Return of the Vedran
"The Fair Unknown" Plot Summary:
It's been more than 300 years since Tarn Vedra -- the former seat of the Commonwealth, and Dylan's childhood home -- vanished from the slipstream. Yet while watching the mission log of a battle by a now-dead Kalderan captain, Dylan spots a Vedran moving at incredibly fast speeds. The embattled Kalderan ship was returning from Ral Parthia, a nature preserve loved by the Vedrans; Rommie speculates that perhaps a colony of Vedrans were trapped there after the fall of the Commonwealth. Dylan takes Rommie and Trance on the Maru to the planet, where they find a group of Warders protecting a wounded Vedran from more Kalderans.
During a fierce battle on the surface, Dylan convinces the Warder Maia that he plans to uphold his promise as a High Guard officer to protect the Vedran. Maia takes Dylan to Uxulta's secret hiding place and laboratory, explaining that the Vedran arrived several months before with a group of males but lost the rest of her herd in an ambush. Rommie realizes that since Uxulta uses tesseract technology to travel, Vedran technology has advanced since the planet vanished from the slipstream. While the surface crew search for the injured Uxulta, Beka ignites a nearby gas giant and rides the shockwave to hide from the Kalderans. Using the Maru's enhanced weapons, Dylan's team successfully rescues the Vedran and takes her to Andromeda. But an enemy bio-agent has left Uxulta far more seriously injured than they initially believed. She is dying.
Dylan wants to take Uxulta back to Tarn Vedra for treatment, but she insists on finishing her mission, telling Dylan that she requires a nova bomb to protect Ral Parthia. When he resists her orders, she identifies herself as Commander in Chief of Argosy Special Intelligence Operations and says she can have him tossed in the brig if he doesn't obey. Rommie tells Dylan not to let his wounded ego and the Vedrans' long silence influence his duty, but Dylan demands more information before he will turn over such a deadly weapon. Uxulta tells him there's more at stake than he can understand. Once he takes her back to Ral Parthia, she reveals that Tarn Vedra is both aware and proud of the work Dylan has done to restore the Commonwealth. But after she lands on the planet, she orders him to flee. As Andromeda races through a disintegrating slipstream, the Ral system vanishes just as Tarn Vedra did. Dylan tells Maia he hopes the Vedran did the right thing.
Our first glimpse of the legendary Vedrans answers a few questions and poses a lot more. Now we know for sure that the Vedrans made a choice to remove their world from the slipstream -- and from contact with the rest of the Commonwealth -- thus protecting their own people, but allowing the Nietzscheans and the Magog to kill millions elsewhere. On the positive side, they've been able to advance as a culture and their tesseract technology may ultimately enable the new Commonwealth to defend itself against a possible invasion. On the negative side, they seem to care more about a nature preserve than all the member worlds they chose not to cloak from the slipstream and the ravages of the post-Commonwealth galaxy. I assume there's more going on at Ral Parthia than strip-mining -- and I like the implications that the Kalderans are a more dangerous threat -- but I still think the Vedrans have a lot of explaining to do, and probably some apologizing.
The ideology of the old Commonwealth seems to grow more aristocratic the more we learn about it, so I'm a bit ambivalent about the return of the great and mighty Vedrans. It's nice to see a fictional universe where a human being is not the greatest thing anyone can be, but the reverential tone Dylan gets when he talks about Vedrans makes me uncomfortable. And I really dislike the concept of alien Warders for a noble species -- hopefully that's the exception rather than the rule. Right now the old Commonwealth seems almost as hierarchical as Nietzschean society. When sentient ships are programmed to think as servants that dote and depend on captain-masters, one suspects an ideology of patronage and privilege exists elsewhere in the social order.
So I'm not sure it's great news that Beka and Harper both seem content to trust whomever Dylan trusts in this instance, nor that Uxulta and Rommie both suggest Dylan's refusal to trust the Vedrans stems from juvenile resentment. If Dylan unhesitatingly obeyed a superior's order to turn over a nova bomb at this late date, even if she had the right codes, I'd worry that he'd spent too much time bearing the weight of the universe on his shoulders and wanted to dump the pressure onto someone else. Meanwhile, at the other extreme, Tyr fears Dylan will become a puppet of the Vedrans. Is that because he's ever seen Dylan as a puppet before, or because it's what he expects of a High Guard officer with a Vedran around? Newly logical Trance wonders aloud why the Vedrans would reappear without contacting Dylan -- a question to which everyone suspects she already knows the answer -- but at least she doesn't underestimate Dylan, though she cloaks her warnings in a hokey parable about the journey rather than the destination being what matters.
Beka and Tyr snap, crackle and pop in scenes together, so even though it seems odd that Dylan doesn't take one of them with him on his pivotal mission to rescue a Vedran, it's nice to see them both on the bridge. Beka doesn’t bother to tell Tyr that she plans to ride the shock wave of the mini-star she creates out of a gas giant, which leads him to grumble that she's picked up some annoying habits from Dylan but admire her spunk; then, when the captain returns and asks his kids who made the star, Tyr points at his guilty crewmate, who says sheepishly that the Kalderans started it. One wonders whether Beka's easy acceptance of the Vedrans stems partly from a desire to play devil's advocate to a distrusting Tyr, who sometimes seems to question anything Dylan believes in just because Dylan believes in it. Not that that's bad -- it's fun to see Tyr conflicted about some external matter, rather than just conflicted about how much Dylan matters to him. But I'd like to have heard more from Beka, who's surely worrying or at least mulling the possibilities more than she says.
Speaking of annoying habits of Dylan's, he gets kissed by a babe of the week...again! This is getting almost as tiresome as the onscreen explosions, which occupy pretty much the entire second act of this episode -- so much of the effects budget seems to have been blown on fireworks that there's nothing left over to make the forest and horses look less cheesy, like bad fantasy show outtakes. Plus we see the exact same clip of the Vedran firing her weapon more than once. It's bad form, and unnecessary -- after the first couple of brutal Kalderan attacks, we get the picture that these are ruthless, relentless enemies. We don't need to see the next five ambushes. We don't really need to see Dylan's rescue-on-horseback heroic routine either, but at least it's a break from shots of Sorbo et al scrunching up their faces as they fire imaginary weapons at costumed bad guys.
"The Fair Unknown" offers enough food for thought to class it among Andromeda's better episodes, despite some aggravations that are becoming routine. The character work continues to be strong, with Beka and Tyr providing ingenuous humor and Dylan demonstrating that he's growing to trust Trance. I also enjoyed seeing Rommie play the role of High Guard authority while Dylan had a crisis of conscience, although I disagreed with her reasoning; usually we see him helping her to interpret difficult human feelings, so it adds balance to their relationship when she offers advice on what might be going through his head. The guest characters seem stiff by contrast, particularly Maia who doesn't look like she believes her own explanation of why she became a Warder. And it's hard to read a Vedran through the stylized blue makeup. Maybe that's why I don't trust them either.