By:Frederick C. Szebin
Date: Monday, November 06, 2000
One more item has been picked out of the late Gene Roddenberry's closet, this one being about a top of the line starship that traverses the galaxy to search out new life, new civil...Wait a minute. Got lost for a second.
Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda comes screaming from the tomb in a weekly, one hour format to tell the futuristic adventures of a cast of starship personnel who go boldly...That's enough of that.
OK, it's got Kevin Sorbo, ex-alcohol peddler and former Greek god who looks very nice and large in his new space duds. After finally escaping from Hercules, he lands on a starship called Andromeda Ascendant as a Captain named Dylan Hunt. His ship is about to go boldlyuh, foolishlyinto a fight that puts him and his people in the unenviable position of facing a killing force of treasonous aliens that out number them 10,000 to one. After he tells his people to flee the doomed craft, Hunt orders the alien pilot to take them toward the event horizon of a nearby (?) black hole. Their technology must be incredibly powerful because Hunt and his bug pilot maneuver the edge of the Hole without getting sucked in or squashed or anything, but bare with me.
A traitor in his midst almost kills the Cap and nearly destroys his ship, but the Andromeda gets stuck in a second in time, finally being discovered by the crew of salvage ship Eureka Maru three hundred years later. When the Eureka Maru (with some luck and probably even better technology than Hunt's) pulls the Andromeda away from the stuck position, they think they have found the mother lode of all salvages, the legendary Andromeda. Reawakened, Hunt discovers his position and is ready to frag anybody who tries to take his ship and scrap it. A shady character traveling with the Eureka Maru crew has brought some really nasty hired hands, who just happen to be killers from the Nietzschean race that Hunt tried to fight three centuries before.
We've also got two aliens with pointed ears. The pretty one is purple.
A lot happens in the hour long pilot. We are introduced to this time and its people literally as the characters do some real kick-ass fighting. As in Star Wars, a wise decision was made to begin in the middle, and we are flung headlong into the speeding plot as Hunt deals with the fight ahead of him, his tri-century loss in battle, the fact that he's been stuck in time for 300 years, the fact that his fiancee, friends, family and even his government no longer exist and that a bunch of greedy goofs are about to fight dirty so they can strip his ship and get rich. A lot of that is in the first half hour. This movie really moves!
Roddenberry's widow, Majel Roddenberry, is one of the executive producers of this quick little space opera, and co-executive producer Robert Hewitt Wolfe has written a tight script with things slowing down only when they need to, which is when the crew of the Eureka Maru show up and a little time is taken to get aquainted. And then it goes all nutty again with threats and counter-threats while the bigger than life Hunt is ready to stand tall to these guys with only his wits and Andromeda, the ship's female hologram artificial intelligence, to help him out.
On the Eureka Maru, we have large Keith Hamilton Cobb as hired soldier Anasazi; Lisa Ryder as Beka Valentine, the ship's headstrong commander; Lexa Doig as Andromeda, the ship's shapely artificial intelligence; Laura Bertram as Trance Gemini, the pretty, na´ve purple, pointy-eared alien who may be more than she seems; Gordon Michael Woolvett as Harper, a rather high-strung fix-it man; and Brent Stait in some truly ugly make up as Rev Bem, the Eureka Maru's resident scientist, sociologist and linguist whose alien nose looks like it's been flayed and stretched open.
As you might expect in this day and age, there are lots of neato-nifty visuals, quite handsome CGI and some really ugly prosthetics on certain members of the cast; one looks a bit like the mongrel dog G'nort of the Green Lantern comics (how's that for an obscure reference!), while another looks like he has a face of bumble bees in some light, and a face full of warts in other light. Faces that only the mothers of make up artists could love.
A rather interesting point in the show is the relationship between Anasazi and every one else. Although helping out on the Andromeda, this fella is not about to group hug with everybody, and will more than likely stand with a Dylan Hunt firing squad rather than rescue the handsome captain. He may fight along side the Andromeda crew, but it's a purely self-preservational reflex that could turn against his crewmates at any given time. That pretty much goes for the Maru crew as well, except maybe for handyman Harper, who loves jiggering around with the high-class space craft's technology, and for Rev Bem and Chance Gemini, both of whom seem to have a sense of moral judgment that keeps them, most of the time, on Dylan's side.
Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda (contractual obligations, you know) begins well enough for any space-adventure show. There is plenty of pre-requisite action, with generous promises of much hair-raising adventure to come. That's all you can ask of a pilot, and Andromeda delivers with cool feature film-quality special effects and a fun premise. By the end of episode two, Hunt has talked the Eureka Maru crew and Anasazi into staying on board while he and the Andromeda go out to try to re-establish the Commonwealth he knew and bring order once again to a fragmented social system. And so the adventure begins, with just a few plot holes (I mean, really, can a ship just park at the edge of a black hole without worry, like you would stand next to your flushing toilet?), but it's a fun, nice looking no-brainer to kill an hour of TV time.
In a later episode, the Andromeda's reluctant crew comes upon a gathering of forgotten children living and dying on an abandoned space station. They don't seem to be living too much past the age of 18, but before you can cry 'Miri!' from the original Star Trek it turns out that this little group of devils has mistaken Hunt for a deity and in his talks of peace with the enemy, they think he means the peace of the grave. The frighteningly deadly Nova Bomb (capable of destroying an entire solar system) is their holy relic of choice, and Dylan must decide if he can't get the kids to understand that violence is not the answer, if he should just fire on them. And in another story, Anasazi is reunited with some of his Nietzchean people and must choose between his culture and Dylan's wild dream of a reborn Commonwealth. It's nice to see characters talking about honor and their place in the universe and, well, the butt kicking is pretty good, too.
Andromeda is old fashioned stuff with a contemporary visual edge, with Sorbo quite capable and handsome as the manly starship captain in danger of losing the only thing he has left. It may not be groundbreaking in any way, and it sure won't make us forget favorite space opera shows of the past, but it is moderately suspenseful and earnest in its desire to entertain. Much of the dialogue can be fixed, however. Sorbo's Hunt has a habit of spewing rather uninteresting one-liners just before or after he's kicked the crap out of a bad guy. Cure him of that problem, give him dialogue worthy of a soldier who reads Nietzsche, and you've got a much more interesting leading man in the classic sense.
And, hey, we could use a huge and pretty starship skimming across the screen again. It's been a while.