"Harper 2.0"
Week of February 18, 2001
by Michelle Erica Green

How To Know It All Without Having a Clue

"Harper 2.0" Plot Summary:

Beka and Harper return to Andromeda from a mission, joking about how Harper struck out with a girl because he didn't speak Celtic. A wounded Perseid has himself transported onto the Eureka Maru, where he grabs Harper and emits a focused electrical surge into the engineer's dataport. When he comes to, Harper feels twitchy, and the Perseid is dead. Harper suffers from nightmares, but otherwise seems to have gained an uncanny knowledge of medicine, foreign languages, and engineering.

A bounty hunter named Jeger contacts the Andromeda Ascendant with a warrant to arrest the Perseid. Since the fugitive is dead, Dylan sees no reason to fight over the corpse. Andromeda checks out the symbol on the Perseid's ring and learns that he worked for the All Systems University Library; Dylan doesn't understand why a bounty hunter would be chasing a librarian. He gets no help from Harper. The upgraded engineer begins to have nightmares about war and becomes pathologically afraid of Rev Bem, but also develops plans to create a universal translator and starts building an old Earth flight vessel. Meanwhile, Jeger discovers that the stolen data he seeks is no longer within the dead Perseid. Jeger's boss, a mysterious dark energy creature, insists that it must be found.

The bounty hunter boards Andromeda using density-shifting technology to move through doors and walls, stalking Harper, who becomes increasingly manic and develops headaches. When Dylan and Tyr defend their crewmate, Jeger uses an explosive to destroy several decks and render the slipstream unusable. After a fight with Rev Bem that tests the Magog's vow of non-violence, Harper asks Trance to help him download the data from his brain into an external file. They start the transfer, but Harper's brain activity is so badly disrupted that they must stop before the transfer is complete.

When Dylan and Rommie view the downloaded footage, they see firsthand the brutal Magog massacre at Brandenburg Tor, which triggered the fall of the Systems Commonwealth. Trance discovers in the footage a mysterious dark energy creature who seems to be controlling the Magog; Dylan realizes that that must be what the bounty hunter is searching for, since the Magog don't care who knows about the massacre. In the medical bay, Harper suffers greatly until Rev Bem advises him that knowledge is not the same thing as wisdom and advises him to let it go. With Rev Bem's help, Harper steals the Maru and makes himself a target for the bounty hunter to protect his friends. Jeger captures the ship and downloads the database from Harper's dataport, but Dylan, Beka, and Tyr mount a rescue. The bounty hunter escapes, only to be killed by the mysterious dark energy creature.

Harper looks at the X-1 he started constructing and admits to Rev Bem that he doesn't know how to finish. He also apologizes for attacking the Magog. Rev Bem believes Harper may have gained wisdom even if he lost the knowledge.


Harper is usually Andromeda's comic relief, so it's nice to see his character get a serious episode for a change. I'm sorry we don't learn more about him -- it would be nice if the flashbacks of the slaughter at Brandenburg Tor tied in to his own childhood fears of Magog. Even in the present, though, we discover what is at stake in his friendship with Rev Bem and vice versa. The Magog asks Harper to imagine being hungry, even starving, then to imagine that the only way to feed that hunger would be to feast on the people he loves. "That's my pain," Rev Bem admits. Harper responds by accepting Rev Bem's Wayist mantra, "My pain belongs to the Divine. It is like air. It is like water." It is quite a powerful scene that could have gotten silly had both actors not been so committed to making their feelings manifest.

Apparently we have met a major villain, though we don't know yet who he is, where he came from, or what he wants. Hmm, sounds a lot like Trance, who by incredible coincidence is the one who notices the mysterious dark energy creature in the downloaded data. If only Harper had let slip the goods on Trance before losing the knowledge of the universe! The mysterious dark energy creature -- who looks like a cross between the creatures from Star Trek: The Next Generation's "Identity Crisis" and "Skin of Evil," and acts like the murderous entity from "Where Silence Has Lease" -- may have triggered all the wars in Harper's nightmares, which could make it the single most malevolent creature in the history of the universe. I'm glad the crew didn't find and dispatch it; like the villains of Farscape, it deserves a long story arc, though I'll be very disappointed if a single creature rather than sentient choices gets blamed for the fall of the Commonwealth.

"Harper 2.0" plugs some of its plot holes only because of indications that its story will be continued. I'm not clear how the hundreds of languages learned by Harper connect to the war footage foremost in his subconscious, nor whether there's a pattern to his inspirations (it is clever that he starts building Chuck Yeager's X-1 after an encounter with a Perseid fleeing Jeger, but one would expect him to know at least a teeny bit about Yeager afterwards). Is Harper's skittishness because of the nature of the download, or his own weak system -- could someone else actually process and use all the material he receives? More importantly, how come it took the bad guy this long to pursue the data from a presumably defunct university library, and wouldn't there be other extant copies?

Gordon Michael Woolvett's manic performance and the witty Pythonesque dialogue, like Rommie telling him she had no idea he was such a cunning linguist, make the episode entertaining to watch even when it doesn't hold together. When she rescues him, Harper tells Beka she's the most beautiful woman he's ever seen; this follows a cute opening in which they both ridicule one another's romantic shortcomings. Dylan looks a little wide-eyed and silly, particularly when he doesn't realize his ship could blow up entering the slipstream after being shot through with miniature black holes, but all in all the entire crew have a strong outing and work AS a crew well in their efforts to help Harper.

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