Uncle Sid Pulls A Bob Roberts
"Cui Bono" Plot Summary:
The High Guard orders Andromeda to pick up a candidate for Second Triumvir from a besieged courier ship and escort him from Golden Harvest to the election. Both Dylan and Beka are appalled when they discover that the candidate is her Uncle Sid, a.k.a. Sam Profit. Dylan insists that they must obey the order, though Beka reminds him that Sid is a murderer, a drug dealer and the man who destroyed her father. When Sid arrives on Andromeda, Beka brings in a disc containing data on his nefarious past, but he says his spin doctors have already dealt with his history and rehabilitated him. Dylan demands that Beka apologize to their guest, but when she goes to Sid's office on Golden Harvest to do so, she finds that he has been shot in the head.
Beka takes Sid and his assistant Gretchen back to Andromeda, where Trance diagnoses skull fractures and brain damage but believes that Sid can be treated. Though Beka is a likely suspect in the assassination attempt, Dylan puts her in charge of the investigation because she knows Sid so well. Because Sid's life signs are stable, Dylan enlists Harper's help in contacting the patient in virtual reality via his dataport. Beka tries to talk to Sid but becomes angry when he recalls details about her tenth birthday that she does not want to dwell on. Meanwhile Gretchen offers to pay Tyr and various others fifteen million guilders to track down Sid's would-be-killer. Violence erupts all over Golden Harvest as the mercenaries seeking the bounty begin to hunt for the culprit -- most likely Sid's most recent business partner or his biggest rival.
Dylan visits Sid in VR, but their discussion about how to stop the violence is interrupted when Gretchen tries to kill Sid by creating a surge in his dataport. Though Dylan throws her in the brig, he doesn't believe that Gretchen had Sid shot; he thinks she's just trying to take advantage of his infirmity so that she can take over in the wake of the violence on Golden Harvest. Sid warns Beka that his rival Ragatz may have tried to kill him and may soon come after her, but Beka isn't worried. She takes Dylan and Tyr on a mission to recover Ragatz and his information. Ragatz tells them that the hit was a fake -- Sid ordered it himself -- but the rival is killed by bounty hunters, and Tyr must rescue Dylan and Beka from Golden Harvest.
When Sid wakes, he tries to steal the Maru, but Beka manages to get on board and demands to know the truth. Sid says that on his planet, he's actually one of the good guys...and moreover she has him to thank for the Maru, because he kept her useless father's debtors away. Ships attack and Beka and Sid fight together against boarders. He takes a bullet for her and she shoots the last attacker just before Dylan and Tyr arrive. Despite what she has learned, Beka is thrilled when Sid loses the election; it seems that Dylan has released tapes of everything he said on the ship, so now everyone knows the truth about his lying and scheming. Sid says he isn't sorry, for he can do better business now than he could as Triumvir. He tells Beka that everything he said about her father is unfortunately true. Beka mourns, but Dylan says that her father's spirit is still inside her.
Finally, Andromeda is back. Some weird hiccups still remind us of the huge chasm between the second and third seasons -- like the fact that the Commonwealth is electing a Second Triumvir only now, even though they've got a fully-functional security force and a Minister of War who threatens to turn command of the fleet over to the Achilles if Dylan doesn't play by his rules.
But the characters from last season are back -- a Beka who'll question not only Dylan's orders but the entire Commonwealth, a Rommie who knows it's her job to parrot unpleasant regulations for Dylan yet doesn't mind slipping in snide comments, a Trance who knows medicine, a Harper who makes jokes about people not being plug and play. Okay, so Tyr spends more time painting than pondering all the things he could do with the fifteen million guilders Gretchen offers, but he doesn't do anything horribly out-of-character either. The line about how it's easier to take the hand of your enemy than to hide the knife in your other hand makes up for any flaws.
This is Beka's storyline, and she comes through with flying colors -- partly because Lisa Ryder plays her emotions so superbly, partly because her dialogue is great. Really, this isn't a dramatic storyline. Beka isn't surprised that someone would shoot Sid. She isn't even surprised that Sid would have himself shot to start a war that might win him an election. She's unsurprised that he's ready for her charges of drug dealing and murder, unsurprised that he would steal the Maru, and she's not really surprised by anything he tells her about her father. Deep down she understood it all when Sid gave her flash. The only moment of genuine shock comes when she realizes that in spite of it all, Sid would take a bullet for her.
Beka would probably have an easier time if she were truly a cynic, but she's not. There are genuinely good people like Dylan, and then there are rotten people like Sid who are still capable of being just as human as her father or herself. The man she misses isn't the one she remembers but the one she wanted her father to be, and the Sid she despises is the same person she once loved. That's the truth that’s a bitch.
Dylan's a bit quip-heavy in public, but it's obvious from his scenes with Rommie that in this case that's all bluster. He's mad. He seems to give Sid way, way too much benefit of the doubt, and he may have confidence in those Commonwealth voters, but given the idiots already installed in power, one really has to wonder why. Dylan can banter with Beka about his need to follow orders and her urge to kill Sid because he understands completely -- and his anger's directed at an even bigger picture, for, as he says, if the new Commonwealth for which he gave his blood is the sort of place where someone like Sid can become Second Triumvir, then the galaxy has much bigger problems than Sid himself.
I don't really understand why Dylan ordered Beka to apologize to Sid. Her behavior wasn't all that unprofessional, given the privacy of the discussion and the general tenor of Dylan's recent exchanges with Commonwealth leadership, but anyway he makes it up to her by putting her in charge of the investigation when (as she says) she should be the prime suspect. It's also troubling that he's so quick to dismiss Gretchen as a serious suspect. She is Sid's protégée, and nobody disproves her theory about the reasons she's an even more likely candidate to assassinate him than Beka. Gretchen's a neat character whom I'm sorry we don't get to know better -- she doesn't love Sid, she's not charmed by Dylan or Tyr, she's greedy and ambitious and possibly crueler than any of them. I'd expect Dylan to press that possibility before concluding that she's merely opportunistic.
Dylan has some priceless lines expressing his disgust about having restored the Commonwealth for the likes of Sid -- he says he misses the Dark Ages and tells Rommie that he should throw in his lot with the Magog. But truly, in the grand scheme, Sid's not so bad. He's more Tony Soprano than Noriega, Saddam or even some of the Nietzscheans we've seen on this show. Maybe that's damning praise, but many of the members of the new Commonwealth come from worlds recently engaged in civil wars, weapons smuggling, all sorts of unsavory activities. Sid is right that there's a multitude of imperfect people out there. Dylan didn't want to be Triumvir, and though he said it was for the good of a Commonwealth that needs to find its own heroes, it's becoming obvious that he also doesn't want to have to be an idealized role model. He's capable of pettiness, self-indulgence and occasionally shocking violence. Sid can't be that unrecognizable to him, even if he won't forgive the man for what he did to Beka -- as he shouldn't, as her friend.
Sid himself is something of an enigma. Not in terms of his megalomania, wanting to control the universe and be loved as well -- that's pretty typical, and if the only way he can truly make Beka appreciate him is to fight for her, well, so be it. Even if, as Beka says, the whole galaxy thinks he's the best thing since artificial gravity. Does he mean it when he says the Commonwealth needs men like himself as much as Dylan, or is he just trying to get Dylan riled? (I howled aloud when Sid told Beka he was expecting an eternal reckoning, with chains and hellfire -- too bad Harper couldn't have programmed that as the VR environment in which they met.) But why risk his empire to become a Triumvir in the first place? It's not like he's going to get flash or various other nefarious business interests legalized. In fact he's not gaining legitimacy so much as adding his own weight to Dylan and Beka's efforts in recreating the Commonwealth. In a perverse way, he could hardly pay higher tribute to what they've accomplished than to meddle in it.
A couple of notes on the construction of this episode: Maybe it's just my local channel, but the sound mixing seems horrific. I feel like I missed a quarter of the lines with all the fading in and out. Many of the shots are nicely composed, though, particularly in the understated yet exciting battle on the Maru -- a lovely, lovely change from the hideous violence of "Mad To Be Saved." The cities of Sid's world look very impressive; however, some inexplicable Bad Video Moments mar the visuals, particularly Dylan and Beka crashing through the window in Ragatz's office and Beka striding toward the medical bay with her weapon to find Sid.
At the end, Dylan makes a very Hercules speech and touches Beka over her heart to tell her that her father's still alive in there. (I had a little Archer/T'Pol-type moment wondering whether she was going to grope him back or file a sexual harassment complaint with the new anti-Dylan Commonwealth.) It's sweet that he cares, but he still doesn't get her as well as Tyr, who's surprisingly understanding about Sid's need for Beka's approval and love. In fact Tyr and Sid have that in common -- a willingness to take a bullet for Beka though it goes against their instincts to survive and thrive. Sid considers Beka family. Maybe Tyr does too. Or maybe it's something else.