The Cynics Corner

Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda

"An Affirming Flame"

by David E. Sluss

17 October 2000

 
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THE BOTTOM LINE
: Better than the first part, but I still don't feel this show has gelled into a terrific product.

CYNICS CORNER RATING: 7.0 (C-)

GOOD THINGS OF THE WEEK: Harper, for the most part, lost the slacker dialog this week; let's hope it stays lost. Harper's attempt to head-butt one of Gerentex's goons, getting only a headache for his trouble, was worth a laugh, even if it's not exactly original. Trance may only be posing as a ditz, and there seems to be more to her character than it originally seemed (but her "ditz" performance is so convincing that I'm still not sure why Valentine would have taken her on as a crew member in the first place). The make-up seemed to be a little bit better this week, and not just because Dawn the bug and Thompson's blue colleague from last week were absent. Perhaps it was my imagination (or an artifact of watching the show on a different channel), but Rev's and Gerentex's prosthetics seemed a little more convincing than they were last week. The mission statement is reasonable, if presented in a somewhat hokey fashion, and does seem to open up a lot of possibilities.

CAMP OF THE WEEK: I'm starting to wonder if this show isn't deliberately designed to be camp. If it is, then we pundits are going to have to adjust our methods of assessment. And despite the fact that the show seems like it's intended to be taken seriously, there are plenty of examples that support the argument this show is one big classic-style movie serial and/or an extended Original Star Trek homage, including but not limited to:

  1. The Avenging Disco Nitesider, devolving in short order from a mysterious but determined creep into a Saturday morning cartoon villain.
  2. The extended close-ups of Sorbo getting his gear on and standing there looking hunky before going out to fight the mercenaries.
  3. The fights themselves, which are either cleverly bloodless thanks to the use of droids as cannon fodder or which feature gratuitous moves, such as the cyborg chick doing a cartwheel for no particular reason.
  4. Crummy, repetitive "fight music."
  5. Crummy, repetitive "I'm making a point about the human condition" music.

BAD F/X OF THE WEEK: I said this last week, and I'll say it again: I really hate that Slipstream effect; I guess I'll just have to get used to it. I also felt that the Andromeda's "virtual reality" that Harper attempted to invade didn't work too well. I kept waiting to see light cycles...

DIRECTORIAL CLICHE OF THE WEEK: The use of Slo-Mo (not as slow as Super-Slo-Mo, but slower than normal) during Tyr's attack on the Andromeda's bridge. "Under the Night" made this schtick at least semi-justifiable because of the time distortion, but here it was merely eye-rolling and made it appear that Tyr, the best mercenary in the galaxy, is a lousy shot. Speaking of which...

DECK-STACKING OF THE WEEK: Despite his reputation, Tyr, like some kid with his daddy's shotgun, didn't do very well with weapons this week. Not only do we see his Stormtrooper imitation on the bridge, but later we see him inexplicably toss some sort of batarang things, only to have them hit the bulkheads ineffectively. In fact, the entire mercenary crew seemed wholly incompetent; witness the two dimwits getting into a minimally-powered escape pod to escape the black hole's gravity, for example. Too many sci-fi shows err on the side of making the villains so powerful that Deus Ex Machina or technological pranks are necessary to get the Heroes out of a jam. I think that in this case, Andromeda erred on the other side, making the villains so inept that the heroes couldn't help but defeat them. It prevents endings that are pulled out of the posterior, I guess, but it doesn't make for terrific drama. There's got to be a happy medium somewhere.

HOW THE MIGHTY HAVE FALLEN OF THE WEEK: The Nietzscheans in general apparently have fallen just as far if not farther than the rest of civilization, as their genetic superiority is apparently now marked by behavior no better than that of Voyager's Kazon. Three hundred years ago the Nietzscheans organized a fighting force which defeated the unspeakably huge Commonwealth; now they seem to be destroying themselves in gang conflict, if Rev's information about Tyr's "Kodiak Pride" being wiped out by clan warfare is correct. I hope that this issue is something that is intended to be a significant plot point and not a case of this episode making a superior race behave stupidly for no particular reason.

RESET BUTTON OF THE WEEK: Trance's death and quick resurrection gives Star Trek a run for its money in the reset department. While it did provide an opportunity to see a bit more about the Eureka Maru characters, and did reinforce the idea that Trance is Not What She Seems, the execution (no pun intended) was so cavalier (as if Robert Wolfe were saying "You know she isn't dead, and we know that you know she isn't dead, and you know that we know that you know...") that it was dramatically ineffective.

TECHNOLOGICAL ANOMALIES OF THE WEEK: After Trance is shot, Andromeda claims to have taken her to sickbay. How, exactly, did she do that when all of the droids were destroyed or out of contact with Andromeda? There could be conveyer belts all over the ship, I suppose, but it struck me as odd. Also, we seemed to have a case of Voyagerish Magically Repaired Engines. When Gerentex pushes the Andromeda Ascendant toward the black hole, there is supposedly only an hour before the vessel is destroyed, during which time Andromeda says that she has failed to get the engines online, Hunt goes to medical to speechify the invaders, the "acting" crew sets up the Nova bombs, etc. At no time does anyone seem to be working on the engines, and yet at the Crucial Moment, they seem to function just fine. My guess is that something wound up on the editing room floor, and there seems to be other evidence of some crazy editing in the scene just before the final commercial break, where there is a shot of Beka's face, during which the music stops mid-note as the scene shifts to Andromeda entering Slipstream.

HISTORICAL ANOMALY OF THE WEEK: During Hunt's recruitment speech, he claims to have checked "historical records" that verify that life's a bitch, etc. What historical records would those be? Andromeda surely wouldn't have an updated library computer, nor does it seem likely that Beka's salvage vessel would have a historical database.

QUESTIONABLE SCIENCE OF THE WEEK: I'll hedge by saying that I am not an expert in the field, but the notion that you can bomb a black hole and get a white hole as a result seemed a little outlandish. Without knowing exactly what the nova bombs are, I'm not sure why they wouldn't be destroyed by the black hole as they approached, much like the escape pod was. I'm also not entirely sure why this second entry into the black hole was certain to squish the Andromeda, when in "Under the Night," the vessel was "merely" frozen in time. Admittedly neither outcome would have been especially positive for Our Heroes, but the point is that the black hole's properties seemed to shift along with the needs of the script throughout both of these first two episodes.

Cheryl M. Capezzuti contributed to this review.
  

Previous: "Under the Night"
Next: "To Loose the
Fateful Lightning
"
NEXT WEEK: Andromeda vs. a colony of child villains; nice to see a crew that isn't over-reaching...

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This review is copyright 2000 David E. Sluss
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