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[ANDR] Jammer's Review: "It Makes a Lovely Light"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Andromeda s It Makes a Lovely Light. If you haven t seen the episode yet, beware. In brief: Some
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 6, 2001
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      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Andromeda's "It
      Makes a Lovely Light." If you haven't seen the episode yet, beware.


      In brief: Some welcome character conflict of both the external and
      internal varieties.

      Plot description: Beka's attempts to pilot the Andromeda to the lost
      Commonwealth homeworld of Taran Vedra are complicated by a dangerous
      addiction.

      -----
      Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda: "It Makes a Lovely Light"

      Airdate: 5/7/2001 (USA week-of)
      Written by Ethlie Ann Vare
      Directed by Michael Robison

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: ***

      "No one's reached Taran Vedra in 300 years, and better pilots than you
      have died trying."
      "There are no better pilots than me."
      -- Tyr and Beka
      -----

      And here we have it -- the classic television bottle show, an episode that
      features no guest stars, no new sets, no location shooting. It's just our
      characters cooped up on board the Andromeda Ascendant, forced to interact.
      And interact they do, making "It Makes a Lovely Light" one of the better
      efforts this season.

      This episode displays what I would like to see more of on this show:
      tougher personal problems, characters in conflict with each other, at
      least one character in conflict with herself. I'm certainly not sold on
      Andromeda as a series yet, but if the writers are willing to take their
      characters down roads this perilous, I'll remain interested.

      "It Makes a Lovely Light" is the third and best of what has been called
      staff writer Ethlie Ann Vare's "Beka trilogy." The other two were the
      convoluted "Ties That Blind" and the pedestrian "Pearls That Were His
      Eyes." While I could not recommend either of those shows, the good news is
      that they at least painted aspects of Beka in a way that leads logically
      to this installment, which works precisely because it remains focused
      rather than throwing in unnecessary plot elements, characters, or action.

      The Continuity Patrol must report that this show takes the mysterious
      Perseid diary that Harper and Trance acquired in "Fear and Loathing in the
      Milky Way" and actually uses it as a piece of the puzzle. That puzzle is
      the search for the lost Commonwealth homeworld Taran Vedra, which common
      knowledge has it was "cut off from slipstream" during the demise of the
      Commonwealth. All the known slipstream routes had been destroyed; the
      diary apparently documents the long and twisted slipstream path to Taran
      Vedra, although cryptic writing and dangerous navigation would make the
      journey a difficult one. Beka, being a headstrong and confident pilot,
      vows to find a way to get Dylan to Taran Vedra. (Dylan was born there, so
      his personal interest in the homeworld gives the episode some good
      emotional motivation.)

      Just in terms of information, "Lovely Light" has some things to recommend.
      For one, it does a good job of showing the rigors of slipstream travel.
      It's a physically exhausting experience for the pilot, and even the
      passengers. Beka makes jump after jump, and by having the camera follow
      her through several of them, we get a better feel of the duration. Even
      Dylan lets out a sigh after all the slipstream travel, and he was just
      standing on the bridge. Trance finds prolonged exposure to slipstream to
      be downright painful (for reasons I leave you to interpret, since they're
      doubtlessly more than just incidental).

      There's also the whole notion of "routes"; slipstream apparently exists in
      the form of abstract tunnels in space; in order to get from A to B, you
      have to take the proper channel, or maze-like series of channels, and if
      you don't you can't get there. This makes the idea of being "cut off from
      slipstream" a little more clear. If the tunnels aren't there or you can't
      find them, you could essentially be isolated in a region of space. This
      appears to be what happened to Taran Vedra during the Commonwealth's
      fall -- although Rev proposes his own theory: "What if the Vedrans cut
      *themselves* off, and what if they don't *want* to be found?"

      As a Beka show, this is a good one, because it reveals some of her human
      faults and the abrasive side of her personality. She's well-intended but
      sometimes takes things too far. Despite being completely worn out from
      slipstream travel, she covers up her fatigue and plans to press on,
      convinced that sheer determination puts her above the risk. She shows an
      earnest need to be respected by Dylan, to give him something personally
      valuable, and to some degree she lets that cloud her judgment.

      So when she's too tired to continue, she doesn't quit and instead turns to
      flash, that addictive upper that apparently also helps turn pilots into
      supermen who can navigate the slipstream all day. We saw flash before in
      "The Pearls That Were His Eyes," where we learned Beka's father was a
      flash addict, and where Beka herself was forced into using it -- although
      I must point out that the addictive consequences we see here were not
      shown through Beka in "Pearls," for whatever reason.

      The substance-abuse commentary is not subtle, but nor does Vare go for
      righteous moral preachiness. No one agrees with Beka's choice to use
      flash. In fact, one of my favorite scenes has a surprised Harper calmly
      and earnestly trying to talk Beka away from a dangerous road of flash
      abuse. This scene is groundbreaking in that it shows Harper acting within
      the range of typical human behavior instead of wisecracking sitcom
      caricature; Gordon Michael Woolvett is more restrained than I've seen him
      all season. The results are good, and I frankly want to see more of this
      Harper and less of the one we usually get. (Further proof that less is
      more.)

      When things aren't going Beka's way, she can turn into a real pain in the
      ass. I liked the conflict between her and Dylan once it became clear that
      Dylan was not prepared to throw caution to the wind and continue a risky
      journey just because Beka was determined to press on. The confrontation on
      the bridge is a workable mix of serious undercurrents and hostile surface
      humor. I enjoyed the snippets of dialog, like when Beka calls Tyr "Uber"
      or Tyr's purely pragmatic stance on the issue of drug abuse. Eventually,
      Beka ends up thrown in a holding cell, which she escapes from after going
      so far as to shoot Rev.

      Yes, there are scenes that don't work, like early in the episode when
      Dylan walks in on Beka after she has just gotten out of the shower. Not
      the most comfortable situation of all time, sure, but from Dylan's
      reaction you'd think he'd never seen a woman wearing a towel before, to
      say nothing of a naked woman. Are we in fifth grade here?

      Also, from a plot standpoint I must wonder: If the ship can be piloted
      through the slipstream from a control panel in the engine room, what
      exactly is the purpose of that elaborate pilot's chair on the bridge?

      Such questions are not of utmost importance in order to admire this
      episode, which manages to use the characters nicely, if still not exactly
      groundbreakingly. Given the severity of Beka's problem I probably could've
      done without the solution resolving itself with her overly familiar
      realization that "I've become my father!" and facing up to long, hard
      looks into a mirror. And given how addictive flash is supposed to be, her
      detox after the crisis ends seems awfully simplified (I personally hope
      Beka's struggle with flash doesn't so easily end here).

      But in this series' freshman season of wandering through space with a
      little too much emphasis on messy surface plots and unnecessary action, a
      perceptive look at how our core characters tick in more of a real-world
      situation is refreshing.

      --
      Next week: "How will anyone survive?!"

      -----
      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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