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[ANDR] Jammer's Review: "Exit Strategies"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Andromeda s Exit Strategies. If you haven t seen the episode yet, beware. In brief: Some very good
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 25, 2001
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      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Andromeda's "Exit
      Strategies." If you haven't seen the episode yet, beware.


      In brief: Some very good character and continuity work held back by several
      unconvincing turns of plot and science. A recommendation overall, albeit
      barely.

      Plot description: The Maru crashes on a desolate ice world while fleeing a
      group of Nietzschean slavers who have a score to settle with Tyr.

      -----
      Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda: "Exit Strategies"

      Airdate: 10/8/2001 (USA week-of)
      Written by Matt Kiene & Joe Reinkemeyer
      Directed by T.J. Scott

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

      "Tyr, any ideas that might change their minds about killing us?"
      "Killing them first."
      -- Dylan and Tyr
      -----

      Suspension of disbelief is one thing, but moments of "Exit Strategies" send
      your Credulity-O-Meter to skyrocketing levels. The crew's exit strategy here
      is to have the script solve the problems with several magical waves of the
      contrivance wand. Sure, the plot supplies reasons for everything that
      happens here, but I don't think I buy them.

      Nevertheless, after bouncing back and forth several times in the process of
      writing this review, I'm going to let "Exit Strategies" slide by with a
      thumbs-up. It features good characterization, good continuity/follow-up
      material, and good pacing. It's just enough for me to overlook the problems
      to some degree. But make no mistake: While the character work is highly
      admirable, the plot has distracting moments where it resembles Swiss cheese.

      Out acquiring parts for the crippled Andromeda, the Maru crashes on a
      desolate ice world, in an exceptionally fast-moving and well-done teaser
      sequence. "Desolate ice world" is, naturally, another term for "snowy
      Canadian forest location." I appreciate that there are action scenes staged
      outside in the snow (visually, it looks quite good), but all these supposed
      "forest planets" are beginning to tire. I guess the creators must make do
      with the locations and resources at hand, but surely there must be a
      location somewhere in Canada without pine trees.

      A Nietzschean attack forces the Maru to dump all her fuel and make the
      emergency planetary landing. The Nietzscheans are chasing the Maru for
      reasons inexplicable to everyone except, of course, one Tyr Anasazi, who has
      a good idea what's going on but isn't initially forthcoming.

      While Beka, Tyr, and Rev make repairs, Dylan goes out into the snow to
      search for options. The reasoning: Where there's snow, there's water; where
      there's water, there are settlements; and where there are settlements,
      there's fuel. Not sure I'm quite so encouraged by the train of thought
      there, but Dylan has always been more optimistic than I have.

      While out in the snow, Dylan runs into the Nietzscheans, now on foot. They
      open fire, which leads to the usual type of action Andromeda likes to offer
      up, in which our hero runs while bullets conveniently hit everything near
      him but not our hero himself. I can't say I found this action to be
      particularly fresh or inventive, but I did like the environment: Better, I
      guess, to have bullets hitting the snowy landscape than the corridor walls
      of the Andromeda. One transition, however, qualifies as a Moment of
      Questionable Execution [TM by Season One], in which Tyr has a scene of
      dialog with Beka in the Maru, and then what seems to be almost immediately
      afterward he's helping Dylan escape the Nietzscheans. Just how did Tyr
      arrive on the scene so quickly?

      For that matter, how can the Maru fall 75 meters through a sinkhole into a
      mine and not be reduced to a pile of junk and/or kill everyone inside?

      Never mind. What "Exit Strategies" is about is follow-up material and
      characters, and on those levels it's effective. For one, we have Tyr's
      mysterious involvement in this entire mess, involving the Nietzschean Mandau
      pride. Beka supposes it might have something to do with his mysterious
      three-week mission away from the Andromeda, when he borrowed the Maru. She's
      right about that, but only we know what that was about -- the theft of the
      corpse of the original Nietzschean progenitor, Drago Museveni (see "Music of
      a Distant Drum"). It would seem that the Mandau here were part of a team
      that had helped Tyr steal the corpse. When he disappeared as a result of
      "Distant Drum," they assumed he betrayed them. Of course, they may very well
      be right about that regardless.

      Those who follow this series' bigger picture might take note that the corpse
      of Museveni is more than a personal symbol for Tyr, but also, according to
      dialog here, a symbol that could unite the fragmented Nietzschean empire.
      How or why, I'm not sure, but it would seem Tyr has a powerful card up his
      sleeve by maintaining possession of Museveni's corpse. The Mandau are too
      shortsighted to care about the bigger picture, and never saw the corpse as
      anything more than a salable item to the highest bidder. Now they just want
      revenge on Tyr, which is a tad unfortunate since they come across as
      cardboard as a result. (If Nietzscheans are supposed to be so superior, why
      are most of them so dumb?) Their leader, Kiyama (Ian Marsh), apparently
      thinks he'll come across as intimidating by putting on a forced gruff voice.
      (Let's just say I'm not impressed, but also not particularly appalled, by
      the performance.)

      While Tyr engages in these "extra-curricular activities" in trying to
      negotiate with the Mandau, we also have a character-based storyline
      involving Rev nearly starving to death. Since he has been fasting to atone
      for killing Magog during the world-ship assault, he finds himself close to
      starvation here -- not a good thing considering the ship is stranded in a
      snowy landscape with no food. Rev is self-tortured here in more ways than
      one. First, in trying to live with the fact that he killed Magog against the
      mandates of his own beliefs. Second, in realizing that he *liked* killing --
      and indeed still has a blood lust, as evidenced by the moment where he
      sniffs fresh blood from the floor of the ship. And third, in that he's
      starving to death, and not in an ordinary way since we learn here that Magog
      begin to digest their own insides if they begin to starve. Brent Stait
      brings a good performance out from under layers of makeup and his
      Magog-gruff voice. His scenes with Beka earn our sympathy.

      Y'know, we'd better eventually find out that the Magog were engineered
      monsters by design. Here the episode introduces yet another element of
      nefariousness: The fact that killing live prey is necessary "to begin the
      digestion process" (on the Andromeda, Rev kills his supply of live salmon,
      something he doesn't have here). I think I do believe Rev when he says he
      was created by the Spirit of the Abyss; could a species so awful evolve that
      way by Darwinism?

      As a character/continuity episode, "Exit Strategies" has a lot to recommend.
      It's a direct follow-up to last week's "Widening Gyre," as it deals with
      damage to the Andromeda, the effects of the approaching world-ship on Tyr's
      selfish priorities, the aforementioned issues with Rev, Harper's dilemma of
      being infested with Magog larvae, and even a nod in the direction of
      disposing of all those Magog corpses from "Its Hour Come 'Round At Last."

      Harper's dilemma is particularly interesting, because it shows that his arc
      will have consequences on the character -- or at least I hope. There's a
      scene where he contemplates suicide while drunk, which manages to be funny
      and sincere at the same time. Harper is still Harper, which may be a mixed
      blessing, but his motormouthing seems to be headed in a new direction of
      complaining and lament. I'm not sure if that will work in the long run, but
      it works okay here. I could've, however, done without the silly and
      contrived "countdown to the Andromeda blowing up" concept that is supposed
      to make this B-story more "urgent." It's urgent on its own; why do we need
      the hollow threat of something blowing up to care? (Grrrr...)

      Back in the main storyline, the Maru's escape from the planet had my Severe
      Doubt-O-Meter pushed about as high as it could go. Andromeda prides itself
      on the fact that it's sci-fi based in real science, and the magnetic
      accelerator here is without a doubt based in real science. But as presented
      it's certainly not based in any kind of plausibility.

      Consider:

      1. The magnetic accelerator, it's said, was designed to launch ore into
      orbit. Was it really designed to launch ore the size of a freighter ship
      into orbit?

      2. The powerless magnetic accelerator in this case is being powered by the
      Maru's own energy cells. Just how much energy is the Maru's own cells
      providing? Enough, in one form or another, to launch itself into orbit. Why,
      then, does the Maru even need fuel? Just use the energy cells to power the
      thrusters.

      3. Can someone explain how Dylan and Beka were able to build additional
      coils for the accelerator so quickly? From the one scene of construction we
      get, it looks like a pretty involved job. This is pretty close to
      MacGyver-like resourcefulness and ease. It's a good thing the Maru didn't
      happen to land in the mine a mile away from the mouth of the accelerator.

      4. How fortunate that the dangerous mining creatures were attracted to the
      Maru and the accelerator but seemed instead to conveniently zero in on the
      Nietzschean soldiers and eat them as a service to our heroes. Funny how the
      mining creatures suddenly choose to ignore all the metal around them that
      supposedly attracted them.

      5. The way the accelerator works, there's an initial boost at ground level,
      and after that, momentum is the only thing that carries the Maru from the
      ground into outer space. The FX shot itself shows the Maru lifting into the
      sky at a speed (perhaps 1,000 mph?) that I submit could not be maintained
      for much more than several seconds before gravity pulled the ship back down
      to a thundering crash. Just what velocity would be required to launch a
      spaceship off a planet *without* subsequently sustained thrust? I'm sure a
      simple physics calculation could determine the answer, and I'm sure it's
      waaaaaaaaay more than the velocity here.

      6. There's Beka's line that the Maru can use this inertia to reach the
      planet's sun, where they can "scrape up" some fuel. Okay, I'll buy the
      scrape up fuel bit with no problem. But just how long does it take an object
      to reach a star at a constant speed of, say, 1,000 mph? The Earth is 93
      million miles from the sun. You do the math.

      Is this nitpicking? I dunno; I think it's pretty significant. Andromeda
      loves to offer up tiny snippets of simple dialog that are based in real
      science ("Objects in motion tend to stay in motion"), but sometimes, like
      here, they twist them to fit a reality that is highly doubt-worthy.

      Now that I'm done ripping apart the escape sequence, I'll conclude by saying
      that despite my incredulity of certain aspects of this episode, I still
      enjoyed the bulk of "Exit Strategies." It does enough with its characters
      and situations to keep us interested, and it's mostly well executed as to
      keep us entertained through the action (despite overused super-slo-mo). It
      also ends on good notes, with the Rev/Harper scene -- where we see two
      troubled people who will be working through their own respective issues,
      possibly calling on each other for strength -- and the Dylan/Tyr scene,
      which has prudent dialog and ends with a game of go that reminds us of how
      Dylan once played the same game with Rhade, another Nietzschean with hidden
      agendas.

      "Exit Strategies" has obvious flaws, but also obvious strengths.

      --
      Next week: Beka rips off a museum, and maybe her clothes.

      -----
      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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