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07 June 2006
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Review of Andromeda, episode #1x05, "Double Helix"
by David Bjerre, November 2005
“I’m here to make peace with the Nietzscheans, but inside me I want to kill every single one of them!” Captain Hunt
Five episodes into the first season of "Andromeda" and the show still hasn't turned into the steaming pile of crap I was led to believe it was, but by now the pitfalls are beginning to show.
The plots need to be stronger. Too often they resemble something you might find in a Sunday morning cartoon. There's too much room for the show's lead Kevin Sorbo. His opinions and his ideas are the focus. And there's not enough focus on the Dylan's mission. He keeps saying that he wants to save the galaxy, but unless he stumbles over a conflict that serves this purpose he doesn't really do much.
Like I said, these are the pitfalls and they are obvious. All the show needs to do is avoid them.
TONIGHT ON ANDROMEDA
Travelling through the galaxy the Andromeda comes across a band of Nietzschean pirates who have settled on a meteor, protected by a powerful plasma cannon. For decades they have been at war with the Than race (Big bugs. Huge actually), and when the Andromeda arrives the two races are actually in the middle of yet another space battle. Suddenly one of the Than ships are shot down, and Captain Hunt decides to step in and save the distraught pilot, thereby throwing the ship into the conflict.
Communication is established with the Nietzscheans, who invite the captain down to negotiate a truce. Knowing that this is most likely a trap Tyr offers to go instead. He meets with the Nietzschean pirates, and much to his surprise they offer him to join their collective. He'll get his status back, and he'll even get a wife. The offer is more than a little tempting, it promises everything a Nietzschean dreams of. Forming a family. Carrying on their heritage.
While Tyr is negotiating Dylan struggles with his own demons. The betrayal of his friend Rhade weights heavily on his shoulders, but how can he form a new commonwealth if his nurtures such a hate for the Nietzschean race?
Will Tyr betray his new captain and his new ship, in favor of a new live with his kinsmen? And will Dylan be able to looks past the betrayal that put him on this new course?
ONE SHIP ONE CAPTAIN
After an unfunny scene (it tries too hard) where Andromeda's personified image Rommie questions Harper about his choices when he created her body, this episode throws our heroes right into the middle of yet another potentially lethal conflict. Once again Dylan recklessly puts the ship and the crew in harms way because of his blind idealism. If he keeps this up, he’ll get everybody killed many times over before we get to the end of the first season. But of course it makes for some good drama, so I guess it's okay.
It's important for an ensemble show to give each character its own story every now and then, where their unique problems and their individual backgrounds come into play. This episode splits its focus between Tyr, whose character is given some much needed fill, and Dylan, who must come to terms with the turn of events that brought him here.
Tyr is obviously the odd man out. He's expendable, he's not an integrated part of the crew and he constantly rubs up against the captain. At the end of the day, when the work is done and the crew return to their quarters, Tyr and Hunt will NOT see eye to eye. They have some fundamental issues with each other, which is exactly why he's so important to the show.
With this episode Tyr comes into full bloom. Actor Keith Hamilton Cobb gets a chance to add layers to his character, which he obviously relishes. Tyr gets to show that he's not just a hollow shell, he gets laid and he even gets to laugh! Who knew he had it in him?
As for Dylan, this is the first time he beats himself up about what happened in the pilot episode. His frustration over his own inadequacies plays tricks on his mind and makes him recollect a defining moment in his relationship with Rhade (more on this later). It's good to finally see Dylan doubt himself and his crazy plan. It makes him seem human again. It's a lot easier to accept a man with foolish plan, once you know that he has questioned the plan, and come to the conclusion that he's ready to make the sacrifices necessary to make it work.
Bacic stars as First Officer Gaheris Rhade of the Nietzschean race. Bacic quote: ”There is no magic. Only science you don’t understand.”
Bacic returns to the show for one single, but very poignant, flashback scene. During a game of Go Rhade and Hunt share their philosophies concerning love and life. It's a beautifully constructed scene. On the surface all we see is two friends playing a game, but below the surface the scene deatails the inherent differences between human and Nietzschean, and hint at the possibility that these two races may never find common ground again.
Rhade speaks openly of his races' beliefs and his own philosophy. If Hunt had listened back then, he would have realised that his friend was trying to warn him. Basically he says that some day the Nietzscheans will betray the Commonwealth, and Rhade will have no qualms about it.
Bacic plays the scene to absolute perfection. With a simple nod of the head, or a slight curl of his lips, he conveys his character's hidden motives. This is truly a case of less is more. His face reveals little as he guides Hunt, like a dog would guide a blind man, through his belief system. It's just plain chilling to watch, especially with 20-20 hindsight. Rhade is just too calm and too calculated, and Hunt should have picked up on this.
The scene ends with this exchange, which - more that anything - defines the Nietzschean spirit. First, Dylan notices one of his pieces are missing...
Dylan: "What happened to my 5D4?"
Rhade: "You had no piece there."
Dylan: "Yes. I did. Unless you cheated."
Rhade: "What do you mean?"
Dylan opens Rhade's hand to find a piece hidden there.
Rhade: "It's only cheating if you get caught."
Dylan: "Three years we've been playing this game. Have you always been cheating?"
Rhade: "Haven't you?"
Dylan: "Why would I cheat?"
Rhade: "The same reason I do. So that you can win."
The Nietzscheans used the same tactics on the Commonwealth, and it's a beautiful idea to play a dress rehearsal for the big war via a simple board game. The scene lasts only 4 minutes, but it fuels Hunt's motives for the remainder of the episode. It's a brief but confident return for Steve Bacic, and probably one of the reasons the producers kept calling him back.
This is definitely the most grown-up episode so far. It manages to deliver some much-needed characterisation to two of the shows stars, and cooks up some real drama. The reason it works so well is that it doesn't fake it. I was genuinely in doubt about what Tyr would do to the very end, at this point in "Andromeda" everything could happen, and this episode uses that fact to great effect.
Beka Valentine is still only window dressing. The series needs to build her up, and soon, or she'll lose all credibility. Also, there should be more with the purple crumpet. More scenes and more nakedness. Actually that's not really a requirement, more like a wish. But aside from that "Andromeda" is doing just fine.