The Cynics Corner

Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda

"Angel Dark, Demon Bright"

by David E. Sluss

16 November 2000

 
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THE BOTTOM LINE
: A necessary and largely entertaining episode, one which avoids a number of pitfalls but which opens several cans of worms.

CYNICS CORNER RATING: 8.0 (B-)

GOOD THINGS OF THE WEEK: This episode answers a fair number of questions about how the Commonwealth fell and why the Nietzscheans aren't ruling the roost, things that the pilot episode(s) left hanging. The answers are largely reasonable, though the notion that Kazon-like gang warfare was allowed to destroy the Nietzschean victory, given the Nietzschean knack for analyzing situations and angling towards their self-interest, is just a little hard to believe. Characterization in this episode is a bit more subtle and less in-your-face, at least in places. For instance, there seems to be a bit of antagonism between Tyr and Andromeda, indicated by his addressing her only as "Ship" and by her sneering when Tyr implies that she may not be repaired on time; other scenes, such as the Tyr/Beka "fanfic bait" scene, are markedly less successful. Attempts to be scientifically sound continue to be made at least sporadically. The best example this week is the destruction of Hunt's friend's ship, seen by the Andromeda's crew not instantly, but only after the appropriate amount of time for the images to travel at light speed had elapsed. The worst example is the "explanation" of Slipstream being "alive" or at least requiring an organic pilot to interact with; that strikes me as being pretty hard to swallow, but it does provide an excuse for that silly pilot's chair which I guess allows the pilot to "feel the vibe." The F/X are looking more impressive by the week.

COMMONWEALTH INSECURITY OF THE WEEK: We're now, what, five out of six in terms of Andromeda being invaded and/or her systems being compromised and/or crew members engaging in mutiny. Aside from Harper's device, which while ultimately serving the crew's purpose was created specifically to defy Hunt's decision, is only the most obvious example. How about Trance's unauthorized joyride, which started this whole process in the first place? Why is it that Andromeda, an artificial intelligence who controls the ship and presumably knows whether Trance's training has been okayed, allows this to take place? It's more or less the equivalent of Voyager's unauthorized shuttle launches, only even harder to rationalize away. The lax security, while in some ways attributable to Andromeda's state of repair and lack of personnel, is quickly becoming a ridiculous cliche.

COMMONWEALTH INOBSERVANCE OF THE WEEK: The Commonwealth fleet blundered into the ambush, despite there being wreckage from 1,000 Nietzschean vessels in the nebula?

POOR EXPOSITION OF THE WEEK: I have to say that I really disliked the scene in which Harper explained directly to the audience through his "home movie" that he had a nefarious plan for wiping out the Nietzscheans. It wasn't out of character for Harper, but it did seem to me to be a lazy way for this exposition to get done. It's like Dark Helmet saying "Everybody got that?" in Spaceballs. I think I would have preferred having Harper's discussion with Trance being the first indication that Harper was up to something. But, hey, I'm just an unpaid Cynic...

TECHNOLOGICAL ANOMALY OF THE WEEK: As I said earlier, I'm not sure the notion of Slipstream requiring a human(oid) touch to work is such a good idea. There are bound to be "slip-ups" in future episodes in which Andromeda does something in the Slipstream that she shouldn't be able to do. There's a close one here, in the scene in which she and Hunt discuss how to get back to the future, as Andromeda says something like "I have to reverse the polarity at just the right moment"; of course, given what we were told about Slipstream earlier, she wouldn't really have any idea what the right moment would be. In the end, it is Beka who actually "reverses the polarity," and so this doesn't wind up being a big issue here, except to the extent that "reversing the polarity" is an all-purpose fix taken straight out of the Star Trek Technobabble Solutions Manual...

TEMPORAL ANOMALY OF THE WEEK: Upon Andromeda's return to the future, she claims that astronomical data proves they are back in the year 10087, "where we started." But just getting to the right year isn't quite enough, is it?

TEMPORAL ANOMALY OF THE WEEK RUNNER-UP: Dylan Hunt is obviously not the sharpest pencil in the box, but here is one of his most bone-headed plays yet. Despite deciding not to interfere, so as not to corrupt the timeline, he tries to save his friend's ship. What a dope -- it could have turned out that her ship was the one that happened to destroy the one extra Nietzschean ship that destabilized the Nietzschean alliance. In the end, it All Works Out, but come on...

HISTORICAL ANOMALY OF THE WEEK: As in "An Affirming Flame," the Maru, a salvage vessel for heaven's sake, has a database with everything anyone might ever want to know. People disagreed with me before on this point, but I still believe that, given the state of civilization in the "long night," a vessel like the Maru would be unlikely to have such extensive historical records, which in this case included seventeen different accounts of the Battle of Witchhead.

MYSTERY OF THE WEEK: So who or what the hell is Trance Gemini? Obviously, she was responsible for the time travel. Whether she did it deliberately or was acting unwittingly as an agent of the universe isn't entirely clear; a case can be made either way, though given her facial expressions and her vaguely sinister closing scene, I'm personally voting for the former. Either way, it makes the time travel schtick, in which Our Heroes just happen to wind up at a pivotal moment in history, a lot easier to swallow when someone has sent them there deliberately. I do think the writers need to be really careful with this character, lest she become the weekly deus ex machina tool. There are already indications, like the notion that she was Beka's "good luck charm," that she secretly saved the Maru from dire circumstances, and I worry that with a little smirk, Trance can be used to resolve any crisis:

ANDROMEDA: We're surrounded by Clamidian ships!
TYR: I told you your luck would run out, Dylan!
[Close-up of Hunt standing there stupidly]
REV: Sensors show the Clamidian vessels' weapons have all gone off-line! Bless the Divine!
BEKA: I guess your luck's holding out after all, Dylan!
[Close-up of Trance suppressing a small smile]

On the other hand, given the level of competence Hunt has displayed thus far, intervention by Trance may be the only way a viewer can accept him ever succeeding at anything. The bottom line is that there's a lot more to this character than I first thought; let's hope there's not too much...
  

Previous: "Double Helix"
Next: "The Ties That Blind"

NEXT WEEK: Andromeda gets invaded/sabotaged/mutinied by Beka's supposed brother. Or by someone -- guaranteed.

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This review is copyright 2000 David E. Sluss
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