"A Rose in the Ashes" Plot Summary:
When Dylan Hunt goes to Arasia to invite the planet back into the Systems Commonwealth, he and Rommie are arrested for sedition, since the fall of the Commonwealth 300 years earlier led to plundering by the Nietzscheans and Magog. They are taken to an off-world prison surrounded by force fields and overseen by an artificial intelligence. Gangs of prisoners control the streets by making weapons to force other inmates to give up their food; the strongest survive. Hunt impresses gang leader Kae-Lee by beating up Xax, one of her enforcers. However, she informs him that being innocent won't help him get free. Like many in the prison colony, she was born there, sentenced to life in jail for having inherited the genes of criminals.
Hunt tries to defend Jessa, a girl being menaced in the food line. Though she sneers at his altruism, she later stages a distraction to get him out of prison. Hunt won't leave without the imprisoned Rommie, so Jessa helps him rescue the android. Rommie tries to conserve power and is pleasantly surprised to learn Jessa knows how to make a battery. The girl impresses Hunt with her technical skills, but she says there's no hope of escape, regardless: anything that tries to leave the surface blows up when it hits the perimeter. In this prison, the guards disinfect the arms of the condemned before administering lethal injections, but Jessa's mother died in childbirth because of the lack of sanitation.
When Andromeda tells Valentine that she has lost Hunt's signal, the first officer tries to negotiate with the Arasians, then threatens to bomb the capital. The aliens fight them off with missiles, but Andromeda has already guessed that Hunt and Rommie were shipped off-world. Harper believes he can pinpoint the planet where they've been taken, but when they follow the trail of an Arasian ship, it turns out to be a false lead. Anazasi is frustrated that they might have to search hundreds of local prison planets. But Gemini, who realizes Andromeda is having trouble functioning without Rommie, picks on off a star chart, saying it's pretty...and as the Andromeda Ascendant approaches, the crew picks up Rommie's homing signal.
The Warden orders Kae-Lee to tell him who made the weapons used in Rommie's breakout and sends armed guards to take Hunt by force. Jessa is taken prisoner. Hunt tells Rommie he must rescue the girl, but the android insists that his life is too important to the Commonwealth as a whole. Hunt recalls both Kae-Lee and Jessa saying, "You can be a wolf, you can be a sheep, or you can be a corpse," and guesses that they are sisters. He goes to the gang leader, telling her the system is corrupt rather than her genes and asking for her help freeing Jessa.
Valentine and Anasazi take the Eureka Maru to mount a rescue, though Rommie, who can hear their signals, desperately tries to signal them to stay away because of the prison's defense systems. She completes the primitive battery designed by Jessa, overloading her circuits but giving herself enough power to head to the Warden's complex. Inside, the Warden stuns Kae-Lee as Hunt tries to free Jessa. Rommie destroys the other AI, but cannot save Kae-Lee, who whispers, "I'm free now" to her sister before she dies. Hunt works feverishly to disable the defense system so the Maru can land safely.
Hunt invites Jessa to come with him, but she wants to stay, turning the jail into the re-education system it's supposed to be. Back on the Andromeda Ascendant, Hunt summons Gemini, teaching her the old Earth game of flipping a coin while he remarks on the stunning fact that she guessed the precise planet on which they were imprisoned. When she guesses heads but the coin comes up tails, he adds, "I just wanted to say thanks." After he leaves, she continues to flip the coin, guessing correctly every time.
The introductory quote for "A Rose From the Ashes" states that the truest measure of a society is how it treats its elderly, its pets, and its prisoners. The Arasians, who hide behind red veils and rarely grant audiences to petitioners, send their criminals off to a system run by heartless drones, leaving their descendants to fend for themselves on a planet with few natural resources and no hope of escaping past the perimeter alerts. Think Star Trek Voyager's "The Chute" combined with the prison from The Running Man where inmates' heads explode when they cross the perimeter; that's the feel of the prison colony, where the trees don't bear fruit and the sky is full of destroyer robots.
The episode tries a little too hard to prove its points while sticking to some of the familiar cliches of prison movies: inmates fighting for food and glory, wardens with no souls (literally in this case), women using sex appeal to control big dumb men. What in heck is that walking carpet working for Kae-Lee, and why is it so loyal it sacrifices its life to help her rescue her sister? We never learn any details about that, nor about Kae-Lee's relationship with the large gang of men who apparently let her call the shots. And where did Jenna learn algebra? I assume it must have been from her father, since her mother died in childbirth, but the sketchy backgrounds are a little infuriating. We're led to believe that most of the people in the prison colony don't deserve to be there, but surely there are some real murderers and thieves among those Jenna idealistically offers to stay and teach. It's all a bit too contrived, as is Kae-Lee's tragic demise, not to mention Hunt's realization that Jenna is Kae-Lee's sister based on minimal evidence of a common upbringing.
To the episode's credit, we learn some of the limits on Andromeda's android body, and we also learn that it disturbs the ship's central intelligence when it loses its human avatar. We also discover that Harper's middle name is Zelazny, presumably after the legendary science fiction writer. We see that Valentine, whose sarcasm provides a welcome antidote to some of the ludicrous behavior she encounters, demonstrates that she can get along with both Hunt and Anasazi even when they're driving her bananas with their foolhardy plans. The character development has grown nicely even during episodes with iffy plots. In "A Rose From the Ashes," I particularly like Harper picking on the Commonwealth charter, Hunt growling that Rommie isn't his girlfriend, and Valentine declaring that she's beginning to like Dylan when he saves the Maru from destruction at the prison planet's perimeter.
And we find out twerpy little Trance is disingenuous as well as all-powerful. She refuses to tell Harper where she's from, and she lies to Hunt when he asks her to call a coin flip. I know some fans give Andromeda flak because Harper reminds them of Wesley Crusher, but at least Harper's using honest human cleverness and uncanny engineering skill; Trance's know-it-all qualities, coupled with her phony innocence, are a lot more grating. No science fiction show should be allowed to have a super-being as a regular character, it makes everyone else's hard work look irrelevant. On a ship that's already got Hercules, a sentient ship-based android, a super-genius engineer, and a Nietzschean specimen of physical perfection, Gemini's absolutely infuriating.