Summary: Beka’s brother comes on board and he lies a lot, Andromeda trembles before the terror of the eco-terrorists and is boarded and sabotaged yet again… and that’s about it.
Ties that Blind is supposed to be Beka’s episode, a character who has mostly been overlooked and pushed to the background since the pilot, but really all we end up learning about her is that she comes from a shady but tragic background (which we already know) and that her brother is manipulative and lies a lot. Other than that, it’s mostly inoffensive. It won’t make you think but it won’t make you throw things at your television either. And that’s a definite improvement.
Mostly, Ties that Blind is reminiscent of Past Prologue, DS9’s 4th episode which did for Kira what Ties was supposed to do for Beka, namely expose her priorities and force her to choose between the Federation and her old life. In Past Prologue, an old friend of Kira’s who has remained a member of a terrorist organization finds his ship under attack and asks for refuge aboard DS9. He claims to have renounced terrorism and changed but really he’s just part of a conspiracy to blow up the wormhole in order to get all the major powers to leave Bajor alone. Kira has to choose between her allegiance to the old terrorist philosophies or to Sisko and the new Bajor and stops him by force. And in fact DS9 liked this episode so much they did a second awful variation of it titled Resurrection that featured Vedek Bareil’s alternate universe double with pretty much the same plot again.
Ties That Blind features Beka’s brother Rafe who’s still involved with illegal activities arriving in a ship that was attacked carrying the Andromeda version of a Bajoran Vedek monk in a crude version of the Bajoran Vedek monk costume. He spends 20 minutes beating the audience and the crew over the head with the stunningly obvious fact that he’s up to no good, but they still let him have free run of the ship. Turns out he’s associated with terrorists who blow up starships to prevent colonization. After some twists the tables are turned on the terrorists by brother and sister and everyone lives happily after.
At the moment that Beka blows up Rafe’s ship it does seem as if despite its flaws this episode may have actually achieved something and pushed through some character growth, but of course, as on Voyager when some major life-changing event seems about to happen, it turns out to have all been a trick. And it’s not surprising because ultimately Ties isn’t about Andromeda so much as it’s a recitation of patterns in which Rafe lies to and manipulates Beka and then does it some more, which gets boring very fast. There are no real loyalties in question and no actual choices to be made here and when the episode is done things haven’t actually changed or moved on in any way. The BekaRafe material could be taking place in any episode of any show of any genre and it would still be just as trite and repetitive as it is here. Where Past Prologue had a genuine life choice to be made at the heart of it, Ties is a smug package wrapped up in a bow at the end that tries to substitute a convulted plot for lack of any real drama.
Worse, it seems Wolfe has a talent for coming up with villains that make you giggle rather than cower in terror. His first post-DS9 TV project “Futuresport” featured a Hawaian Liberation terrorist organization, the villain of Andromeda’s pilot was a giant rat dressed as a 70’s pimp, in its second episode Andromeda was beset by small children and now Ties that Blind gives us the terrifyingly unstoppable terrors of a thousand sectors…the ecoterrorists. When they’re not freeing minks or living in trees, they menace top of the line High Guard starships.
Apparently these ecoterrorists called Restors go around blowing up starships on the shaky premise that if people stop travelling through space, they’ll stop wrecking the environments of planets. This apparently doesn’t stop them from traveling through space in starships themselves. Since the episode makes it clear that their focus is aimed at corporations and colonization projects, it seems more than a little confusing as to why they’d target Andromeda twice in the first place since Hunt isn’t a corporation and they’re not out to colonize any alien worlds. Sure they’re blowing up starships but there presumabely would be lots of easier targets more relevant to their immediate goals. Or perhaps the fame of Andromeda’s lousy security has spread throughout the galaxy attracting various miscreants like moths to a flame because they know that they can do pretty much anything they want here.
And once again Andromeda’s security is 9th rate. Even assuming that family ties that stupefied Beka to the point where she doesn’t much object when Rafe steals her ship, no one else seems to take any of the basic precautions. RevBem questions the nanomonk as to why he’d take on someone with such a shady past but no one actually bothers confining Rafe or monitoring him. Tyr stalks around abusing RevBem instead of suspecting the actual intruders onboard the ship. Basically Andromeda seems to need a security officer because yet again in virtually every episode Andromeda manages to be sabotaged and boarded and this is not a good record. Worse, Ties manages to pull another Voyager by having Rafe casually steal the Maru. Andromeda is an artificial intelligence and there are a handful of people onboard her and she can pop up on any monitor she pleases any time; would it have been that hard for her to ask Beka if Rafe actually had authorization to launch.
The writing features some of the worst banter and comic relief yet as Tyr tries to teach Trance how to fight. You have to wonder what kind of depths of insanity and boredom Tyr has been driven to in order to fall to this level. Then there’s an inexplicable scene where Beka tries to do a Bugs Bunny voice or a god knows what voice and the complete waste of Brian George as the Nanomonk. Brain George is a talented actor (some may remember him from his guest starring role on DS9 as Bashir’s father) and deserved a lot more than to spend his time lying on his back for a few minutes while Laura Bertram, Lisa Ryder and the actor playing Rafe demonstrate for the better part of an episode in painfully grating detail why the Emmys, with justification, ignore Syndicated shows. While Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine may have had their brillant acting, most syndication features junk that is poorly and cheaply made, badly written and composed of awful casts. And if Andromeda wants to stand out, recycling story concepts that were old when Night Court was new is definetly not the way to do it.
And with Andromeda going into reruns next week it seems a little odd that it would end on the note of Ties, rather than a stronger episode like Angel Dark which needed to be delayed anyway for full impact.
Next week: Reruns…if you haven’t seen it, it still won’t be new to you.