Andromeda: S01E01: Under the Night
I don’t care what all the other Sci Fi hacks said about this, the opening episode was simply wonderful! Like most other Cult TV Sci Fi shows, Andromeda has it all, exotic spaceships, sexy lead characters and a gripping story always on the borders of plausibility. The science wasn’t as suspect as say, Red Dwarf or LEXX, but it was more cleverly conceived than the stupendous Babylon 5 and if I have to criticise the show at all, it would be because the science isn’t as hard as say, Farscape.
After digging a little deeper, I found that the whole Andromeda universe was rich and varied and would provide much to entertain us.
This first episode opened with ….
IF THE COMMONWEALTH GUARD
IT’S OFFICERS WERE TOO
Unfortunately, it only turns out to be a drill. The Chief Officer, Gaheris Rhade shouts at his subordinates “3 minutes 4, 3 minutes 5….” and the Captain descends a vertical flight of stairs by simply dropping! He switches on his anti gravity harness as he nears the bottom (to the mild complaints of the Ships Computer preferring that he takes his decent at a safer, more sedate pace).
All this rushing about and looking efficient however, is to no avail. The crew not only failed the drill, but failed it miserably. 3 minutes and 27 seconds was way too slow. Rhade was mortified. But the Captain, Dylan Hunt was a little more philosophical.
He did however, reprimanded one of his crew for failing to activate the secondary battery, but since the ship was capable of doing this itself, I wondered why the Captain should bother. He then speaks to the rest of the ship and tells them that they need further practice. He actually said, “…. Team leaders. Co-ordinate additional sessions, you know what to do. Lets get this under 3 minutes.”
Then the worst scene of the show, “We SUCK” said the recently chastised officer within earshot of the Captain. Dylan Hunt just smiled and gave him an encouraging pat on the back. Wadda Pratt! Mind you, the geezer in question, Thompson, was black AND a goodie, and we all know who are the first to die in battle scenes – yep, the good black geezer! Thompsons days were numbered!
The Captain and Rhade (a Nietzschean – genetically engineered human) enter into a friendly banter as they walk back to the bridge. Dylan briefly mentions the forthcoming wedding to his fiance, Sarah. Rhade comments on how he hopes Dylan’s forthcoming marriage is a success. Although Dylan is not a Nietzschean, he has good genes and he and Sarah should reproduce. Nietzscheans have a thing about reproduction. I guess being genetically engineered does that to a person
As if to strengthen his complement, Rhade quotes Nietzsche, “Man is for woman, a means. The end is always a child” Dylan playfully puts his arm around his first officer and jokes, “…. You’re a romantic!” Rhade tries to smile but it looks as though his face might crack, all he can muster is a sort of grimace.
At that point, a hail from one of the communications officers informs Hunt that there is a distress signal from Systems Courier ship. It indicated that there was a ‘Systems Level Emergency’. I guess that meant it was serious because the two officers rushed for the flight deck.
When they get to the flight deck, Hunt communicates with the courier ship. He is told that there is an unstable black hole and the nearest habitable planet is hurriedly evacuating it’s population. The Andromeda Ascendant should therefore assist in the evacuation. Hunt issues navigation commands to the big green bug (a Than called Dawn) that pilots the ship “Transfer slipstream on my mark.”
As soon as Hunt says, “Mark” the ship jumps through a blue opening in space and into what could possibly be described as hyperspace (it isn’t by the way, it’s more like a sort of time envelope. The writers of this show are adamant that you cannot travel faster than the speed of light so they came up with the idea of some sort of time slip, known as the slipstream – see the Ships Section of this guide for more information). The pilot then seems to navigate through a tangled mesh of giant noodles (this is taking string theory too far!), until moments later, the ship emerges into a calm and quiet part of space.
In the distance we could just make out thousands and thousands of spaceships. 10,000 Nietzschean ships to be exact! and they begin firing at the lonely Andromeda almost immediately. Excellent scenes follow of the huge spaceship preparing to do battle with some pretty scary looking Nietzschean battlecruisers. An interesting point worth consideration is that there were very few laser shots (except at close quarters) most of the battle was waged between attack and defense androids and missiles (See Robert Hewitt Wolfe’s explanation in the Andromeda Ships section).
The Andromeda, it’s crew, and even the lovely holographic ships computer, could not hope to defeat such an Armada. Dawn, the Than pilot mentions that it must have taken the Nietzscheans many years to amass such a force. Then Gaheris Rhade points out that he should probably be confined to the brig with the other Nietzscheans on board. WHAT! Hunt was equally surprised, “Are you saying I can’t trust you?”
“I’m saying,” said Rhade behind clenched teeth, “that you can’t afford to take any chances.” This was really peculiar, it’s not what you would expect from a friend and trusted comrade. But Hunt was decisive, “Sergeant, escort Gaheris Rhade to the brig and see to it that the other Nietzscheans on the ship are relieved of their duties.”
As things get more tense the ship begins to take casualties, the first we see is the unfortunate black good geezer, Thompson. Soon after, the Captain Dylan Hunt orders the crew to abandon ship. He is soon left alone except for the lovely Andromeda (ships artificially intelligent computer) and the very cool big green bug called Dawn (her/it’s full name is Refractions of Dawn).
As the rest of the crew leave, Rhade is being escorted to the Brig by the Sergeant and another officer. As they round a bend, Rhade seizes his chance, and with the aid of his Nietzschean arm gadgets (pointy bony fins that can eject from his forearm at will), he quickly overcomes his captors and heads for the Flight Deck.
Upon arriving he brutally shoots the poor pilot, Dawn and attacks his old comrade Dylan Hunt. During the resulting fire-fight, Rhade explains that his people, the Nietzscheans have no further patience with the Systems Commonwealth, that they are sick of the way it embraces it’s enemies and that the Nietzscheans believe the only way they can survive is to destroy the Commonwealth and defend themselves agains all other enemies. This is totally crazy! The Systems Commonwealth is 1 million worlds strong, it spans three Galaxies, there would have to be thousands of Nietzschean Amerada’s each capable of unimaginable firepower to destroy such a large and seemingly technologically advanced organisation.
To make things worse, Andromeda is off-line and the ship is headed straight into a black hole (Dylan’s plan was to use the Black Holes gravity to slingshot its way to safety – rather like Crichtons idea in the opening episode of Farscape). As the ship gets closer to the Black, hole time begins to slow down, the fight between Rhade and Hunt gets more intense and as Hunt finally gains the upper hand he manages to kill Rhade, the Andromeda Ascendant gets stuck at a point on the edge of a Black Hole where time stands still. Almost all power is lost and the ship, laterally freezes in time.
In the next scene we see a huge (and very ugly spaceship) captained by (a very beautiful) Beka Valentine. She and her crew have been contracted to find the Andromeda Ascendant and recover it from the Black Hole’s event horizon. They were contracted by a very sleazy looking hairy dude (a Nightsider), the rewards for such an activity were going to be considerable.
The ships handyman and chief engineer (called Harper) meets up with another member of the crew, another beautiful woman with purple skin and a fetching six foot purple tail (wow, I’m gonna have some fun talking about that tail in the coming reviews 🙂 He ponders with her, their impending wealth. These two have a very flirty relationship with each other, but Trance Gemini (the purple girl) manages gracefully, to keep the rather boisterous Harper at a distance (but not too much).
Another member of the crew, called Rev Bem, conservatively discusses the salvage operation with the excitable Harper Rev Bem is a Magog, he looks similar to the Nightsider, but oh boy, are they different! As Rhade mentioned in his final encounter with Dylan Hunt, the Magog are barbarians who murder everyone they see except for a few who are raped to produce their offspring. Why therefore, we should see one chatting quietly with two teens!? It makes you wonder – I remember smirking at the possibility of a ‘Nightmare on Elm Street in Space’ scene).
The Magog is skeptical of the salvage ships ability to pull the Andromeda out of the Black Hole. Each of the crew keep their spirits up as they prepare for the salvage operation, by talking about how they will spend their huge amounts of salvage money. The beautiful Beka wants to pay off her debts, Harper wants to buy a brothel I think, Rev Bem wants to buy a hospital and locate it on a planet called Kingfisher. It’s the planet where he was spawned… erm… and we all know how the Kingfisherans must have felt about that! Rev Bem goes on to explain how his people “did some terrible things on Kingfisher,” and that if he can, “do something to alleviate the suffering that was caused… That I caused…. Then it will be well worth it. In a way I’m trying to buy absolution – which makes me just as selfish as any of you.”
The rest of them contemplate his benevolence. Rev Bem must be in one helluva predicament, psychologically speaking. He is after all, a creature that was born to murder and produce in the most violent way imaginable – physiologically, they are vicious beyond imagination (i.e. The Magog babies EAT their way out of their host mother). How does a creature like a Magog intend to make restitution for the natural physiological lifestyle of his species?
As the Salvage ship nears the Andromeda Ascendant, the Nightsider rushes off to make his cargo more stable before it is ejected to make the ship lighter (it would be picked up later, once the salvage operation was complete). The Andromeda Ascendant is recovered, not by a tractor beam (as you might expect from the same creators as Star Trek) but with a number of strong cables. Harper needed to perform a complicated and dangerous procedure with the ships engines before he had enough power to complete the haul. As the big ship is pulled away, the crew look on in awe of it’s beauty and size. Then Harper spoils it all by saying loudly, “We RULE!”
At this point, Dylan Hunt gradually unfreezes. He is still gazing at the dead face of his ex-first officer. Andromeda tells him that she can’t see any Nietzschean ships or any of their escape pods. She performs some computations and tells a VERY shocked Captain Hunt that they had emerged from the Black Hole’s event horizon 300 years later.
Hunt is understandably taken aback by this news, “Sarah…?” he questions.
As the crew of the salvage vessel arrive on the Andromeda, the lovely Beka warns them that there may be a number of hazards (and dead bodies and things). Andromeda tells Dylan Hunt that they have intruders on board. She complains that they are trying to rewire her. Harper manages to rewire the ships computer to open the doors on command.
Rev Bem is in the ships cargo hold, he discovers two HUGE robots that look like giant transformers. He snarls at them and leaves, but not before one of them relays details of the Magog back to Hunt and Andromeda on the bridge. Dylan catches up with Harper. Hunt trips him up with his hand weapon (that opens out rather like a Minbari Battle Pike) and Harper explains that he is there as part of a salvage operation. Hunt tells him that he is a High Guard officer and the rightful captain of the ship. Harper dispassionately that there is no High Guard – they disappeared 300 years earlier after the Systems Commonwealth war with the Nietzscheans – The genetically engineered dudes won!
He lets Harper go and discusses with Andromeda, the shocking news of the destruction of the Commonwealth. It seems that the million or so worlds are now independent and that there is no overall control. I’m not sure if the Nietzscheans tried to conquer them or (more probably) that the war sent the three Galaxies into political and economic decline. Andromeda pointed out that Harper was suffering from a rash that was easily curable 300 years earlier, so one is left to speculate that the three Galaxies are much less technologically advanced than they were. Dylan Hunt resolves to find any remnants of the Commonwealth that he can.
Unfortunately, he has a number of unwanted guests. He opens the ships communication system and tells Beka and her crew that he has no intention of surrendering the ship. He tells them that if they don’t leave the ship within 15 minutes, he will retake it by force.
Beka raises her gun menacingly, she doesn’t like threats. At this point the slimy hairy Nightsider enters the scene. He doesn’t like threats either. He gestures to the door which opens to reveal a number of huge geezers with guns, “That’s why I brought these along.” He adds.
And there the show ends. Wadda Whopper! Can’t Wait for the next gripping installment! (Hey, did you notice that NOBODY mentioned the phrase ‘subspace anomaly’ – whew!)
I godda rate this a huge 16,912 out of 10. What did you think?
The “Under the Night” episode review is © 2000 Tony Fawl.
Not for reproduction without the authors express permission
Screen captures were provided by Shauna’s Andromeda Dominion
(All images from the show are © Tribune Entertainment. All rights reserved)
The names, characters and everything else associated with Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda TV series are the property of the Tribune Entertainment Company. All rights reserved.
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