Farscape 1.16-1.17 “A Human Reaction”; “Through the Looking Glass”

This leads directly to one of the most remarkable moments I’ve seen on any television series, which is when John and Aeryn, seeking comfort in each other’s arms, actually have sex, and the next morning, when John wants to talk about it, Aeryn shrugs it off, saying they have much more important things to worry about at the moment (again, John’s in the stereotypically female position). It’s all so straightforward and underplayed that it can be easy to almost miss just how enormous this is, and it’s enormous because it’s so straightforward and underplayed. General TV rules are that you don’t blithely have your male and female protagonists have sex without years of build-up; of will-they-won’t-they; of jerking the audience around, and furthermore, when it does happen, it should be at the center of a huge, triumphant sweeps episode to which this has all really been leading. On Farscape, however, the man and woman, in a moment of shared fear and sadness, find comfort in each other’s arms and have sex…and the next morning, they go about their business, with their need to escape and survive proving to be more important than endless conversations about defining their relationship.

And things don’t change between them for a long time to come from that point, because sex isn’t depicted as being the end goal. When sex is thought of in those terms, it’s a major reason that people start to get bored in their relationships. Because sex shouldn’t be the finale but rather simply a healthy, normal expression of love between adults in a healthy, normal relationship. Or not. It could just be for fun or due to a moment of shared desperation between two people in a confusing time when they need each other. John and Aeryn’s couplehood isn’t considered inevitable due to this scene. In fact, it will be a long time until they are in an official romantic relationship with one another. Why, when this episode first aired in the US, the morning after scene that confirmed they had gone all the way was one of the ones that didn’t make the 45-minute US edit, leaving American fans to wonder why European fans were so sure that they’d had sex. Again, it’s not a huge, earth-shattering deal, and that is why it’s such a huge, earth-shattering deal.

Other odds and ends:

–I’ve always loved that, instead of attempting to shoot around the fact that the production is located in Australia, the Farscape team just decided to set the episode in Australia, which adds to its legitimacy. And the reasoning behind it, that construction of the Farscape module had happened there, makes perfect sense. I have thought in the past that it was a shame that they didn’t seem able to get Murray Bartlett back to play DK for this episode, since he’s John’s best friend, but on this viewing, I think that the fact that John only has a single ally in his dad is of crucial importance. It might have been nice to have had a line about him in there somewhere, with John either asking about him or even trying to place a phone call to him, but given how tight this episode is, it’s forgivable.

–Another continuity point: the good luck charm that Jack gave John in “Premiere,” which John gives back to his “dad” in this one, and which is returned to him by the Ancient in his true form at the very end.

–The sensual moment when John leans his head on Aeryn’s shoulder and starts to kiss it, leading into sex will be visually referenced and reversed in the third season’s “The Choice”. Aeryn will remember this as the true beginnings of the long road that led to their relationship when she is mourning the version of John that died on Talyn.

–It’s also so wonderfully Farscape that the thing that confirms once and for all for John that this world is an illusion is the women’s restroom, which reveals a swirling void when he opens the door. In addition to the literal toilet humor, it’s also very logical. That would certainly be a place in which Crichton wouldn’t have been before. It’s a simple but brilliant solution.

1.17: “Through the Looking Glass” Original airdate: 10 September 1999


“Through the Looking Glass”

The first season of a TV show generally represents an on-going process in which a show gradually finds its voice and rhythm. Much of Farscape‘s earlier episodes helped the series’ writers and producers simultaneously establish and figure out its characters, world, tone, and storytelling, with some efforts more overall successful or in line with what Farscape would eventually grow into than others. But “Through the Looking Glass” is arguably the Farscapeiest Farscape up to this point, not only being the most stylistically experimental episode of the first season–thus setting the stage for later mind-frell episodes such as “Crackers Don’t Matter,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “Scratch N’ Sniff,” “Revenging Angel,” “John Quixote,” and more–but also one of the few first season examples of an episode that could only happen on Farscape. Ironically, years earlier, David Kemper had initially unsuccessfully pitched the barebones concept of the episode to Star Trek: The Next Generation, but it was rejected, which in retrospect is a wonderful thing, because it suits Farscape much better.

On TNG, the entire question of what happens to Moya here would have likely been thought of primarily in terms of a scientific conundrum that needed to be solved. Farscape, however, with practically no technobabble whatsoever, revels in the episode’s out-there concept, taking advantage of the myriad opportunities it provides for the characters and filmmaking team to play around in these strange worlds for a while, while still providing surprising twists and turns and deft character development. Being a scientist, John is better equipped to get them out of this “spatial anomaly” than anyone else there, and he eventually does, however rather than endlessly discussing his process, we instead watch him figure it out as he goes along, reiterating Farscape‘s interest in emotion and psychology over problem-solving-as-plot. Furthermore, the cause of the anomaly itself also springs directly from character, which is hugely impressive from a writing standpoint.

Author: Robert Berg

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  1. Farscape 1.18-1.19: “A Bug’s Life”; “Nerve” | DreamPunk - […] continuing our journey with John Crichton last week with “A Human Reaction” and “Through the Looking Glass,” our Farscape re-watch continues this week…

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