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[ANDR] Jammer's Review: "Be All My Sins Remembered"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Andromeda s Be All My Sins Remembered. If you haven t seen the episode yet, beware. In brief: A
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 21, 2002
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      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Andromeda's "Be All
      My Sins Remembered." If you haven't seen the episode yet, beware.

      In brief: A potentially decent story sabotaged by the typical dose of
      Andromeda anti-subtlety.

      Plot description: Beka must face her past when a former lover takes her and
      the crew of the Maru hostage and demands the Andromeda help his cause.

      Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda: "Be All My Sins Remembered"

      Airdate: 2/11/2002 (USA week-of)
      Teleplay by Ethlie Ann Vare
      Story by Jill Sherwin
      Directed by Allan Eastman

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: **

      "Did you do it? Is it gonna work?"
      "Is my name Seamus Zelazny Harper?"
      "God, I hope not."
      -- Beka and Harper

      To me, at the center of "Be All My Sins Remembered" is the issue of why the
      villain -- who is a stab at an actual character instead of the Andromeda
      duck-in-a-shooting-gallery type of bad guy that has become so popular of
      late -- is no longer a human but instead a half-man, half-machine, killer
      super-robot. So many potential layers of subtlety are completely lost in
      favor of a bad guy who is ultimately all too obviously a Bad Guy.

      That bad guy is Bobby Jensen (Costas Mandylor), who back in the day was
      Beka's lover and partner in crime/profit, and who now has been allegedly
      killed in an explosion fighting for a rebel cause. Beka launches the Maru to
      pay her respects, but it turns out Bobby isn't really dead; his life has
      been saved with the help of cybernetic implants (hence the half-man,
      half-RoboCop), and he has used the news of his death as bait to take Beka
      and the Maru hostage. He wants to forcibly draw the Andromeda crew into
      joining his cause. Or not -- he actually just wants the ship and its

      Okay, so a good chunk of this episode was probably learned in Hollywood
      Hostage Plotting 101, but before we get to that point we get some backstory
      that hints at an attempt for character analysis for Beka. Well, good, I say.
      I was glad to see some of this. It probably shouldn't come as a huge
      surprise that this episode is Beka-oriented considering the writer is
      resident Beka expert Ethlie Ann Vare (from a story by Jill Sherwin).

      Keeping in tune with the notion that we must get the regular characters laid
      on-screen, Beka gets some on-screen sex with Bobby via a flashback scene,
      though I'm wondering if, since she's telling this story to Dylan and Harper,
      Beka is including as much detail as the flashback scenes themselves are. I'm
      also wondering when Harper will get his turn in the sack ... or if there's
      an unwritten rule that says tech geeks aren't allowed to have sex on TV.

      Anyway, the story. The early passages are the best. We get some reasonable
      character info, including flashbacks that show Beka's relationship with
      Bobby -- who always tried to encourage her to pick a cause worth fighting
      for -- and details of how Beka recruited Harper to serve on the Maru. Harper
      and Bobby didn't get along so well, and I liked the way Harper constantly
      tried to insert his two cents during Beka's story. (Also included among the
      flashbacks is one of this week's Andromeda Cartoon Action Sequences [TM],
      which I won't bother griping about but will point out that Bobby comes off
      looking like Rambo. Beka apparently goes for brawn over brains.)

      Beka eventually dumped Bobby because he lied to her -- stealing missiles
      from the Nietzscheans when he claimed they were computers ("They have
      computers *in* them!"), and planning to deliver them to the Muganis, the
      persecuted people he adopted as his cause to fight for. Beka's motto at the
      time: I don't do causes. Of course, by the time Dylan recruited her, Beka's
      attitudes had changed.

      Back in the present, the hostage plot is routine as these things go:
      kidnapper surprises crew, takes hostages, makes demands, threatens main
      characters. Tyr and Rommie are aboard the Andromeda to address the hostage
      crisis; a separate interrupted crisis involving a planetary evacuation is so
      oblique and woefully underdeveloped that it should've been thrown out

      Bobby's partners in the hostage plot include Margot (Heather Hanson), an
      Eeeeevil Beeyatch who is perhaps the ultimate statement of this series' War
      Against Subtlety -- awful, awful, *awful*. She wears a gaudy
      dominatrix-style leather outfit with garters and way too much makeup, and
      projects Obnoxious Evil in every scene, sometimes uttering racial epithets
      about the Muganis. Please. Is she a freedom fighter or a hollow vessel of
      slime on hand to add equally hollow conflict? You make the call.

      Faring better is Lem (Berend McKenzie), who is a Mugani, the object of
      Bobby's cause, one of a race of aboriginal people who have been subjugated
      and persecuted on their own world by an off-world colonial population,
      against whom Bobby wants to wage a larger war. Lem is oddly performed and
      carries a hilariously massive gun, but the story at least *tries* to give
      him a *little* bit of depth. He is, of course, the avenue through which
      Dylan maneuvers his eventual escape, gradually turning Lem against Bobby and
      Margot. I can't say I really liked or disliked Lem; he's not as cardboard as
      Margot (but then, how could he be?), but he still only goes so far before
      being a rather obvious page in the Hollywood Hostage Plot 101 syllabus.

      Then there's Bobby, who is, unfortunately, what the episode's Serious
      Intentions ride on. The fundamental problem here, which I see as an obvious
      one, is that having Bobby strut around as a robot is truly unnecessary and,
      worse, represents the destruction of what the story could've been -- subtle
      and compelling.

      Consider this alternative: Bobby is still the human he always was and found
      a way to lure Beka into this trap to convince -- not necessarily force --
      her to join his cause. Rather than immediately pointing a gun at people, he
      tries to *persuade* them with compelling evidence, and we realize that, gee,
      maybe he's right and his cause is worth fighting for. Suddenly Beka could
      find herself in a spot where she must make an actual, tough decision in
      whether or not to join him. She could ponder whether Bobby was perhaps right
      all along and whether his cause always had realistic merit. She could
      realize how much she's grown since she dumped him and perhaps persuade Dylan
      to take up the Muganis' plight. And she'd maybe find that old passions are
      being rekindled.

      That'd be a different story and, in my view, a far better one. But in this
      story's reality we don't have arguments or introspection; we have strong-arm
      tactics and unyielding threats and a standard countdown to violence. We also
      have Bobby as the robotic villain, whose complexities aren't allowed to
      adequately surface. There's a buried message that Bobby's humanity has been
      compromised by being made half-machine -- but, then again, maybe not;
      Dylan's Final Judgment at the end decrees otherwise, and the point is lost.

      As for our own characters being conflicted, specifically Beka, consider this

      Beka: "You leave them be, and I'll stay. Just you and me, together, just
      like before."
      Bobby: "Just like before?"
      Beka: [no answer]
      Bobby: "No, I didn't think so."

      The issues under the surface here obviously include trust and intimacy. It's
      clear that this new Bobby is something Beka can't accept. But if Bobby were
      still human, we'd at least know that it was about him and not about his
      transformation. His new robotic form adds a complication to the proceedings
      that the story itself never sufficiently deals with.

      Apart from that, if Bobby didn't instantly take Dylan & Co. hostage (which
      in turn forces Dylan to play his hand against Bobby, and rightfully so) the
      drama wouldn't be forced in its obvious and predictable direction, which is
      one of "Bobby's dilemma must be rejected out of hand." In the end, Bobby's
      apparent change from freedom fighter to ego-driven terrorist is left largely
      undefined and unresolved. It might very well be that Bobby was this way all
      along, but Beka and the story really don't seem to know. What makes this guy
      tick? I'm not sure, and in a way I don't really care, because he's not
      nearly interesting enough to make me want to care.

      So why did the writers make Bobby a robot terrorist in the first place? The
      answer is probably (a) to simplify the drama, nixing as many shades of gray
      as possible, making it easy for the Action Hour Audience (AHA!) to hate him
      more, and (b) to warrant a lame kung-fu action payoff at the end where it's
      our characters going up against a super-tough robot-man. By taking the low
      action road, the moral dilemmas are reduced to simplistic questions with
      obvious answers: Of course Bobby must be stopped, because his methods are
      clearly wrong and our heroes' lives are in jeopardy. (Sigh.)

      Bobby's cause is ultimately irrelevant, because the story isn't really about
      his cause, or even about Bobby; it's about the simplistic conflict on the
      surface -- the hostages against their captors.

      And that's the problem of where I see Andromeda going right now. Even
      stories that are potentially reasonable (or even good) are sabotaged by the
      fact they are reformatted along the lines of a superficial action template
      that destroys most higher-minded thinking. This is a story that demands to
      be complex, but it ends with the villain being a bland target rather than a
      subject with whom we can debate or sympathize with.

      It's a shame, because the early unforced dialog and some of the backstory --
      particularly the way Harper was brought into Beka's fold -- is moderately
      entertaining. There should've been more of it (and indeed there may have
      been had the show not gone through a series of unplanned rewrites due to
      unforeseen circumstances). But why go to the trouble of creating what Beka
      at the outset says was "the love of my life" (a statement *not at all*
      supported by the evidence on the screen) if you're going to turn him into an
      unyielding villain with whom Dylan hammers it out in the finale?

      I dunno. Before jettisoning any hope for a thoughtful or meaningful ending,
      the episode has flashes of insight and quiet moments where Bobby briefly
      looks like a victim of his own obsession. At the very least, Beka -- instead
      of Dylan -- is the one who ultimately kills Bobby, giving the episode its
      tragic undercurrents. But couldn't something a little less melodramatic and
      obvious have happened? Something that would've shown that Beka is the one
      who has changed?

      Indeed, Beka *has* changed, but the story barely sees that as its gold. We
      get too much focus on the logistics of the hostage premise and not enough on
      Beka as a well-observed subject. Instead of getting an interesting story, we
      get a typical pedestrian one. This could've been good but is executed with
      too much emphasis on dumbing things down until potentially complex issues
      are seen in black and white.

      Next week: Trance is possessed in what is most certainly not a
      sci-fi/fantasy cliche, we hope.

      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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