Bloody Hands, Missing Motives
"All Great Neptune's Ocean" Plot Summary:
Moments before he can sign the charter to join the Systems Commonwealth, Castalian President Lee is killed with Tyr's force lance aboard the Andromeda Ascendant. The Castalians demand to arrest Tyr, who has a motive, as he believes the president was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Nietzscheans. But an investigation suggests Andromeda gave the command to fire the weapon, and ultimately Dylan's crew realizes that one of the Castalians has killed their leader in order to protect a secret that could lead to civil war.
Andromeda heads into murder mystery territory in "All Great Neptune's Ocean," though it takes considerably less water to wash away any suspicion that Tyr, the obvious suspect, might be guilty. Even before he explains to Dylan that there's no way he'd be so careless as to get caught if he wanted the death of a major political figure, we already know it's not Tyr's style to apologize to someone he intends to kill. Thus it's amusing to listen to Tyr list all the ways in which he could have killed the Castalian president and gotten away with it, but the most likely scenario is that if Tyr had wanted to commit the murder in retaliation for crimes against Nietzscheans, he would have done so in front of the Andromeda crew and the Castalian guards alike, on the assumption that he'd be able to fight his way past them all and leave unharmed. It's also pretty obvious that even if Rommie routed the commands for the killing, she has no motive for murder, and that pretty much takes care of any suspicion that anyone on Dylan's crew committed the crime.
Once we know an alien must be the killer, we also know there's no way we could have solved the mystery based on the information we were given at the start of the episode, which is annoying because what's the fun of watching a murder mystery you can't unravel the crime along with the detectives? Still, the conclusion ends up being powerful in its surprise twist, not in terms of who's guilty, but in terms of how many layers of idealism surround Chandos' decision to take a life. It's a case of one man thinking he knows what's best and necessary for his entire society, which is occasionally how Dylan himself sounds, though if Dylan sees any parallels with his own quest, he keeps them to himself.
"All Great Neptune's Ocean" begins with the esteemed Captain Hunt trying to bring another society into the Commonwealth -- an opening that's getting redundant but in a good way. If only Janeway had set out to introduce Delta Quadrant races to the Federation instead of charting an obsessive course for home, Voyager would have been a much more interesting series. At least when Voyager encountered a race of beings who lived on a planet comprised entirely of oceans, we got to see the planet; on Andromeda, probably for budgetary reasons, we get to see only the breathing apparatuses of the Castalians. In fact we learn a lot more about how force lances work than about the complexities of being a water-breather in an air environment, which is a pity, though it's nice to know that invaders can't just grab people's force lances and turn on them, as happens all too often with phasers on Star Trek. One hopes that if weapons are as common in the future as in our own century, at least the safety mechanisms will be greatly improved.
The plot makes sense as it's unfolding, but I'm not clear why Lee insists on the protocol-driven apology from Tyr when he intends to own up to responsibility for the deaths of the Nietzscheans after signing the Commonwealth charter. Chandos kills Lee to prevent such a confession, which could cause civil war on his own planet. But why would Lee see any harm in telling Tyr the truth? Genocide seems to be chillingly common in the post-Commonwealth universe. This episode would have been far more interesting had Dylan discovered Lee's secret and discussed his own complicity in the deaths of thousands of Nietzscheans, with Lee and with Tyr, rather than the episode reducing the problem to a whodunit, then a political debate about how best to provide justice for the Castalians.