[ANDR] Jammer's Review: "The Fair Unknown"
- 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.
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Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...