Hope For the Doomed
"Una Salus Victus" Plot Summary:
While leading a convoy of Wayist relief ships to stop a plague, Andromeda faces opposition from the Drago-Kazov pride. As Dylan and Tyr head planetside to the Nietzscheans' base to disarm their orbital weapons, Beka leaves Harper in command of Andromeda so she can take the Maru in search of a missing supply ship.
On the planet, Dylan breaks into a Drago-Kazov stronghold that once belonged to the High Guard. As he and Tyr fight their way toward the mission control center, Fleet Marshall Cuchulain Nez Pierce sends a message that he will let Dylan go stop the plague in exchange for Anasazi, who has hidden stolen Drago property on Andromeda. When Dylan demands to know why Tyr turned his ship into a target, Tyr explains that any Nietzschean would die to protect the remains of the Nietzschean Progenitor, and Andromeda is protected from vaporization just because he has hidden the remains on board. But Dylan is furious about the subterfuge and takes Tyr prisoner, telling Cuchulain that he agrees to hand over his crewmember.
Initially panicked at finding himself in command, Harper becomes obsessed with the idea of winning a victory against the Drago-Kazov pride. He is also determined to wait for Beka's safe return even if it puts the entire convoy at risk. Rommie keeps reminding him of the expected 95 percent casualties in space and 35 million dead of plague should they lose the convoy. She insists that he has three choices: he can assault the Nietzscheans and die, he can sit around waiting for Beka and die, or he can protect the rescue ships -- then even if he dies, he'll have scored a victory against the Drago-Kazov. Finally Harper switches to defensive weapons to cover the convoy and gets all the ships through.
After a slipstream jump, the Maru sustains damage by Nietzschean fighters. Beka finds herself stranded, desperately trying to make repairs before a nearby Drago-Kazov vessel can do the same and destroy her. Quechua, the Nietzschean pilot, calls for Beka's surrender, but ends up sharing her life story. Beka feels sorry for the woman but concludes that she must destroy the other ship so she can save the Maru and return to Andromeda. Reluctantly she does so, an apology on her lips.
Dylan meets with Cuchulain to hand over Tyr, but it's a trick, and the two fight their way free. By the time Nietzscheans burst into the control room, Dylan has reprogrammed the orbital defense batteries to shoot at the stronghold on the planet. He warns them that he'll blow them all up unless Cuchulain calls off his attack on Andromeda and lets them go. Several missiles prove his conviction to them, and Cuchulain agrees. Back on the ship, Tyr realizes that he can no longer access the storage area where he hid the Nietzschean Progenitor's remains. The captain asserts that everything on the ship belongs to him, and while Tyr is free to leave, the remains will stay under Dylan's protection.
'Una Salus Victus,' as Dylan explains early in this stunner of an episode, means the one hope of the doomed, and the phrase has relevance to each of the major plot lines. Beka's story involves the lowest stakes for the ship and the galaxy, yet it packs the highest emotional punch during this season of war. We see two people meeting across the gulf of a political struggle, who start to bond as individuals, only to realize that one of them cannot survive their encounter. It's a moving tale in and of itself...plus it has unnerving significance for what may be the future of another captain and Nietzschean on Andromeda.
Quechua reveals all sorts of fascinating facts about the Drago-Kazov pride -- that they don't destroy infertile children but allow them to prove their family's genetic worthiness in combat, and that some of the women would rather die than be stuck at home with the wives and children. Many human cultures justify the oppression of women by claiming to protect and revere those who bear children, so it's interesting to hear this condemnation of Nietzscheans by one of their own. Though she tries to maintain her privacy, Beka appears to relate to this brash, straightforward tough chick even if she does talk too much. Quechua promises the Maru captain safety if she gives herself up, and Beka probably believes she means it, but that doesn't change Beka's obligation to Andromeda and the relief convoy. In the end she must destroy this fascinating peer, giving her a hollow sense of victory when she returns to Andromeda.
At the same time Beka is learning about the Drago-Kazov from Quechua, Dylan makes some fascinating discoveries about the Nietzschean he thinks he knows best. We may not believe his threats to kill Tyr any more than Tyr does, but Dylan's distress looks quite convincing when his crewman accuses him of trying to shape the universe to his own specifications. This is one of the most convincing emotional performances I've ever seen from Kevin Sorbo; it's fascinating that he chooses to portray Dylan not just outraged but on the verge of tears at Tyr's outburst. 'It's been over a year and you don't know me at all,' he laments as he pulls a weapon on his friend.
It's not like Dylan has offered his complete trust to Tyr, only to learn that Tyr was holding out on him. They've been holding out on each other -- not just about things they keep hidden below-decks, but about their real priorities in a crunch. That Tyr has lied to him apparently surprises and upsets Dylan less than Tyr's suggestion that his plans for a Commonwealth serve only as a means for avoiding reality. Still, he doesn't call the Nietzschean a liar for saying so, as Tyr challenges him to do.
The discovery that Tyr has stowed away the Progenitor's body on Andromeda threatens Dylan not only because it might make his ship a target of Nietzschean attacks, but because it proves beyond a doubt that Tyr's vision of the future differs fundamentally from Dylan's. Tyr fights not for a Commonwealth which he considers his captain's personal pipe dream, but for a future where a Nietzschean savior will rise and the Anasazi family will hold the key to proving his legitimacy. Each of their fantasies of redemption requires the destruction of the other's hopes. Yet their need for mutual acceptance and understanding remains pervasive. They're hurt as well as agitated when each believes the other has betrayed him, but as soon as they realize it's a misunderstanding based on failed communications devices, they drop their weapons and go back to covering each other's backs.
Cuchulain Nez Pierce (a familiar face from 'The Honey Offering') makes Dylan a promise of safety similar to the one Quechua makes Beka. Both Nietzscheans are adamant that individual kludges are not their enemies, at least not until they come into conflict with Drago-Kazov goals. Cuchulain even suggests that the Dragos might be tempted to negotiate with the new Commonwealth, though it's impossible to say whether he means it. Dylan doesn't take the offer seriously since giving up Tyr is a condition for opening discussions. There's no reason to believe any of the Nietzscheans mean to keep their promises, but there's no real cause to disbelieve them either; neither Quechua nor Cuchulain betrays an oath in this episode, and Tyr's act of violation concerns the one thing he claims all Nietzscheans would lie, die or kill for -- the Progenitor's body.
It sounds at first as if Cuchulain calls Dylan by his first name in condescension, yet when he later addresses him as 'Kludge' (and Tyr as 'Kodiak'), it's clear that the acknowledgement of human individuality might be considered some sort of honorific. Nomenclature is very important to Nietzcheans, who tend to be named after heroes and cultures they admire, so it's interesting that Cuchulain compares Kodiak Tyr to a bear brought down by wolves. The name 'Cuchulain' means 'hound' in the Irish myth from which it originates, but Hunt could represent just as much of a threat to the near-extinct Anasazi no matter how noble the Commonwealth's goals. Tyr knows it and it pains him because he obviously likes and respects Dylan no matter how much he tries to pretend otherwise. The ease with which he agrees to leave his 'property' under Dylan's protection proves that, even if he's not pleased with Dylan's conditions for letting Tyr retrieve it. It's pretty clear that Tyr is not worried about his own safety under Dylan's command so much as about Dylan himself and his vulnerabilities.
Captain Harper (as Beka jokingly calls him when she leaves him in command) finds himself torn between his id, ego and superego. His instincts tell him to panic and flee, or at least wait to make sure Beka's all right, putting his own life and those of his friends over the thirty million plus people depending on the convoy. He's struggling with the hatred of Nietzscheans that's been simmering for years now. There's a piece of him that wants to be an altruistic hero like Dylan, but it's a relatively small piece, and in the end, pride and anger win out.
Harper doesn't choose to defend the convoy until Rommie assures him that this will mean victory over the Nietzscheans even if he dies -- he's more interested first in self-preservation, then personal revenge. Death in battle doesn't scare Harper nearly as much as it used to, not since he wound up with a bellyful of Magog larvae. Does that make him a stronger leader or a more dangerous man? It's hard to say from 'Una Salus Victus.' He acquits himself well, but without the humanizing influence of Trance and the practical rationalism of Rommie, he could have gotten the ship destroyed for naught instead. And to think this is the one crewmember other than Dylan who knows about the nova bombs.
This is a dark and heavy episode, yet the dialogue's humor quotient is high. Rommie jokes that the missing supply ship could be halfway to long-lost Tarn-Vedra by the time they catch up. Beka -- whose authorization code is 'Shut up and do what I tell you' -- orders them not to party while she's gone. Harper's reaction upon being given command is to say it's not worth it even if he could get to fight the 'Drago-Jerkoffs' and order Rommie to do his bidding. 'Caught with my pants down by a kludge,' laments Cuchulain when Tyr escapes his custody with Dylan's help. When he warns Dylan that he used to care only about catching Tyr but now he cares about Captain Hunt too, Dylan says straight-faced that the universe needs more caring.
Tyr and Dylan swap jokes about sprouting wings, making themselves invisible with pixie dust and flying into the Drago fortress, which ends up giving Dylan a decent idea for getting inside. The sense of fun between these two in particular in the first half of the episode really shines. They're annoyed at one another's apparent distrust and meddling, yet they make headway as they bicker. After they slaughter a group of Nietzscheans, Tyr snorts that they might let god sort them out, but someone told him god was dead. 'We have them right where they want us,' Dylan assures his colleague. There's a comfortable 'old friends' sense about these two in dialogue and body language that pervades even their tensest scenes, as when they pull weapons on one another. One day one of them might shoot, but it would become the defining moment of his life from that point forward; he would never get over it.
Again this week we see a fantastic character episode cloaked beneath so much action that it gets frustrating. The weekly body count on Andromeda has gotten so high that I really don't want my eight-year-old son watching it. The explosions and gunfights have improved greatly since the series premiered, but it shouldn't be necessary to keep them up anyway, because the character development and arc storylines have truly achieved excellence. Excessive special effects are the last hope of doomed sci-fi shows; we don't need to be seeing them here.