It has been many years since we saw the idealistic Federation dreamed by Gene Roddenberry. At last, with Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda, idealism is again the motivation for a captain and his ship. I have been picturing Roddenberry turning over in his grave at the “edginess” (read pessimism”) of Deep Space Nine and Voyager, but now he can relax. Captain Dylan Hunt’s Commonwealth is hope come back to life. I have found most of Andromeda’s stories interesting enough to keep on tape. Typical of a Roddenberry concept, the episodes explore issues in engaging ways. Inspiration, trust, cooperation versus selfishness, child violence, family ties and duty, artificial intelligence potentials, vengeance and justice – already in the series these themes have each been explored from more than one viewpoint .
I am anxious to keep getting to know these characters better. Kevin Sorbo, star of Hercules, brings over into the role of Captain Hunt his aura of rock-like reliability, and while he has sacrificed most of his hair and the rustic, bare-chested costumes, he has added a natural sense of command and layers of feelings unknown to Hercules. His is the idealism that drives the show, as he and his crew set out to restore the multi-galactic Commonwealth which fell 300 years before, and in which Hunt was born.
Tyr Anasazi, mercenary par excellence played powerfully by Keith Hamilton Cobb, combines brutality and sensitivity in one sexy package. His character is a Nietzschean, a species of genetically designed supermen with the Darwinian lifestyle to match. Cobb, in lucky combination with the costume department and the screenwriters, has created a character who is continually walking psychological tightropes. If the actor’s love of the theater doesn’t split his focus too much, his high-impact beauty and his apt use of both subtlety and action fit him for a notable screen career. These two characters provide the action scenes and the philosophical sparks. Gordon Michael Woolvett, who once had a ship and a show of his own on Mission Genesis, supplies the comic relief in this show. This is a much better role. His Seamus Harper is a little genius engineer whose ingenuity and delightfully cynical commentary brightens many a situation.
Okay, few things are perfect. Andromeda could use a little help with its women. The best women’s performances in the show so far have been guest appearances by the mates of Captain Hunt and Tyr. Of the regulars, tough salvage captain Beka Valentine, who becomes Andromeda’s First Officer, is played by Lisa Ryder. She could use some of the passion of Hunt’s fiancée Sara, or the smoldering feline calculation shown by Tyr’s mate Freia. So far, in spite of having an episode dedicated to Beka, the character feels only shell-deep. This is not the fault of the writers. On the other hand, Trance Gemini, a bubbly, not-particularly-smart sweetie of unknown species played by Laura Bertram, deserves better from the script than the occasional cute one-liner. The ship’s AI computer, Andromeda, represented by Lexa Doig, is the deepest role of the three, in spite of her mechanical origins.
Left for last in the crew because we can’t see him is a Magog, buried in fur and latex but providing some effective moments anyway. Rev Bem is played by Brent Stait, whose character is as thoroughly hidden here, as it was exposed in Mystery, Alaska. Rev is a philosopher/priest whose sensible interference’s can be pivotal, so we forgive him indulging in the occasional small sermon.
It is a pleasure to see bright color return to Roddenberry space adventure after the icy blues of Deep Space Nine and Voyager. The producers are not spending high dollars on the special effects, but this justly reflects the priority given to story and character. The look is believable and competent.
Roddenberry’s Star Trek: The Next Generation was one of the most popular television dramas of its day. Apart from the fact that the crew of Andromeda Ascendant is working toward a cooperative Commonwealth and the crew of the Enterprise were already established in such a Federation, the two series offer much the same philosophy, and it is a lift to the spirits. The message of Andromeda is this: “Always hold the ideal before your eyes, and do not stop working for it no matter the odds.” It is a pretty nourishing message for such tasty adventureJoy Calderwood
(Editor’s note: Andromeda is a series based on a single Roddenberry script and farmed out to a living writier for additional scripts.)