105[ANDR] Jammer's Review: "Music of a Distant Drum"
- Aug 25, 2001Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Andromeda's "Music
of a Distant Drum." If you haven't seen the episode yet, beware.
In brief: A reasonable character-building episode but, unfortunately, with
a horribly pedestrian main plot.
Plot description: Having crashed on a planet with no memory of who he is,
Tyr is drawn into the plight of humans enslaved by Nietzschean oppressors
who might have ties to Tyr's past.
Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda: "Music of a Distant Drum"
Airdate: 2/5/2001 (USA week-of)
Written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by Allan Kroeker
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Rating out of 4: **1/2
"I AM TYR ANASAZI OF KODIAK PRIDE! OUT OF VICTORIA BY BARBAROSSA! AND I
... WILL NEVER ... SURRENDER!" [breaks guy's spine, throws him down onto
The moment when Tyr snaps the bad guy's neck after exclaiming, "I AM TYR
ANASAZI!" is almost worth the price of admission. It's a gratifying
release of tension -- tension similar to that which built in my head as I
waited for something interesting to actually happen in the plot. Up to
that point the episode is a reasonable but overly traditional character
episode with virtually no surprises whatsoever. Ah, nothing like a little
in-your-face violence to get the juices flowing.
I'm torn here: I'm always asking for more character building and less
pointless action. Now here I get it (although there are several sequences
of action, to be sure), and yet I'm still not satisfied because I also get
one of the safest, most nondescript plots in recent memory. A lot of it
feels like it's on autopilot. The script employs ages-old devices like
temporary character amnesia, a hero marooned in an unfamiliar setting,
hostages and mouthy would-be killers, the hero befriending and almost
romancing the local woman in distress, fistfights in rocky caves, the
works. All of this is familiar to a fault and I wanted some of these
scenes to move out of the way.
On the other hand, we have peripheral elements to the plot that make up an
emotional core that comes very close to working. We have central focus on
Tyr, whose depth is quickly turning him into this series' most compelling
and entertaining character. We have evidence that the Nietzscheans are
going to be an interestingly woven tapestry on this series with various
sects and societal relationships. I'm heartened by those facts.
I guess "Music of a Distant Drum" is what might be called average fare for
Andromeda -- a palatable story executed in a fairly standard way with few
risks or surprises. Tyr crashes the Maru on a planet after having been
shot down by the Drago-Kazov Nietzschean pride -- established in "Double
Helix" as sworn enemies of Tyr and his Kodiak pride. The Drago-Kazov fleet
was chasing him because he stole something from their homeworld. Tyr wakes
up in mid-adventure unaware how he got into it; he can't remember much of
anything about his identity or situation. He's on a planet that,
incidentally, is occupied by the Drago-Kazov, who exploit the humans
living there as slave labor.
Our entry point into this world are the characters of Yvaine (Linnea
Sharples) and her stepson Breyon (Noel Fisher). Yvaine is a widow who has
had a difficult life because of the Drago-Kazov's brutal ways and because
of the local human brutes, whose ostensive purpose is to resist the Dragos
but who have turned their aggression toward the innocents of their own
world, that they may profit by it. Breyon is a young teenage hothead, bent
on avenging his father's death at the hands of the Dragos. He does not
like Nietzscheans, and his first inclination when he sees Tyr sleeping is
to try to kill him. Gradually, Breyon comes to accept Tyr, since bits and
pieces of Tyr's memory indicate that he might hate the Drago-Kazov every
bit as much as Breyon and the other residents of this slave world.
The amnesiac angle is a bit of a mixed bag. For one, it's a storytelling
cliche (so much so that I thought when Tyr first asked Yvain who he was, I
thought he was testing her). I also wonder if it was really necessary to
get to the heart of what this episode is about, which is Tyr's underlying
humanity despite the fact he is a Nietzschean pragmatist. Although I think
Tyr acted very much within the boundaries of his character in this story,
the case can be made that because Tyr has no memory of his origins or
motivations, he acts in ways he otherwise would not, which I think is
contrary to the story's point.
On the other hand, I do think the reason for Tyr's memory loss is nicely
explained: He was infected with a nanobot weapon to disrupt his body's
systems, but his Nietzschean bio-engineering is able to gradually resist
it, hence the only-temporary memory loss that gradually subsides through
the course of the episode.
The plot is a device to get Tyr to choose sides between the Nietzschean
oppressors and the human oppressed. Tyr, by nature, does not choose any
side but his own, and nor does he here initially, simply telling Yvain
that his own best chances for survival lie in working with her while
avoiding the Dragos. Eventually, of course, Tyr is somewhat taken in by
There are a series of confrontations between Tyr and the Drago bad guys,
particularly one soldier named Arjun (Nels Lennarson). It turns out the
Dragos were chasing Tyr because he stole from their homeworld the sacred
remains of the original Nietzschean progenitor -- once safeguarded by the
Kodiak pride before the Drago-Kazov betrayed and wiped them out. The
mummified corpse is an interesting concept for a treasure, because it says
a lot about Tyr's reverence for history and his serious pride in himself
and the Kodiaks that have become all but extinct.
Honestly, from here, what actually happens in the course of the plot is of
minimal interest. There are confrontations and dialog scenes between Tyr
and others, chase scenes, rescue scenes, and a satisfying showdown where
Tyr's memories come back and he announces exactly who he is while pounding
on Arjun until he breaks.
None of this is important as a matter of what's happening so much as who
these people are and what their histories are about. The Nietzscheans have
a diverse but generally self-serving ideal set, as evidenced here by Tyr's
condemnation of the Drago-Kazov's use of slave worlds -- not because
they're morally wrong, but because the Dragos are dependent upon them and
weak without them.
"Music of a Distant Drum" represents an interesting duality that exists in
Andromeda -- one that shows a care for the series' larger picture,
characters, and cultures but can't muster quite enough to tell a fresh and
interesting story on its own terms. Ironically enough, except for the
convenient and highly improbable timeliness of the other Andromeda crew
members arriving on the planet, this is actually one of the better-paced
and better-technically-executed episodes of Andromeda this season --
except this time the actions of the story come across as hackneyed.
Can I recommend this episode? Almost, but not quite. It has a number of
very respectable qualities, like getting into the head of its hero,
developing a focus on cultural relationships and a contribution to the
larger Andromeda lore. The guest performances are serviceable (which is a
step up from weak but still not what I would call really engaging). Tyr's
key interactions with Yvain are pleasant but not moving. The show
ultimately can't sustain enough tension to transcend the mechanics of its
ho-hum plot. Close, but no cigar.
Next week: Seamus Mnemonic.
Copyright 2001 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.
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Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...