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[ANDR] Jammer's Review: "A Rose in the Ashes"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Andromeda s A Rose in the Ashes. If you haven t seen the episode yet, beware. In brief: Bad. A
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 7, 2000
      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Andromeda's "A Rose
      in the Ashes." If you haven't seen the episode yet, beware.

      In brief: Bad. A cheap-looking episode with no direction -- meandering,
      talky, melodramatic, and surprisingly boring.

      Plot description: Dylan and Rommie are incarcerated in a prison colony
      overseen by an oppressive warden and controlled by violent inmates.

      Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda: "A Rose in the Ashes"

      Airdate: 11/27/2000 (USA week-of)
      Written by Ethlie Ann Vare
      Directed by David Warry-Smith

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: *

      "Now can we blow them up?" -- Tyr

      I wish I knew what "A Rose in the Ashes" was about. It betrays hints that
      it's looking for some sort of message, but it never finds it. The message it
      comes close to finding is something as profound as "violent, oppressive
      prison systems are bad." Whoa. Meanwhile, the whole episode gets bogged down
      in a lot of derivative, talky scenes with gobs of dialog but surprisingly
      little insight. And don't even get me started on the chintz factor.

      Yes, this show has budget limitations, but unlike other episodes on this
      series that have managed to overcome those limitations by employing decent
      storytelling and good use of that limited budget, "Rose" never transcends
      the look, feel, and attitude of a bad B movie. It's the first episode of
      Andromeda to be filmed outdoors instead of on soundstages, but given this
      effort, I'll take the soundstages. The "prison colony" here never looks like
      anything more than a few cheaply contrived locations.

      Which, of course, would be irrelevant if the story being told were an
      interesting one. It's not. Not even close. The whole episode plays like the
      recycling of B prison movies and routine conflicts. The episode is about
      Dylan and Rommie being railroaded into an alien prison colony (having been
      found guilty of sedition for inviting a planet into the Commonwealth), but
      it never once feels like these characters are inside anything but a series
      of disjointed situations cobbled together after having been bought at the
      nearest movie cliche store.

      Of course the prison is a brutal place run by violent gangs of inmates. Of
      course the robotic warden (Bill Croft) is oppressive in his goals to keep
      the prisoners in line. Of course Dylan is instantly greeted with chants of
      "newbie" and immediately drawn into a yard fight. Of course he is victorious
      in his first fight, thereby earning the respect of a major character in the
      evil gang camp, a Tough Woman named Kae-Lee (Claudette Mink). Of course
      there's dialog about attempting to live higher than the hostility that these
      prisons shape one to exhibit.

      Cliches are one thing. Good stories, executed well, can transcend cliches.
      But a boring rehash of cliches is another matter. There's nothing here to
      get us riled up about anything. This episode is particularly guilty in that
      it fails to rouse any genuine emotions. It's like the black hole in "Under
      the Night" -- the scenes get sucked into a dead zone of television and
      disappear into oblivion.

      I don't often use the word "boring" to describe a show, because I'm
      generally pretty patient. But "Rose" doesn't go anywhere or do anything.
      It's a boring episode that for its entire duration exhibits a desperate need
      to say something that's powerful instead of obvious. It doesn't. The point,
      if there is one, is lost amid an alarmingly arid experience.

      Essentially, the story is about how prison systems perpetuate criminal
      behavior rather than serving as actual correctional facilities.
      Unfortunately, this is not a new point, and the show is not about this point
      in any interesting way. The characters are shallow, the conflicts
      superficial, and the solutions ultimately so simplistic that I'm not sure if
      they're even really supposed to serve as solutions.

      First we have to sit through the obligatory fight scenes, including one
      between Dylan and a creature named Xax (Ron Robinson), who looks like a
      large Muppet concept gone awry. This is the sort of fight scene that almost
      has us expecting Dylan to say, "The bigger they are, the harder they fall."
      He does not, for which I'm infinitely grateful.

      Then we have to sit through Dylan's moral speeches as he tries to inspire
      peaceful, optimistic thoughts in everyone he encounters. While I credit
      Dylan for the effort, these speeches have the ring of naivete written all
      over them; does he really think he can drop into a prison and change
      everybody's mind? Kae-Lee isn't listening, that's for sure. Her motto:
      "There are three types of people you can be in here -- a wolf, a sheep, or a

      Later, Dylan meets a teenage girl named Jessa (Kimberley Warnat), who lives
      in the woods among the "outsiders" (outside of what?). The outsiders are
      apparently not accepted among the general prison population. Their most
      peculiar characteristic is that their inability to grow food in the woods
      (allegedly because the soil is too acidic) exists alongside their ability to
      construct electronic radio-controlled miniature helicopters with machine
      guns. Uh, right.

      The plot revolves around the facts that (a) Rommie's android body will die
      if her batteries are not soon recharged; (b) Dylan must expound his
      platitudes of how the system is wrong; and (c) the crew aboard Andromeda
      must launch a rescue operation to find the planet where Dylan and Rommie
      have been taken and then charge in to the rescue.

      This plot aboard the Andromeda is also silly, revealing glib attitudes that
      are not the least bit productive. Tyr wants to blow everybody up, which is
      kind of funny when reduced to a one-liner by Keith Hamilton Cobb, but still
      not exactly a smart idea. Beka makes idle threats to the Evil Administration
      that she can't possibly follow through on. Then there's Trance, who gets her
      weekly exhibition of I'm More Than I Seem by mysteriously picking out by
      "pure chance" the planet where Dylan and Rommie have been taken. Trance had
      better find a purpose in a hurry, because her Knowledge On A Higher Plane is
      *not* interesting in and by itself; in fact, it's becoming more like a
      hollow and convenient way to advance the plot from A to B.

      Subsequently, Tyr and Beka's bumpy flight to the surface in the Maru seems
      incredibly short-sighted on their part. Wouldn't they scan for a defense
      system? Or did they just assume a prison colony would be completely open for
      any ship to glide in and take prisoners away?

      There's also the unabashed melodrama. There's a scene where Jessa is being
      hauled off by the warden's evil robots. One robot throws her over its
      shoulder as she kicks and screams and her glasses fall off. There's actually
      a close-up of the glasses lying on the ground, and the boot of one of the
      bad guys lowers into the frame and crushes them. Yes.

      We also have a scene where Jessa is tortured. Nothing like a little torture
      on a teenage girl to incite a reaction in the audience ... except that it's
      so weakly depicted that it inspires laughter instead of outrage.

      Meanwhile, it's revealed that Kae-Lee and Jessa are sisters, a point which
      is apparently supposed to challenge the assumption that criminal behavior is
      inherited -- but a connection that is hazily established at best. It's more
      likely that these two characters are related so we can get a "moving"
      deathbed scene after Kae-Lee gets her neck snapped by the warden as Jessa
      looks on in horror. Kae-Lee's dialog as she dies is right off the shelf.

      The ways in which the show's crises are resolved are laughable, reducing
      what's supposed to be a huge prison system to a single control room that can
      evidently operate the universe. Rommie is able to blow up the robot warden
      with these controls (apparently by turning the oven dial to "preheat to 450
      degrees"), and then Dylan is able to disable the prison defense system by
      pressing a few buttons (talk about lethal suspense).

      The ending is an oversimplistic non-ending that resolves nothing brought up
      in the course of the episode's half-baked discussion. Are we supposed to
      believe for one second that with the robotic warden destroyed everything in
      the prison will be magically changed for the better? Jessa talks of turning
      the prison colony into a "re-education facility" that will actually live up
      to the euphemism that such prisons are given. How does she intend to do
      this? Are we to believe that all the other savages in the prison will go
      along? Or that the whole prison is run by this one warden, whose absence now
      that he's dead will permit an era of peace? Please. If it's this easy, the
      prisoners should've revolted decades or centuries ago.

      As for the notion that Jessa's going to turn down a chance to travel the
      stars on the Andromeda in order to stay in prison ... well, I'm speechless.

      Often when I award an episode a really low rating, I'm incited by feelings
      of annoyance, resulting in an angrier-sounding review. That's not so much
      the case here. "A Rose in the Ashes" is bad -- poorly thought-out and poorly
      executed -- but in a much more vapid and empty way. It's so mediocre as a
      loser episode that I'm not wishing I forgot it happened, because I basically
      already have.

      Upcoming: Reruns for some time, starting with the series premiere, "Under
      the Night."

      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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