The Ship Who Sang
"The Mathematics of Tears" Plot Summary:
Dylan complains to Beka that he's tired of running around universe without a crew he can depend on. Beka retorts that this crew has spent most of their lives fighting for survival, and they're entitled to time off. To Rommie, Dylan rants that he keeps forgetting this crew is more interested in steady jobs and comfortable beds than his mission to restore the Commonwealth. When Beka comes in with Gerentex's list of other High Guard derelicts they might be able to salvage, Dylan says that if this is an attempt to make nice, it worked. Harper's not enthusiastic about a salvage mission in a dangerous area of space, but although the region appears spooky and an asteroid field has replaced the planet that's on their charts, they spot another High Guard starship, identified as the Pax Magellanic.
Dylan, Rommie, Harper, and Beka take the Maru to investigate this "sister ship" that appears to be an exact prototype for the Andromeda Ascendant. Auto-security shoots at them, but Dylan begins a shutdown and the ship's crew completes the job. To everyone's astonishment, they are survivors from the original crew, led by Lieutenant Jill Pearce. Jill claims that they have become immortal as a side effect of the weapons the Nietzscheans used to blow up the planet. Captain Warrick died in the initial disaster, with most of the crew trapped below, and their slipstream has not worked ever since. With the nearest inhabited world 50 light years away, Jill decided it would be better to wait for help than to try to leave.
Andromeda tries to access the Pax Magellanic's artificial intelligence, but finds a chaoatic core that recites platitudes and refuses to show the events of the day of the final battle. Still, Dylan hopes to add the ship to his fleet and agrees to have dinner with Jill, whom he wants to promote to captain. Tyr asks Dylan to find out who really destroyed the planet, because the Nietzscheans of that era had no planet-destroying capabilities; he believes the Commonwealth must have been responsible. Andromeda confides her concerns about her sister ship to Beka.
As Dylan and Jill eat by candlelight, he tells about losing 300 years, and she talks about her identification with Wagner's Flying Dutchman -- a mariner condemned to roam the seas eternally. Rommie interrupts, saying she has discovered from the AI that Jill blew up the planet. "I killed him. I killed them all," Jill admits sadly, saying that Warrick called down friendly fire to stop the Nietzscheans from capturing him, not realizing kinetic missiles would cause a chain reaction that would shatter the planet. Dylan says she did the right thing, but she still feels dirty. "You're alive for a reason. Hold on to that," he admonishes her, and she kisses him.
Down below, Harper gets a look at the broken slipstream components and can see immediately the problem: the drive has been forcibly ejected. "Like this?" asks engineer Dutch, throwing Harper over a rail. While they fight, Beka comes in to help Harper escape. Fleeing from more Pax crewmembers, the Andromeda pair warn Dylan to get away from Jill. Then all the Pax officers freeze at precisely the same moment. Harper says the whole crew are androids, including Jill; he tricked the AI program into instituting an android diagnostic, which has shut them down. Beka warns that they have to leave before the system reboots, but Andromeda is still tied into the Pax memory archive. Worse, the Maru can't launch.
The Andromeda crew realizes that "Jill Pearce" is Pax Magellanic, "the ship made flesh." Dylan wants to reprogram the AI, but Rommie protests that would kill the sister she knows. Dylan enters the virtual environment with Andromeda this time, interfacing with the Pax avatar who now looks like Jill. She says she actually destroyed the planet because someone tried to kill her -- Warrick, her captain. Through her memories, Dylan and Andromeda witness a passionate affair between Warrick and the avatar. When he ordered Jill to self-destruct, she reminded him that he programmed her to be emotional, and that he said he couldn't live without her. She ejected the matter converter from the slipstream drive onto the planet below, and it blew up when it hit -- killing the entire crew as well as the population of the planet. Because she hated being alone, she went into the DNA files and created androids of her favorite crewmembers.
Tyr comes aboard with a big gun and rescues Beka and Harper. Dylan insists that Jill must be reprogrammed -- it's the only way for justice to be served -- but the avatar argues there is no longer a Commonwealth she must serve. Breaking free from the virtual environment, Dylan orders his crew to flee. Beka says he missed Tyr's cavalry act; Tyr says fighting while listening to Wagner is the most fun he's had in months. When the crew is back on the Andromeda Ascendant, the Pax Magellanic fires, and Rommie begs her sister to stop the fighting. But Jill wants to end her suffering. When Dylan orders minimal defensive strikes, the other ship lowers her defenses -- like the captain's lover in The Flying Dutchman, she hopes to find in death the peace she never had in life. As Pax blows up, Rev prays for eternal peace for her soul.
Dylan admits to Beka that he was trying to recapture the past. He says he knows who he can depend on, and walks away with his arm around her when she jokes that she wants to put in for vacation. Rommie tells Rev Bem that it's a simple equation to make tears -- Harper built her tear ducts -- but she's not sure how to use them. He says anything that can love has a soul. "I've learned that it's dangerous to love...it can drive you crazy," she says. "Then perhaps that's what tears are for," he tells her.
Despite some glaring plot holes, "The Mathematics of Tears" is an appealing episode, with a central gimmick that made me scream aloud when it was revealed -- the captain was having an affair with his ship! I suppose I should have found Jill's behavior disgusting, given the set of feminine stereotypes on which it was based, but because she's a starship, it's a step removed from the bodily hysteria attributed to flesh and blood women. I can just imagine Captain Janeway programming a male hologram to act the way she thinks Voyager would feel about her, and having it react like Jill if she asked it to blow her up.
Now I'm wondering what percentage of the High Guard AIs are female, and how often affairs like this go on. I mean, just imagine Captain Kirk if the Enterprise could have stroked him back when he described his feelings for her in "Amok Time" and "The Conscience of the King"! It's a funny concept, but at the same time it's moving, and that emotional core of the episode makes me willing to forget glaring questions like whether Rev Bem is really so incompetent that he can't tell android blood from human blood without lengthy analysis.
This is a relationship-oriented episode, so I'll be a shameless 'shipper in talking about "The Mathematics of Tears," from the delectable sight of Dylan playing ball in a t-shirt to his response to Jill's kiss and the way he stroked her face when he learned she wasn't human. Warrick was obviously a very lonely man if he transformed his ship's AI into a romantic partner; their relationship wasn't just about sex, or he wouldn't have required her emotional involvement to a level that compromised the safety of their crew, and the man was also apparently quite insecure if he required her to be so completely in love with him. It's curious that she didn't recreate him as an android; somehow he did manage to convince her that he was irreplaceable. Yet she responds to Captain Hunt with the same ardor that she once gave Warrick.
Beka's response to that ardor is just as interesting. She starts rolling her eyes when Dylan complains about getting no respect, and rolls them even more when he gets giddy about being saluted and served on the Pax Magellanic. But when he gushes that Jill should become captain, his first officer starts looking more aggravated, and when Jill invites Dylan to dinner, Beka invites herself along. One might think she's being protective, since she doesn't trust the immortal crew; Beka probably rationalizes her actions just that way. Yet the scene plays with an edge of jealousy -- part incredulity over Jill's obvious attraction, part disgust at Dylan's gushing over how Jill runs her ship without stopping to raise an eyebrow at the decision to drift in the same spot for 300 years.
Stupid as it is that none of the others realize they're on a ship of androids, I buy it from Rommie because she is still learning what it means to feel human. The enraged engineer who attacks Harper seems completely so; Jill has done a great job making artificial people who seem like the real thing. One wonders on the one hand about a military that created AIs with family ties -- it's always possible one of those ships would have to fire on a sister during a battle, if enemies boarded -- yet at the same time it's fascinating to think of them as citizens of the Commonwealth who took the same oath as other High Guard officers. Clearly the Commonwealth placed a great deal of value in individuality, so that two identical ships can have completely different avatars.
Wagner plays over the climactic scenes and gives them a weight they probably don't deserve. Strong acting helps as well; Monica Schnarre gives a wonderful performance as a stereotypical spurned lover who also happens to think like a warship, while Lisa Ryder's expressions during scenes in which she's in the background add a lot of humor and interest. The scene between Rommie and Beka is lovely both in terms of continuity about their backgrounds and because it shows that contrary to Dylan's earlier ranting, his rag-tag crew can be counted on to help and teach even High Guard avatars.