Hunting For Teamwork
"D Minus Zero" Plot Summary:
Hunt teaches Anazasi basketball, but the Nietzschean doesn't understand the point of the rules. They are interrupted by a signal apparently originating from a High Guard ship, now in pieces in a debris field. An unknown alien attacks when Andromeda investigates. Anasazi wants to destroy the enemy. Hunt insists on trying to negotiate, but that delay allows the aliens to damage Andromeda's slipstream and weapons. Though he initially disregards Valentine's demand that they retreat, Hunt finally agrees to hide behind a gas giant in the system.
Away from Command, the captain tells Valentine that if she ever countermands his orders during a battle again, he'll slam her in brig. She says that it's her crew he's endangering, and he needs to stop operating as though he's in the Systems Commonwealth with High Guard backup. Privately, Hunt admits to Andromeda that he's like Napoleon out of his era -- he believes that he is the weak link, not the undisciplined crew. But when they engage the enemy again, Hunt expects Harper to be able to react like a trained officer, and becomes furious with Anasazi when the Nietzschean takes over the engineer's position against the captain's orders. Because of the damage to the ship and the impossibility of flight, Hunt orders Valentine to fly straight into the sun's corona, destroying the alien missiles and blinding their sensors.
Hunt calls Anasazi out for a lecture as he did with Valentine, but again he gets scolded, for Anasazi insists the others are amateurs while Hunt is an anachronism. Anasazi tells Valentine they should think about alternative leadership arrangements, but she's not ready to stage a coup. Meanwhile Rev Bem warns Hunt that none of the crew are High Guard; they're just five civilians trying to do the work of trained Commonwealth officers. Chastened, Hunt goes to Harper, telling the engineer the mistakes were Hunt's own, and asking Harper to build a footprint magnification system that will allow a decoy to resemble the Andromeda Ascendant on sensors.
The crew successfully hides the ship in the corona, but radiation leaks in and Harper becomes ill. Gemini says Harper is dying, causing Valentine to announce that she is leaving on the Maru with her crew. Anasazi concurs with her decision, but Rev Bem and Trance refuse to leave, citing their pledges of loyalty. Hunt tells Valentine to go, since he's planning to use Harper's completed FMS device to convince the aliens that the Maru is the Andromeda Ascendant; then he can sneak behind and blow the enemy weapons out of sky. Hunt offers to fly the Maru himself, but Valentine says only she can fly her ship.
The Maru gets outside the sun's gravity well with the FMS activated, and the aliens pursue. The real Andromeda Ascendant fires from behind. Anasazi wants to destroy the aliens, which Hunt refuses to do, but the aliens self-destruct anyway, probably to conceal their identity. Hunt congratulates the crew and thanks Valentine, saying that as captain, he's always right except when he's wrong. Valentine says she'll be glad to give him a kick when he needs it, and still refuses to call him "Sir." Playing basketball with Anasazi again, Hunt resorts to a personal foul, saying, "Let's just say I owed you one."
On Deep Space Nine, baseball is usually the contemporary sports metaphor for teamwork. Interesting that this installment of Andromeda begins with a game of combative one-on-one, and nobody sticks to the rules. Hunt defines "D Minus Zero," the episode's title, as the first day of combat, when gathering information about an enemy is more important than trying to win; that's also the state of affairs between Hunt and his two senior crewmembers, at least until he manages to convince Valentine at least that he's a stronger ally than she thought.
The plot and theme of "D Minus Zero" hold together much more successfully than last week's "To Loose the Fateful Lightning," but some inconsistencies remain. If Hunt is trying to be a team player, why doesn't he tell the whole crew that he's working on the FMS, instead of springing it on Valentine as a not-altogether-welcome surprise? It's becoming clear to him that his old command style isn't working, yet he resists meeting Valentine as an equal, telling her ten years as captain of a freighter can't compete with his 300-years-outdated experience in the High Guard, then insisting he could fly her ship as well as she.
The latter might be an attempt to psych Valentine into taking the job herself, but it's never clear to the audience exactly what Hunt has planned, which makes those plans seem as half-baked as the crew fears. We get to overhear Hunt's conversation with Andromeda in which he confesses doubts about his fitness to command, but no one on the crew gets much indication that their input is welcome. Obviously it makes sense to remind Anasazi of who's in charge, but why does Hunt not give them all reason to trust him by sharing his plans and asking for their input? Valentine points out that if only she'd known his scheme in advance, she could have warned him about Rev Bem's refusal to fire weapons and Harper's weak immune system. Has Hunt learned that lesson?
I love Beka. I love her passion for her ship and her crew, I love her personal fearlessness, I love that she can give orders comfortably in the middle of a crisis, I love that she can take orders comfortably from someone she respects. I love her wisecracks -- she compares jerky flying with her last date, wonders whether they're using the "nauseate your enemy" ploy, and says, "Goodbye frying pan, hello fire" as she pilots the ship into the sun. She's got a sense of humor under pressure, and she's got a sense of honor as strong as Hunt's. As she says, she grew up in a different universe, where sometimes you can't sit around chatting with your enemies. I'm not sure Anasazi's good enough for her, but I really loved the look on her face when he suggested he'd like to be first officer to Captain Valentine.
Wonder geek Harper is also a delight in his Hawaiian shirts and his Monty Pythonesque attitude: "Is this the part where we bravely run away?" he asks Hunt in an early battle. He and Valentine have a delightful scene in which he explains his philosophy of life, in which everyone is a bug who will eventually end up on a windscreen but at least Hunt isn't afraid of flying. ("He's flying around looking for windscreens," Beka grumbles.) He's almost died twice in four episodes from ailments that weren't a problem in the Commonwealth, yet he has a lot of strength of character: he'll do whatever is necessary to get his job done, and suffer if it's not enough. In consecutive weeks he's made an android and developed a sophisticated decoy system. This is a fun guy to have around.
Next week Tyr tries to lead a Nietzschean mutiny, for which some seeds were planted this week, in his disgust with Hunt's failure to make survival the number one priority from moment to moment. Ironically, he seems rather to like Hunt when he's not looking for reasons to get rid of him.