"Dance of the Mayflies"
Week of February 17, 2002
by Michelle Erica Green

Night of the Living Dead

"Dance of the Mayflies" Plot Summary:

While Beka, Trance and Dylan evacuate dying people from a Drift to the Andromeda, Rommie becomes emotionally distressed about the loss of life. By the time the crew returns to Andromeda, Tyr has determined that their allies the Than were responsible for the attack. Andromeda determines that a biological weapon carrying a parasite caused the victims to lose consciousness, then die. In the medical bay, Beka collapses; she, too, has become infected after giving CPR to a dying man. While Harper tries to protect his compromised immune system, Trance studies how the infection is spread, since it's apparently not airborne.

The Than attack Andromeda. While the ship hides behind an asteroid to fix the sensors and slipstream drive, corpses rise from their body bags and begin to spread out. Dylan discovers that the parasite spreads when a zombie breathes into the mouth of a healthy person, but though Beka hangs on to consciousness, Trance instantly becomes infected when a zombie exhales in her face. She identifies her host as one of the Bokor a 50,000-year-old species that move from body to body. She says she can offer them undreamed-of longevity, yet Dylan and Rommie fight her. The ship's reserve power comes online, but Harper takes no credit; the Bokor have fixed the engines in order to spread through the galaxy, which is why the Than have attacked.

Harper and Dylan deduce that a force lance set at level 8 should be able to electrocute the invaders, who cannot be killed by conventional means since they're already dead. To guarantee the end of the Bokor, Dylan sets the ship to auto-destruct but the corpses abort the sequence. Dylan then wonders how Trance was taken over so quickly, and concludes that maybe it's because she wasn't alive in the first place. He electrocutes her, which frees her from the Bokor. Though she still won't answer questions about her radically different physiology, Trance does figure out a way to use nanobots to cure Beka.

Rommie, who has been arguing with her holographic and computer avatars about her increasing emotionalism, asks to speak to Dylan alone. She admits that she cares about him as a person, not just a captain, and expresses her fear of losing him; she may be virtually indestructible, but one day all the humans she knows will die. She begs to know how humans make friends and fall in love knowing that nothing is permanent. Dylan says that love never dies; when the universe ends and last star burns out, the only thing left will be love. When Rommie says she doesn't understand, he replies, 'Yes you do,' and kisses her cheek.


A hilariously bad episode -- Dylan's open-mouthed incredulity at the stupid situation reinforces the humor -- 'Dance of the Mayflies' combines Night of the Living Dead with original Trek's oft-forgotten classic 'The Lights of Zetar.' In fact, the Lights apparently dubbed Trance's voice during her possession. And my husband and I started playing the Living Dead drinking game using leftover Valentine's Day candy instead of vodka shots, popping one each time an extra-cast-as-a-corpse reappeared. This solidly cheesy hour reminded us of Kevin Sorbo's previous show, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys; go rewatch Possessed Iolaus from the death-in-Egypt arc, you'll see exactly what I mean.

I'm sure there are Serious Science Fiction Fans who are most distressed about the level of camp, but I enjoy straightforward ludicrousness; it's a lot easier to take than the deadly-earnest technobabble of Voyager or the gee-whiz mediocrity of Enterprise. The hazard, of course, is that it becomes hard to take a show seriously when it allows itself such wacky excesses. For example, the last scene -- Rommie's teary confession that she doesn't understand how humans can allow themselves to love -- comes across as painfully contrived, and any residual emotion gets wiped out by the dorkiness of Dylan's bad-country-music reply ('Let the world stop turning/let the sun stop burning/let them tell me love's not worth going through/If it all falls apart/I will know deep in my heart/the only dream that mattered had come true' -- Collin Raye).

The problem with 'Dance of the Mayflies' isn't that it's hokey, but that it's not content to exist on its own terms. It starts off deadly earnest, with several crewmembers sharing the grief of a shipload of dying people (and a character-defining moment for New Trance, who notably is not suffering like Dylan, Beka and especially Rommie). There's a gut-wrenching escape, followed by the horrible discovery of Beka's infection and her struggle to stay awake without the drugs that could destroy her. But then the episode flips into B-horror mode, and although it's quite amusing to watch from that point on, it unwinds the serious drama of the early minutes. There's no way for it to get back, not after Harper's gleeful electrocutions and Dylan's cracks about the corpses not being his type.

Rommie's the character who pays the price for the split personality of the episode, because her level of emotional involvement looks unnatural when even Captain Hunt -- the man she's mooning over -- can't seem to take the crisis seriously. It's tough knowing that she might live close to forever and watch all her friends die, but if force lances set on 'fry' can kill the zombies, they could probably short out all her circuits as well. (Note: it took the crew much too long to figure out that they needed to raise the settings on their weapons, and why didn't they try cutting off zombie heads or limbs, which presumably couldn't get up and walk around by themselves?)

Since most of the drama is manufactured to the specifications of a scream flick, Rommie's out-of-place emotionalism makes her seem unstable. She was in better control during 'Star-Crossed' and even last week in 'Be All My Sins Remembered' when she thought she might have to blow Dylan up. During her best moments of the episode, when Lexa Doig is really on top of the material, she reminds me of Data's daughter Lal from Next Gen's 'The Offspring' -- an android girl suddenly faced with emotions she has no idea how to control. But at her worst moments, she reminds me of Jill a.k.a. Pax Magellanic, and that can't be a good thing. Put me firmly in the anti-Dylan/Rommie 'shipper category, unless they're in a big sweaty pile that includes Beka and Tyr.

Dylan plays doofus for most of this episode. While Trance is getting attacked while trying to cure Beka, he's busy getting bantering with Tyr, who utters the zinger of the episode -- 'That's what you get for incessantly trying to help.' When the zombies attack him, Dylan makes kissing jokes. And he even tries to take the Star Trek captains' way out of the crisis: he calls for the ship to self-destruct. It's all pretty amusing. But though Captain Hunt's 'you've got to be kidding me!' reaction is endearing, it hardly strengthens his captainly image, thus making it doubly hard to take him seriously at the end when he spouts pablum for Rommie.

At the risk of spouting clichés of my own, I would like to complain once more, in case anyone at Tribune might be listening (unlikely but theoretically possible) about the stupid, gratuitous violence. I suppose the boys think they are being clever, creating characters who can be killed again and again since they're already dead (we might even be able to include Trance in this category -- ha ha, a not-very-popular regular character whom we can keep torturing and slaughtering for fun). But it's not only demeaning; it's boring to watch someone pick up a weapon and run down a corridor shooting every single week, with bodies falling in the same stupid slo-mo. I've said before and I will say again: there is nothing wrong with onscreen fighting, even carnage, when it is necessary to tell a story. If you're making a serious television show about a revolution, a slave uprising, a holocaust, then you're obviously going to need to show the price in human suffering. On Andromeda the violence doesn't inspire emotion or fervor, it inspires numbness and ennui. Storylines crafted to make room for such violence are dragging this show down.

Some positive notes: Gordon Woolvett cracking jokes about wearing protection when a still-skittish Harper dons a gas mask to protect himself from potential spores. Laura Bertram giving a convincing performance while spouting dreadful, predictable dialogue about plans for dominion of the universe. Lisa Ryder looking believably terrified while succumbing to an alien threat so feeble that anyone would be embarrassed to die in such a manner. I also like Tyr's uncharacteristic hesitation about tossing Beka out an airlock, though his dialogue about the logic of keeping her and the other infected people on board sounded way too out of character and undercut what could have been a momentary emotional breakthrough.

It's not that 'Dance of the Mayflies' seems sloppy -- compared to 'Be All My Sins Remembered,' it's actually pretty tightly constructed. It's that marrying the profound theme of human mortality and the price of safety to a shriek-a-minute story about zombies makes absolutely no sense, unless you're looking for a way to have humor, pathos, emotional connections, spiritual crises, and riveting drama, plus a strutting action hero, campy comic timing, hot babes doing kung fu, and mindless violence with a high body count together in a single one-hour episode. There's no way to have it all; the slap-happy slaughter of zombies who were once people just doesn't fit in with speeches about how love will survive the end of the universe. Next time let's have one or the other, not both.

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