"Bunker Hill"
Week of January 20, 2002
by Michelle Erica Green

A Tarnished Planet Known As Earth

"Bunker Hill" Plot Summary:

Elsbett Bolivar approaches Dylan to demand Commonwealth aid in the Sabra-Jaguar war against the Drago-Kazov. Soon after, Harper receives a message from his cousin Brendan Lahey in Boston, announcing that Brendan and others intend to use the impending Nietzschean conflict as an opportunity to rid Earth of 'the Ubers.' Though Dylan cannot spare his ship, which he needs for battle maneuvers with Elsbett's fleet, he sends Rommie with Harper on the Maru to support Brendan's rebellion. Their plan calls for the Andromeda Ascendant to arrive in time to finish off the Earth-based Dragons after the freedom fighters have exposed the Nietzscheans' terrestrial defenses.

But the battle in space does not go well, and Andromeda -- along with a squadron of Jaguar ships -- is flung via slipstream far from the Dragon fleet. While Dylan contends with Elsbett's aggression and with threats from her brother-in-law Cuatemoc (who has replaced Cuchulain Nez Perce as Dylan's opponent), Harper discovers that Brendan has only five fighters he trusts and little confidence that he can stir a wide-scale uprising. Claiming that people all over the world will follow the lead of those in Boston, Harper inspires a local rebellion despite the overwhelming odds. The initial casualties do not deter the freedom fighters, and rebels in other cities do respond to reports from Boston, rising up against the Dragons around the globe.

Using Beka's skill as a pilot to lead them, Dylan takes the squadron back to the site of the battle and regroups the Sabra-Jaguar fleet. Unfortunately, the decision to reunite their allies means that Andromeda cannot reach Earth in time to aid the rebels. Tyr informs Harper of this fact, but Brendan refuses to call off the insurgence; he says they knew the odds were hopeless, but they won't give up or run away like Harper did. His cousin forces Harper to confront the fact that his parents died to save him from the Dragons, and that others will do the same to spare their loved ones a life of slavery. Though he later learns that the Nietzscheans crushed the rebels, Harper also hears from Dylan that Brendan's triumphant final broadcast has inspired uprisings on dozens of enslaved Nietzschean worlds.


An episode whose excellence stems from the risky choice not to portray its protagonists as heroes, 'Bunker Hill' offers some of the most intense drama seen yet on Andromeda despite the relative lack of onscreen bloodshed, and even some great humor. It's a tight story focused primarily on two characters -- Beka saves the day and Rommie gets some great zingers in, but Dylan and Harper, the emotional centers of the story, both find themselves in no-win scenarios where they make choices certain to rile their nearest and dearest.

Though Dylan tries to label the debacle a victory, he barely escapes with his Pride intact, and lets down a friend and colleague as well as his planet of origin. Of course the audience is rooting for Earth -- we can forgive Dylan and Rommie for underplaying its importance in the face of their galactic quest, but like Harper, we're inclined to agree that it's the most important planet in the universe, no matter how corrupted and oppressed it has become. So while we may intellectually appreciate Dylan's decision to reunite the Sabra-Jaguar fleet, to keep his eye on the big picture, it's not easy to forgive the ease with which he puts aside the human rebels even when their sacrifice accomplishes exactly what Brendan Lahey hopes, triggering mass revolt against the Dragons.

Nor is it easy to forgive Harper for leaving -- again -- even though his decision is the logical one, to live to fight another day, to tell Brendan's story. It's not clear that Harper forgives himself, just as he clearly has not forgiven himself for living and escaping when his parents died even though that was their greatest wish. Gordon Michael Woolvett again demonstrates astonishing range and subtlety in the pivotal scenes -- when he gives a rousing speech, he's as convincing as Dylan or Beka, yet when he finally explains the truth about how his parents died, he's a heartbreaking, lost little boy. The scene where Harper pulls his weapon on Brendan is one of the best-acted by both performers that I've seen this year in genre, despite the predictability of some of the dialogue.

Elsbett plays the foil. She postures grandly yet accomplishes little, making half-hearted overtures to Tyr and trying to rouse Beka's jealously by bragging of her liaison with Dylan (of which the first officer's early ignorance provides a funny moment, when Beka notes of Elsbett and Dylan that politics makes strange bedfellows and Rommie adds wryly that it isn't the first time). Elsbett gets in a couple of good lines -- insinuating that Charlemagne is a bit undersized, like their fleet, and sighing about her in-laws -- but with Tyr giving as good as he gets and Dylan making comments about how Elsbett obviously went to the Beka Valentine School of Military Discipline, she merely holds her own in the wit department. One wishes for more information about how Elsbett and Charlemagne have influenced each other; the man she calls a wonderful lover (and the father of her child) seems not to have convinced her that his manicured style is preferable to Tyr's Nietzschean stature. And she definitely still has a thing for Dylan.

Brendan leaves a much stronger impression, so much so that one hopes that reports of his death have been exaggerated even though the episode is stronger dramatically if he dies. At first Brendan seems dependent on Harper to lead their revolution, but as they gain momentum, it's clear that he has thought long and hard about what this struggle will mean and the price he is willing to pay. When his colleague Ozzie expresses some doubt about whether others will join them, Brendan gives a stirring speech about the people they've all lost and the freedom they stand to gain. Brendan needs Harper not to deliver his speeches, but to stand for the hope of the Commonwealth to people who know deep down that salvation will come too late for them.

Beka and Rommie play smaller but vital parts, despite having two of the ugliest new 'dos in the history of television. I understand that they're all busy warriors but if Beka has time for the spray mousse and Rommie for the Iris Frost lip gloss, then Rommie and Dylan should have time to wash their hair, and Dylan's vinyl jacket has got to go, too -- forget Rev Bem's first season makeup, someone needs to sack whoever's responsible for The Look at present. On another superficial note, the battle scenes seem poorly designed -- Brendan's people may be amateurs, but the way they expose themselves to Nietzschean gunfire serves the cameras far better than their struggle. These elements don't detract significantly from 'Bunker Hill' but they're also hard not to notice on a show whose producers seem determined to keep tinkering with superficial matters like hair and effects sequences as audience lures. The dialogue comes across better than the production values, which is what matters to me but not apparently to some of the more desirable demographic viewers.

I'd like to know whether Beka's concern about not going to Earth near the end stems from personal worry about Harper or a commitment to the downtrodden on the planet. And I'm sorry Tyr doesn't say more to Elsbett about why serving with Dylan suits his purposes these days; staging a coup and marrying a Sabra princess would seem to offer many valuable benefits, like power, financial independence and the possibility of wiping out the Dragons on his own terms. There's time for that later though -- despite Cuatemoc's failure to destroy Dylan, I assume we have not seen the last of him, nor of Elsbett, so there are plenty of Nietzscheans around for Tyr to double-deal.

Have we seen the last of Earth for the foreseeable future? On the majority of science fiction series, Earth remains the point of origin -- it's where those lost in space wish to return, or where those fighting galactic adversaries dream of bringing peace. Dylan has ignited the struggle for freedom across numerous systems, yet Earth on Andromeda remains a polluted, soiled, victimized world. Given that state of affairs, will anyone care even if Tarn-Vedra is discovered intact? This is an arc that cannot be left unresolved for long.

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