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[ANDR] Jammer's Review: "Music of a Distant Drum"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: 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
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 25, 2001
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      Warning: 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
      rocky floor]
      -----

      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
      Yvain's plight.

      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.

      Star Trek: Hypertext - http://www.st-hypertext.com/
      Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...
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