"The Lone and Level Sands"
Week of October 27, 2002
by Michelle Erica Green

Dylan Meets a Traveler From an Antique Land...Earth

"The Lone and Level Sands" Plot Summary:

As Dylan, Tyr, Harper and Rommie return from signing a non-aggression pact with the Kalderans, the Maru is attacked by Ogami fighters who destroy the slip drive. They intercept what sounds like a distress call from a ship which Dylan assumes is also under attack from the Ogami, but the unknown vessel appears and begins to destroy the Ogami pirate ships, taking the damaged Maru into its hangar bay. A team boards the Maru, led by the woman in the distress call -- Nadya Ratmansky of the Bellerophon, a ship that left Earth before the discovery of slipstream technology thousands of years before. She denies having sent the signal and escorts Dylan to the bridge, where he meets Captain Metis. Against the captain's orders, Dylan and his people help fight the Ogami who have boarded the Bellerophon, impressing Metis and the rest of the crew.

Bellerophon engineer Kemp helps Harper try to repair the Maru, but the slipstream drive has been badly damaged. Kemp is fascinated by the drive, which makes it possible to travel using cosmic strings, rather than approaching lightspeed and ending up distorting time so that hundreds of years are compressed into a few minutes. Meanwhile, Metis admires Hunt's quest and describes the wonders of his own journey, but Dylan is upset to realize that a message will take a century to reach Andromeda and the nearest known system is centuries away at sublight speeds. Metis invites the Andromeda crew to stay on the Bellerophon or to be dropped off at the nearest system, which will cost them three months of travel and 57 years in comparative Commonwealth time.

Kemp learns from Harper that terrible things have occurred on Earth since his departure; he expresses his longing to go back. So does Nadya, who tells Dylan that Bellerophon has the means to repair the Maru, but Metis won't allow it, for he believes his mission to be so important that he keeps his crew as prisoners and won't allow them to explore other options. That was why she sent the distress call. Rommie takes advantage of Metis' obvious attraction to her, kissing him so that she can borrow an access card from his quarters. Later, in a locked hangar, she discovers a slipfighter. Harper realizes that its drive could not have worked on the Bellerophon, but it could power the Maru.

Dylan warns Metis that his crew intends to mutiny and expresses his fury that the other captain lied to him. Metis claims that he has the slipfighter for strategic reasons and accelerates his ship to near-light speed when Nadya and her cohorts burst in. He wants to kill the traitors, but Dylan persuades Metis to let him take those who insist on leaving with him on the Maru. He says that if he could change the universe with a crew of six, Metis can continue his mission with fewer crewmembers as well. Andromeda finds the Maru just after Bellerophon engages its hyperdrive, rescuing the crew and the refugees. In private, Dylan tells Rommie that he envies the explorers and promises her that one day, they'll point themselves at the farthest star and see what's out there.


With two winning episodes in a row, Andromeda has gone a long way to make me feel better about this season. "The Lone and Level Sands" takes its title from Shelley's "Ozymandias," in which a traveler to an ancient land describes the broken remains of a mighty statue -- and, by extension, the civilization that created it. This scenario is rather the reverse -- the crew of the Bellerophon (named for the Greek hero who tried to fly the winged horse Pegasus to the home of the gods) remembers Earth in its glory, with no first-hand knowledge of the war, Magog and Nietzscheans that devastated it after they left. Truly they no longer have any home to return to, yet they still resent their captain's refusal to let their mission of exploration end.

Metis is one of the most interesting characters we've seen yet on this show. He's a combination of a Shakespearean tragic hero -- he even tries to talk like one, though he sounds amusingly like (the wrath of) Khan when discussing disloyalty -- and a captain who doesn't realize his commitment to his mission may, in fact, be what threatens his mission. The Ahab/Nemo figure was echoed at times in Space: 1999's Commander Koenig and Voyager's Captain Janeway, two figures with whom Metis has much in common. He is aware that by the standards of many, he would be considered mad, and it's entertaining to hear Dylan of all people assure him otherwise. Since he succeeded against all odds, few on his own crew question Dylan's sanity these days, but there's still quite a case to be made that he's a megalomaniac, trying to reshape the world like Ozymandias.

One wonders what Tyr would say about Metis' values and goals, but Tyr is frustratingly silent -- missing from much of the episode, in fact, and peculiarly passive about waiting out his fate on an obscure planet if that's what Dylan thinks they should do. On the one hand, Metis has his own little pride on his ship, but on the other hand, he's clearly losing control of its members and he's hardly creating a biological legacy for the future if an android is his best romantic prospect in ages. Nadya insists that his mission is for naught, and Kemp thinks it's much more important to return to Earth in whatever shape they find it. Which is crazier -- Metis for wanting to keep exploring, or the others to want to return to a galaxy they'll barely recognize?

Tony Todd, a Trek regular who played both Worf's brother Kurn and Jake Sisko in "The Visitor," maintains his exceptional standards here and brings out the best in Kevin Sorbo, who doesn't quite manage tears as Todd does but looks equally moved in their final scene together. It's a shame that the scenario doesn't make the return of Metis likely, because the chemistry between the actors is exceptional. Dylan doesn't have the same edge of competitiveness with Metis as he does with Tyr. He believes at first that he's found a kindred spirit, then is livid at being betrayed, and finally realizes that this may be the one person in the universe who really understands why he had to try to rebuild a Commonwealth against impossible odds and a crew of rebels. For Dylan, life is politics, but for Metis, that's the small picture; there's a whole universe out there, so why obsess over one small part of it?

There's a lot of violence early on, but in this rare instance, it's essential to the plot. The captains have to save one another's lives before Dylan can think of this ancient explorer as an equal, and Metis has to see Dylan in battle before he can tell him that the next time he asks Dylan to stay put, Dylan should tell him to go to hell. Unfortunately we don't really get a sense of Metis or his crew from the style of battle, and the machine-gun noises made by the weapons seem like a silly way to date the Bellerophon's tech. It's not even clear whether they engage the Ogami to protect the Maru or because they're already under attack. The Kalderans used to be vicious foes but they've just signed a peace treaty at the start of the episode, so I guess the Ogami are replacement villains, though if they're so handily dispatched by an ancient Earth vessel, they'll get silly pretty quickly.

Other than the Trekkie uniforms of Metis' crew, we don't really get a sense of the differences in technology and education that must exist between Harper and Kemp's engineers. Harper does an excellent job explaining how slipstream works in comparison to the time dilation of near-lightspeed, but the latter isn't described very well. If three months of travel would have brought the crew 57 years into the future, shouldn't those little jumps Metis took to distract the mutineers have distorted the timeline somewhat? Or does that explain how Beka on Andromeda manages to track them down so fast despite the near-impossibility of opening slip-portals in the middle of nowhere. Instead of a battle, it might have been interesting if the Maru's engines stopped working due to Kalderan sabotage or something, letting the Bellerophon rescue the ship and allowing Dylan and crew to help them in some scientific way rather than in combat, which would have done more to illustrate the differences in their timelines.

Other than Dylan, Rommie gets the most interesting character moments. At first it's annoying to watch her pretend to return Metis' affections when it appears that she only wants his keycard; she seems quite unimpressed at his admiration of her following the onboard battle. But it becomes obvious that her feelings are more complicated. Dylan introduces her as a warship, but Metis sees her as a person -- a beautiful, desirable woman, smart and strong, unique. Time must dilate for Rommie too, for she will live centuries longer than anyone else she knows. Does her memory recall time like a human's, or does its vast span require a different sense of the passage of history? Even if Dylan takes her on her promised trip out to the farthest stars, he'll be dead before she sees Metis again, and it must be comforting for her to have that to look forward to.

The sound was even worse on this episode than others this season; someone please fire whoever mixes it and make it possible to hear the dialogue! The visuals were okay, but too many fight scenes add an unnecessary element of cheesiness that detracts from really essential effects like the mutineers slamming up against the bulkheads. This episode proves that a talk-driven episode can succeed far better than action hours. Let's hope Tribune notices.

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