The Cynics Corner

Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda

"The Prince"

by David E. Sluss

23 January 2002

 
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THE BOTTOM LINE
: While it displays more literacy than most TV productions, this episode is hurt by stock characters, by-the-numbers plotting, and shockingly poor production values.

CYNICS CORNER RATING: 6.5 (D)

LAUGH LINE OF THE WEEK: Erik kills the saboteur, and we clearly see that the man is as dead as Julius Caesar. Then Hunt, wanting to make sure that no viewer is left behind, adds helpfully: "You killed him!"

SPATIAL ANOMALIES OF THE WEEK: This episode is, among other things, a "small world" story. It seems unlikely that the Andromeda, or at least the Eureka Maru, was close enough to the Royal Freighter's position to have received its distress signal in time for Our Heroes to do any good, considering the lack of faster-than-light communication in this series. Just as curious, while our heroes' vessel was improbably nearby, the enemy vessel, which presumably attacked the Royal Freighter and disgorged the boarding party of shock troops, is nowhere to be seen.

TELEGRAPH OF THE WEEK: Anyone who didn't know that Vanos was the saboteur, raise your hand; you'll no doubt love this series' "new direction." His predictable attack on Erik seemed contrived, though, since it only happens after Trance fails to notice that her patient is packing a knife (as does Andromeda, who apparently doesn't keep track of visitors) and lets him go unaccompanied, even though he's supposedly not well enough to be walking around. Oh, well...

DECK-STACKING OF THE WEEK: The characterization of the Baron Constantijn was not only wafer-thin, but also rather plot-convenient. It's reminiscent of Voyager's old trick of wiping out the shades of gray by making one party so obviously Eeevil that there's no room for debate. This episode may not be quite so bad as that – after all, it does address the dead king's less than stellar human rights record, and the idea of supporting the barons is briefly considered - but Constantijn's mustache-twirling posturing about his use of human shields plays like a message sent directly to the viewer: "Sorry if we confused you. This here's the bad guy - got it?"

SPLIT PERSONALITY OF THE WEEK: For the record, this was a "Smart Hunt" week, as the captain manages to beat Tyr at his own game, anticipating the exact nature of Tyr's treachery, so that it all turned out in the end, however improbably. One thing I didn't buy was the fact that the Barons' death made all their land conveniently available to be given to cashiered solders; the barons' next of kin might a bone to pick with that, and probably an inheritance law or two to back them up.

BUDGET-CUTTING OF THE WEEK: Andromeda's production values have improved remarkably since its debut, but this week was a huge step backward. So, let's tear into it:

  • The building that is apparently Ne'Holland's royal palace looks as if it could be a community college in Vancouver, or something along those lines. The episode began to seem surreal to me right about here; apparently no effort or computer power was put into doctoring up the location footage.
  • If the building was in fact a high school or college, then perhaps some of the costumes and props came from the school's drama department. Erik's "king" outfit, white boa and all, is worth a howl of laughter, like it came from some kind of "Hamlet for the Homeless" charity production. And that crown... the fact that it is cardboard and gold foil is obvious both in the old king's death scene and during Erik's coronation. You can see where the ends of the cardboard ring are attached, for heaven's sake!
  • Deliberate product placement or no money for post-production? The "IBM" logo was clearly and repeatedly visible on the upper left corner of the monitor Tyr was talking to when he was plotting with Constantijn. I gather this has been visible before, but if my crummy TV set can pick it up, it must be really obvious.
  • The return of Tweedledee and Tweedledum was something of a surprise; I had assumed that Hunt would use some new setting in his force lance to dispose of the assassins. The rendering of the two robots, though, remains unconvincing, no better than in "The Widening Gyre," and in some ways worse. My biggest problem on this score was that the size of the robots didn't seem to be properly conveyed. When they first attacked the assassins in the woods, they seemed to be perhaps three times as tall than the average assassin; this is supported by the height of the surrounding terraforming pines relative to the robots, and by the angle of fire that we see from the robots' perspective a couple of times. But during the coronation, Tweedledee and Tweedledum are in the audience, and they're frickin huge! Like ten times the height of a human! While I'm on the subject, one of the silliest things I've seen recently has to be the coronation, as the robots turn meaningfully towards the stage when Erik says, "Long live the people." Oh, brother...
      
Previous: "Into the Labyrinth"
Next: "Bunker Hill"
NEXT WEEK: We finally get to see what's become of Earth, and perhaps why our heroes, who with one exception are not Earthers, always use Earth history, geography, etc. as a point of reference.

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This review is copyright 2002 David E. Sluss
Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda is a trademark of Tribune Entertainment