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[ANDR] Jammer's Review: "Tunnel at the End of the Light"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , May 25, 2002
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      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
      Andromeda.

      -----
      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
      actual mysteriousness.

      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
      its fullest.)

      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.

      Star Trek: Hypertext - http://www.st-hypertext.com/
      Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...
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