A Machiavellian Regency
"The Prince" Plot Summary:
Dylan, Tyr and Beka respond too late to a cry for help from a ship carrying the royal family of Ne'Holland. Rebels have assassinated all but Prince Erik, the family's retainer Yanos, and the badly wounded king -- who with his dying breath makes Dylan and Tyr co-regents for the prince. Erik is devastated and vows revenge on Archduke Constantine, who led the revolt of the Ne'Holland nobility. The prince's ancestors united the planet after a devastating war with the Magog, but according to Andromeda's sources, his father was a dictator who brooked no dissent. Dylan believes that a strong government on the planet is necessary to ward off a future Magog attack. Tyr suspects the nobles will never accept Erik on the throne and begins secret negotiations with tyrannical Constantine.
When Yanos recovers, he assaults Erik, prompting the prince to use his newly learned skills to kill the man. Dylan insists that if Erik wants to be a leader, he must learn what his people need and work to provide for them, but Erik still wants vengeance rather than peace with Constantine and his followers. Tyr plays on the anger of both sides, offering to help each eliminate the other and procuring an agreement from Erik not to tell Dylan their plans: "My prince, don't rely on people to play by the rules." He even admits to his scheming, suggesting that Erik come up with his own backup plan in case neither of his regents can be trusted.
Dylan negotiates a deal whereby Erik and the nobles will share power. As he prepares the prince for his coronation on Ne'Holland, Tyr assures Constantine that he will support what he knows to be the winning side, telling the archduke where to find breaches in Andromeda's security perimeter. Meanwhile Tyr counsels Erik to let the nobles strike first so that the prince will look innocent when his guards massacre them. Just before the coronation, Dylan orders Rommie to bring in security 'bots that take out Constantine's assassins; Constantine accuses Tyr of betraying their bargain, but the Nietzschean insists he promised only to back the winning side. While the royal guards fight the nobles, Dylan keeps Erik safe.
Afterwards the prince says he learned the value of negotiation and political machination from Dylan and Tyr, so he is now ready to rule. During his coronation he promises to serve the people and share power with them, which Dylan tells Tyr he thinks will keep Erik alive. Tyr sneers at the fledgling democracy and says it's convenient that Erik can now divide up the dead nobles' lands, leading Dylan to point out that Tyr's not the only one who's read Machiavelli.
Any episode with this much Tyr Anasazi is a winner in my book, even if it has no Harper or Rev Bem (in his final weeks) and almost no Beka or Trance. The title makes an obvious reference to Machiavelli's famous book of advice for rulers as well as to the main character of this installment. But 'The Prince' isn't really about Erik; it's about his co-regents and the values they represent. It's a given that Dylan will try to broker a peaceful alliance while Tyr negotiates behind his back; the question is whether the crewmates will keep one another informed of their intentions, and whether their understandings of one another's strengths and weaknesses will allow them to anticipate each other's actions in time for a successful outcome.
The perfectly-cast Erik at first seems too engrossed in his own turmoil to notice the hypocrisy from both his mentors, but in the end he seems to learn as much from their inconsistencies as from the lectures they give him. Having lost everyone who has ever mattered to him, Erik looks for solace and support for his vengeful plans. He finds instead Dylan's expectation that he grow up immediately to be a magnanimous leader, alongside Tyr's insistence that he learn the art of war. It seems awfully cruel of Tyr to goad Erik about whether he cried when the attackers stabbed his father, but the query about whether his mother and sisters were raped just sounds over the top and not like something a Nietzschean would stoop to think about.
Maybe the whole situation hits too close to home. Tyr could bond with the boy on a personal level -- though Erik wails that Tyr didn't watch his whole family get murdered, we all know better. Yet the only person on Andromeda who shows any concern for Erik's human feelings is Andromeda's android avatar. The prince doesn't get any touchy-feely counseling from Trance, nor spiritual advice from Rev Bem; he doesn't even get to mourn the fallen heroes in his own family, lost first to assassins and again to the discovery that their imperiousness caused their downfall. I wouldn't blame Erik if he had a nervous breakdown, but Dylan seems certain the teenager can quickly become a king.
Captain Hunt may keep overestimating the innate strength and goodness of people, yet Tyr keeps underestimating Dylan's conniving side. It should be obvious to him from the events of 'Una Salus Victus' and 'Into the Labyrinth' that Captain Hunt knows his Machiavelli and Sun Tzu as well as his Winston Churchill. Plus Dylan knows Tyr so well that the Nietzschean has little hope of becoming part of a winning side that doesn't include his captain. One would think the schemer's predictability could become a weakness, but Tyr still serves an essential function for Andromeda's mission -- he takes care of the dirty work that Dylan knows must be done, but would rather not get his own hands dirty doing. As Tyr points out, Dylan is an idealist; he likes to declare his faith in decency and reason without stopping to think about the number of times he has depended on underhanded shenanigans and might-makes-right to defend those very things.
In the end, it looks as if Dylan and his values have triumphed. But while he's going on to Erik about finding out what the people want, no one, including Dylan, ever asks the people. On a planet torn between royals and nobles who have all been willing to use citizens as pawns, I agree with Tyr: Erik will be lucky to last a month before anarchy sets in. That's not Dylan's fault, of course, and he does an admirable job patching things up in the brief time he allots to the problems of Ne'Holland (which I kept hearing as 'Mulholland'; I was expecting the coronation to take place on a mountain drive overlooking a city rather than a sterile college campus). The possible future strategic importance of the planet seems pretty irrelevant given the weakness of their space fleet, so despite Dylan's proclamation to Tyr about the necessity of their involvement, he's pretty obviously just hanging around to do the right thing.
It's fortunate that Rommie has a spare set of Megazords handy to avert the inevitable assassination attempt, but it's also fortunate for Dylan that the assassins are really there, and very unfortunate that we never see Tyr give Dylan the heads-up even if we don't believe that he intends to bump off his captain to take over his ship. Underneath strong dialogue, superb character development, interesting philosophical debates and fine acting, 'The Prince' has rather shaky foundations with a color-by-number plot, supporting players and grand finale that truly looks like something out of a Power Rangers episode, minus the Pink Ranger. The minute Yanos begs to see Erik, you know he's one of the assassins. The minute Constantine opens his mouth, you know he's an evil sleazeball who must get his just desserts because even if we learn after the fact that the king was a tyrant, we see him only as a devoted father and concerned ruler while he's alive.
Beka has Dylan's number -- when he informs the rebels that one warning shot from Andromeda will rip them to pieces, she notes wryly that he enjoys getting to say that. And Tyr has Dylan's number too, despite underestimating him. Chess seems to be the captain's favorite metaphorical form of communication -- he played it with Rhade and he plays it with Erik, while he informs the young man that the way to govern is to find out what people really need, then look for safest and best way to get it for them. Oh, so that's how it's done! How do leaders get themselves into so much trouble with complicated political maneuvers, anyway? The bad guy, Constantine, gets the last word on that subject. When Dylan sneers that using civilians as shields isn't noble, the archduke smiles, "No, but I'm not on most powerful warship in the known worlds, am I?"