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07 June 2006
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Review of Andromeda, episode #1x01 and 1x02,
TONIGHT ON ANDROMEDA
Sailing through space, like a dream made of solid steel and glass, the starship Andromeda is the pride of the Commonwealth fleet.
The Captain, Dylan Hunt (Kevin Sorbo), is in charge of an eclectic crew, composed by a multitude of different races. His first officer, Gaheris Rhade (Steve Bacic) is a Nietzschean, a humanoid race and one of the Commonwealth's strongest allies. The ship also has a face to the world outside. A hologram in the shape of a beautiful brunette (Lexa Doig) allowing the crew to communicate directly with the ship (plus it gives them something pleasant to look at while they're in space).
During a routine mission an urgent distress call is received from the other side of the universe. Without giving it a second thought Hunt springs into action. Andromeda jumps into a slipstream (read: Hyperspace), and emerges in the midst of a huge space battle, but something is wrong. When hundreds of ships suddenly turn against them Captain Hunt realises his mistake. This was a trap, and there's no chance in hell Andromeda is going to make it. The Commonwealth has been betrayed by the Nietzscheans!
As the crew evacuates in escape pods, Hunt tries one last desperate thing. In a hopeless effort to prevail he takes the ship towards a nearby black hole, to hide it. That decision will seal his fate.
Then suddenly First Officer Rhade arrives, shoots the pilot, and informs Hunt that the Commonwealth is about to go down. The two once close friends must fight to the bitter end, while the ship draws ever nearer to the black hole. Hunt manages to kill Rhade, but as he kneels next to his dying friend time freezes and everything stops.
In the world outside time passes. Days. Weeks. Years. Then...
The cold void of space lies still, as a ship emerges from the dark. This strange looking tugboat of a rig approaches the black hole cautiously. Commanding the ship is the sultry Captain Beka Valentine (Lisa Ryder). She's joined by her ragtag crew, walking carpet Rev Bem (Brent Stait), all-out genius tech guy Seamus Harper (Gordon Michael Woolvett) and a purple little piece of crumpet know as Trance Gemini (Laura Bertram). They have been hired by the rat-faced Gerentex to find the lost starship of Andromeda that went missing almost 300 years ago. And there it is, still floating on the edge of the event horizon. The legendary ship is unharmed, despite the centuries that have passed since the betrayal by the Nietzscheans.
As Valentine and her crew manage to pull Andromeda lose, time starts again onboard the starship, and captain Hunt comes to life again. It takes the computer a moment to catch up and inform him of their current situation. The shock is unbearable. He never even knew he was gone, and still Hunt has lost everyone he ever knew in a heartbeat. The greatest civilization known to the universe is long gone, and all he's got in this world is a starship. But that's only half of it.
Gerentex is more than aware of the potential of such a powerful and well-kept ship, and he has some plans of his own. He's even brought a pack of Nietzschean mercenaries, led by the stone cold cynical Tyr (Keith Hamilton Cobb), just in case things turn sour. As the scavengers get ready to board Andromeda, Hunt prepares to meet whoever enters his ship without invitation. A confrontation is inevitable.
But Hunt, Valentine and her crew, and the Nietzschean mercenaries don't yet realise they have one thing in common: They are all about to be betrayed. And the only way they can survive is by working together.
LIKE A GREEK GOD
Andromeda's opening credits sequence begins with Kevin Sorbo's voice announcing that "The long night has come. The Systems Commonwealth, the greatest civilization in history, has fallen. Now one ship, one crew, have vowed to drive back the night and rekindle the light of civilization. On the starship Andromeda... hope lives again."
Okay, So let me get this straight: The greatest civilisation EVER has fallen, and you want to save the galaxy with one single ship? Does anybody mind pointing out to this guy that this is a really dumb idea? But aside from that how does Andromeda fare?
Not too bad actually. The worst thing I can say is that the show is a bit uneven. Everything from the sets to the creatures suffers from this. In these two episodes the quality goes from true greatness (ala Farscape) to cheapo sci-fi (like Star Trek Next Generation's first seasons) in a heartbeat, and then back again. And it does so more times than I was looking down Lexa Doig's cleavage. But that's okay. It's only because there's so many good things that I suddenly noticed the bad ones, and let's not forget that the show is only getting started. It needs to have a little time to work out a few bugs.
On the plus side, Andromeda is fast-paced, and you certainly won't get a chance to get bored. It doesn't bother explaining petty little details like who the various races are, what the hell that High Guard thing is all about, or what any of the gadgets do, even as they are being put into use for something important. We're being dropped down into the middle of a conflict already brewing, and all we can do is hang on!
Another thing that struck me is the crew. Usually there's always one of the characters I don't like as much as the others. Not so here. I like all the characters (but especially the chicks), there's some great banter between the crew and I instantly felt like I had know them for years! Only the walking carpet guy is a little distracting. I'm sure that actor is fine, but no amount of acting talent can reach beyond that halloween mask and that suit which looks like it was made of the skin from a pack of dead dogs. Hopefully they'll find some way to get around that in the future, because the character is filled with potential.
I also like that fact that this is not some well-adjusted crew on yet another mission. This random band of folks are gonna have to work very hard to figure out how - or even if - they're going to work together. They're gonna have to make it all up as they go, and we get first row seats to that struggle!
Finally I have to mention the effects. In this age of computer generated everything, the possibilities for a science fiction show are endless, and Andromeda puts the technology to good use with some very respectable effect work. The ship looks gorgeous, and I can see some fantastic space battle awaiting in the horizon. That'd be fun!
Whether you'll like Andromeda will probably hinge on two things. First, just how much of a sci-fi nerd are you? If you ever considered taking Klingon language classes, this show is not for you. You'll most likely be annoyed by the way Andromeda never goes into details or explains how things work: This will give the show plenty of opportunities to pull a rabbit out of a hat. "We need a super-thingy beam to bash that alien ship" "Oh, let's use this panel we've never seen before. It has exactly that feature!" "Goody! Alien ship be gone". Needless to say, you'll pull the hair out of your head wondering why the hell they didn't use that in that episode last season when the ship was almost blown to bits. You're the kind of person who likes things a certain way, and you demand a four inch thick guidebook where all these things are mentioned, and that's okay. Peace be with you. Live long and prosper, and for God's sake don't watch any more Andromeda.
The second thing that might make you hate this show is Captain Dylan Hunt. You have to take a leap of faith and get onboard the crazy plan he has. You also have to accept the fact that he can't see how crazy it is. Hunt's conviction can't be questioned, it's the heart of the show, but Kevin Sorbo walks a fine line between indulgence in his own superiority and genuine passion. He's an easy person to hate, because his character has such confidence in his own abilities, and has such high hopes for his own master plan. I choose to give Sorbo the benefit of the doubt, and give him a chance to prove himself before I dismiss him, but he's on notice. Don't go all Rosanne on this show Kevin. It deserves better.
Bacic stars as First Officer Gaheris Rhade of the Nietzschean race. Bacic quote: Hunt "Are you telling me I can't trust you?" Rhade "No, I'm saying you can't afford to take any chances."
THIS IS THE SHIT (excuse my french)! All hands to battlestations! The crew of Andromeda is running to their assignments and then Steve Bacic steps into the frame. "MOVE IT!"" he yells. Damn, I jumped out of my sofa, saluted and was ready for the next order! What as rush!
Later Bacic gets to kick Kevin Sorbo's ass, and he's the star of the show! How cool is that!? The energetic fight between the two looks like something out of Terminator, crossed with a bit of Matrix (though, keep in mind it's on TV budget). These two guys jump through the air, and run on the walls in a gorgeous choreography. Easily the coolest scene in these two first episodes, and the best action scene I've ever seen Bacic in.
When he's not giver orders or taking charge, he looks confident and smug, which apparently is a permanent state for Nietzschean (think Vulcans without the ears, and a better dress-code. None of those flimsy robes). Apparently they walk around in a constant state of feeling that they know better than everyone else. I'm not sure where the show is heading with them, but God I'm gonna love to hate them!
Bacic is cool, slick and firm. Just plain good. He only manages to survive 17 minutes into the first episode, but he makes one hell of an impression. He will get to visit the show a few times in flashback and alternate reality episodes in the future. But the real commitment will come when the producers realise there's no substitute for the real thing, and conjure up a reincarnation that will allow Bacic to return permanently to the show. A wise decision, though it's a bit odd it will take them so long to wake up.
I remember watching the first episode of "Fastlane" and thinking that the petite little blond Jennifer Sky was absolutely fantastic. And I wasn't the only one. There was a public outcry on the net. Everyone wanted to see more of her. It only took the producers of that show 15 episodes to bring Jennifer back for an equally satisfying turn. And it took them an additional 20 minutes to get her naked again! In other words: listening to the fans is important.
Here's one freshly formed Andromeda fan yelling at the top of his lungs.... MORE BACIC IN ANDROMEDA! I can't believe I have to watch 60 episodes before he becomes a regular. Perhaps it would have been better if Rhade had won that fight on the bridge...
After watching these first two episodes I must admit that I'm very positive. Word is that the show will degenerate down the line, as Kevin Sorbo took over the reins and that may be true. The concept of the show would certainly provide an overzealous producer/star with ample opportunities for self-promotion. On the other hand, most of this bad mouthing might just come from Trekkies who are uncomfortable with a competing Science Fiction show stealing their thunder. Andromeda is not as good as Farscape (few show are), but I'd rather watch this than any of the thousand different incarnations of Star Trek.
By the end of these two episodes Captain Hunt declares his plan to take back control of the universe and restore the Commonwealth. He asks Tyr, Valentine and her crew to join him in his quest and serve aboard Andromeda, thus setting up the main story of the series. Captain Dylan wants to "drive back the night," he says. Great. An insane man at the helm of a powerful starship. Totally ludicrous. Still, it makes for a hell of a concept for a TV show, and it might just be enough to hold my attention. Could it be that Andromeda isn't as bad as I've been led to believe? Perhaps it deserves a chance? Maybe, just maybe, it's got something to offer after all.