Space Ramblings

Andromeda pilot ‘An Affirming Flame’ review

With Affirming Flame, the second part of Andromeda’s two-part pilot, there are plenty of improvements to notice. For one thing, the dialog now occasionally contains dialog. Where in the first part of the pilot dialog had mostly been limited to exposition, AAF actually features characters talking to each other for reasons other than to convey backstory and vital plot developments to the audience. This is nice. So is the fact that with the lion’s share of the FX dollars expended on the part one battle and orange black hole cable towing scenes, part two’s story has limited FX and as a result much better pacing and structure. And while the alien makeup is still as bad, there’s less of it to look at and that’s definetly a good thing. The characters too have somewhat improved. There is a marked decrease in annoying banter and an increase in actual decision-making. Harper and Trance still stick out like sore thumbs meant to appeal to a WBesque teenage demographic but at least the story puts them to work.

With all these improvements it seems as if Flame should be a better episode than Night, but it isn’t because where Night had way too much backstory and events shoved into 40 minutes, Flame has way too little story and events dropped into 40 minutes. Shown together as a 2 hour premiere, this might have produced better results and portions of the opening backstory could have been inserted as flashbacks into the second part. Together, though Flame features a predictable story where most of the time is expended on watching Sorbo run through a cheap version of Die Hard with clumsy fight choreography. Die Hard’s villain went on to play a satirized version of the SciFi alien on Galaxy Quest and apparently he’s been replaced by a giant talking rat dressed as a 70’s pimp with his sidekick the giant talking S&M rat. Aside from drooling on everything and snarling more often than Pat Buchanan, he’s not much of a villain and even the director recognizes this, turning him into comic relief two thirds of the way through.

Mostly, however, Flame suffers from a lack of drama or anything remotely interesting to catch the viewer’s attention. We know that Trance isn’t dead because she’s a cast member; therefore her revival isn’t particularly shocking. (though by killing her off once and threatening to have her killed off, Andromeda seems to be starting its own Dead Janeways trend.) Hunt’s Die Hard scenes meanwhile are uninvolving because he is so casual about it. Sure he may be an ethical Starship Captain but subduing armed killers aboard your ship and then taking the time to drag them to stasis pods while refusing to kill them even when they shoot at you, seems a bit excessive even for the Star Trek department. Faced with a similar situation in which Picard did Die Hard, he wasn’t nearly that non-violent. The fight scenes themselves between the fat Hawaiian mercenaries, the Sarah Bernhardtesque cyborg and Tyr are poorly choreographed and are a much better fit for Hercules than for a SciFi drama. Considering how much weaponry everyone has and what kind of sophisticated technology they should be able to deploy, you’d think that the combatants would actually shoot each other instead of going into slow motion leaps, turning somersaults and hitting each other with sticks. You’d also think that a top of the line Starship from a civilization spanning three galaxies controlled by an artificial inteligence would be impossible for barbarians with inferior technology and a lack of knowledge of its systems to take over so easily. Even Voyager has better security and considering how often Voyager has been taken over, that’s really saying a lot.

Meanwhile the ethical transformation of Captain Valentine and crew is even harder to buy. Where only a few hours ago they were ready to murder Hunt and steal his ship, they suddenly decide to quit the job and switch sides. Is simply the fact that Hunt told her to duck before setting off the ammunition locker enough basis for something as drastic as that. Tyr’s even more sudden transitition from hired thug to righteous avenger is even harder to buy. So is his casual relationship with Captain Valentine’s crew, considering that he served as uncaring backup for the supposed murder of Trance. You’d think some of them would notice or remember or care. The final scene in which the crew teams up is filled with cliches and completely implausible for serious drama, but then the pilot so far has given no indication that Andromeda wants to be serious drama rather than Hercules in Space. The upcoming episode suggests the show will be tackling darker issues (again involving people wanting to take over Andromeda) and they will have to make a decision as to what the show’s nature is to be.

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