Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda
"The Honey Offering"
Air date: 4/23/2001
Written by Matt Kiene & Joe Reinkemeyer
Directed by Brad Turner
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
"I can't believe I'm gonna die at the hands of converging red blips." — Harper
In brief: Not deep, but decently executed and nicely paced.
I like Nietzscheans. They're smart, smug, and ruthless, and they say exactly what's on their minds. In other words, they make for edgy, sardonically funny characters.
In "The Honey Offering" we have a Nietzschean woman, named Elssbett (Kimberly Huie), taking transport aboard the Andromeda so she can be delivered as a symbol of peace to her husband-to-be as part of a high-profile arranged marriage. (Comparisons with TOS's "Elaan of Troyius" are inevitable.) This is, of course, an ages-old premise, but I found the episode entertaining on its bottom line. It's refreshing to get an Andromeda offering that's fun and well executed instead of riddled with the plot and pacing problems we've seen too much of lately.
There's also some reasonably engaging political intrigue. The marriage is between two people from two rival Nietzschean prides. Elssbett is the First Daughter of the Sabra pride; her husband-to-be is the Arch-Duke of the Jaguar Pride. The hope is that the marriage will bridge a gap between the two sides in an upcoming peace effort, making them strong enough together to rival a third sect, the dreaded Drago-Kazov Pride. The Continuity Patrol will note that Tyr likes this idea; the Drago-Kazov are his own sworn enemies (see "Music of a Distant Drum"). This could also be good for Dylan; Sabra and Jaguar might potentially warm to the idea of joining the Commonwealth — although, nah, probably not.
"The Honey Offering" starts off as a cliche (arrogant princess struts around and insults common folk) before turning into an action show, where the action actually makes sense as a purpose of the story instead of coming from and going nowhere (like Andromeda action has often had a tendency to do this season).
Plus, we have a lot of Nietzscheans and all the madness that surrounds them. These guys are clearly intelligent. But they also transparently reveal their Achilles heel, which is that they are so determined to fight for their own righteous philosophies — something they tend to define awfully narrowly — that they end up fighting so many battles. Even among themselves there are so many opposing clans. The Nietzscheans, we suspect, are so busy fighting each other that they get little accomplished. If they pulled together and had common goals they'd probably be ruling the galaxy.
Case in point: Elssbett is not what she seems to be; she's actually a highly skilled assassin whose assignment is to wipe out the royal Jaguar family she's supposed to be marrying into. That, and set off a neutron bomb that will kill thousands, including herself. Even under the guise of a peace offering, Nietzscheans will stab their enemies in the back. It's devious, but such deviousness isn't based on evil tendencies but instead on calculated, detached pragmatism: If a war is on its way anyway, a preemptive strike will ultimately shorten the conflict and lead to fewer deaths.
What's maybe hard to believe is that Dylan wouldn't suspect such treachery from the outset. Did he learn nothing from previous Nietzschean run-ins like the Gaheris Rhade incident ("Under the Night") and the Tyr Anasazi incident ("Double Helix")? Then again, given Dylan's blind idealism, maybe he wouldn't be so suspicious. But wouldn't Tyr? Maybe not, since Tyr is too busy being horny over Elssbett, albeit in his usual Nietzschean plotting-for-the-future way. Nor is Harper ready to notice potential deceit; he doesn't even care that Elssbett is an arrogant beeyatch who thinks about as highly of him as she would an amoeba. After all, "She's hot!"
The show shifts primarily to Dylan and Elssbett after the Andromeda is confronted by a Drago-Kazov fleet that wants Elssbett turned over to them. They are led by expert military tactician Cuchulain (Adrian Hughes). Dylan and Elssbett flee in the Maru while Beka stages a trick that makes it look like Elssbett has seized control of the Andromeda and is making a run for it. Cuchulain falls for it ... or maybe not.
One thing that has sunk several Andromeda shows is the mediocre-to-abysmal guest acting. As Andromeda guest actors go, Kimberly Huie and even Adrian Hughes are a cut above average, which is to say reasonable. It makes all the difference in the world. Because Dylan and Elssbett have so many dialog scenes together, it's important that Sorbo and Huie do the dialog justice. Fortunately they do. Elssbett is believable as a cold personality with some untapped humanity lurking underneath.
She's in the unenviable position of having a role she was forced into at childhood. She didn't have the chance to be the person she might've chosen to be. She's a product of a pragmatic society that is about survival first and foremost. Alas, survival comes with the price of living a life that contains few, if any, simple pleasures. Elssbett hasn't had the time nor the means to stop and live life, or make love. All of which might be cliche, but it's palatable.
The action that surrounds this plot is serviceable, and at the end even a little bit enticing. Elssbett — apparently derived from the same realm of testosterone-driven action that defines cool women heroes/villains as sexy chicks that carry big guns — is adamant on her path to carry out the assassination, but at the same time reveals a human vulnerability underneath the cold Nietzschean resolve. She and Dylan end up in action scenes fighting each other as well as members of the Drago-Kazov. In the process, we get at least one new weapon, the "EM-lash," which resembles some sort of laser-like whip and at one point is used to cut a guy clean in half.
Beka and the Andromeda are on the other end of the action, for once actually directly connecting an A-story and B-story. They display an example of the would-be dupers actually being the duped, which is a bit suspect since it's obviously intended more as a dupe of the audience.
What makes the story is the way Dylan manipulates the outcome. His main goal is to talk Elssbett out of the assassination, but when he can't do that he instead "goes Nietzschean" by drawing the three uneasy prides' fleets together into a swarm, as if whacking a bees' nest. Is this plausible? I have some severe doubts. Dylan turns a chase sequence into a war by getting one fleet to chase him, another fleet to chase the first fleet, and then leading both parties to a third fleet, where all hell breaks loose. This has the effect of rendering Elssbett's assassination of the Jaguar royal family moot and unwise, since the Sabra and Jaguar find themselves forced into an alliance to fight the Drago-Kazov.
I really don't know if this war outbreak holds water (perhaps the Nietzscheans were waiting for an excuse to declare war on one another, but I think it unlikely they'd let one cargo ship rearrange their strategies), but I also don't much care. The lesson to be learned here is that in the Nietzschean world this sort of organized mayhem seems more at home. And the captain of the Andromeda doesn't mind doing some zany, madcap things.
"The Honey Offering" has a shaky plot, but it's at least an entertaining one, on a series where the Nietzscheans still seem like the best bet for political intrigue ... and generally entertaining plots of madness. Frankly, more galactic madness is what I want to see on this series. If Dylan Hunt wants to fix the galaxy, I want to see what it looks like broken first.
Next week: All's fair in android love and betrayal.