Flash For Beka
"It Makes a Lovely Light" Plot Summary:
Having read the diary Trance and Harper acquired in the company of Gerentex, Beka believes she can pilot the Andromeda through the slipstream to Tarn-Vedra, even though no ship has successfully reached the lost homeworld of the Systems Commonwealth for three centuries. Dylan is concerned about how well the crew will function for long stretches in the slipstream, but Beka assures him that she will be able to navigate no matter how stressful the trip becomes. Tyr says he'd feel safer waiting for them in the Maru, and Rev Bem worries that Tarn-Vedra may not have vanished from the slipstream but have chosen to hide from it -- they may not want visitors. Still, Dylan agrees to let Beka try, and her first ten jumps go very well.
Then the Andromeda Ascendant gets stuck between the two black holes at the center of the Andromeda Galaxy. At the same time, Trance falls into a coma from the stress of the slipstream jumps. Determined to keep her promise to get the ship to Tarn-Vedra, Beka mixes medical drugs to make flash, which she believes will boost her reaction time and enhance her concentration. Then she successfully slipstreams past the galactic core, impressing Dylan with her skills. But Trance, Harper and Tyr all catch her using flash. When Beka confronts Dylan over his resistance to her flight plan, claiming that he's not a real captain, Tyr notes that her heartbeat, adrenaline levels and contact lenses all indicate the use of a mind-enhancing drug. Before Dylan can relieve her of duty, Beka leaps into the pilot's chair and goes to slipstream. With Tyr's help, Dylan disarms her, but not before the ship gets stuck again in a radiation-filled gravity well.
As Beka goes through withdrawal, Rev Bem counsels that the Divine loves people best when they are broken. But Beka says no one loves a pilot who screws up. She manages to escape, then diverts the controls of the ship so she can navigate the slipstream without being on the bridge. Dylan tries to keep her talking as he attempts to reroute the controls, and discovers she fears becoming like her father, though not because her father was an addict -- she's more concerned with keeping her promises to people, unlike other Valentines. When the crew manages to break in, Beka refuses to believe Dylan wants to help her, though he insists that after losing 4000 people on his ship, he doesn't want to lose one more. She knows that she is overdosing, but insists on trying to ride the slipstream once more.
When the ship breaks free and returns to the galactic ring, Beka wakes in the medical bay to find her captain watching her. She admits that she shot Rev and that flash made her act insanely, though she tries to underplay it. Dylan points out that without his ship's technology, she would have died. He says he saw her compulsion to take flash, even though she knew what it was doing to her -- she liked it. "I'm my father after all," she fears, facing a future of waking up every day longing for the drug. Captain Hunt promises that the Commonwealth holds the line against the darkness in every individual as well as member worlds; he'll help her fight the darkness within herself.
An excellent performance by Lisa Ryder and some intriguing character development for Beka highlight "It Makes a Lovely Light," which otherwise features a lot of jumping around on a road to nowhere. This is a very tight bottle show, taking place entirely within a few rooms on the ship. And Beka dominates every scene -- even the scenes in which she doesn't appear. This episode really demonstrates the strength of her chemistry with other characters. She flirts with Dylan when he stumbles across her just out of the shower and blurts out double entendres about going over her figures; she informs Tyr that there are no pilots better than herself (and later rants about Mr. Beyond Good and Evil thinking he's too good for human women); she switches from maternal mode to adolescent logic when Trance catches her making flash, switches from loyalty to charm to threats with Harper when he discovers her using the drug, plays helpless with Rev Bem long enough to knock him out, snaps at Andromeda when the ship's AI tries to defend against Beka's scheme. She's wonderful onscreen with every actor, bringing out the wit and energy in all of them. And the sexual tension among Beka, Dylan and Tyr makes all three characters more fun.
Dylan makes the insightful observation that Beka likes taking flash -- something she had apparently never tried before her Uncle Sid forced it into her eyes as a means of torture. She knows better than anyone the costs of flash addiction, she watched it destroy her father, yet like so many addicts she believes she can control her cravings. It doesn't occur to Beka that she's using the opportunity to find Tarn-Vedra as an excuse to use flash, though Dylan keeps saying there isn't any rush, the planet has been missing for hundreds of years, she doesn't have to push herself so hard. This trip gives her the chance she's been seeking to push aside her insecurities and feel invincible. As Dylan says, now that she has taken the artificial quick route, the temptation to try it again is always going to be there. The anti-drug message isn't subtle but it has a strong ring of truth.
Captain Hunt initially believes looking for Tarn-Vedra isn't a great idea, but he goes along with it based on nostalgia and a belief that finding the lost homeworld could help him reunite the Commonwealth. Only when he realizes that he could lose his first officer does he remember that the Tarn-Vedra he knew vanished 300 years ago -- slipstream or no slipstream, he can't go home again. Nonetheless, he plays the strong, supportive captain to a woman in distress, promising to help Beka fight her demons the same way he promised Rommie he'd be there for her in "Star-Crossed." I suppose his confidence in his committments to them should be sweet, but it's also getting a little annoying, especially with Trance flat on her back in a swoon and Tyr threatening to jump ship. Isn't it time to see Dylan be the one to fall apart, or is he too shallow to fall apart?
Rev Bem offers the intriguing supposition that perhaps Tarn-Vedra wasn't thrown out of the slipstream, but deliberately chose to sever outside contact. Beka's interest in the planet is mercenary -- she believes they can raid the arms depot, while Harper and Trance previously expressed hope of finding the treasures of the Commonwealth. If and when this crew reaches the system, it seems obvious they're in for conflict within and without. It's in the best interests of all of them to meet and discuss their hopes and expectations before they arrive, or they may be very sorry when they get there.