Never Give Up, Never Surrender
"An Affirming Flame" Plot Summary:
Gerentex orders Tyr Anasazi to kill Dylan Hunt, but the captain escapes from the bridge, devising a series of distractions to divide and subdue the thugs. Rev Bem discovers that Anasazi is a Nietzschean from a destroyed planet who must prove his genetic worth to join a new family. Beka Valentine encounters Hunt for the first time when she bursts in on him planting a bomb in the weapons locker; he smiles and suggests that she duck. She's impressed that he didn't want to hurt her, making Bem wonder whether they're on the wrong side. Anasazi, too, tells Gerentex that Hunt has impressed him with his survival skills and adaptability. After Gemini agrees and tells Gerentex she wants to quit, the vicious mercenary shoots her dead.
Valentine and Hunt both blame themselves for Gemini's death -- the former because she hired and trained the girl, the latter because he couldn't do anything to help her. Harper wants to take revenge on Gerentex by killing him and all his thugs, but Valentine says they have to fight back intelligently. The engineer plugs himself into the Andromeda Ascendant's central computer, saying he'll have the controls in his hands, then is shocked to find himself literally in the hands of the very feminine, very angry, very large Andromeda. "Welcome to my mind. Now go home," she says. "The ship, she's alive and she is ticked off!" Harper warns his colleagues.
Anasazi cannot destroy the computer core, so Gerentex takes the Eureka Maru, abandoning its captain. The mercenary uses the smaller ship to ram the Andromeda Ascendant, pushing it toward the black hole. Anasazi suggests to Valentine that they put themselves in cold storage to survive there, but Hunt overhears their plan and stops them, warning that the fields controlling the cryogenic environment will collapse when the ship falls into the singularity. To everyone's shock, Gemini enters, saying Hunt's ship saved her when everyone else had given up on her. Hunt says he will try to do the same for the rest of them if they will help him launch the Nova bombs secured on all High Guard ships. The bombs could destroy stars, and were never used in combat, but Hunt believes they can reverse the gravitational effects of the black hole.
On the bridge, Valentine takes the role of acting first officer. Anasazi arms the weapons. When the bombs turn the black hole into a white hole, Harper saves himself, Gerentex, and the Eureka Maru by riding the slipstream with the Andromeda Ascendant during its escape from the radioactive shock wave. Hunt agrees to help Valentine recover her ship, joining the struggle when her crew boards to fight off Gerentex's thugs. Hunt won't allow the mercenary to be killed in cold blood, so they abandon him on a life pod, and Valentine retakes her vessel. Since she promised Hunt a favor in compensation for his help, Hunt asks her to give him ten minutes to speak to them before they leave.
Meeting with the salvage crew and Anasazi, the captain announces that life has gotten a lot harder since his time. There is no justice, no unity, no law, yet he wants to change all that. "The Commonwealth wasn't just an institution, it was a dream, and dreams don't die." But he needs help -- he needs a crew. "You're smart, you're capable and you deserve better lives than you've got," Hunt tells them all, even Anasazi, for whose benefit he quotes Nietzche. Surprised when her crew chooses comfortable quarters and the possibility of becoming heroes over their former careers, Valentine says they'll join, on a couple of conditions: "We're not saluting you, and we're not calling you 'Captain.'" Hunt says that Dylan will do just fine.
Part two of the Andromeda pilot moves a lot more quickly than part one, and demonstrates conclusively that this series should have been launched with a two-hour movie. Here at last we get the sort of mission statement that launched Voyager (Janeway's "Somewhere along this journey, we'll find our way home" could apply to Hunt as well). But we also get indications that this show has no intention of taking itself too seriously from moment to moment, as Hunt uses a holographic basketball court to trounce bad guys while Harper promises to take Andromeda in his hands only to end up, literally, in her grasp. That scene, which starts out reminiscent of The Matrix yet ends up resembling a Pentium commercial, is pretty representative of how derivative yet witty the directing can be.
In general, the action had excellent pacing and the characters get more interesting as we get to know them. But I suspect humor will be the saving grace of the series. During the credulity-stretching sequence when star-destroying bombs turn a black hole into a white hole, Harper says he doesn't know what that is, but it doesn't sound good. Hence we're laughing rather than rolling our eyes during the awkward transition before Andromeda slipstreams into scientifically safer territory. Hunt has a few unintentionally humorous lines, like the imperious "This is my operation, we do things my way," but he also makes Hercules-like cracks, muttering about what a long day he's had after the hundreds of years frozen in time.
I think Sorbo's previous series makes a better point of comparison than any of the Trek shows, though Sorbo shows himself to be a master of the Shatner School of Acting ("You...keep...SAYING that!" he blurts at one point). He looks like he was coached by Xena's Renee O'Connor in wielding the phaser-staff or pain-stick or whatever his weapon is called. There's lots of gratuitous violence, some nicely choreographed, most pretty silly, such as the walkover performed by the cyborg assassin as she approaches Hunt -- Darryl Hannah in Blade Runner she's not. Gerentex's bloodless execution of Gemini isn't really upsetting since we know she's a series regular and will come back. It seems contrived just to show us Hunt and Valentine behaving as concerned leaders. Hunt makes clear that no one will be slaughtered on his watch. Hence, most of the brutal "deaths" for cheap thrills victimize cyborgs and robots.
In a role like Babylon 5's Mollari and G'Kar combined, Rev Bem has the deepest character potential. He's extremely disturbed by his race's violence, he prays aloud, yet he uses his unique ability to harm via his bodily fluids to protect his ship-mates. Strong, silent Anasazi projects an effective air of mystery; it's not at all clear why he's working for scum like Gerentex when we meet him, nor what he's seeking by teaming with Hunt. Harper is genuinely funny. Andromeda is striking even if she doesn't seem clever enough to be the artificial intelligence controlling a vessel. I wouldn't have minded if Gemini stayed dead since her only significant attributes seem to be her tail and a propensity for bimboesque dialogue ("Ms. Killer Lady? Ma'am?" she addresses a cyborg). Oh yeah, and she can unexpectedly return from the Great Beyond, but without any insight into life.
I still love Beka Valentine, though I'm sorry she gave up her own ship so easily -- I would like more indication that she's genuinely attracted to Hunt's cause, not just his comfortable vessel and her crew's enthusiasm for it. She holds her own very well with the Commonwealth captain and has nice chemistry with him as well -- particularly during their initial meeting, where his introduction was a warning about the sabotage he'd just committed. The writers did a nice job paralleling her feelings for her crew with Hunt's, indicating that she does share his values on some level even if her life has been a lot harsher to date. It's a good mix; the question is whether the plots of upcoming stories can maintain the balance of action, humor, and pathos Andromeda needs.