[ANDR] Jammer's Review: Second Season Recap
- Warning: This lengthy recap article contains plentiful spoilers for the
entire second season of "Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda."
In brief: After the first half of the season, which was reasonably
entertaining, the series descended rapidly into the gutter. In my book, it's
nothing short of a disaster.
Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda: Second Season Recap
Capsule Reviews & Season Analysis
For episodes airing from
10/1/2001 to 5/13/2002 (USA)
Series created by Gene Roddenberry
Developed by Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Executive producers: Majel Roddenberry, Robert Hewitt Wolfe,
Allan Eastman, Adam Haight, Jay Firestone, Kevin Sorbo
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
So here we are -- another season, another recap article. Welcome to my
all-around review of Andromeda's sophomore season. My recaps have previously
been known by the self-appointed cliche, "the most comprehensive review I'll
write this year," but this one might also be "the most negative review I'll
write this year." If it comes across that way, then please interpret the
sentiments of jest, of which there are plenty. Part one consists of the
capsule reviews; part two is the commentary on the season as a whole. Feel
free to agree, disagree, or punch your computer screen. Let's get on with
PART 1: CAPSULE REVIEWS
"The Widening Gyre" -- Airdate: 10/1/2001. Written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe.
Directed by Allan Eastman.
The entertaining if implausible follow-up to over-the-top "Its Hour Come
'Round At Last" features -- gasp! -- the crew not dying after all! They get
better, thanks to the first 10 minutes, which work about the same way as the
Undo feature in Photoshop. Tyr and Harper (a.k.a. "We've been slimed!") are
trapped on a wall and are ultimately saved from slaughter by Rev "Remember
Me?" Bem, who goes Hannibal Lecter on the evil teddy-bear army drones, who,
by the way, have visible zippers on their backs. Spirit of the Abyss (a.k.a.
Mr. Flaming Lava Lamp) looks on menacingly. It ends with a Real Big
Explosion, which makes for a poetic season bookend, since by finale time we
come full circle and end with ... another Real Big Explosion.
Rating out of 4: ***
"Exit Strategies" -- Airdate: 10/8/2001. Written by Matt Kiene & Joe
Reinkemeyer. Directed by T.J. Scott.
The first episode featuring Action Hour in the snow (but *not* the first
episode featuring Canadian forest locations), which makes for a visually
refreshing change of pace. The episode proves that Tyr is the only
Nietzschean who was DNA-enhanced with actual competence; the rest were
enhanced with the much-coveted Disposable Evil Henchman and Can't Hit the
Broad Side of a Barn genes. Meaty character moments center on the
much-tortured Rev, perhaps being played method-acting style by the
much-tortured Brent Stait. Fun, but don't look too closely or you're asking
for trouble. Convincingly explain to me how a ship launched a few hundred
miles an hour out of a magnetic accelerator can attain escape velocity and
I'll send you an e-mail with absolutely no viruses in it.
"A Heart for Falsehood Framed" -- Airdate: 10/15/2001. Written by Ethlie Ann
Vare. Directed by David Winning.
A derivative plot, with derivative themes, not nearly enough emotional
relevance, and too many of those damned heart artifacts. There are two of
them, I think, but the way the plot employs them in the caper is clumsily
handled. More clumsily handled is the (non)emotional arc for Beka as she
supposedly comes close to falling in love with cocky-but-bland Leydon.
Leydon is double-crossing swine anyway; why didn't I see that coming? (Oh,
wait; I did.) The heart artifact contains a map that was or perhaps was not
used to find the Engine of Creation in "In Heaven Now Are Three," but I
can't be sure. Tyr gets in a fight for no reason but to have some guys get
beaten up and/or added to the Weekly Gratuitous Body Count. Beka gets laid;
Harper does not.
"Pitiless as the Sun" -- Airdate: 10/22/2001. Written by Emily Skopov.
Directed by Richard Flower.
Hit-and-miss drama sees Trance interrogated by the Cigarette-Smoking Man
and, in an interesting irony, she turns the tables in scenes that show how
she, not he, is the one in control of this interview. But even Trance can't
get him to reveal those missing keys to the X-Files. Dang. Much of this
plot's implications are rendered either obsolete or less urgent in light of
other developments stemming from the infamous "Trance-formation" in
"Ouroboros." Regardless, even in the pre-"Ouroboros" Andromeda this episode
can't hold its own as drama, playing more like a series of teasing
Trance-hints. The Pyrians (a.k.a. Squids in Space) show up and talk in
Creepy Alien Monotone [TM], to little interest or avail.
"Last Call at the Broken Hammer" -- Airdate: 10/29/2001. Teleplay by John
Lloyd Parry. Story by Robert Hewitt Wolfe. Directed by David Winning.
To my knowledge, it's the only episode of Andromeda thus far to employ a
saloon with batwing doors. This is fitting, since this is a Western trapped
in an Andromeda episode. Much mayhem ensues, all over some woman named
Ortiz, whom Dylan believes could be converted to one of his faithful
denizens. Much to my dismay, the supposedly important Ortiz becomes utterly
irrelevant after this episode, despite the fact she's supposed to be a major
asset. Where did she go? Never mind, because we've got ACTION! The Teenage
Mutant Ninja Kalderans (a.k.a. this week's fish in a barrel) prove to be the
most incompetent assault force since the Magog. In a scene that is all too
prevalent on the New Andromeda, the body count outpaces common sense 10 to
"All Too Human" -- Airdate: 11/5/2001. Written by Ashley Edward Miller &
Zack Stentz. Directed by T.J. Scott.
Rommie goes into kick-ass mode and shows who's boss. Inspired by the anime
genre and the John Woo school of cinema, this is an episode that gets major
points for its coolness factor. The plot involving AIs is reasonably
intelligent. Rommie's adversary is interesting, if underutilized. The comic-
book action is some of the more entertaining Andromeda action on record. For
once, the obligatory ass-kicking actually kicks some ass. It could've been
more substantive, but what this show does it does well.
"Una Salus Victus" -- Airdate: 11/12/2001. Written by Ashley Edward Miller &
Zack Stentz. Directed by Allan Kroeker.
Two words: Allan Kroeker. Like "All Too Human," this is an example of how to
make an action episode move along swiftly. Deft handling of the A/B/C-plot
structure is surprisingly effective. Tyr and Dylan get some excellent
interaction and prove consistently watchable, even in the most hopelessly
implausible of action sequences. Dylan pulls out Crazy Mofo Dylan and it
works. Beka and Harper get appropriate subplots. All of it is assembled with
great skill. If Action Hour Andromeda could always be this much fun there
wouldn't be a problem. Unfortunately, reality is a different beast...
"Home Fires" -- Airdate: 11/19/2001. Written by Ethlie Ann Vare. Directed by
Rhade Redux -- but a different Rhade who is an exact genetic duplicate of
Gaheris. Plausible? No. Decent drama? Yes. I enjoyed the parallelism
involving Rhade and how this figures into Dylan's past even if the odds of
how it all plays out are probably googolplex to one. The frame-up plot is
entertaining, although it has its share of holes. Lt. Brown should've had
DEAD MEAT tattooed on his forehead (he apparently wrote one too many
negative reviews). Favorite line: "Jamahl! Pull up!" Second favorite line:
"AAAARRRGH!" [KABOOM] (Thanks, Ethlie.)
"Into the Labyrinth" -- Airdate: 11/26/2001. Written by Ashley Edward Miller
& Zack Stentz. Directed by Brad Turner.
Long-term plotting and good continuity show signs of making Andromeda more
interesting as Harper's ongoing struggle with the Magog larvae figures
significantly into a story that follows up "Harper 2.0" and "The Honey
Offering." The dialog between Tyr and Charlemagne Bolivar is truly inspired;
we need more characters written with this kind of wit and performed up to
this level. Alas, the assassins (a.k.a. dumb, bright-colored action figures
in the flesh) are laughable. This series needs far LESS of this sort of
mindless cartoon violence, which detracts even from good episodes like this
one. Harper comes slightly closer to getting laid here (he's straddled), but
"The Prince" -- Airdate: 1/14/2002. Written by Erik Oleson. Directed by
The Machiavellian plotting quietly carried out by Dylan and Tyr makes this
episode somewhat interesting and proves that a measure of thought was going
on below the episode's surface. Unfortunately, the production and acting
aren't as convincing and the storyline is derivative. The Bad Guys are
arbitrarily pre-assigned and painted with Anti-Subtlety, which undermines
any possible gray areas. Andromeda's Super Battle Bots supply the routine,
goofy, bloodless violence in a sequence that seems inspired by the ending of
"RoboCop 2" (minus the bloodshed, natch). That Dylan can get away with such
a blunt show of force during the crowning of the prince he's backing is
"Bunker Hill" -- Airdate: 1/21/2002. Written by Matt Kiene & Joe
Reinkemeyer. Directed by Richard Flower.
In which we see Earth's landscape as a single (bad) CG shot followed by lots
of dim, dank tunnels -- appropriate for an underground mission, but
dissatisfying nonetheless. Harper is well employed as a would-be freedom
fighter (even though he doesn't get laid) and the story's intentions are
admirable. Execution, however, is too bland, right down to the stock,
half-hearted chants of "Freedom!" and the overly confined perceived scope of
the uprising. In subplotting news, Elsbett returns so she can strut around
and be annoyingly haughty, even having the nerve this time not to sleep with
Dylan. Then there's the on-again, off-again "war" (a.k.a. conveniently
stoke-able subplot) between the Sabra-Jaguar and the Drago-Kazov, which is
used as a plot point here but impossible to make sense of in the larger
scheme of things, if one exists.
"Ouroboros" -- Airdate: 1/28/2002. Written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe. Directed
by Jorge Montesi.
A messy, senseless time-travel outing with no emotional or logical arc, even
for a time-travel show. Disjoined, chaotic, and largely meaningless, a rip
in space-time here becomes story justification to pointlessly rehash every
Action-Hour concept in the Andromeda bag-o-tricks. Magog. Kalderans.
Shootouts. Explosions. The past, present, future, etc. -- it's all here. I
find, however, that I personally would rather be elsewhere. Rommie gets blue
hair and Trance turns gold and can do karate and back-flips. Transition
complete. (Oh yeah; Rev Bem is vaguely and unceremoniously written out of
the show. Almost forgot about him.)
"Lava and Rockets" -- Airdate: 2/4/2002. Written by Ashley Edward Miller &
Zack Stentz. Directed by Michael Rohl.
Hunt the Hero and Molly the Blonde engage in much low-rent repartee that
seems to think these two are Han Solo and Princess Leia. Watchable enough to
chew through an hour, but move along, nothing to see here. The Action-Hour
action is played out in the usually glib, predictable fashion, where
characters are thrust into situations of contrived violence that emerge
practically from nowhere and follow a logic only of their own (and not the
story's). The Ogami -- "fearsome mercenaries" -- resemble yet another failed
Halloween-mask concept who are about as scary and easily dispatched as an
imp on Level 1 of Doom II (except they don't breathe fireballs). Dylan gets
laid; Harper doesn't.
"Be All My Sins Remembered" -- Airdate: 2/11/2002. Teleplay by Ethlie Ann
Vare. Story by Jill Sherwin. Directed by Allan Eastman.
Another stage of Andromeda's continued campaign in the War Against Subtlety,
in which Bobby, Beka's ex-lover, appears as a half-man, half-RoboCop villain
whose story could've been told any number of ways that might've made him a
character worthy of development instead of a boring and shallow
megalomaniac. His garter-strapped girlfriend is one of the worst-conceived
characters in the history of television (that I've seen), while alien-guy
Lem carries a BFG that is unintentionally hilarious. Some of Beka's
backstory is interesting (minus Bobby's ludicrous Rambo number), but her
statement that this guy was "the love of her life" is utter nonsense based
on what we see on the screen. Beka gets laid (via flashback); Harper doesn't
(not even via flashback). And it ends with more lame kung-fu.
"Dance of the Mayflies" -- Airdate: 2/18/2002. Teleplay by Robert Hewitt
Wolfe. Story by Ashley Edward Miller & Zack Stentz. Directed by J. Miles
I could rehash the reasons why I think this laughable hour of camp-laden
tripe is cinematic detritus and a general insult to the human intellect, but
what would be the point? The good news: It made me laugh. The bad news: In
all the wrong places.
"In Heaven Now Are Three" -- Airdate: 2/25/2002. Teleplay by Emily Skopov.
Story by Celeste Chan Wolfe. Directed by David Warry-Smith.
A vapid and cliche-ridden Indiana Jones rip-off using the budget and visual
design of an Andromeda episode. You do the math.
"The Things We Cannot Change" -- Airdate: 4/8/2002. Written by Ethlie Ann
Vare. Directed by Jorge Montesi.
A clip show whose clips often seem like they were picked with the help of a
random-number generator. The framing device, meanwhile, lacks genuine
interest. The actor playing Dylan's wife is bad, and the son is even worse.
Simpleminded Hero Dylan's closing statements of What This All Means reveal
him to have the emotional and psychological depth of your average Mighty
Morphin' Power Ranger. Dylan gets laid (in a dream); Harper doesn't (except
maybe in an off-screen dream).
"The Fair Unknown" -- Airdate: 4/15/2002. Written by John Lloyd Parry.
Directed by Michael Rohl.
A reasonable step back toward something relevant, but the show supplies more
questions than answers, and the plot is saddled with boring action scenes
(including a second act whose action is both boring and interminable), and a
Vedran guest character who falls into conflict with Dylan for no real good
reason. The implication that the Vedrans (a.k.a. Blue Man Group) cut
themselves off from slipstream raises a host of issues that will require
eventual follow-up. Will we get it? Don't know, but until then, I'm less
than thrilled with this episode, which is too mediocre as entertainment.
"Belly of the Beast" -- Airdate: 4/22/2002. Written by Matt Kiene & Joe
Reinkemeyer. Directed by Allan Harmon.
A prolonged lack of impetus to give Andromeda a positive review prompted me
to give this episode a thumbs-up on my initial encounter. While not bad, I
don't think this hour of unabashed cheese and reckless goofiness is quite
enough to transcend "average." The plot ("planet-eating monster!") is the
thinnest of thin and inconsequence, but the characterization is fairly
effective in the way it shows Beka and Dylan (et al) trying to anticipate
what the other will do. The happy ending walks a fine line between
lightweight amusement and all-out embarrassment.
"The Knight, Death, and the Devil" -- Airdate: 4/29/2002. Written by Ashley
Edward Miller & Zack Stentz. Directed by Richard Flower.
A genuinely good episode after nearly a half-season of dreck, in which High
Guard starships are seen by Dylan as prisoners of war because of their AI
cores -- an intriguing concept. Michael Hurst goes down as one of this
series' best guest stars to date, as an AI who turns out to be a rather
complex character. Good storytelling, some nice arguments, and action that
makes sense within the confines of the plot. A throwback of sorts to the
Andromeda that used to be worth watching.
"Immaculate Perception" -- Airdate: 5/6/2002. Written by Matt Kiene & Joe
Reinkemeyer. Directed by J. Miles Dale.
The second of back-to-back winners, in which Tyr is studied as a character
in a storyline that plays as grand melodrama. His son is the Nietzschean
messiah? Whoa. Self-serving to the end, but not in a simpleminded way, Tyr's
ruthlessness allows an entire colony to be slaughtered in order to save
himself and his son. Freya's death, on the other hand, is relentlessly
by-the-numbers. Tyr's speech to Dylan at the end is so passionate that it
takes on a sort of epic, cosmic-comedy quality when we realize that it's all
a super-calculated lie, performed to Nietzschean perfection. Also, Tyr gets
laid; Harper doesn't.
"Tunnel at the End of the Light" -- Airdate: 5/13/2002. Written by Matt
Kiene & Joe Reinkemeyer. Directed by Allan Eastman.
The Commonwealth charter is to be signed (where did all these new members
come from, and when, and how, and why, and...?) when the Andromeda is
attacked by Phase-Shifting Invisible Bad Guys From Another Universe. Yes.
It's further proof that the higher-ups at Andromeda mistake quantity for
quality, and think what we want to see is LOTS AND LOTS of ships streaming
out of a spatial rift and attacking Our Heroes. Guess what: It's NOT what I
want to see. The solution to this week's problem (a variation on perhaps
most weeks' problems) is to blow 'em all to hell with the largest imaginable
explosion. And -- YEAH! -- we do. If incoherent space battles and an ending
with Stuff Getting Blowed Up Real Good is what you want to see, then this is
the Andromeda for you. I personally like a trace of wit/drama/imagination in
my entertainment, not simply the notion -- without context -- that Something
Big Is Happening on a ridiculously large scale.
PART 2: SEASON ANALYSIS
As noted at the outset, 2002 charted this series' rapid descent into nothing
that interests me. It had its isolated moments of inspiration and
respectable efforts, but in terms of the big picture and lasting
impressions, my feelings reside somewhere between bitter cynicism and total
apathy. Near the season's end, week after week I was trying to feel some
sort of enthusiasm, but every week I found myself more disenchanted.
The season started out well enough. Despite some missteps and mediocre early
outings like "Last Call at the Broken Hammer" and "A Heart for Falsehood
Framed," the run beginning with season premiere "The Widening Gyre" through
to December was admirable, featuring a number of entertaining shows like
"Una Salus Victus," "All Too Human," and "Into the Labyrinth." Indeed, by
winter hiatus after "Labyrinth" aired, I wrote: "Andromeda is really shaping
up, and has had a respectable second season so far. The overall gain in
momentum and narrative clarity ... is apparent." But then, beginning in
January, came a near-total collapse. What went wrong?
The easiest answer would be to attribute Andromeda's mid- and late-season
woes to the staff turmoil and the eventual departure of head
writer/developer Robert Hewitt Wolfe. That would be the simplest thing -- to
point and say, "That's why this season was a failure." Does that represent
reality? I'm not sure. Television is a strange beast where cause and effect
can be very difficult to accurately line up together. What's covered in the
press and what's said online by the writers is undoubtedly only part of the
story; we will never know the rest. For that matter, we will never know how
much of the writers' original vision for the show was allowed to make it to
the screen, or how much was changed by the Tribune Powers That Be. (It's
remarkable to think that Deep Space Nine, in its day, had the freedom from
Paramount to mostly do what it wanted on its own terms; it seems that's a
rarity anymore.) But really, that's all irrelevant when it comes down to it.
What's relevant is what we have in front of us on our TV screens. So, back
in December when the news of Wolfe's firing broke, I was perfectly fine to
watch the show and not speculate on what the future of Andromeda would be
like without him.
But then we got the middle and end stages of the season, reportedly the
Coincidence or not, attributable to Wolfe's departure or not, the episodes
after "Into the Labyrinth" represented a free-fall to the bottom of the
barrel, with only the occasional reprieve into reasonable storytelling via
episodes like "The Knight, Death, and the Devil" and "Immaculate
Perception." How the series went wrong is not at all difficult to examine,
seeing as when it comes to broad strokes of anything, including its own
trends, Andromeda isn't exactly subtle. Its faults are completely apparent,
front-and-center. Let's take a look at them.
FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEM #1: ACTION-HOUR MENTALITY
It very well may be that by definition this series is not something that
agrees with me, because I simply don't subscribe to the TV "Action Hour"
mentality. I want to be totally clear on this: When done well, I like
action. I enjoy action movies on a regular basis, and I'm probably even more
likely to spend money on a summer action blockbuster than on many, if not
most, other genres. (My favorite action movies include "Die Hard," "The
Matrix," "Terminator 2," the "Lethal Weapon" series, and many others.) So I
don't want to hear that I'm against action.
What I'm against is LAME mind-numbing action that exists without context or
aesthetic value. Unfortunately, that's what nearly all of Andromeda's
"action" is. So much of Andromeda's ridiculous action this season has been
the kind that I honestly believe can't be enjoyed by anyone but the least
discriminating. Interminable shootouts where the good guys always hit their
targets and the bad guys are always stupid and/or faceless and/or can't hit
the broad side of a barn. Prolonged kung-fu scenes that are so poorly
staged/choreographed as to be laughable. Body counts that are absurdly high
(yet bloodless, unnecessary, and with no dramatic impact), making episodes
look exactly like cartoons or video games.
I've seen the press quotes that go on about how Andromeda is a low-budget
series where every penny is milked for as much as humanly possible, and that
the pyrotechnic people go the extra mile to make the show look great. While
they may deserve the kudos for their hard work and effort, I've got news for
you: The action doesn't usually look great; it looks cheap. I don't like the
style. That in itself would be okay if it weren't for the fact that far,
far, FAR too often the show puts its cheap-looking action sequences ahead of
the storyline. If you can't do action right, then for crying out loud,
*don't do it at all*. But don't give us a cheesy, endless firefight and
think it's entertaining just because there are a lot of spark-squibs
captured on film.
That brings up another thing -- quantity over quality, which has always been
a problem in the way this series employs action. Rather than giving us one
image that looks good, the creators would rather inundate us with an
interminable sequence of contrived action that stretches out to unwatchable
length and does little for the story but stop it dead in its tracks. Enough
with the action. I don't give a damn about it, and it's not doing its job of
keeping me entertained on even a superficial level. Give me some actual
I feel like I've beaten this argument like a dead horse. Unfortunately,
that's only because Andromeda has beaten the Action Hour horse with equal
FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEM #2: THE CAMP FACTOR
The marketing bills Andromeda as the "#1 Action Hour." They also might want
to start calling it the "#1 Camp Hour." Alas, I did not come to Andromeda
because I wanted to watch camp. But this season the show has gone from what
was a lighter-played space opera with dark undertones to a virtual week-in,
week-out hour of camp. Even the best of the hours like "Una Salus Victus"
suffer from bouts of silliness. The worst end up like "Dance of the
Mayflies," "Be All My Sins Remembered," "In Heaven Now Are Three," or
"Ouroboros," where bad-movie cliches lurk in every corner and make you
wonder if you're laughing because you don't want to admit that you're
watching wretched television.
Camp is hard to attribute to any one thing, but it's a combination of
over-stylized production values mixed with a general attitude of
melodramatic flair and storyline goofiness. There's a lot more of that these
days than there was last season. Just look at the season finale, about an
alien invasion of 10,000 ships (or "Mayflies," where zombies are zapped with
10,000 volts); there's no attempt for the least bit of restraint. Whenever
the creators *can* go over the top with unapologetic zaniness, they do.
The camp factor of course goes hand-in-hand with the Action Hour issue, in
which violence is cartoonish and therefore impossible to take even the
slightest bit seriously. Personally, I like my violence to pack some punch,
not provide a circus sideshow.
FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEM #3: THE WAR AGAINST SUBTLETY
Whenever I read a Kevin Sorbo interview, I just want to cringe. Particularly
lately, when Sorbo goes on at length about how the series needs to be "more
fun" and how people want to see "the good guy winning over the bad guy." And
the next time I hear "what viewers want" in any way tied back to the tragedy
of Sept. 11, asses will be kicked.
Anyway. One could argue that this show was never really "Gene Roddenberry's
Andromeda." It was probably more "Robert Hewitt Wolfe's Andromeda" than
anything else. Unfortunately, these days it looks more and more like it's
becoming "Kevin Sorbo's Andromeda." Yes, I know he's the star, etc., etc.,
but if the press is any indication, Sorbo is a big reason why the show has
changed so much, just as Patrick Stewart reportedly changed the tone of
"Star Trek: Insurrection" a few years ago. I don't doubt that Sorbo thinks
he's doing the right thing, but I certainly don't agree with his quotes in
the press and what has been manifesting itself on the screen since Wolfe's
We have Trance and Rommie, both visually redesigned in a cartoon-like
manner. Rommie's blue hair is awful; Trance's gold makeup is just as bad
(not that I was ever a huge fan of the purple, but never mind). Costuming in
general (particularly for the women) has gone garishly over the top. But
those are superficial changes. More disturbing are the trends I've seen in
some of the dialog, characters, and plots. They have a tendency to hit us
with a sledgehammer instead of taking more subtle approaches. Much of the
humor has also degenerated into the annoyingly obvious, like with Dylan's
excessive Action Hero One-Liners. This was a problem last year, but it's
become an even bigger problem this year.
This season was not a particularly good one for developing our main
characters. Indeed, some of the characters have regressed. The most
depressing trend is the anchor, Captain Dylan Hunt, who has gone from a
somewhat multifaceted character to a bland Action Hero who gets to bag the
chicks and beat the bad guys. He's a nice guy with a crew he likes, but as a
character he's become a bastion of the simpleminded, which is downright
infuriating. His big moment at the end of "The Things We Cannot Change," for
example, is to recite a stock-issue mantra about being a starship captain
when he should be pondering a troubling and emotional revelation. I'm also
increasingly unimpressed with Sorbo's lackluster performances.
Meanwhile, the most flat-out annoying character these days is Beka
Valentine, who very often has the thankless role of providing Smart-Alecky
Exposition. It seems like Beka is always the one who gets the dialog that is
too-obviously solely for the audience's benefit, like in "The Fair Unknown"
when she explains the history of Tarn-Vedra in a scene that plays like a
viewer refresher course. I'm not a fan of the way Lisa Ryder delivers these
lines, in that chipper, rapid-fire, smart-ass tone, as if to say she's aware
that the expositional dialog is ridiculous and that it must therefore be
delivered as a flippant joke. (At least when Harper is annoying, it's funny.
With Beka, it's not.) While some stories attempted to give Beka some depth,
both her headliners ("A Heart for Falsehood Framed" and "Be All My Sins
Remembered") were dismal failures.
Harper, by contrast, has become less annoying as sort of an acquired taste.
He still hasn't gotten laid, but he's a character who usually invites a
smile with his quick-witted asides. And every once in a while he gets a
chance to chew on a meaty storyline (e.g. "Bunker Hill"). He had the whole
Magog-larvae story arc in the early part of the season, which mostly worked.
Trance and Rommie I'm mostly neutral on. Trance is, thankfully, far less of
a winking magic wand than in season one (though it's still an occasional
annoyance), and her swap in "Ouroboros" at least has the possibility of
giving glimpses into the future. Rommie is the cool-headed but occasionally
ruthless AI who is convincing as a warship/warrior. I'm more uncertain about
her whole "human question" bit, a been-there-done-that with virtually all
sci-fi involving AI.
Tyr went through some weird stages this season that seemed to be toning the
character down (probably not a good thing, in my view), but "Immaculate
Perception" threw him (and us) a curveball that revealed him to be as true
to Tyr as ever.
Then there's Rev Bem, whose absence leaves a true and difficult void. Rev
was this series' moral compass and the best avenue for philosophizing. He
was perhaps prone to dramatic overstatement from time to time, but at least
he represented some higher thought and insight. With Rev gone, also gone is
much of the series' depth. Dylan no longer has a spiritual/emotional
confidant, which only further permits the Simple Hero Dylan to assert
itself. Rev was an important piece to this series, and I think his absence
has revealed that. The way he left the show was horribly dissatisfying. I
understand it was a tough call for the writers -- not knowing whether Brent
Stait would be able to return -- but the manner of Rev's exit is about as
close to a worst-case scenario as you can get.
When it comes to the Commonwealth, I want to scratch my head in confusion.
The Commonwealth storyline is something with inherent depth -- the original
mission of the series -- but it was shuttled through this season off-screen
and on autopilot. "The Widening Gyre" suggested that the Commonwealth was
imperative purely on the basis of defense, but this season took the
Commonwealth absolutely no further in terms of actual analysis. Who would
want to join it and why? What kind of political issues would present
themselves? What kind of values would member worlds need to adopt in order
to join? And, for that matter, why would a world *want* to join in the first
place, especially if it's going to put them on the front line of
Intriguing questions, all of which went virtually unanswered *and* unasked.
Suddenly, come end of the season, we've got the new charter about to be
signed. We're supplied no sense for how we got from A to B; we're just
informed that we've got our 50 worlds and that today is the New
Commonwealth's day. Remember Ortiz from "Last Call at the Broken Hammer"? We
never heard from her again, and apparently, in a mere six months, the
universe (or 50 worlds anyway -- what about the rest of the universe?)
pulled a 180 from its stance of being invested in a status quo that wanted
nothing to do with a new Commonwealth.
I have absolutely no problem with wrapping up the Commonwealth storyline and
moving on to new things. In fact, two seasons is an adequate amount of
television time to devote to a major background story arc -- more than
enough time, in fact. Unfortunately, so little of this time was actually
spent on establishing the Commonwealth beyond the most superficial of
meetings and negotiations. We have a Commonwealth, but I don't know what it,
or any of its members, stands for or why. And we're supposed to believe that
based on such a flimsy alliance, the new "Commonwealth fleet" is ready to
engage the Evil Threat From Another Universe ("Tunnel at the End of the
Light"). I'm sorry, but I don't buy it.
Dylan's Commonwealth -- as it stands right now -- is a sham and a dramatic
Last season my biggest complaint was with execution. The show had a good
underlying philosophy, which was one based on continuity, a goal-oriented
premise, and the building of characters and societal relationships. It
wasn't successful, but the problems were more with acting, production, and
story flow. This season, by contrast, has done more to destroy what the show
once stood for in favor of a general dumbing-down of the series. While the
use of episode-to-episode continuity hasn't been abandoned, little of it
makes sense under scrutiny or has any persuasive direction. Meanwhile, the
overall storytelling technique makes Voyager look subtle and sophisticated.
While I'm mildly curious to know what new head writer Robert Engels can
bring to the table, I can't honestly say that I care to watch the show to
So it's at this juncture where I say that I'm finished reviewing Andromeda.
There's simply no reason for me to continue, because I don't enjoy it
anymore and I feel like I'm just bitching in a vacuum. Besides, the amount
of e-mail I receive in regard to my Andromeda reviews has significantly
dropped off this season. Every once in a while I'll get a stray e-mail, but
it's rarely to debate the shows any further but instead to tell me how the
viewer had given up watching the show months ago. The message this sends me
is that (A) interest in my reviews has diminished, (B) interest in the show
has diminished among my readers, (C) both, or (D) the people who still like
the show don't want to read unrelenting negative reviews about it, for which
I can hardly blame them. So it serves no one any purpose for me to
continue -- particularly myself, since it's an ongoing and increasingly
unrewarding drain on my time, which would be better spent on other ventures.
(I'm looking forward to reviewing just Enterprise next fall, and not being
behind on reviews all the time. If you're wondering if I'll be reviewing
"Farscape" or "Stargate SG1" or another show in Andromeda's stead, the
answer is no.)
Back when Andromeda first started, Ashley Miller told me the writers
actually read my reviews and considered what I had to say. That was nice to
know. I have no idea if that's still the case, but it really doesn't matter,
because TV writers are not able to make changes to a show based on a few
vocal critical opinions; it's just not practical. And it's become
increasingly clear to me that what I'd like to see in Andromeda is a very
different thing than what Tribune wants to produce. Such is life. I think
it's admirable that the writing staff still listens to its online fans; I
just don't believe that it actually matters in a real-world
entertainment-industry environment that believes the lowest common
denominator is the target audience.
Best of luck to Ash & Zack (hopefully you know I'm still rooting for you
guys) and the rest of the Andromeda staff in improving the show into
something more frequently watchable, even to those of us who aren't
interested merely in seeing an action hour where the good guys win.
Copyright 2002 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.
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Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...