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[ANDR] Jammer's Review: "Double Helix"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Andromeda s Double Helix. If you haven t seen the episode yet, beware. In brief: An informative look
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 26, 2000
      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Andromeda's "Double
      Helix." If you haven't seen the episode yet, beware.

      In brief: An informative look at some Nietzschean beliefs and our one and
      only Tyr Anasazi.

      Plot description: Dylan sends Tyr on a mission to persuade a group of
      Nietzschean pirates to accept a cease-fire with their Than enemies, upon
      which Tyr finds his loyalties put to the test.

      Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda: "Double Helix"

      Airdate: 10/30/2000 (USA week-of)
      Written by Matt Kiene & Joe Reinkemeyer
      Directed by Michael Rohl

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: ***

      "Freya, I'm fertile. I could father your children."
      "Not if you're dead. Now be quiet!"
      -- Dimitri and Tyr

      "Double Helix" does some things and does many of them well. It's not really
      about its plot; it's a tapestry of backstory, torn loyalties, and effective
      character study. It's not the most riveting story ever told, but it does get
      us into the heads of a few major players.

      Tyr Anasazi. He had one line in "Under the Night" and was primarily a large,
      nondescript menace in "Affirming Flame." In "D Minus Zero" he was laconic
      and direct. Now we get more into the character's head. He has a lot of
      dialog, speeches, and interaction with other characters. And what's most
      interesting is that we're not sure whose side he's really on. Perhaps
      nobody's -- it can be rightly said that his first duty is to himself.

      In the course of "Double Helix," we begin to get an understanding for why
      that is. The plot for this episode is not fundamentally interesting --
      involving a murky skirmish between the Than (the bug-like aliens, improved
      in design since the pilot) and a band of Nietzschean pirates who have access
      to a powerful, long-range weapon on board an asteroid installation. What is
      interesting is how the plot tells the story of Nietzschean beliefs, while
      bringing Tyr's past and present into the picture.

      The Nietzscheans have philosophies, but they're also very fragmented as a
      people. Factions fight other factions when vying for power; the result is
      that people grow up like Tyr, lacking a place in life to belong and ending
      up with an individualized mission of self-survival. The overall question:
      Can Tyr carve out a place for himself aboard the Andromeda? The opportunity
      of this week: Can Tyr carve out a place for himself with this group of
      Nietzschean pirates?

      Tyr is ostensibly working on Dylan's behalf to attempt striking a deal with
      these Nietzscheans to bring them into Dylan's new Commonwealth. Dylan's hope
      is that in finding people in desperate situations, he might be able to
      convince them to take the alternative choice of joining his new
      Commonwealth. Is Dylan a hopeless optimist? I'm not sure, but if he's going
      up against people like these, hoping to turn them into allies, he's going to
      have his work cut out for him. The question isn't whether making enemies
      into friends is a good idea; the question is whether it's tenable.

      Tyr takes a shuttle pod down to the asteroid to negotiate with the
      Nietzscheans. The leader of the group appears to be Guderian (Paul
      Johansson), but there's also another, apparently wiser, older figure of
      authority in Olma (Marion Elfman), whose role seems to be to either give or
      deny a seal of approval for Tyr based on the purity of his DNA and his
      survival skills. There's also Freya (Dylan Bierk), a woman who quickly
      begins to see Tyr as a potential spouse, and vice-versa.

      These particular Nietzscheans, to be honest, are not all that interesting in
      and by themselves. Johansson is wooden as Guderian, the man whose trust Tyr
      must earn. The same goes for Bierk's role as Freya, who exists more as a
      major plot point for Tyr than a compelling character.

      Fortunately, Tyr *is* of real interest here. The situation permits some
      useful examination of backstory for our former mercenary, whose past set him
      up as a loner who may or may not be allying himself with these Nietzscheans.
      They're members of a faction that was partially responsible for the
      destruction of his own family and homeworld years ago. He doesn't trust
      them. They don't trust him. Consequently, he assures the Andromeda crew that
      there is no chance that he would be interested in a place among them. But is
      that entirely true?

      What's even better conceived is the crisis of trust that Dylan finds himself
      facing back aboard the Andromeda while Tyr (maybe) carries out his mission.
      Can Tyr be trusted? There's a prudent Dylan/Rev scene (though a bit
      heavy-handed with musical cues) where Dylan wonders if his own anger in
      having been betrayed by the Nietzscheans -- who were the instigators that
      toppled the Commonwealth -- has created in him a prejudice that may never be

      Really, most of this has to do with Gaheris Rhade (Steve Bacic), Dylan's
      Nietzschean first officer and close friend who betrayed him (see "Under the
      Night") and left him tortured over the possibility that the fall of the
      Commonwealth hinged upon his own trust being used against him. There's an
      intelligent series of flashbacks involving Dylan and Gaheris playing a
      friendly game of go while debating the role of love and marriage as seen
      through human and Nietzschean sensibilities.

      These scenes do a nice job of revealing the series' take on Nietzsche
      values, where every man's action is construed either as a credit or demerit
      to his value to a woman as a specimen of worthy DNA. Life seems colder and
      less passionate; the point is one of simple logic: Fathering as many
      children as possible by as many women as possible is the best bet for
      immortality via continuous lineage.

      This plays alongside Tyr's current situation with the Nietzscheans, as he is
      "chosen" by Freya to be a husband and father (the Nietzscheans sure don't
      waste any time getting down to business). Freya could be a way for Tyr to
      obtain what he has long sought, and there is indeed a sex scene here that is
      portrayed as very "Nietzsche" in cause and effect -- while Geheris' voice
      over makes the valid ideology connections. (The female demographic might
      drool over a Tyr Anasazi sex scene, but the idea also fits the story.)

      All the while, Dylan's problem is in trusting a Nietzschean again. Indeed,
      it might be downright foolhardy to do so under the circumstances. The
      flashbacks reveal not only the Nietzscheans' philosophy on reproduction but
      also their willingness to resort to treachery. There's a moment where
      Gaheris is caught cheating at a game of go, and he says, "It's only cheating
      if you get caught," in a tone of such cool indifference that it's chilling.
      Not long after that discussion, Gaheris would try to kill Dylan and seize
      the Andromeda. It was a forewarning, and now Dylan suspects history will
      repeat itself through Tyr. With only five people on board the ship, it'd be
      awfully easy for Tyr to take over the Andromeda and hand it to the

      What's kind of neat about "Double Helix" is how its ending plays like a
      chess game (or a game of go), with Tyr in the middle willing to take
      whichever side either (a) better benefits his long-term interests or (b)
      wins. Tyr is no fool, and plans for the possibility that Dylan will have a
      trick up his sleeve that will make a Nietzschean takeover of the Andromeda
      impossible. Indeed, Dylan does, having rigged the ship to explode (although
      I must say that Dylan's timing is implausibly perfect, and comes off the
      heels of some clunky corridor-based fight scenes). Tyr is able to
      double-cross Dylan and then immediately double-cross the Nietzscheans,
      giving the upper hand back to Dylan.

      In the end, no one wins because everyone's interests are incompatible. With
      Tyr destroying the Nietzscheans' cannon, they're left defenseless. This
      affords Dylan the opportunity to recommend his Commonwealth to people who
      are even more desperate now than before -- but also all the more angry and
      determined to continue in their ways. Tyr's quest to become husband and
      father ends in disappointment; Freya flees with the Nietzscheans, a group
      Tyr would never happily have served under even if he had been successful in
      his plan to overthrow the power structure on Andromeda.

      Noteworthy is the ambiguous ending involving Freya, who apparently conceived
      Tyr's child, but must now decide, if I'm reading the scene correctly,
      whether or not to abort the pregnancy. On the one hand, the father is a
      powerful, worthy opponent; on the other hand, he's a traitor. Perhaps we'll
      see more about this down the road.

      In the meantime, I'm liking Keith Hamilton Cobb's riffs on Tyr; he can be
      calm with an unrevealing face before suddenly exploding with urgency and
      emotion and then returning to calm again. He is quickly becoming one of the
      show's most interesting characters, with multiple dimensions, strong
      opinions, and hidden agendas.

      Dylan, as well as the audience, comes to realize at least one thing: "I
      trust Tyr to be Tyr."

      Next week: Andromeda's first time-travel outing. Oh wait -- I mean second.

      Copyright 2000 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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