"Mad To Be Saved"
Week of October 13, 2002
by Michelle Erica Green

Whom Gods Destroy

"Mad To Be Saved" Plot Summary:

The crew picks up a distress call from a ship fleeing the Gallaphron defense forces, from which no ship has ever escaped. Dylan orders Andromeda to intercept and rescue the freighter, which crashes into the hangar, nearly killing the oxygen-deprived crew. After Tyr and Dylan rescue them, the refugees are hysterically happy and one woman, Angelika, kisses Dylan passionately in gratitude. Rommie attributes the strange behavior to hypoxia, but the newcomers remain quite erratic, with one refugee weeping over Beka's soft blankets and another threatening Harper with a jigsaw.

Resistance leader Angelika tells Dylan that they were tortured on her planet and abused by the captain of the freighter that they paid to sneak them away. When Rommie finds the captain's brain hidden on his ship, Angelika admits that they killed him but appeals to Dylan to understand how desperate they were. A group of refugees moves threateningly through Andromeda's corridors and takes Harper hostage in the machine shop. Because they have obviously been tormented on their own planet, Dylan doesn't want to use force against them, but he agrees to let Tyr try to rescue Harper on the condition that he won't harm any of the refugees. As soon as Tyr gets inside and frees Harper, the Nietzschean is given high-voltage shocks and tied up, while a few of the refugees begin to bang on magnetized rods that could explode and destroy the ship.

Under pressure from Dylan, Angelika admits that her people came from insane asylums, but not because they were insane -- people who demanded freedom on her world were locked away and then experimented upon until they really lost their minds. Dylan asks for her help in subduing them, but she confesses to being the doctor who performed the psychological experiments. When Dylan then tells the refugees that he has their torturer, each of them in turn claims to be "Dr. Yanomani." Rommie identifies that man as a war criminal and guesses that he may be hidden among the patients, having brainwashed them all. Meanwhile, Tyr regains his voice and calls for the ship's internal defense system, which makes the patients cry out and begin to recite nonsense phrases.

Dylan breaks into the machine shop to rescue Tyr and accidentally breaches Yanomani's disguise, but he cannot imprison the doctor, who has a holographic message from the Commonwealth demanding safe passage for the man and his vital research. Realizing that the patients have always gone berserk upon hearing the phrase "defense system," Dylan guesses that the phrase is a mnemonic trigger and their responsive nonsense words contain keys to Gallaphron's defense system; that would explain why they are so important to the Commonwealth. At Dylan's behest, Rommie studies the patients' EEG spikes and uses their values as coordinates for orbital satellites. Dylan obtains all the information he needs, but he fails to keep a close watch on Dr. Yanomani, who is tortured to death by Angelika. Andromeda then transfers the refugees to a medical facility.


A truly clever scientific gimmick can't redeem this episode from a morass of violent, confusing scenes. "Mad To Be Saved" is reminiscent of original Trek's "Whom Gods Destroy," the episode in which Captain Kirk discovers that a mad shapeshifter has taken over an insane asylum. That episode had very poor characterization of insane torture victims, and this one was even worse, though it's not clear whether Angelika is telling the truth and they were all sane before Yanomani's experiments -- why he would instill a desire to torture people with power tools is beyond me, but then, I also don't understand how Angelika tortured him to death.

In fact there are a lot of things I don't understand, like why Andromeda couldn't flood the machine shop with the refugees with some kind of gas to make them all pass out (Tyr was already out cold), or why she couldn't at least turn off the gravity long enough to stop refugees from banging on those magnetic rods that can cause the ship to explode (I won't even ask why they're exposed like that in the first place), and why didn't Trance use any of her usual psychobabble or medical skills on the refugees (perhaps she has lost those since she became New Trance, but why?), nor why Andromeda can get a perfect view of the machine shop yet apparently can't keep an eye on what's going on elsewhere in the ship when there are dozens of refugees running around.

Let's just gloss over those things, and go on to the real problem, which is: even if the brand-spanking-new Commonwealth is run by idiots and buffoons, even if Dylan is so desperate for a little action that he'll let a girl take a shower in his quarters before bothering to find out whether she's sane or stable, even if Harper's gotten confident enough in his physical prowess that he doesn't demand to have a bunch of tool-wielding psychos locked out of his machine shop at the first sign of trouble, even if Beka's not worried about loopy visitors on the Maru drooling on her pillows...when oh when is Dylan going to notice that his resident Nietzschean has been kidnapped and replaced by a wussy replicant?

I don't mind New Trance, I'm tolerating a more subservient Beka, I'm quite pleased with tough Harper, and Dylan's still pretty much Dylan only more so, but Tyr...I don't know who that guy with the braids is. He has some moments that make me smile, like grinning broadly at Dylan when he thinks Dylan is going to get it on with Angelika and noting that only fifty percent of people that he knows have slugged a refugee for reciting annoying philosophy. But those aren't particularly Tyr moments, and the rest of the episode, his role consists of raising eyebrows, getting kidnapped and failing to do anything useful like recommend concrete ways of getting Harper freed, other than marching in and showing off his muscles (and we see how much good that does against a crowd of that size).

Isn't he sort of the ship's tactical officer? Since when does he politely ask Dylan why he's negotiating with crazies rather than announcing in no uncertain terms that this is a pointless exercise? Surely he remembers that Rommie can turn off her A.G. or deliver high-voltage shocks across a wider space than the little prod in the hands of the refugees? Surely he still remembers how to fight? There was a time when I'd have expected him to dump a needless threat out an airlock regardless of Dylan's orders. Then there was a time when I'd have expected him to use excessive force to contain the problem and then apologize to Dylan for it later. Then there was a time when I would have expected him to be Dylan's lapdog, but at least get the job done. Now he's basically the damsel in distress. This is bad, folks.

Rommie, at least, gets angry when it looks like Dylan's not terribly concerned that she might get blown up. However, she's awfully prissy telling Dylan that he has to honor the new, unimproved Commonwealth's Get Out Of Jail Free card and turn Yanomani over -- and even if they both buy that, couldn't he have kept the guy locked up for his own protection? Maybe Dylan was hoping Angelika would do just what she did, since he threatened to let her anyway, but that makes him look even worse than if he had just been looking the other way.

If the Commonwealth really did sanction this torturer to break the Gallaphron defense codes, then he's right that he should have nothing to do with them, but how can he find that out with Yanomani dead? And if the Commonwealth had something else entirely going on that he couldn't learn from the crazies on his ship -- whom, frankly, I had trouble caring about or believing in, after all the episode bent over backwards to make them abusive and unsympathetic so that we wouldn't be troubled when Dylan and Rommie tortured them to get the codes later on -- didn't he have an obligation to keep the guy alive long enough to find out what it might have been?

While the first two episodes of this season haven't been extraordinary, they weren't painful to watch. "Mad To Be Saved" was. It's the violence I hated last season without even a strong dramatic reason for it, and except for the brief hilarious scene with the whole crew walking in on Dylan's tryst, none of the wit. By the time the clever conclusion rolled around with the neat gimmick of explaining what all the jibberish meant, I had stopped caring about the hows and whys. After all that, we never even found out if the defense system was taken down. That's not a problem in conception but in execution, which could be cleared up next week, though it probably won't. The problems with Tyr and with Rommie's inconsistent abilities go a lot deeper. I'm starting to get nervous.

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