The Wonders I’ve Seen: 1×17, “Through the Looking Glass”

“I’ve always wondered what could be beyond the height, depth, width, and time.” “Nausea.”

“Through the Looking Glass” is an interestingly vanilla episode, for Farscape. It’s a “ship in trouble” plot with a misunderstood creature at its center, and it doesn’t really twist the conceit very much; there’s almost no sex involved; even the Peacekeepers don’t make an appearance. If it weren’t for all the vomit, it could almost be an episode of Star Trek.

Despite that, there’s something charming about this episode. It’s a by-the-numbers sci-fi plot, for sure, but Farscape doesn’t just thoughtlessly hit the notes. 

Probably the best example of Farscape’s distinct style coloring the story is that yes, they provide a minimal technobabble explanation for what’s going on. (Moya fucked up her starburst, she’s stuck in the seam between dimensions, and light and sound are being broken down into their “base components,” e.g., red-yellow-blue—no one tell them that actually light breaks down into red-yellow-green.) But there are more complicated elements of the situation that nobody ever explains or even particularly comments on: The light on the red Moya affects characters more strongly depending on how red they are, with D’Argo getting the worst, John experiencing it but not passing out from it, and Chiana not even feeling it at all. The sound on the blue Moya affects characters more depending on how blue they are—John and Aeryn don’t like the sound, but it’s survivable, whereas when Chiana hears it, she collapses. And the high that the yellow Moya produces seems to affect little green Rygel more strongly than any other character.

For a throwaway episode, “Through the Looking Glass” is also absolutely chock-full of iconic lines. “Thought you were Junior Miss Tough Chick of the Universe.” “Well, I apologize for my strengths.” “My dear, I’ve kicked more ass than you’ve sat on.” D’Argo and his mippippippis!

And everyone gets a little moment, or a little thing to do: D’Argo counting with the wrong words, Chiana’s gradual integration into the crew, Rygel getting high, Aeryn using her Pilot knowledge, Zhaan coordinating. Yes, the things people are doing are fairly standard sci-fi, but no one has been thoughtlessly tossed into a role; the characters remain unmistakably themselves.

All of which means that, despite being somewhat thin, “Through the Looking Glass” is fun. And there are far worse things for an episode to be.

Random Bits

  • The ostensible purpose of “Through the Looking Glass” as an episode is to establish a real sense of camaraderie and family among the crew; by the end of the episode, these are no longer people who are willing to hop off at the next stop for better prospects. I don’t think that the episode particularly sells that journey, because the crew is separated for almost the entire time. But I can live with that, because Farscape has done a good enough job developing these characters and their relationships over the entire season that I believe the basic idea that they’re a real unit now.

  • A tossed away line establishes that Zhaan is back in blue, baby. (That is, she’s rejoined the priesthood, because she suddenly realized she hadn’t forsaken it “in her heart.”) An abrupt end to a half-baked storyline—it makes me wonder if they had plans that they scrapped, at some point.

  • When I was a sophomore in college I babysat my six-year-old goddaughter in my campus apartment one night, and she saw my Farscape DVDs and demanded to watch an episode. “Through the Looking Glass” was the episode that I determined was appropriate for a six-year-old to watch.

  • I really like the effect they used for the interdimensional being. A combination of creature shop work and fun camera effects makes for a real sense of otherworldliness.

  • To those of you who said, in response to “Durka Returns,” that you didn’t see the sexual element of John and Chiana’s relationship, I give you this exchange: “Why don’t you relax? Join in the fun?” “Gimme seven seconds, baby, we’ll come and go together.”

  • “If you ignore the messenger, which is effortless, the message is sound.”

  • “Dis-Elvis-has-left-the-building-appeared.”

  • “You don’t make jokes.” “No. No, I don’t tell jokes.” (That one was all in the delivery.)

  • “I gotta get outta here before I end up like you!” “What, handsome with a great sexual prowess?”

  • “Your inability to locate them does not negate the fact that they are there.”

  • “What kind of creature? The kind we eat, or the kind that eats us?”

  • “You ready, Pip?” “Pip means…?” “My favorite traveling companion.” “Before I got here, did they believe anything you said?”

  • “Have you ever heard of anything like this happening before?” “D’Argo, I haven’t heard of anything like anything before.”

  • “What if the creature’s waiting?” “Then piss it off.” “How?” “Pretend it’s me.”

  • “Do you know any good jokes?” “Not besides the one I’m living.”

Alien Words

Kroldar, shellack, smoked prongisan newts, Cholian curd salad, Chiana is “scared grotless, not stupid,” Chiana would also like you to know that once upon a time she met some people and “beat the gris out of them,” and Rygel tells a joke: “And then the Trawlian priest turns to the Calinese cleric and says, ‘Doesn’t bother me, you should’ve seen her mother!’”

Please remember to tag spoilers for future episodes in comments.

Next Monday, John tries on a new accent, in 1×18, “A Bug’s Life.”