Through The Looking Glass
Written by David Kemper, directed by Ian Watson
Season 1, Episode 17
1st US Transmission Date: 10 September 1999
1st UK Transmission Date: 10 April 2000
1st Australian Transmission: 16 December 2000
Guest Cast: Gigi Edgley (Chiana)
Synopsis: Moya’s pregnancy is inhibiting her ability to StarBurst, increasing the risk of capture. Pilot overhears the crew discussing the possibility of abandoning ship and Moya responds by trying to StarBurst to persuade them to stay. Unfortunately, she is too weak and rams the ship halfway into another dimension, creating four separate versions of Moya that inhabit the same space normal, Red, Blue and Yellow.
In order to escape, the crew have to travel between the different Moyas and put the engines on all four into reverse. Meanwhile, a creature appears to be trying to rip its way into the ship from the other dimension. When putting the engines into reverse doesn’t work, John realises that the monster’s scratches are all prime numbers — it’s trying to communicate. He talks to it and it tells him they must instead go forward and it will push them back into normal space. This works and Moya is reintegrated.
Buck Rogers Redux: ‘Whatever happens, we go together.’ John is the lynchpin that binds the crew together, formulating the plan, taking the leap of faith needed to save the day and co-ordinating his crewmates—and that includes Moya—into an effective unit.
You Can Be More: Aeryn reveals herself as the most competent team player of the bunch, probably due to her PK training. When all the others question John and challenge his decisions, Aeryn accepts his orders without question because she trusts him entirely.
Big Blue: ‘I’ve kicked more arse than you’ve sat on.’ Zhaan fears they are all going to die and puts her Pa’u vestments on again because she ‘suddenly realised I had forsaken the priesthood in practice but not in my soul.’ When Zhaan hurts her arm she says the ‘fibres’ are torn, another clue to her as-yet unrevealed nature.
I Was A Teenage Luxan: At the start, D’Argo has decided to leave Moya and will not be swayed. By the end, he’s resolved to remain.
Buckwheat the Sixteenth: ‘Should I disrobe so it’s memorable?’ Rygel is hilarious stuck in the yellow zone, but true to form, he only thinks of food. Hynerian Dominars never travel in reverse.
Your Favourite Little Tralk: Chiana may be on board, but she’s far from being a member of the crew. Every time she tries to speak the others tell her to shut up, and when a crisis hits, she immediately tries to jump ship:
JOHN: Listen, Sunshine. You want to be part of this crew?
CHIANA: On your good days.
JOHN: This is one of the good days. I thought you were Junior Miss Tough Chick of the universe.
CHIANA: Yeah, when I can kiss or kick or cry my way out of it. This is way, way, way, way different.
When she realises she has no choice, she joins the team, and by the end she seems to have integrated a little more.
In The Driving Seat: Pilot fails to understand why the crew laugh so much when they have reassembled Moya. Laughter’s clearly not a tension release for his race.
A Ship, A Living Ship: Rygel: ‘Moya has been, for as long as I can remember, our protector, our home, our companion, and our friend however, as relationships grow, they also change. Do you think we can trade her for a faster vessel?’ Moya wants to demonstrate her ability so as to reassure the crew and prevent them leaving, but she messes it up. It’s the first time Moya’s insecurity has driven a storyline. In order to try and make up for her mistake, she offers to lose the baby to gain more power to try and break free, but Crichton refuses. After the ordeal, she reveals that the pregnancy has entered its final, most stable phase and she can StarBurst again.
The Ballad Of Aeryn And John: No reference is made to the fact that they slept together in the last episode, but there is a closeness and rapport there that seems deeper than before. When he returns to the Blue Zone for Aeryn, she says she was worried he wasn’t coming back. His reply — ‘I’d never leave you’ — raises a smile.
Alien Encounters: The creature Crichton meets is a guardian that hangs around between dimensions cleaning up things that break through. It communicates using prime numbers and has the power to re-route them back to normal space only when they fully leave it and enter the space between dimensions. The Nebari have experience with other dimensions, as Chiana relates: ‘my people’s weapons scientists once poked a hole through another dimension. Once it widened, they lost control the whole solar system, four populated planets, dissolved into tiny chunks.’
Logic Leaps: If Moya is split into four, why aren’t the crew? The script addresses the problem by saying that it’s to do with relative densities and the crew are too small to be fractured, but if that’s the case shouldn’t things like Rygel’s painting and the food, which we see on different Moyas, remain only on the original?
Bloopers: Aeryn and D’Argo disappear from the same spot but end up on different Moyas, and when John goes through that space he doesn’t travel — but from that point on the doorways are always in the same place on each version of Moya and are re-usable.
Pilot explains that StarBurst ‘is technically the seam between space-time dimensions. Moya’s power cells allow us access and we simply ride out the energy stream until we’re pushed out at random’, but if that’s the case how did she answer the distress call in “Rhapsody in Blue,” which required her to StarBurst to a specific destination?
WHAT did you just say?
JOHN: I’ve got to get out of here before I end up like you.
RYGEL: What? Handsome with a great sexual prowess?
Backstage: Ben Browder explains Chiana’s nickname: ‘it just came out one day. I looked at her and just said ‘Pip’! There was another nickname scripted, but I just looked at her and said ‘Pip’. And it’s her.’ Gigi Edgley: ‘coincidentally enough, I was actually called Pip as a young girl.’
The Verdict: For a sci-fi show, Farscape is more often fantasy space action rather than the technobabble-fuelled sci-fi of Star Trek, but this episode is the exception that proves the rule: it’s entirely predicated upon inter-dimensional gobbledygook. But David Kemper, executive producer of the show, uses it as a team building exercise, showing the division within the crew and then forcing them to work together and realise that as a unit they have great strength. It’s managed well and avoids becoming the corny ‘life lesson of the week’ type episode that can be so stomach churning — ‘you see captain, I realised that if we just love each other we can be better spacefarers’ — although perhaps the laughter in the final scene is a tad overdone.
The sound design of the various Moyas, as well as the visual effects in the Red Zone, are excellent and give the episode a really trippy feel.
A strong character piece for which the technobabble is merely an excuse, and a necessary bonding experience for the crew before the trauma that comes next…
Scott K. Andrews has written episode guides, magazine articles, film and book reviews, comics, audio plays for Big Finish, far too many blogs, some poems you will never read, and three novels for Abaddon. He is, patently, absurd.