I’m a bit slow to try to write this under the time crunch of beating the Space Dandy finale that premieres at 12:30 AM, so forgive any typos. But I just want to say I’ve been incredibly impressed by the way ideas of multiple universes have been getting used in fiction lately. True, the idea has been mainstream at least since the Star Trek introduced a “Mirror Universe” in the original series episode “Mirror, Mirror”. But typically they’re never a major part of the plot. Star Trek didn’t touch the Mirror Universe again until the second season of Deep Space Nine. (Although, as books go, I thought the His Dark Materials series was a really interesting take on parallel universes and I read that over a decade ago.)
But Space Dandy and two other recent pieces of on-screen fiction seem like a turning point in treating a multiverse as more fully realized setting, not just a plot device. If you’re fuzzy on the details of most episodes, you might wonder why I think the multiverse is an integral element of Space Dandy since it isn’t explicitly talked about much. But if you think a about how strongly the show seem to try to disrupt its own continuity, it makes a lot more sense if you think of many episodes taking place in their own (mostly parallel) universes. Consider the ways these episodes end:
- In the very first episode, Dandy, all of the Aloha Oe, and the entire planet they were visiting is destroyed when they try to use a faulty secret weapon. The second episode explicitly mentions that the end of the first episode did happen and admits it gives a weak “handwave” about Dandy, Meow, and QT are still here.
- In the fourth episode, the entire universe ends up zombified (even the narrator!) and it’s stated to be a kind of paradise. In the fifth episode, we go back to seeing a non-zombie Aloha Oe crew.
- In the seventh episode, some combination of a bomb reacting with an incredibly questionable fuel supply ends up sending Dandy into the far future. The episode ends with a confused Dandy landing near a giant statue of himself in the style of a Buddha.
- In the eighth episode, nothing renders crew of the Aloha Oe permanently incapacitated, but the semi-antagonist Dr. Gel ends up sucked into a black hole. He reappears only a few episodes later, no worse for the wear.
- In the eleventh episode, the being responsible for wiping the crew’s memories earlier reappears and evidently triggers an intergalactic war between various factions of storage media that seemed to heavily imply major disruption we never see.
- Episode 14, the second season premiere, has Dandy, Meow, and QT meet dozens of their counterparts from parallel universes, and end up dragging them all to their home universe. This seems to result in weird distortions to their universe, and to fix it, they pull one of the cosmic strings to try to send everyone back to their respective universes. This mostly works, although the narrator’s closing mentions that the Aloha Oe crew with the depressed Dandy and the terrifying Meow and QT have now ended up in the universe of the Dandy, Meow, and QT we have been following.
- In episode 21, it’s explicitly stated that Dandy has died. But the embodiment of strange purgatory like planet he is on sends his consciousness to a universe where hasn’t died yet.
- Episode 24 introduces us to Dandy’s ex, Catherine, a being from a 4D universe who left Dandy to date Paul, the ruler of a 2D universe. Part of why Catherine left Dandy is that because he actually isn’t the Dandy she knew. It turns out that the nature of warp travel in Space Dandy is more like switching which universe you’re aware you’re in. While 3D warpers don’t realize it, higher dimensional beings like Catherine can see the different universes and know the difference.
- Episode 25 has an expert witness explain a bit about the nature of Pyonium, which has come up several times in the series. He mentions that Pyonium can “cross dimensions”. It’s also noted that Dandy shows a Pyonium signal and forensics couldn’t detect his DNA.
It’s the reveal of the 25th episode that seems especially important. We have been following Dandy and co. across multiple dimensions, and this seems to be a key part of who Dandy is, even if he didn’t know it. And it also explains why he may be so important to the antagonists of the show, who also keep reappearing despite their own canonical deaths or disappearances. But these all seem to be important. I bet the finale (which is just starting) is about to take us across the universes and I hope we’re going to deal with the ramifications of all the dimension-jumping we’ve been doing.
EDIT: Sounds like I may be wrong already. A character has already mentioned that using the Pyonium will help people access multiple universes, but it’s talked about as a way to basically control probabilities by choosing which universe you’re in. I hope they go over this more.