[ANDR] Jammer's Review: "Tunnel at the End of the Light"
- Warning: This review contains significant spoilers. If you haven't seen the
episode yet, beware.
In brief: Lots of stuff blows up ... and I quite simply don't give a damn.
Plot description: On the eve of the signing of the new Commonwealth charter,
aliens from another universe emerge from a rift in space and attack the
Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda:
"Tunnel at the End of the Light"
Airdate: 5/13/2002 (USA week-of)
Written by Matt Kiene & Joe Reinkemeyer
Directed by Allan Eastman
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Rating out of 4: *1/2
"I'm Seamus Harper, and this -- is my line in the sand."
Well, here you have it -- a big, bad season finale whose payoff is a Big
Huge Explosion while anything resembling actual storytelling content comes
across as completely secondary and/or perfunctory. Bravo, Andromeda.
"Tunnel at the End of the Light" may as well be called "Explosion at the End
of the Hour." While whatever it is we supposedly get here could arguably
serve as the backdrop for the inevitable Part II follow-up next season (yes,
this is yet another "cliffhanger"), trying to extract an actual story from
what little information we get in "Tunnel" is pretty much a waste of time.
The plot is an arbitrary concoction -- bad, campy sci-fi -- with nothing in
terms of wit, imagination, or ingenuity. It's another video game, with a few
moments of would-be "relevant" dialog shoehorned between explosions.
It wasn't enough last year that we learned of a big Magog world-ship headed
our way. Now we have to one-up last year's finale by supplying a new,
*bigger* alien threat. And the writers didn't hold back in the interests of
tasteful restraint; they go for all-out madness and goofiness, because this
is a Bigger-Than-Big, Mucho Grande Badass Threat -- like taking last year's
threat and super-sizing the fries. Who are these aliens? I haven't a clue.
Are they a mystery? Nope, because a mystery requires a certain level of
What we have here, rather, are aliens that are cartoon action props who
apparently want to come across from their universe and rule/destroy/conquer
ours. Bwahahaha. They have no motive, no dialog; they are yet *another*
swarm of faceless locusts. Last year we got hundreds of faceless Magog
swarming onto the Andromeda. This year we've got tens of thousands of
super-duper phase-shifting alien spaceships emerging into our galaxy out of
"a tunnel from another universe" and attacking our heroes. I came down
pretty hard on last year's overblown finale, "Its Hour Come 'Round At Last,"
but at least it was a recognizable piece of a larger puzzle. This, by
comparison, is just big and lame.
No, I did not like this episode, not one bit. I'm of the opinion that
Andromeda has degenerated into a mindless farce that more often than not
requires me to be dumber while watching it. While "Tunnel" admittedly makes
some efforts to tie in with previous episodes to make this somehow
Andromeda-relevant, there's absolutely no escaping two things: (1) The plot
at hand involving the eeeeevil aliens is so minimal as to be laughable, and
(2) the space battles exist only to supply endless, hollow sound and fury,
not to provide anything dramatic, remotely interesting, logical, or even
fun. Once upon a different show called Andromeda was an episode called
"Angel Dark, Demon Bright" (from which this episode steals its share of
stock special-effects shots) -- where a really big explosion actually had
equally big dramatic impact and meaning.
"Tunnel" ends with what may be the biggest explosion yet depicted on a
sci-fi TV series, though I can't say for sure; it's a big, BIG explosion
that's somewhat impressive in terms of audible decibels and visual fury. But
did I care about any of it the way I cared during "Angel Dark, Demon
Bright"? No. No, I did not.
This all takes place on the eve of the signing of the new Commonwealth
charter. The concept of the Commonwealth, once this series' mission, has
been simplified to a relatively minor plot point. Planet No. 50 signed up in
"The Knight, Death, and the Devil," but we have no idea what holds this
alliance together or what its values are. Most of the recruitment of worlds
has been off-screen and scarcely even implied. Here it seems like half the
planets are ready to back out of the alliance if things don't easily go
their way. (I'll talk more about the Commonwealth in my season wrap-up.)
The aliens have phase-shifting abilities that allow them to walk through
walls and appear and vanish at will. No idea what they want or why,
though -- that would be too revealing and tangible for the story to bear,
and might require our heroes' understanding beyond that required for their
immediate need to blow them all up with the biggest explosion ever.
Before the explosion there's of course a fight scene, stylized beyond
recognition. I'm honestly not even sure what to make of the alien design --
whether they actually look like that or if they're supposed to be wearing
body armor. If it is body armor or an exoskeleton or whatever, I'm
interested in knowing how it is Dylan can head-butt one of them and win. The
action is cartoonish and sloppily choreographed to the point of being hard
to follow -- it apparently doesn't matter *how* things happen as long as
it's quickly edited, fast-moving, and we get a vague sense that Dylan and
Rommie win the kung-fu match and the bad aliens lose.
I guess it's of some consolation that the show's most irritating guest
character, a grating Perseid, is quickly dispatched by the phase-shifting
bad guys. Meanwhile, the plot hurries along and touches a few reasonable
bases regarding the uneasy alliance, as when the Sabra-Jaguar delegate
doubts the Andromeda's ability to fight off this threat. There's also the
use of Trance, who informs the crew that this invasion is the turning point
in the timeline where things went bad and the reason why she crossed through
time in "Ouroboros." This plot point is also reasonable, but not used nearly
as well as it should have been ... and watching Trance blow up alien ships
while saying "Yeah, that's it, baby!" is something -- like much of this
episode -- I could've easily done without. (As space combat goes, the action
is so indistinct as to be humorous. Dylan's commands to engage the enemy
include, "Fire -- a lot." Good to see that military background applied to
The season ends with the fate of Tyr and Beka -- who deliver the super-bomb
that causes the humongous explosion -- up in the air for us to ponder, such
as we will, until fall. Are they killed? Kidnapped to another universe? Who
knows? And, more to the point, who really honestly cares? I for one do not.
Andromeda, it's pretty clear to me, is determined to be a show about poorly
staged action, big explosions, simpleminded heroics, and, on the rarer
occasion, some individual stories that might be watchable. Meanwhile, the
issue of the Commonwealth's real purpose -- ostensibly an important issue
to this series -- is constantly left muddled, indistinct, and perfunctory.
(Can/will it even survive having been thrust into war barely 10 seconds
after being almost-founded? Such a question is barely considered while the
episode instead baits us with the "Did Tyr and Beka die?" question -- which,
let's face it, is already answered.) Either we cave in and accept this
series as a pale shadow of what it could've been (and perhaps even once
was), or we keep arguing in favor of the higher road.
I don't know what else to say. I can only cry "uncle."
Over the summer: Reruns (and relief) begin. I'll be posting my season recap
one of these days, so stay tuned.
Copyright 2002 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.
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Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...