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Andromeda “Let Loose the Fateful Lightning” review

Summary: Children of the Corn meets an Afterschool special.

After Andromeda’s pilot aired over two weeks, Lightning is Andromeda’s first-aired plot episode. Now that the pilot has introduced the characters and set up the basic premise, the first plot episode shows us what happens now that the show’s premise is in place and the stories can begin. The result, though, is a mixed bag more than anything else. While the special effects have clearly improved and the Andromeda chase scenes work pretty well, the writing still needs some fine tuning to put it mildly. While a definite improvement in comparison to the clunky writing of Andromeda’s pilot, Lightning is still weighed down by a predictable plot and two dimensional characters, and while the gratitious nudity may cater to the young adult demographic that Harper and Trance were put on the show to serve, it doesn’t exactly help serve Andromeda’s claim that it’s something more than Hercules in Space.

As in Stephen King’s Children of the Corn, Hunt and Co. arrive on a Commonwealth space station populated by children none of whom survive to over the age of 20 and whose fragmented knowledge has turned into crude religious rituals and lethal violence. Hunt and Co. then spend the episodes doing plenty of foolish things and reciting high minded rhetoric set to stirring music until Andromeda — as in the pilot — in a Deux Ex moment saves their hides. The episode is meant to be a sketch of how uncertain and troubled Hunt is (though why we have yet another episode focusing on how troubled Hunt is, after we just got through with a two hour pilot dealing with how troubled Hunt is) but ultimately turns into a bumbling Keystone Kops routine dealing with how incompetent Hunt is and how incapable his crew is of dealing with any emergency; Trance brightly welcoming the invaders into Andromeda by opening the airlock door doesn’t even stand out that much.

It’s never a good sign when your crew is outsmarted by Ferengi or children. It’s a worse sign when your crew is outsmarted by children who are seconds away from killing you if not for the fact that out of nowhere your ship’s artificial inteligence saves the day by walking around the ship naked and performing a task that she should have been able to perform just as easily as an A.I. Though the children are supposedly backwards and ignorant and incapable of dealing with their medical problems, they have no problem outwitting Hunt (admittedly not a very tough task) and dealing with his neurological probes. Though they can’t open a single airlock bay door, they have no trouble taking over Andromeda itself. And how does Hunt convince them that he’s right? Well, it’s not quite clear but when he’s beaten them, they all seem to have come around to his point of view.

The key problem with Lightning is that its defined by an idiotic plot, namely a plot that, to work, requires the major characters to behave like fools. Though clearly forewarned, Hunt chooses to go with very little protection directly into an ambush. Once ambushed he encounters a colony of children who have made themselves into efficent killing machines and proceeds to patronize them, walk half-heartedly through the rituals that they take with deadly seriousness and leads them into an area of the station protected with a top level access security code. His best response to 300 years of savage life and death struggle and death in teenage years is to introduce them to Trance and rattle off cliches about getting along. Though the children are in a state of constant war, Hunt attempts to resolve the problem by repeating the word “peace” over and over again as if that in and of itself was a solution.

In fact, throughout the entire episode Hunt seems to be under the confused impression that the children’s main problem consists in getting along well with aliens, rather than in being hunted to the point that they’ve turned into savages and forced to be part of a horrifying life and death struggle. This means that his afterschool solution of having them learn to get along better with aliens won’t solve their problems of being attacked by Magog and Nietzscehan slavers, nor will getting ready to be part of a Commonwealth that doesn’t actually exist except in Hunt’s imagination. So by the point of Hunt’s departure, their key problem hasn’t changed except that Hunt has managed to rob them of the discpline and strength that had actually kept them alive up until this point.

In point of fact, the entire crisis that dominates the episode is silly and pointless. Using the Nova bombs may be extreme, but it’s certainly not genocide. Genocide would be the extermination of the entire Magog race. The extermination of the Magog who have captured one human star system and colonized it is roughly equivalent to dropping the atom bomb on Hiroshima. Certainly it’s not a wonderful thing to do but it is an act of self-defense against genocidal invanders and clearly the Commonwealth saw the Nova bombs as valid tactical weapons otherwise they wouldn’t have equipped quite so many ships with them. Indeed if there was any ambiguity in Andromeda being equipped with Nova bombs, the tactical purpose of the nova bomb fighters is pretty clear: to be the equivalent of the first strike nuclear weapons of the Cold War… in other words, they were designed to be used exactly as the children intended to use them. And unlike Hunt or the Commonwealth, the children lack any mid-range defense options. It’s either be hunted on the station or fight back with the Nova bombs. There’s no other option in between.

In fact if Hunt had used the Nova bombs against the Nietzchean strike force when he had the chance, the Commonwealth that he so desperately dreams of restoring might still be here. Then paired with the pilot, this shoves Hunt in the Janewayish situation of not having taken the sane course in the pilot and then going on to pretend that her stupidity was actually an act of great moral sacrifice. Except of course that Janeway’s stupidity only cost her crew 7 years of their lives while Hunt’s stupidity wiped out the Commonwealth and several thousand times the number of insurgents who would have been killed by the Nova bombs to begin with. But then again having a Captain do the sane and sensible thing would have eliminated both the premises of Voyager and Andromeda, and we certainly can’t have that.

Worse, throughout the episode Hunt displays the same closemindedness and hysterical frenzy as Janeway when people don’t act the way she thinks they should and aren’t convinced by a display of her canned rhetoric. When the children who have been murdered and hunted by Magog for centuries now respond to the sight of a Magog with a completely understable response, Hunt washes his hands of them and goes back to his ship to brood about how tough his sacred mission is. Definite shades of Janeway browbeating anyone who crosses her path and then looking out at the stars and pondering how difficult the task of getting her crew home is while wearing that martyred expression which proclaims that no one could possibly understand how heavy her burden is. But worst of all, his conversation with Rev Bem brings up the suggestion that he really is a messiah or some sort of chosen one must come a shriek of horror to anyone who’s been watching Science Fiction movies and shows for the last decade. After the Matrix and two of the biggest dueling SF series of the late 90’s both featuring a Captain who’s “the chosen one”, you’d think that the writers could have gone a somewhat more original way than another Christ figure. Still at least of Brooks, Sheridan, and Reeves… Sorbo actually looks the part, all he needs is a goatee and a long flowing robe.

And all this episode needed was an actual villain, writing that would have shown the crew and Hunt as halfway competent and a moral dillema displaying some actual understanding of moral issues.

Andromeda ‘D Minus Zero’ review

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.

Andromeda ‘Mathematics of Tears’ review

Summary: Andromeda does Event Horizon and produces a pretty decent episode. Dylan learns that a crew of incompetent buffoons is better than a crew of killer androids… who are trying to kill you.

The abandoned “haunted” starship is a SciFi staple that goes back to the romances of actual haunted ships and it’s a story idea that offers little room for innovation but then it’s not meant to be innovative. As such, Mathematics of Tears is probably Andromeda’s first good episode. Not good in the sense of being a classic or even looking all that impressive by the standards of other SF shows, but it’s the first demonstration that Andromeda can do an episode without tripping over its own feet every five minutes and actually produce something like quality SciFi.

Surprisingly, most of the strength of the episode comes not from the script which is somewhat unfocused but the strong direction and visuals of Mathematics of Tears. Considering how weak Andromeda has been in the visual and production areas, this is a real achievement and demonstrates that good direction can overcome some major flaws in script, acting and production design. Steadicam is a bit overused even by “scary” episode standards but the overall effect is a graceful and tense look that meshes well with the subject matter. And yet another surprise is that the self-proclaimed “number one action hour on television” finally managed to do a strong action sequence. Where before Andromeda’s fight scenes looked like outtakes from a Michael Dudikoff movie or just plain bizarre (an android that climbs up on ladder and jumps down on Hunt, Hunt getting into a shoving match with a guy in an ape suit), Mathematics actually manages a tense action packed sequence that involves over a dozen people and is still coherent and believable.

(Of course Tyr’s proclamation about enjoying Wagner is a bit unlikely since while Nietzsche was a disciple of Wagner as a younger man he, like anyone who isn’t completely tone deaf, rejected Wagner and the screeching cacophonies of his operas. Indeed Nietzsche’s final judgement on Wagner was that “Wagner is a disease. He has made music itself sick.” – The Case of Wagner, Friedrich Nietzsche. But amusingly enough as a composer Wagner’s music is a nice enough way to score TV shows.)

Shot like a renegade DS9 episode suffused with golden light, Mathematics’ script makes great improvements by doing away with some of the constant problems that drag down the quality of Andromeda’s episodes. First of all for the second time in the post-rerun series of episodes, Trance is completely eliminated from the episode. Presumably the actress has other engagements but an explanation is provided and the explanation actually serves as the pivot of the episode by triggering Dylan’s dissatisfaction with his current crew. This is the kind of care and attention to detail that Andromeda has not really displayed until now and demonstrates that after horrific messes like Rose in the Ashes or Pears that were his Eyes, actual thought went into the writing of this episode.

Harper gets to stay but the amount of mugging he does for the camera is radically cut down to standard comic relief material, instead of a Neptune like state of affairs where Harper’s annoying comedy routines took away crucial time from the story and made it difficult to take the episode’s subject matter seriously. This is another sign of improvement suggesting that at least for this episode, Andromeda is committed to aiming for quality SciFi instead of trying to do their version of Cleopatra 2525.

Secondly Hunt’s self-righteous and condescending lectures are kept to a minimum and he’s actually personally involved in the story, instead of just walking around and lecturing the guest stars on how they can learn to be better people. By bringing in the issue of an A.I./Captain relationship and having the Pax’s AI see him as a substitute for her Captain, Mathematics involves Hunt in the story instead of having him prance around as an observer trying to tell other people how to live their lives. Hunt’s behavior in this episode is still foolish and his failure to delete the Pax’s AI which is trying to kill him dooms his mission to a failure but it’s a foolishness that reflects a human failing, rather than the noble act of a principled man which is how Andromeda usually tries to pass off Dylan’s stupidity.

Thirdly, RevBem is given a function of sorts and even takes command of the Andromeda while Dylan’s away. He actually exchanges some non-spiritual dialogue with Hunt and engages in mission related activity crucial to the plot. Considering that in the past few episodes he’s either been banished or relegated to silly spiritualist preaching, this is another improvement. Hopefully it’s one that leads to a greater function for RevBem on Andromeda and more screen time for the character.

The characters and plot do still have a long way to go. The Andromeda crew walk pretty foolishly into a trap, a trap into which Dylan incomprehensibly leads his second in command, his ship’s AI and his chief engineer leaving almost no one on Andromeda to defend it in case of attack. He completely disregard’s Harper’s warning about the Pax even though the rumor that many salvage teams had been lost while searching for the Pax should have rung some alarm bells. Pax’s entire crew go down to the planet which is a little bizarre. Even if the fighting required as many people as possible, there still should have been non-combat support personnel and some people out of a crew of thousands who wouldn’t have been much use in that kind of combat scenario. Certainly having the entire crew of a warship go down to fight on the planet while abandoning a starship capable of blasting the entire planet to bits is nothing short of bizarre. Apparently this is yet another demonstration that the Commonwealth ships were commanded by complete incompetents. Having Pax kill off the remaining on board crew would have made more sense.

Furthermore the Commonwealth apparently lacks the medical equipment that can distinguish between an android and a human being. This seems a bit odd. Apparently Andromeda can’t tell one from the other either. Neither can Harper despite the fact that he designs them himself. After the final link with Pax instead of now deleting the AI, Hunt decides to flee back to the Andromeda. It’s bad enough that even while the killer androids are on a rampage trying to break into his ship, Dylan decides to spend time interfacing with the AI to find out the details of her killing spree. Sentient software or no sentient software, an AI that blows up planets and is trying to kill you has to be stopped… fast. This is a decision, probably even Janeway could have made. Unsurprisingly though Dylan is as incompetent in this episode as ever and most of the time just stumbles from one revelation to the other, with the bulk of the discoveries coming from Andromeda herself. This obviously doesn’t put the Captain in a good light.

Furthermore, the actual premise of this episode attempts to justify Hunt’s incompetent crew of buffoons– whose idiotic behavior reminds Hunt of the fact that he should be shopping around for a good crew– by pointing out that the alternative crew he wanted turned out to be rampaging killer androids. Of course contrary to the ending of Andromeda, discovering that the ideal Andromeda crew consisted of rampaging killer androids doesn’t prove that Dylan’s crew is a good crew. Just that they’re preferable to killer androids who are trying to kill you. Indeed Dylan’s line about being happy with his current crew because “he can rely them” is nothing short of bizarre since the premise of the entire episode is that he can’t. Trance, Harper, Beka and Tyr go off and do whatever they like when they feel like it so that he indeed can’t rely on them. They’re just not a starship crew.

Beka defends them with a self-righteous speech about how tough life is in the future, but their exact transgressions prove life isn’t at all tough in the future. The crew aren’t fighting to stay alive, they’re entering surfing tournaments, going off sightseeing, looking for relatives and going to meditate at retreats. And they do these things on their own. That is not the way people behave in a dangerous universe in which they’re fighting to stay alive. This is the way people behave when they’re working at a job with a good natured boss who never enforces the rules. Hunt clearly needs a new crew and he needs more crew. He’s commanding a starship intended for a crew of thousands which has a handful of people running it. And it’s baffling as to why he hasn’t attempted to recruit crew from the worlds which have already joined the Commonwealth

Still, overall this is a good episode driven by strong visuals, an improved script and while many of Andromeda’s perennial faults remain, they also feature a certain amount of improvement. Let’s hope that improvement continues.

Andromeda review ‘Angel Dark Demon Bright’

Summary: We learn the perils of Drivers Ed in the distant future. Andromeda does Caretaker, half the crew considers murdering Trance, Dylan broods for 300 years. William Blake and Robert Oppenheimer join the cast. Everything goes back exactly to the way it was before.

Dear Abby. Is it okay if I blow up evil enemy warships that are at war with us and coming to attack me? Signed: Captain Weenie.

Lightning’s Nova bomb kid squadron may have been a controversial moral issue, but in Angel Dark, Hunt manages to outdo himself by spending hours brooding over whether he should destroy enemy warships which are coming to kill and destroy Commonwealth High Guard starships, including potentially his own. Hunt didn’t seem to have any trouble firing on the 10,000 ships attacking him in the pilot. Now he spends hours in the dark with the thing from black lagoon pondering if blowing up 10,000 ships of an enemy force which started the war and which are coming to destroy the Commonwealth fleet and slaughter Commonwealth citizens is the right thing to do or not.

Now I’m not an expert at these things but if Hunt finds it morally repugnant and against his pacifist nature to defend the Commonwealth against enemy warships coming to kill them, boy has he gotten himself into the wrong line of work or what? And boy is he on the wrong mission now. If Hunt represents a fair sample of the High Guard officer, then it’s not real surprising that the Commonwealth fell. Maybe it’s just a case of only the rats surviving the sinking ship but then again his friend is very ready to desert the Commonwealth fleet with very little proof and when she’s attacked, her ship goes down without a fight. It seems the High Guard may have been plagued by a very definite lack of backbone and a sense of duty, much as Hunt is. This is common enough in collapsing civilizations, it just makes for poor characters and poor drama.

Trance, Unsafe at any Speed. “Turn right, no turn left. Oh no… it’s the Past!”

When an accident hurls Andromeda back 300 years in time to the point of a pivotal battle between the Commonwealth and the Nietzchians it seems as if Andromeda is trying to produce its own version of Trek’s beloved episode City on the Edge of Forever, but instead ends up with Voyager’s series pilot Caretaker in which Janeway neglects an obvious opportunity to return home on doubtful grounds in order to preserve the series premise. The one link Angel does maintain with City on the Edge of Forever is that it manages to produce an even more ridiculous gimmick for taking the crew back in time. Where City featured a rewrite that had McCoy accidentally injecting himself with a terrible drug and running into the Guardian of Forever, Angel has Andromeda thrown back in time because the crew put Trance at the controls of the Slipstream drive even though she doesn’t know what she’s doing, and she ends up crashing the ship into the past.

This is after all the far distant post-apocalyptic future where life is so much harsher and nastier and so presumably, driver’s education on a Starship would be a lot harsher and nastier too. Still it would seem to any sane and drug free person that putting a neophyte who tends to forget to wear a helmet with her spacesuit at the controls of a massive starship and telling her to go through dangerous and risky procedures that normally only well trained pilots engage in, would be a bad idea in the insanely suicidal sense. Much as taking a nurse out of a hospital and putting her at the controls of an F-14 jet fighter in midair might possibly be predicted to have a negative outcome. Unfortunately, apparently with the fall of the Commonwealth not only have many lives and cultures been lost, so has the fabled 20th century art of simulations that might help teach people who do not know how to fly starships, to fly starships without actually putting them at the controls of a real starship in flight. Perhaps someday the Andromeda will go back in time to the golden age of the 20th century where they can learn of such wonders as seat belts, fuses, locks to prevent enemies from just walking onto your bridge and trying to kill you whenever they feel like it and simulation systems. Or if these are all unavailable, maybe some common sense, that tingling sensation in the back of your head that tells you it’s unsafe to put people who don’t know how to fly jet fighters or starships at the controls.

Time Travel for Dummies:

Still barring this piece of plot insanity that tops anything Voyager has been able to come up with in seven years of plot insanity (if Janeway ever puts Naomi in control of Voyager at warp speed, I’ll reconsider), Angel Dark gets off to a good start. By having Captain Hunt arrive too late to actually prevent the Nietzchian betrayal but at the moment of the final fall, Andromeda avoids a lot of plot problems and the complicated three way political situation between the Magog/Commonwealth/Nietzchians makes for a fairly interesting moral conflict for Dylan. Take on the Nietzchians and the Magog may gain even more power, take on the Commonwealth and you take part in the massacre of your own. Of course this is only a tough moral choice if you assume that these are the only two moral options available.

As Harper fairly accurately points out, the crew know the details of the next three hundred years of history and it’s a whole lot easier to rebuild the Commonwealth a year or two after it fell, rather than three hundred years after it fell. They don’t have to limit themselves to the eitheror options of joining the battle, but could have left to go anywhere else and continue the work of rebuilding the Commonwealth from a much stronger foundation. Or explored ways of going further back into the past. The history database could provide information about enemy force dispositions, battles, tactical strengths, foundations, hidden motivations and the future plans of just about all the powers involved. Hunt’s argument that they’re from the future and don’t belong here is ridiculous.

Hunt isn’t from the future, he’s just been to the future, but exactly from this time and place and so is Andromeda itself. They got to the future by also traveling through time by a somewhat unusual method. The rest of the misfits aren’t from this time period but the obsession with safeguarding time is a little silly. It made sense for Kirk to protect his timeline in City because the alternative was ironically an Andromeda-like timeline. Meanwhile Dylan is fighting to protect a horrible post-apocalyptic world from being changed, because of some vague unproven theories and some mumbo jumbo about fate. It sure is lucky Wolfe didn’t write the script for Terminator 2 or it would have featured Ahrnuld working with T1000 to keep the nuclear apocalypserobot genocide future on track and the end would have featured things remaining in the same nightmarish mess as they were in the beginning.

Tonight on Hunt’s Creek: Is the position of ship’s Janitor taken?

In Caretaker, Captain Janeway was given a choice between making sure the Caretaker’s array didn’t possibly fall into the wrong hands and possibly cause harm and stranding her crew 70,000 light years from home or taking any number of alternative possible options and chose to most irrational one, which would also serve as the basis for the series premise. In Angel Dark, Captain Hunt has to choose between trying to actually change history for the better in any of a large number of ways or stumble around the post-apocalyptic future and spending the next few years bumping into people who want to take over his ship week after week. Like Janeway he makes the most irrational choice and the one that would keep the series premise on track. The problem of course is that the series premise for both Voyager and Andromeda depended on a no way out clause and both shows made a mockery of that clause early on and tainted the validity of the entire situation. And while Janeway’s behavior was foolish, at least the act of sacrificing one ship to possibly protect several species has logical rationales, Hunt has no such protection.

So of course in order to avoid any rational examination of events, Andromeda falls back on mumbo jumbo about fate and destiny. Rather than simply make a decision Hunt spends hours brooding about fate and destiny. Like Janeway, Hunt seems to have forgotten that he isn’t a messiah or a superhuman deity but a officer in the service of a fleet and a government whose orders he is supposed to follow. When in doubt of orders there are regulations to follow and superiors or fellow officers that can be contacted. If he has information about a threat, he is bounded by orders to convey that information to his fellow officers. His own personal angst on the issue is irrelevant because as long as he considers himself a Captain in the service and exercises the privilege of command the use of Commonwealth and High Guard titles, privileges and equipment such as the Andromeda itself; he is bound to take actions only within the context of the wishes of the Commonwealth and the High Guard. Angel Dark meanwhile displays no interest in actually following orders, looking up regulations or submitting to the authority of the service. Instead Dylan closets himself with RevBem while they discuss Dylan finding God. As nice as this is for religious believers (and once again demonstrating that the Roddenberry name on the show’s title is worth as much as a Miami ballot), it would be nicer if Hunt brooded less and did his job more. If he held strategy sessions with his crew in an open forum to determine options, followed regulations, made rational decisions instead of sitting in the dark and stroking his disturbingly sun bleached face while pondering joining RevBem’s cult of the 80’s vampire movie Halloween mask.

Right now Hunt has brooded his way through episode after episode, stumbling into preventable disaster after preventable disaster and getting out by the skin of his teeth or by a sudden case of enemy stupidity. He’s shown very little indication that he was indeed part of a disciplined elite military force, instead he’s acted like an adolescent stuck in a teenage drama. He doesn’t know what he wants, he doesn’t how to get it and he doesn’t seem much interested in anybody’s input or in actually looking to High Guard regulations. He thinks that his angst is more important than everything else in the universe and the show expects us to think so too. Where even the worst Trek Captains like Janeway have taken a stab at doing the job and being in command, Hunt has spent the show so far in desperate need of Prozac and whatever other combination of medications will let him play a Starship Captain on TV. Pervasive indecision and the kind of manic depressive states Hunt has displayed are symptomatic of mental disorders, not strong leading man characters. He’s incapable of command and needs to find a job more appropriate to his condition. Andromeda currently has several thousand positions open, he should pick one and go with it.

Hey Kids! Want to learn how to Sabotage Andromeda? Send $3.95 to Annoying Idiot Plot, Box 787, Jeri Taylor Drv, Rick Berman City:

Meanwhile the painfully overused and ridiculous plot theme of “Everybody Sabotage Andromeda Now!” continues. Star Trek security was bad but even Voyager wasn’t sabotaged 6 out of 7 episodes. You’d think that after this happening week after week and with just last week’s episode demonstrating to Hunt that he can’t trust Tyr, there would be some sort of security measures in place. Instead the crew’s only protection against Tyr and Harper’s sabotage is the watchful eye of Trance who wrecked everybody in the past in the first place. Of course to heighten plot plausibility, within this episode Trance and Harper separately pull off two technological miracles apparently beyond the conception of the Commonwealth’s best and brightest. Harper comes up with a way to destroy the entire Nietzchian fleet that the Commonwealth itself has never thought of, yet he has trouble knocking out or restraining Trance. Trance manages to achieve time travel, which again appears to be something also beyond the ability of the mankind. Wesley and Kes save the day again.

Back at the bridge, Andromeda proclaims that she’s in tip top fighting shape. You have to wonder exactly how this was achieved. Magic? Crazy glue? A team of superinteligent chimps? Sure Harper may be a genius who can do anything with enough technobabble, but can he really do the job of a thousand men maintaining and repairing Andromeda using nothing but thin air and wisecracks. Because unlike Voyager, Andromeda apparently doesn’t need to look and trade for supplies.

Now all we have to do is go hide in the Nebula…:

And in its fearsome drive for quality Andromeda picks up another plot resolution we haven’t seen enough times on Trek. Igniting stellar gases so that they burn and explode thereby wrecking enemy ships. The irony is that Trek did this years and years ago and the special effects still looked better. Along the way they’ve also borrowed Trek’s forehead makeup division circa 1993. Admittedly it’s an improvement over the Bug Suit or the Night Cream but like all of Andromeda’s production values, it works best over a compact video monitor with shaky reception.

Tonight on Andromeda, When Literary References Attack!

Tonight William Blake’s most obvious quotation makes an appearance and the most obvious Robert Oppenheimer quotation. Now if only as much work had been done on the plot.

Next week on Andromeda: A plot you can never get tried of. People board and try to sabotage Andromeda again…but this time, they’re family.

Andromeda “Its Hour Come Round At Last’ season one final review

Summary: The Andromeda season finale features the ship coming under attack by Magog as an accidentally revived personality backup program leads them on a repeat of the mission that got the last ship’s crew killed.

…Its Hour Come Round At Last is certainly impressive. Not so much for the script or acting but for the carnage. This script written by DS9 veteran and Andromeda creator Robert Wolfe is better than average for the series, defining and patching up crew relationships. But the real action is the, well… action. The Andromeda crew kill what looks like a few hundred Magog over forty minutes during which the Magog chase them around the ship like a pack of rabid hyenas and the issue isn’t resolved by some meaningless ploy or technobabble or speech by Dylan. Indeed it isn’t resolved at all.

Since Andromeda has a two year commitment and a drooping audience, its finale has been written as a cliffhanger with the usual crew in jeopardy and Captain out of commission bit. Attempting to duplicate TNG and Voyager’s use of the Borg in cliffhangers like Best of Both Worlds, which generated audience interest and suspense, Andromeda has brought out the Magog as its unstoppable insatiable enemy. The series has reserved them for an entire season (barring a few cameo appearances) and now introduces them as the horrific unstoppable enemy.

And there are similarities. The Magog are powerful, dangerous and keep on coming no matter what. They’re also unarmed and their strategy involves lots of screaming, leaping and clawing. Which is why the crew can kill hundreds of them without great difficulty. Basically they’re B Movie monsters with their own spaceships. It’s hard to see why they would be a threat to anyone. From Roman times, battle has favored the prepared army fighting in a coordinated and disciplined manner, utilizing technology. British colonialism demonstrated quite comprehensively that screaming and leaping is no match for superior firepower and sound strategy. The Magog may be a problem when you only have a handful of crew and no control of your ship, but any well disciplined crew and sound defense system should hold them off easily. On a planet, killing an unarmed attack force, no matter how large, is a turkey shoot.

But the Magog are still intimidating and unpleasant and once they’ve landed a few thousand warriors on the ship whose internal defenses are non-functional, they actually can pose a threat. It would help though if the threat was not once again the product of the Andromeda crew’s incompetence and stupidity. Unfortunately it is. Harper tampers with systems he doesn’t understand, producing an old version of Andromeda on a mission. Like Voyager’s Warhead, this new version of Andromeda won’t recognize that times have changed and its mission no longer relevant. It treats the crew as intruders, even though Dylan is a valid Commonwealth officer with valid ID. It also behaves in a surprisingly brutal manner for the AI of a supposedly high-minded civilization.

You have to wonder if there wasn’t some way to kick off this plot without the cause being another screwup by the Andromeda crew and the peril coming simply from the Magog, instead of their own stupidity yet again. It might make it easier to take their plight seriously, instead of having to think once again, that if they had displayed a bit more intelligence, they wouldn’t be in this mess to begin with.

The steps to resolving this mess involve the usual technobabble and ladder climbing we’ve seen in all the Star Trek “ship disabled episodes” with lots of Magog howling along after them. RevBem’s poorly developed spiritual crisis mainly takes a back seat to Tyr-Harper and Dylan-Beka bonding. It probably should have gotten more screen time, especially since it looks set to play a major role in the resolution of the cliffhanger; but I suppose we should be happy, he got any screen time at all, let alone a storyline of his own. It would have made more sense if a Magog centered story which triggers a spiritual crisis, had worked around RevBem to begin with.

But instead we have more disposable scenes in which Dylan rebuilds the Commonwealth, while we weren’t watching. For a show supposedly dedicated to featuring the rebuilding of the Commonwealth, we get to see very little to none of this activity. Instead we have characters walk on stage and talk about how well the commonwealth rebuilding is going. This is somewhat akin to having a cop show whose characters never actually prevent crimes but come on stage talking about how they prevented some great crimes. How is anyone supposed to take Andromeda’s premise seriously, if the show won’t take its own premise seriously and would rather dedicate episodes to the personality problems of its half-wit crew, than its own premise?

Well, to distract from that issue, Andromeda’s season finale features more scenes of the shadow alien who’s directing the Magog and a cliffhanger that features the crew and ship taking severe damage. In comparison to the average Andromeda episode, …Its Hour Come Round At Last is more polished and better written but it still suffers from the same fundamental flaws this series continues to suffer from. Lack of originality, lack of content and lack of focus on its own series premise. As Voyager has shown, all the big bad aliens in the world will not make your show work, if you don’t maintain your premise and the reality of your situation.

Without a genuine accomplishment or threat, the Magog are just howling guys in furry suits.

Next week: Reruns and lots of ’em. Enjoy the summer.

Andromeda ‘All Great Neptune’s Oceans’ review

Summary: Murder Investigations for Dummies, Commonwealth Creation for Dummies, Andromeda borrows Insurrections Formal Captain’s waiters uniforms and the plot of Star Trek VI. And the pride and joy of the High Guard fleet is sabotaged and boarded…yet again by rejects from the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Remember those Star Trek episodes where the crew arrives for a seemingly peaceful conference, tour or meeting and then someone is killed and a crew member is framed for the murder and the Captain has to prove him innocent? All the Trek series had them, the Babylon 5 pilot was based around the same plot and now Andromeda duplicates these achievements in All Great Neptune’s Oceans. For those who were waiting for a solid plot dealing with the actual premise of the show, namely rebuilding the Commonwealth, they’ll have to wait because Neptune is just another of Andromeda’s “Look what happened to us on the way to our mission of rebuilding the Commonwealth.”

There’s still nothing in the show about what signing the charter means for those worlds or why anyone is signing on to a Commonwealth that has is composed of a starship and a few crew members or just what Hunt has to offer them besides the occasional services of the Andromeda which convinces them to sign on the bottom line. Instead we get Murder Investigations for Dummies. The President is ready and incredibly enthusiastic about signing the charter as a result of whatever happened offscreen but unfortunately he’s assassinated. 30 minutes later and confessions to the murder from half of Andromeda’s crew, we dramatically discover what the entire audience knew all along…namely that the murderer is one of the two guest stars in this episode, rather than a member of his crew.

This isn’t actually a surprise since anyone who’s watched SciFi TV shows on a regular basis knows its pretty darn unlikely that a show will have the guts to actually expose one of its regulars as the murderer. The time until this revelation is mostly wasted time that involves a focus on the crew investigating each other and discovering the technobabble method of the murder in an episode that is supposed to focus on the compromises and political tensions of the fish people. Once we do focus on the revelations about the fish people, the whole subject carries very little weight because the balance of the story hasn’t focused on them making most of the episode pretty much pointless.

The Technobabble locked room murder method like most technobabble isn’t particularly interesting. While Babylon 5’s pilot had a gadget that could change appearances, Andromeda’s technobabble involves an overly complicated plot dependent on sabotaging Andromeda. This now has the majority of Andromeda’s plots dependent on people sabotaging or boarding Andromeda…or both as in Neptune’s Oceans. Clearly this ship needs a security officer, desperately. And locks, big iron ones that no one can open without the right key. The complexity and messy nature of the method itself suggests the chancellor is an idiot because as Tyr points out, there were so many easier ways to carry out an assassination and many more sane ones than setting an assassination to presidential music. He proves that he’s an idiot by pretty much demonstrating his guilt on camera and instantly confessing to Hunt even though the evidence against him is as slim as the stuff Columbo might cook up.

Interestingly enough Trance who as recently as the last episode proved her ability to the crew to find the right answer (which might come in handy for a murder mystery) is completely absent from this episode to the extent that she’s not in one single scene and even appears to be missing from the background. Not that this is a bad thing since Trance is Andromeda’s worst and most annoying character next to Harper himself but it does seem a bit odd and a word of explanation might have been a good idea. And RevBem, Andromeda’s other weird alien, is increasingly being written out of episodes to the point that he seems to be mentioned more when he’s offscreen than the total amount of times he’s onscreen. It would be understandable that the executives would be unhappy with the character and prefer the show to focus on the male and female models, still after Tyr RevBem is Andromeda’s only interesting character played by a real actor. Considering how precarious a position Andromeda is in quality-wise, it would be a shame if the same purge that removed all of Earth Final Conflict’s actors and characters replacing them with models were also to happen to EFC’s sister show Andromeda.

Certainly there’s plenty of money being saved on the makeup which in Neptune’s Oceans reaches a new and truly godawfull low. The fish people are human beings with dabs of silver paint on their cheeks, a plastic tube sticking out of their necks and what looks like a Buck Rogers jetpack filled with water on their backs. If Andromeda is this badly off in the makeup department, why not make the fish people just straight humans instead of trying to pull off an effect they clearly can’t manage. Or maybe they could have skimped on Hunt’s formal waiter’s uniform borrowed from the TNG crew’s formal waiters uniforms of Star Trek Insurrection which barely sees any wear and spent it on an actual makeup department instead of a few items from the back of the Halloween clearance rack. Between the fish people and the security officer who looks like a reject from the Rocky Horror Picture Show complete with Valeris’s wig from ST6 it’s just plain impossible to look at the guest stars without laughing no matter what they’re saying.

And what they’re saying doesn’t much matter since the supposedly underlying moral issue of whether his and Lee’s actions were right or wrong never gets addressed. Instead in the time honored methodology of mediocre programming, the show beats you over the head with the assertion that he’s evil by having him carry out a clearly evil act later on, without ever allowing any debate or perspective on his actions. And this is the second time in the first half of the first season alone that Andromeda again abuses the word “Genocide” as a catchall term for condemning some sort of military action as immoral. Hopefully the Andromeda writers got a dictionary for Christmas because killing a few thousand people in a military base is certainly not genocide, nor is genocide just a general term for “killing lots of people”. Genocide refers to planned extermination of entire peoples.

Firing on a Nietzchian base which was utilized for military purposes regardless if there were civilians inside is standard practice for the United States Military. Firing on it after it had surrendered is a violation of the rules of war, but since the Nietzschians themselves don’t follow the rules of war, no one is obligated to uphold the laws of war when it comes to them. Double Helix made it pretty clear that Nietzchians view diplomatic conventions as meaningless, meaning that such conventions would in turn not apply to them. Indeed everything we know about the Nietzchians so far from Andromeda tells us that “surrender” would be Nietzchian for “pause to reload.” Furthermore since Tyr has shown very little qualms about means and ends, his behavior is out of character. The Republic just did to the Nietzchians exactly what the Nietzchians would have done to them if they’d gotten the chance. Tyr of all people would be expected to understand that.

But abuse of the term genocide is really stretched to ridiculous extents when the security chief claims that the deaths of 10,000 Nietzchian slaves was genocide. If the Bajoran plans to blow up or contaminate Terrokh NorDS9 while it was under Cardassian occupation had succeeded in killing the Bajoran slave laborers along with their Cardassian masters, no one would have been whining about genocide. It would have been accepted as a logical resistance action and indeed in Babel we saw something fairly similar being carried out with the only problem being poor timing. And if it’s genocide to kill a few thousand civilians as part of a larger military campaign, then every civilized nation on earth is genocidal because even the Gulf war featured at least that many civilian casualties to say nothing of Vietnam or World War II. Star Trek has been accused of being naive but not so delusional as to take Andromeda’s policy line of apparently believing that you can win wars and defend yourself without actually having to kill people. That’s not the position of a progressive but of a pacifist and while pacifists may be nice people, they don’t belong in command of warships for obvious reasons.

And this pacifism is all the more ironic considering that the producer’s and Alliance Atlantis desire to push the action aspect of Andromeda causes the insertion of a completely gratuitous and unnecessary action scene that has Hunt beating up a half dozen soldiers who boarded his ship. Of course rather than having Andromeda use nanobots or some other means of subduing them from a distance, Hunt jumps around beating them up. Apparently violence for entertainment is perfectly fine, violence as a means of defending yourself against a real threat is wrong. This moral position is somewhat confusing in the sense that it makes no sense except as a means of self-righteous posturing.

Perhaps next time when Hunt is reading “Commonwealth Building for Dummies” which will tell him that it’s more important to research the history and political situation of the people you’re trying to induct into the Commonwealth instead of their table settings and dining protocols; he’s also sneak a look at the chapter about self-righteous speeches. He has the poses and the tone of voice down, now he just needs to understand what the words in the speeches actually means. Or perhaps the writers will actually put Hunt into a situation where his self-righteous is actually tested instead of having him going around and delivering lectures to other people on how to resolve their problems. But then again in Rose in the Ashes the writers contrived to deliver Hunt to a prison planet while still keeping him uninvolved from the problems at hand as he lectured the prisoners on being better people, so it’s no wonder he’s uninvolved in their problems secure on his starship where there isn’t a single crisis that can’t be resolved by a self-righteous speech.

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?

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.

Andromeda ‘The Honey Offering’ review

Summary: Captain Hunt and the Andromeda have to transport Elaan of Troy…err…Elssbett to make peace with the opposing pride by offering herself as a bride.

This Andromeda episode offers essentially the same exact setup as the famous TOS episode Elaan of Troyius. The original TOS episode featured Captain Kirk and the Enterprise having to transport Elaan to her marriage with the leader of the opposing side as part of their peace treaty. Elaan is initially arrogant and views them as inferior but confrontations with Kirk help bring her around to recognizing their worth, respecting him and he is even nearly pulled into a relationship with her. On the way the Enterprise plays cat and mouse with the Klingons and unravels deception and conspiracy and finally having gained some maturity and responsibility, Elaan overcomes her reluctance and goes ahead with the marriage.

This is essentially a pretty good rundown of the basic plot of Honey Offering. Elssbett even duplicates the famous Elaan scene and complains about her quarters. There are various differences produced by the need to accomodate the story to different universes and the cultural changes that have taken place since Elaan of Troyius originally aired, but the resemblance is indeed very striking. It is nice to see Andromeda broadening their range of “Trek appreciation” to beyond the borders of The Next Generation and its assorted spinoffs.

With that said Elaan of Troyius wasn’t a very good episode, just a memorable one more for reasons of camp than of quality. And there’s not much Andromeda can do to improve on it. The producers have decided for some reason to blow a good chunk of their special effects budget here with the usual mixed results. Some of the battle FX look pretty good if a touch repetitive and recycled, while the matte of the station is awful enough to have actually appeared on TOS. The choreography of the action sequences has improved, as long as you ignore obvious questions about why two heavily armed warriors keep fighting each other in hand to hand combat.

With the changes in society with regard to the roles of women, it’s virtually inevitable that Elssbett would be a stronger character than Elaan. Being allowed to get out more and do more while relying less on men and even temporarily defeating the Captain (somewhat more problematic in the TOS universe) certainly helps. It also helps that the actress playing Elssbett is far more capable than France Nuyen’s essentially one-note performance. Although in the context of the Nietzchians, her vulnerability isn’t particularly plausible. Her ruthlessness doesn’t really seem to equal that of the Nietzchians we’ve seen so far.

The retrofitted robot suits make an apperance and all the Andromeda crewmembers put in an apperance as well, however briefly. Considering the rash of MIA’s during recent episodes, especially RevBem, this is a welcome departure even if it means that they all have to be paid for brief apperances. The Andromeda has a small enough crew as it is and it helps the show’s plausibility if all crew members are present, accounted for and working together to deal with the crisis whatever that might be.

Next week: Andromeda falls in love with a bad AI.

Andromeda ‘Music of a Distant Drum’ review

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?

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