"Angel Dark, Demon Bright" Plot Summary:
Anasazi insists that Gemini should learn to pilot through the slipstream, since everyone on the crew should be able to do so. The nervous girl has trouble keeping the ship steady, and when it enters normal space again, the Andromeda Ascendant has reached the Orion arm at the site of the final battle of the Nietzschean rebellion. Harper and Anasazi tell conflicting versions of the legendary conflict, but both agree on a critical point: the Battle of the Witch Head Nebula was disastrous for both sides. Andromeda thinks they must be exaggerating because she can find no wreckage, nor spent warheads. Then another High Guard ship hails, and Hunt realizes they have traveled three hundred years through time, to the days just before the battle.
Though Hunt wonders whether they can save the Commonwealth, Anasazi insists that the alliance is already in tatters. He suggests that if Hunt wants to save lives, the captain would be better off trying to bolster the chances of the Nietzscheans in the battle so they can protect Earth from the Magog who will invade a few months hence. Hunt feels as if a cosmic joke has been played upon him by placing him there, but Rev Bem does not believe it is coincidence that they arrived at this particular moment in history. Rev Bem believes his own people are a bigger threat than the Nietzscheans, but Hunt remembers purges, slavery, and genocide at the hands of the enhanced humans, which bother him as much as the rape-and-slaughter tactics of the Magog. To protect the timeline, Hunt decides they must leave without taking any action.
Andromeda isn't pleased at departing when she knows so many artificial intelligences and their crews will be destroyed. Harper, who grew up on Earth terrorized by Nietzscheans and Magog alike, rejects this non-interference directive and prepares a cataclysmic explosion inside the nebula, which he plans to time to destroy the Nietzchean fleet by using the records in the Eureka Maru's historical database. Gemini catches him and notifies Hunt, who has Andromeda lock Harper in his quarters. Hunt asks the other High Guard captain about his fiancee and ultimately admits the truth about his time travel, asking her to go with them to the future. But a swarm of Nietzschean ships arrive, destroying the Commonwealth vessel. Keeping in mind that the other crew died 300 years in his past, the Andromeda Ascendant prepares to depart, but Rev Bem reports that there are at least 1500 Nietzschean ships approaching -- not the 500 indicated in all historical records.
Hunt realizes that to preserve history, he must order the destruction of a thousand ships -- more than 100,000 Nietzschean individuals. Rev Bem suggests that it may be divine will, but Hunt scoffs at the notion -- he doesn't believe in any God who requires the deaths of tens of thousands of people. "The divine lives here and here," Rev Bem says, touching Hunt's heart and head. Because of his people's brutal manner of existence, the Magog has no trouble embracing a divine power that requires death. Hunt tells Andromeda that he has never believed in fate, he always believed people were responsible for their choices, but he also believes in Occam's Razor, which states that the simplest explanation to a dilemma is the one to pursue. How did a thousand Nietzschean ships disappear? "Get Harper out of his quarters," the captain grates.
Gemini finds Anasazi destroying a piece of equipment on the Maru. She expects him to kill her for correctly surmising that he's planning to warn the Nietzscheans about Harper's device. Warning Anasazi that the Nietzscheans will destroy him and the Maru if he approaches, she suggests that he cannot save his people and himself. Arriving on the bridge as Andromeda engages the Nietzschean fleet, Anasazi admits that his people have a legend about the Battle of Witch Head: the Nietzscheans arrived with overwhelming numbers, but at the critical hour, the Angel of Death appeared, summoning forth the fires of hell. "I've never seen an angel before, he says, looking at Hunt.
Hunt hesitates, then swallows hard and gives the order to deploy the catalyst for the explosion. "One hundred thousand," Anasazi says softly as the Nietzschean ships burn. "We win," says Harper, looking doubtful. The High Guard hails, but Hunt insists on radio silence as he orders Andromeda to enter the slipstream. Behind them, the end of the war begins. Once they return to their point of origin, Hunt visits Anasazi in private to say he wishes there could have been another way. "Guilt is wasted emotion, or so I keep telling myself," says the Nietzschean, who knows he could have sabotaged Andromeda, yet let his need for survival outweigh the fate of his people -- a very Nietzschean thing to do. The captain suggests that on some level, Anasazi knows he did what was necessary. With tears running down his face, Tyr asks, "Dylan, do you really believe that?" Hunt replies, "I have to." On another deck, Gemini prunes a large, healthy chunk off a plant.
I mean it as praise for Andromeda when I say that "Angel Dark, Demon Bright" is a profoundly disturbing episode. Just before he kills 100,000 people, Hunt quotes Hindu scripture with a line made famous by J. Robert Oppenheimer, who headed the project that created the atomic bomb: "I am become Death, destroyer of worlds." Then he starts the holocaust -- literally, obliteration by fire, the Greek term for a burnt offering to the gods.
Rev Bem has already argued that in some cases the gods not only sanction but demand such sacrifices. Despite Anasazi's grief, Nietzscheans still believe that mass slaughter is sometimes necessary; Harper's account of their behavior on Earth makes that clear. Harper believes it too, though he feels no triumph when he watches the horrific results. Gemini, the medical expert, hacks off a branch from a plant (which she has more than once analogized with a person) and says, "That's better." Hunt, who's left to be the conscience for them all, is also left to give the order that preserves the timeline and destroys a thousand ships.
Hunt's situation is extraordinarily complex. His fondest desire has been to return to the Commonwealth of his own era. Though much of it has fallen by the Battle of Witch Head, 15 months after he was believed lost, he learns that his fellow captains miss him and his fiancée is still searching for him. It would be in his own best interest to try to save the Commonwealth, as well as the best interests of the galaxy, and his crew might not even disagree -- of course, Tyr might never be born if the Nietzscheans fall decisively, but even Tyr might agree in theory that that would be a small price for galactic stability, to ward off the Magog. Andromeda points out that there might be multiple divergent timelines, so it's possible that Hunt could return home in one without disrupting the others.
The point is moot, however, because Hunt spends little time considering the possibility. When Captain Yeshgar's ship explodes, he says, "My friend died 300 years ago." I wondered when I saw the previews for this episode whether it weren't a little too soon to be revisiting the past, since it might have far greater impact after we watched Hunt struggle for months to fit into the future. Now we know he's already a man of that future. He never considers whether he can go home again. It's almost as if he can guess the unforgivable decision he will be forced to make, and is punishing himself for it in advance.
I don't know what to think about Trance. I dislike her rather intensely at the moment, partly because I can't shake the feeling that little Miss Perky didn't pilot them to the site of the battle by accident. She can't be sweet and innocent and super-powerful at the same time; we've already seen her come back from the dead, so her "Please don't hurt me!" routine with Tyr comes across as coy and grating. So does her whimpering to Dylan that she's bad news. Beka regrettably had little to say this episode, other than a few digs at Tyr; she didn't try to influence Dylan's decisions one way or the other. I'd think that the captain of the Eureka Maru would have something to say about whether or not her own future should be changed.
Rev Bem continues to be the most intriguing of the characters, a bit reminiscent of the Jem'Hadar from Deep Space Nine's "Rocks and Shoals" who doesn't believe in his people's system any longer, yet can't really seem to leave it behind. I'm not sure I follow his logic about the divine counting on humans to commit murder, but it's an interesting perspective on original sin. Hunt's immediate rebuttal that "I have to kill my enemy, it's what God wants" is the universe's oldest excuse for atrocities has power, but so does Rev Bem's quoting Blake and insisting that whatever created the stars also created nightmares.
I find myself wondering what the various Star Trek captains would have done in Hunt's position. It varies by series, but none of the solutions are obvious or trouble-free. These are the kinds of dilemmas that produce meaningful drama in science fiction.