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[ANDR] Jammer's Review: "The Pearls That Were His Eyes"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Note: For information about continuing delays in Andromeda reviews, visit http://www.st-hypertext.com. -- Warning: This review contains significant spoilers
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 7, 2001
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      Note: For information about continuing delays in Andromeda reviews, visit

      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Andromeda's "The
      Pearls That Were His Eyes." If you haven't seen the episode yet, beware.

      In brief: Yet another lackluster show that has me thirsting for something

      Plot description: Beka tracks down her late father's business partner and
      learns that he has become the wealthy owner of a corporation that employs
      ethically questionable practices.

      Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda:
      "The Pearls That Were His Eyes"

      Airdate: 1/22/2001 (USA week-of)
      Written by Ethlie Ann Vare
      Directed by David Winning

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: **

      "How much longer until the storm reaches its peak?"
      "I wouldn't crack open any epic novels if I were you."
      -- Dylan and Tyr

      Andromeda is in a rut. It needs to get out soon.

      "Angel Dark, Demon Bright," the last episode I can actually recommend,
      dates back nearly three months. The five episodes since then have been
      pedestrian at best (like last week's "All Great Neptune's Ocean"), and
      rank down to the depths of abysmal ("A Rose in the Ashes"). Now we have
      "The Pearls That Were His Eyes," sort of an "issue episode" about drugs.
      No, wait -- about the evils of economic exploitation. No, wait -- about
      the pains of troubled families. No, wait -- about severe thunderstorms in
      space and deceitful traders. No, wait...

      I'm tired of waiting. Can we please go somewhere? With its premise,
      Andromeda has the potential to unleash all sorts of interesting material
      about societies. Instead of using it, we've been sitting through stories
      where our characters relive the same sci-fi/action conventions we've seen
      on TV forever.

      This week, we get our latest entry to the mind of Beka Valentine, but it's
      unfortunately only marginally better than "The Ties That Blind." There's
      some potential meat here, but it's sabotaged by a plot that's a cross
      between All Over the Place and Been There, Done That, with characters
      whose hidden agendas are way too transparent.

      We're introduced to "Uncle Sid," played by familiar face John de Lancie.
      Sid was Beka's late father's business partner, and at the episode's outset
      it appears he's in trouble: Beka receives an urgent message from him
      asking for her help. Unfortunately, the message is three years old; any
      such help might very well be moot.

      Nonetheless, Beka embarks on a mission in the Maru to track down Sid's
      last known location. Trance tags along to occasionally provide the comic
      relief, for once proving that she does not always have to be Sixth Sense
      Trance, but still proving that the character has a ways to go to be

      Beka tracks Sid to a world and learns that he has become "Sam Profit," a
      self-made billionaire who amassed his fortune in ways that we quickly
      begin to suspect were shady, if not flat-out illegal. The situation of Sid
      being rich is in itself an irony to Beka; considering he used to be an
      independent businessman -- one of "the little guys" -- it seems odd that
      he now runs a segment of Big Corporation that makes its money at the
      expense of the average Joe trying to scrape by and make a living. Once
      upon a time, Beka's father and Sid *were* the average Joe.

      Unfortunately, "Pearls" takes this framework and turns it into a
      completely obvious and derivative story. We know almost instantly that Sid
      is hiding something, we question his sincerity toward Beka, and we know
      that when he asks her for some mysterious files of which her father once
      had possession -- which might still be stashed aboard the Maru -- those
      mysterious files are probably going to have sinister implications.

      Beka remains headstrong in her defiance of Sid once his true motives
      become clear. He wants those files, but given her suspicions Beka isn't
      going to be bribed to give them up. Heck, she doesn't even know where the
      files are or what would be contained in them. This leads to a series of
      scenes where Beka is tied up, tortured, and terrorized for the
      information, all while Sid maintains a face with an intriguing balance of
      friendly familiarity and threatening determination to get what he wants.
      De Lancie's composed performance in a transparently written role is
      probably the best thing about the episode.

      The creative level put into the conception of the bad guys looks about as
      low-rent as these things can go. "Henchmen" is a word I typically reserve
      for comic books and silly B movies ... and now for episodes of Andromeda
      with bad guys so lacking in subtlety that they look like they belong in,
      well, a cross between a comic book and a silly B movie. They wear
      sunglasses and dull costumes, constantly toting their guns as if they
      automatically represented badass coolness.

      This plot is set against a B-story in which Andromeda sits idle waiting
      for Beka to return to the ship. Meanwhile, a spatial storm draws closer,
      threatening the Andromeda. To make repairs to prepare for this threat, the
      crew deals with a nearby trader who sells them faulty parts, providing a
      reason for a largely unnecessary filler plot where Dylan captures the
      treacherous merchant to coerce him into making good on his sales. Despite
      the thematic connection of underhanded economic dealings, this B-plot is
      quite simply disposable and mostly just interrupts the flow of the

      Back in the A-story, the lackluster action scenes finally culminate with
      Beka and Trance escaping their confinement via a plan that "works
      perfectly" as a trick set up by Sid. The narrative maneuvering here is a
      slipshod string of events that somehow gets Beka and Trance back aboard
      the Maru, which Sid has craftily locked on autopilot to divert straight
      into a nearby star. Beka finds the missing files in question, which all
      along had been stored inside nanobots in her hair. Yes.

      Turns out Sid had killed people to cover up his drug trade way back when;
      Beka's father had video-recorded the incident and used it to blackmail
      Sid. Sid wants that recording back so it's no longer hanging over his head
      ... especially with his corporation in the delicate process of a
      mega-merger. The way the uneasy ending resolves itself is handled with
      dialog that assumes Beka and Sid can actually believe what the other has
      said, even though trust by now should be the scarcest resource around.

      It's a shame that the plot of "Pearls" can't sustain much genuine
      interest, because there are actually a lot of good lines, like an amusing
      exchange between Beka and Trance: "Trance, when did we leave the
      Andromeda?" "I'd say this makes five days, but sometimes I lose count when
      I'm unconscious." Or the wonderful Tyr-like mention that it might not be
      worthwhile to crack open any epic novels, since a particular wait in
      question might not be so long. Such dialog tips us off that the writer,
      Ethlie Ann Vare, has a good enough idea that her plot is silly enough to
      poke fun at.

      I also thought it was good to get into Beka's head a bit more. The fact
      that her father was a drug addict in addition to a shady businessman gives
      Beka a little extra angst, and Sid forcing her into drug use is an
      appropriately nasty means for torture (although the scene where Beka flips
      out on drugs plays too much like a compromise between over-the-top and
      sincere). There's also the palatable notion that Beka's father, despite
      being an addict and drug runner, had many good qualities as a father that
      Beka fondly remembers -- reminding us that the mistakes of a person's life
      need not define it.

      But the episode can't cut it, because its messages are worn on its sleeve
      (the wealthy being almost automatically dismissed as universally evil) and
      the execution lacks the punch it needs.

      The sooner I get some more involving sci-fi from Andromeda, the better.

      Next week: Another Commonwealth ship is discovered, this one with a
      mysterious secret.

      Copyright 2001 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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