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[ANDR] Jammer's Review: "Into the Labyrinth"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Andromeda s Into the Labyrinth. If you haven t seen the episode yet, beware. In brief: Solid
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 1, 2002
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      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Andromeda's "Into the
      Labyrinth." If you haven't seen the episode yet, beware.


      In brief: Solid continuity is starting to get things on a nice roll here...

      Plot description: A woman with questionable motives gives Harper a
      compelling incentive to track down the All Systems Library, a comprehensive
      historical archive with potentially dangerous information.

      -----
      Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda: "Into the Labyrinth"

      Airdate: 11/26/2001 (USA week-of)
      Written by Ashley Edward Miller & Zack Stentz
      Directed by Brad Turner

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

      "Did it ever occur to your people that you may have taken this whole
      physical perfection thing a bit too seriously? Granted, the Kodiaks were
      strong, healthy, attractive, and such imaginative hairstyles, but in the
      end, what good did it do you?"
      "Well, since pride Jaguar refused to stand with us against the Drago-Kazov,
      none."
      "Exactly. Instead of breeding for such obvious attributes, your people
      should have concentrated on more important things -- treachery, cunning,
      proper table manners."
      -- Charlemagne and Tyr
      -----

      Andromeda is really shaping up, and has had a respectable second season so
      far. The overall gain in momentum and narrative clarity (not to mention
      improved production design, location work, and guest acting) is apparent as
      we head into "Into the Labyrinth," which takes stories from season one and
      follows them up in ways that, in retrospect, improve upon them. Pieces are
      starting to come together nicely here, and the Andromeda universe is
      beginning to capture my interest. Now, if only we could get rid of the
      B-movie cartoon-action hokiness -- which is genuinely distracting and
      detracting -- we'd be in good shape.

      This episode is an effective follow-up to "Harper 2.0" and "The Honey
      Offering," with tidbits thrown in from other episodes as well. It improves
      on "Harper 2.0" by answering a question that I had long since been wondering
      about: What exactly happened to that mysterious archive that Harper had
      stored and then removed from his brain, and that no one else has talked
      about since?

      Here, we find out. We also find out, somewhat, what became of the mess
      involving the Sabra-Jaguar and the Drago-Kazov Nietzschean prides. We have
      here the presence of Charlemagne Bolivar (James Marsters), a key figure in
      the Sabra-Jaguar pride to whom Dylan delivered Elsbett (see "The Honey
      Offering") for marriage. It's a neat little connection, and it works here
      because we see that he comes with an offer for Dylan (joining his
      Commonwealth) that could be a significant tactical asset. It would appear
      the favor Dylan carried out in "Honey Offering" paid its dividends.

      Charlemagne -- I love this guy. As Nietzscheans go, he's less interested in
      brute force and more interested in outwitting his opponents with cunning
      trickery. His dialog is written with the intelligent comic wit you'd expect
      from Tyr, and indeed there's an amusing scene where the two of them meet in
      the corridor and trade some exceptionally well-written lines that in my
      opinion go down among this series' best dialog. This is how Nietzscheans
      should be written -- not like the ones in "Exit Strategies," who, as Tyr put
      it, were "so uncompromisingly inferior." More Nietzscheans need to be smart,
      literate, and sarcastic the way Tyr is and less like action props.
      Charlemagne is a step in a very right direction -- probably the best
      direction possible. The Tyr/Charlemagne scene here is brilliant in its way,
      because it's character-driven, smart, funny, and still has underlying
      significance to storylines on hold -- I appreciated the brief bit regarding
      the corpse of Drago Museveni.

      But, nevertheless, Charlemagne isn't the focus here. This episode much more
      closely follows Harper and the sequel-to-"Harper 2.0" concept, so much that
      one could nickname the episode "Harper 3.0." Harper is confronted here with
      an offer from a femme fatale named Satrina (Judy Tylor), who struts around
      with a sexed-up ultra-confidence and sports a grin that is wickedly
      mischievous. Her offer: If Harper can get her the All Systems Library, she
      will use her phase-shifting technology (a "tesseract generator") to remove
      all 14 of the Magog larvae from his insides. The only problem: Harper can't
      remember where he put the archive.

      Trance isn't of much help. "Can't help, or won't help?" Harper demands. Take
      your pick, she replies. Trance argues that possession of the archive is too
      dangerous anyway, because bad people would kill to have it or cover up
      information inside it.

      Satrina, of course, works for red-glowing-eye guy Spirit of the Abyss, who
      commands the approaching Magog invasion. My question: What does Abyss-dude
      even want/need with the archive? (I suppose he has his reasons.)
      Interestingly, Abyss-dude isn't the only one with a stake in the information
      in the archive; it's made pretty clear that Trance fears what might be in
      the archive about her own people, or even herself. She has her own agendas
      and skeletons in the closet that she'd rather Harper and everyone else not
      know about. Harper is aware of Trance hiding something at some level (he
      remembers some details of a Purple Person being worshiped on some world,
      something that possibly connects to Trance) and the matter is revisited here
      in a way that shows it's still vague but not necessarily closed. I'm just
      glad to see that certain mysteries hinted at in "Harper 2.0" have been
      resurrected here.

      I also liked the way Harper tracked down the archive. He begins by searching
      through his own data files for information about where he put the archive,
      and he finds a file he recorded himself -- but also denied himself access
      to. (The recording shows Harper at his highest level of hyperactivity, and I
      liked a line where Harper said to himself, "Now I see why people hate me.")
      And, if you'll remember, there was a hint involving Trance's tattoo. This
      plays into Harper's search for the archive here, too, and it turns out to be
      a clue that leads him to take the Maru to a sun where he actually hid the
      data stream. (How he did this is reduced to a couple quick throwaway lines
      that I didn't quite understand.)

      I liked pretty much all of the plot involving Harper's search for the hidden
      archive, and I liked his plan for giving Satrina a copy of it encoded with a
      computer virus. Harper shows here, as he has on occasion before, that he can
      be smart and play some pretty vindictive hardball given the right
      circumstances, and his double-crosses of Satrina prove that he's most
      certainly not the chump being played in this situation. It's a credit to the
      writers that Harper is allowed to be smart and horny at the same time,
      rather than merely going down the more predictable path of handing over the
      archive against Trance's warnings and being double-crossed himself. In the
      meantime, the episode benefits from a lot of funny, irreverent Harper
      one-liners that work (calling Abyss-guy the "living lava lamp," etc.),
      delivered by the always-snappy Woolvett.

      Harper gets a hold of Satrina's phase-shifting technology, which he thinks
      will give him the power to remove the Magog larvae himself, but it's not
      quite so simple -- and the phase technology has an unexpected side effect:
      It gives him a link straight into the mind of Spirit of the Abyss, which has
      a sort of "absolute power corrupts absolutely" effect on Harper. It's
      perhaps one theme too many for the episode (will Harper be tempted into evil
      by the possibility of extreme power?) but I did get kind of a kick out of
      how some of this was visualized, wretched excess or not.

      Unfortunately, what doesn't work at all is the whole concept of Satrina's
      Evil Minions -- which goes so far into jaw-dropping laughability that it
      comes close to sabotaging an otherwise standout Andromeda episode. I'm not
      sure exactly what the creative staff was thinking when they dreamed up these
      four creatures, but they look like they came straight out of a bad
      weekday-afternoon cartoon show. They even come with bright individual
      colors -- blue, red, white, and black -- as if dipped in their respective
      vats of dye before being packaged at the action figure factory (Harper calls
      them the "four Technicolor yahoos," which is about right).

      This leads to Yet Another Hopelessly Goofy Andromeda Action Sequence [TM]
      where we have the Action Figure Guys attacking the visitors on the Andromeda
      while Harper struggles with his dilemma of trying to manipulate the
      tesseract generator. Frankly, it's almost amazing how Andromeda can shift
      from solid entertainment to tawdry cheese in the blink of an eye. I just
      plain don't get it. Also pointless is a brief scene between Charlemagne and
      Beka featuring some frankly confusing sexual innuendo, which comes out of
      and leads nowhere.

      Oh well. The net result is an episode that I found entertaining,
      particularly in its successful use of continuity and Harper motormouthing
      his way through scenes of goofy but amusing dialog. By the end, Dylan has a
      new ally in Charlemagne, the archive is "safely" in the hands of Trance, and
      Harper has avoided being tempted by evil but at the price of still not being
      able to remove all of the Magog larvae.

      As a follow-up to one of season one's intriguing but puzzling episodes,
      "Into the Labyrinth" sheds some light on the matter. Continuity is an ally
      that could make this series add up to something bigger and more rewarding.

      --
      Footnote: The announcement of Tribune's firing of head writer Robert Hewitt
      Wolfe happened around the time "Into the Labyrinth" originally aired.
      Ironically, it's an episode that succeeds largely because of its focus on
      continuity elements, something Tribune reportedly wants to see less of. Also
      disappointing is Wolfe's departure itself; Wolfe was one of the big reasons
      I started watching this show. Judgment, as always, will be reserved, and
      we'll see how things go.

      -----
      Copyright 2002 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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