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[ANDR] Jammer's Review: "Home Fires"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Andromeda s Home Fires. If you haven t seen the episode yet, beware. In brief: An effective episode,
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 5, 2001
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      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Andromeda's "Home
      Fires." If you haven't seen the episode yet, beware.

      In brief: An effective episode, although the parallelism angle is a little
      on the nose.

      Plot description: The crew of the Andromeda learns of a lone world where the
      Commonwealth still survives, and in trying to embrace this world Dylan finds
      himself reliving a crucial conflict.

      Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda: "Home Fires"

      Airdate: 11/19/2001 (USA week-of)
      Written by Ethlie Ann Vare
      Directed by Michael Robison

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

      "My crew's used to having the other shoe drop." -- Dylan

      There's something manufactured at the center of "Home Fires" that makes even
      the most spectacularly unlikely Dylan-action/escape sequence look plausible
      by comparison. I'm referring to the notion that a character in this story,
      Telemachus Rhade, is a genetically identical descendant ("genetic
      reincarnation," the story calls it) of Gaheris Rhade, the guy who betrayed
      Dylan in the opening minutes of this series' first episode, "Under the

      The chances of something like that happening are "trillions to one,"
      according to dialog in this episode, and I concur, assuming it's possible at
      all. And yet, here we have Telemachus Rhade (Steve Bacic) a virtual
      identical twin to Gaheris separated by 300 years of lineage, with no
      explanation for how this actually happened. I guess, simply, that he is the
      "one" from the trillions-to-one odds.

      Having Telemachus Rhade look exactly like Gaheris Rhade is a narrative
      device that makes the episode an exercise in trust/distrust and extreme
      parallelism. Was it necessary to the story? Not sure. It's crucial the way
      it plays out, but the writers could've probably removed this element and
      proceeded without it. The story could've been carried by the also-present
      topic of what the world encountered here means to Dylan's Commonwealth. But
      then it probably wouldn't have been nearly as dynamic or interesting, so I'm
      in no position to complain about a duplicate Rhade.

      As the show begins, the Andromeda is contacted by Lt. Jamahl (wink, wink)
      Rodrigues Hernandez-Brown (Zahf Paroo), a High Guard pilot who delivers a
      message to Dylan that is personally stunning for more than one reason. One
      the one hand, it's a 300-year-old recording from his fiancee Sara, who was
      left behind (see "Banks of the Lethe"), and now tells him that she had
      eventually moved on with her life and gotten married, and at the time of
      this recording had a child on the way. It's also a message that explains Lt.
      Brown being a High Guard pilot; he's from a world of Commonwealth survivors
      that Sara helped build -- a lone planet still standing after the war that
      erased the Commonwealth.

      And what a world it is. It's called Tarazed, and it's a thriving democracy
      that knows about Dylan's mission, since he told Sara about it in the past.
      We know right off that it's a paradise of a planet; government leader Rekel
      Ben-Tzion (Francoise Yip), wears a sexy outfit, the likes of which could
      only be worn on a paradise-like world (or, okay, a TV action show aimed at
      the 18-49 male demographic). Tarazed has been waiting for Dylan to arrive,
      and the general feeling is that their society -- replete with starships,
      weapons, and soldiers -- will become the new driving force in helping him
      rebuild the Commonwealth.

      But hold on. Just because it's a democracy doesn't mean everyone agrees that
      rebuilding the Commonwealth is a good thing. It is, in fact, a difficult,
      challenging, and -- let's face it -- unlikely scenario. The less optimistic
      would say the dream of a restored Commonwealth is probably very likely to
      fail and destroy Tarazed in the process. And they have a strong voice here
      that's opposed to Dylan's quest and in favor of isolationism. They're
      already living the dream, so why risk losing it? As a democracy, Tarazed is
      going to have a worldwide vote on the issue.

      The voice of the isolationists is represented in the story by Admiral
      Telemachus Rhade. Once again, Dylan finds himself on the other side of a
      Rhade, with history possibly hanging in the balance. Based on Gaheris'
      betrayal of the Commonwealth, Dylan suspects Telemachus of underhanded
      trickery. Is he another crafty Nietzschean trying to manipulate the
      situation to suit his agenda? Has he perhaps used his influences to rig the

      One thing I like here is how the episode sees Gaheris in an ambiguous light.
      In "Under the Night" he was seen as a traitor, albeit a traitor with
      motives. But in some additional flashback scenes here, we can see Gaheris'
      humanity, and it's not merely an act. Gaheris *did* consider Dylan a friend;
      he just happened to have bigger causes at stake than his friendship. Steve
      Bacic has improved since his frankly awful turn in "Under the Night."
      Although still a little on the wooden side, Gaheris is much better

      There's an intriguing scene here where Telemachus asks Dylan what really
      happened to his ancestor Gaheris. Commonwealth history says he died a hero,
      while the Nietzscheans tell the story of how Gaheris was a spy who helped
      the Nietzscheans carry out their treacherous assault that started the war.
      Dylan was the only survivor who was there and knows the truth. "He tried to
      warn me," Dylan reluctantly replies. And in a way, it's true; Gaheris' dying
      words, indeed, were, "I tried to warn you." He dropped some very subtle
      hints before that, but he couldn't put his cards on the table.

      The crucial turning point comes when a group of Magog swarm ships enters the
      solar system. The Tarazed fleet engages them with a squadron of High Guard
      slipfighters. The Magog ships begin to retreat. The High Guard fighters
      stand down ... except for Lt. Brown, who plays hothead rogue and wants to at
      least take out one of the Magog vessels. He does, but is killed when his
      ship flies into the debris and is destroyed. (Any scene where a character
      named Jamahl screams "AAAARRGHHH!" as his ship blows up is one worth smiling
      at in my book. Later, he even gets a Sad Funeral Scene.) Subsequent
      investigation determines that the Magog ships were fake drones built on

      What was the intent of a fake attack? The waters are muddied here because it
      can be explained in several ways, and I'm not so sure the script allows the
      characters to arrive at the truth without some form of scripted omniscience.
      One explanation is that the attack is an ostensive excuse for remaining
      isolated and protecting the planet from outsiders. Another (which the script
      doesn't even really suggest) is that it can be used to justify joining
      Dylan's alliance since the attack would imply that the Magog are aware of
      Tarazed's presence. But since the fakery was *intended* to be discovered as
      a frame-up, one has to wonder exactly what the would-be motive of the person
      being framed is supposed to be. I'm not so sure the facts are straight here.

      Telemachus mobilizes the military, which casts suspicion on himself, but
      what are they mobilized for? Attacking the Andromeda? Declaring martial law?
      If he's innocent, why would he have "soldiers in the streets"? The script
      implies Telemachus suspects Dylan of faking the attack, but that strikes me
      as pretty implausible considering Tarazed sought him out, and not
      vice-versa. The most likely reason for all this is to create a smokescreen
      for the audience and contrive a conflict between Dylan and Telemachus. The
      actual truth is that Rekel manufactured the attack to implicate Telemachus.

      Both Telemachus and Dylan suspect Rekel, but that doesn't stop them from
      engaging in a one-on-one fight to the almost-death on the Andromeda command
      deck, which is choreographed to parallel the one-on-one fight between Dylan
      and Gaheris from "Under the Night" (to which this show frequently
      crosscuts). Clever. Or, as the saying goes, too clever. I appreciate the
      parallelism here, but the script has to go to great lengths to make it both
      literal and figurative, and it doesn't necessarily come together logically.
      (Why would Telemachus, established as thoughtful and rational, instantly
      come out firing instead of talking? Because we need an elaborate fight scene
      filled with parallels, that's why.)

      Nevertheless, Dylan and Rhade get a chance to make things right, figure
      things out, and ultimately fight for a common goal -- the truth. Rekel's
      plan was to frame Rhade and shift support back toward her own movement to
      ally Tarazed with Dylan. Interestingly, the choice is still Dylan's, because
      he has the option and ability here to see Rekel's frame-up of Rhade through
      to the end and gain Tarazed's support -- and all the military equipment,
      soldiers, and political muscle that comes with it.

      Is it worth one innocent man going to prison if it could mean adding a major
      piece to Dylan's Commonwealth plan? Not if we're about keeping our
      principles, Dylan says. I'm reminded of DS9's "In the Pale Moonlight," where
      a different choice was made. Granted, Dylan's circumstances are different,
      and we might always have the possibility of returning to Tarazed.

      In any case, "Home Fires" is a solid, thoughtful effort that showcases
      Andromeda's strengths -- continuity, building toward a goal, and characters
      who have agendas that are not always compatible. The parallelism is
      intriguing even if a little over the top. And doing Rhade Redux offers up a
      certain element of the sublime. Now, more than ever, we realize that Gaheris
      was more complicated than his key betrayal might have implied.

      Next week: Harper 3.0.

      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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