Star Runner a type of Nebari space vessel
Territorial Control Nebari authority in the Uncharted Territories
Territorial Outpost where Varla asks Pilot to go, to turn Chiana over to Nebari authorities
Walapawn province district on Nebari Prime
Winona Crichton's nickname for his pulse pistol


"Pilot, I'm bringing Miss Kitty back from the OK Corral; any word on Aeryn or Doc Rygel yet?" - John Crichton

"D'Argo won't care how I got the information, as long as I help him find his son."
"Chiana, my little trollop, he will care."
- Chiana, John Crichton

"Something's not right. Aeryn doesn't even shower without her pulse pistol." - Chiana

"I'm nobody's puppet!" - Rygel

"Bitchin', man."
- John Crichton, Rygel

"I know...but since when do people like us get what we want?" - John Crichton

Comments from Cast & Crew

Richard Manning, June 1, 2000

  • Bouncer: a pair for you:
    Bouncer: *dionisio* Will Scorpius be back any time soon? Will that bone eating alien come around?
    Bouncer: *Ooshati* Will the Nebari pop up this season?

    FrooniumRicky: Oh, you can count on Scorpius...
    FrooniumRicky: He's not letting Crichton off THAT easily.
    FrooniumRicky: As for M'Lee and the Nebari...
    FrooniumRicky: You will see at least one of 'em.

Gigi Edgley, June 29, 2000

  • Moderator: <OfficerAerynSun> to <Moderator>: I know that Chi has had a difficult childhood, especially living on the streets. We saw a glimpse of Aeryn's past in "The Way We Weren't" and it really revealed a lot. Will we be seeing such an episode based on Chi? And if so will we be seeing a dramatic change in Chi afterwards?

    fweakn-Gi: yes, in the up and coming eps. you find out a lot about Chiana's history, you probably will sense changes or realise why she has such mannerisms in the first place.
    fweakn-Gi: Quite often Chi doesn't react as humans would, sometimes hurting the one she is closest too.

  • Moderator: <D-Eclipse> to <Moderator>: What's your favorite ep of this season? You needn't spoil a thing, except well... the number of the episode of course:) <g>

    fweakn-Gi: 14 is one of my favs... 17 should be a goodie and the cliff hanger is one to watch out for!!!!!
    fweakn-Gi: duh!!!! he he hee

David Kemper, with Richard Manning & Ben Browder ("Bruno"), August 17, 2000

  • Moderator: <Oochi> to <Moderator>: If the Nebari vessels are as strong as they say...Why don't they just overrun the PK's? Did they even destroy the Zelbinion?

    Kemper: The Nebari and PKs are in completely different territories
    Kemper: like the US and China.
    Kemper: Peace is always preferable.
    Kemper: However, if you step into MY area...
    Kemper: Watch out.

    FrooniumRicky: and you don't know how many Nebari there are, compared to the PKs and those Other rowdies, the Scarrans

    Kemper: And......... keep watching for more Nebari lore.

Ben Browder, Mat McCoy (w/Fiona Gentle and Tim Mieville), Lily Taylor, & Richard Manning, July 12, 2001

  • Moderator: <shokoti> to <Moderator>: A Clockwork Nebari was a fantastic episode. Any more plans yet to give us more on the Nebari and their whole story?

    Lily Taylor: You never know with Farscape. I love the Nebaris so I'd love to see more of them.

  • Moderator: <Jayce66> to <Moderator>: What do you like best about writing a Farscape episode? What do you like least?

    Lily Taylor: It's totally unpredictable. It's totally unpredicatable.

  • Moderator: <Armed-Chick> to <Moderator>: Lily, who is your favorite character to write for?

    Lily Taylor: I love writing for Chiana. I'd love to write for Aeryn.

Farscape Wrap Day Extravaganza, July 26, 2001

  • Moderator2: <birthsister> to <Moderator2>: Lil, do you have something against chi, everytime you write a script she gets strung up, strung out, and knocked around?

    LilyTaylor: I love Chi... that's why I always want to write about her.