[ANDR] Jammer's Review: "Belly of the Beast"
- Warning: This review contains significant spoilers. If you haven't seen the
episode yet, beware.
In brief: Corny, reckless abandon, even for Andromeda ... and yet often
Plot description: The crew must improvise an escape when the Andromeda is
eaten by a giant space creature.
Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda: "Belly of the Beast"
Airdate: 4/21/2002 (USA week-of)
Written by Matt Kiene & Joe Reinkemeyer
Directed by Allan Harmon
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Rating out of 4: ***
"When the universe collapses and dies, there will be three survivors: Tyr
Anasazi, the cockroaches, and Dylan Hunt trying to save the cockroaches." --
To my own amazement, I find myself giving my approval of "Belly of the
Beast," which is by far the silliest, most lunatic Andromeda outing since
"Dance of the Mayflies," and yet manages to be fun instead of grating.
Have no illusions: This is an episode with little in terms of seriousness or
depth. It has scenes of jaw-dropping cheesiness. Why, then, do I give it a
thumbs-up? Because it reveals full awareness of its silliness, it manages to
use its characters more effectively than most Andromeda shows of late, it's
admirably efficient as an action show -- and, well, I confess that I'm
*really* wanting to give a positive review of Andromeda right now. Call it
guarded praise, but praise nonetheless.
And another thing: I like that this episode is actually a space adventure
instead of a "Hercules"-style fight show with endless kung-fu and/or blazing
guns. Instead of scores of mindless villains and endless shootouts, we have
one mindless villain (a massive space creature), two spaceships, and plenty
of stuff getting blown up real good. I will take a hardware tech show any
day over endless action in a Canadian forest, gunfire, and/or lame kung-fu.
The premise is sublime simplicity: The space creature -- a myth called the
Cetus -- is about to take a bite out of a nearby populated planet, and the
Andromeda must stop it. Dylan and Trance are on the Maru planning to assure
the threatened planet that they'll be okay. The rest of the crew is on the
Andromeda when they unexpectedly run into the Cetus, which -- gasp! -- isn't
just a myth after all! From here it's all about identifying problems and
working through them. When things go wrong, the characters must try to make
We never really find out the true nature of the Cetus (sentient? Malicious?
The equivalent of a shark in space?), and it's just as well; this is the
sort of threat that we need to identify and destroy and not think about
beyond that. It's reminiscent of the original Trek's "The Immunity
Syndrome," in which the Enterprise crew had to contend with a giant
all-consuming amoeba in space. That show wasn't about much of anything
either, but the characters really had a chance to shine.
In this episode, the characters have a chance perhaps not quite to shine,
but to come pretty close. While the chemistry on Andromeda will never be in
the same league as the original Star Trek cast, there are moments here where
characters can detach from the frankly ridiculous events going on around
them and simply exist as themselves, interact with their peers, and bounce
around with crazy dialog.
The central crisis here is that the Andromeda is swallowed by the Cetus and
the crew must figure out how to escape before they're digested (I hate it
when that happens). Meanwhile, Dylan and Trance in the Maru realize the
Andromeda has been swallowed and they must figure out a way to save the
Andromeda and/or destroy the Cetus, in the grander mission of ultimately
saving the defenseless planet.
As special-effects creatures on this series go, the Cetus is sometimes well
above average (when it swallows the Andromeda, it looks pretty convincing),
and other times pretty shoddy (scenes where the Cetus chases the Andromeda
through the camera frame sometimes bear a humorous resemblance to chase
scenes in "Scooby Doo" cartoons, with their static and 2-dimensional
The story starts picking up momentum midway through, as the script develops
a two-tiered structure that tackles the problem from both ends, with the
crews in the Andromeda and the Maru both trying to anticipate what the other
will do. It's like a guessing game of scenarios where the ultimate goal is
having one's cake and eating it too (while thinking outside the box, etc.),
but also recognizing that such a solution may not be a possible goal.
Questions are posed: How to destroy the Cetus without destroying the
Andromeda? How to release the Andromeda without destroying the Maru? How to
destroy the Cetus at all costs, even if it means sacrificing the Andromeda
and/or the Maru? Such scenarios are considered at various points, and not
everyone is in agreement at all times.
Most interesting is the game of prediction various characters play in coming
to make their decisions: Did Dylan die in a Maru kamikaze to attempt to
release the Andromeda? Should Harper (therefore/not-therefore, I'm not sure
which) eject the slipstream drive to give the Cetus an awful stomach ache?
Who will do what, and how do we take a course of action based on these
predictions? And so on.
In particular, Tyr gets a chance to be Tyr, with a few standout lines,
including, "I trust Dylan to be Dylan" (a nice mirror image on Dylan's
previous "I trust Tyr to be Tyr"), and also the most hilarious Tyr line in
quite some time: "When the universe collapses and dies, there will be three
survivors: Tyr Anasazi, the cockroaches, and Dylan Hunt trying to save the
cockroaches." Where has this guy been? He and Beka get some good dialog
scenes -- interesting scenes that work while at the same time play goofy
games on the levels of sexual tension that make you grin at the silliness
Meanwhile we have Harper's motormouth fully engaged as he attempts to gain
manual control over the ship's AI, which has become scrambled in a way not
so severely as in "Its Hour Come 'Round At Last," but severely enough to
cause plenty of problems. The show cuts back and forth between the two sides
of the narrative (Andromeda, Maru), keeping the show inside the two
spaceships, both of which take a pounding as sparks and bodies go flying
and/or hurtling through the air. It's chaos done relatively well.
After the Cetus is destroyed (communicating and reasoning with a monster
like this -- let's face it -- is for squares and Starfleet captains) and
both ships saved, we get crew members dancing with each other on the
Andromeda command deck. This has got to be one of the cheesiest happy
endings not seen within the confines of a Saturday-morning cartoon. My eyes
were in disbelief before I was rolling them uncontrollably.
Also, eye-roll-worthy are lines that qualify as Exposition For Dummies,
Beka: "Plot an intercept."
Beka: "Get in front of it."
Or overblown bouts of self importance:
Trance: "If the Cetus eats the Andromeda and gets filled, wouldn't that
save the planet?"
Dylan: "That ... might ... save the planet -- but we ... would lose the
universe." (Sorbo has mastered the Shatner-like pauses between words; all he
needs now is a passion that makes him sound anything but bored.)
Still, there's got to be some sort of medal for courage the writers deserve
for this kind of reckless abandon. Creatures that eat starships. Dialog that
exclaims: "The Cetus gets one hell of a Heimlich and spews us out like your
autochef's three-day-old chopped liver, faster than you can say "uncle," or
in this case, "anti[matter]." And "You could even say that we had our cake
outside of the box and ate it too." The crew dancing with each other on a
wrecked command deck. To 20th-century swing music. I think. (Rest assured
you cannot envision this sight with as much cheese as actually seeing it
played out here.)
I'm feeling generous -- three stars. Is this good art? Hardly. But it's
zany, ridiculous, and sometimes quite fun. Just know first what it is you're
getting yourself into. And if you find at times that you're smacking
yourself in the forehead, don't say I didn't warn you.
Next week: The inevitable "Hercules" guest star.
Copyright 2002 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.
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Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...