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[ANDR] Jammer's Review: "Bunker Hill"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Andromeda s Bunker Hill. If you haven t seen the episode yet, beware. In brief: Some decent sentiments
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 6, 2002
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      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Andromeda's "Bunker
      Hill." If you haven't seen the episode yet, beware.

      In brief: Some decent sentiments confined in a mostly lackluster hour.

      Plot description: Dylan's Sabra-Jaguar allies call upon him for help in a
      new war against the Drago-Kazov, prompting Harper to organize a revolt
      against the Drago-Kazov slavers on his home planet, Earth.

      Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda: "Bunker Hill"

      Airdate: 1/21/2002 (USA week-of)
      Written by Matt Kiene & Joe Reinkemeyer
      Directed by Richard Flower

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

      "Dylan has made a great many promises, but he has only one ship." -- Tyr

      I write this two-month-belated review for "Bunker Hill" after the first
      string of new shows for 2002 has finished airing. In hindsight, "Bunker
      Hill" is the best of those shows, which is unfortunate and perhaps telling
      considering I can't even recommend this episode.

      Granted, I can recommend things about this episode, but overall "Bunker
      Hill" falls solidly into that Andromeda category that was well established
      in season one, known as Good Intentions But Not-So-Good Execution [TM].
      Here's a story that actually tries its best to add up to something of Deep
      Significance, but it can't harness the persuasiveness to get there. I was
      sold on some moments, but I was not sold on the hour.

      Still, it's worth noting that I'll gladly take episodes like "Bunker Hill,"
      which at least *try* to add up to something with an evident meaning, over
      episodes like "Dance of the Mayflies," which insist that this series is
      nothing more than a vessel for exceptionally lame action. The question is
      whether the series that once was is now dead and buried, or if the cartoon
      attitude is a temporary phase.

      As for "Bunker Hill" itself, one of its main problems, I think, is with its
      A/B plot structure, a common problem in season one. Plot A, involving Harper
      trying start an uprising on Earth to liberate it from the Drago-Kazov
      Nietzscheans who have held the planet enslaved for generations, is clearly
      the more important thread. Plot B, involving the Sabra-Jaguar preparing to
      go to war with the Drago-Kazov, occupies about as much screen time ... but I
      don't know what it's really supposed to be about beyond a showdown and a
      daring escape.

      One thing I liked about DS9 was that the major plots usually -- though not
      always -- seemed to build from somewhere and to somewhere. Take, for
      example, the Dominion War, which had a road paved to it so well that by the
      time the war started we had long known it was inevitable.

      By contrast, Andromeda continuity has a tendency to think it's good enough
      simply to reference past storylines and build arbitrarily upon them. In this
      episode, Elsbett (Kimberly Huie, reprising her role from "The Honey
      Offering") returns to tell Dylan that the Sabra-Jaguar is ready to battle
      the Drago-Kazov, and they need the Andromeda to coordinate the fleets.
      Suddenly we're off -- leading to the aforementioned showdown between fleets
      and the eventual daring escape ... but what's lacking is context. This
      doesn't feel like an organic or logical outgrowth of a storyline but rather
      a random fact suddenly concocted. There's no context supplied to either the
      Drago-Kazov's or the Sabra-Jaguar's movements that you can stop and
      understand. I was left asking, how and why does the conflict come to a head
      here? And by the time we're through the episode, there's little insight as
      to where, if anywhere, this might go in the future. It could just as easily
      be dropped as revisited. In short, it doesn't seem to matter.

      That doesn't make the plot a bad thing, but I don't think the long-term
      implications are nearly as solid or thought-out as they could be. The bigger
      problem is that the story thread itself plays more like a detour than drama.
      There's no genuine urgency, and I disliked the tone at which it was
      played -- namely smarmy and annoying.

      Everyone in this storyline comes across as a cutesy smart-ass, most
      particularly Elsbett, who struts around the ship with her haughty arrogance
      output set on maximum. That worked better in the early stages of "The Honey
      Offering" before we saw the cracks in her facade, but here it takes over the
      character and makes her more annoying than entertaining. The character is
      too busy posturing to transcend the limitations of a comic-book persona. By
      the same token, Kevin Sorbo's delivery of sarcasm and
      look-at-me-I'm-using-understatement-and-pauses-for-ironic-effect is really
      beginning to tire.

      This plot ends with a neat maneuver showcasing Beka's piloting skills, but
      the plot itself never breaks free to really add up to anything more than an
      elaborate and sometimes confusing exercise.

      Fortunately, we have a respectable, albeit not completely satisfying, main
      plot involving Harper's attempts to start an uprising on Earth. It's always
      nice to see Harper's serious side emerge, as it does here where Earth is
      concerned. Being the Andromeda's resident Earth native, he cares about the
      planet when no one else does (and for good reason, since it's mostly
      strategically meaningless). But liberating Earth is something that might tie
      in with Elsbett's campaign against the Drago-Kazov: If Harper can time the
      uprising on Earth to coincide with the Andromeda and its reinforcements
      arriving at the world, maybe they can make an uprising actually pay off.
      This is something that deserves screen time and gets it. Harper's emotional
      stake is represented through a character named Brendan (Mark Hildreth),
      Harper's cousin.

      The episode botches some key scenes, however. The scene where Harper tries
      to rouse a crowd into action with a Heartfelt Meaningful Speech -- and a
      tribute to Boston, no less -- fell pretty flat for me, as the "spontaneous"
      cries of "Freedom!" edged their way into corny self-parody. Indeed, as
      Brendan later says, these people have heard it all before; what exactly is
      it that moves them into such spirited hopefulness here?

      Perhaps they're simply looking for an excuse to have hope. Indeed, the
      story's message is that enslaved populations need hope, and are willing to
      die not simply for freedom, but for the slightest glimmer of hope for
      change. It's a poignant if familiar theme, and I liked some of Harper and
      Rommie's discussions on the matter, as well as a nicely understated scene
      where Tyr explains to Harper the unfortunate reality of the situation.

      But I'm not sure what to make of the episode's big dramatic turning point,
      which is unfortunately not the best scene. I'm talking about the scene where
      Harper pulls a gun on Brendan and orders him to halt the rebellion since the
      strategic arrival of the Andromeda has been delayed. This is an excellent
      example of a scene that was written with something big and dramatic in mind,
      but has muddy dialog and a muddled message. Several argument threads crop up
      in this scene, they don't entirely add up, and the issue of what this
      uprising is truly about is lost. Harper has buried guilt about his parents
      sacrificing themselves to save him, but that doesn't seem to get to the
      heart of the issue, nor does much of what Brendan says in response.

      Is the resistance actually about using this opportunity to free Earth, or is
      it simply about standing up and facing oppressors because the people just
      don't want to take it anymore? It seems to be the latter, which makes the
      whole point of Harper's visit strangely ironic -- but ultimately hopeful as
      the ending would indicate, since news of the rebellion on Earth prompts
      uprisings on other slave worlds.

      Production values are shaky. For as much talk as there is about Earth, we
      barely get the sense we're on the planet, since most scenes are confined to
      a few typical underground tunnels. Of course, that's partially the point
      since Earth is a dim and broken slave world where we suspect the
      organization for an uprising would be smartest to stay in underground
      tunnels during the planning stages. But emotionally it feels vacant, because
      we don't feel the scope of the despair; the approach to the production is
      more routine than a visit to Earth should seem.

      "Bunker Hill" is a nice try. A near-miss, a near-hit -- whatever. I like
      some of the ideas here. But the writers fumble the ball on key plays and
      sometimes seem lucky to recover it. As entertainment, it isn't all that
      dramatic. The two plots, despite being intertwined, don't mesh very well.
      Earth feels like a soundstage, not a world. The dialog reaches out but
      doesn't always connect.

      But, sure, I'll take it over the likes of Action Hour Andromeda any day.

      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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