Mark Watches ‘Farscape’: S01E17 – Through the Looking Glass

In the seventeenth episode of the first season of Farscape, the crew’s concerns over Moya’s pregnancy lead her to make a drastic decision. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Farscape. 

WHAT HAS THIS SHOW BECOME??? Like, y’all, just a few episodes ago, we got “Jeremiah Crichton.” Since then, Farscape has continually taken narrative and creative risks with its characters and its stories, and it barely feels like the same show. This episode and the two before it were beyond stellar; they broke with the show’s own pattern of storytelling by going places that are usually reserved for a show that’s been around for a while. I MEAN, SERIOUSLY, THIS EPISODE IS SO BLATANTLY WEIRD. The writers take the idea of a parallel universe bottle episode and DESTROY IT. Because it’s not technically a bottle episode, is it? Despite that it all takes place onboard Moya, “Through the Looking Glass” feels so much bigger than a single setting. (Well, then we’ve got the space between universes, which I’ll get to later. AMAZING.)

Truthfully, it’s the way the show represents this concept that makes it feel so refreshing. The impetus for Moya choosing to prematurely go into starburst is due to the crew’s worry that her pregnancy will risk their own lives. Even this is a risky move! We understand why these people are concerned that they’ll be caught because Moya will prioritize herself and her child over them, but that doesn’t make the scene less uncomfortable. So it’s because of this that Moya and Pilot feel the need to prove themselves to their inhabitants, jumping into starburst without enough power to get out of it. And seriously, I honestly think that this story should have been a mess. It should have! How do you visually depict something as complex as this on the screen?

And yet, the people behind Farscape decide to dive into this headfirst, and it’s a beautiful thing to witness. We eventually find out that Moya is stuck in starburst because she has split into three other dimensions, each which is represent by a base color and physical effect on (most) living beings. I say “eventually” because I definitely did not figure out what was going on until it was spelled out to me. But all the clues were there! Those clues were how the show was able to distinguish the different realities for the viewer. Each was in a different color, and each one affected the inhabitants in bizarre ways. Having that visual component was so important! But the color coding alone wasn’t enough, and I love that this show went SO MUCH FURTHER. It was so much more rewarding to see how they pulled off the sounds (or lack of them), the mental side effects, or the issues with nausea and sight. Every single reality had a distinct experience for the character in it, and, again, the show committed to it.

That’s why this works so well. By splitting the characters up and having Crichton figure out how to traverse the worlds, we got to see how they’d all react. We got a firsthand experience with these universes! And that’s why I said this should have failed. The very concept is hard to visualize, and yet, THIS SHOW DID IT. The colors, the use of sound and music, the camera angles, the blurring – all of it contributes to a believable and surreal experience. AND THERE IS WORLDBUILDING IN THERE, TOO!!! Now we know exactly what a starburst actually is!

THERE’S JUST SO MUCH TO LIKE HERE, Y’ALL. The yellow reality was my favorite because its effect is so patently absurd, and watching Rygel, Crichton, and Chiana crack jokes at one another was ridiculously entertaining. This episode also counts as the first episode where Chiana is fully a part of the main story, since she and Zhaan stayed behind on Moya during “A Human Reaction.” Unsurprisingly, she doesn’t have that much power or say compared to the other crewmembers since she’s the newest, but that doesn’t mean she’s useless here. On the contrary! Her own motivation to escape the Nebari is on full display here, since that informs her decisions in “Through the Looking Glass.” Well, it’s not the only thing at work in this episode. She’s not a one-note character by any means, and I think it’s important to note that she does seem to want to be a part of the crew, at least for the time being. But I also get the sense that at any moment, Chiana will do whatever she needs to in order to protect herself and her needs. JUST PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME CHIANA, YOU ARE MY EVERYTHING.

Oh, right, I’ve kind of ignored a huge part of this: THERE’S A MONSTER CHASING THEM THROUGH ALL FOUR REALITIES THROUGHOUT THIS EPISODE. I had a theory that they were being hunted by a creature that purposely caught ships in some sort of reality-splitting device, so you can understand my surprise when Crichton proposed that the creature that was clawing the ship was trying to help them. WHAT. ARE YOU SERIOUS. And yes, the show was serious, and yes, THE SHOW WENT SO MUCH FURTHER THAN I COULD HAVE EVER EXPECTED. Like “A Human Reaction,” the writers were unafraid to pull the viewer along a journey that was hard to visualize and challenging to depict in a way that kept our attention, but goddamn it, they did it. And I’m so happy about that! I like it when writers respect their audience and don’t spoon-feed us information or plots. This episode is a challenge to watch, especially when we find out that the creature is some sort of being that watches over the SPACE BETWEEN UNIVERSES AND IT’S SO FUCKING BIZARRE AND LOVECRAFT-IAN AND I LOVE ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS. Who does this??? Who tries to depict shit like this onscreen in their first season?

That’s why this episode works so well. The writers understand their characters and they want to challenge the viewer, and I’m so happy that this episode does just that. There’s a joy to watching this all unfold, and I think that’s reflected in the final scene, too. The nervous laughter that consumes everyone (except for Pilot, of course) is a touching representation of the relief the people making this show must have felt when they knew they had pulled this off. But speculation aside, it’s a pitch perfect reaction from these characters, one that carries over to the dinner that closes this episode. I was reminded of the moment where Crichton told Chiana that this was a good day onboard Moya. These people are struggling against numerous forces (some random, some malicious) that are trying to stop them, and each day that they can escape this grasp is one worth celebrating. For a show that’s often a lot more gritty than most other space dramas I’ve seen, I appreciate that “Through the Looking Glass” ends with a celebration. It works.


The video for “Through the Looking Glass” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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