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[ANDR] Jammer's Review: "In Heaven Now Are Three"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Andromeda s In Heaven Now Are Three. If you haven t seen the episode yet, beware. In brief: Mindless
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 8, 2002
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      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Andromeda's "In
      Heaven Now Are Three." If you haven't seen the episode yet, beware.


      In brief: Mindless "adventure" sans any trace of inspiration, chewing
      through an hour but mostly having the impact of a test pattern.

      Plot description: Beka, Dylan, and Trance journey to a distant world in
      search of a legendary artifact.

      -----
      Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda: "In Heaven Now Are Three"

      Airdate: 2/25/2002 (USA week-of)
      Teleplay by Emily Skopov
      Story by Celeste Chan Wolfe
      Directed by David Warry-Smith

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: *1/2

      "The Engine of Creation is a myth. It's like the Holy Grail of ancient
      Earth, or the Wyverni Hordes of Gehenna Mortis."
      "Or a restored Commonwealth?"
      -- Dylan and Beka
      -----

      Here's an episode so bereft of anything resembling interesting content that
      I'm not sure exactly how to usefully review it. I suppose I should review it
      on its own "terms," which is simply that of a bland adventure outing.

      This episode is so lacking in ambition that it barely registers as a blip on
      the radar screen. It didn't inflame me with dislike the way "Ouroboros" and
      "Dance of the Mayflies" did, but in a way that's almost worse, because I
      have almost NO emotional reaction to this story whatsoever. It did make me
      wonder what I could talk about in reviewing it. A bland episode likely
      prompts an equally bland review, so fasten your seat belts.

      Mainstream press critics jeered at Andromeda when the show first premiered,
      calling it "Hercules in Space." At the time, that was an obvious, cheap
      shot. But with an episode like "In Heaven Now Are Three," such a label seems
      downright accurate. This to me looks like no form of what Andromeda once
      was.

      More than anything, this is an episode that wants to be an Indiana Jones
      adventure. I honestly believe it wants to be fun. I also honestly can't say
      I was anything but bored. The thing about the Indiana Jones movies was that
      they were superbly constructed, exciting, funny, and they really ratcheted
      up the tension and suspense. Heck, even the more recent "Mummy" films were
      nice to look at. Of course, it's hard to do Indiana Jones on a shoestring
      budget, so if you're doing it on Andromeda you'd better make the story
      pretty clever.

      No such luck here.

      There's nothing remotely clever in "In Heaven Now Are Three," except
      *possibly* the twist at the end involving Trance, but even that feels like
      the usual All-Knowing Trance Vagueness. For the most part, this is exactly
      the type of episode that needs to be watched and absolutely not thought
      about or discussed afterward. The hardest part is in determining whether
      it's fair to call this a failure because it simply didn't try to do anything
      beyond fill an hour of screen time with scenes of pervasive mediocrity.

      One fairly recent successful Indiana Jones type adventure in Trek that comes
      to mind is DS9's "The Sword of Kahless." That episode benefited greatly from
      the fact that it was mired in the well-established Klingon mythos, allowing
      riddles and swords to become larger than life. Here we have an artifact that
      is either a meaningless MacGuffin or too big to even contemplate -- you
      decide which, since the evidence on the screen here leaves it hopelessly up
      in the air. It's the "Engine of Creation," the universal Holy Grail.
      Apparently it can alter space and time and create life and grant wishes and
      stuff. What happens if it falls into the wrong hands? For that matter, what
      happens if it falls into the right hands? Not much, it would seem.

      At the beginning of the show, Beka is looking at a computerized map of where
      the engine is hidden. Is this the map she extracted from the Hegemon's Heart
      in "A Heart For Falsehood Framed"? To be completely honest, I'm not sure,
      but I also don't feel like going back to watch this exceptionally pedestrian
      hour to try to clarify that minor detail.

      The "three" referred to in the title are Beka, Dylan, and Trance. Tyr is
      relegated to the sidelines when Trance foretells his death. Nice
      contrivance. Legend says it takes three to unlock the mystery of the lost
      Engine. This comes in handy when our trio encounters another (i.e., bad)
      trio on the planet searching for the prize. There's a Mexican standoff where
      logic successfully argues that any killings would leave either party short
      of the necessary number of members required to unlock the secret. The bad
      treasure-seeking trio is made up of Fletcher (Dean Wray), Duran (Ingrid
      Torrance), and Flux (Brendan Beiser), who represent counterparts to Dylan,
      Beka, and Trance, respectively. That is to say, eventually they will go mano
      a mano, where guy fights guy, girl fights girl, and Trance schemes with
      Flux, who is apparently one of Trance's people, although he doesn't look
      like her. Did Flux also evolve from a previous state of being a Purple
      Pixie?

      As Indiana Jones type booby traps go, this episode's traps feel almost
      humorously low-rent. Consider the key that unlocks the panel where our
      adventurers think the Engine is hidden. Beka pulls the key from the bottom
      of a bowl filled with granules, leaving a hole in the bottom of the bowl.
      The bowl is suspended from the ceiling over a basin of water. The granules
      therefore begin falling into the water and dissolving, filling the room with
      cyanide gas, prompting our adventurers to desperately escape their sealed
      death chamber. I guess this is the kind of booby trap you get when your
      budget makes it prohibitive to have huge spherical boulders or collapsing
      temples, but the design of this particular booby trap could only thwart
      total boobs. The secret of the trap is in plain view, for crying out loud.
      On cyanide gas: "That stuff's not good for you," Dylan offers helpfully. You
      sure can't argue with the logic of Dylan one-liners.

      It's about here that the Primitive Natives -- obligatory in any Indiana
      Jones-style adventure -- show up. One of them speaks in a Low Synthesized
      Voice, and she talks of an arduous trial that our good trio must engage in
      against the bad trio. This means a fight to the death with swords, shields,
      and spears, making this episode look more like a take on Sorbo's previous
      series, "Hercules," than any Andromeda has to date. I can praise the
      hand-to-hand combat, I suppose, for being scaled down to the realm of the
      simply uninspired, instead of scaled up to the excessively over-the-top. I
      guess that's progress.

      When our heroes succeed in getting the upper hand during the hand-to-hand
      combat, they refuse to kill the bad guys. This proves our heroes' Worthiness
      to have the treasure. My question is why the Primitive Natives are giving
      away this valuable, supposedly ultra-powerful artifact in the first place,
      or what their role in bearing it even is. Do they have a purpose or logic
      beyond showing up to provide a campy adventure-movie cliche and forcing the
      hand-to-hand combat? It would seem not.

      There are a couple of character issues that are possibly worth discussion.
      One stems from Beka commanding this mission and her interaction with Dylan.
      She talks of not wanting to lose people on her watch, and it's nice to see
      Beka in a leadership role again. And yet the episode constantly gives Dylan
      the Heroic Spotlight by having him "unconsciously" revert to leadership mode
      at every possible opportunity, taking actions that supersede Beka's
      decisions. There's a discussion where Beka calls Dylan on this tendency of
      his -- a scene that seems to say "this is Beka's show" -- but it feels like
      an argument trapped in a vacuum, because the action speaks louder than the
      words; the episode says one thing and then does another. Sorry, but you
      can't have it both ways.

      Also annoying is how the episode pretends the Dylan/Beka bonding here is a
      breakthrough. The actors make the most of the sentiment, but it's redundant
      and I don't buy it, because such a "breakthrough" was the whole point of
      their interaction in last year's "Its Hour Come 'Round At Last," among other
      hints in previous shows. Are we stuck in a time loop here?

      The other character issue maybe worth talking about is Trance apparently
      knowing how this adventure would turn out from the beginning and how she
      works with Flux as a partner in rigging the game. Flux asks her when she's
      going to return to her fellow brethren. Does this make any sense in the
      context of Trance's character? I guess so, but then, of course, the whole
      context of her character is that there is no knowable context, and that she
      can know or do anything the story needs her to. I'm left feeling completely
      neutral on this matter.

      Maybe the whole business with this mysterious Engine -- or possible fragment
      of the Engine as it turns out to be -- will lead somewhere. Then again,
      maybe not. I'm certainly not prompted to care one way or the other on the
      basis of what we have here.

      Watching "In Heaven Now Are Three" is a stultifying experience that invites
      passivity. The biggest problem is that it's, well, boring. I felt like I was
      watching a 60-minute nod (rip-off?) to a genre that has been done so many
      times, and every time so much better than this. There's nothing wrong with
      doing an Indiana Jones adventure. It's just better if your Indiana Jones
      adventure is actually imaginative, interesting, fun, or entertaining. This
      episode is nothing more than just "there." It nods, and then we nod in
      response, because there's absolutely nothing else to do.

      --
      Next week: A rerun of "Una Salus Victus," a genuinely good episode of
      Andromeda, lest you think I have nothing positive to say about this series.

      -----
      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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