"Belly of the Beast"
Week of April 21, 2002
by Michelle Erica Green

Andromeda Suffers The Immunity Syndrome

"Belly of the Beast" Plot Summary:

Dylan and Trance take the Maru to the planet Savion to reassure the inhabitants that Andromeda can protect them from a mythological creature called a Cetus, which purportedly makes an appearance every 6,000 years or so. But the planet appears to have been attacked when they arrive. The crew's down time on Andromeda is cut abruptly short when the mythical Cetus appears; they try to send a message to Dylan, but because of the time lag, it reaches him after he and Trance have already realized that the creature is real. While Dylan races back to his ship, since it's his best means of protecting the planet, Beka and Tyr try shooting missiles and energy weapons at the Cetus -- all to no avail. The Cetus devours Andromeda's sensor drones, then swallows the ship itself.

With Rommie out of commission because the excruciating pressure on Andromeda's hull has scrambled the AI's programming, Harper must try to gain manual control of the ship. Though reluctant to leave Rommie, he heads to the slipstream core, running through digestive fluids that have burned their way through the ship. Beka is forced to vent the atmosphere from most decks of the ship to put out plasma fires. On the Maru, Dylan and Trance create bombs out of fuel tanks, but fail to free Andromeda, and Beka concludes that the Maru must have been destroyed. She tells Tyr that if the Cetus digests their ship, its hunger will be satisfied and the planet will be saved, giving meaning to Dylan's sacrifice. But Tyr refuses to consider that Dylan might be dead and insists that their only obligation is to save their ship.

Harper and Dylan independently discover a weak spot in the Cetus that Dylan's bomb made apparent; they both conclude that antimatter will destroy the Cetus. Dylan believes the only way to deliver the poison is by overloading the Maru's slipstream reactors at point-blank range, which will end his life but save his ship and its mission. Meanwhile on Andromeda, the holographic avatar insists to Harper that he should eject the slipstream core to ensure the creature's destruction, which will probably destroy the ship as well, but the AI believes that she might as well be dead if she can't carry out Dylan's final orders to save the planet. Beka and Tyr have a similar argument on the bridge, with Beka reminding the Nietzschean that she promised Dylan to continue his mission if he died, while Tyr insists that he cares enough about Dylan and his mission to believe that their captain would find another way.

Andromeda convinces Harper to detach the slipstream drive and Beka convinces Tyr to eject the core from his console. As Dylan begins his suicide run, Trance tells him that Andromeda has broken free, and they watch on the Maru screen as the Cetus explodes. After the Maru docks, Dylan tells Beka that he's proud of the crew for putting the protection of Savion above their own survival. When Harper arrives, his unpopular dance music begins to play and the crew begins to swing.


Like 'Things We Cannot Change,' 'Belly of the Beast' turns its derivative storyline into a source of humor and pathos rather than a drawback. Regardless of the threat it poses, it's hard not to be amused by the Cetus -- which could be the love child of Trek's Doomsday Machine and Next Gen's Crystalline Entity, with the digestive tract of the creature from Voyager's 'Bliss' (borrowed in turn from the Saarlac in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi). Fortunately Dylan has a sense of the absurd, insisting that if his crew survived the Magog, they're not going down to a giant space jellyfish. He seems distraught, yet like Tyr, he also seems quite unable to believe that this thing could be the end of any of them. It's just too undignified. Puke and crap jokes are all this thing deserves, and Harper proves only too happy to provide them.

Thus it's possible to overlook a predictable plot and an obvious conclusion to anyone who's seen enough sci-fi TV. My husband and I were both shouting "antimatter" several minutes before Dylan or Harper thought of it, and we're still clueless how the ship plans to retrieve a blasted slipstream drive (isnít that what stranded the Pax Magellanic?), but what's important to the story isn't the device itself, it's the crew discussion that's generated because of it. On the one hand, Dylan suggests that saving the planet at the cost of Andromeda is counterproductive, since they save the world at the cost of the universe (presumably meaning that without the ship to lead the Commonwealth, the impending Magog invasion is much more likely to succeed). On the other hand, Andromeda and Beka are adamant about maintaining the spirit of Dylan's mission and trusting, as he would, that the ship will pull through.

Andromeda's fatalism demonstrates yet another reason for her to detach from her captain emotionally; Harper's not-terribly-nice suggestion that she's plotting girlish suicide because she can't live without her captain has enough ring of truth to make the AI look weak at a moment when she should look strong. And when Beka argues similarly with Tyr, the parallels suggest that, like Rommie, she's a little too in love with Dylan and a little too mournful at his presumed death to make rational decisions. I would really like to have heard Beka say that she's following the spirit of the quest, not because of an emotional promise to Dylan, but because she has come to believe in the universe they're all helping to shape -- a statement similar to the one made by Tyr of all people. The Nietzschean isn't quite ready to concede that Dylan's way is better than his own, but bows to Beka's insistence that he prove his faith by ejecting the core.

I still think there's much too much Dylan worship all around, without nearly enough evidence that the crew can carry on without him even if they'll die for what he believes in. But at least he didn't kiss any chicks this week, and despite a plethora of explosions, the only onscreen deaths were a jellyfish alien and some burned-out androids (this show's equivalent of red-shirted ensigns). Harper's lowbrow taste, vulgar language and self-aggrandizement have returned, which is quite refreshing amidst the High Guard manners that seem to be spreading among the crew. And despite Tyr's renewed membership in the Hunt Club, he gets in some great zingers about Beka's 'What Would Dylan Do?' approach to command. At the end of the universe, Tyr says, he expects the survivors to be himself, the cockroaches, and Dylan trying to save the cockroaches.

In addition to his wit, what saves Tyr for me is the suggestion that he might be capitulating not to revere Dylan but to impress Beka -- a woman he once compared, in erotic terms, to a lower form of animal. When he physically tries to stop her from taking the pilot's station, the tension between them is tantalizing...and not only in a sexual sense. Yet they respect each other, and whether they'll admit it or not, they like each other...and not only in a sexual sense. Still, the charge is always there. When Beka asks The Stoic One (her phrase) to dance with her at the end, while Dylan is swinging around a giddy Trance and even Rommie is trying to get into the groove, Tyr seems quite happy to slow dance with his immediate superior. I used to like the balance in Dylan and Beka's relationship, the give-and-take which made them very sexy together. But now that she's such the dutiful first officer, it's a lot more interesting to watch Beka spar with Tyr.

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