"Fear and Loathing in the Milky Way"
Week of April 8, 2001
by Michelle Erica Green

The Comic Relief Gets Serious and the Leaders Get Cute

"Fear and Loathing in the Milky Way" Plot Summary:

Gerentex, the Nightsider who hired Beka and her crew to salvage the Andromeda Ascendant, takes over the Maru and abducts Harper and Trance. He implants electroshock devices in their bodies to force them to assist him in finding a Perseid diary that he believes could lead them to Tarn-Vedra -- the lost Systems Commonwealth world housing the treasure of the old alliance.

Harper and Trance manage to free themselves, tie up Gerentex and meet his contact inside a seedy intergalactic casino. There Trance makes enough money gambling to purchase directions to the diary. But Gerentex manages to free himself and take them hostage again, winning Trance's sympathy by explaining how difficult life is for Nightsiders. Meanwhile, Trance finds she has made enemies of the casino owners and Gerentex's former contacts.

Using the purchased directions, Harper, Trance and Gerentex find the diary. When the two men threaten to kill one another for it, Trance threatens to kill them both and use her charm to exonerate herself if they don't start cooperating. She keeps the diary, but sends Gerentex away with a rare plant whose sale could wipe out his debts from failing to salvage and sell the Andromeda.

While they are away from the ship, Rommie explains to Beka that Dylan is depressed because he is reaching what would have been the end of his four-year tour of duty in the old Commonwealth -- yet he has only three member worlds in his new Commonwealth, and the Perseids are thinking about pulling out. Beka uses threats and intimidation to convince them to stay. Though Dylan doesn't approve of her tactics, he is delighted with the result. Beka explains that she didn't do it for Dylan's ideals, but for him, because he's her friend, and the two drink a toast together beneath a tropical sunset in their restored Commonwealth.


Harper and Trance get tough while Dylan and Beka loosen up together. Meanwhile, Rev Bem remains AWOL, Tyr shows up only long enough to suggest nuking the Perseids, and Rommie appears only long enough to explain to Beka how to cheer up a guy she could probably cheer up herself if she put in some effort...though perhaps after meeting the Pax Magellanic, she knows better than to try. Is it any wonder I enjoy the soap opera on this series more than the science fiction?

It's great to see Harper showing some real backbone, but the transformation seems a little abrupt, and although he talks tough, he doesn't really make much effort to escape from Gerentex -- at least, he doesn't seem to be any more willing to risk his life than is the captain of a ship with whom Harper plays chicken while Gerentex is his prisoner. Trance is smarmy enough winning (unsurprising) piles of cash in the casino, but one really wants to kill her when she threatens to kill both Harper and Gerentex, as if they're equally guilty of atrocities. Gerentex KILLED her in the pilot, and his sincerity in apologizing is dependent on his realization that her gambling skills could be worth a fortune to him. Her ultimate insistence that she could get away with murder because she's cute is laughable. She couldn't even get away with suicide using that tactic.

Meanwhile Harper gives hints of some of the atrocities he witnessed and lived through on Earth, yet Trance seems less sympathetic to him than to her kidnapper. She just gets worse and worse every episode. The only thing that might make the purple tail tolerable is if we learn that she's working for a vicious bad guy with an entirely selfish agenda.

It's great fun watching Beka bail out Dylan, both on a personal level and because her personal style is such fun. She reminds me of Kira Nerys without any of the formal training and with a lot more overt investment in her sexuality and charm. Unfortunately we don't get enough details about why the Perseids want out of the Commonwealth, just some vague concerns that humans may screw it up this time as they did last time. Fine, but then why leave in its infancy instead of working to make it strong and insisting on greater power this time around? And a four-year tour of duty that always leads to the first officer taking over the ship? Sounds arbitrary to me, like so much of the old Commonwealth.

All in all, "Fear and Loathing in the Milky Way" has high energy, a lot of wit in the banter between Harper and Gerentex, the start of what could be a fascinating arc about the lost treasure of the old Commonwealth, and more wrinkles in the complicated sexual tension among Dylan, Beka, Tyr and Rommie. Yet it's got no Rev Bem, too little Tyr, way too much Trance and some dreadful alien makeup -- Gerentex's rat-face isn't much of an improvement over the pilot episode, and the bad guy who pursues them from the casino looks like he's wearing an X-Files Fluke-Man mask. I'd rate this episode high on the entertainment scale, but shaky on substance.

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