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[ANDR] Jammer's Review: "The Ties That Blind"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Andromeda s The Ties That Blind. If you haven t seen the episode yet, beware. In brief: Unremarkable,
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 28, 2000
      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Andromeda's "The Ties
      That Blind." If you haven't seen the episode yet, beware.

      In brief: Unremarkable, with lots of standard-issue twists and turns but not
      much genuine involvement.

      Plot description: Beka is reunited with her troublesome brother, who
      maintains suspicious ties amid conflicting philosophical groups.

      Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda: "The Ties That Blind"

      Airdate: 11/13/2000 (USA week-of)
      Teleplay by Ethlie Ann Vare
      Story by Ashley Edward Miller & Zack Stentz
      Directed by David Warry-Smith

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: **

      "Save the sophistry for Dylan; I don't have the time." -- Tyr to Rev

      Here's a story that's in love with cons and audience deception, but it's
      lacking the urgency and conviction that any of the parties involved really
      have much at stake. I guess it ultimately comes down to story execution. If
      we believe, for example, that Beka is going to blow up her own brother, and
      we care whether she does or doesn't, then we might have something here. If
      we don't, then we don't.

      One problem with "The Ties That Blind" is that it feels oddly disconnected,
      as if made up of a bunch of randomly invented parts that don't really mean
      much of anything to anybody. There are a few groups that get new focus in
      this episode, but who are they and why should we care about them? The
      episode throws us a lot of agendas and people working for people, hoping
      that some of it will stick as interesting espionage/political storytelling.
      I dunno -- we don't really learn much about any of what's going on. The plot
      doesn't play like it actually matters (as with, say, political maneuvering
      on DS9); it plays more like a labyrinthine MacGuffin taking the back seat to
      a storyline about Beka's estranged brother.

      His name is Rafe Valentine (Cameron Daddo), renowned for his self-serving
      trickery and casual indifference to anything that doesn't benefit him
      directly. He's the type of guy who, when he says he has become a Wayist
      monk, prompts Beka to laugh in his face with incredulity.

      Family friction is of course a backstory cliche. Families that get along
      aren't very interesting as story subjects, so we get siblings who are
      simultaneously quasi-allies and quasi-competitors -- with the underlying
      notion that Beka thinks Rafe needs to grow up and do something worthwhile
      with his life instead of living from one score to the next. It's not bad,
      but it's not original either. And it's not all that interesting.

      The real question posed here, I suppose, is who Rafe is working for. The
      plot involves the Wayists, the same religious group that Rev Bem subscribes
      to. It also involves the Resters -- short for Restorians -- an extremist
      group that is anti-space travel and believes the galaxy would best be served
      if worlds were isolated. Then there's the Free Trade Alliance (FTA), a body
      more open to interplanetary commerce and interaction. The Resters would like
      nothing better than to undermine the FTA whenever possible. Rafe apparently
      is a recently converted Wayist. Is he working for the Resters, the FTA,
      both, or neither? It is typical of the story's affinity for cons that it
      supposes Rafe in each of the four above possibilities at one point or

      There's another Wayist here named Vikram Singh Khalsa (Brian George), who is
      injured and may or may not be what he seems. Is Rafe initially in cahoots
      with him before being double-crossed, or is he playing the whole game by
      himself? It's perhaps a telling sign that, after two viewings, I'm still not
      completely sure. For that matter, how are the Wayists (whom Rev secretly
      contacts at the show's outset) directly connected into all of this? I'm not
      inspired to watch the show again to find out, seeing as the story places so
      little importance on these sort of connections anyway.

      Sing Khalsa is *really* not what he seems; he's not only a Rester saboteur
      but also a hollow shell full of nanobots, which exit his body through his
      mouth in a special effect reminiscent of "The Green Mile." These nanobots
      infect the Andromeda's computer system and disable the ship, leaving it
      vulnerable to a Rester attack, and also causing the internal defense system
      to go haywire and start shooting at Our Heroes. Yawn.

      This leads to a rather inept action premise where Tyr and Trance go running
      through the ship in slow-motion. It's depressing how much the show makes of
      two characters outrunning exploding sparks -- especially since we never
      believe for a moment they're in any real danger. This "action" is
      meaningless; it doesn't advance the story in any meaningful way and exists
      merely to fill screen time -- and not entertainingly at that.

      If there's a core to the episode, it's in Beka's search to find her
      brother's true motives. This is documented with plenty of sneaking around
      and dialog, but I should probably point out that I'm beginning to wonder
      whether making Beka a wisecracking smart-ass is a good idea. The character
      has shown that she's smart and experienced, but Beka's characterization
      evokes a loose-cannon tendency (replete with sub-par one-liners) that too
      often makes me forget I'm watching an experienced freighter captain and
      instead watching an over-scripted character trying to fit into some
      predetermined mold for the wannabe hip. Still, though some of this is
      needlessly forced, some of it is okay. I did like the idea of the Beka/Rafe
      rivalry put in the terms "Valentine Smart" and "Valentine Smarter."

      The big con in the episode is simultaneously on the bad guys (the Resters,
      that is) and the audience. Dylan and the Valentines con the Resters into
      taking missile launch codes that have been infected with a virus. So when
      the Resters launch missiles at the Andromeda, they turn around and blow up
      the Resters instead.

      Unfortunately, the show is too labored an effort in getting here -- heavy on
      exposition -- and I never really cared about Rafe. And for those keeping
      count, this is already the fourth time that Captain Hunt has had control of
      his ship taken from him by outside forces. Not a great track record, that.
      The con games are the sort of thing that may have seemed clever on the page,
      but on the screen it plays too awkwardly. Indeed, what works best are the
      scenes that have little to do with the plot, like Tyr's rant against Dylan's
      trusting nature, or a tense confrontation between Rev and Tyr.

      It would also seem the mystery of the ominous bad guys in "D Minus Zero" has
      been unveiled as the Resters. Unfortunately, it was more interesting when it
      was still a mystery (and besides, why would an extremist terrorist group
      value anonymity so much?). Here lies an episode that is a remarkably ho-hum

      Next week: It's time for time travel ... again?

      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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