Beka Suffers a Sea-Change
"The Pearls That Were His Eyes" Plot Summary:
Trance salutes when Dylan comes onto the bridge, but Beka rolls her eyes. She's not happy to learn about the planned takeover of Quantum by TransGalactic, which will make it harder for independent operators like herself to compete for the shipping lanes. When Harper downloads the mail, she is surprised to get a three-year-old message from her father's old friend Sid Barry, asking her to repay a family debt. Dylan, who is planning a supply-gathering expedition, doesn't want her to go, but Beka insists that her father never asked her for a thing and if she can repay one of his debts, she doesn't have a choice. Besides, she'll only be gone for five days. Tyr warns that a large solar storm is on the way, which could cause trouble for the ship.
With Trance on the Maru as a stowaway, Beka arrives in an impressive city with a sleazy underground. A group of thugs accost the two women. Calling them "flash fryers," Beka explains to Trance that they're high on a drug taken via eyedrops, which confers great strength but is highly addictive. After she whomps them into submission, one of the thugs takes Beka to TransGalactic headquarters, where Beka is shocked to find that "Uncle Sid" is now the head of a corporate empire. He gives her and Trance a magnificent suite and unlimited credit, but Beka is suspicious about how her father's partner went from being a small-time trader to putting the small-time traders out of business.
Sid asks Beka for a favor: her father, Ignatius, stored some data for him on the Maru that has great personal value, and he'll pay very well for its recovery. Extremely well. Outrageously well. At first Beka and Trance enjoy this turn in fortune, but Beka doesn't feel right about it and heads to the Maru archives. There, Trance finds a photo of Beka with red hair. Beka explains that her father designed special nanobots that let her change her hair color at will. She notices that someone has been rummaging in her database, and soon the flash-fryer thugs have arrived, followed by Sid, who is apparently their leader.
Following some mild torture, Sid demands to know why Beka has come, three days before his corporate takeover. He insinuates that it must have to do with the ties her father had to flash manufacture and distribution. Sid insists that her father was a worthless drug dealer, which makes Beka furious. Because Sid doesn't believe her protestations that she doesn't know where the missing files are, he forces a dose of flash into her eyes, believing she will do his bidding if he gets her addicted. Trance attempts to keep Beka calm, and with her mysterious powers manages to find the controls to open the barred windows to their suite.
Back on Andromeda, Hunt looks for items to exchange for supplies. A trader tries to give them damaged merchandise, which causes problems as the solar storm intensifies. Hunt takes off with Rev Bem to pay the trader a visit; Tyr is furious to find them missing, and assumes command. Arriving with the reluctant trader moments before the storm is due to hit, Dylan relieves "Captain Anasazi" and warns that if the new parts don't work, they'll all be in trouble. The trader rushes to retrieve the correct equipment. Once the ship is safe, Tyr warns Dylan that Beka is overdue and has probably taken off with the refitted Maru.
When Sid sends his thugs to harass Beka, she steals the communication equipment and barricades the door. Sid has the door blown apart, but Beka and Trance jump out the window to land safely on the Maru, which Beka has been controlling via the stolen devices. On board, she tells Trance that her father put the nanobots in her hair right after his last trip with Sid, and tests a theory that he encrypted a message. A data stream hidden in a strand of her hair reveals that when Sid got caught with a massive shipment of flash, he murdered all the inhabitants of the station where he planned to meet Ignatius. Sid contacts Beka, admitting that her father used petty blackmail against him until he died. Now that Beka knows the truth, he has rigged the Maru's autopilot to fly the ship straight into the sun.
Beka warns Sid that she has already had the recording copied and sent to law enforcement agencies all over the galaxy with instructions to play it upon learning of her death. Sid doesn't believe she could have paid for such a scheme, but Beka reminds him that he gave her unlimited use of his credit. Sid compliments her on being her father's daughter, and she agrees to keep the information secret as long as he allows her to live a long and happy life. Just as Dylan tells Tyr he refuses to believe Beka would desert them, she hails and requests permission to dock, calling Captain Hunt "Sir." Later, she tells Trance she wishes she could remember her father as the smart, brave, man with a plan rather than the pathetic addict he became. Trance says Beka has grown up to be everything Beka wishes her father had been.
Finally, a substantive Beka Valentine episode that delves into all the issues hinted at by her brother in "The Ties That Blind." The script has some holes, but they disappear in the midst of a superb performance by Lisa Ryder and a nice turn by John De Lancie as a murderous drug dealing billionaire. Ryder has an extraordinary scene as Beka on flash, alternating between focused rage and jittery terror, which ends with her sobbing admission that she's afraid she's like her father -- not the entrepreneur she professes to adore, but the wasted addict who left her only a decrepit ship and many debts. This backstory goes a long way towards explaining not only how she ended up towing for Gerentex, but also why she decided to follow Dylan Hunt on his quest. When she calls him "Captain" and "Sir" in the final moments, after fretting that he might find her untrustworthy for being late, it's an acknowledgement of much more than his rank.
The faux proverb that begins this episode, "Wealth is too precious to be entrusted to the rich," applies to both the main and subplots, though the story of Dylan's garage sale and wrangling with a sleazy trader serves mostly to inject comic relief in the form of Tyr's commentary and to divert inevitable questions about how they keep a 300-year-old ship flying. All the dramatic scenes are Beka's, usually with Trance as a foil. The purple chick is less annoying than usual despite a few magic tricks because Beka comes after her in a rage, demanding to know who she is and where she comes from before drug-induced paranoia sets in and she concludes Trance has been working for Sid all along. That makes two crewmembers who've tried to corner Trance and find out why she can return from the dead and change history, yet she can't figure out Uncle Sid's chocolate is tainted with the blood of thousands. I can't wait for Dylan and Tyr to get their turns.
There's some nice continuity as a force lance discharge disables a user not genetically coded for its use, and as Dylan refuses to allow the personal effects of his former crew to be traded for supplies. He also won't let go of the sports equipment, calling it necessary for ship morale. Oh good: that means more Dylan and Tyr playing shirtless basketball. If most of the men Beka has known in her life act like her brother, her "uncle," and the rape-minded addicts, it's no wonder she's managed to ignore the impressive physical allure of her crewmates; before Hunt and Anasazi came along, her two closest male friends were a Magog sworn to celibacy and a weak human with a poor immune system, neither of whom represents any sort of sexual threat. Her relationships with Dylan and Tyr are complicated, but surely she's noticed there's chemistry in both cases. Tyr's cynical selfishness and reproduction-driven mentality probably rule him out as a potential romantic interest, but Dylan's got to forget his fiancée sooner or later, and he's got more integrity than any man she's ever known.
We've gotten two big Beka episodes, but Dylan barely figured into her dilemmas both times, and although she's his first officer, Dylan seems to spend more time talking to Rev Bem, Tyr, and Andromeda than to Beka. I love seeing Beka as the captain of the Maru, but I'd like to see her working with Dylan more closely. His trust in her seems quite solid, although she fears otherwise; he also made it clear in "Banks of the Lethe" that he expects her to captain his ship if anything happens to him. She obviously wants to be someone he can count on, someone unlike her father, and she acknowledges that he is someone worthy of her respect. Then again, he doesn't have a tail like Trance does -- and what a tail! Trance wants it rubbed by Sid's masseur, and later uses it to give Beka a hug. Oh, the fan fiction potential! However, there's something strange about the fact that nobody on the crew has pressed Trance for some answers about her background. Can SHE be trusted? It's time for some backstory on that topic.