Dylan Almost Makes the Same Mistakes Twice
"Forced Perspective" Plot Summary:
When Dylan Hunt and Trance Gemini stop at Mobius in search of parts to repair Andromeda so Tyr and Beka can stop venting plasma every few hours, Dylan is arrested for a murder he allegedly committed 300 years previously as an agent for the Commonwealth. Dylan refuses to comment on the charges beyond his insistence that there is more to the story. When tortured, he recites his name, rank and serial number over and over. The electric prods administered by penal officials don't shock him nearly as much as the discovery that Venetri, his colleague on the difficult mission from the past, is still alive and has become the "Great Compass" of the space station Mobius.
Through flashbacks, Dylan remembers the mission on which he met his former friend and first officer Gaheris Rhade. An admiral who was also his fiancée's aunt gave them the code names March and April, and arranged for them to meet "Mr. May," the architect of Mobius. Mr. May -- Venetri -- wanted to end the regime of autocrat Ferrin, as did the Commonwealth leaders. Rhade insisted that the admiral would accept Ferrin's death rather than their failure to capture the leader, but Dylan and Mr. May -- Venetri -- wanted to avoid bloodshed.
The accidental killing of two guards devastated Venetri and upset Dylan as well. But when Hunt and Rhade were forced to shoot Ferrin to save their own lives, it confirmed Venetri's suspicions that the two agents had planned the assassination all along and were thus no better than the dictator. Then, when the Commonwealth collapsed a few months later, Venetri had to take charge of Mobius' dissidents and rebels. He could keep order only by recreating Ferrin's dictatorship, and kept himself alive by creating clones of himself from which to harvest body parts.
Dylan returned from the mission a hero and was promoted to Captain of the Andromeda Ascendant. But his guilt remains, and when Trance stages a rescue, he refuses to leave until he has done something about the ongoing oppression on Mobius. Trance, who tries to shrug off questions about how she always manages to track down people and items no matter what the odds against their being found, insists that Dylan cannot go in guns blazing; she quotes his own explanation of the slipstream, how intentions guide the pilot, and says the same rules apply to politics and peacemaking. Reluctantly, Dylan agrees to talk first and shoot later, which enables him to strike a deal with Venetri: if the architect will return to his former life and allow the people of Mobius to elect their own leaders, he will support his old colleague.
Meanwhile, back on Andromeda, Tyr and Beka must clear the vents constantly to keep the engines running. They get bored and start flirting -- first a discussion of Nietzsche and the procreative drive, then a conversation about food, the latter of which results in Tyr offering to make dinner for Beka. The two sit down to candlelight and a delicious meal. But when Beka asks whether Tyr thinks Rommie has a crush on Dylan, Tyr makes an offhand comment about the pointlessness of inter-species romance that leads to his revelation that he would never date an unmodified human. Beka throws her napkin in his lap, glances pointedly at his crotch and stalks out. When Dylan and Trance return to the ship, all agree that nothing interesting happened over the past few days.
An excellent episode like "Angel Dark, Demon Bright," "Forced Perspective" puts Dylan Hunt in a situation that makes him realize his idyllic memories of the Commonwealth are incomplete and inaccurate. Technically, the old Commonwealth mission to Mobius was a success, freeing the people from Ferrin and making a hero of Hunt. But as Venetri makes Dylan realize, the situation ended in disaster, leaving in charge a man with no desire or ability to govern, who seems to have gone a little insane to keep control. Venetri claims he captured Dylan after learning of the events of "All Great Neptune's Ocean," in which a leader was assassinated on the High Guard ship. Dylan's feeble claims that it's not the same situation only serve to emphasize his feelings of guilt from his first visit to Mobius, when with Rhade's encouragement he resorted to violence, against his better judgment.
Trance insists that in a chaotic universe, only good intentions can guide people, in a similar manner as intentions guide pilots in the slipstream. It sounds rather pat, but it's clever of her to throw Dylan's own words back in his face, particularly after he gets her to admit that her true talent is "finding things." He guesses she used to be a thief, but he knows there's something uncanny in her ability to pick the right planets, the right corridors, and only the urgency of their mission stops him from pursuing his questioning.
Still, for all Venetri's good intentions, his life and reign have become warped; the architect who abhorred bloodshed now countenances torture, and feeds of clones of himself to cling to life. He's a rich, complex character, and it's fitting that his good intentions alone can't save him or his society; the universe is never that simple. Trance's seeming innocence remains grating as a result, however; now we know her peculiar abilities have to do with the intent behind her desires, but it's not at all clear why she lives when and where she does, nor how come it takes hours of looking in the computer database to figure out where the button she finds on the Maru was produced, after she picked the prison planet in "A Rose From the Ashes" off a star map without a second thought.
The innuendo-rife comic subplot between Tyr and Beka is hilarious and gives them both some nice character moments. Tyr suggests that he prepares elegant dinners as a way to make people vulnerable to him -- he poisoned one enemy with his tiramisu -- but it's not clear what he wants from Beka, once he insists it's not the obvious, which it's obvious she doesn't completely believe and neither does he. Beka makes herself out to be a woman of relatively simple desires -- exercise, food, sex, no philosophy -- but she's also trying to get under Tyr's skin, and it's not clear what she wants other than the obvious, either.
The direction is superb, shifting the scene between present and past with increasing frequency until the rapid-fire cross-cutting as Dylan approaches the chambers that once belonged to Ferris and now belong to Venetri. Dylan pulls his weapon, nearly making the same mistake twice before Trance's tail on his arm stops him. The smoothness of the transitions makes it hard to tell sometimes what century we're watching, emphasizing the fact that there's not so much difference after all between Dylan's dreamy past in the Commonwealth and his complicated present.