Anticipating A World
"Home Fires" Plot Summary:
While trying to train the Castalian Fleet, the Andromeda is approached by a modified High Guard ship. The pilot identifies himself as Lieutenant Jamahl Brown and claims to have a message for Dylan from his long-lost fiancée, Sara Riley. In the message Dylan sees that Sara is married and pregnant, and hopeful that he has moved on with his life as well. From Jamahl, Dylan hears that Sara founded a haven for the surviving crew and families of the Andromeda Ascendant. Beka pilots Andromeda through slipstream to Tarazed, which has remained hidden, waiting for Dylan's return and the restoration of the Commonwealth.
Upon arriving, Dylan is thrilled to find a thriving democracy about to hold elections about whether or not to join the new Commonwealth. After a celebration for the whole Andromeda crew, Dylan meets with dozens of Sara Riley's descendants, including Jamahl. The party is interrupted by Admiral Telemachus Rhade -- the spitting image of Dylan's former best friend, first officer and betrayer, Gaheris Rhade. Tyr explains that genetic reincarnation created another Rhade, but Dylan believes the odds would be too great for such duplication. He learns from planetary leader Rekel Ben-Tzion that she needs his help ensuring an electoral victory against the isolationists on Tarazed; then he learns that Telemachus is the leader of the faction that opposes joining the Commonwealth.
Just after the people of Tarazed vote against confederacy, four Magog ships enter the solar system. Telemachus gives Dylan command of the High Guard ships, but since the Magog avoid combat, Dylan orders the fleet to stand down. Jamahl refuses to break off pursuit and is killed by debris from a swarm ship he blasts. Rommie finds evidence that the Magog ships were built on Tarazed, which Rekel hints must have been done by Telemachus. Dylan agrees to the Nietzschean's demands for a private meeting and the two nearly kill each other after Telemachus accuses Dylan of having rigged the false attack to lure Tarazed into the Commonwealth. But both men stand down, because they both realize Rekel must have been behind the conspiracy. Even though Dylan knows he could falsify the reports, arrest Rhade and get a new world to sign his charter, he refuses to imprison an innocent man, and instead helps Telemachus arrest Rekel.
Dylan's past comes back to haunt him again, and as Harper predicts, it ends badly, though not as badly as usual -- as the comic book expert points out, usually High Guard remnants are psychotic, evil, or both, "present company excluded." Since that fact hasn't been enough to get Dylan over his nostalgia for the good old days, he now has the additional discovery that his fiancée married someone else and became the matriarch of a great dynasty, founding a society that survived most of the atrocities which followed his long disappearance. In other words, he finds out just how wonderful a woman Sara became through the very actions that demonstrate how she got over him.
It must be bittersweet, particularly when some of those descendants then elect not to follow the dream for which she founded their society -- a restored Commonwealth. Because Tarazed is a democracy, its citizens are able to disregard the intentions of its founder and choose a different destiny, though Dylan believes that ultimately the Magog threat will change their perspective. Curiously, Telemachus acknowledges Dylan's right to command the High Guard ships, which raises the question of how beholden the people of Tarazed consider themselves to Dylan and the old Commonwealth: if he had acted more forcefully, insisted that they had an obligation to follow him, would they have been more responsive? Or wouldn't he want them in his Alliance under such circumstances, after watching the feeble Castalian Fleet move halfheartedly through obligatory military maneuvers?
Telemachus understands both the temptation to cheat and the reasons Dylan won't do so, which gives him insight into his ancestor Gaheris. And that in turn finally enables Dylan to understand the best friend and loyal officer who also became his most dangerous enemy. 'Home Fires' draws subtle parallels not only between the two Rhades, but between each of them and Tyr, illuminating the tenuous trust which is dependent upon Dylan understanding precisely the limits of a Nietzschean sense of honor -- or lack thereof. Though he wants Gaheris to have been a hero, Telemachus is prepared to hear that he betrayed the Commonwealth. When Dylan explains that he didn't listen in time to Gaheris' unpopular views, Telemachus seems to accept the High Guard captain's personal culpability as justification for his own rejection of Hunt's quest.
We see Dylan get very angry when he believes this Rhade is betraying him. But why does he save that anger for the basketball court, rather than showing it to the Tarazed citizens or to Telemachus before they've both reached the point of violence? Rommie objects strenuously to Dylan's demand to be left alone with Telemachus; it's not entirely clear whether this is because she fears the Nietzschean may kill her captain or the reverse. Though Dylan has already cast suspicion on Rekel merely by the way he treats her during the battle, we all know Telemachus will arrive armed and furious, ready to protect his people -- and how fascinating that he fights so passionately for non-Nietzscheans, something we really haven't seen thus far, although we know others like Gaheris Rhade worked and fought within the High Guard.
There's something a bit distracting about having Kevin Sorbo's pregnant wife playing the woman who got over Dylan Hunt and had children with another man -- it breaks the box, sort of the way Deep Space Nine did when Nana Visitor's Kira made jokes to Alexander Siddig's Bashir that her pregnancy woes were all his fault. It's similarly distracting to have the same actor play near-clones Gaheris and Telemachus, especially in an episode with so many flashbacks paralleling the two men's speech and fighting styles. Naturally Dylan expects Telemachus to betray him the way Gaheris did, because he IS Gaheris, other than a differently-sketched backstory.
There's never a satisfactory resolution to Dylan's doubts about the odds of two identical Rhades, though Tyr says his own father had nearly identical DNA to a Kodiak Alpha and reiterates his belief that one day the first Nietzschean will be reincarnated through a random combination of chromosomes. But then, what were the odds that Sara Riley would found a colony of Andromeda Ascendant families which would then survive intact into Dylan's era? Harper's expectation of a trap makes more sense than Beka's breezy acceptance of the parades and cute men flung her way. Rev Bem tries to rationalize the events historically, citing the democracy on Tarn-Vedra as precedent, but Harper points out that simple dictatorship works a lot more efficiently. That dialogue is played for humor, but one wonders whether those views might emerge in a more dangerous context.
Tyr gets the two best zingers of the episode, telling Dylan to trust no Nietzscheans except him and guessing that what Rommie really wants is 'an avatar unencumbered by cleavage.' It's not so funny when he ridicules Jamahl as an amateur seconds before Jamahl's insufficient training dooms him. And his final wisecrack -- saying he strongly doubts it when Dylan insists that he knows what he's doing in confronting Rhade -- isn't funny at all, but contains echoes of their confrontation in 'Una Salus Victus' where Tyr suggested that Dylan's Commonwealth remains the last hope of a desperate man.
Technically 'Home Fires' is a strong episode, cross-cutting between flashbacks and present time in a way that emphasizes the parallels without ever confusing the lookalike characters or events. All the major characters get at least one good line in, and we get just enough of a glimpse of the matte painting which is Tarazed (I keep thinking of Betazed, another world inhabited by Majel Roddenberry incarnations). Still this is first and foremost a Dylan story, demonstrating why he's invaluable to the past and present -- even Rommie suggests she might have been just as content to forge false reports, get Rhade out of the way and give herself a full crew and complement of High Guard ships. Sorbo's struggling expression as he explains to Sara's image that he's doing his best to move forward really says it all.
While we're on the subject of altered hopes and expectations, I want to take a moment to share my own regret at the departure of Robert Hewitt Wolfe from the staff of Andromeda. I have been a fan of Wolfe since his work on Deep Space Nine; his name, as much as that of Kevin Sorbo or Gene Roddenberry, originally drew me to this series, and I have very much appreciated the style of storytelling and character development we have seen thus far.
I am not prepared, as some fans apparently are, to write off future episodes just because he won't be involved with them -- I'm all in favor of turning Trance into something other than a sweet little pixie with a tail, and I don't really care whether Rommie gets blue hair or Dylan gets more action scenes. But I very much share the concern that when producers start to make too many decisions based on what they perceive as the demands of the marketplace, television shows get reduced to inconsistent clutter like Star Trek: Voyager, with lots of gratuitous use of sex and violence (the latter of which we're already seeing on Andromeda) and simplistic action stories that don't allow for much character development. If that happens to this series, I hope fans will not simply accept it or become apologists for it, but will let the producers know in no uncertain terms that we will not watch a show just because it bears Gene Roddenberry's name or features a couple of hot actors and actresses.