138[ANDR] Jammer's Review: "Dance of the Mayflies"
- Feb 25, 2002Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Andromeda's "Dance of
the Mayflies." If you haven't seen the episode yet, beware.
In brief: Garbage. Chintz and camp taken to new Andromeda highs (or lows --
Plot description: The Andromeda crew must contend with an unstoppable force
of immortal beings who inhabit the bodies of the dead.
Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda: "Dance of the Mayflies"
Airdate: 2/18/2002 (USA week-of)
Teleplay by Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Story by Ashley Edward Miller & Zack Stentz
Directed by J. Miles Dale
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Rating out of 4: 1/2*
"You gotta be kidding me!" -- Captain Dylan Hunt, echoing what I had just
moments earlier said aloud about what I was witnessing on the screen
Robert Hewitt Wolfe wrote this script? Did he conceive it as a joke, a
parting gift penned with an evil grin? (I can almost hear the
"MWAH-HA-HA-HA-HA!" as he slides the script across the desk to his Tribune
bosses, or former bosses -- whichever.) This should've aired on April Fools
Day, for crying out loud. If meant sincerely, the episode's biggest mystery
is why the credits don't say "written and directed by Alan Smithee." I'm
thinking there's a reason Gene Coon used his pseudonym when "Spock's Brain"
"Dance of the Mayflies" is laughable television tripe. It's useful evidence
for those people who say, "There's nothing but crap on TV" -- a statement I
generally disagree with but might be tempted to lend credence to via this
particular hour. On the Andromeda scale, "Mayflies" deserves to go down in
flames with last year's "Rose in the Ashes"; it might very well be the worst
episode of Andromeda ever made. This is a brainless B action/horror movie
with a little bit of sci-fi sprinkled on top. I have little doubt that
Miller, Stentz, and Wolfe conceived it the other way around, before the
episode was then "Tribunized" (to use an increasingly popular term) in the
interests of making it "fun" and "action-packed" and "more accessible." The
finished product deserves to be viewed only in the sort of atmosphere where
drinking games are being played ... and hopefully already several hours
under way. If this is representative of the "new Andromeda" (and I
completely and sincerely hope not), then count me out.
Right now I feel more cynical about this series than I did about Voyager
when I finished watching "Favorite Son" during the awful stretch in that
show's third season. 2002 has so far not been kind to Andromeda (or perhaps
I should say Andromeda has not been kind to 2002), with mediocre-to-bad
action-hour zaniness in the likes of "Ouroboros," "Lava and Rockets," and
"Be All My Sins Remembered," but this latest episode makes those other shows
look like relative masterpieces. If the point of "Mayflies" was to make me
laugh at all the wrong times, then it's a success. If not, then not.
The teaser and the first couple acts are, admittedly, not bad. The story
thrusts us into the middle of an urgent crisis and an ensuing pursuit that's
effective and seems to be taking us somewhere, fast and furiously. Then the
episode suddenly becomes a take-off on "Night of the Living Dead" and any
and every other horror flick about Zombie Undead Ghoul Guys That Cannot Be
Killed. Homage? Perhaps. I'm not a big follower of the horror genre, but
that certainly doesn't mean I can't appreciate a good homage or satire. That
is, however, not what "Mayflies" plays like. Scene after scene flops and
dies, buried under the usual cartoon-action excesses of this continually
The endless action scenes are, as usual, pointless and laughable, and edited
more poorly than usual. (Just *look* at the cheesiness where Trance and
Rommie are going at it, or when Dylan goes on an ass-kicking spree down the
corridor. It's unabashed, unadulterated camp.) The plot serves this end
perfectly: Now we have body-bag target practice for people who are *already
dead* and then *get back up again*. There's got to be some sort of poetry to
the notion that the violence here is victimless because the victims have
already been killed. Absolutely brilliant. (Logic suggests that Our Heroes
should start lopping off limbs and heads to functionally incapacitate the
Zombie Guys, but never mind -- we've got to keep this TV-PG, right?)
The sci-fi angle initially sees this as a disease. The victims of the
spores -- or whatever -- become Zombie Guys only after they die and the
spores -- or whomever -- take control of the hollow corpses and start
walking around trying to kill other people so the spores -- or whichever --
can "re-establish our rightful dominion here in our new home." Say it aloud
with me: MWAH-HA-HA-HA-HA!
Trance is taken over by the spore thingamabobs, which makes a Possessed
Trance that now starts talking in a Low and Creepy Possessed Voice, which is
quite possibly the oldest (and lamest) cliche in the body-possession genre's
The pacing and logic of the action is, yet again, a mess. There's a scene,
for example, where Trance is being attacked by a Zombie Guy and calls to the
command deck for help. Dylan and Tyr barely react to the fact that TRANCE IS
BEING ATTACKED and start engaging in expositional dialog. Finally we cut
back to a struggle that must've been on pause mode during the Dylan/Tyr
Meanwhile, there's a whole thread involving the Than chasing after the
Andromeda because they know about the Super-Evil Zombie Guys and need to
destroy them at all costs. Do they tell Dylan what's going on when Dylan
tries to communicate with them? Nope, because that would require five
seconds of actual reasonableness by the Than, something this plot would be
unable to endure.
There are too many crises. There's (1) Attack of the Random Zombie Guys, (2)
Attack of the Unreasonable Than, (3) Attack of the Evil Possessed Trance
Warrior Princess, (4) Attack of the Deadly Virus (Beka is infected and has
mere hours to live before she will succumb to Zombie-ism), and (5) Countdown
to Auto-Destruct Armageddon. Sure, these threads come together in one way or
another, but that's beside the point. The point is that this is an
overplotted mess where one crisis is constantly stumbling over another.
(Here's where I once again invoke my mantra-of-late: Less Is More.)
What's a total shame is how there are moments of character continuity that
are actually halfway reassuring (and what merit the half of a star awarded
above). There's nice continuity regarding Harper's weak immune system and
his desire to prove himself. There's an effective nod to Beka's past drug
addiction and her desire to never again use a stimulant, even in this
desperate situation with her life on the line. There's the Rommie avatar
taking a bigger interest in human emotions (particularly her trouble in
facing the fact that Dylan will someday die) that's apparently deviating
from the rest of the ship's personality, although the idea is piled on
pretty thick and feels forced.
I'm also unconvinced about Tyr here, whose soft side often gets the better
of him in ways I think are a bit too imposed by the writers rather than the
character. It seems more potentially detrimental to what I like about Tyr,
anyway. And his dramatic scenes are botched in ways that are difficult to
describe. This is not one of Keith Hamilton Cobb's better performances. It's
often too broad and other times features reactions that are just plain
weird -- I thought his stammering at Beka's looming death was way off-kilter
Never mind, because it's all irrelevant anyway. The characters totally drown
in an ocean of hilarious dreck. The plot's stunning revelation is that the
Zombie Guys can be permanently killed if they're shocked with -- yes --
"10,000 volts." Whoa! And, yes, there's even a shot where we see a couple
Zombie Guys shocked with 10,000 volts in Super-Slow-Mo.
The one-liners are atrocious. At the very least they're indicative of this
series' non-pretentious tone (okay, non-pretentious except for the episode
titles; a better title for this show might've been "ACTION-PACKED ATTACK OF
THE ZOMBIE GUYS!"). But even so, the one-liners here are groan-worthy and
have no conviction, featuring gems like:
- "I'm wearing protection." (Harper)
- "And stay dead!" (Beka)
- "Stopped you dead in your tracks!" (Harper)
- "The ungrateful dead." (Dylan)
- "He's fallen and he can't get up!" (Harper)
- "Wink this out!" [thwack] (Rommie)
- "Sorry, guys, but you're not my type." (Dylan)
- "For the record, I hate zombies." (Beka)
- "[25, 20, 15, etc.] minutes until self-destruct." (Andromeda)
And so on.
Then, of course, there's:
"Trance, are you dead or alive?"
Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. That Mysterious Trance is so cagey and crafty!
(Cue canned laughter.)
One could call Trance's reply clever, once again acknowledging the Big
Trance Mystery without really dealing with it. One could also call it a lame
cop-out that once again reduces Trance to a plot device (she can be
possessed, manipulated as an action prop, and then killed, and then at the
end she's All Better and back to normal; sorry, doesn't interest me
anymore). And the scene gets worse, as the characters squirm with bemused
reactions that come across exactly like hammy acting. How does a scene
misfire so badly? I'm guessing the director, J. Miles Dale, is to blame.
The final scene plays like one of those moral lessons they used to tack on
to the end of cartoons like "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,"
wrapped with a pretty bow on top. Lexa Doig's performance in this scene I
can only describe as inexplicably odd, and not in a good way. And in the
context of the scene, Dylan's platitudes on Love's Eternal Role in the
Universe are, quite frankly, pathetic. I'd have been cringing, but I was too
busy laughing. Am I supposed to be moved by this?
You know, there's absolutely nothing wrong with action and nothing wrong
with having fun. The problem is, I expect at least a trace of *quality* with
my action and would-be fun. "Dance of the Mayflies" is the sort of show that
I was quite simply embarrassed to admit I was watching.
Next week: An episode that looks like Hercules even in its production
Copyright 2002 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.
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Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...