Space Ramblings

Andromeda ‘Double Helix’ review

Summary: The Bug suit returns,Dylan broods his way through the episode and Andromeda borrows all the Worf storylines it can get its hands on for Tyr.

It would seem that the last episode had the Andromeda nearly destroyed when it entered a combat area would have taught Captain Hunt a lesson. Fortunately it hasn’t. Seeing a large battle going on, Captain Hunt instantly steps in between the combatants without a clue as to what the whole conflict is about and demands that they observe a cease-fire. Then, given the chance between rescuing the ship being blown up by the giant canon or dealing with the giant cannon that has the potential to cripple his ship, Hunt makes the logical choice and ignores the cannon in favor of the rescue mission. Just as he’s about to go three for three and commit suicide by going down to talk peace with the Nietzcheans behind the giant cannon, Tyr convinces him to let him go instead. And from then on in, it’s his show.

This saves Double Helix from being another “Dylan broods but turns out to be right” bad episode and, by Andromeda standards, probably a fairly decent one, at least as soon as it gets away from the incompetent Dylan and his crew of whiny malcontents and focuses its story on one of the few Andromeda characters that actually works even if his storyline is borrowed from elsewhere. Double Helix does ultimately have a B story that features Dylan brooding and turning out to be right in the end all the while playing three-dimensional go (you can tell this is Andromeda and not Star Trek, because they’re playing 3D Go and not 3D Chess) but it’s not nearly as annoying as the “Dylan broods but turns out to be right” A stories Andromeda has been cursed with this far.

The Nietzchean guest stars? acting isn’t up to Trek quality but they’re still an improvement over the awful teenager from Lightning or the giant pimp weasel from the pilot. The new and improved bug suit does return and still looks like a discarded TOS prop but fortunately it gets slightly less screen time than Trance who gets slightly less screen time than Harper. Andromeda continues being the focus of the show’s leering innuendo making Andromeda the series? Seven of Nine, but without clothes. On the continuity front, Andromeda itself took a terrible beating in a battle last week and was nearly destroyed, but this week is in perfect working order and ready to take another terrible beating. It may be a stretch when Voyager looks just as clean and shiny this week as the week before, but for Andromeda to do the same without Voyager’s three digit crew or any visible attempt to look for resources, relying only on Andromeda’s own Wesley Crusher who himself seems engaged in somewhat alternate pursuits. Fortunately the episode’s real focus isn’t on any of this but on Tyr, who in Double Helix emerges as the strongest actor in the Andromeda cast.

This early in the series the idea of Tyr turning on the crew is still very plausible and Andromeda’s darker spin on the TNG material adding paranoia and uncertainty works to add suspense and drama. With Tyr and the Ocra pride both being completely manipulative, amoral and brutal there’s plenty of room for mind games in a contest where both sides are determined to win. This is a refreshing change from Dylan’s parody of a starship Captain blathering on about peace and goodwill towards all mankind or the after school special styled Let Loose the Fateful Lightning. A story that seems as if it will not be resolved by technobabble or by Deus Ex Machina or by rhetoric but hinges on what is in the character?s minds is certainly welcome. And even if Double Helix doesn’t entirely pay off on that premise, there are still plenty of good things here.

Ahead of them all are Dylan’s flashbacks to his first officer overlaid on Tyr’s interactions with the Ocra; brilliant and very effective, this piece of work holds the episode together at least up until the point the Andromeda itself is boarded. This is yet another repetitive and tiresome storyline that suggests that despite having an Artificial Intelligence and being the product of the most advanced civilization in history, everyone and their cousin can still board and take over the top of the line Commonwealth starship. There has to be another way to introduce a dramatic final act than by showing ragged and technologically backwards people boarding the bridge and nearly seizing control of the ship in 3 out of 4 episodes. Can’t they at least brace the bridge doors with a chair or nail the damn thing shut?

Dylan’s “confession” to RevBem is teeth grating and another jarring piece of continuity garble as Dylan reveals that he really wants to kill all the Nietzcheans. It’s kind of odd that he never gave any hint of this before and was playing basketball with a Nietzchean only last week. This seems to harken back to Harper’s revelation that he hates all the Magog and would like to see them all dead, yet never giving any sign of it in his friendly banter with RevBem the week before. Hopefully this is not a new trend in which each week a new Andromeda cast member reveals a bloody and genocidal hatred for another species and then forgets about it next week.

Not that Double Helix boasts any shortage of bizarre Dylan moments, but his “Critical Care-ish JanewayTuvok” moment, in which he places his hand tenderly on Tyr’s shoulder and proclaims that their working relationship is a demonstration of the way everyone can live in peace in the rebuilt Commonwealth, easily takes First Prize. Various questions arise here: where exactly is this rebuilt Commonwealth and what drugs is Captain Hunt on right now, will the galaxy truly be inspired towards the ways of peace by his relationship with a man who insults him in every episode, disobeys his orders in every episode and intends to kill him in two episodes and will Dylan really be able to complete Tyr as a husband and father by bearing him 22 children?

Still despite the successful aspects of DH’s Tyr story it’s hard to ignore the fact that it’s fairly similar to early TNG’s Worf storyline. TNG’s early first season Worf episode was Heart of Glory, in which Klingon warriors who don’t accept the ways of peace and want to take control of the Enterprise in order to continue their own wars; this forces the outcast Worf to choose between his Klingon heritage and Starfleet. Double Helix forces Tyr to choose between his Nietzchean heritage by joining the Nietzchean warriors who don’t accept the ways of peace and who want to take control of the Andromeda in order to continue their own wars, or his new-found loyalties to Andromeda. Both episodes even feature a finale involving a threat to destroy the EnterpriseAndromeda. The second half of Tyr’s storyline lifts portions of the WorfK’Ehleyr story right down to the child she conceives without his knowledge. Double Helix puts a darker spin on the whole thing but it does seem quite clearly as if Tyr’s storyline is Worf’s in the Andromeda setting.

Like Worf, Tyr’s housepride was destroyed early on and he’s witnessed the death of his parents. Like Worf he’s an outcast from his society and unable to live as a normal KlingonNietzchean. Like Worf, his housepride was brought down by treachery and there are those he blames for this treachery and on whom he seeks vengeance. Like Worf, Tyr’s captain suspects that given the chance he will choose KlingonNietzchean agendas over service to StarfleetHigh Guard. The Nietzcheans themselves in this episode manage to come off as Klingons without the stature, makeup and a sense of humor. Unfortunately a species without a sense of humor is more tiresome than anything else. Trek’s best villains like Q, Gul Dukat, Seska, Kang, and Weyoun had a sardonic quality and a certain sense of place. But take away the Klingon sense of humor, passion and emphasis on honor and you’re left with obsessive logical perfectionists who like to kill people; or in other words borderline robots.

Worse yet, even this much is taken away from the Nietzcheans in order to redeem Dylan’s incompetence, they have him turn to Janeway’s first resort. Namely, doing nothing to defend yourself and then threatening to self-destruct your starship. If that’s the best means of self-defense that you have, it’s time to resign the Captain’s chair or deal with the fact that sooner or later someone will call your bluff and you’ll either have to give up or blow up yourself, your ship and your crew. Up until the point the Nietzcheans board Voyag…err Andromeda they behaved as ruthless and efficient killers. They actually opened fire on the armored pod Tyr came down in, without even bothering to try and take the man they thought was Captain Hunt alive. Yet once onboard Andromeda they spare everyone’s lives including that of a Magog who attacked them. In fact, all it takes to route them is some not particularly fancy graphics Andromeda displays on her screens.

The Nietzcheans for all their perfectionist bloodthirsty efficiency never bother to check. They, furthermore, just walk off the greatest prize they’ve ever seen that would have enabled them to preserve their pride without a fight, even though they have the entire crew of the Andromeda at gunpoint. In a bizarre plot turn the Alpha swears vengeance against Tyr whom he holds at gunpoint…and then leaves even though he could easily kill him here and now. In fact if all the episode’s moody posturing about Nietzcheans were true, the Alpha would have killed the four Andromeda crewmembers minus Dylan and including Tyr to get revenge for the betrayal, leaving Dylan alive to deactivate the self-destruct system. Having now reached a high water mark of incompetence on a near Janeway level, this is probably something Dylan never considered. Fortunately as with Janeway, Dylan’s enemies become phenomenally stupid once it’s time for him to show off his command abilities.

If these were standard High Guard tactics, it’s no great surprise that the Commonwealth fell.

Coming up next week: Captain Hunt and Co. get the chance to return to his home in the Alpha Quad…err? past and solve all their problems as well as the reason for the existence of the series. Will it all work out, or not?

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