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[ANDR] Jammer's Review: "Fear and Loathing in the Milky Way"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Note: Jammer s epsico.com e-mail address has become too unreliable. Effective immediately, please send all e-mail to jammer@st-hypertext.com instead. --
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 30 4:24 PM
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      Note: Jammer's epsico.com e-mail address has become too unreliable.
      Effective immediately, please send all e-mail to jammer@...
      instead.


      --
      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Andromeda's "Fear
      and Loathing in the Milky Way." If you haven't seen the episode yet,
      beware.


      In brief: The characters should either shoot each other and be done with
      it ... or shoot me and put me out of my misery.

      Harper and Trance are forced to work with their shady former business
      partner Gerentex to find a valuable artifact and escape Gerentex's
      creditors.

      -----
      Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda:
      "Fear and Loathing in the Milky Way"

      Airdate: 4/9/2001 (USA week-of)
      Written by Ashley Edward Miller & Zack Stentz
      Directed by David Warry-Smith

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: *1/2

      "Cry me a river and drown in it." -- Harper
      -----

      "Fear and Loathing in the Milky Way" is a tiring overdose in testosterone.
      The plot is a flimsy mess and the characters are only marginally
      represented. Basically, we've got an hour of people pulling guns on other
      people. Eventually we end up with *Trance*, of all people, pulling guns on
      people so they'll stop pulling guns on people. At least someone inside the
      story finally got fed up enough to pull some guns to force an end to all
      the gun-pulling; any longer and I'd have been pulling a gun on my TV set.
      And by the way, I just love the way Andromeda guns make that "charging"
      sound -- like a super-powerful camera flash -- whenever someone points a
      gun at someone else's head. You'd think the guns would already be
      charged/armed considering one is pulled about every 30 seconds, but
      whatever.

      Is this supposed to be funny? While some of it is passable, I'll apply the
      same litmus test here as I did with Voyager's "Q2" (which aired the same
      week), and sum up my judgment by saying this episode certainly isn't funny
      enough to overcome a plot that offers so little of interest.

      Making a return guest appearance is our friend Gerentex (John Tench), the
      scheming Nightsider opportunist from Andromeda's first two episodes. He's
      got a new plan and happens upon Harper and Trance, whom he intends to
      either use or kill. Harper is no happier to see Gerentex than vice-versa;
      he still wants the $84,000 Gerentex owes him. Gerentex doesn't have it.
      Indeed, he doesn't have anything. After his failed attempt to steal the
      Andromeda, he owns nothing but debt, and his creditors aren't very nice
      guys -- they've hired bounty hunters who are prepared to shoot him on
      sight.

      The plot forces Harper and Gerentex together to cooperate (well, not so
      much) after Gerentex boards the Maru and takes Harper and Trance hostage.
      The bounty hunters are then hot on the trail of all of the above. Gerentex
      can't kill Harper or Trance for reasons revealed in dialog as Gerentex
      menacingly points his gun at them about half a dozen times. To shoot or
      not to shoot, that is the question. Gerentex, if summarized as a
      character, would be "the guy who constantly points his gun like an empty
      threat."

      Much of the episode is Trance-Harper-Gerentex dialog, some of it
      reasonable, but a lot of it hurling itself over the precipice of
      self-parody. The writers employ the tactic of using cartoon lines and then
      immediately making fun of them. Example: After Gerentex utters a cornball
      villain threat, Harper asks, "Do you practice those lines in a mirror?"
      It's hard to laugh at something like that when you're still reeling over
      the astonishing cartoonishness of the preceding line. There are also a few
      too many long-winded soliloquies; when dialog sounds written instead of
      said, I find myself taken out of the moment.

      Gerentex's brilliant plan is to acquire information to track down a
      mysterious Perseid diary that supposedly documents the slipstream route to
      the lost capital of the Commonwealth, where great wealth or universal
      rulership apparently awaits whomever finds it. (My question is why the
      people who have this information haven't tracked the diary down
      themselves.) Basically it's an avenue for a poor man's "Indiana Jones"
      adventure. But before we get that, we get a lot of two arch-enemies
      gabbing / arguing / threatening / beating / sneering / blathering /
      double-crossing / gun-pointing. It goes on too long. Truth in journalism
      compels me to say that I did appreciate seeing one thing reinforced about
      Harper -- the fact that he can hold his own and isn't always such a nice
      guy. He might be small and a tech geek, but he's certainly not afraid of
      Gerentex and is quite prepared to kill him if he can ever get untied.
      Harper's speech about growing up on brutal planet Earth shows the tough
      guy in him, although, again, the soliloquy method makes itself too
      evident.

      It would seem Gerentex sees himself as cursed being a Nightsider -- a
      species much disliked through the galaxy -- and he wants to compensate for
      his low social standing by escaping into wealth, which he does not have
      but hopes to acquire once he makes some big scores and settles his debts.
      Too bad any sympathy we might have for him is eroded when he repeatedly
      electroshocks Harper and Trance for the sheer fun of it. It's hard to care
      about someone who moans about being oppressed while walking all over
      others and laughing about it.

      No matter, since the real threat here are the alien bounty hunters. The
      plot takes us through a series of events ranging from a space battle to a
      shootout in a casino (featuring the actually neat visual of a space-casino
      station, complete with huge neon external displays), and Harper getting
      the upper hand and then Gerentex getting the upper hand, until we
      ultimately end up in the caves of the aforementioned "Indiana Jones"
      premise, complete with booby traps.

      As a TV production, "Loathing" is lacking, to put it mildly. The visual
      effects during the space battle are, quite frankly, pathetic (this series
      has done much better) and the editing during this dogfight borders on
      incompetent. Ships move here and there and spin around with no sense of
      style or timing; it looks hastily assembled, and as action it's a dismal
      failure.

      The pursuit through the caves fares worse, until all artifice fails and we
      realize we're regarding actors who look like they're simply running
      aimlessly through cramped sets. The bounty hunters are stiff, laconic,
      monster-like humanoids who look like they were ported in directly from a
      1950s serial. They also carry guns, because everyone in this episode
      carries a gun, which often serves as a substitute for personality.

      "Loathing" also has a forgettable B-story that at times, particularly near
      the end, feels like it was inserted into the episode randomly between
      scenes -- or sometimes *during* scenes. It involves the Perseids, one of
      Dylan's newly joined Commonwealth worlds, now threatening to withdraw.
      This is handled almost like an afterthought. Beka resolves the crisis by
      insulting the Perseids, which is a potentially amusing twist, but hits the
      ground with a "who cares" thud because so little is invested in both the
      setup and resolution. This all should've been more essential, or left out
      entirely.

      I did get at least one good laugh out of this episode, and that involved
      Trance saying she could get away with murder because -- and I quote --
      "I'm cute." I found quite funny her self-impression of how, after killing
      Harper and Gerentex, she would report to Dylan how they killed each other;
      turning on the fake tears is a particularly nice touch. Trance knows that
      her cute naivete can be willfully abused, which is a refreshing
      acknowledgment. Trance is, of course, the character whose main quality is
      that she's not as naive as she makes herself out to be. Here she gets
      Harper and Gerentex to consider civility long enough to escape danger, and
      maybe even long enough to stop hating each other. She does this with her
      typical innocent facade that she obviously uses as a tactical dupe.
      Unfortunately, this doesn't make her simplistic peace-and-love dialog
      sound any more sophisticated.

      By the end, it would seem the point is that Gerentex isn't completely a
      bad guy and Harper isn't completely a good guy. They're simply two
      self-serving people who don't get along. I suppose for Gerentex that can
      be seen as some sort of character development, albeit painfully hammered
      home with Trance's speechmaking. As for the diary, it's all too easily
      reduced to a non-issue. Gerentex just lets Trance and Harper keep it. What
      happened to his motivation? Trance must really be a miracle worker.

      I just have one more miracle to ask of Trance -- that she sweetly convince
      John Tench not to devour the scenery in every scene where he appears as
      Gerentex. One more of his cartoon growls and *I'll* be the one hiring the
      bounty hunters.

      --
      Next week: A Dylan-and-Rev mission, so substantive dialog shall
      undoubtedly abound.

      -----
      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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