The Cynics Corner

Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda

"The Banks of the Lethe"

by David E. Sluss

26 November 2000

 
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Trust in the Cynic; the Cynic is good.

THE BOTTOM LINE: With its questionable technology and associated babble, gratuitous space battles, and foregone conclusion, this felt a bit like an episode of Voyager.

CYNICS CORNER RATING: 6.0 (D-)

GOOD THINGS OF THE WEEK: Some progress is finally made on Dylan's "rebuilding the Commonwealth" pipe dream, though you have to wonder whether the Perseids aren't just indulging or taking advantage of a man who may be delusional. F/X continue to improve, though there are still some "legacy shots" that need to be scrapped; in particular, in the Nietzschean attack in Andromeda's present, there's a nice looking shot of the Nietzschean vessel firing followed by that really crummy one of the Andromeda sitting still as the "camera" moves up and down when it's hit, recycled from "Under the Night."

LAUGH LINE OF THE WEEK: Beka to Hunt: "We all know you're impervious to reason." Probably the keenest insight in the series thus far...

SUBLIMINAL MESSAGES OF THE WEEK: There seemed to be a couple of conflicting thoughts lurking in the backs of the writers' minds this week. They flashed on the screen regularly, and not terribly imperceptibly:

  1. We aren't Star Trek (teleportation is hard; crew members are disrespectful and bitchy).
  2. We wish we were Star Trek (FTL communication and easy teleportation would make storytelling a lot easier).

Ignoring the technological and scientific aspects for a moment, this episode seems to use the Trek manual excessively. Among the gems we find in that hoary old time and in this episode are:

  • Crew member placed in the position of possibly leaving the crew, despite contractual obligations that will either require him or her to come to his or her senses by the end of the hour or require some technological fiat to force him or her to come back (Voyager's "Darkling," Voyager's "Virtuoso," DS9's "Meridian," the original series' "For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky," etc.). It seems to me that unless it's very compelling, and this one isn't, a story that deals with the potential loss of a main character should really be avoided, because the ending is written in advance.
  • An ill-explained fluke allows communication and/or transportation through time (Voyager's "Eye of the Needle," DS9's "Past Tense," DS9's "The Sound of Her Voice"). In this case, the episode leaves it as an exercise for the viewer to determine exactly what is so special about this singularity, if anything, and whether communication with the past can be carried out on a regular basis through this singularity or others. And unlike "Angel Dark, Demon Bright," the time-travel episode from just a couple of weeks ago, this time we have no real indication that Hunt thought about the consequences of tampering with history. Here, he lets slip details that people in the past, such as the friendly Nietzschean captain, might find useful, like the fact that the Than make it through the conflict in one piece.
  • Surly Aliens show up at an inopportune moment and jeopardize the crew's ability to carry out the retrieval of a missing crew member (the original series' "The Tholian Web," just about any episode of Voyager). In this case, the Nietzschean attack in Anrdromeda's present seemed really gratuitous and poorly explained. Rev's theory, that the Nietzscheans had 300-year-old orders to come to this location and attack the Andromeda, seems unlikely, given how disorganized the Nietzscheans became after the Witchhead battle. It's a lot like Voyager's alien shoot-em-ups of the week, except in this episode we already had one Nietzschean battle going on; why'd we need another one taking place "simultaneously?"

In short, this plot falls into too many of the old traps, and a lot of its devices simply don't hold up under any scrutiny.

TECHNOLOGICAL ANOMALY OF THE WEEK: Now, let's talk about the teleporter. First of all, we've got a real can of worms being opened here potentially, as we have a working teleporter that could potentially be really useful in future episodes. While insights from the experiments with the black hole are what enabled Harper to create the gizmo, and while Andromeda's link to the black hole was necessary in order to teleport Dylan to and from the past, I don't think it's really stated that the teleporter requires a connection to the black hole in order to function. This means we've got a potential "Warp 10" on our hands here, a piece of technology that changes everything, but which, if forgotten, could leave gaping plot holes in many an episode. Secondly, Harper's explanation/non-explanation of the manner in which the teleporter works was cute, but leaves open a number of questions. Harper attempts twice to beam Dylan and Sara out of the past, destroying them both times and recreating them in the past, and explains that there's not enough computing resources to process both "patterns." If that's true, then how could Dylan and Sara have been rebuilt in the past at all? Why is it that the two of them had to be transported together, or in other words, of what use was the signal enhancer? How does having Dylan in the signal at the same time help Harper retrieve Sara? Why, after retrieving Dylan, can't Harper clear out his pattern from the computer and use the signal enhancer to get Sara? And why is it that "super genius" Harper didn't figure out until too late that if transporting Dylan uses more than 50% of "RAM," then there's not enough to transport Sara at the same time? All in all, this teleporter probably wasn't such a great idea...

HISTORICAL ANOMALY OF THE WEEK: Possibly. It's not clear how long ago Dylan and Sara met on the research station, but I wonder how that Magog attack squares with the fact that the Magog had made peace with the Commonwealth at least several years prior to the Nietzschean betrayal, considering that the betrayal was precipitated by that treaty and the Nietzscheans spent years preparing for the attack. In other words, if Dylan and Sara met before the Magog treaty, that could make for a long courtship.

TACTICAL ANOMALY OF THE WEEK: As I understand it, the Nietzschean attack in the past was repelled because Sara made the frozen-in-time Andromeda move, which terrified the Nietzscheans into retreating. That's a bit hard to swallow, considering that there appeared to be at least a half-dozen Nietzschean vessels. Aside from the numerical superiority, you'd think the Nietzscheans would have sensors that could scan the Andromeda for activity; they also know, presumably, that a High Guard vessel is trapped in that black hole, since they are the reason it's there in the first place. If the Nietzscheans are that easy to fake out, the Commonwealth could have prevailed by building thousands of decoy vessels and positioning them appropriately...

TACTICAL ANOMALY OF THE WEEK RUNNER-UP: Nearly as hard to swallow is the Nietzschean engagement in the present, in which a Big-Ass Nietzschean Ship is taken out by three tiny remote-controlled fighters.

ABSENTEE OF THE WEEK: There's no explanation for Trance's absence this week, and considering that it probably would have been a good idea to have the ship's medic on stand-by when Dylan was retrieved, that's kind of an odd omission.

RECYCLING OF THE WEEK: I hope we've seen the last of the "Andromeda orbiting the black hole" footage...
  

Previous: "The Ties
That Blind
"
Next: "A Rose in the Ashes"
NEXT WEEK: Crew members run afoul of local alien law and are punished. That has a familiar ring...

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This review is copyright 2000 David E. Sluss
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