We’re looking to do something different this month, so instead of celebrating our favourites from books, films, games and comics, instead we’re going to be looking at TV series. The theme for this week is parallel universes. They’re often some of the better episodes and can provide a startling contrast with the characters that we know and love.
Science fiction and fantasy TV shows often employ similar concepts and themes. This week, we’re looking at parallel universes. These often crop up in various guises and come back every so often. Most of the time, they are some sort of darker mirror to our own reality, but in the case of Fringe, their parallel universe is not actually that dark.
It’s also more fundamental to the overall story arcs than most other series – with Peter actually being from the parallel universe. But that is far from the most interesting thing about this parallel universe. There, there’s zeppelins in the sky, the Statue of Liberty is a completely different colour and the twin towers are still up. Their technology is more advanced and the battle between the universes is far more reasoned than in a lot of other series.
What’s most interesting about Fringe though is that despite the X-files nature of the episodes, they all tie in very well. Most ideas and technologies come back again and again – and it actually feels like it’s less episodic because of this.
This parallel universe feels like it’s properly integrated into the story behind Fringe, and it works. It’s quite an intense series and the parallel universe episodes stand out as not a world gone wrong, but a world that is just slightly different, if a little ahead of our own.
Over the years, there have been many parallel universe’s appearing in media. TV has seen it’s share of these – some good some bad. Personally I’ve always found the mirror universe in Star Trek rather fascinating.
A parallel universe, which first appeared in the original TV series and went onto have it’s own story arc in Deep Space Nine. The mirror universe fascinated me as it displayed characters in such a different light – making them the exact opposite of what we knew of them.
Take Kira for instance that feisty rebel fighter – not prepared to let Cardassians rule. Yet in the mirror universe she was pure evil. Slaver of the terrans with a panache for causing discourse and agony amongst those who we knew she would give her life to protect. Even killing Jennifer Sisko – just to prove a point.
The bold courageous Sisko, who in this universe is nothing more than a smuggler with a thing for women! It turned everything on its head and gave us a look into how truly different things can be, given the circumstances. It also gave us some of the best episodes throughout DS9’s life and remain good fun to watch to this day.
The way the writers managed to handle the mirror universe showed great imagination and being able to see the writers given the opportunity to mix things up, really helped to mix it up.
The mirror universe always showed great potential and I’m glad DS9 gave it the chance it so rightly deserved.
Having made my way through watching seasons 1-8 of Supernatural, it wasn’t hard for me to recall an episode that fits this week’s theme. Originally airing in 2011, “The French Mistake” is not necessarily the most original parallel worlds incident that ever happened on telly, but it is one of the few that really justifies its existence.
In this episode of the show, Dean and Sam end up in a version of the world where Supernatural is just a TV series and they are the show’s main actors. So they’re playing Sam and Dean pretending to be Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles. This leads to lots of soul searching around whether they should just stay in this parallel world and give up the good fight. Then there’s this whole meta situation with people who are normally behind the camera being on screen, like Bob Singer.
But like I said, this is an episode that justifies its parallel world romp. Sam and Dean’s temporary presence is a necessary plot point for the season rather than a look at how kooky things can go.
The episode at least needs to be seen once for exclamations from Supernatural series staff remarking about Jared and Jensen getting along.
I haven’t seen this week’s choices yet, but I assume the list will be filled with Sci-Fi and Fantasy series. Those are the realms where you would generally expect characters to find themselves in other worlds and dimensions. Somewhere you absolutely wouldn’t expect it, of course, is in a police procedural.
But then there’s Castle. On the surface it looks like a million other shows where the cops get help from an outside expert. Numbers, Elementary, The Mentalist – it’s a pretty standard template at this point. And, at least for its first couple of series, that’s exactly what Castle was. This time the outside consultant was a mystery novelist, with the added bonus of being played by that guy from Firefly, but otherwise it was business as usual.
Since then though, somehow, the programme has morphed into something altogether weirder. We’ve had episodes riffing on The DaVinci Code, we’ve had international spy-adventures, we’ve had two separate Noir period-pieces, we’ve had Bigfoot, we’ve had Star Trek, and at one point there was a real live tiger. It happened slowly, and it happened subtly, but Castle has reshaped and transformed itself, to the point where it’s now dealing with invisibility suits and time-travellers and – on topic at last – mystical artefacts that send you to parallel worlds.
It’s hard to pin down exactly when Castle went crazy, but I’m glad it did. There’s probably another universe where that never happened – where my duplicate got bored and stopped watching this fairly standard procedural. I like our universe better.
Those were some of our favourite ones, but the list is far from exhaustive. Twilight Zone, Doctor Who, Sliders, Futurama, Stargate, Buffy, Angel, Charmed, Smallville, Red Dwarf and Community also have parallel universes. Which are your favourite? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.