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[ANDR] Jammer's Review: "The Fair Unknown"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers. If you haven t seen the episode yet, beware. In brief: Some welcome bigger-plot implications, but still on
    Message 1 of 1 , May 5, 2002
      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers. If you haven't seen the
      episode yet, beware.

      In brief: Some welcome bigger-plot implications, but still on pretty shaky
      ground in and of itself.

      Plot description: A violent incident involving the Kalderans uncovers a
      Vedran woman, one of a legendary race unseen since the fall of the

      Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda: "The Fair Unknown"

      Airdate: 4/15/2002 (USA week-of)
      Written by John Lloyd Parry
      Directed by Michael Rohl

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: **

      "Tarn Vedra is quite aware of you and your efforts to restore the
      Commonwealth. We're proud of you, captain -- very proud. And we want very
      much for you to carry on." -- Uxulta

      It's at this point I let out a deep sigh and seriously wonder what, if
      anything, will reinvigorate my interest in Andromeda. For weeks and weeks on
      end, this series just hasn't been much, if any, fun for me. Even an episode
      like "The Fair Unknown," which makes some renewed efforts, mostly inspires
      me to shrug. With as much as I've been trashing this show lately, nothing
      would make me happier than to say I really enjoyed an episode. I must report
      that I can't say that about "The Fair Unknown." It's just too mediocre. What
      I can say, however, is that it tried, and it at least didn't suck.

      Granted, parts of it sucked. The whole second act is a boring excuse for
      television, in which Kalderans exchange endless gunfire with Our Heroes.
      It's lame and pointless and it goes on and on and on and on and on. It makes
      me seriously wonder how deluded Tribune is to think any of their "action" is
      the least bit exciting. Can anyone there honestly step back from the screen
      and believe that they're watching entertainment? It's approximately as much
      fun as watching two people sitting and playing a stalemate game of checkers
      (yes, checkers, not chess). It's downright depressing to think that these
      days this is what the makers of Andromeda deem worthy of screen time.

      But I will now allow myself to turn toward the positives of the overall
      ho-hum "Fair Unknown." First and foremost is the issue of the long-term
      plot. It gets resurrected this week. Remember Tarn Vedra, the mysterious and
      wondrous world that has presumably been cut off from slipstream for
      generations? The planet where Dylan was born and hopes to see again someday?
      The writers bring back the story thread, which is reassuring.

      The Vedrans are a mysterious bunch. They've been elevated to the status of
      the legendary and/or renowned and/or feared in the years since the fall, and
      for Dylan they represent a source of awe. Just the possibility of a Vedran
      here puts a bit of a spell over him.

      Imagine my disappointment, then, to find out *that's* what a Vedran looks
      like. As I let out another sigh, I must again remind myself that this is a
      modestly budgeted series ... and yet I can't help but think, a year of
      build-up to these mythic Vedrans and *this* is what we get in terms of a
      visual payoff? She's friggin' painted blue for cripes sakes. ("Excessively
      blue," to quote Frank Pembleton's verdict on the new squad room, in a larger
      effort to remind myself what truly good television was.) She has a helmet or
      armor or something that looks like it came from the toy department at

      ** Positives, Jammer, positives. Let your cynicism relent... **

      The Vedran is named Uxulta (Sonya Saloma) and she's in the middle of an
      important secret mission, one that she's loath to disclose to Dylan Hunt.
      This eventually leads to the episode's central dilemma, in which Uxulta
      asserts her authority as a Vedran admiral, demands a nova bomb with no
      explanation, and informs Dylan that he and his ship are at her disposal and
      that he must follow her orders or she'll throw him in the brig and take
      command. This is an overstated case that seems completely forced in light of
      how the situation ultimately plays out. Uxulta and the Vedrans know who
      Dylan Hunt is; for her to offer him no information and instead resort to
      this sort of strong-arm tactic is, given the situation, downright
      unnecessary. Perhaps we needed a threat of the Andromeda being taken over
      yet again for the purposes of the trailers. (Roll eyes here.)

      ** Positives, Jammer. Positives, damn you... **

      What I did like was the way the story put Dylan through a process of
      balancing caution and his feelings. His feelings involve an affection for
      Tarn Vedra and his desire to rediscover it. Restoring the Commonwealth is an
      issue that goes directly to Dylan's personal quest of reshaping the universe
      into something he can recognize; Tarn Vedra, if it is indeed intact, would
      certainly be something he'd recognize. The issue of caution, however, comes
      in the form of a question: Does Tarn Vedra represent what it did 300 years
      ago? A lot has changed in three centuries, and for all Dylan knows, Tarn
      Vedra could today represent the antithesis of what he hopes to accomplish. I
      was glad to see Dylan address the fact that following Uxulta blindly would
      be foolish. (I was not, however, quite so glad to see Rommie arguing in
      favor of unconditional obedience. As a tactical strategist, she should know
      better than to accept a Vedran simply because the Vedran has a 300-year-old
      valid security clearance -- particularly when she's asking for a nova bomb).

      There's a significant moment for Dylan that proves nice: Uxulta tells him
      that she and Tarn Vedra are aware of Dylan's mission to rebuild the
      Commonwealth -- and more, that they agree with his intentions. (The cynic
      center in my brain, however, forces me to type "corny" in response to the
      exchange of salutes and the Meaningfully Swelling Music in this scene.)

      The episode also poses additional questions that may be explored down the
      line. Uxulta's important mission is one that vanishes an entire planet and
      its solar system in a way, we're led to suspect, that's similar to the way
      Tarn Vedra itself was shrouded from the universe. Was the solar system moved
      via slipstream? The slipstream routes destroyed? Are the Vedrans going to
      play a more prominent role in the series now that Dylan has found them and
      realizes their goals are similar to his?

      Such questions might eventually prove interesting if they're ever followed
      up. I only wish I was more enthusiastic about this episode itself, which
      raises more questions than it answers. "The Fair Unknown" is not an engaging
      episode in its own right. The idiotic action involving the Kalderans is the
      usual embarrassment and takes up far too much screen time. A character named
      Maia (Meredith McGeachie) is largely superfluous and written all over the
      map (first she tries to kill Dylan, then she's an ally, and then she kisses
      him in the final scene for no reason I can really discern). Uxulta's brief
      bout of strong-arming rings false in a way that took me right out of the
      show. There's also sledgehammered exposition near the beginning of the show
      that borders on self-parody, as if people actually walk around discussing
      things for the benefit of no one actually there, since everyone actually
      there already knows everything being expounded on.

      Do I think "The Fair Unknown" is a good episode? Not particularly. The
      details still feel like slipshod television assembly. But it does represent
      a step that could take Andromeda in the direction of being better
      television, and a step in the right direction is certainly something I'll
      take over the recent alternative.

      Next week: Spit or swallow?

      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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