"The Sum of Its Parts"
Week of March 4, 2001
by Michelle Erica Green

Nomad Meets The Borg

"The Sum of Its Parts" Plot Summary:

Andromeda picks up fragments of debris that coalesce into HG -- one of many drones sent out by The Consensus of Parts specifically to find the High Guard ship. Most of the crew has heard frightening stories about the mysterious collective, a legendary society of sentient machines. Yet despite his patchwork appearance, HG is positively cuddly. He hugs bulkheads and expresses his desire to feel like part of the crew. Dylan is cautious, but sees no reason not to believe the drone's insistence that The Consensus of Parts wants to negotiate an alliance. HG seems trustworthy enough that Rommie agrees to let him interface with Andromeda's systems so Beka can pilot the ship to meet the Directing Intelligence for The Consensus of Parts.

Yet when Andromeda arrives, an aggressive drone called VX tries to force the ship to join The Consensus, dismissing the organic crew as irrelevant. Meanwhile a sad HG prepares to dissassemble now that his mission is complete. But having learned about living from the Andromeda crew, he resists the idea of dying. Infiltrating the ship's systems, HG draws on his disembodied parts to take over Andromeda's functions. Though the crew initially wants to purge the system, particularly since a violent VX is in pursuit of the ship, they realize that the still-sentient HG can help them. Using Andromeda's systems to contact other discarded parts in the debris field where he was found, HG calls upon these renegade devices to fight off VX. The discarded parts form an independent Consensus.


"The Sum of Its Parts" is an incredibly infuriating installment of Andromeda, which has moments of greatness buried amidst pure drivel. As with many episodes, it's tight thematically, strong in the humor department, passable in the acting department, but sloppy visually, over-earnest and over-emoted, with an ending that's both silly and condescending to the audience.

"Sum" opens with a hilarious scene in which Beka and Trance discuss with Andromeda why she looks like a stereotypical hot babe, and the machine personality admits that she worked hard to achieve an ideal human appearance. No one questions Rommie's sentience, nor her independence, just the vicissitudes in her programming left over from centuries before, which make her decide that a gorgeous female appearance would be most appropriate for a starship avatar. So when HG first appears, assembles, and starts quoting platitudes, the crew doesn't really stop to consider that his thoughts are not his own; they treat HG as an independent entity, not a cog in the Consensus machine. And HG responds as an individual, quicker than you can say "Resistance is futile."

This episode must be compared (unfavorably) with Star Trek: The Motion Picture and TNG's Borg stories -- particularly the Hugh episodes, in which a drone separated from the Collective gains an independent personality. We learn some creepy Borgish things about The Consensus of Parts, like the fact that they use harvested biological components to navigate the slipstream. On the other hand, there are obviously "individuals" within the Consensus, and discarded elements yearn to serve a higher purpose, like V'Ger after its sojourn on the sentient machine planet.

It's an interesting setup, certainly not original to Star Trek; when HG frets about getting disassembled, I flash back to that terrible movie Short Circuit about an experimental robot who acquires sentience and fears being disassembled. HG also reminds me a little bit of E.T.; he's ugly yet adorable, spouts cliched human phrases like "Take me to your leader" and makes people cry when he dies -- only to return. He even has a heart light, even if it has been assimilated by the Borg and ends up buried in Trance's garden.

I could tolerate cuddling bulkheads and getting mushy about machinery if I didn't have to listen to similar sappy comments from Trance. Her sweet-and-innocent routine has gone from annoying to revolting to incendiary; this time I wished for Dylan to grab her by the tail and swing her out an airlock. There's a nice scene where the whole crew turns on her, demanding to know what solution she's trying to point them towards, but they let her get away with her weepy protests instead of telling her to disclose the truth or get the hell off the ship. The writers could not kill Trance off fast enough. I'm desperately hoping she's a bad guy in disguise, and that she and an army of sweet little killer robots will show up soon to make Dylan realize what a buffoon he's becoming, because that's the only way to make her tolerable.

There's no two ways about it: Dylan looks like an idiot letting Trance get away with this crap, and rushing to The Consensus of Parts without stopping to think that there's probably a reason his entire crew including Tyr believes it should be feared. On Star Trek, Captain Hunt would respond to, "We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile," by inviting the Borg onto his ship and suggesting that they all sit down to discuss adapting the Commonwealth charter to fit the Collective's needs. He makes Captain Janeway look good, which isn't something I had believed possible. Moreover, Rommie's puppy-dog loyalty to Dylan isn't in the least admirable or appealing when he's acting this stupid; it would have been much more satisfying had she decided on her own that she was curious about The Consensus and linked with HG to satisfy her own desires.

Strangely, Rev Bem is AWOL for the entire episode, which is a pity because his character would surely have had a great deal to say about HG's existential dilemma. It's not "Cogito ergo sum," because the drone doesn't really think independently, yet he has his own moral system and his own sense of responsibility towards his new friends. Sadly, the opening quote sounds like rehashed New Age pop Buddhist philosophy -- something about how between life and death lies desire, and that is the source of all suffering. It's hard to remember after hearing HG bleat "I come in peace" over and over, while every single time one expects to hear, "I come in pieces" instead. I'll resist making a comment about how the episode doesn't add up to the sum of its parts, but it's true; worse, it's starting to make me believe the same about the series itself.

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