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[ANDR] Jammer's Review: "The Widening Gyre"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Andromeda s second-season premiere, The Widening Gyre. If you haven t seen the episode yet, beware. In
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 9, 2001
      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Andromeda's
      second-season premiere, "The Widening Gyre." If you haven't seen the episode
      yet, beware.

      In brief: Several grossly unfortunate reset-button tricks early on, but
      ultimately very entertaining; a slam-bang start to the season.

      Plot description: The crew of the Andromeda must face a powerful enemy and
      an army of Magog to rescue their missing crew members inside a massive
      star-powered ship that must be destroyed at all costs.

      Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda: "The Widening Gyre"

      Airdate: 10/1/2001 (USA week-of)
      Written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe
      Directed by Allan Eastman

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: ***

      "A renewed Commonwealth: Before, it was a dream. Now it's a necessity." --

      As most know, I wasn't too fond of "Its Hour Come 'Round At Last," the
      needlessly excessive cliffhanger that set up "The Widening Gyre," and I'm
      still not. Aside from all its boring Magog violence, most of the problems
      with "Widening Gyre" are traceable directly back to "Hour's" over-the-top
      cliffhanger elements, which are required to be undone in the opening minutes
      of "Gyre." There are things about this episode that prove it deserves to be
      mentioned alongside Andromeda's best hours, but there's also plenty of early
      narrative cheating that doesn't sit well.

      For the most part, "Widening Gyre" is a terrific hour of action/adventure
      storytelling. It succeeds where "Hour" failed, and it works on many levels,
      from action to production to pacing to acting to editing to characters to
      larger consequences -- except for that albatross of Phony Desperation left
      over from part one. If you could somehow excise the last few minutes of
      "Hour" and the first few minutes of "Gyre" and replace them with something
      believable, you'd have a season premiere that works pretty much from
      beginning to end. As it is, we have the first 10 minutes that cheat followed
      by 50 minutes that work.

      Basically, the problem here is that part one left everyone either
      unconscious or dying, while Rommie was impaled with a metal pole, the ship's
      AI was in chaos, and there were massive holes in the ship and a wrecked
      bridge. But now ... none of that seems to matter in "Gyre." We know that no
      one is going to die, that they'll all make it to the medical bay. Rommie
      becomes conscious on "backup power" and the gaping hole through her stomach
      is mysteriously gone (or at the very least irrelevant) two scenes later. The
      holes in the ship have little bearing on its functionality and a few scenes
      later also might as well be completely gone. And the AI magically recovers,
      not only from the damage to the ship, but from its backup overtaking its
      current version in the first part of the story. This is nothing short of a
      ridiculous Voyager-izing of the situation -- a ship heavily damaged is for
      all purposes immediately repairable with no resources.

      The funny thing is, once we're through the opening 10 minutes of utter BS,
      "Gyre" turns into an engaging, fast-paced, ever-moving, multi-tiered,
      helluva-ride action show. Aside from the way-implausible manner Andromeda
      and her crew so easily pull themselves together to get back on their feet, I
      have very few complaints about what comes out of all this once the story is
      set back into motion. The plot is basically a rescue mission (Tyr and Harper
      have been taken into one of the worlds in the massive world-ship, along with
      Rev who is trying to find them) combined with a
      this-enemy-must-be-destroyed-at-all-costs mission.

      Dylan and Rommie take the Maru to the world-ship where they begin their
      search. But first, Dylan tells Beka about the nova bomb (from all the way
      back in "To Loose the Fateful Lightning," the Continuity Patrol notes) that
      is on board Andromeda, ordering her to wait three hours and then fire the
      bomb and destroy the world-ship, no matter what.

      "Gyre" turns into four simultaneous, related mini-plots in which (1) Dylan
      and Rommie go searching for the missing crewmen, (2) Tyr and Harper are
      pinned to a wall and held captive by the Magog, who have implanted them with
      Magog eggs, (3) Beka defends the Andromeda from the world-ship and its
      attacking Magog ships, and (4) Bloodmist's attempts to lure Rev Bem (whose
      given Magog name is actually Red Plague) into the evil Magog fold.

      In the past, this series has had trouble when it comes to assembling
      multiple storylines, particularly when they aren't related. "Gyre" has no
      such problem (the stories here are related), carefully assembling these
      multiple plots and getting the maximum mileage out of each of them.

      My favorite is the Tyr/Harper plot, which serves as an extension of their
      banter in "Hour" -- Harper is resigned to the fact they're going to die,
      whereas Tyr is about survival until the very, very, very end. This is the
      sort of plot that can get old very fast, but it doesn't here because of
      entertaining dialog and solid performances. Tyr has a way of telling someone
      to shut up that is both convincing and funny, and he has a couple speeches
      about survival that are memorable: One involves a humorously unlikely tale
      of survival (though undoubtedly true) from when he was 16 years old; another
      demonstrates that you should never, ever, bet on the odds of your own
      conception. The show's final scene has Tyr mocking Harper in a way that's
      absolutely hilarious, and yet full of real impact at the same time. In Tyr
      always being a colorful character we trust.

      Rev's story with Bloodmist (Gerard Plunkett) isn't as effective, maybe
      because Magog characters have a tendency to snarl so often that it's hard to
      make much of the actors' performances. Bloodmist tries to turn Rev by giving
      him an enlightening moment with the powerful Magog god (often called
      "Enigma" by many, called simply the "shadow-man" by me), which now has an
      official name: the Spirit of the Abyss. I leave you to conclude what, if
      any, power the Spirit of the Abyss has over Rev, since Rev first seems to be
      truly humbled by it and then later turns on Bloodmist. (Was it all Rev's
      ruse, or just some of it?) This element of the story, where Rev helps save
      the day just when we think he's going to serve the enemy, is a bit
      predictable, though the look on the other characters' faces when Rev turns
      to some rather un-Rev-like violence is noteworthy.

      On board Andromeda, Beka's commanding skills are further tested when she
      must deploy the nova bomb and kill her own fellow crewmen ... except that
      the world-ship is able to survive the destruction of its star core, because
      Enigma/shadow-man/Spirit of the Abyss is able to somehow absorb the blast.
      (Beka: "Tell me that's impossible!" Trance: "It's not impossible, it's just
      really unfair!") Who is this super-powerful Spirit of the Abyss and why does
      he need the Magog?

      The Dylan/Rommie plot is mostly run-and-jump action -- much more tolerable
      than the action of "Hour" because there's a goal and urgency behind it
      instead of mind-numbing repetition (though I could've done without the
      cliche of the week from Rommie: "Dylan, if we don't make it, I want you to
      know..."). I'm still not, however, convinced about the usefulness of the
      Magog as enemies. Yeah, there's a crapload of them, but that doesn't make
      them interesting. I still have no useful estimation of their intelligence;
      they seem like brainless savages who can yet somehow pilot ships, which I
      just don't get. In action scenes they can be cheesy and indistinct; at one
      point you can clearly see the zipper on the back of the furry costume.

      No matter. This is fast-paced action/adventure done effectively on four
      different fronts, ending with plenty of sound and fury. I'm a sucker for
      action storylines that play out simultaneously in multiple crosscut threads,
      provided they're done well. These are. It doesn't come across as a jumbled
      mess (which it could have) but rather a coherent and logical sequence of
      exciting events. High marks should be awarded to everyone here.

      Incredibly, several of my complaints as mentioned in my First Season Recap
      have already been at least partially tackled here. Either the writers read
      my mind before I even saw all of season one, or I read their minds before
      writing my review of it.

      I'm reassured by:

      1. Much better use of Trance, who is more up-front to Beka about her limited
      abilities to foresee future events and isn't used as a magical omniscient
      device but instead as an adviser who has a talent for prediction.

      2. The story effectively tackles my complaint about a lack of urgency in
      Dylan's mission to rebuild the Commonwealth. How? By ending on foreboding
      notes. Yes, all our characters live and the world-ship is crippled by the
      nova bomb. But Andromeda is forced to flee. The world-ship is still out
      there, under repair, and it will someday again be on its way. While its
      apparent mission to "Destroy Everything and Everyone!" is trite, Dylan's
      mission to restore the Commonwealth can now be seen as a necessary measure
      to defend all societies from this forthcoming threat. I'd definitely call
      that urgency.

      3. Harper is infested with Magog eggs and diagnosed with an uncertain fate.
      I wouldn't mind seeing a darker, more sobered Harper emerge from these
      consequences (since Season One Harper began to tire).

      With these effects, Andromeda has some new elements of excitement, even if
      these elements aren't particularly complex at the moment.

      It's just too bad I can't call the episode's opening moments anything other
      than a crock that shows the writers blatantly cheating the audience. "The
      Widening Gyre" is otherwise one of the most purely entertaining episodes of
      Andromeda to date -- certainly more fun and lively than Enterprise's first
      two episodes. It gives Andromeda a nice boost in the arm, and it's a nice
      way to kick off a season.

      Note: The new season sports a new title sequence. My thoughts: Give me back
      the old title sequence. The voice-over narration worked much better when it
      was Dylan who was saying it. I also preferred the old opening theme. The
      High Guard Theme may be this show's identity, but it's not nearly as cool
      and has frankly been driven into the ground over the past year.

      Next week: Crew marooned on ice planet.

      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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