[ANDR] Jammer's Review: "The Pearls That Were His Eyes"
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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
Copyright 2001 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.
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Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...