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

So, again, what’s happening here works on two levels: on a literal level, the ship’s love for her crew and desperation for them to stay with her causes her to act rashly and starburst when she’s unable, leading to horrible danger for all of them, a scenario that you wouldn’t see in basically any other sci-fi story; on a metaphorical one, we are seeing the evolution of Moya and her passengers’ relationship in microcosm. At first, they were a very fractured bunch, each on their own wavelength and with their own personal motivations, represented here by–at first–each of the color dimensions being occupied by only one. But none of them can actually survive this ordeal alone. All of the characters in every dimension have to perform the maneuver, in unison, in order to save them all, symbolically breaching the divides between them, and so their coordinated effort ends with them finally all landing safe and sound, triumphant, together. Additionally, John, the human, is the one who connects each character in each dimension with each character in all of the others, just as John has always, in many ways, been the lynchpin that has brought all of these diverse people together as a family. In addition to being the reason Aeryn is there at all, it has been experiencing his eye-view of their world that has helped them get past their own prejudices of one another.

Speaking of which, in my opinion, this episode is the real reason Chiana decides to stay aboard Moya. At the start, she didn’t get a real sense of the love everyone had for each other, because on the surface, they squabble a lot, and that sense of family can be an intangible thing. But witnessing how dedicated John and his friends are to protecting both one another (which extends to her, as well) and Moya and her baby, and then being there for their wonderfully raucous family dinner–the most purely happy Farscape moment in any episode up to it, in which everyone actually kicks back, and enjoys one another’s company, beautifully bookending the meal at the start of the episode, and boy, after 16 episodes of fractiousness mixed with tentative moves towards friendship, does it feel earned, and much more so than had the writers attempted to inorganically rush them to this point–in which she’s treated like an equal member, even though she’s new, she realizes that she’s found a place to belong, at least for the time being. And, in retrospect, knowing how close she is to her brother, Nerri (revealed in season 2’s “Taking the Stone), and how much she loves and worries about him, this chance to finally have a family again surely appeals to her.

This scene, in which they also come to rejoice that Moya’s baby is soon to arrive, also happens to be the last truly happy moment they will all share for a long time to come, if ever. In true Farscape fashion, the dren really starts to hit the fan in the next one, and things only get darker and darker as the season progresses. But how wonderful it is to have this moment to cherish until then.

But in addition to all of this stuff, the episode distinguishes itself through its sheer artistry. The manner in which director Ian Watson shoots each of the different dimensions makes for some beautiful, experimental filmmaking, each world with its own entirely separate feel and existence, each one wild and weird and disorienting in its own way. At the same time, it’s all completely coherent. The rules of each dimension are consistent, and they’re established entirely through the device of John’s repeated journeys from place to place, always needing to enter and exit by the right portals. In other words, showing, not telling. Often, you can’t even hear what they’re saying at all! Not many shows would spend minutes of screentime blaring a highly irritating noise over the soundtrack in order to place you in the same situation as the characters, and at the same time manage to make the ordeal funny and engaging. This is a perfect example of Farscape going completely gonzo in a way that not only entire derives from character but helps enhance it.

Other odds and ends:

–Zhaan spends a great deal of this episode with her arm in a sling, after the “fibers” get torn, which is yet another clue that she’s actually a plant. We’re not so far away now from when that will be revealed in episode 21, “Bone to Be Wild”. John also gets some fantastic interactions with her in this one, seeming to really understand her and her spirituality in a way none of the others do, due to their shared Unity.

–If you listen carefully, you might notice Gigi Edgley still hasn’t fully settled on Chiana’s accent, which is at times noticeably more Australian here than it was in previous episodes.

–John and Aeryn are also noticeably flirtier and even more comfortable with one another here than in previous episodes, which really comes across when they have to play charades with one another to communicate amidst the deafening noise in the blue dimension–a subtle indication of how things have changed for them a bit since they had sex in “A Human Reaction”.

–And, once again, Aeryn’s growing confidence with science and tech manifests in the form of her figuring out how to alter the comms’ frequencies in order to talk to Crichton when he returns. She also continues to display the effects of having some of Pilot’s DNA in intrinsically knowing how to perform the required maneuver. Both Browder and Black deserve mountains of credit for managing to get through the scene where they both list all the complicated moves, mostly in unison.

–It wouldn’t be Farscape without bodily function humor. The repeated gag of John puking in front of D’Argo is great, as is the fact that, although he’s grossed out, he doesn’t lose his sense of humor about it. He’s much kinder and more friendly to Crichton throughout than he would have been in the past. It likely helps that he’s so incapacitated by the red light. This episode also introduces a great running gag in which D’Argo counts down via the “Mippippippi” method.

–I also love how the show continues to repeat the all-of-the-aliens-having-different-physiology motif by having Chiana, when she goes dimension-hopping with John, have no trouble at all with the light in the red dimension but being in agony due to the noise in the blue one, which is consistent with the method of torture in “Durka Returns”. Nebari are sensitive to sound. It also just figures that the yellow one would be her cup of tea, which again demonstrates her fantastic chemistry with Rygel. The two have a blast laughing their heads off together. I particularly love how Carrollian Rygel gets–fitting, given the name of the episode–both with his poetry and his line, “No, I have a new philosophy, Crichton. What used to be important, isn’t, and what should be important, never will be!”

–Zhaan to Chiana: “My dear, I’ve kicked more ass than you’ve sat on!” A brilliant moment and also the first time these two get past their maternal figure vs. annoying brat dynamic and Chiana starts to really respect her.

–The episode also features an extremely powerful moment in which Pilot and Moya actually offer the option of terminating the pregnancy in order to save everyone, and John immediately refuses, again demonstrating the rest of the crew and his devotion to them. But, again, what other show would do this? Actually feature a pregnant ship who considers having a voluntary abortion in order to save everyone’s lives? It got away with it because it was an only modestly rated sci-fi show on a basic cable network, and in season 4, it would get away with an on-screen alien abortion (albeit a fake one). But most TV dramas set in the “real world” would shy away from the “controversial” topic of saving the mother’s life over the baby’s and here is Farscape, showing a mother who deeply loves her unborn child but realizes that it could be threatening her life, along with everyone else’s, and therefore putting them and her first (and after all, in this situation, if she dies, the baby will die, anyway). This is also such a huge turnaround from where she was emotionally at the start of her pregnancy, when she actually starved everyone else out in order to protect her baby, that it’s staggering. This. Show.

Next: “A Bug’s Life” and “Nerve”

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Purchase Farscape: The Complete Series on Blu-ray

Purchase Farscape: The Complete Series on DVD

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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