Stranger Than Usual
"If the Wheel Is Fixed" Plot Summary:
With no sign of Beka or Tyr on the Maru, Dylan has Rommie search the dimensional tunnel for them, using equipment designed by Harper. But the tunnel compromises the ship's artificial gravity so Dylan shoots the device with his force lance to free them. They watch the Maru's log and see strange images interspersed with the recording of its last flight -- an empty chair, a kitten, smiling crewmembers. In the midst of the investigation, Tyr and Beka stride onto the command deck and calmly warn Dylan to leave the area.
When the ship moves too slowly for her taste, Beka takes over the piloting controls and tries to engage slipstream, which nearly traps them in the tunnel before Dylan's slingshot maneuver pulls them free. Beka comes to apologize to Dylan, looking like she plans to kiss him before a sudden jolt sends them crashing to the floor. The ship has gone into maintenance mode and is being flooded with potent decontaminants. But the fumes are fake, and Tyr and Beka continue to behave very strangely -- they apparently can walk through walls and kiss passionately when they meet in a corridor.
Harper warns Dylan that he ran a check on a ray coming from the vicinity of the tunnel and it matches Beka and Tyr's nervous systems perfectly. This leads Dylan to conclude that his crewmembers are being manipulated by some unknown force. But before he can figure out whom or what, Beka has taken Trance on a joyride on the Maru, and Tyr has taken Rommie hostage -- disabling her arms and legs so he can take over the ship. Tyr orders Rommie to kill Dylan but she manages to warn the captain before depressurizing the Command Deck. Dylan finds Harper at a maintenance junction and orders him to use his equipment to close the dimensional tunnel permanently.
Beka uses the Maru to try to push Andromeda into the tunnel while Tyr erases Andromeda's AI because she let Dylan live. The captain drops in and fights with Tyr, who tries to kill him again. Meanwhile Trance and Beka begin to fight on the Maru with similar results. Just then Harper finishes manipulating his equipment and the tunnel closes for good. Beka returns to normal and engages in girl talk with Rommie and Trance; Tyr feels terrible that he tried to hurt Dylan, and even worse because his Nietzschean bone spurs are gone.
Andromeda's third season opens with a jittery plot, as people jump on and off the Maru and a kitten appears and disappears for no fathomable reason. Still, it's great to see the old gang again. All the kisses and attempted kisses leave a big smile on my face. Is that a shallow reason to like a mediocre episode? Oh well, tough.
"If the Wheel Is Fixed" uses a Star Trek staple to wrap up the story -- a technobabble solution. Harper builds a device with "Jaws" in the name to open and close a dimensional tunnel, which is cute. But I'm not even sure how the tunnel works, let alone the machinery to manipulate it. I'm also not clear on whether there were time distortions going on inside or outside of the tunnel, because the Maru went from trashed to flight-worthy in what seemed like minutes. And don't even ask what happened when Beka took over the controls and tried to go to slipstream -- I guess she was trying to get back into the tunnel, for reasons which never became clear, but the entire sequence from her dive for the controls to Dylan slapping her hand away and piloting into a slingshot left me more confused than all the jumps in "It Makes a Lovely Light."
I think the less said about the plot, the better. Let's move on to the characters. Beka tries to reward Dylan for giving her a kitten by coming on to him, which makes for a very nice scene indeed, though did she know Tyr had manipulated the AI and the kitten was one of the results? Even if she didn't, where did she think Dylan had time to pick up a pet while he was trying to rescue her from the tunnel? For that matter, was she kissing him in the hope of then whispering in his ear that she really wanted to get back to the tunnel, or just because whatever ray was affecting her made her a hot and lusty babe? I suspect the latter explanation considering her behavior overall; it's a bit surprising for her to make out with Tyr in the middle of a corridor, though not inconceivable based on the innuendo last season, but she was awfully touchy-feely with Trance, too, fiddling with her braids and all.
In sum, Beka didn't seem all that outrageously out of character, except for the trying-to-destroy-Andromeda bit. We've seen her fly like a lunatic before even when she wasn't on Flash, we've heard her wishing for an easier path a bit less breathily, we've seen her kiss Dylan for more casually manipulative purposes. And Tyr seems out of character only because his character has changed so much. There was a time when I'd have expected him to erase the AI without a second thought, but not now -- and not for the reasons Rommie gives, but because deep down he likes Andromeda too much to do so. He might even kiss her if he had a valid reason to do so like needing to distract her from his nefarious plans.
There was also a time when I'd expect him to order Dylan's death without hesitation, but the new Tyr is more likely to choke up at the realization that he might have hurt his captain, as he does at the end of the episode. With or without bone spurs, Tyr's devotion to his ancestral pride can't compete with his devotion to Dylan. I hope we get a good explanation for what happened to the bones at some point, because I'd like to know which came first -- the beginning of Tyr's biological divergence from Nietzschean characteristics or the beginning of his warm fuzzy side. In this episode it doesn't seem like Beka or Tyr has been possessed so much as that they've reverted to their pre-Dylan personalities.
For better or worse, Dylan's a rock. He can make dropping-in jokes in the midst of a major crisis. "The universe is a dangerous place...but my crew and I fight to make it safe," he declares in the Oh-Prophets-What-Were-They-Thinking new opening, and for the remainder of the episode, his intellect remains at a similarly low level of sophistication. He won't give up on his friends, he's sure they must be possessed or something before he has evidence, in the wittiest line of the episode, he announces that he may have to kill Beka and Tyr ("Plan B always sucks"). This after he risks his ship and everyone's lives to try to retrieve them. He goes diving out into a sea of wreckage looking for them while Rommie desperately tries to keep him safe. How many times does he replay that log, trying to make sense of it? They're acting stranger than usual, as he says, but the only time he looks truly shaken is when he realizes that Beka's about to kiss him.
'Scuse me, I'm going to go watch that again.
Nope -- still can't tell when or why the kitten disappeared. Nor do I understand Dylan's explanation about how their minds see what they want to see, considering that they seem to be sharing a false reality -- how does that work? Nor can I tell whether Trance is making up the future in which Beka will be her poor hacked-up puppet or if that's just an attempt at distraction. It fits in with Borg Beka whom we saw in "Ouroboros," but they already deviated from that timeline when Beka went off with Tyr in last season's finale, didn't they? Trance did not have a particularly good episode, catfight notwithstanding. She had to wail Deanna Troi-style that Tyr and Beka were gone, and spout cryptic, silly dialogue about luck versus fate. But her makeup seems less distracting than last season.
And Rommie, who got lots of screen time in her holographic and viewscreen avatars, has finally ditched the blue hair! I'm celebrating this as a great character change because otherwise I might fixate on how easily Tyr can distract her with a touch, so thoroughly that he's able to knock her out and disconnect her arms and legs. I had a momentary Boxing Rommie nightmare until it became clear that even paralyzed, she wouldn't let Tyr mess with her mind any further. I'm not clear exactly what Tyr does to the A.I. since I thought rebooting wiped her memories, but it doesn't stop Rommie from warning Dylan how well he's doing -- NOT -- in his fight against the Nietzschean. Now someone just has to make sure it's not so freakin' easy to delete her next time.
This is Bob Engels' first episode, but it's really hard to get a sense of where the show might be going from it; the cliffhanger wraps without mention of the Commonwealth representatives from the finale last season, and we never learn the link between the dimensional tunnel and the evil aliens who came through it. I wouldn't mind seeing them again, but not if it requires Harper's technobabble invention to reopen the way. There's no attempt at science fiction here, and no real character development despite some entertaining crew bonding. I'm hoping the threads of various arcs get picked up, but only time will tell.