Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Andromeda's "The
Prince." If you haven't seen the episode yet, beware.
In brief: Complex and competent, but familiar, and with not enough at stake
for the audience.
Plot description: Dylan and Tyr rescue the only remaining heir to the throne
of a troubled world, which suddenly makes them major players in a game of
Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda: "The Prince"
Airdate: 1/14/2002 (USA week-of)
Written by Erik Oleson
Directed by Allan Eastman
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Rating out of 4: **1/2
"A democracy. How quaint."
"Yes, Tyr, I know. You would've preferred Erik as a dictator."
"No, sir. I should have very much liked our young Erik to survive. Your way,
I give him a month."
-- Tyr and Dylan
"The Prince" is a reasonable hour of television but probably a bit too
familiar in the Andromeda universe. In some ways, it plays like "Double
Helix" from last season, in which we have various sides with their agendas,
and most notably Tyr in the middle playing the
wait-and-see-what-tactics-work-best game. It's also reminiscent of "Forced
Perspective," where a world teeters on the edge of social chaos and a
complex solution must be found for a complex problem.
But the nagging sense I kept getting from the episode is that it's a chess
game where we care more about the pieces than the game. The result of the
game is not particularly worth caring about, and the way we get to that
result employs a lot of ideological debate, dialog, and maneuvering, but
with little actually powerful drama. Everything about the conflict is a
little vague, because we don't know who these people are or what their
history is about. Obviously we don't need to be experts, but the question is
whether we care. I found I had little invested in them. It's exactly like
walking into the middle of a civil war we know nothing about and then taking
sides, having been suddenly given the power to affect the outcome.
That power comes in the form of the titular Prince Erik (Steve Grayhm), whom
Dylan and Tyr rescue from a ship under siege at the story's outset. The ship
is carrying the entire royal family of the Ne'Holland world, and rebels have
tried to wipe out the family in a grand assassination effort. All but Erik
and one of the royal advisers, Yanos (Allan Gray), have been killed in the
attack. Erik is suddenly the teenage heir to the throne of his world. But it
wasn't supposed to happen this way, he notes; his two brothers were trained
since birth to be prepared to take the throne. He wasn't, and now they're
As Erik's rescuers, Dylan and Tyr suddenly find themselves with the option
to become Erik's co-regents, where they each get an official vote in Erik's
decision-making process. Now there's an interesting combat-of-ideologies
situation for you: Tyr and Dylan as co-regents for a world that could
certainly be used to serve either of their agendas. (It's said that this
world is on the slipstream route where the Magog world-ship will eventually
emerge, which is the story's way of making the planet "relevant.") Poor
young Erik is in the middle. Erik is performed by Steve Grayhm in an earnest
but perhaps over-demanding performance that requires him to be clueless
about politics and filled with rage directed at his family's killers. Grayhm
pushes a little too hard at times, and we're often aware of the performance
instead of the character.
Ne'Holland is a world of political strife. The king, according to some, was
ruthless and brutal, and the story suggests that maybe the ruling family got
exactly what they had coming. Even Yanos turns out to be a traitor in the
midst, who betrayed the royal family because the king was a dictator
interested in little beyond reinforcing his own power. Erik gets his first
taste of blood when assaulted by Yanos, whom he kills in the struggle.
The chess game begins when the Andromeda comes in contact with Archduke
Constantine (Timothy Webber), who led the rebellion of the Ne'Holland nobles
and called for the assassinations of the royalty. What's disappointing,
however, is that the story plays it safe by turning Constantine into a stock
villain type rather than trying to empathize with his situation. If the king
was a dictator who deserved the revolt he got, it might be nice if we could
see Constantine as something other than an evil-grinning scumbag. The show
forces us to see him and the rebellion as the bad guys.
I did, however, enjoy Tyr's typically manipulative games, talking into one
of Erik's ears while Dylan talked into the other. Tyr contacts Constantine
and offers Erik's head on a platter. Then Tyr tells Erik about his offer to
Constantine and how he intends to use the rebels' new trust in him against
them. But should Erik trust Tyr? Well, of course not, because that's the
whole point. Tyr tells Erik very frankly that he should trust no one and
should devise his own plans. He's a king-to-be who must make his own
decisions and not rely on co-regents who have their own agendas.
One thing left a little hazy is exactly how much interwoven manipulation and
predicting there is between Dylan and Tyr. Both are scheming apart from one
another, and yet we get the feeling that they know damn well that such
scheming is taking place and, further, that they are counting on it.
Dylan wants to give power back "to the people," where he says it belongs.
The problem with this approach is that, dramatically, we don't have a clue
who the "people" are or what they want or represent. Of course the people
should have power, because Dylan is pro-democracy and pro-freedom. But the
story doesn't convey how it is the people would have any more "power" after
Erik is crowned king as compared to before.
The double-crossing and manipulation leads up to the climax, where
Constantine, with Tyr's "help" (quote marks denoting imminent double-cross)
intends to have Erik assassinated at the crowning ceremony. Dylan has his
own tricks up his sleeve, which includes the use of Andromeda's Super Battle
Bots, which land on the planet and come in blasting at Constantine's forces
like two rampant ED-209s. This makes for our requisite Andromeda Big Action
Sequence, featuring lots of sound and fury, lots of bullets and sparks and
bodies flying through the air, and, of course, no blood. I appreciated a
low-angle shot of bullet shells falling to the ground by the dozen --
reminded me of "The Matrix." But isn't this a bit heavy-handed? Wouldn't
someone be a little concerned about Erik's co-regents wiping out a rebellion
with 50-foot killer robots? If Dylan is trying to win the sympathy of the
people he sure has an odd way of going about it. Maybe he's going for the
Fear of God route.
The chants of "Long live the king!" at the end are a prime example of my
qualms with this episode. It's supposed to be, I think, an emotional payoff.
But it's not, because we have no stake in these people, and, worse, we don't
even understand why they're cheering a leader whose crowning seems more or
less unimportant in the scheme of this troubled world's political landscape.
The sentiment is half-hearted at best.
Indeed, Tyr gives Erik a month or two at best before he expects that the
very people cheering for him will likely be instrumental in overthrowing
him. That's some kind of weird irony.
"The Prince" is sort of an odd mix. Obviously, it was written with
larger-minded historical and literary contexts in mind. The topics of
ruthless monarchies, governments facing revolt, and Machiavellian
politicking are a cut above the average topics of consideration on a TV
action hour. Tyr and Dylan discussing Erik's fate is a nice touch that
demonstrates how Erik is truthfully, I think, little more than a cog in a
wheel. I praise the ambitions under the surface. Unfortunately, the story
itself is hard to invest in. Who are these people? Why should I care?
I don't know, because the story isn't really interested in them beyond their
scope as chess pieces in a game we arrived at way too late. And as Andromeda
plots go, the specifics are new, but this story and all its convoluted
scheming seems awfully familiar.
Next week: Harper tries to jump-start the battle for Earth.
Copyright 2002 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.
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Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...