Summary: A pleasant and inoffensive though not particularly original or interesting episode starring Andromeda’s only talented actor.
There’s not much that can be said about Music of a Distant Drum. Despite its claims to focus on Nietzchian-human slavery, it essentially repeats a pretty standard plot that you’ve probably seen about thirty times if you’ve ever watched a season of Bonanza. Strange man arrives to disturb the quiet backwoods lives of a single mother and her (adopted) son, thugs are hunting for him and menace the woman. The son initially distruts the man but overcomes those feelings to view him as a father figure. The woman displays some feelings for the man but ultimately their destinities take them to different places. Indeed except for the contrived action sequences it’s even a bit similar to TOS’s Paradise Syndrome.
Not that it’s a bad episode though by any means. Despite an often awfull script by Robert Wolfe full of “hammer over the head” characterization and characters repeating the obvious at the camera, it features quiet and skillfull direction and another good performance from Keith Hamilton Cobb. Allan Kroeker, who directed many great Star Trek episodes, directs this one and Cobb is essentially the only actor on Andromeda who can act so the pairing make for a watchable and occasionally charming episode. The guest starring actress also turns in some good work which is a nice contrast to some of the genuinely awfull guest star casting in previous Andromeda episodes. Best of all, Sorbo and the rest of the Idiot Brigade remain mostly out of sight except for a confused scene in which Beka rambles on about her dreams for several minutes. It’s a bit that should have been left on the cutting room floor.
Certainly an episode taking place on a planet where human beings are enslaved by Nietzchians featuring the Andromeda had the potential for dealing with some more complex material. Instead we have Tyr behaving completely out of characher, even once he regains his memory. He spends the entire episode completely disregarding his survival which is antitethical to the concept of a Nietzchian and to Tyr. His relationship with the mother and son is at first justified as ensuring his survival but he intervenes in a non-lethal situation and fails to kill the assailants pretty much guranteeing that they’ll report back on his whereabouts. Next he clashes with members of the Drago pride and not only tells them as much as he knows about himself but leaves his opponent alive, conscious and not even tied up. This moves him out of sentimentaility and into Hunt levels of irrationality. Finally he lets the mother and son be used as hostages against him even though any idiot at this point would understand that this gurantees their deaths, something the same group of Nietzchians had just demonstrated for him less than a few minutes ago. And the woman’s continued risk taking to help a Nietzchian is even more strange and irrational.
The entire notion of human slavery really isn’t addressed except in bits of dialouge where the humans describe how awfull the Drago pride is but we don’t see any of it and when we do meet Drago pride Nietzchians they just come off looking like regular thugs. There doesn’t remotely seem to be anything smart or superhuman about them. There’s no real interaction between the parties. But what little we do get makes Captain Hunt seem all the more foolish and cowardly for puttering about on his crew’s personal errands when there is real evil and oppression to be fought. There are a few million people enslaved on this planet, yet Hunt spends extraordinary efforts to rescue Tyr who got himself into this situation but doesn’t seem to show any concern at all for the actual slaves. Indeed it’s Tyr who suggests that the woman accompany them and not Hunt, who despite giving sanctimonious lectures to everyone in sight, doesn’t seem to care much one way or another. Providing refuge to anyone who wanted it would have been the moral way to go but the idea doesn’t even seem to occur to Hunt.
Even more irrational is Hunt’s flat refusal to carry cargo for pay or mine and sell an asteroid, especially since just two episodes ago he was reduced to selling off parts of the Andromeda in order to pay for repairs. He doesn’t even bother to defend his position but acts as if it’s the natural one to take. Voyager has mined and traded materials and they were actually on a mission while Andromeda spends long stretches of time sitting around and doing nothing or fumbling about on a crisis caused by a personal errand of a crew member. Seems like mining a platinum asteroid might give Andromeda something to trade instead of selling off part of itself or the personal effects of the crew. But then this is an episode high on good feelings and low on common sense. An unfortunately all too common aspect of Andromeda.
Next week: Harper gets a spot on Andromeda’s Most Wanted, probably not just because of his annoyance factor and obsessive mugging for the camera…but who knows?