The Best and Worst of Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda: Season 2

For previous installments:

 

 

The Best:

The Widening Gyre, Exit Strategies, Pitiless as the Sun, All Too Human, Home Fires, Ouroboros, Dance of the Mayflies, In Heaven Now Are Three, The Fair Unknown, Belly of the Beast, Immaculate Perception, and Tunnel at the End of the Light

tumblr_m2szjrWDjV1qd42fmo3_250

In small portions:

  • The Widening Gyre finsihes where Its Hour Come ‘Round at Last left off;
  • Exit Strategies sees Dylan, Beka, Rev, and Tyr pursued by a gang of Nietzscheans, crash land on an icy planet, all while Rev Bem has a desire to feed;
  • Pitiless as the Sun sees Trance interrogated by the Inari after blaming one of her kind for inciting a recent war;
  • All Too Human sees Rommie try to save a defector on a planet that hates AIs;
  • Home Fires features the first appearance of Telemachus Rhade;
  • Ouroboros remains quite a gamechanger, a personal favorite episode for the time travel elements and alternate Beka and Trance characters;
  • Dance of the Mayflies is kind of silly, but it was also kind of fun;
  • In Heaven Now Are Three has a somewhat Indiana Jones feel to it, but I liked the mystery around Trance;
  • The Fair Unknown is pretty awesome in the appearance of a Vedran, but the mysteriousness of them will be forgotten like many other plot threads;
  • Belly of the Beast sees the Andromeda face-off against the Cetus, a large organism that lives in the vacuum of space and only needs to eat every 6,720 years;
  • Immaculate Perception sees Tyr trying to save his wife and her colony from Genites,  humans opposed to genetically-engineered humans, as he discovers he is father, possibly to the foretold genetic reincarnation of Drago Mussevni; and,
  • In Tunnel at the End of the Light, mysterious beings being attacking the delegation to the final Commonwealth Charter signing that will determine the First Triumvant.

According to Jammer’s Reviews of The Widening Gyre:

As most know, I wasn’t too fond of “Its Hour Come ‘Round At Last,” the needlessly excessive cliffhanger that set up “The Widening Gyre,” and I’m still not. Aside from all its boring Magog violence, most of the problems with “Widening Gyre” are traceable directly back to “Hour’s” over-the-top cliffhanger elements, which are required to be undone in the opening minutes of “Gyre.” There are things about this episode that prove it deserves to be mentioned alongside Andromeda‘s best hours, but there’s also plenty of early narrative cheating that doesn’t sit well.

For the most part, “Widening Gyre” is a terrific hour of action/adventure storytelling. It succeeds where “Hour” failed, and it works on many levels, from action to production to pacing to acting to editing to characters to larger consequences — except for that albatross of Phony Desperation left over from part one. If you could somehow excise the last few minutes of “Hour” and the first few minutes of “Gyre” and replace them with something believable, you’d have a season premiere that works pretty much from beginning to end. As it is, we have the first 10 minutes that cheat followed by 50 minutes that work.

Basically, the problem here is that part one left everyone either unconscious or dying, while Rommie was impaled with a metal pole, the ship’s AI was in chaos, and there were massive holes in the ship and a wrecked bridge. But now … none of that seems to matter in “Gyre.” We know that no one is going to die, that they’ll all make it to the medical bay. Rommie becomes conscious on “backup power” and the gaping hole through her stomach is mysteriously gone (or at the very least irrelevant) two scenes later. The holes in the ship have little bearing on its functionality and a few scenes later also might as well be completely gone. And the AI magically recovers, not only from the damage to the ship, but from its backup overtaking its current version in the first part of the story. This is nothing short of a ridiculousVoyager-izing of the situation — a ship heavily damaged is for all purposes immediately repairable with no resources.

The funny thing is, once we’re through the opening 10 minutes of utter BS, “Gyre” turns into an engaging, fast-paced, ever-moving, multi-tiered, helluva-ride action show. Aside from the way-implausible mannerAndromeda and her crew so easily pull themselves together to get back on their feet, I have very few complaints about what comes out of all this once the story is set back into motion. The plot is basically a rescue mission (Tyr and Harper have been taken into one of the worlds in the massive world-ship, along with Rev who is trying to find them) combined with a this-enemy-must-be-destroyed-at-all-costs mission.

Dylan and Rommie take the Maru to the world-ship where they begin their search. But first, Dylan tells Beka about the nova bomb (from all the way back in “To Loose the Fateful Lightning,” the Continuity Patrol notes) that is on board Andromeda, ordering her to wait three hours and then fire the bomb and destroy the world-ship, no matter what.

“Gyre” turns into four simultaneous, related mini-plots in which (1) Dylan and Rommie go searching for the missing crewmen, (2) Tyr and Harper are pinned to a wall and held captive by the Magog, who have implanted them with Magog eggs, (3) Beka defends the Andromedafrom the world-ship and its attacking Magog ships, and (4) Bloodmist’s attempts to lure Rev Bem (whose given Magog name is actually Red Plague) into the evil Magog fold.

In the past, this series has had trouble when it comes to assembling multiple storylines, particularly when they aren’t related. “Gyre” has no such problem (the stories here are related), carefully assembling these multiple plots and getting the maximum mileage out of each of them.

My favorite is the Tyr/Harper plot, which serves as an extension of their banter in “Hour” — Harper is resigned to the fact they’re going to die, whereas Tyr is about survival until the very, very, very end. This is the sort of plot that can get old very fast, but it doesn’t here because of entertaining dialog and solid performances. Tyr has a way of telling someone to shut up that is both convincing and funny, and he has a couple speeches about survival that are memorable: One involves a humorously unlikely tale of survival (though undoubtedly true) from when he was 16 years old; another demonstrates that you should never, ever, bet on the odds of your own conception. The show’s final scene has Tyr mocking Harper in a way that’s absolutely hilarious, and yet full of real impact at the same time. In Tyr always being a colorful character we trust.

Rev’s story with Bloodmist (Gerard Plunkett) isn’t as effective, maybe because Magog characters have a tendency to snarl so often that it’s hard to make much of the actors’ performances. Bloodmist tries to turn Rev by giving him an enlightening moment with the powerful Magog god (often called “Enigma” by many, called simply the “shadow-man” by me), which now has an official name: the Spirit of the Abyss. I leave you to conclude what, if any, power the Spirit of the Abyss has over Rev, since Rev first seems to be truly humbled by it and then later turns on Bloodmist. (Was it all Rev’s ruse, or just some of it?) This element of the story, where Rev helps save the day just when we think he’s going to serve the enemy, is a bit predictable, though the look on the other characters’ faces when Rev turns to some rather un-Rev-like violence is noteworthy.

On board Andromeda, Beka’s commanding skills are further tested when she must deploy the nova bomb and kill her own fellow crewmen — except that the world-ship is able to survive the destruction of its star core, because Enigma/shadow-man/Spirit of the Abyss is able to somehow absorb the blast. (Beka: “Tell me that’s impossible!” Trance: “It’s not impossible, it’s just really unfair!”) Who is this super-powerful Spirit of the Abyss and why does he need the Magog?

The Dylan/Rommie plot is mostly run-and-jump action — much more tolerable than the action of “Hour” because there’s a goal and urgency behind it instead of mind-numbing repetition (though I could’ve done without the cliche of the week from Rommie: “Dylan, if we don’t make it, I want you to know—”). I’m still not, however, convinced about the usefulness of the Magog as enemies. Yeah, there’s a crapload of them, but that doesn’t make them interesting. I still have no useful estimation of their intelligence; they seem like brainless savages who can yet somehow pilot ships, which I just don’t get. In action scenes they can be cheesy and indistinct; at one point you can clearly see the zipper on the back of the furry costume.

No matter. This is fast-paced action/adventure done effectively on four different fronts, ending with plenty of sound and fury. I’m a sucker for action storylines that play out simultaneously in multiple crosscut threads, provided they’re done well. These are. It doesn’t come across as a jumbled mess (which it could have) but rather a coherent and logical sequence of exciting events. High marks should be awarded to everyone here.

Incredibly, several of my complaints as mentioned in my First Season Recap have already been at least partially tackled here. Either the writers read my mind before I even saw all of season one, or I read their minds before writing my review of it.

I’m reassured by:

1. Much better use of Trance, who is more up-front to Beka about her limited abilities to foresee future events and isn’t used as a magical omniscient device but instead as an adviser who has a talent for prediction.

2. The story effectively tackles my complaint about a lack of urgency in Dylan’s mission to rebuild the Commonwealth. How? By ending on foreboding notes. Yes, all our characters live and the world-ship is crippled by the nova bomb. But Andromeda is forced to flee. The world-ship is still out there, under repair, and it will someday again be on its way. While its apparent mission to “Destroy Everything and Everyone!” is trite, Dylan’s mission to restore the Commonwealth can now be seen as a necessary measure to defend all societies from this forthcoming threat. I’d definitely call that urgency.

3. Harper is infested with Magog eggs and diagnosed with an uncertain fate. I wouldn’t mind seeing a darker, more sobered Harper emerge from these consequences (since Season One Harper began to tire).

With these effects, Andromeda has some new elements of excitement, even if these elements aren’t particularly complex at the moment.

It’s just too bad I can’t call the episode’s opening moments anything other than a crock that shows the writers blatantly cheating the audience. “The Widening Gyre” is otherwise one of the most purely entertaining episodes of Andromeda to date — certainly more fun and lively than Enterprise‘s first two episodes. It gives Andromeda a nice boost in the arm, and it’s a nice way to kick off a season.

According to Jammer’s Reviews of Exit Strategies:

Suspension of disbelief is one thing, but moments of “Exit Strategies” send your Credulity-O-Meter to skyrocketing levels. The crew’s exit strategy here is to have the script solve the problems with several magical waves of the contrivance wand. Sure, the plot supplies reasons for everything that happens here, but I don’t think I buy them.

Nevertheless, after bouncing back and forth several times in the process of writing this review, I’m going to let “Exit Strategies” slide by with a thumbs-up. It features good characterization, good continuity/follow-up material, and good pacing. It’s just enough for me to overlook the problems to some degree. But make no mistake: While the character work is highly admirable, the plot has distracting moments where it resembles Swiss cheese.

Out acquiring parts for the crippled Andromeda, the Maru crashes on a desolate ice world, in an exceptionally fast-moving and well-done teaser sequence. “Desolate ice world” is, naturally, another term for “snowy Canadian forest location.” I appreciate that there are action scenes staged outside in the snow (visually, it looks quite good), but all these supposed “forest planets” are beginning to tire. I guess the creators must make do with the locations and resources at hand, but surely there must be a location somewhere in Canada without pine trees.

A Nietzschean attack forces the Maru to dump all her fuel and make the emergency planetary landing. The Nietzscheans are chasing the Marufor reasons inexplicable to everyone except, of course, one Tyr Anasazi, who has a good idea what’s going on but isn’t initially forthcoming.

While Beka, Tyr, and Rev make repairs, Dylan goes out into the snow to search for options. The reasoning: Where there’s snow, there’s water; where there’s water, there are settlements; and where there are settlements, there’s fuel. Not sure I’m quite so encouraged by the train of thought there, but Dylan has always been more optimistic than I have.

While out in the snow, Dylan runs into the Nietzscheans, now on foot. They open fire, which leads to the usual type of action Andromeda likes to offer up, in which our hero runs while bullets conveniently hit everything near him but not our hero himself. I can’t say I found this action to be particularly fresh or inventive, but I did like the environment: Better, I guess, to have bullets hitting the snowy landscape than the corridor walls of the Andromeda. One transition, however, qualifies as a Moment of Questionable Execution [TM by Season One], in which Tyr has a scene of dialog with Beka in the Maru, and then what seems to be almost immediately afterward he’s helping Dylan escape the Nietzscheans. Just how did Tyr arrive on the scene so quickly?

For that matter, how can the Maru fall 75 meters through a sinkhole into a mine and not be reduced to a pile of junk and/or kill everyone inside?

Never mind. What “Exit Strategies” is about is follow-up material and characters, and on those levels it’s effective. For one, we have Tyr’s mysterious involvement in this entire mess, involving the Nietzschean Mandau pride. Beka supposes it might have something to do with his mysterious three-week mission away from the Andromeda, when he borrowed the Maru. She’s right about that, but only we know what that was about — the theft of the corpse of the original Nietzschean progenitor, Drago Museveni (see “Music of a Distant Drum”). It would seem that the Mandau here were part of a team that had helped Tyr steal the corpse. When he disappeared as a result of “Distant Drum,” they assumed he betrayed them. Of course, they may very well be right about that regardless.

Those who follow this series’ bigger picture might take note that the corpse of Museveni is more than a personal symbol for Tyr, but also, according to dialog here, a symbol that could unite the fragmented Nietzschean empire. How or why, I’m not sure, but it would seem Tyr has a powerful card up his sleeve by maintaining possession of Museveni’s corpse. The Mandau are too shortsighted to care about the bigger picture, and never saw the corpse as anything more than a salable item to the highest bidder. Now they just want revenge on Tyr, which is a tad unfortunate since they come across as cardboard as a result. (If Nietzscheans are supposed to be so superior, why are most of them so dumb?) Their leader, Kiyama (Ian Marsh), apparently thinks he’ll come across as intimidating by putting on a forced gruff voice. (Let’s just say I’m not impressed, but also not particularly appalled, by the performance.)

While Tyr engages in these “extra-curricular activities” in trying to negotiate with the Mandau, we also have a character-based storyline involving Rev nearly starving to death. Since he has been fasting to atone for killing Magog during the world-ship assault, he finds himself close to starvation here — not a good thing considering the ship is stranded in a snowy landscape with no food. Rev is self-tortured here in more ways than one. First, in trying to live with the fact that he killed Magog against the mandates of his own beliefs. Second, in realizing that he liked killing — and indeed still has a blood lust, as evidenced by the moment where he sniffs fresh blood from the floor of the ship. And third, in that he’s starving to death, and not in an ordinary way since we learn here that Magog begin to digest their own insides if they begin to starve. Brent Stait brings a good performance out from under layers of makeup and his Magog-gruff voice. His scenes with Beka earn our sympathy.

Y’know, we’d better eventually find out that the Magog were engineered monsters by design. Here the episode introduces yet another element of nefariousness: The fact that killing live prey is necessary “to begin the digestion process” (on the Andromeda, Rev kills his supply of live salmon, something he doesn’t have here). I think I do believe Rev when he says he was created by the Spirit of the Abyss; could a species so awful evolve that way by Darwinism?

As a character/continuity episode, “Exit Strategies” has a lot to recommend. It’s a direct follow-up to last week’s “Widening Gyre,” as it deals with damage to the Andromeda, the effects of the approaching world-ship on Tyr’s selfish priorities, the aforementioned issues with Rev, Harper’s dilemma of being infested with Magog larvae, and even a nod in the direction of disposing of all those Magog corpses from “Its Hour Come ‘Round At Last.”

Harper’s dilemma is particularly interesting, because it shows that his arc will have consequences on the character — or at least I hope. There’s a scene where he contemplates suicide while drunk, which manages to be funny and sincere at the same time. Harper is still Harper, which may be a mixed blessing, but his motormouthing seems to be headed in a new direction of complaining and lament. I’m not sure if that will work in the long run, but it works okay here. I could’ve, however, done without the silly and contrived “countdown to theAndromeda blowing up” concept that is supposed to make this B-story more “urgent.” It’s urgent on its own; why do we need the hollow threat of something blowing up to care? (Grrrr…)

Back in the main storyline, the Maru‘s escape from the planet had my Severe Doubt-O-Meter pushed about as high as it could go. Andromedaprides itself on the fact that it’s sci-fi based in real science, and the magnetic accelerator here is without a doubt based in real science. But as presented it’s certainly not based in any kind of plausibility.

Consider:

1. The magnetic accelerator, it’s said, was designed to launch ore into orbit. Was it really designed to launch ore the size of a freighter ship into orbit?

2. The powerless magnetic accelerator in this case is being powered by the Maru‘s own energy cells. Just how much energy is the Maru‘s own cells providing? Enough, in one form or another, to launch itself into orbit. Why, then, does theMaru even need fuel? Just use the energy cells to power the thrusters.

3. Can someone explain how Dylan and Beka were able to build additional coils for the accelerator so quickly? From the one scene of construction we get, it looks like a pretty involved job. This is pretty close to MacGyver-like resourcefulness and ease. It’s a good thing the Maru didn’t happen to land in the mine a mile away from the mouth of the accelerator.

4. How fortunate that the dangerous mining creatures were attracted to the Maru and the accelerator but seemed instead to conveniently zero in on the Nietzschean soldiers and eat them as a service to our heroes. Funny how the mining creatures suddenly choose to ignore all the metal around them that supposedly attracted them.

5. The way the accelerator works, there’s an initial boost at ground level, and after that, momentum is the only thing that carries the Maru from the ground into outer space. The FX shot itself shows the Maru lifting into the sky at a speed (perhaps 1,000 mph?) that I submit could not be maintained for much more than several seconds before gravity pulled the ship back down to a thundering crash. Just what velocity would be required to launch a spaceship off a planet withoutsubsequently sustained thrust? I’m sure a simple physics calculation could determine the answer, and I’m sure it’s waaaaaaaaay more than the velocity here. [*]

6. There’s Beka’s line that the Maru can use this inertia to reach the planet’s sun, where they can “scrape up” some fuel. Okay, I’ll buy the scrape up fuel bit with no problem. But just how long does it take an object to reach a star at a constant speed of, say, 1,000 mph? The Earth is 93 million miles from the sun. You do the math.

Is this nitpicking? I dunno; I think it’s pretty significant. Andromeda loves to offer up tiny snippets of simple dialog that are based in real science (“Objects in motion tend to stay in motion”), but sometimes, like here, they twist them to fit a reality that is highly doubt-worthy.

Now that I’m done ripping apart the escape sequence, I’ll conclude by saying that despite my incredulity of certain aspects of this episode, I still enjoyed the bulk of “Exit Strategies.” It does enough with its characters and situations to keep us interested, and it’s mostly well executed as to keep us entertained through the action (despite overused super-slo-mo). It also ends on good notes, with the Rev/Harper scene — where we see two troubled people who will be working through their own respective issues, possibly calling on each other for strength — and the Dylan/Tyr scene, which has prudent dialog and ends with a game of go that reminds us of how Dylan once played the same game with Rhade, another Nietzschean with hidden agendas.

“Exit Strategies” has obvious flaws, but also obvious strengths.

According to Jammer’s Reviews of Pitiless as the Sun:

It has been widely speculated that Trance could very well be the most powerful and potentially dangerous character on Andromeda, and based on the hints in this episode, that’s certainly a possibility. I have no doubt that this series’ writers really know what Trance is all about, and may someday tell us … but that day is not today. Trance is still a secret, and the writers — you can be certain — will bide their time in revealing this mystery.

“Pitiless as the Sun” was at one point called “The Interview,” a title discarded because it “wasn’t nearly pretentious enough to be anAndromeda episode title,” joked staff writer Zack Stentz. An “interview” of Trance Gemini (“interrogation” would be a better word) is an intriguing story idea. Part of me knew that any interrogation of Trance would be fruitless, and that secrets would remain secrets. But part of me also hoped we’d get some major revelations here about Trance’s people. When you have a mystery in front of you, you want to see it solved.

But patience is a virtue.

I really can’t say I liked or disliked this episode. It didn’t do enough to fully engage me, and it also didn’t do anything particularly wrong-headed. As a Trance episode, it’s respectable because it at least acknowledges the mystery exists and attempts (in its futile way) to confront it straightforwardly — as opposed to the method of many other previous Trance stories, which is with an annoying wink and a nudge from the writers, as if to say: “That silly Trance! She’s sure hiding a lot more than it looks like!” Yes, thank you, I know.

But at the same time I find myself asking: Did we really learn anything here that we didn’t already know? There are bits and pieces of minor new information, but the overriding sense I get from this episode is that it’s confirming — bringing into open dialog — that Trance is indeed a mystery. But we already knew that, because the never-so-subtle hints have been there from day one.

Trance’s interrogation takes place on the planet of the Inari, a somewhat xenophobic world recovering from a terribly costly civil war. Trance arrives on the planet to play diplomat, to figure out what the Inari are like, to see if they can be useful or trustworthy in Dylan’s Commonwealth. Her contact is Professor Logitch, played by none other than William B. Davis, who was the Cigarette-Smoking Man on The X-Files. Davis seems almost incomplete without his cigarette prop in hand; I kept wanting him to light up. I guess that’s what they call typecasting.

If Trance is always covering up her true motives, then it’s worth noting that so here is Logitch, who begins the story as harmless and pleasant — supposedly on Trance’s side in her diplomatic effort — before drugging her and hooking her up to a restraining chair and scanning devices. Even then he never quite comes across as menacing or brutal. Serious, yes, but Logitch is not needlessly cruel or a man who takes pleasure in giving torture. He has a job to do — to learn as much about Trance’s people as possible — and he intends to do it. In the process he becomes an almost surprisingly sympathetic figure.

The reason for the interview: One of the Trance-like Purple People visited the Inari’s world a number of years ago and was responsible for inciting the civil war that devastated their society. This Purple Person was also a mystery, with a childlike innocence about him similar to Trance’s. The story leaves it completely vague how exactly this Purple Person “incited” a civil war. Was it through mental manipulation of others? Elaborate trickery, double-crosses, or setups? I’m not so sure to leave it so vague is fair. Obviously the Inari know how the war was started. For the dialog to omit that information is to purposely leave the audience in the dark.

And if one Purple Person was able to damage this society so badly, is it really a good idea for them to go to such lengths to lure the Andromedato their planet and kidnap another one of them? (For that matter, how could they have come up with this plan and known for sure that Trance would decide to come down for a visit?)

Logitch wants to know who Trance’s people are. Where they come from. What they want. Why they do what they do. His government wants to be able to defend itself in the event of a full-scale Purple People invasion. The flaw in his reasoning, as he should already know, and which Trance tells him: Given such apparent abilities, it would hardly take a full-scale invasion for the Purple People to destroy the Inari.

“Pitiless” for the most part is just more supposition. Supposition can be interesting, but when it comes to supposition, it’s the audience, and not the story, doing the bulk of the work. So in addition to supposition, the story needs to work on its own merits too. To that end, the effectiveness of “Pitiless” relies primarily on the strength of the interrogation scenes and the mind games. Trance plays with Logitch and is most definitely in the driver’s seat here, even though she’s the one strapped to a chair.

Some of this works, as Trance slowly wears Logitch down by defying his expectations and resisting every form of interrogation he employs, while supplying information that serves mostly to create more fear. Trance also has a knack for using Logitch’s own personal vulnerabilities and human decency against him. Call it effective psychology.

Some of this doesn’t work, like, for example, a key payoff moment after Trance concocts the story of her people’s “true purpose” — as “sex slaves designed to bring pleasure to the universe.” The way the camera spins around a laughing Trance, and the poorly envisioned way Logitch throws a hand-held device to the floor in anger, go a long way to destroying the impact of this scene. Moments like this need precise execution to work.

I found it interesting how Logitch started the interrogation while standing over Trance, who was strapped to a chair, and ended the interrogation sitting in the chair himself, with more terror on his face than Trance ever showed at any point through the entire process. Trance knows how to turn the tables.

BUT … as dramatic, chewable meatiness goes, something about all this is … underwhelming. If you compare this to the likes of interrogation scenes such as Picard’s torture at the hands of Gul Madred in TNG‘s “Chain of Command, Part II” or the multifaceted Garak/Odo interrogation scenes in DS9‘s “The Die Is Cast,” you begin to realize that, dramatically, “Pitiless” doesn’t hold a candle to those far superior examples. Because everyone’s motives here are so intentionally shrouded, we’re left with scenes that are interesting and elusive, but tempered, tame, and anticlimactic. (And for that matter, since there’s so much lying, it’s hard to even say what’s meant as true and what’s meant as a lie.)

Could it have worked better? I’m not sure, given how elusive Trance obviously will remain. I do find interesting that her people apparently thrive off chaos and can do awful things when “bored.” But I doubt Trance will ever command a scene the way, say, Garak could; she’s a mystery, which is not the same thing as a mysterious character.

There’s another plot line to “Pitiless,” which occupies about equal screen time but is worth considerably less discussion. It involves two Inari, Whendar (Ann Marie Lodar) and Gadell (Antonio Cupo), using deceptive motives to draw Dylan and the Andromeda into an illegal drug transaction with a dangerous species called the Pyrians.

There are pieces of this plot that don’t come together very well, like Gadell turning out to be a DEA-like informant, something that’s telegraphed in an earlier scene but nevertheless remains mostly confused and unnecessary, to say nothing of how Dylan so easily figured out Gadell was an informant. For that matter, if someone could plausibly explain how Gadell figured out Dylan and Harper were making nova bombs, I will be grateful. (Of interest is how most of the rest of Dylan’s crew doesn’t even know he’s making the bombs; perhaps issues of trust have not been completely hurdled.)

Whendar is a drug trader who lies to Dylan’s face through much of the episode. Dylan fortunately shows skepticism from the outset and maintains a close eye, and I appreciated the nod to the Dylan/Beka optimist/skeptic role reversal at the beginning. Harper seems to be back to his sometimes amusing, sometimes annoying hyperactive self. Rev is AWOL for the second episode in a row.

I appreciated that this plot tied in with the whole issue of Inari society being devastated by their civil war, but it seems like drug trafficking is becoming a strangely oft-used “evil” on this series. As routine confrontation plots go, all of this is so-so, with too much uncertain execution to be successful.

As for the Pyrians … I’m on the fence there too. I can’t say I’m much impressed with them here; they’re more concept than content at this point. Their ships are adequately unique. As creatures, they’re a weird CGI design, although we don’t get a very good look at them. As Disembodied Voices [TM] they’re a disappointment; I’ve always found the “distorted, overlaid male/female voices in pseudo-monotone” to be a corny space opera cliche, and that’s certainly the way it comes across here. As yet another entry into this series’ vast expanse of cultures, I have to wonder — how many people are we going to invite to this party? These guys are obviously intended as Major Players. At this rate,Andromeda is going to end up with a universe full of chess pieces on its intergalactic chess board … but how can all of these pieces possibly play in a game without it becoming a colossal mess? I guess we’ll find out.

As for Trance, I guess I can take some comfort in the fact that everyone knows she’s hiding things and that they choose to willingly turn a blind eye. Now they need to find a way to develop Trance beyond her sweet innocent facade. Right now the facade is her character. I’m asking for more.

According to Jammer’s Reviews of All Too Human:

“All Too Human” is an episode that looks like it was conceived at the John Woo School of Cinema. The characters wear black trench coats that flap in the wind, efficient ass-kicking is considered an especially worthy character trait, and the overall emphasis on coolness is what’s of the utmost importance here.

And it works. This is an effective hour of entertainment. The storyline works too, although there’s nothing here to get excited about.

This is essentially The Rommie Showcase, starring the appealing and effective Lexa Doig. We see what Rommie is capable of while she provides our entryway into the world of crisscrossing genres. Like genre favorite The Matrix, this episode has its stylistic roots in the Hong Kong action & martial arts genre, superhero comic books, and Japanese Anime. The writers and director T.J. Scott apply nifty stylistics atop a storyline that is well within the boundaries of conventional sci-fi — the issue of AIs and their capacity, or non-capacity, to feel beyond logic.

Rommie is undercover on the planet Machen Alpha. Machen Alpha is threatening to attack Mobius, a recent addition to the Commonwealth (and the subject of last season’s “Forced Perspective”). The Andromedahas cruised in for the military aspect of protection. Rommie has a contact on Machen Alpha named Mr. Kim (Bruce Harwood, best known as one of the Lone Gunmen on The X-Files) who has crucial information about sinister plotting by the Machen Alpha government.

The story wastes no time in cutting to the chase: The police break down the door to Kim’s apartment, and we’re off to Hong Kong land. There are visual cues that are familiar, like furniture being hit by bullets, throwing masses of feathers into the air. For once, the use of super-slo-mo on this series is justified in the name of the genre.

Off the coast near the city, the Maru waits underwater while Rommie executes her mission. Tyr, Harper, and Rev keep tabs. But since when is the Maru a submarine? Since now, I guess. These guys have their own worries when they’re shot at and disabled by Machen Alpha armed forces and the Maru starts sinking to the bottom of the sea. Uh-oh.

Meanwhile, Andromeda must go up against a powerful Machen Alpha battleship that has point-singularity weapons capable of destroying an entire planet. This ship is headed for Mobius, which they intend to wipe off the map.

The juggling of the three stories is acceptable, but by cramming so much into the hour, the episode’s shortcuts become evident. Consider, for example, Dylan and Beka trying to stop the destruction of an entire planet — a planet that was recently added to their Commonwealth, no less. This is handled almost like an afterthought, but think how important it could’ve been. It easily could’ve sustained an entire episode. Here it becomes the subject of a few short scenes.

The scene where Andromeda actually saves the planet from destruction is almost laughably short; you could miss the resolution if you blink. Dylan and Beka open a slipstream portal to route a point-singularity blast away from the planet. This saves the planet from destruction, but opening a slipstream portal is its own catastrophic event that causes “permanent environmental damage” on the world, including major power disruptions and spontaneous volcanic eruptions. This is the sort of thing that deserves dramatic flair, but the characters here rush through it like they’re reacting to a glass of spilled water. They’re at the mercy of their own story’s time constraints; the unseen chaos on Mobius is the center of discussion for less screen time than it took you to read this synopsis of it here.

More effective is the plot on the Maru, in which the only way to save the ship and people on board is to flood the cabin with water in an effort to propel it to the surface. I’m not exactly clear on how that’s supposed to work, but it’s not the point of the story. The point is that Harper has overdosed on his anti-Magog-larvae medication (good continuity) and gone into a coma, leaving Tyr and Rev in a situation with only one operational EVA suit, and sinking with no way to fix the ship. (About that suit — I laughed out loud at the explanation for why there was only one working suit, and Tyr’s deadpan reading of the message: “Note to Harper: Remember to repair the rest of the EVA suits before our next mission. — Harper.”)

Rev can hold his breath for nearly an hour, but Harper and Tyr will likely drown. This leads to a crisis of choice for Tyr, who must either let Harper die, or sacrifice himself, which is not a very Nietzschean thing to do. Let’s just say that the solution here allows Tyr to stay within the boundaries of his character while showing a tiny bit of altruism at the same time. (Miller & Stentz undoubtedly took cues from James Cameron’s The Abyss in coming up with their solution. But I wonder, can one really totally flood the Maru and expect all the electronics to function afterward?)

But let’s put that aside. The true focus of “All Too Human” is Rommie and how she figures into the topic of prejudices against AIs, as well as the topic of kicking people’s asses. When Kim discovers Rommie is an android, the first thing he says is, “Please, don’t kill me.” His fears are based on Machen Alpha’s unpleasant history with AIs, in which their cold logic harshly ran their world. The Machen Alpha people responded by destroying the AIs’ neighboring world. Kim is surprised to find an AI with the attitudes and feelings of a human being. Such discussions lend the episode its moral depth but without reaching the realm of anything truly compelling.

On the trail of Rommie and Kim is a determined investigator named Carter (Roger R. Cross) and his armed team. They catch Rommie and Kim in a tunnel. Kim is killed and Rommie then cleans up Carter’s men in an action scene that showcases Rommie’s talent for ass-kicking, as well as her ability to do goofy, gratuitous back-flips — at which point I asked myself, have I suddenly been transported into Xena: Warrior Princess?

Before Kim’s death comes his revelation of the Big Secret: He discovered that Machen Alpha made a deal with the Magog in exchange for advanced technology: one of their swarm ships and the point-singularity weapons — hence their planet-destroying threats toward Mobius. This storyline hints at further development and makes decent use of continuity elements, particularly since by the end of the show Rommie has stolen the Magog swarm ship and returned it to theAndromeda, reminding me of the Jem’Hadar warship acquired in DS9‘s “The Ship.”

But such developments aren’t the focus here so much as the cat-and-mouse game between Rommie and Carter, which extends into a session of cyberspace and shows how ruthless Rommie can be in attaining her goals. It all leads up to a climactic martial arts fight in which it’s revealed that Carter also is an android. The sequence is not dissimilar in attitude to the fighting in The Matrix. Since both Carter and Rommie are androids, the story has an excuse for them to fly through the air. And granted, T.J. Scott and the Andromeda stunt coordinators are obviously nowhere near the level of a Wo Ping Yuen or a John Woo, but this is pretty good stuff for low-budget episodic television.

All of this is kind of fun, but it’s not as deep as it could’ve been. One thing that felt a little underdeveloped was Carter’s role, particularly the revelation he’s an android, which I must say I predicted a mile away, even though I’m not sure why. Carter has a strong presence when on screen and his character screams for more scenes and meaty dialog, but he doesn’t really get them. His part in the story is adequate when it could’ve been significant and thoughtful, and could’ve given Rommie more to think about. By holding the revelation he’s an android until the last minute, there’s barely any time to ponder the significance of the idea, which seems to be saying something without being sure what that something is. The story’s irony is that Carter works with a society that declared war on AIs like him — because he agrees that the AIs were in the wrong. It’s an intriguing idea, not fleshed out to satisfaction.

The best shot in the episode is one of pure and simplistic coolness, after Rommie blows up Carter with a force-lance grenade. The “wind” from the explosion blows her hair in slow-motion as Rommie turns her head toward the camera and glares menacingly. (You know the shot I’m talking about; it’s shown during the opening titles.) This shot is probably an entire course at the John Woo School of Cinema. I liked it a lot.

“All Too Human” is good entertainment, but I think it had the potential to be more. The attitude in the Rommie plot is edgy and fun, but the storytelling itself never transcends adequacy. There are some good lines, and some good ass-kicking; it’s that kind of show. It makes you want to go out and buy a black leather trench coat, so you too can be cool.

According to Jammer’s Reviews of Home Fires:

There’s something manufactured at the center of “Home Fires” that makes even the most spectacularly unlikely Dylan-action/escape sequence look plausible by comparison. I’m referring to the notion that a character in this story, Telemachus Rhade, is a genetically identical descendant (“genetic reincarnation,” the story calls it) of Gaheris Rhade, the guy who betrayed Dylan in the opening minutes of this series’ first episode, “Under the Night.”

The chances of something like that happening are “trillions to one,” according to dialog in this episode, and I concur, assuming it’s possible at all. And yet, here we have Telemachus Rhade (Steve Bacic) a virtual identical twin to Gaheris separated by 300 years of lineage, with no explanation for how this actually happened. I guess, simply, that he is the “one” from the trillions-to-one odds.

Having Telemachus Rhade look exactly like Gaheris Rhade is a narrative device that makes the episode an exercise in trust/distrust and extreme parallelism. Was it necessary to the story? Not sure. It’s crucial the way it plays out, but the writers could’ve probably removed this element and proceeded without it. The story could’ve been carried by the also-present topic of what the world encountered here means to Dylan’s Commonwealth. But then it probably wouldn’t have been nearly as dynamic or interesting, so I’m in no position to complain about a duplicate Rhade.

As the show begins, the Andromeda is contacted by Lt. Jamahl (wink, wink) Rodrigues Hernandez-Brown (Zahf Paroo), a High Guard pilot who delivers a message to Dylan that is personally stunning for more than one reason. One the one hand, it’s a 300-year-old recording from his fiancee Sara, who was left behind (see “Banks of the Lethe”), and now tells him that she had eventually moved on with her life and gotten married, and at the time of this recording had a child on the way. It’s also a message that explains Lt. Brown being a High Guard pilot; he’s from a world of Commonwealth survivors that Sara helped build — a lone planet still standing after the war that erased the Commonwealth.

And what a world it is. It’s called Tarazed, and it’s a thriving democracy that knows about Dylan’s mission, since he told Sara about it in the past. We know right off that it’s a paradise of a planet; government leader Rekel Ben-Tzion (Francoise Yip), wears a sexy outfit, the likes of which could only be worn on a paradise-like world (or, okay, a TV action show aimed at the 18-49 male demographic). Tarazed has been waiting for Dylan to arrive, and the general feeling is that their society — replete with starships, weapons, and soldiers — will become the new driving force in helping him rebuild the Commonwealth.

But hold on. Just because it’s a democracy doesn’t mean everyone agrees that rebuilding the Commonwealth is a good thing. It is, in fact, a difficult, challenging, and — let’s face it — unlikely scenario. The less optimistic would say the dream of a restored Commonwealth is probably very likely to fail and destroy Tarazed in the process. And they have a strong voice here that’s opposed to Dylan’s quest and in favor of isolationism. They’re already living the dream, so why risk losing it? As a democracy, Tarazed is going to have a worldwide vote on the issue.

The voice of the isolationists is represented in the story by Admiral Telemachus Rhade. Once again, Dylan finds himself on the other side of a Rhade, with history possibly hanging in the balance. Based on Gaheris’ betrayal of the Commonwealth, Dylan suspects Telemachus of underhanded trickery. Is he another crafty Nietzschean trying to manipulate the situation to suit his agenda? Has he perhaps used his influences to rig the election?

One thing I like here is how the episode sees Gaheris in an ambiguous light. In “Under the Night” he was seen as a traitor, albeit a traitor with motives. But in some additional flashback scenes here, we can see Gaheris’ humanity, and it’s not merely an act. Gaheris did consider Dylan a friend; he just happened to have bigger causes at stake than his friendship. Steve Bacic has improved since his frankly awful turn in “Under the Night.” Although still a little on the wooden side, Gaheris is much better portrayed.

There’s an intriguing scene here where Telemachus asks Dylan what really happened to his ancestor Gaheris. Commonwealth history says he died a hero, while the Nietzscheans tell the story of how Gaheris was a spy who helped the Nietzscheans carry out their treacherous assault that started the war. Dylan was the only survivor who was there and knows the truth. “He tried to warn me,” Dylan reluctantly replies. And in a way, it’s true; Gaheris’ dying words, indeed, were, “I tried to warn you.” He dropped some very subtle hints before that, but he couldn’t put his cards on the table.

The crucial turning point comes when a group of Magog swarm ships enters the solar system. The Tarazed fleet engages them with a squadron of High Guard slipfighters. The Magog ships begin to retreat. The High Guard fighters stand down · except for Lt. Brown, who plays hothead rogue and wants to at least take out one of the Magog vessels. He does, but is killed when his ship flies into the debris and is destroyed. (Any scene where a character named Jamahl screams “AAAARRGHHH!” as his ship blows up is one worth smiling at in my book. Later, he even gets a Sad Funeral Scene.) Subsequent investigation determines that the Magog ships were fake drones built on Tarazed.

What was the intent of a fake attack? The waters are muddied here because it can be explained in several ways, and I’m not so sure the script allows the characters to arrive at the truth without some form of scripted omniscience. One explanation is that the attack is an ostensive excuse for remaining isolated and protecting the planet from outsiders. Another (which the script doesn’t even really suggest) is that it can be used to justify joining Dylan’s alliance since the attack would imply that the Magog are aware of Tarazed’s presence. But since the fakery wasintended to be discovered as a frame-up, one has to wonder exactly what the would-be motive of the person being framed is supposed to be. I’m not so sure the facts are straight here.

Telemachus mobilizes the military, which casts suspicion on himself, but what are they mobilized for? Attacking the Andromeda? Declaring martial law? If he’s innocent, why would he have “soldiers in the streets”? The script implies Telemachus suspects Dylan of faking the attack, but that strikes me as pretty implausible considering Tarazed sought him out, and not vice-versa. The most likely reason for all this is to create a smokescreen for the audience and contrive a conflict between Dylan and Telemachus. The actual truth is that Rekel manufactured the attack to implicate Telemachus.

Both Telemachus and Dylan suspect Rekel, but that doesn’t stop them from engaging in a one-on-one fight to the almost-death on theAndromeda command deck, which is choreographed to parallel the one-on-one fight between Dylan and Gaheris from “Under the Night” (to which this show frequently crosscuts). Clever. Or, as the saying goes, too clever. I appreciate the parallelism here, but the script has to go to great lengths to make it both literal and figurative, and it doesn’t necessarily come together logically. (Why would Telemachus, established as thoughtful and rational, instantly come out firing instead of talking? Because we need an elaborate fight scene filled with parallels, that’s why.)

Nevertheless, Dylan and Rhade get a chance to make things right, figure things out, and ultimately fight for a common goal — the truth. Rekel’s plan was to frame Rhade and shift support back toward her own movement to ally Tarazed with Dylan. Interestingly, the choice is still Dylan’s, because he has the option and ability here to see Rekel’s frame-up of Rhade through to the end and gain Tarazed’s support — and all the military equipment, soldiers, and political muscle that comes with it.

Is it worth one innocent man going to prison if it could mean adding a major piece to Dylan’s Commonwealth plan? Not if we’re about keeping our principles, Dylan says. I’m reminded of DS9‘s “In the Pale Moonlight,” where a different choice was made. Granted, Dylan’s circumstances are different, and we might always have the possibility of returning to Tarazed.

In any case, “Home Fires” is a solid, thoughtful effort that showcases Andromeda‘s strengths — continuity, building toward a goal, and characters who have agendas that are not always compatible. The parallelism is intriguing even if a little over the top. And doing Rhade Redux offers up a certain element of the sublime. Now, more than ever, we realize that Gaheris was more complicated than his key betrayal might have implied.

According to Jammer’s Reviews of Ouroboros:

Let the arguments begin.

Okay, so the arguments — among the hard-core fan base anyway — have already been going on for what seems like months now. Arguments over the Big Changes that have been rumored and discussed and debated in genre magazines and on Internet bulletin boards. Fan uproar over the firing of series developer Robert Hewitt Wolfe, whose last executive producer duties come with this episode. So now I’ll do my part and throw a hand grenade into the ring.

I’m not opposed to change — not at all. In fact, I was actually looking forward to “Ouroboros,” because Big Change can be exciting and lead to new, interesting things.

Unfortunately, exciting and interesting is not at all how I’d describe “Ouroboros” itself. More like random and incoherent. The events here are pretty underwhelming when you really stop and think about them. The storyline makes use of an arbitrary “rip in space-time” plot to create what is a colossal mess of an hour, punctuated by the usualAndromeda sound and fury, stupid violence lacking any semblance of context, and a “meeting of past, present, and future” that allows anything and everything to happen, often for no dramatic reason whatsoever, so long as it’s weird or (preferably) can support a lame action payoff.

I’d better stress that, yes, there are some intriguing moments and points worth mulling over. But they’re drowned out by a great many more moments of contrived, isolated weirdness. And I’m unsold on the ending, which almost redeems some of the madcap lunacy with some actual perspective, until you stop and realize that the closing dialog has a painful omission.

I’m not sure if Wolfe was painted into a corner when writing this episode — faced with changes that were dictated from the bosses above — but regardless, the results aren’t pretty. “Ouroboros” plays like bull-in-china-shop cinema (all too typical on this series, alas) to the point that many scenes don’t even really seem necessary. Documenting weirdness is not enough unless it somehow adds up to a logic of its own. There is little logic here, even on the show’s own sci-fi terms. We’re supposed to go with the flow and accept it at face value, but the only thing present here is the flow. It’s more like rapids, with rocks everywhere. The rules change with every scene, assuming there even are any rules.

There’s an old episode of Voyager called “Twisted.” It’s among the worst episodes of Star Trek ever made, and I was reminded of it here, as characters roamed around the ship trying to get somewhere while the rips in space-time kept moving them to the wrong place. To be sure, “Ouroboros” is infinitely faster-paced and less boring than “Twisted,” but it’s also far loonier and at times equally tedious. This has got to be one of the most breakneck-paced, senseless, shapeless, unbelievable time-travel stories in a long time. And yet, it has its brief moments.

Before I get into the mechanics of the plot, I want to make one quick comment on a purely superficial level in regards to Rommie’s new bowl-cut, dark-blue hairstyle. In a syllable: GAG, with a capital everything. Who in the world thought this would look good? Lexa Doig has beautiful brown hair that has been perfectly acceptable for the past year and a half. Now we have to look at her with this tawdry wig that makes her look like a comic-book character. Why? There isn’t even a throwaway line mentioning Rommie’s decision to change hairstyles, perhaps because the writers are aware there’s no good reason for itbeyond executive edict. (For the record, and for our aesthetic relief, the hologram version of Rommie still has the brown hair, for now at least.)

Turning to more serious matters, this is the story that, significantly, wraps up Harper’s arc involving the Magog larvae in his stomach. His medicine no longer works and the prognosis is grim — he has a week at best before he becomes John Hurt in Alien. This prompts him to enlist Technical Director Hohne (Alex Diakun) and Höhne’s assistant, Rekeeb (Rik Kiviaho), in an attempt to modify the tesseract technology Harper acquired in “Into the Labyrinth.” The two Perseids jump at the opportunity because it involves groundbreaking scientific experimentation, to be performed on a subject who has nothing to lose in being a lab rat.

Well, of course, Something Goes Wrong, and the tesseract technology causes a “watershed event in space and time,” as Trance later claims. But hold on a second, Harper says. The tesseract generator isn’t even operational yet, so it can’t be causing the problem. But maybe, says Hohne, the distortions are emanating from the future — a future where the generator has been completed and activated — and is affecting our past and present.

My only question: Isn’t it convenient that the space-time distortions don’t become apparent until the tesseract device is already being built, thereby providing the clue that they have something to do with the tesseract generator? Imagine if the distortions would’ve started a day or a week before Harper started building the generator. No one would have a clue how to fix the problem and would be up the proverbial creek, wouldn’t they? Even more convenient (and bordering on absurd) is the notion that Höhne had set up automated robots to complete the work on the generator before being sucked out of the machine shop (by the vacuum of space, no less) where the work was being performed — to which, now, we can’t get back into because the distortions send everyone running around a ship where they’re constantly beamed here and there and everywhere through space-time. This conveniently answers the question of “Why not stop building the generator now?” Because we can’t, because the plot has made it so we can’t. Sorry, but that’s a little too contrived for my tastes. It plays exactly like the scripted situation it is and not much like an actual time-travel story grounded in drama.

But that at least pits our heroes against a dilemma they must solve, which is way better than some of the other things encountered here. Like I said, there’s a lot of roaming around the ship, and Dylan’s attempts to get to the command deck are thwarted by the Space-Time Gods (a.k.a. Robert Wolfe & Co.), who are doing everything in their power to keep him from reaching his target. At one point, Dylan cries out, “Oh, come on!” at the appalling situation of trying to get somewhere and constantly ending up in the wrong place or timeline on the ship (Sorbo is particularly hammy at these moments). The problem with such scenes are that they grow repetitive and eventually have almost no story value. It’s Twilight Zone weirdness in a dramatic dead zone.

For that matter, what’s the point of Dylan running into crew member Kylie (Kristina Copeland), who served on the ship 300 years ago? Kylie’s purpose in the story doesn’t have an impact; she’s just an extra body to show up on demand to hurl into an action sequence. If you stop and ask what she means for the arc of the story at hand, you’ll be hard-pressed to come up with anything substantive.

Eventually, Rommie deduces that the harder and faster they try to reach their goals, the more space-time resistance they face in reaching them. She suggests moving “at right angles toward our goal,” and Dylan responds, “and let the tesseracts carry us in the right direction,” to which I can only respond, “Huh?” This strikes me as pseudo-science fantasy, and the way the dialog steamrollers through it with ping-pong exposition makes me extremely doubtful that Dylan and Rommie could’ve actually figured this out, but that they simply concluded the plot was ready for them to move forward and they needed an excuse to believe they could. Bah.

The plot has other moments that are arbitrary and make no sense, and don’t pretend they need to. Much is made of the need to move theAndromeda away from the planet it’s orbiting so the distortions don’t damage the world. And yet, what does it mean when a door on theMaru opens up a distortion to another world that is who-knows-how-many light-years away? Or the fact that the ship’s distortions open gateways to the Andromeda as located untold light-years away in the past, something that Dylan even acknowledges in dialog? Distance is apparently irrelevant, yet a big piece of the plot hinges on the fact that it’s not.

Meanwhile we have the Kalderans showing up on the decks of the Maruand then later the Andromeda, which proves them every bit as useless and incompetent as in the lamentable “Last Call At the Broken Hammer.” By the end, even the Magog are showing up, proving that a rip in space-time is a good way to justify repeating every possible pointless past action scene one can dream of. Why is this necessary?Take it all away and you still have the same basic story, except with maybe less nonsensical narrative clutter.

Lots of people pull guns in this episode. Lots of bullets are fired. Lots of sparks and bodies go flying. Everything but the kitchen sink is here. And characters love to interrupt each other in mid-sentence (or be interrupted by gunfire). Most of the time Harper even interrupts himself by doubling-over in pain and clutching his stomach. This technique tries to hide the fact that the episode spends no time having conversations beyond the absolute bare minimum required for exposition before then changing directions and heading off to tag the story’s next base. I repeat: Less is more, more is less, and lots more is gratuitous and little else. The results are kind of mind-numbing.

In between the mayhem the episode tries its best to develop a story of sorts, though some scenes play more like teasers than drama. Beka runs into a future version of herself, a Bionic Beka, who is then called by an unseen child’s voice. It’s sort of an interesting moment, but only a 30-second moment not built upon. Does this indicate anything we can expect to see in the future? Perhaps, but I tend to doubt it, since time stories are by nature non-binding.

What is significant is Trance running into a future version of herself, who explains that things in the future are very bad, not how she had hoped they would turn out. This prompts Trance to switch places with her future self so she can use knowledge from the future to change the past. The future Trance (“I grew up”) looks quite a bit different, more gold-colored than purple, and has notable ass-kicking abilities: When we first see her, she’s doing back-flips and knocking Kalderans around like she’s Xena. I’m not sure what I think about this; it’s hardly as if we need a new version of Trance who can provide still more action scenes on this series. Nonetheless, the change in Trance could be interesting if handled properly. Her knowledge from the future (or one possible future) could be the source of subsequent stories.

Meanwhile, we have Harper’s dilemma, a part of the story that is actually followable and benefits from the always lively Woolvett. In the process of trying to get back to the tesseract generator, a distortion suddenly sends him and his team to the engine room, where Hohne falls to his death. This sets up the decision at the end, possibly the only humanistic theme in the episode, where Harper must choose whether to activate the tesseract generator to save himself, or destroy the generator to restore the timelines and bring back Höhne, an important and brilliant man. As everyone is debating, Trance makes the decision and flips the switch to extract the larvae, setting the day’s events in stone. I’m glad all this actually came down to someone making a real decision, one that fills Harper and the other characters with unease.

Rommie tells Harper what’s done is done and, “All you can do now is earn it.” This potentially poignant, briefly established theme would’ve worked better if given more time (and also if it didn’t feel like Rommie’s line was lifted straight out of Saving Private Ryan), providing a strong argument for excising about 10 minutes of action scenes in favor of better-developed drama scenes.

Trance tells Dylan that she did what she did to save a friend over a stranger. What I think is an obvious oversight in this scene, however, is that she doesn’t mention that activating the generator also permitted the rip in space-time to occur in the first place, permitting her to move back in time and perhaps change history for the better. If Trance tells herself, “You know what we have to do,” then it seems only to make sense that she must flip the switch to stay in this timeline. But the story seems to forget about this angle and instead emphasizes her compassion for Harper. Maybe it was an intentional omission, but I think it hurts Trance’s implied motivation by not having this angle even acknowledged.

I dunno. It’s safe to say I had serious, serious problems with “Ouroboros.” I’m not concerned so much that the plot is full of paradoxes and doesn’t make sense (no time travel story does, after all) nearly as much as I hated the way most of the action events were completely arbitrary or, worse, meaningless. What’s odd about stories like this is that you can almost sense the ambition behind them. There are times I could see where Wolfe was coming from on “Ouroboros.” Unfortunately, the results mostly lead nowhere. The construction can more or less be followed, but it’s so hyperactive and lacking in any sort of coherent flow that it’s virtually impossible to be absorbed by the story. I never once felt like I was watching anything but a massive concoction of disjointed scenes and gratuitous action.

If the goal of Andromeda is to absolutely not be boring, they no doubt have succeeded with efforts like “Ouroboros.” If the goal of Andromedais more than that, however — to tell real stories with real drama that don’t rely on arbitrary, mechanical plot developments that play like bad sci-fi — I submit that this is absolutely not the way to do it.

According to Jammer’s Reviews of Dance of the Mayflies:

Robert Hewitt Wolfe wrote this script? Did he conceive it as a joke, a parting gift penned with an evil grin? (I can almost hear the “MWAH-HA-HA-HA-HA!” as he slides the script across the desk to his Tribune bosses, or former bosses — whichever.) This should’ve aired on April Fools Day, for crying out loud. If meant sincerely, the episode’s biggest mystery is why the credits don’t say “written and directed by Alan Smithee.” I’m thinking there’s a reason Gene Coon used his pseudonym when “Spock’s Brain” aired.

“Dance of the Mayflies” is laughable television tripe. It’s useful evidence for those people who say, “There’s nothing but crap on TV” — a statement I generally disagree with but might be tempted to lend credence to via this particular hour. On the Andromeda scale, “Mayflies” deserves to go down in flames with last year’s “Rose in the Ashes”; it might very well be the worst episode of Andromeda ever made. This is a brainless B action/horror movie with a little bit of sci-fi sprinkled on top. I have little doubt that Miller, Stentz, and Wolfe conceived it the other way around, before the episode was then “Tribunized” (to use an increasingly popular term) in the interests of making it “fun” and “action-packed” and “more accessible.” The finished product deserves to be viewed only in the sort of atmosphere where drinking games are being played … and hopefully already several hours under way. If this is representative of the “new Andromeda” (and I completely and sincerely hope not), then count me out.

Right now I feel more cynical about this series than I did about Voyagerwhen I finished watching “Favorite Son” during the awful stretch in that show’s third season. 2002 has so far not been kind to Andromeda (or perhaps I should say Andromeda has not been kind to 2002), with mediocre-to-bad action-hour zaniness in the likes of “Ouroboros,” “Lava and Rockets,” and “Be All My Sins Remembered,” but this latest episode makes those other shows look like relative masterpieces. If the point of “Mayflies” was to make me laugh at all the wrong times, then it’s a success. If not, then not.

The teaser and the first couple acts are, admittedly, not bad. The story thrusts us into the middle of an urgent crisis and an ensuing pursuit that’s effective and seems to be taking us somewhere, fast and furiously. Then the episode suddenly becomes a take-off on Night of the Living Dead and any and every other horror flick about Zombie Undead Ghoul Guys That Cannot Be Killed. Homage? Perhaps. I’m not a big follower of the horror genre, but that certainly doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a good homage or satire. That is, however, not what “Mayflies” plays like. Scene after scene flops and dies, buried under the usual cartoon-action excesses of this continually moronized series.

The endless action scenes are, as usual, pointless and laughable, and edited more poorly than usual. (Just look at the cheesiness where Trance and Rommie are going at it, or when Dylan goes on an ass-kicking spree down the corridor. It’s unabashed, unadulterated camp.) The plot serves this end perfectly: Now we have body-bag target practice for people who are already dead and then get back up again. There’s got to be some sort of poetry to the notion that the violence here is victimless because the victims have already been killed. Absolutely brilliant. (Logic suggests that Our Heroes should start lopping off limbs and heads to functionally incapacitate the Zombie Guys, but never mind — we’ve got to keep this TV-PG, right?)

The sci-fi angle initially sees this as a disease. The victims of the spores — or whatever — become Zombie Guys only after they die and the spores — or whomever — take control of the hollow corpses and start walking around trying to kill other people so the spores — or whichever — can “re-establish our rightful dominion here in our new home.” Say it aloud with me: MWAH-HA-HA-HA-HA!

Trance is taken over by the spore thingamabobs, which makes a Possessed Trance that now starts talking in a Low and Creepy Possessed Voice, which is quite possibly the oldest (and lamest) cliche in the body-possession genre’s arsenal.

The pacing and logic of the action is, yet again, a mess. There’s a scene, for example, where Trance is being attacked by a Zombie Guy and calls to the command deck for help. Dylan and Tyr barely react to the fact that TRANCE IS BEING ATTACKED and start engaging in expositional dialog. Finally we cut back to a struggle that must’ve been on pause mode during the Dylan/Tyr dialog.

Meanwhile, there’s a whole thread involving the Than chasing after theAndromeda because they know about the Super-Evil Zombie Guys and need to destroy them at all costs. Do they tell Dylan what’s going on when Dylan tries to communicate with them? Nope, because that would require five seconds of actual reasonableness by the Than, something this plot would be unable to endure.

There are too many crises. There’s (1) Attack of the Random Zombie Guys, (2) Attack of the Unreasonable Than, (3) Attack of the Evil Possessed Trance Warrior Princess, (4) Attack of the Deadly Virus (Beka is infected and has mere hours to live before she will succumb to Zombie-ism), and (5) Countdown to Auto-Destruct Armageddon. Sure, these threads come together in one way or another, but that’s beside the point. The point is that this is an overplotted mess where one crisis is constantly stumbling over another. (Here’s where I once again invoke my mantra-of-late: Less Is More.)

What’s a total shame is how there are moments of character continuity that are actually halfway reassuring (and what merit the half of a star awarded above). There’s nice continuity regarding Harper’s weak immune system and his desire to prove himself. There’s an effective nod to Beka’s past drug addiction and her desire to never again use a stimulant, even in this desperate situation with her life on the line. There’s the Rommie avatar taking a bigger interest in human emotions (particularly her trouble in facing the fact that Dylan will someday die) that’s apparently deviating from the rest of the ship’s personality, although the idea is piled on pretty thick and feels forced.

I’m also unconvinced about Tyr here, whose soft side often gets the better of him in ways I think are a bit too imposed by the writers rather than the character. It seems more potentially detrimental to what I like about Tyr, anyway. And his dramatic scenes are botched in ways that are difficult to describe. This is not one of Keith Hamilton Cobb’s better performances. It’s often too broad and other times features reactions that are just plain weird — I thought his stammering at Beka’s looming death was way off-kilter in execution.

Never mind, because it’s all irrelevant anyway. The characters totally drown in an ocean of hilarious dreck. The plot’s stunning revelation is that the Zombie Guys can be permanently killed if they’re shocked with — yes — “10,000 volts.” Whoa! And, yes, there’s even a shot where we see a couple Zombie Guys shocked with 10,000 volts in Super-Slow-Mo.

The one-liners are atrocious. At the very least they’re indicative of this series’ non-pretentious tone (okay, non-pretentious except for the episode titles; a better title for this show might’ve been “ACTION-PACKED ATTACK OF THE ZOMBIE GUYS!”). But even so, the one-liners here are groan-worthy and have no conviction, featuring gems like:

  • “I’m wearing protection.” (Harper)
  • “And stay dead!” (Beka)
  • “Stopped you dead in your tracks!” (Harper)
  • “The ungrateful dead.” (Dylan)
  • “He’s fallen and he can’t get up!” (Harper)
  • “Wink this out!” [thwack] (Rommie)
  • “Sorry, guys, but you’re not my type.” (Dylan)
  • “For the record, I hate zombies.” (Beka)
  • “[25, 20, 15, etc.] minutes until self-destruct.” (Andromeda)

And so on.

Then, of course, there’s:

“Trance, are you dead or alive?”
“Yes.”

Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. That Mysterious Trance is so cagey and crafty! (Cue canned laughter.)

One could call Trance’s reply clever, once again acknowledging the Big Trance Mystery without really dealing with it. One could also call it a lame cop-out that once again reduces Trance to a plot device (she can be possessed, manipulated as an action prop, and then killed, and then at the end she’s All Better and back to normal; sorry, doesn’t interest me anymore). And the scene gets worse, as the characters squirm with bemused reactions that come across exactly like hammy acting. How does a scene misfire so badly? I’m guessing the director, J. Miles Dale, is to blame.

The final scene plays like one of those moral lessons they used to tack on to the end of cartoons like He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, wrapped with a pretty bow on top. Lexa Doig’s performance in this scene I can only describe as inexplicably odd, and not in a good way. And in the context of the scene, Dylan’s platitudes on Love’s Eternal Role in the Universe are, quite frankly, pathetic. I’d have been cringing, but I was too busy laughing. Am I supposed to be moved by this?

You know, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with action and nothing wrong with having fun. The problem is, I expect at least a trace ofquality with my action and would-be fun. “Dance of the Mayflies” is the sort of show that I was quite simply embarrassed to admit I was watching.

According to Jammer’s Reviews of In Heaven Now Are Three:

Here’s an episode so bereft of anything resembling interesting content that I’m not sure exactly how to usefully review it. I suppose I should review it on its own “terms,” which is simply that of a bland adventure outing.

This episode is so lacking in ambition that it barely registers as a blip on the radar screen. It didn’t inflame me with dislike the way “Ouroboros” and “Dance of the Mayflies” did, but in a way that’s almost worse, because I have almost NO emotional reaction to this story whatsoever. It did make me wonder what I could talk about in reviewing it. A bland episode likely prompts an equally bland review, so fasten your seat belts.

Mainstream press critics jeered at Andromeda when the show first premiered, calling it Hercules in Space. At the time, that was an obvious, cheap shot. But with an episode like “In Heaven Now Are Three,” such a label seems downright accurate. This to me looks like no form of whatAndromeda once was.

More than anything, this is an episode that wants to be an Indiana Jones adventure. I honestly believe it wants to be fun. I also honestly can’t say I was anything but bored. The thing about the Indiana Jones movies was that they were superbly constructed, exciting, funny, and they really ratcheted up the tension and suspense. Heck, even the more recent Mummy films were nice to look at. Of course, it’s hard to do Indiana Jones on a shoestring budget, so if you’re doing it onAndromeda you’d better make the story pretty clever.

No such luck here.

There’s nothing remotely clever in “In Heaven Now Are Three,” exceptpossibly the twist at the end involving Trance, but even that feels like the usual All-Knowing Trance Vagueness. For the most part, this is exactly the type of episode that needs to be watched and absolutely not thought about or discussed afterward. The hardest part is in determining whether it’s fair to call this a failure because it simply didn’t try to do anything beyond fill an hour of screen time with scenes of pervasive mediocrity.

One fairly recent successful Indiana Jones type adventure in Trek that comes to mind is DS9‘s “The Sword of Kahless.” That episode benefited greatly from the fact that it was mired in the well-established Klingon mythos, allowing riddles and swords to become larger than life. Here we have an artifact that is either a meaningless MacGuffin or too big to even contemplate — you decide which, since the evidence on the screen here leaves it hopelessly up in the air. It’s the “Engine of Creation,” the universal Holy Grail. Apparently it can alter space and time and create life and grant wishes and stuff. What happens if it falls into the wrong hands? For that matter, what happens if it falls into the right hands? Not much, it would seem.

At the beginning of the show, Beka is looking at a computerized map of where the engine is hidden. Is this the map she extracted from the Hegemon’s Heart in “A Heart For Falsehood Framed”? To be completely honest, I’m not sure, but I also don’t feel like going back to watch this exceptionally pedestrian hour to try to clarify that minor detail.

The “three” referred to in the title are Beka, Dylan, and Trance. Tyr is relegated to the sidelines when Trance foretells his death. Nice contrivance. Legend says it takes three to unlock the mystery of the lost Engine. This comes in handy when our trio encounters another (i.e., bad) trio on the planet searching for the prize. There’s a Mexican standoff where logic successfully argues that any killings would leave either party short of the necessary number of members required to unlock the secret. The bad treasure-seeking trio is made up of Fletcher (Dean Wray), Duran (Ingrid Torrance), and Flux (Brendan Beiser), who represent counterparts to Dylan, Beka, and Trance, respectively. That is to say, eventually they will go mano a mano, where guy fights guy, girl fights girl, and Trance schemes with Flux, who is apparently one of Trance’s people, although he doesn’t look like her. Did Flux also evolve from a previous state of being a Purple Pixie?

As Indiana Jones type booby traps go, this episode’s traps feel almost humorously low-rent. Consider the key that unlocks the panel where our adventurers think the Engine is hidden. Beka pulls the key from the bottom of a bowl filled with granules, leaving a hole in the bottom of the bowl. The bowl is suspended from the ceiling over a basin of water. The granules therefore begin falling into the water and dissolving, filling the room with cyanide gas, prompting our adventurers to desperately escape their sealed death chamber. I guess this is the kind of booby trap you get when your budget makes it prohibitive to have huge spherical boulders or collapsing temples, but the design of this particular booby trap could only thwart total boobs. The secret of the trap is in plain view, for crying out loud. On cyanide gas: “That stuff’s not good for you,” Dylan offers helpfully. You sure can’t argue with the logic of Dylan one-liners.

It’s about here that the Primitive Natives — obligatory in any Indiana Jones-style adventure — show up. One of them speaks in a Low Synthesized Voice, and she talks of an arduous trial that our good trio must engage in against the bad trio. This means a fight to the death with swords, shields, and spears, making this episode look more like a take on Sorbo’s previous series, Hercules, than any Andromeda has to date. I can praise the hand-to-hand combat, I suppose, for being scaled down to the realm of the simply uninspired, instead of scaled up to the excessively over-the-top. I guess that’s progress.

When our heroes succeed in getting the upper hand during the hand-to-hand combat, they refuse to kill the bad guys. This proves our heroes’ Worthiness to have the treasure. My question is why the Primitive Natives are giving away this valuable, supposedly ultra-powerful artifact in the first place, or what their role in bearing it even is. Do they have a purpose or logic beyond showing up to provide a campy adventure-movie cliche and forcing the hand-to-hand combat? It would seem not.

There are a couple of character issues that are possibly worth discussion. One stems from Beka commanding this mission and her interaction with Dylan. She talks of not wanting to lose people on her watch, and it’s nice to see Beka in a leadership role again. And yet the episode constantly gives Dylan the Heroic Spotlight by having him “unconsciously” revert to leadership mode at every possible opportunity, taking actions that supersede Beka’s decisions. There’s a discussion where Beka calls Dylan on this tendency of his — a scene that seems to say “this is Beka’s show” — but it feels like an argument trapped in a vacuum, because the action speaks louder than the words; the episode says one thing and then does another. Sorry, but you can’t have it both ways.

Also annoying is how the episode pretends the Dylan/Beka bonding here is a breakthrough. The actors make the most of the sentiment, but it’s redundant and I don’t buy it, because such a “breakthrough” was the whole point of their interaction in last year’s “Its Hour Come ‘Round At Last,” among other hints in previous shows. Are we stuck in a time loop here?

The other character issue maybe worth talking about is Trance apparently knowing how this adventure would turn out from the beginning and how she works with Flux as a partner in rigging the game. Flux asks her when she’s going to return to her fellow brethren. Does this make any sense in the context of Trance’s character? I guess so, but then, of course, the whole context of her character is that there is no knowable context, and that she can know or do anything the story needs her to. I’m left feeling completely neutral on this matter.

Maybe the whole business with this mysterious Engine — or possible fragment of the Engine as it turns out to be — will lead somewhere. Then again, maybe not. I’m certainly not prompted to care one way or the other on the basis of what we have here.

Watching “In Heaven Now Are Three” is a stultifying experience that invites passivity. The biggest problem is that it’s, well, boring. I felt like I was watching a 60-minute nod (rip-off?) to a genre that has been done so many times, and every time so much better than this. There’s nothing wrong with doing an Indiana Jones adventure. It’s just better if your Indiana Jones adventure is actually imaginative, interesting, fun, or entertaining. This episode is nothing more than just “there.” It nods, and then we nod in response, because there’s absolutely nothing else to do.

According to Jammer’s Reviews of The Fair Unknown:

It’s at this point I let out a deep sigh and seriously wonder what, if anything, will reinvigorate my interest in Andromeda. For weeks and weeks on end, this series just hasn’t been much, if any, fun for me. Even an episode like “The Fair Unknown,” which makes some renewed efforts, mostly inspires me to shrug. With as much as I’ve been trashing this show lately, nothing would make me happier than to say I really enjoyed an episode. I must report that I can’t say that about “The Fair Unknown.” It’s just too mediocre. What I can say, however, is that it tried, and it at least didn’t suck.

Granted, parts of it sucked. The whole second act is a boring excuse for television, in which Kalderans exchange endless gunfire with Our Heroes. It’s lame and pointless and it goes on and on and on and on and on. It makes me seriously wonder how deluded Tribune is to think any of their “action” is the least bit exciting. Can anyone there honestly step back from the screen and believe that they’re watching entertainment? It’s approximately as much fun as watching two people sitting and playing a stalemate game of checkers (yes, checkers, not chess). It’s downright depressing to think that these days this is what the makers of Andromeda deem worthy of screen time.

But I will now allow myself to turn toward the positives of the overall ho-hum “Fair Unknown.” First and foremost is the issue of the long-term plot. It gets resurrected this week. Remember Tarn Vedra, the mysterious and wondrous world that has presumably been cut off from slipstream for generations? The planet where Dylan was born and hopes to see again someday? The writers bring back the story thread, which is reassuring.

The Vedrans are a mysterious bunch. They’ve been elevated to the status of the legendary and/or renowned and/or feared in the years since the fall, and for Dylan they represent a source of awe. Just the possibility of a Vedran here puts a bit of a spell over him.

Imagine my disappointment, then, to find out that’s what a Vedran looks like. As I let out another sigh, I must again remind myself that this is a modestly budgeted series … and yet I can’t help but think, a year of build-up to these mythic Vedrans and this is what we get in terms of a visual payoff? She’s friggin’ painted blue for cripes sakes. (“Excessively blue,” to quote Frank Pembleton’s verdict on the new squad room, in a larger effort to remind myself what truly good television was.) She has a helmet or armor or something that looks like it came from the toy department at Wal-Mart.

Positives, Jammer, positives. Let your cynicism relent…

The Vedran is named Uxulta (Sonya Saloma) and she’s in the middle of an important secret mission, one that she’s loath to disclose to Dylan Hunt. This eventually leads to the episode’s central dilemma, in which Uxulta asserts her authority as a Vedran admiral, demands a nova bomb with no explanation, and informs Dylan that he and his ship are at her disposal and that he must follow her orders or she’ll throw him in the brig and take command. This is an overstated case that seems completely forced in light of how the situation ultimately plays out. Uxulta and the Vedrans know who Dylan Hunt is; for her to offer him no information and instead resort to this sort of strong-arm tactic is, given the situation, downright unnecessary. Perhaps we needed a threat of the Andromeda being taken over yet again for the purposes of the trailers. (Roll eyes here.)

Positives, Jammer. Positives, damn you—

What I did like was the way the story put Dylan through a process of balancing caution and his feelings. His feelings involve an affection for Tarn Vedra and his desire to rediscover it. Restoring the Commonwealth is an issue that goes directly to Dylan’s personal quest of reshaping the universe into something he can recognize; Tarn Vedra, if it is indeed intact, would certainly be something he’d recognize. The issue of caution, however, comes in the form of a question: Does Tarn Vedra represent what it did 300 years ago? A lot has changed in three centuries, and for all Dylan knows, Tarn Vedra could today represent the antithesis of what he hopes to accomplish. I was glad to see Dylan address the fact that following Uxulta blindly would be foolish. (I was not, however, quite so glad to see Rommie arguing in favor of unconditional obedience. As a tactical strategist, she should know better than to accept a Vedran simply because the Vedran has a 300-year-old valid security clearance — particularly when she’s asking for a nova bomb).

There’s a significant moment for Dylan that proves nice: Uxulta tells him that she and Tarn Vedra are aware of Dylan’s mission to rebuild the Commonwealth — and more, that they agree with his intentions. (The cynic center in my brain, however, forces me to type “corny” in response to the exchange of salutes and the Meaningfully Swelling Music in this scene.)

The episode also poses additional questions that may be explored down the line. Uxulta’s important mission is one that vanishes an entire planet and its solar system in a way, we’re led to suspect, that’s similar to the way Tarn Vedra itself was shrouded from the universe. Was the solar system moved via slipstream? The slipstream routes destroyed? Are the Vedrans going to play a more prominent role in the series now that Dylan has found them and realizes their goals are similar to his?

Such questions might eventually prove interesting if they’re ever followed up. I only wish I was more enthusiastic about this episode itself, which raises more questions than it answers. “The Fair Unknown” is not an engaging episode in its own right. The idiotic action involving the Kalderans is the usual embarrassment and takes up far too much screen time. A character named Maia (Meredith McGeachie) is largely superfluous and written all over the map (first she tries to kill Dylan, then she’s an ally, and then she kisses him in the final scene for no reason I can really discern). Uxulta’s brief bout of strong-arming rings false in a way that took me right out of the show. There’s also sledgehammered exposition near the beginning of the show that borders on self-parody, as if people actually walk around discussing things for the benefit of no one actually there, since everyone actually there already knows everything being expounded on.

Do I think “The Fair Unknown” is a good episode? Not particularly. The details still feel like slipshod television assembly. But it does represent a step that could take Andromeda in the direction of being better television, and a step in the right direction is certainly something I’ll take over the recent alternative.

According to Jammer’s Reviews of Belly of the Beast:

To my own amazement, I find myself giving my approval of “Belly of the Beast,” which is by far the silliest, most lunatic Andromeda outing since “Dance of the Mayflies,” and yet manages to be fun instead of grating.

Have no illusions: This is an episode with little in terms of seriousness or depth. It has scenes of jaw-dropping cheesiness. Why, then, do I give it a thumbs-up? Because it reveals full awareness of its silliness, it manages to use its characters more effectively than most Andromedashows of late, it’s admirably efficient as an action show — and, well, I confess that I’m really wanting to give a positive review of Andromedaright now. Call it guarded praise, but praise nonetheless.

And another thing: I like that this episode is actually a space adventure instead of a Hercules-style fight show with endless kung-fu and/or blazing guns. Instead of scores of mindless villains and endless shootouts, we have one mindless villain (a massive space creature), two spaceships, and plenty of stuff getting blown up real good. I will take a hardware tech show any day over endless action in a Canadian forest, gunfire, and/or lame kung-fu.

The premise is sublime simplicity: The space creature — a myth called the Cetus — is about to take a bite out of a nearby populated planet, and the Andromeda must stop it. Dylan and Trance are on the Maruplanning to assure the threatened planet that they’ll be okay. The rest of the crew is on the Andromeda when they unexpectedly run into the Cetus, which — gasp! — isn’t just a myth after all! From here it’s all about identifying problems and working through them. When things go wrong, the characters must try to make them better.

We never really find out the true nature of the Cetus (sentient? Malicious? The equivalent of a shark in space?), and it’s just as well; this is the sort of threat that we need to identify and destroy and not think about beyond that. It’s reminiscent of the original Trek‘s “The Immunity Syndrome,” in which the Enterprise crew had to contend with a giant all-consuming amoeba in space. That show wasn’t about much of anything either, but the characters really had a chance to shine.

In this episode, the characters have a chance perhaps not quite to shine, but to come pretty close. While the chemistry on Andromeda will never be in the same league as the original Star Trek cast, there are moments here where characters can detach from the frankly ridiculous events going on around them and simply exist as themselves, interact with their peers, and bounce around with crazy dialog.

The central crisis here is that the Andromeda is swallowed by the Cetus and the crew must figure out how to escape before they’re digested (I hate it when that happens). Meanwhile, Dylan and Trance in the Marurealize the Andromeda has been swallowed and they must figure out a way to save the Andromeda and/or destroy the Cetus, in the grander mission of ultimately saving the defenseless planet.

As special-effects creatures on this series go, the Cetus is sometimes well above average (when it swallows the Andromeda, it looks pretty convincing), and other times pretty shoddy (scenes where the Cetus chases the Andromeda through the camera frame sometimes bear a humorous resemblance to chase scenes in Scooby Doo cartoons, with their static and 2-dimensional movements).

The story starts picking up momentum midway through, as the script develops a two-tiered structure that tackles the problem from both ends, with the crews in the Andromeda and the Maru both trying to anticipate what the other will do. It’s like a guessing game of scenarios where the ultimate goal is having one’s cake and eating it too (while thinking outside the box, etc.), but also recognizing that such a solution may not be a possible goal. Questions are posed: How to destroy the Cetus without destroying the Andromeda? How to release theAndromeda without destroying the Maru? How to destroy the Cetus at all costs, even if it means sacrificing the Andromeda and/or the Maru? Such scenarios are considered at various points, and not everyone is in agreement at all times.

Most interesting is the game of prediction various characters play in coming to make their decisions: Did Dylan die in a Maru kamikaze to attempt to release the Andromeda? Should Harper (therefore/not-therefore, I’m not sure which) eject the slipstream drive to give the Cetus an awful stomach ache? Who will do what, and how do we take a course of action based on these predictions? And so on.

In particular, Tyr gets a chance to be Tyr, with a few standout lines, including, “I trust Dylan to be Dylan” (a nice mirror image on Dylan’s previous “I trust Tyr to be Tyr”), and also the most hilarious Tyr line in quite some time: “When the universe collapses and dies, there will be three survivors: Tyr Anasazi, the cockroaches, and Dylan Hunt trying to save the cockroaches.” Where has this guy been? He and Beka get some good dialog scenes — interesting scenes that work while at the same time play goofy games on the levels of sexual tension that make you grin at the silliness factor.

Meanwhile we have Harper’s motormouth fully engaged as he attempts to gain manual control over the ship’s AI, which has become scrambled in a way not so severely as in “Its Hour Come ‘Round At Last,” but severely enough to cause plenty of problems. The show cuts back and forth between the two sides of the narrative (Andromeda, Maru), keeping the show inside the two spaceships, both of which take a pounding as sparks and bodies go flying and/or hurtling through the air. It’s chaos done relatively well.

After the Cetus is destroyed (communicating and reasoning with a monster like this — let’s face it — is for squares and Starfleet captains) and both ships saved, we get crew members dancing with each other on the Andromeda command deck. This has got to be one of the cheesiest happy endings not seen within the confines of a Saturday-morning cartoon. My eyes were in disbelief before I was rolling them uncontrollably.

Also, eye-roll-worthy are lines that qualify as Exposition For Dummies, like:

Beka: “Plot an intercept.”

Harper: “What?!”

Beka: “Get in front of it.”

Or overblown bouts of self importance:

Trance: “If the Cetus eats the Andromeda and gets filled, wouldn’t that save the planet?”

Dylan: “That … might … save the planet — but we … would lose the universe.” (Sorbo has mastered the Shatner-like pauses between words; all he needs now is a passion that makes him sound anything but bored.)

Still, there’s got to be some sort of medal for courage the writers deserve for this kind of reckless abandon. Creatures that eat starships. Dialog that exclaims: “The Cetus gets one hell of a Heimlich and spews us out like your autochef’s three-day-old chopped liver, faster than you can say “uncle,” or in this case, “anti[matter].” And “You could even say that we had our cake outside of the box and ate it too.” The crew dancing with each other on a wrecked command deck. To 20th-century swing music. I think. (Rest assured you cannot envision this sight with as much cheese as actually seeing it played out here.)

I’m feeling generous — three stars. Is this good art? Hardly. But it’s zany, ridiculous, and sometimes quite fun. Just know first what it is you’re getting yourself into. And if you find at times that you’re smacking yourself in the forehead, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

According to Jammer’s Reviews of Immaculate Perception:

Tyr Anasazi, on a writer’s good day, can be this series’ most complex and interesting character. What motivates this guy? To call him self-serving would be accurate but not sufficient, because Tyr takes the concept of the self and elevates its importance through the use of self-righteous philosophy.

“Immaculate Perception” is the perfect example of this. The ending is one that proves that in Tyr’s mind, Tyr and his interests must come first, perhaps because he can’t bring himself to trust anyone else to do the job right. There’s a lot of incompetence out there — a lot of “uncompromising inferiority.”

The storyline we get here is another example of nigh-reckless abandon, in which the writers venture out on a limb. Unlike “Belly of the Beast,” however, where the writers went out on a limb of unabashed silliness, here the writers go out on a limb of cosmic melodrama to bring us something that’s stunning in its audacity and ambitious in its potential scope, even if we may find ourselves severely doubting the likelihood and enormity of the claims made.

Basically, the claim made here is that Tyr’s wife Freya (Dylan Bierk; see “Double Helix” from season one) gave birth to a son, Tamerlane, who is possibly the much-discussed genetic reincarnation of Drago Museveni, i.e., the Nietzschean messiah who is destined to reunite the fragmented Nietzschean people. That’s quite a claim. I must say that I’m almost glad restraint and common sense didn’t get in the writers’ way for bringing us this revelation.

Freya is still with the Orca pride, also last seen in “Double Helix,” where they were forced into a retreat because of that show’s events. The Orca pride is hiding out on a remote asteroid because of a renewed campaign of violence by the Knights of Genetic Purity, or “Genites,” a ruthless organization that believes in killing all Nietzscheans on the basis of their being genetically modified. After receiving a transmission from Freya, Tyr goes on a mission to rescue her. This is before he even knows she bore his child, and before the Andromeda crew even knows Tyr has a wife. Meanwhile, Andromeda tries to deal with the Genites, who have superior weapons and technology. The Genites proposeAndromeda join their cause. Captain Hunt refuses.

I suppose it’s a good thing star ratings are based on the law of averages, because there’s a scene so preposterously bad in “Immaculate Perception” that it warrants negative stars on the four-star scale. I’m referring to the scene where Orca leader Dimitri (Stuart O’Connell) rants and raves at Tyr in an inexplicably hammed-up voice that is plunged so deep into the chasm of bad acting that it threatens to pull the entire episode over the precipice with it. How, how, how does something like this get through the dailies without an automatic reshoot — to hell with the costs — upon initial viewing of the footage? It’s startlingly bad.

So it plays like almost like an inside joke (or a mercy killing, with the mercy applied to the audience) when Tyr sneaks up behind Dimitri and swiftly snaps his neck. If only all characters so badly acted could meet their demise this quickly. I like the way the episode builds up Dimitri as if he’s going to be a legitimate threat to Tyr, only to have Tyr snap his neck 30 seconds into the initial encounter. Amusing.

I also like Tyr being Tyr to the bone after he finds out about Tamerlane and the implications of Tamerlane’s genetic code. He blasts the Orca for their incompetence and announces his plans to take Freya and Tamerlane and let the rest of the Orca rot on their own; after all, he has no responsibility to them. It’s a harsh verdict, but it comes across as very Tyr-like given the stakes at hand. By inquiring into a DNA-record comparison with Drago Museveni, the Orcas have essentially broadcast the coming of the Nietzschean messiah to those who would do anything to prevent it, namely the Genites, hence their latest campaign.

This results in an eventual assault by the Genites on the Orca base, but how exactly this assault comes about is of particular interest, showing Tyr exercising the ultimate in calculated ruthlessness — equal parts pragmatism and preservation of himself and his family. Tyr sends off the entire remaining Orca pride to their pre-planned, unceremonious slaughter at the hands of the Genites; it’s Tyr’s distraction to protect the ostensible Greater Good, that being Tyr’s messianic son.

Freya’s death, alas but not surprisingly, comes about in such a way as to seem painfully preordained, as if the plot was marching on cue toward an unavoidable event mandated by the Gods of Tying Up Loose Story Ends. When the Andromeda finally rescues Tyr after the Genites blow up the Orca’s asteroid, it’s only after three days of searching and waiting (and somewhat oversold pathos) that Tyr turns up.

He turns up with a sad tale about the death of his wife and son, a tale that Keith Hamilton Cobb delivers with so much earnest seriousness that I’m honestly not sure whether it’s moving or absurd. What I will say is that I found the speech intriguing in its melodramatic strokes, because when it comes down to it, this seems very consistent with Tyr and his quest for finding a family, which to him likely represents where he’d like to end up in finding his place in the universe.

Then, of course, there’s the fact that the whole speech is a lie of grandiose proportions — that Tyr in those three days of supposed drifting did find a way to save Tamerlane and whisk him off to the safety of some obscure world, to be raised in the care of the sole Orca survivor. And, apparently, there Tamerlane will wait until he’s ready to become the messiah.

There’s a point where Dylan puts forward a (correct) theory that stops short of calling Tyr on this lie. Tyr doesn’t drop the charade. And given the stakes we can understand why. Tamerlane’s importance is supposedly of, well, biblical proportions. In this case, Tyr has a duty that probably goes well beyond Andromeda and, say, Captain Hunt potentially using Tamerlane as a political tool.

Though he’s sometimes inclined to play the part of a team player, Tyr’s first duty is clearly still not the Andromeda. I like that. This is an episode that gets into Tyr’s head and tries to see what makes him tick: self-serving, but not merely so. It’s one of the season’s better offerings.

According to Jammer’s Reviews of Tunnel at the End of the Light:

Well, here you have it — a big, bad season finale whose payoff is a Big Huge Explosion while anything resembling actual storytelling content comes across as completely secondary and/or perfunctory. Bravo,Andromeda.

“Tunnel at the End of the Light” may as well be called “Explosion at the End of the Hour.” While whatever it is we supposedly get here could arguably serve as the backdrop for the inevitable Part II follow-up next season (yes, this is yet another “cliffhanger”), trying to extract an actual story from what little information we get in “Tunnel” is pretty much a waste of time. The plot is an arbitrary concoction — bad, campy sci-fi — with nothing in terms of wit, imagination, or ingenuity. It’s another video game, with a few moments of would-be “relevant” dialog shoehorned between explosions.

It wasn’t enough last year that we learned of a big Magog world-ship headed our way. Now we have to one-up last year’s finale by supplying a new, bigger alien threat. And the writers didn’t hold back in the interests of tasteful restraint; they go for all-out madness and goofiness, because this is a Bigger-Than-Big, Mucho Grande Badass Threat — like taking last year’s threat and super-sizing the fries. Who are these aliens? I haven’t a clue. Are they a mystery? Nope, because a mystery requires a certain level of actual mysteriousness.

What we have here, rather, are aliens that are cartoon action props who apparently want to come across from their universe and rule/destroy/conquer ours. Bwahahaha. They have no motive, no dialog; they are yet another swarm of faceless locusts. Last year we got hundreds of faceless Magog swarming onto the Andromeda. This year we’ve got tens of thousands of super-duper phase-shifting alien spaceships emerging into our galaxy out of “a tunnel from another universe” and attacking our heroes. I came down pretty hard on last year’s overblown finale, “Its Hour Come ‘Round At Last,” but at least it was a recognizable piece of a larger puzzle. This, by comparison, is just big and lame.

No, I did not like this episode, not one bit. I’m of the opinion thatAndromeda has degenerated into a mindless farce that more often than not requires me to be dumber while watching it. While “Tunnel” admittedly makes some efforts to tie in with previous episodes to make this somehow Andromeda-relevant, there’s absolutely no escaping two things: (1) The plot at hand involving the eeeeevil aliens is so minimal as to be laughable, and (2) the space battles exist only to supply endless, hollow sound and fury, not to provide anything dramatic, remotely interesting, logical, or even fun. Once upon a different show calledAndromeda was an episode called “Angel Dark, Demon Bright” (from which this episode steals its share of stock special-effects shots) — where a really big explosion actually had equally big dramatic impact and meaning.

“Tunnel” ends with what may be the biggest explosion yet depicted on a sci-fi TV series, though I can’t say for sure; it’s a big, BIG explosion that’s somewhat impressive in terms of audible decibels and visual fury. But did I care about any of it the way I cared during “Angel Dark, Demon Bright”? No. No, I did not.

This all takes place on the eve of the signing of the new Commonwealth charter. The concept of the Commonwealth, once this series’ mission, has been simplified to a relatively minor plot point. Planet No. 50 signed up in “The Knight, Death, and the Devil,” but we have no idea what holds this alliance together or what its values are. Most of the recruitment of worlds has been off-screen and scarcely even implied. Here it seems like half the planets are ready to back out of the alliance if things don’t easily go their way. (I’ll talk more about the Commonwealth in my season wrap-up.)

The aliens have phase-shifting abilities that allow them to walk through walls and appear and vanish at will. No idea what they want or why, though — that would be too revealing and tangible for the story to bear, and might require our heroes’ understanding beyond that required for their immediate need to blow them all up with the biggest explosion ever.

Before the explosion there’s of course a fight scene, stylized beyond recognition. I’m honestly not even sure what to make of the alien design — whether they actually look like that or if they’re supposed to be wearing body armor. If it is body armor or an exoskeleton or whatever, I’m interested in knowing how it is Dylan can head-butt one of them and win. The action is cartoonish and sloppily choreographed to the point of being hard to follow — it apparently doesn’t matter howthings happen as long as it’s quickly edited, fast-moving, and we get a vague sense that Dylan and Rommie win the kung-fu match and the bad aliens lose.

I guess it’s of some consolation that the show’s most irritating guest character, a grating Perseid, is quickly dispatched by the phase-shifting bad guys. Meanwhile, the plot hurries along and touches a few reasonable bases regarding the uneasy alliance, as when the Sabra-Jaguar delegate doubts the Andromeda‘s ability to fight off this threat. There’s also the use of Trance, who informs the crew that this invasion is the turning point in the timeline where things went bad and the reason why she crossed through time in “Ouroboros.” This plot point is also reasonable, but not used nearly as well as it should have been … and watching Trance blow up alien ships while saying “Yeah, that’s it, baby!” is something — like much of this episode — I could’ve easily done without. (As space combat goes, the action is so indistinct as to be humorous. Dylan’s commands to engage the enemy include, “Fire — a lot.” Good to see that military background applied to its fullest.)

The season ends with the fate of Tyr and Beka — who deliver the super-bomb that causes the humongous explosion — up in the air for us to ponder, such as we will, until fall. Are they killed? Kidnapped to another universe? Who knows? And, more to the point, who really honestly cares? I for one do not.

Andromeda, it’s pretty clear to me, is determined to be a show about poorly staged action, big explosions, simpleminded heroics, and, on the rarer occasion, some individual stories that might be watchable. Meanwhile, the issue of the Commonwealth’s real purpose — ostensibly an important issue to this series — is constantly left muddled, indistinct, and perfunctory. (Can/will it even survive having been thrust into war barely 10 seconds after being almost-founded? Such a question is barely considered while the episode instead baits us with the “Did Tyr and Beka die?” question — which, let’s face it, is already answered.) Either we cave in and accept this series as a pale shadow of what it could’ve been (and perhaps even once was), or we keep arguing in favor of the higher road.

I don’t know what else to say. I can only cry “uncle.”

 

The Worst:

Lava and Rockets, and The Things We Cannot Change

Lavarocket

Lava and Rockets is what much of the show will become in future seasons (try Conduit to Destiny or When Goes Around…) being all about the girl, and The Things We Cannot Change was a clip show with not much story to tell, and it also had a thing about the girl.

According to Jammer’s Reviews of Lava and Rockets:

“Lava and Rockets” represents what I hope Andromeda does not become in the wake of Robert Hewitt Wolfe’s departure. It’s a stand-alone action-adventure outing heavy on simplistic formula storytelling and light on anything resembling depth or meaning. There are character moments to keep us slightly entertained, but the plot is an exercise in utter banality. Is this watchable? Yeah, I guess. Interesting? Not in the slightest.

The other thing that’s disturbing is how the episode plays almost like a template for what Tribune has been reported (via Kevin Sorbo) as wanting more of from the series: simpleminded action, sex, and low-or-no-consequence-oriented storytelling — a plot for the attentively challenged. Dylan here is your Simple Action Hero type. He gets to kiss the girl, blow stuff up, and generally be a bland and unsophisticated Good Guy. It’s the type of comic-book Dylan that makes me yearn for the Dylan of, say, “Angel Dark, Demon Bright,” where he was under real pressures and agonized through them. I’m wondering if we’ll ever get to see that Dylan again, since agonizing and soul-searching are not very sexy traits and thus not on the same plane of entertainment as what Tribune apparently envisions.

Dylan hijacks a docked tour ship while running from this week’s bad guys, the Ogami, mercenaries hired by who-knows-whom. The pilot of the tour ship is a Blonde Babe named Molly Noguchi (Kristin Lehman), and the story’s key goal is to develop a Han Solo/Princess Leia style of banter between Dylan and Molly that, inevitably, leads to a superficial romance.

The romance is so painfully obvious and in the tradition of ancient cinema cliches that I’m not entirely sure whether the writers meant it seriously or as quasi-satire. I’m guessing it’s not satire because, well, it’s not all that funny or subversive. But then, of course, you’d be a fool to take anything in the Dylan/Molly storyline of “Lava and Rockets” remotely seriously. It is what it is — an action plot with no trace of apology. It makes no excuses and carries no pretensions whatsoever about what it intends to be.

The character of Molly also comes with no apologies or pretensions. She’s a chick with spunky attitude (watch her glee as she jerks the ship’s controls and sends Dylan crashing into walls) and she comes with a few basic sketches of personality and desires, but is basically little more than a construction of the plot. She dreams of being a military pilot but is stuck piloting this tour vessel, a (usually) safe but boring job. “I don’t want safe,” she says, which is a good thing, since hanging out with Dylan Hunt, the man whom everyone seems to want dead, is probably one of the least safest places to be in the tri-galaxy area.

Dylan initially takes Molly hostage, but they quickly become allies. This, however, is (ostensibly) not before she attempts to turn him in to some cops at a security checkpoint, who turn out to be crooked cops, forcing her to be rescued by the very person she just tried to turn in. This prompts the first of two action/stunt sequences which exist more for the sake of themselves than for anything that truly needs to happen in the story. I’m sure it will come as no surprise that the action is executed like a cartoon (super slo-mo, stylized violence, bodies flipping through the air, etc.). Noteworthy is the fact that Dylan extends his force-lance to full staff mode, something we haven’t recently seen. I’m not sure why that’s noteworthy, but I’ll mention it anyway (feel free to apply whatever Freudian theory you see fit). Molly trying to turn in Dylan is quite puzzling given her behavior prior to this point. And, whether they’re crooked or not, I’m wondering what happens when Dylan kills cops on alien worlds. Apparently he’s above the law since he’s the show’s hero.

What’s particularly frustrating about this story is that the villains are arbitrary and the chase is meaningless. Why are the Ogami even chasing Dylan? Because they’re the bad guys, that’s why. No, make that Bad Guys. No concrete reason is supplied beyond that. The Ogami are a good example of the MacGuffin; they exist to create the story’s chase as a matter of plot function, and the story doesn’t really see them as subjects at all.

Writers Miller & Stentz have done much better. “Into the Labyrinth” had action and sexual material, but at least there was a plot and some genuine urgency to go along with it. At least the enemies there mattered to the story’s participants rather than being random pieces. That’s not the case here.

What helps salvage “Lava and Rockets” are a B-story and a C-story, which are given less obvious emphasis but work better in terms of solid characterization. In story B, Tyr and blue-haired “action figure” Rommie (the new costume is excessively over-the-top) go looking for Dylan, whom Tyr had to abandon when the Ogami started chasing them. In story C, Harper must try to accept the fact that Trance has changed into someone he no longer knows or understands (and doesn’t really want to).

The Tyr/Rommie storyline benefits from some good character tension and, later, mutual understanding. Rommie doesn’t trust Tyr (and why should she?) and makes it clear that Tyr won’t live if she finds out he was involved in offing Dylan. Tyr responds with an appeal to Rommie’s logic that I appreciated, noting that getting rid of Dylan doesn’t automatically help him — which is an apt point. Cobb and Doig work well together because they’re similar in disposition in the way they’re both as serious as a heart attack. It’s a pairing that I don’t believe we’ve seen on this series to such an extent, and the results here are often good.

Tyr and Rommie’s investigation leads them back to Ferahr (Dave Ward), one of Tyr’s old contacts who may or may not have betrayed them to the Ogami and who might now have information about Dylan’s recent movements (Ferahr gave Dylan and Molly parts to repair her ship not long before Tyr and Rommie show up on his doorstep). Rommie demonstrates her propensity for strong-armed tactics by literally twisting Ferahr’s arm for information.

No matter — the Ogami come storming in for Major Action Scene #2, which features Rommie running up walls, a la Trinity in The Matrix, and Tyr bashing heads. This scene is depressing in its by-the-numbers approach to action. The moment the Ogami showed up, I knew (1) that there’d be plenty of gunfire, (2) that Ferahr would be shot and killed in the mayhem (final words: “Tyr! … I … ehrughefegh … ” [dies]), and (3) that all the Ogami would be faceless, growling, cartoon thugs in Halloween costumes, reduced to prop status specifically to make it okay to go over the top with bloodless violence. I am sick and damn tired of it — dumb villain-props whose presence caters solely to the segment of the audience waiting for shoot-em-ups, supposed villains having absolutely no dialog as characters. This aspect of Andromedamust be stopped. I propose an immediate seizure of all spark-squibs bound for Vancouver.

Story C is good but might’ve been better if expanded through more scenes. Harper’s issue is that he doesn’t particularly want to get to know the new Trance because he’s a little frightened by what she represents (past, future, life, death, etc.). It’s nice to see the issue of Trance’s transformation is addressed here from the standpoint of other characters. Trance herself seems more grown-up in attitude, with that innocent facade significantly stripped away; Laura Bertram aptly portrays the character with less mystery and more directness. When Harper runs his mouth off with his Trance conspiracy theory, Trance doesn’t sit back and take it, and her response is among the more sincere things the character has said. Additionally, I liked the scene where Beka calmly lays down the law.

Unfortunately, “Lava” is less about the supporting characters and more about Dylan and Molly and their trite chase storyline. A notion that strikes me as somewhat silly is the way Dylan jury-rigs this tour ship to take such a pummeling from Ogami fighters, which are destroyed as they fly over erupting volcanoes — and yet the tour ship can crash-land in molten lava without melting or being significantly damaged.

As for the romance angle, I felt the need to roll my eyes at several points, particularly the predictable moment where Molly is lying (presumably) unconscious on the floor and Dylan gives her mouth-to-mouth to revive her. Ugh — I called that one about a mile away. I also called that she’d wake up halfway through (assuming she wasn’t faking the whole time) and start kissing him.

I must confess to somewhat liking how the chase culminates, with theMaru charging in to the rescue as Molly’s tour ship continues to take a pounding from Ogami fighters until it blows up — and then the Maru‘s fairly well-executed rescue of the out-of-control escape pod. (Though I could’ve done without Rommie’s Exposition For Dummies line: “Dylan’s ship — it’s gone.” Duh!) These events are paced just about right, and I found myself caught up in the flow even though I knew that none of it really mattered on a plot level. Director Michael Rohl deserves some credit. Unfortunately, it can’t make up for the story’s overall lack of a point, or the fact that the Ogami end up meaning absolutely nothing to everyone, most of all the audience.

As bubble gum for the brain, this episode gets the job done to a certain degree. It works better for those who will be watching passively than for the geeks out here writing reviews. The dialog and one-liners chew their way through the hour effectively enough to make scenes watchable, though I can’t say many of them are memorable. “Lava and Rockets” represents completely safe, prefab, cartoon-adventure storytelling — nothing more, nothing less.

The story ends with a bedroom scene that exists for little reason other than, apparently, a need to get Dylan laid on-screen. There’s no emotional or character significance; it’s simply the taking of a formula to its logical and/or mandatory and/or gratuitous conclusion. If you want to see Dylan in bed with a woman for the sake of itself, great. If you’re looking for any sort of meaning, you’re hoping for too much.

“Lava and Rockets” is an episode that might work for those who like sanitized TV action and sex. It won’t work for those looking for any surprises or depth. It certainly didn’t do much for me other than make me shrug. I certainly didn’t hate this episode, but if it were to vanish from the face of the Earth, I probably wouldn’t really notice, either.

According to Jammer’s Reviews of The Things We Cannot Change:

What’s a reviewer to do in the face of a clip show, seeing as probably a third of the material on the screen is lifted straight from old shows? The only sensible answer is to look at the clips chosen, the framing device that sets them in motion, and figure out how it all relates to each other.

In that case, which is the case I’m going with, “The Things We Cannot Change” is a dismal failure, a show that has an anemic framing device with many clips that feel like they were chosen at random, and the rest weakly-at-best connected to the storyline. I feel like a churl writing my eighth consecutive negative review for Andromeda, but there’s absolutely nothing in this episode that’s genuinely involving. On the other hand, there’s a lot of material that’s shapeless and senseless and adds up to a big question mark.

I should admit up front that I don’t much care for clip shows. I’m of the opinion that if you’re going to do one, just package it without a story framing device and sell it exclusively as a sampling of the series, likeFarscape does. At least then I wouldn’t have to bother with a review. A clip show packaged like this one is particularly vulnerable to cliche (it’s a dream sequence that seems inspired by a soap opera), and when we have no idea what the clips are supposed to mean in the context of the hour, then it comes off looking suspiciously like the episode was written with perfunctory regard for the clips ultimately included within it.

This episode bears a resemblance to the second-season TNG finale “Shades of Gray,” an episode regarded by many of that series’ fans as one of its all-time worst installments. To be fair, “The Things We Cannot Change” boasts a superior underlying concept — it at least tries to make an effort to set up an internal conflict — but the net result is all too similar: a series of unrelated flashbacks that don’t have the slightest bit of dramatic coherence. It might possibly inspire newcomers to seek out reruns (though probably not), but I can’t imagine it will do much for the faithful who have already seen these episodes.

The clothesline of a plot finds Our Hero Dylan sucked into space near a black hole — the third time an Andromeda episode has been set around a black hole. He floats unconscious in an EVA suit with a limited air supply. While the crew attempts to rescue him, Dylan dreams of a parallel existence (Future? Past? Neither? The episode is murky on just when/where this is supposed to take place, which, admittedly, might be the point), where he is happily married with a son. In the morning, he and his pretty wife, Liandra, make love in the bedroom of an idyllic house on the riverfront. The son storms into the bedroom with joyous laughs of “Daddy! Daddy!” To create tones of the heavenly simplistic and surreal, the house is completely white, utterly clean, with nothing on the walls. That’s right: It’s a dreamy cliche.

But hold on a second. Something’s not right. Dylan has waking flashbacks — maybe it’s post-traumatic stress disorder. He envisions — well, things that happened in old episodes. In his dream he lives out the flashbacks while awake and talking to his wife; at one point, he pulls out his force-lance and envisions his definitive struggle with Rhade — and nearly shoots his wife in the process of a crazed hallucination.

The connections between the dream setting and the flashbacks are most strongly connected through some visual cues. Dylan sees a stove-top fire and envisions the evil, fiery Spirit of the Abyss, accusing his wife of being part of an alien conspiracy. He sees his son’s soccer ball and envisions the Magog world-ship flying across the galaxy. Fine and good; the visual transitions are sometimes workable in a fire-equals-fire, sphere-equals-sphere literal sense, but as the show progresses, little of this has much to do with the would-be point of the exercise — that of Dylan coming to terms with the struggle of who he is, a soldier in the High Guard or a husband and a father. In this dream his military career and stress has worn on his marriage — though the episode makes alarmingly swift changes in momentum, with blissful lovemaking not-so-gradually shifting toward Liandra threatening to take their son and leave Dylan if he doesn’t quit the High Guard.

A situation like this is especially dependent on solid performances. Alas, we don’t have them. Kevin Sorbo’s limited range is especially evident here; he lacks the ability demanded of him by this story to credibly turn from relaxed to confused to crazy to tortured. When, for example, he shouts out in frustration, “What the hell is going on here?!” it’s very important that we believe him, otherwise the scene lies in ruins. Unfortunately, I didn’t at all believe him, and the scene lay in ruins.

Similarly, Cynthia Preston as Liandra is less than stellar, and Ryan Drescher as son Ethan is awful in an ultra-annoying fingernails-on-chalkboard performance that makes the kid who played Anakin Skywalker in Episode I look tolerable by comparison.

Through a cycle of flashback, discussion, flashback, discussion, the show turns downright tedious and it becomes increasingly difficult to ascertain exactly what, if anything, writer Ethlie Ann Vare is trying to say here. Even when the dialog between Dylan and his wife occasionally lines up with what actually happens in the flashbacks, it doesn’t have much of a point. It sits idly as a neutral fragment, perfunctory rather than essential.

I understand that dreams aren’t supposed to make sense. They’re erratic, incomplete, chaotic, and they leave one pondering the meaning after waking. But “The Things We Cannot Change” does not evoke the senseless, confused atmosphere of a real dream nor the coherence of reasonable drama. It’s a constant unintended compromise between the two, an hour of disjoined clips shoehorned between pieces of a repetitive discussion. (Not to mention we have to sit through clips like, for example, the closing maudlin excess of “Star-Crossed,” not good the first time around, let alone now.)

All of which might’ve been tolerable if there was any sort of point to it by the end. The underlying theme is that of Dylan choosing between his family and his career. But the episode leaves no room for reflection. After being rescued by the Andromeda crew, Dylan’s speech at the end is yet another example of wrapping things in a pretty package with a pretty bow, never mind that such dialog represents the simplest of simpleminded, shoving aside all longing and doubt that the dream would suggest Dylan has. Or doesn’t have. You tell me.

For that matter, also tell me what we’re supposed to make of the whole Liandara-is-an-alien-or-maybe-not and then the whole Trance-maybe-knows-what-was-going-on-but-pretends-not-to. The story goes to great lengths to hint at but not draw any conclusions about the uncertainties of this plot, or whether said “plot” even exists. Are we being set up for something down the road, like, heaven forbid, the image of Liandra really turning out to be Spirit of the Abyss or some other black-hole-dwelling lifeform (who here tells him, “You’re killing my people”)? I don’t know, but more to the point, I don’t care; this episode doesn’t even come close to working on its chosen level for me to worry about the possibilities of murky, buried, supposedly-all-meaning-but-truthfully-meaningless subplots (the reason why I quit watching The X-Files).

This is an hour that demands its central character to pause, reflect, and question himself. Instead we have simpleton Dylan saying, “I’m Captain Dylan Hunt of the starship Andromeda Ascendant.” Yawn. To put it another way, if even Dylan isn’t moved by this experience, why in the world should we be?

Maybe I’m the one who’s dreaming. Wake me up when the series has shown evident depth beyond that of a muddied wading pool.

 

andromeda-12a

The next in best and worst is Season 1.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “The Best and Worst of Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda: Season 2

  1. Pingback: The Best and Worst of Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda: Season 1 | The Progressive Democrat

  2. Pingback: The Best and Worst of Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda: Season 5 | The Progressive Democrat

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s