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[ANDR] Jammer's Review: "The Sum of its Parts"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Andromeda s The Sum of its Parts. If you haven t seen the episode yet, beware. In brief: Andromeda to
    Message 1 of 1 , May 11, 2001
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      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Andromeda's "The
      Sum of its Parts." If you haven't seen the episode yet, beware.


      In brief: Andromeda to Star Trek: "Resistance is futile. Your storyline
      will adapt to service us."

      Plot description: An artificial intelligence that forms itself from many
      smaller computerized entities makes contact with the Andromeda but finds
      that it does not want to dismantle itself once it has experienced being
      alive.

      -----
      Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda: "The Sum of its Parts"

      Airdate: 2/26/2001 (USA week-of)
      Teleplay by Steven Barnes
      Story by Celeste Chan Wolfe
      Directed by David Winning

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: **

      "In my experience, Devils very rarely wear horns and carry pitchforks." --
      Tyr
      -----

      I almost hate to say it, but sometimes it can be pretty hard to take
      Andromeda seriously. I suppose it's a good thing that "The Sum of its
      Parts" has a science-fiction ring to it, but it's not at all good that
      just about everything contained in the story is glaringly derivative. Do
      the writers think they're telling a remotely original story? I hope not.

      What might have been interesting in a parallel universe where I'd never
      seen Star Trek is what the Andromeda encounters here -- a culture of
      machines calling itself the "Consensus of Parts." They look like scrap
      metal floating dead in space but exist as independently intelligent
      components; when they come together, they can form a powerful
      consciousness. As rip-offs go, this is about as blatantly close to the
      Borg you can get without actually inserting the line "resistance is
      futile" (though it nearly comes to that before it's over, with a
      collective-like voice stating its intentions).

      Dylan and his crew first encounter the Consensus through an
      ambassador-like scout machine, which assembles itself on cue and is called
      HG (Matt Smith). As special-effects creatures go, HG is another in an
      unfortunately long line of Andromeda creations that seem oddly dated and
      clunky, looking too obviously like a guy in a suit rather than a
      convincing sci-fi presence. HG has an androgynous persona and an innocent
      voice, undoubtedly so the crew will not perceive him as a threat.

      HG invites Dylan & Co. to the Consensus' domain of space, where it is
      hoped a mutual understanding between the Consensus and the would-be
      Commonwealth can be struck. Dylan, of course, dares to deal with the
      Consensus even though it is widely known that avoiding them is generally
      the best course of action. Dylan's quest to make friendly ties on behalf
      of a new Commonwealth resides on one side of the line separating "brave"
      and "stupid"; the jury's still out on which side of the line that is.

      While interacting with the Andromeda crew, HG begins developing a fully
      sentient consciousness and expresses an interest in a continued existence.
      In short, HG has become alive and aware, and does not want to dismantle
      himself, something he begins to understand as death. Helping HG through
      this journey of existence is Trance, who plays cute and emotive to the
      hilt here, with sometimes annoying results.

      I for one don't need every emotion cued for me; I'd rather think about an
      argument on its merits than be spoon-fed my predetermined emotional
      response. No such luck here, as we have sweet little Trance getting
      misty-eyed while HG talks about his forthcoming death. Matthew McCauley's
      score goes for the jugular -- using excessive sappiness as the assault
      weapon.

      HG is selfless, too. The reason he intends to dismantle himself rather
      than go on living is because the Consensus does not tolerate unified parts
      existing beyond their given function. To do so would apparently invite
      individuality and destructive chaos into the Borg collective -- er, I mean
      Consensus -- and the larger presence of the Consensus will not permit
      that. The Consensus would sooner destroy the Andromeda than allow HG to
      remain intact.

      To complicate matters, we have another assembled Consensus entity, VX
      (Kevin Durand), who comes aboard the Andromeda to personify the Consensus
      threat and, thus, anti-individuality. He's the inverse-HG, with a growling
      voice and a threatening demeanor. As a side-note to up the ante of the
      plot, VX also requests that the Andromeda, as an intelligent machine
      herself, join the Consensus of Parts. No points for guessing VX won't take
      no for an answer.

      Meanwhile, HG goes through on his intent to dismantle himself, in a
      goodbye scene where the entire Andromeda crew sees HG off as he gives them
      parts of himself to remember him by. (No tears allowed.) Strangely, it
      felt almost like the show was ending here, but then it starts up again
      when it turns out HG's independent parts don't take no for an answer and
      implant themselves throughout Andromeda's systems, effectively taking over
      (assimilating?) the ship.

      Once HG merges with Andromeda, parts of the plot feel like a cheesy
      supernatural/possession thriller. Dylan communicates with HG by talking to
      Andromeda. Rommie talks back in a combined HG/Rommie voice. HG, by the
      way, still doesn't mean any harm; he just wants to find a way to exist, if
      he can.

      Of course, we still have the Consensus to deal with, of which HG is
      officially no longer affiliated. In short, if the Consensus cannot have
      the Andromeda, no one will (bwahahaha). Meanwhile, this new HG-Andromeda
      amalgam could be a threat to Consensus interests. This leads to our
      requisite chase scene and weapons fire. The depiction of the Consensus
      space vessel is actually one of the episode's higher points, showing a
      massive ship -- assembled seemingly out of millions of smaller chunks of
      metal -- that dwarfs the Andromeda. Of course, the similarity to the Borg
      concept is still all too evident, and VX's machine-like mandates for
      surrender have that Borg-like ring of an authority that cannot be
      appealed.

      The resolution is mildly interesting, as HG, eventually separated from the
      Andromeda, combines its consciousness with an outcast set of parts to form
      another super robot-vessel that attacks and destroys the Consensus'
      massive spaceship. HG no longer exists as an individual but as a part of a
      new collective that may choose not to employ the oppressive ways of the
      Consensus. That's actually covering a decent amount of ground in the last
      act; thematically, I find myself strongly reminded of the Voyager episode
      "Unity," where former Borg drones willingly reconnected themselves to one
      other.

      Still, I'm left cold by the lack of originality. Once again, we too often
      have ourselves the argument stressing the wonders of individuality
      (HG/humanity) over the collective drone-like consciousness
      (Consensus/Borg). When was the last time this theme was new?

      In my opinion, Andromeda hasn't yet paid its dues in using its own
      material to be going out and plundering the existing sci-fi archive.

      -----
      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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