Warships In Love
"Star-Crossed" Plot Summary:
After witnessing the destruction of a ship by Restorian terrorists, Andromeda's crew is surprised to find an escape pod carrying an android. Gabriel, a teacher of ancient literature, waxes poetic about Rommie's beauty while she is delighted to have a chance to interface with one of her own kind. She starts to fall in love. Their bonding is interrupted by Shura, a leader of the Free Trade Alliance, who contacts the ship to warn Dylan that the Restorians have a Commonwealth vessel fighting for them, the Balance of Judgment. Though he doesn't trust the Free Trade Alliance leaders or their motives, Dylan agrees to try to stop the heavily armed Siege Perilous class destroyer from committing any more acts of terrorism.
Rommie requests permission for Gabriel to stay on board over Dylan's objections; he can't understand why she trusts the android, she can't understand why he trusts Shura. Dylan admits that he's concerned Andromeda will become distracted by her attraction to Gabriel, but she assures him that all her emotional subroutines will be transferred to her android avatar -- the ship's computer will be unaffected. Though Rommie must fight with two of her own avatars over the logic of trying to balance her feelings for her charismatic captain and the enigmatic android, she convinces everyone to let Gabriel stay. This is unfortunate because even as he seduces her, Gabriel installs a secret transmitter so he can call the Balance of Judgment to report on his progress as a saboteur.
A Restorian ship attacks Andromeda while Rommie and Gabriel are making love. Dylan and Harper destroy it, but the Balance of Judgment is waiting for Andromeda afterwards. Rommie realizes Gabriel must be a spy for the Restorians, but he admits that it's worse: he is the Balance of Judgment's avatar. After the ship lost its captain and crew, it tried to fulfill its purpose as a warship, getting involved in so many battles following the fall of the Commonwealth that the ship's personality became corrupted. Desperate to hold onto its mission as a warship fighting for order, it founded the Restorians. Gabriel cannot refuse a direct order from his ship, and has been feeding Andromeda's plans to the Balance of Judgment since he interfaced with her systems.
Dylan shoots Rommie and shuts down his ship's AI, but the Balance has already learned too much. So the crew abandons Andromeda, taking the Maru to deploy bombs in the path of the rogue ship. Once it is destroyed, Gabriel asks Rommie to come away with him, and although Dylan believes she would be making a mistake to leave with the android, he accepts that the decision is her mistake to make. But before they can elope, Rommie realizes that the Balance of Judgment transferred its core personality into Gabriel prior to exploding. The unstable AI will eventually take over Gabriel's psyche. "I love you," Andromeda sobs as she kills her lover to free him. Afterwards, she asks Dylan to dismantle Rommie and erase her memories, but he refuses, saying Gabriel (like Jill on the Pax Magellanic) went insane from losing captain and crew. He promises to be her heart.
There's something more than a little warped about the emotional artificial intelligences running High Guard ships. The opening quote explains that the Commonwealth found it desirable to have warships capable of loyalty and love, but they seem to have created a race of pseudo-slaves. Andromeda says that during the High Guard's era, AIs were treated as citizens, yet she keeps insisting to Gabriel that her commitment to her ship and its mission are her life because she was programmed that way; it's the avatar of the unstable AI who insists that she's a person, not a program. And the captain's treatment of Jill in "The Mathematics of Tears" indicates that he never thought of her as a citizen, but as a device to be used, first for his pleasure, then for his safety when he ordered her to destroy the Pax Magellanic. We learned in a previous episode that an AI can't navigate the slipstream, only a living pilot, so how free can they be -- and where were Rommie and Gabriel going to run off to, given that limitation?
As Gabriel proves, AIs capable of loyalty and love are also capable of treason and hatred. Apparently the only way to fix them is to erase them and start over, which seems like a huge waste of resources and a dangerous threat to morale (think of the unhappiness on Voyager whenever someone has suggested reinitializing the Doctor, whose program only impacts the medical portions of the ship's computer). At least the Doctor can be shut down by a simple command; Rommie has to be shot before Dylan can tell Andromeda to take herself offline. So far we've seen two ships destroyed because of the actions of rogue AIs, which does not bode well for the future of Rommie and the Commonwealth. What are the ethics of re-instilling a sense of loyalty in an avatar that's legally an individual? And what's the appeal or the logic of creating an individual who is so emotionally dependent on having a captain that she can't maintain control of her emotions without him? Dylan promises he'll always be there for Andromeda, but he's only mortal, and he seems to have learned little about the dangers of having an AI that's too dependent -- Balance of Judgment, indeed.
Dylan needs to supervise guests on his ship better and stop letting his crew invite their friends to sleep over. Tyr has much better lines this week, asking Andromeda if she and Gabriel want to procreate and make little baby programs, then ordering Harper to stop wasting so much time worrying about his "life-size love doll." Harper's feelings for Rommie apparently aren't much deeper than his feelings for half the female population on the latest planet to sign the charter, where apparently the captain got lucky but the engineer did not. Still, love operates as a powerful force throughout the post-Commonwealth galaxy. When Dylan gives a Free Trade Alliance lackey a footprint magnification system like the one seen in "D Minus Zero," the lackey says he's not fighting for the Free Trade Alliance, but for Shura.
Strong performances by Lexa Doig and Michael Shanks hold this episode together despite Gabriel's flatness in the scenes when Rommie falls in love with him; he recites some bad lines about her beauty, bats his eyelashes, and she's smitten. He becomes much more interesting when we learn he's the bad guy, or at least a pawn of the bad guy, though as he says, it's hard to separate the two. I'm not clear on why a warship would think it was fulfilling its mission by founding a group that tries to stop space travel and inter-species contact, but since the cool-looking spider ship Balance of Judgment is insane, we're not really supposed to figure that out. Without their fearless AI leader, are the Restorians going to go away now? I hope not; they're one of the more interesting adversaries for Andromeda in its quest to restore the Commonwealth.