300 years after the fall of the Systems' Commonwealth -- history's greatest civilization -- six (well, seven, if you count the 'droid) unlikely collaborators try to bring it back using an abundance of wit, snark, deviousness, and good old-fashioned gusto. Along the way, they encounter various and sundry allies and predators, drive each other to varying levels of insanity, test the limits of their sometimes flexible moral compasses, and learn that sometimes, nothing beats a great line reading. Welcome to Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda.
I’m sure folks are wondering that very question. Or not. Well, I’ll tell you anyway.
When I first caught "D Minus Zero," the first episode I saw, I was also doing two other things at the same time so I wasn’t really paying attention. I think I actually watched some bits of it that would add up to about 30 minutes of show. (By the way, I’m kicking myself now for not watching more closely, since this is the radiation sickness episode.) But I liked what I actually saw and the show struck me as having potential, so I decided to stick with it.
By midseason, I was hooked and trying to drag other people in. By May, I had the Andromeda All-Pimp All-Stars spreading the word.
1] The writers knew when they started out that they’d have a minimum of two seasons to work with and actually took advantage of it. The continuity is tight and builds on what was shown before it. Foreshadowing abounds. By the time the ship is invaded in the finale, the viewer knows exactly what it means to be overrun by Magog, has seen the evil of the entity before, and realizes that things must be bad if the very scrappy Harper’s paralyzed with terror. You get the feeling that the writers have bibles on their characters and the universe they live in as well as a plan as to where events are going. Unlike some creators (*cough* Chris Carter). By midseason it’s obvious that the creators were writing and directing to play to their actors’ strengths, such as the way they began to take advantage of actor Gordon Michael Woolvett’s line delivery and the way he’s always reacting to whatever’s going on in the room.
2] Speaking of season one’s finale, how everyone reacts is completely built on what was going on during the season. In many cases, they would not have responded to the situation the same way if it had occurred at the beginning of the season. I love character growth.
3] Actions on the show have consequences, which come up later.
4] The salvage crew and Tyr, the mercenary, stay devious, gray, and at times ruthless. From a Roddenberry show? Who would have expected it? They have no urge to be spit-shined High Guard. (Thus avoiding one of Star Trek: Voyager’s biggest mistakes, which was the way the Maquis instantly integrated in with the Starfleet members.) The idealistic, noble Captain Dylan Hunt rubs off on them a bit, but they are no angels, nor do they want to be. And they’re rubbing off on Dylan in return.
5] Deviousness often wins the day.
6] Every member of the crew is a smartass.
7] The show has some sense of subtlety. Like the way it shows you the vast, luxurious, almost Art Nouveau Andromeda Ascendant vs. the grungy, jury-rigged Eureka Maru without comment, letting you see for yourself what went down in flames with the Commonwealth.
8] The women wear close-fitting but practical clothing and boots. Rommie has to show cleavage for a few of her uniforms, but otherwise the women get to look sexy without having to spill out of their outfits. No bimbos here. Beka’s a strong woman who doesn’t take crap from anyone, Rommie has great moments in all three of her incarnations, while even bubbly Trance gets to show depth and even ruthlessness at times.
9] The actors are great and click and spark off one another. I have varying degrees of affection for the whole ensemble, though Harper and Beka are my favorites.
10] As for liking Harper... I have a weak spot for wisecrackers who use humor as a veneer over the ticking time bomb within. The cute youthful thing is a cover over a practical, ruthless streak that displays itself as near sociopathy at times. He has an interesting sibling vibe with Beka.
11] The cast is very pretty except for Rev, who’s enjoyably creepy. More on him in a bit.
12] They worry about and work on getting the money necessary to keep the ship repaired and themselves taken care of. Again, you have to be shocked that this is a Roddenberry production.
13] There's an attention to details that I find very appealing. For one example, it took me the whole season to notice that Harper has a rabbit's foot hanging from his tool belt, but it's a wacky and perfect touch. He also winces every time he slides the plug in or out of the data port socket in his neck. One person on a message board didn't like it that "Fear and Loathing in the Milky Way" featured a few different pronunciations of the name "Hasturi" since he saw it as carelessness. I think it was deliberate, and I appreciate it if it is. The show features various races from various planets, ships, habitats, stations, etc. so of course they wouldn't all use the same pronunciations. In general, Harper has an accent nobody else on the show has, and the Nietzscheans all very carefully enunciate their words (and declaim. They're a race of drama queens. Not that that's a bad thing).
14] The writers killed off Gaheris Rhade, a great character with this incredible spark, in the first hour of the pilot (nooo!) but have had him coming back for some informative flashbacks. His scenes with Dylan have an unbelievable charge of UST to them.
15] The writers have put interesting twists on classic, cliché sci-fi characters:
Captain Dylan Hunt
Cliché: Idealistic, noble captain/hero who’s lost everything he loves.
All of the above applies except that he’s also a smartass and has a lovely streak of deviousness. I get the feeling that he often uses his more mercenary crew as a cover and plays good cop to their bad cops, letting them say and take credit for the devious, snarky things he’s really thinking of. Dylan’s idealism is counterbalanced by the cynicism instilled by his last first officer’s minor and major betrayals, and he’s been learning to be more careful about how and when he goes idealistic. He was a pretty good sport about the prank core reactor breach too even if it did almost give him a heart attack. His authority as captain is undercut by the fact that he was frozen in time for 300 years, which means that the new crew he’s taken on usually knows more about the political, economic, etc. climate of where they are than he does, and his crew--snarky, mercenary civilians all--have no trouble telling him so. Thus, the show has taken the unusual step of making the captain the audience’s surrogate, since he needs to have these things explained to him, just as the viewer does.
Cliché: Synthetic lifeform learning about human experience.
But she’s an AI who’s also a warship, with the crisp military fighter mentality that goes along with it. In addition, Rommie is a tripartite personality, with MotherboardRommie being different from HologramRommie and both of them being very different from AndroidRommie. AndroidRommie has been changing throughout the season, since the new body simulates human emotional and physical reactions, so her POV is veering further and further from that of the other parts of her. Watching Rommie argue amongst herselves can be a kick. She’s in love with her captain, yet the show also gave us an episode showing a warship AI/captain affair that went horribly, tragically wrong, so she’s been backing off. HologramRommie and especially AndroidRommie are also smartasses.
Captain Beka Valentine
Cliché: Not really. I wish there were more female characters like her out there. Closest would be the Alien series’ Ripley.
Smart, tough, snarky, bawdy, caring, mercenary, and confident, Beka has many facets. Attractive instead of pretty, she wears form-fitting but practical clothing and isn’t there to be spilling out of her top. She supports Dylan but sees no problem in challenging him when she thinks he’s being an idiot. She has her human weaknesses, but who doesn’t? Her recent addiction to a performance-enhancing drug started in an effort to keep her word to Dylan.
Cliché: Bubbly, innocent alien with unusual abilities.
But she may be running the crew like puppets on a string for her own mysterious reasons. Watch her expertly play Harper, Dylan, and Tyr during "Angel Dark, Demon Bright." The show hasn't told us yet if she's genuinely bubbly and innocent while guiding the crew in the direction she wants or she's utterly cold and manipulative. You can't help thinking at times that no one could be that clueless.... The way she forced Harper and Gerentex to cease hostilities in "Fear and Loathing in the Milky Way" makes you see that she knows how cute she is and uses it to her advantage. She's also snarky.
Rev Bem (also Red Plague)
Cliché: Monstrous alien with a gentle soul fighting his monstrous urges.
Though part of his monstrousness being that his race eats and lays eggs in its paralyzed prey adds an extra tension to him being on a ship crewed by beings a large part of him sees as food and hosts for his young. (The series hasn’t shown us how Magog implant eggs in the living but helpless host, though Harper has called the Magog "rapists".... By the way, the young eat the host alive for days before ripping or having an adult Magog rip their way out.) The thing with Rev is that, as a Wayist priest, he may often serve as the crew’s conscience, but it doesn’t take that much to snap him into full Magog attack. He also has a creepy tendency to touch crewmembers. A lot. At one point Harper is bound to a med table, more afraid of the Magog than usual, hyperventilating at the sight of him, and Rev comes in close to him and starts to stroke Harper’s hair with his long claws. At another point, Trance snaps awake in med bay and flinches at the sight of his claw stroking her face near her eye. His pep talks to Dylan often include some touching... to make his point? Yeah, sure. Uhm, eek? Dylan once said that Rev must think humans are very ugly, but Rev promptly answered that he finds humans quite attractive. Double eek. He’s also smartassed.
Cliché: Arrogant ultimate warrior.
But his people are so self-preservation minded that he’d rather run if he’s facing a foe or odds he’s not absolutely certain he can defeat. If he can run and shoot said foe in the back at the same time, all the better. Nietzscheans make themselves such fierce fighters to win the favor of a mate and get bragging rights for their DNA, not out of any sense of battle honor. You can only trust Tyr to look out for Tyr, though that has been changing a bit over the course of the first season.... And he’s a smartass.
Seamus Zelazny Harper
Cliché: Snarky engineer/scrappy short guy/sarcastic comic relief whose humor is a veneer over a tragic past/deus ex machina youthful genius/Mr. Exposition. Ticking time bomb?
Also a manic, cynical, morally flexible, cyberpunk geek with a ruthless streak that extends toward anyone he doesn’t consider His Own. His Own is a very small circle... but he’ll sacrifice anything for them. And, of course, he’s a smartass. In some ways this character, the lone member of the crew who came from blighted, war-torn Earth, is used as a living symbol of what was lost when the Commonwealth fell since his sweetness, extreme loyalty, and untutored genius are so counterbalanced by his gleeful ruthlessness and the way that his behavior wavers between being too young and too old.
Viridian5’s Fast and Flippant First Season Andromeda Episode Guide
#101 Under the Night (pilot part 1): We get to see the Andromeda Ascendent’s intended military complement and watch Dylan get betrayed by the last person he expected it from. One black-hole-freezing-him-in-time-for-300-years later, Dylan finds out that the future isn’t what it used to be. It’s das goodbye-bye for the Commonwealth and hello anarchy. Then the Andromeda is invaded by our intrepid band of pirates-- er, our intrepid Eureka Maru salvage crew. Unfortunate for them that they’re not expecting any survivors on board and they have no idea what cargo their employer, Gerentex, brought. And Dylan doesn't take well to being invaded... which is why he threatens Harper with a six foot-long dildo-- er, his force lance. Everybody else he just threatens with good, old-fashioned violence. [longer, more detailed review]
#102 An Affirming Flame (pilot part 2): Dylan wages a cunning one-man guerilla war against the invaders until Gerentex's actions force Tyr and the Maru crew to team up with Dylan. (Then the guerilla war stuff becomes unnecessary. Which is a shame since it's fun watching Dylan crawl through tunnels.) And that’s the way they became the Andromeda Bunch. Dylan wants to recreate the Commonwealth and a rule of law and order, while his new crew, well, they have their own reasons for getting involved. [longer, more detailed review]
#103 To Loose the Fateful Lightning: The one with the genocidal kids. Dylan isn’t as stupid as he seems in this episode. Nobody could be. But it has some important continuity moments as Rommie gets a body and we start to find out why Harper does and should hate the Magog (and we should too), as well as wonder how he can deal with Rev. [longer, more detailed review]
#104 D Minus Zero: When the new crew of, hello, civilians who have never run a warship before end up getting the Andromeda’s ass kicked by a mysterious foe, Dylan rips them all a new one. As they dodge the enemy by hanging out in the relative safety of the corona of a sun to give them time to repair the ship, the radiation begins to take its toll, on one crewmember in particular.... Mutiny starts looking more and more attractive. [longer, more detailed review]
#105 Double Helix: Very important continuity-wise for the Nietzscheans and Tyr, but parts of this drag enough that it’s best as a Fast Forward Special. Good parts with Dylan flashing back to Rhade and engineering a lovely triple cross, and Beka and Harper wondering why they’re making like a nice, inviting target to the Nietzscheans. [longer, more detailed review]
#106 Angel Dark, Demon Bright: A must-see. Time travel, temptations, possibilities of mass murder, necessity, fate, and consequences. And is Trance up to something? A great primer episode for someone interested in who the characters are and the story universe they live in. Hugely important to continuity. Acting, direction, and story click beautifully. Harper’s version of the Battle of Witchhead is nearly worth the price of admission alone. I wonder at possible ulterior motives for putting him in the bright red clown pants, though. [longer, more detailed review]
#107 The Ties That Blind: A first look at Beka’s crooked family. Important to her personal continuity but not very good otherwise. Though Beka looks fine throughout. Harper takes off surfing? (The first ep where a crewmember disappears. At least they gave a reason here, as weird as it is.) [longer, more detailed review]
#108 The Banks of the Lethe: The plot with Dylan managing to contact his fiancée back through time is kind of mushy and thus not my thing, but Harper and the Perseids trying to create a working transporter and ending up with a time machine is great. Watch various melons messily give their lives for science. Love the moment where a melon explodes and then Harper puts the melon in the transporter. You see, the melon exploded before he actually put that particular melon into the transporter due to time travel. Oh, never mind. Dylan’s reaction to the fruit carnage and the news that Harper expects him to use this machine is priceless. Beka has some great moments, and watch for the scene which shows that a lot of Harper's cockiness is fake. (Disappeared crewmember: Trance. No explanation. But one of her plants is an early victim of the transporter and Harper writes her name on one of his melons.) [longer, more detailed review]
#109 A Rose in the Ashes: Yawn. Dylan and Rommie trapped on a prison planet. Memorable mainly for Rommie wearing a sexy outfit while in a cage. But Trance shows some of her weird abilities, and Harper has a great line about prison. [longer, more detailed review]
#110 All Great Neptune’s Ocean: Diplomacy turns deadly as the president of a planet they’re trying to woo into the Commonwealth is murdered, and it looks like Tyr’s the killer. The plot as a whole doesn’t quite work--and it’s Murder, She Wrote... in space--but it’s loaded with wonderful character bits. Dylan wears the ugliest uniform ever, Rommie becomes Martha Stewart on even more crack, Beka is forced to wear a dress, everybody stands and sits and stands, Tyr explains the many ways he would have rather killed the president if he’d actually done it, Harper gives the lung lady and the viewers a lesson on force lances and later confesses, and Dylan and the crew play the chancellor but good. (Disappeared crewmember: Trance. No explanation.) [longer, more detailed review]
#111 The Pearls That Were His Eyes: Beka has a treacherous honorary uncle, and he’s played by John de Lancie. But before she knows he’s treacherous, she and Trance go off to help him, while the boys stay on the ship and try to raise money for new parts through a garage sale. I’m not kidding. <g> Everybody’s great here. Dylan gets rooked but gets even, Beka and Trance live the high life for a while, Tyr gets worried, Harper asks you to leave your message after the beep, Rev gets to intimidate someone, Beka gets Flash, Trance uses her tail as well as her talents, and John de Lancie’s Uncle Sid lives to be evil another day. [longer, more detailed review]
#112 The Mathematics of Tears: Our crew finds another High Guard warship, the Pax Magellanic, but something’s rotten with the Flying Dutchman. Some of the bits with Jill drag, but this episode is mostly a lot of fun. Androids gone amuck, things you shouldn’t do with welding torches, fight scenes scored to Wagner, fun with the Magellanic avatar(s), Beka getting a case of hives from all the spit-shining and brown-nosing.... (Disappeared crewmember: Trance, but to see the Mandelbrots spawn, and her absence is the engine that leads to some great banter, Beka defending her crew, Dylan reminding himself that his crew is not High Guard, and Beka offering up the coordinates to the Pax.) [longer, more detailed review]
#113 Music of a Distant Drum: Tyr loses his memory but gains Drago’s bones, an appreciation for some humans, and the enmity of the whole Drago-Kazov Pride. Not really my thing. We find out that Nietzscheans’ bioengineered immune systems include internal defense nanobots, and Tyr has some moments of empathy, which is definite character evolution. Beka recounting her Round Table dream is a kick. (Disappeared crewmembers: Trance, Rev, and Harper.) [longer, more detailed review]
#114 Harper 2.0: After being attacked by a Perseid, Harper’s suddenly afflicted with nightmares, multilingualism, splitting headaches, a terror of Rev Bem, and an excess of tech inspiration. Even more unfortunately, a bounty hunter is after what the Perseid gave Harper, and he’ll take it if he has to rip out Harper’s cranial database to do it. One of my favorite eps of the season. Everybody’s on here. But Harper’s the focus, and I’m still stunned by actor Gordon Michael Woolvett’s performance. How can anybody talk that fast, let alone in technobabble and seven or more different languages? Then there’s that martial arts move he does.... Though I'm still reeling that the writers had a straight-faced Rommie call him a "cunning linguist," and Harper answer, "Love speaks in all tongues, baby." A friend in the know says that the spoken and closed caption Gaelic in this episode was correct. [longer, more detailed review]
#115 Forced Perspective: Dylan is captured and about to be executed for a crime he supposedly committed 300 years before. I fast forward through everything that isn’t a flashback with Rhade in it. [One of the All-Pimp All-Stars protests, "No, no, don't forward through Dylan-torture! He's so lovely when he suffers!" Well, he is nicely smart-assed.] Important episode because it shows some of Dylan’s black ops experience and tells how Dylan became captain of the Andromeda Ascendant. (Disappeared crewmembers: Rev and Harper, though they're explained away as being on a separate parts-finding mission. How many days do you think Harper could bear Rev's Wayist philosophy in a small, enclosed space before wanting to put a bullet in his brain? But where is Rommie? No explanation there.) [longer, more detailed review]
#116 The Sum of Its Parts: An emissary from the Consensus of Parts brings a load of trouble with him, and it’s not all from the direction the crew expected. Another great ensemble show. Lexa Doig as Rommie is especially good. Watching even Dylan be nauseated by how sweet and innocent HG is makes for good eating. Harper ruthlessness always makes me happy, so the decision on whether or not to "let slip the nanobots of war" is sheer viewing pleasure. (Disappeared crewmember: Rev. No explanation.) [longer, more detailed review]
#117 Fear and Loathing in the Milky Way: And speaking of Harper ruthlessness, we have this ep, in which Harper and Trance are forced to help Gerentex in his quest to get Hasturi’s diary. Harper is devious, gleefully mercenary, and nearly sociopathic at points as his genial mask slips to show glimpses of what he had to be to survive on Earth, and only Trance’s presence keeps him from doing some Very Bad Things. ::purr:: But even with (especially with?) the threats of murder and torture, "Fear and Loathing" is a good time and, believe it or not, funny in many places. Great dialogue, and Gerentex has a kind of Roddy McDowall vibe going on. Trance has a great bit where she uses a nonstandard method of forcing Harper and Gerentex to stop trying to kill one another. Deviousness even wins the day in the Dylan and Beka plot B. (Valentinology works.) Plot B feels like a tacked-on afterthought, though. (Disappeared crewmember: Rev. No explanation.) [longer, more detailed review]
#118 The Devil Take the Hindmost: Things go terribly wrong on a mission of mercy to save a group of colonists from slavers. Continuity-wise, this episode is very important for what it reveals about The Way, the Magog, and Rev, but it’s hard to watch because you know things will end tragically. Rev has some especially creepy moments here. Beka makes a nice move in plot B. (Disappeared crewmembers: Trance and Harper, though we get a line of his disembodied voice. It kills me that this episode left him out, because you know he’d have something to say regarding Dylan’s decision regarding the Magog. Hey, that’s probably why they left him out.) [longer, more detailed review]
#119 The Honey Offering: Is the Nietzschean bride-to-be the Andromeda is ferrying to her wedding/alliance more trouble than she’s worth? Some great moments from our cast, and Elssbett verbally ripping into them one at a time and as a group can be pretty funny. Beka's opportunism makes me very happy. "Oh, why hide it?" Devious Dylan makes a welcome appearance. And the very phallic look of the force lance may have contributed to a decision Dylan made. I’m not saying any more. [longer, more detailed review]
#120 Star-Crossed: As the Andromeda faces another High Guard warship, AndroidRommie falls in love. The rest of Rommie, disgusted by "lovesick schoolgirl" behavior, washes her hands (so to speak) of the affair. Another great performance by Lexa Doig as Rommie, who’s puppyish and innocent yet awkward and machine-like all at the same time. Too bad Michael Shanks is petrified wood as Gabriel, though he's fun as the Balance of Judgement. You know the soppy love affair will end badly, so that and Shanks as a redwood can be painful to watch, which is a shame, since this episode has several lovely scenes otherwise. Harper and Trance doing an enthusiastic rendition of what sounds like a High Guard fight song starts things off nicely, while Rommie’s horror over finding yet another High Guard warship AI gone insane is well played. Plot point alert on the firewalls Harper installs so AndroidRommie’s love affair doesn’t distract the part of the AI that’s still running the ship. Beka prodding AndroidRommie for details while fondling a phallic tool gets a smile from me every time. [long and detailed review]
#121 It Makes A Lovely Light: Beka’s willingness to do anything to get them to Tarn-Vedra, Dylan’s lost homeworld, looks like it’s going to get them all killed. This is a great one; kudos to everybody. The ensemble is top-notch, and there’s not a wasted moment in here. The surprise party, especially with what precedes it, has to be one of my favorite sequences. The light-heartedness and feeling of family at the beginning give greater emphasis to the darkness when it comes. Watching Beka rip into Harper, watching her fall to pieces.... [longer, more detailed review]
#122 Its Hour Come Round at Last: When a long-forgotten backup copy of Rommie takes over control and sends the ship on a deadly mission, the crew has to try to survive her assaults as well as the invaders'. Talk about ending the season with a bang. This is what it was all working up to, and the characters behave in ways they wouldn’t have if this situation had taken place at the beginning of the season. Damn, what a rollercoaster. [longer, more detailed review]
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