Dylan Hunt and the Temple of Gloom
"In Heaven Now Are Three" Plot Summary:
When Trance warns Beka that Tyr will die if she takes him on a hunt for a legendary artifact, Beka reluctantly invites Dylan instead. The Engine of Creation can reputedly re-ignite suns and raise the dead, but Dylan believes it to be a myth like the Holy Grail. Nonetheless, he agrees to accompany Trance and Beka on the search since legend holds that only a trio can retrieve the artifact. Though pleased to be in charge of a mission for the first time in two years, Beka gets embarrassed when problems arise and frustrated when Dylan tries to solve problems for her. Trance observes that Dylan and Beka work well together because their styles are so opposite -- he's a strategist, while she likes to fly by the seat of her pants.
After finding a previous archaeological expedition slaughtered, the Andromeda crew have a run-in with a competing trio consisting of former cop Fletcher, former Restorian Duran and their cheerful servant Flux. Beka, Dylan and Trance manage to escape them and make their way to the temple that houses the Engine of Creation. After getting past protective booby-traps and solving the riddles hiding the prize, they discover that someone has beaten them to the inner chamber. Then the natives capture Beka's and Fletcher's teams, insisting that they submit to a Contest of Fire and Pain to demonstrate which trio is more worthy of possessing the Engine.
As Dylan and Fletcher (joined by Beka and Duran) fight with spears and swords to prove their worthiness, their alien crewmates watch from the sidelines. Flux, who recognizes Trance, says that she should rejoin her siblings and her people. She replies her place is with her friends, and that the Engine will determine its own fate. Dylan and Beka get the upper hand in combat but refuse to kill Fletcher and Duran, demonstrating their peaceful intentions. They receive the engine, but back on the Maru, they can't figure out how to make it work. Dylan recalls the legend of a Vedran archaeologist who used the Engine to become a god, then broke it into five pieces to save the universe. Beka realizes they may possess only 1/5 of the Engine scattered by the Vedrans across the stars, but she says the mission was still worth it because it made her realize that she and Dylan make a good team.
If this had been an episode of a different show, I would have enjoyed it greatly. I miss Andromeda, but it's obvious we should expect the second coming of Hercules from now on. Like the Night of the Living Dead parody 'Dance of the Mayflies,' it's impossible to take 'In Heaven Now Are Three' seriously; it's a game, as the writers make clear in dozens of direct and subtle metaphors used in the episode. Besides verbal references to chess, Go, and Spin the Bottle, there's a treasure hunt with cryptic map and booby traps, puzzle-solving when Beka, Dylan and Trance try to find the Engine inside its secret chamber, and gladiatorial games by which the competing trios fight for possession of the Engine (which itself turns out to be only 1/5 of a bigger puzzle). It's a romp with lots of nods to Indiana Jones and Star Trek.
If Andromeda sounds like Hercules In Space these days, think of this installment as one where Herc, Iolaus and Discord search for a device powerful enough to defeat Olympian scheming. It would play out just this way: a little metaphysics, a little hand-combat, and a lot of one-liners. This week Trance provides the excuse for Dylan to play action hero by warning that Tyr will die if he goes on the mission. This is rather clever on the part of the writers -- now whenever Tyr or anyone else starts to get too much screen time, Trance can utter some cryptic reason why that person must lie low for awhile. Beka grumbles that it's supposed to be her turn to be in charge. But she needs a trinity to recover the artifact, and 'Captain Terrific' is in the mood for taking another break from trying to restore the Commonwealth -- a quest Beka hilariously compares to the search for the Holy Grail.
Since Dylan seems to have forgotten what happened the last time Beka went off looking for archaeological treasure, he heads off with her and Trance to play Sydney, Nigel and Claudia from Relic Hunter. Unfortunately, Dylan plays Sydney the heroic hero, while Beka gets stuck playing Nigel the bumbling assistant. When his partner steps on a mine, Dylan -- who apparently has seen Raiders of the Lost Ark -- ascertains that a nearby open-mouthed idol will shoot darts at her if she moves, so he knocks her down and takes the darts in his backpack before she can finish explaining her plan to use counter-weights. Counter-weights never worked for Indy anyway. But Dylan's insistence on swashbuckling gets annoying, and Beka tells him so: he's not letting her lead. Dylan first denies the charges, then tries to charm her. Annoyingly enough, it works. Like Rommie the week before, Beka admits that Dylan's become very important to her and she doesn't want to lose him.
What about Tyr? Beka claims she only wanted him around because she can manipulate him! Whether or not she's kidding, the throwaway line suddenly opens a chasm in the episode, offering a tantalizing might-have-been: what if Tyr instead of Dylan had gotten to be the hero this week, or at least an equal partner for Beka? Wouldn't it be great fun to see her trying to manipulate him, possibly failing miserably, possibly succeeding but only because he has an agenda of his own? But Tyr's been dismissed to the sidelines and Harper and Rommie are off on a field trip, which leaves Captains Hunt and Valentine alone with Andromeda's equivalent of a Q. Her role? To get taken hostage twice, to serve as ringside announcer, and to point out how perfect Dylan and Beka are for each other (since opposites attract and -- in Beka's words -- he's controlling, she's a shoot-from-the-hip kind of gal, just like their alter egos Fletcher and Duran).
We do get some intriguing references to Trance's past life. Flux is one of her kind, something astute viewers will realize from their common dreadlocks and cranial bone structure. He starts out sounding like a character from Monty Python and ends up talking like Buffy's Spike, mentioning her neglected siblings and her obligation to their kind. Former Purple Pixie avers that she has never forgotten whose side she's on, but she dreams of staying with her friends. Do we care? That depends on how irked we are that, after her warning that Tyr will die if he comes on the mission, she conveniently doesn't know anything about the booby-traps or mines and she doesn't even keep a proper watch as Dylan and Beka sleep in the woods. (I'm not really sure who's responsible for the lack of a guard, but it's a pretty dopey oversight on a planet where so many people have been decapitated.)
Back to the power couple, since Trance still makes no sense to me. Dylan may be a master strategist, but he also has a very weird sense of humor -- it was strange enough when the topic was kissing zombies, but listening to him make jokes in a gas chamber is quite distasteful. Even though Beka claims the right to fight in the native ritual, Dylan insists on volunteering -- whether it's out of love, loyalty or an inability to share the spotlight isn't clear. In the end Beka jumps into the fray to save him from Duran, allowing viewers to see exactly the sort of catfight she rolled her eyes at earlier.
Finally Dylan and Beka make a wish together, then walk off with their arms around each other after Beka's confession that they make a pretty good team. Dylan grins that maybe dreams do come true. It's more balanced bonding than between Dylan and Rommie in 'Dance of the Mayflies,' but it's hard to tell whether or not the two captains believe (or want one another to believe) that it's purely platonic. Are we supposed to assume that Dylan's wish concerned Beka, rather than the restoration of the Commonwealth and the end of his struggles with Magog and Nietzscheans? Maybe he should have invited Trance to join them in wishing, since the Engine apparently prefers three-ways. Will the teasing glow in the device at the end come to any sort of fruition we'll see on the series, or will it become a dropped plot thread? I'm not even sure which to hope for. Nor am I sure whether to hope for a Dylan-Beka romance, something I once very much wanted to see on this show; there are entirely too many women in Dylan's orbit already.
Let's talk references, since the episode is chock full of them. When the Whirling Guardian of the sanctum nearly decapitated Dylan, my husband and I chanted, 'The penitent man kneels before God. Kneel.' (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.) Then Dylan dove through a door to safety in time to hear Trance and Beka discover an inscription saying when three souls turn as one, the engine shall be delivered by the penitent. Bwaah! Dylan quoted Occam's Razor, which says the simplest solution usually right, but he forgot Indy's corollary, which is that in archaeology, the simplest solution is usually a boobytrap. Oops.
And how to choose between the trios? The native guardians may seem primitive -- why they've been entrusted with the Engine isn't explained -- but they've obviously seen Classic Trek. Let's have a fight to the death like in 'Amok Time,' with weapons from 'Bread and Circuses'! And when Dylan and Beka spare their adversaries, like Kirk did in 'Arena,' they will prove their worthiness (as Trance helpfully explains for anyone who can't see this conclusion coming before the fight even starts). Why isn't she allowed to fight with Dylan and Beka? That's not explained, except Trance's theory that it's to prevent cheating, but how the native guardians realized that she's a Q is anybody's guess.
In the end, the Engine itself becomes an interesting character. Trance attributes intelligence to it and claims that it manipulates events to guarantee that it will fall into the right hands. Yet one senses from the start that the Engine will prove either too dangerous to unleash (like the Lost Ark) or powerful only within circumscribed boundaries (like the Holy Grail). It seems to be both, but we learn less about it than Beka allegedly knows before she starts her quest. A sentient machine that can raise the dead and restart the universe wouldn't really need a hero, would it, not even a prince among kludges like Captain Hunt.
This episode is best enjoyed on its merits, which include campy wit, stylized over-acting (especially on the part of the guest stars), and golden glitter on Trance's cleavage that puts Rommie's former jelly boobs to shame. 'The true quarry of any great adventurer is the undiscovered territory of their own soul,' says the opening quote, ostensibly by one Lady Makros. A bit over-dramatic, like Trance's predictions of death, yet it's refreshing to know that along with swashbuckling archaeologists, Spin the Bottle and 'Bite Me,' terrible grammar will accompany humans into the future. Forget the big issues, let's just have fun for awhile.