Summary: Andromeda battles a Big Red Dot.
As the obligatory crew shakedown episode, D Minus Zero gets the basic framework of a potentially good episode right, just not the content. Considering prior Andromeda episodes that featured the starship being taken over by kids and Dylan Does Die Hard, DMZ is a definite improvement in the sense that it actually has some idea of a how a TV drama episode should work.
As with last week’s episode, this week’s begins with Hunt looking for High Guard memorabilia and wandering into another obvious trap. He encounters an unknown vessel portrayed through 98 percent of the episode as a blinking red dot and spends the episode trying to fight it. With the show’s end we get a brief glimpse of the vessel before it blows itself up but no idea who its occupants are or what the battle that occupied the whole episode was about.
The Das Boot battle sequences though really serves as background material to the crew crisis shakedown in which Hunt gets to know his crew and they go through some stormy weather together. This is a good enough idea for an episode but if you’re going to neglect the battle sequences in exchange for character development, there should actually be some character development and the character moments should be pretty dark and riveting. DMZ though offers neither.
There are a few tense moments here; notably, when Beka and Hunt finally do come to a head but there’s not much in the way of character development here, so little in fact that last week’s Fateful Lightning episode had more in Harper’s revelation about his past and more spirited dialog from the regulars. DMZ mostly features the regulars saying exactly the things we expect them to say and we can see the dialog and even the basketball quips coming a mile away. It’s like a piece of TNG fanfic in which an enemy ship approaches and Worf declares that we should treat it as hostile, Troi says she senses nothing from the ship, etc… so that rather tha n offering character development or even interesting dialog, DMZ churns out characters predictably going about the routines established for them.
So Tyr is pissed at Hunt’s lack of agressiveness, Beka isn’t sure she trusts Hunt, Harper fixes things and Rev Bem and Trance say mysterious unknowable things. It’s not a good thing when your characters and their material is completely predictable 3 or 4 years into the show, it’s definetly not a good thing when the material is completely predictable 3 or 4 episodes into the show. In fact if anything, DMZ felt like a Season 1 Voyager episode. Janeway wants to deal with the crisis the Starfleet way around Federation ideals, Chakotay argues that Starfleet is nowhere around and they should take the practical route, meanwhile the crews are being integrated. And here Hunt wants to deal with the crisis the High Guard way around Commonwealth ideals, Tyr argues that the High Guard is long gone and they should take the practical route, and meanwhile the crews are being integrated. Really, if I wanted to watch Voyager reruns, my local UPN affiliate’s advertisements in the local paper declare that they offer five flights a week.
As a combat episode, DMZ certainly does work better than either the pilot or Fateful Lightning mainly because it features the innovation of featuring actual combat conducted by Hunt using strategy in a somewhat comprehensible way. Admittedly, it also features the Star Trek mode of combat, conveyed through consoles blowing up into sparks and people teetering around the bridge and plenty o’ technobabble but an improvement is an improvement. The sub warfare gimmick of showing neither the enemy ship nor the crew might have worked if there had been really gripping and suspenseful things happening on the ship, if the battle hadn’t been represented by a graphic display that made me feel as if I was watching Tron all over again and finally if there had been some actual purpose to the whole thing.
The last one is somewhat problematic as Hunt sets out to engage and battle the enemy ship for no particularly concievable reason. He’s not protecting any territory here, the medical ship’s log doesn’t seem that important as salvage or it might have been mentioned at the end of the episode and gathering intel on the enemy when the enemy has the advantage and you’re not defending or protecting anything except for your ship, is more than a little silly. Since the identity of the enemy is unknown and its capabilities are superior to Andromeda while Andromeda can’t resupply and has no backup, there is no rational purpose behind the battle except more incompetence from Hunt.
Finally on the plausibility front. People have complained about Voyager’s ability to repair battle damage alone and isolated in the Delta Quadrant. That’s problematic but Andromeda features one man repairing the damage on a much bigger starship singlehandedly. He may have some of the ship’s systems to help him but it’s still ridiculous. Andromeda had a staff of thousands and now one man using existing systems can do their job?
Next week: Third time out of four episodes, people board and try to take over Andromeda.