80[ANDR] Jammer's Review: "The Ties That Blind"
- Dec 28, 2000Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Andromeda's "The Ties
That Blind." If you haven't seen the episode yet, beware.
In brief: Unremarkable, with lots of standard-issue twists and turns but not
much genuine involvement.
Plot description: Beka is reunited with her troublesome brother, who
maintains suspicious ties amid conflicting philosophical groups.
Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda: "The Ties That Blind"
Airdate: 11/13/2000 (USA week-of)
Teleplay by Ethlie Ann Vare
Story by Ashley Edward Miller & Zack Stentz
Directed by David Warry-Smith
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Rating out of 4: **
"Save the sophistry for Dylan; I don't have the time." -- Tyr to Rev
Here's a story that's in love with cons and audience deception, but it's
lacking the urgency and conviction that any of the parties involved really
have much at stake. I guess it ultimately comes down to story execution. If
we believe, for example, that Beka is going to blow up her own brother, and
we care whether she does or doesn't, then we might have something here. If
we don't, then we don't.
One problem with "The Ties That Blind" is that it feels oddly disconnected,
as if made up of a bunch of randomly invented parts that don't really mean
much of anything to anybody. There are a few groups that get new focus in
this episode, but who are they and why should we care about them? The
episode throws us a lot of agendas and people working for people, hoping
that some of it will stick as interesting espionage/political storytelling.
I dunno -- we don't really learn much about any of what's going on. The plot
doesn't play like it actually matters (as with, say, political maneuvering
on DS9); it plays more like a labyrinthine MacGuffin taking the back seat to
a storyline about Beka's estranged brother.
His name is Rafe Valentine (Cameron Daddo), renowned for his self-serving
trickery and casual indifference to anything that doesn't benefit him
directly. He's the type of guy who, when he says he has become a Wayist
monk, prompts Beka to laugh in his face with incredulity.
Family friction is of course a backstory cliche. Families that get along
aren't very interesting as story subjects, so we get siblings who are
simultaneously quasi-allies and quasi-competitors -- with the underlying
notion that Beka thinks Rafe needs to grow up and do something worthwhile
with his life instead of living from one score to the next. It's not bad,
but it's not original either. And it's not all that interesting.
The real question posed here, I suppose, is who Rafe is working for. The
plot involves the Wayists, the same religious group that Rev Bem subscribes
to. It also involves the Resters -- short for Restorians -- an extremist
group that is anti-space travel and believes the galaxy would best be served
if worlds were isolated. Then there's the Free Trade Alliance (FTA), a body
more open to interplanetary commerce and interaction. The Resters would like
nothing better than to undermine the FTA whenever possible. Rafe apparently
is a recently converted Wayist. Is he working for the Resters, the FTA,
both, or neither? It is typical of the story's affinity for cons that it
supposes Rafe in each of the four above possibilities at one point or
There's another Wayist here named Vikram Singh Khalsa (Brian George), who is
injured and may or may not be what he seems. Is Rafe initially in cahoots
with him before being double-crossed, or is he playing the whole game by
himself? It's perhaps a telling sign that, after two viewings, I'm still not
completely sure. For that matter, how are the Wayists (whom Rev secretly
contacts at the show's outset) directly connected into all of this? I'm not
inspired to watch the show again to find out, seeing as the story places so
little importance on these sort of connections anyway.
Sing Khalsa is *really* not what he seems; he's not only a Rester saboteur
but also a hollow shell full of nanobots, which exit his body through his
mouth in a special effect reminiscent of "The Green Mile." These nanobots
infect the Andromeda's computer system and disable the ship, leaving it
vulnerable to a Rester attack, and also causing the internal defense system
to go haywire and start shooting at Our Heroes. Yawn.
This leads to a rather inept action premise where Tyr and Trance go running
through the ship in slow-motion. It's depressing how much the show makes of
two characters outrunning exploding sparks -- especially since we never
believe for a moment they're in any real danger. This "action" is
meaningless; it doesn't advance the story in any meaningful way and exists
merely to fill screen time -- and not entertainingly at that.
If there's a core to the episode, it's in Beka's search to find her
brother's true motives. This is documented with plenty of sneaking around
and dialog, but I should probably point out that I'm beginning to wonder
whether making Beka a wisecracking smart-ass is a good idea. The character
has shown that she's smart and experienced, but Beka's characterization
evokes a loose-cannon tendency (replete with sub-par one-liners) that too
often makes me forget I'm watching an experienced freighter captain and
instead watching an over-scripted character trying to fit into some
predetermined mold for the wannabe hip. Still, though some of this is
needlessly forced, some of it is okay. I did like the idea of the Beka/Rafe
rivalry put in the terms "Valentine Smart" and "Valentine Smarter."
The big con in the episode is simultaneously on the bad guys (the Resters,
that is) and the audience. Dylan and the Valentines con the Resters into
taking missile launch codes that have been infected with a virus. So when
the Resters launch missiles at the Andromeda, they turn around and blow up
the Resters instead.
Unfortunately, the show is too labored an effort in getting here -- heavy on
exposition -- and I never really cared about Rafe. And for those keeping
count, this is already the fourth time that Captain Hunt has had control of
his ship taken from him by outside forces. Not a great track record, that.
The con games are the sort of thing that may have seemed clever on the page,
but on the screen it plays too awkwardly. Indeed, what works best are the
scenes that have little to do with the plot, like Tyr's rant against Dylan's
trusting nature, or a tense confrontation between Rev and Tyr.
It would also seem the mystery of the ominous bad guys in "D Minus Zero" has
been unveiled as the Resters. Unfortunately, it was more interesting when it
was still a mystery (and besides, why would an extremist terrorist group
value anonymity so much?). Here lies an episode that is a remarkably ho-hum
Next week: It's time for time travel ... again?
Copyright 2000 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.
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Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...