Elaan of Troyius, The Perfect Mate
"The Honey Offering" Plot Summary:
Tyr suggests to Dylan that he volunteer the Andromeda Ascendant to transport the first daughter of the Sabra Pride to an arranged marriage with Charlemagne of the Jaguar pride, thus sealing a peace treaty between the two warring Nietzschean factions. Dylan agrees, on the condition that the Nietzscheans agree to grant freedom to two enslaved systems he believes may join the Commonwealth if they're able to do so. Elssbett arrives acting contemptuous, demanding better quarters and treating everyone with contempt -- even Tyr, since the Kodiak pride is nearly extinct and therefore not strong enough to merit her appreciation. When the Dragan clan attacks Andromeda to disrupt the wedding, Dylan escapes with Elssbett in the Maru. But he already suspects that her wedding luggage contains enough explosives to destroy the Jaguar clan. She's not a peace offering for the Jaguar, but an assassin.
Dylan earns Elssbett's respect by defending the Maru and fighting her ably in single combat. But she ends up restraining him, treating him as her slave when she takes the ship in for repairs. Still Dylan tries to point out the ways in which he's her equal, sympathizing with the fact that she's had to train her whole life for this attack on the Jaguar pride without ever being asked what she wants to do. In the luxury of the station's honeymoon suite, Elssbett admits that she enjoyed her freedom while on the Andromeda; she invites Dylan to make love to her so she can feel human again. After initial resistance, he gives in to his own growing attraction to the Nietzschean. But while he's dressing, she pulls a weapon again and insists she'll go through with her attack on the Jaguar.
Meanwhile, Cuchulain of the Dragan clan has sent the Andromeda Ascendant chasing decoys so he can pursue Elssbett. He bursts in on her and Dylan in the honeymoon suite, but they escape on the Maru. Dylan orders Beka to take the Andromeda out of danger, then leads pursuing Dragan attack vessels toward the gas giant where he suspects the Sabra ambush fleet is hiding. Faced with the prospect of immediate war, Elssbett reluctantly agrees to marry the Jaguar first son so the Sabra will have an ally against the Dragan. To her surprise, she likes Charlemagne, and makes the Nietzscheans keep their bargain to free two star systems from enslavement.
Though it sounds like a ripoff of Star Trek's "Elaan of Troyius" combined with The Next Generation's "The Perfect Mate," "The Honey Offering" is one of Andromeda's wittiest and most surprising episodes. Elssbett is a fantastic character, someone who's as smart and strong as any Nietzschean, yet her singleminded, isolated upbringing gives her a strange sort of innocence and vulnerability. Unlike Elaan, Elssbett's arrogance and materialism are partly a charade -- she needs to appear to be a pampered princess, not a cold-blooded killer. Yet she finds she likes the luxuries on Andromeda, not just beautiful rooms but friendly people who get along despite the vast differences in their backgrounds. Like Picard's Kamala, she absorbs the best aspects of Dylan's personality, realizing it is both inevitable and logical for her to go through with her arranged marriage.
There are many lines that made me laugh aloud -- Elssbett calling Trance a purple monkey, Tyr saying he'd be lying to Elssbett if he claimed that Dylan wasn't inferior, Dylan grousing that he should have asked for six solar systems instead of two for putting up with his passenger, Elssbett admitting she likes her new husband's decadence. Beka in particular is on a roll, complaining that Elssbett's attitude ruins her looks, grumping about all the suicide missions requiring the use of her ship, scoffing at Harper's chances of getting it on with a Nietzschean woman or anyone else, announcing that Rev Bem gets to be in charge of spin control at the pearly gates if they all die fighting the Dragan. But Beka's finest moment by far comes when Elssbett assumes that she's Dylan's lover. The first officer says, "Why hide it?", kisses the captain, then pats him on the butt while warning Elssbett that if she damages the merchandise, she's going to have to pay for it. Dylan looks like he has no idea what hit him but he's sure not complaining. I had to rewind that scene and watch it three times.
In general the sex quotient of "The Honey Offering" wins kudos. The episode starts with Dylan and Tyr jogging around the ship, looking lovely, disheveled and sweaty; perhaps every episode should start this way. Then Dylan takes off his shirt while chatting with Rev Bem, which seems rather insensitive -- if I'm thinking about eating the guy just from watching him on television, imagine how a Magog must feel with him sweating right there in the room. We get to see the captain shirtless again after his romance in the honeymoon suite, which is both passionate and sweet; somehow Rommie knows enough to be jealous even though presumably she doesn't know exactly what went on when Dylan was off the ship. Elssbett has nice chemistry with Dylan and with Tyr, too, particularly when she calls him inferior and he suggests that if she saw him naked, she'd take it back. If Andromeda must keep borrowing from Star Trek, I really hope we get a "Naked Time" episode soon.
Just once I'd like to see some show do an installment about an arranged marriage where it's a man being married off against his will to seal an alliance. (Too bad that wasn't the plot of Voyager's Q angst-fest, with Janeway as the unattainable but desirable love interest.) Despite being used as property, Elssbett has great attitude -- ya gotta love a woman who stomps on Trance's tail. "You don't fight like a human," the Nietzschean sneers at Dylan, to which he responds, "You don't fight like a girl." This annoys me; I bet Beka could whip Dylan's butt even if his mother did come from a heavy-gravity planet. At least Elssbett doesn't bother to react to the bait. Poor Dylan is surrounded by women who are all superior to him in some way, even if Trance's powers are gimmicky; like Hercules, he's a doofus in love no matter how strong he is. It might be nice to see this series' version of Angel One or That Which Survives just to get the bad taste out of my mouth forever.
Lots of exterior battle scenes and cool special effects for Elssbett's monomolecular lash make for nice visuals, but can't compete with the animal-print decor in the honeymoon suite. Finally we get to see what Harper's been doing with all the robots from the pilot, too. And the whole crew shows up for this episode, plus every single one of them gets something innuendo-laden to do! Perhaps these are shallow reasons for loving an episode, but I don't care. I loved "The Honey Offering." When the dialogue's this snappy and the characters this strong, who cares if the science fiction's not blazingly original?