Andromeda: A Review
For those of you unfamiliar with the Show, "Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda" has a lot of exceptionally familiar elements. The broad underlying theme is pretty palatable, 300 years before, there was a grand federa...er...Commonwealth (not unlike Massachusetts or Virginia) that fell when one of its member species, the Nietzcheans, staged a bloody betrayal. During the beginning skirmishes of the war, the Andromeda Ascendant , led by Captain Dylan Hunt (Kevin Sorbo) was attacked by the Nietzscheans, basically got his ass kicked and, after evacuating ship, snuck the Andromeda into the outer reaches of a black hole, hiding himself from the Nietzschean onslaught, ostensibly to keep the Nietzscheans from taking and using the ship against the Commonwealth.
In the Black Hole, time dilates, so to Dylan only a small amount of time has gone by for him while the universe at large gets more chaotic and is reduced to a less ordered, and considerably more dangerous, place. With no one dominating force and the Nietzscheans themselves reduced to intra-pride (as their tribal elements are called) warfare and fighting. In this time, a ship, the Eureka Maru, with her captain Beka Valentine and assorted crew are hired to tow the Andromeda from the Black Hole from which it is stuck. The assumption being, I suppose, that it was dead in space as it had not pulled itself out and, in the post commonwealth world, is a valuable and powerful ship to own.
Hilarity ensues, of course, with the end result being Dylan asking the crew of the Maru to join him in his quest to restore the grand systems commonwealth in all of its justice, fairness and glory. They agree as they figure living on a beautiful ship is more likely to work out for them them living in squalor doing tow jobs, oh, and this commonwealth thing sounds fine too.
It's actually not a bad premise for a show, you have the broad story arc, the plucky and clever crew and a tense universe to fly around in. And to give the producers of the show credit, the universe they created is not the buffed, dusted, windexed and polished one of the Star Trek universe, although they are clearly closely related. (The Andromeda is always very clean, but I digress). The Andromeda universe has one particularly grisly race in it, the Magog. The Magog are a basically very disgusting race which attack by swarming and overtaking any resistance, then, after subduing their foe, using them as nests for their eggs, in a very "Alien" type fashion. They are pretty nasty though.
Andromeda has come under fire, rightly so, for being derivative, "Star-Trek Lite", as it were. I agree with this, as Andromeda clearly has its derivative parts. Where Star Trek has the Federation, Andromeda has the Systems Commonwealth. Where star Trek had Warp Drive, Andromeda has the Slip Stream. And so on...
The question then becomes, are its derivations a problem? I assert that they are not, it's almost as if its creators said "Well, we have to go faster than light, what dopey apparatus shall we use?" , accepting the need for certain concepts to be necessary elements for a science fiction space opera to have.
It should be clear by now that I like Andromeda. Why? It's basically a likeable cast doing interesting things with some pretty okay cgi space battles. In fact, the cast is very strong. I never watched Hercules so I came into it not expecting much from the lead, if anything being surprised at his performance. I mean, we're not talking Sir Lawrence Olivier here, but he's good. You'll recognize his Second-in-command from the short lived second part of Forever Knight, after it had moved to USA, and she's likeable too.
It's worth pointing out that Canada apparently took the lead in the space race, so rah rah to our neighbors to the north! Like many of its syndicated brethren, Andromeda is filmed in Canada using mostly Canadian actors. It's not a criticism at all, but it is funny that the Canadian accent is the one behind each actor.
Andromeda clearly isn't perfect. Whoever was in charge of naming the cast was clearly a mental case. The actors all have names that were thought out way too much: "Trance Gemini", "Seamus Zelazy Harper", "Beka Valentine", "Tyr Anasazi". The names remind me of bad fan fiction. That said, the ship names are pure sci-fi poetry: "Andromeda Ascendant", "Balance of Peace", "Pax Magellanic", "Eureka Maru". So it's a mixed blessing. They are creative people, and sometimes, they get more than enough rope to hang themselves.
There are some very good things about Andromeda. For instance the way they handle the ship's artificial intelligence is hugely entertaining. And the ship itself is vast, with a complement of 4000 when fully staffed (which makes you wonder how a crew of 7 can make it work, but hey! It's all about androids.) You also get a feeling that there is more going on that just that one ship with its one crew, and the larger mission is a compelling one.
Whether or not you watch Andromeda will most likely depend on which episode you enjoy (or are subjected too) the first time. There are some episodes that are frankly embarrassing. Beka, for instance, is the daughter of a (now dead) drug smuggler and addict. So of course she is in danger of becoming one herself and in one episode, it details her descent into addiction and her fast, predictable recovery near the end of the episode. It's a hugely annoying episode which makes you want to stab the thumbs down button on your Tivo. But then there are episodes like the "Mathematics of Tears", in which a sister ship of the Andromeda, the "Pax Magellanic" is discovered, which really make you want to see more.
In fact what drove me to suggest this article was the season finale "...its Hour Come Round At Last". In the grandest tradition of golden era Hollywood serials, it is probably one of the strongest episodes to date, the cast comfortable with their characters and each other. I won't say much about this, but it was very good, and almost horrifying.
If you know me and my taste, you'll know that one of the things I judge sci-fi TV by is the quality of its space battles. Andromeda, well, has them. I'm not going to say that I'm disappointed by them, because I think they rock, and they do, but there is some final editing or gamma trick they aren't making, and it makes the battles look as if someone messed with the contrast or something, but the battles are generally very watchable and fun. That said, whoever came up with the slipstream sequences (while in slipstream, mind you, not the transitions into slipstream, which are bad ass), should be kicked in the stomach. The travel sequences in slipstream are cartoonish at best.
In short, Andromeda is derivative and annoying, but you'll like it despite its faults.