Cinescape review of Through The Looking Glass

***SPOILER WARNING***

When this episode first aired last September, we knew a lot less about Moya's crew than we know now. Certain things fall into place now, whereas when the episode was new, there was a lot of conjecture about the significance of various bits of dialog or action.

For example, early in the episode, Zhaan breaks her arm, sort of. She "tears fibers," which makes perfect sense now that we know she's plant-evolved. In the regular course of things, we wouldn't find out about Zhaan's botanical nature for another four episodes, in Bone to be Wild.

Another example, and one 'shippers everywhere reveled in, was the easy, close camaraderie between John and Aeryn. Following the intentionally ambiguous A Human Reaction, speculation ran rampant about what exactly had happened between them. Most telling was John's statement, "I would never leave you," which elicited one of Aeryn's mega-watt smiles. After the season 2 premiere, Mind the Baby, we know that John and Aeryn were "close," but "just the once." The most logical interpretation was that "closeness" occured during A Human Reaction, but it took a half dozen episodes to confirm it.

"Through the Looking Glass ' is the best kind of Farscape episode: everyone stays on Moya, and we get to see the characters interact with each other. In this sense, Farscape is the antithesis of Star Trek, in which the most boring episodes are usually the ones where they are stuck on the ship.

The episode opens and closes with near-identical scenes of the crew, all gathered around a smorgasbord in the mess hall. The opening scene has them deep in discussion, very concerned about Moya's capabilities while pregnant, and extremely concerned about their own survival. D'Argo, Rygel, Zhaan, and Chianna are advocating jumping ship, while Aeryn and John refuse to abandon her. Pilot interrupts their conversation, visibly upset by the thought of their leaving, and announces "immediate starburst." Moya wants to prove that she can protect her crew, and though her energy reserves are low, she decides to take the gamble and starburst.

Something goes very wrong. There is a tremendous collision; food and bodies go flying everywhere. But that's just the beginning of their problems. Rygel is gone; D'Argo and Aeryn soon disappear. Thus begins Crichton's marathon jogging session around and through what are eventually revealed to be three OTHER Moyas. Through luck and keen hearing, Crichton finds doorways to the other Moyas and locates the missing crew members, but it takes a lot of running around to accomplish this. The red Moya has very disorienting light; the blue Moya features overwhelmingly loud, weird sounds, and the yellow Moya seemed normal physically but obviously effected the crew psychologically. Everything was hysterically funny; Crichton finds himself laughing at Rygel's jokes, and Rygel doesn't usually make jokes.

After grilling Pilot, they learn that they are stuck in starburst (or "starlurch" as Chiana disgustedly refers to it at one point). They are experiencing a dimensional schism, which will eventually lead to molecular dispersion, as Pilot so delicately puts it. In other words, they will be literally blown to bits if they don't get out of there. The "real" Moya doesn't have enough power, so they'll have to start up the engines on all four Moyas to get adequate thrust. Crichton runs the course through the various colors once again, giving instructions.

At the same time as all this running about and diagnosing the situation is going on, attacks on Moya in the form of glowing scratches are occuring with greater frequency. It looks hostile, but Crichton eventually figures out that whatever it is, it's only trying to communicate, and he goes through the rift it creates to try. The creature reveals that Moya is indeed stuck between dimensions, and directs them to go forward, to push through -- they had been trying to back out. Crichton sets off on another round-the-barn jog to implement the new plan, counting carefully so as to synchronize the thrust among all the Moyas.

Of course the plan works, and everyone pops through, re-integrated into the real dimension, at Pilot's console. The sheer relief at surviving gives way to hysterical laughter, leaving poor Pilot mystified. The bookend scene which closes the episode has the crew feasting merrily, and Pilot interrupts once again, but this time with good news. Moya is certain her baby will be born soon, and all aboard are very happy to hear that.

For those with weak stomachs, this episode contained several scenes involving very realistic vomit, in the red Moya. That was the extent of the unpleasantness, however, as the remainder of the episode was geared toward solving the mystery and getting them unstuck.

The art direction and special effects in this episode were spectacular, as was the use of sound and music in the soundtrack. This episode is one of the best examples of Farscape as a weekly motion picture, rather than a made-for-television production. The red Moya effects in particular were very effective, as the strangeness of the light was portrayed by an image-echo effect. The CGI shots of the fractured Moya and her re-integration were very pretty as well.

This episode also featured a tremendous amount of puppetry, as Pilot and Rygel both had considerable screen time. We got to see perhaps the most emotional range from Pilot since DNA Mad Scientist; he was genuinely terrified of the other-dimensional creature. Rygel's handlers had their work cut for them with a wise-cracking, cackling Dominar through most of the episode, and they handled it admirably.

I've already mentioned a few of the character development high points, above. But the most significant thing about this episode is that it represents a turning point in the way the characters view Crichton. He is definitely the architect of their escape, and the rest of the crew trust him in this role. Fans of the series know that the trust doesn't last very long, but still, here is where it truly begins.

"Through the Looking Glass" stands out as a gem among the many worthy episodes of Farscape's first season. The only negative points were the repetitious shots of Crichton's boots as he runs through the Moyas, and the unfortunately necessary techno-babble psuedo-description of the situation they found themselves in. Scientifically, it made no sense at all, but then again, Farscape is much more space fantasy than it is hard science fiction. If you get hung up on the central premise, you'll miss out on the superb dialogue and cast interaction, along with some of the season's most memorable one-liners. There's something about hearing D'Argo counting, "One Mippippippi, Two Mippippippi, Three Mippippippi..." that stays with you, and brings a smile to your face every time you remember it.

--Joan O'Connell Hedman

 
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