Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda
"Its Hour Come 'Round At Last"
Air date: 5/14/2001
Written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Directed by Allan Eastman
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
"HARPER! I know you. I've watched you. You are an ANNOYING little man, but there is FIRE in your blood, now USE IT!" — Tyr
In brief: Can you say "over the top"?
"Its Hour Come 'Round At Last" is nothing short of complete anarchy on the screen. Essentially, it's 15 minutes of setup and the rest nonstop comic book violence. In the process, not enough is done to tell a coherent story. Because this is a cliffhanger season ender (boy, am I tired of obligatory cliffhangers), nothing makes any real sense yet; we have to wait until fall to find out what this all means. For now, it's less a mystery than a muddle ... and an overblown, pandering one at that.
The good news, I guess, is that this episode isn't boring or lacking in energy. Or maybe that's bad news, seeing as it's a frenetic action-fest with a body count that probably lies somewhere between at least 50 and 100, although I won't be wasting my time by going back to count. Of course, the body count consists of all Magog, who serve primarily as action props that should be labeled "fish in a barrel."
Seriously, how many Magog can you watch get shot — hit by projectiles that cause them to fly through the air in defiance of the physical laws — before it gets old? "Its Hour..." often resembles a video game more than anything else, where the bad guys just keep on comin' while the heroes keep on blastin' away. The only time anyone runs out of ammo is when the plot suddenly demands it.
Part of me — a very silly part — somewhat enjoyed the scope of the action on a purely visceral, thoughtless level. Is it therefore worth a recommendation? I'm afraid not. The script was written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe, whose sensibilities here seem about a million miles away from anything he wrote on Deep Space Nine or, for that matter, "Angel Dark, Demon Bright" earlier this season. I can't say that's good news since, frankly, most of "Its Hour" is shameless exploitation and pandering. If the target audience for Andromeda is one that's supposed to be satisfied watching wave after wave of Magog getting blown away, then count me out.
The show takes little, if any, of its carnage seriously. It's an overwrought cartoon that makes the Magog seem less threatening, not more. If five people can wipe out dozens upon dozens of invading Magog with only a few hand-held weapons, then why on Earth should we fear them as the terror of the galaxy?
The episode begins with an old backup version of Andromeda's personality file being unleashed and taking control of the ship. This version of Andromeda doesn't recognize any of the crew and sees them all as intruders (leading to yet another silly use of the ship's internal defense system, which is useless because it shoots at the good guys — always missing, by the way — and doesn't even work when the actual bad guys are invading). Andromeda orders Trance into the slipstream pilot's seat and plots a course for a classified mission that, apparently, Andromeda ran years before the fall of the Commonwealth and prior to Dylan becoming the ship's captain. It's gradually revealed that this classified mission involved the Magog, which loosely connects with what's about to happen.
Just as it looks like the episode is going to be "the crew vs. Rommie-gone-awry" is about when the Magog suddenly show up. They have ships that latch onto the Andromeda and punch into the hull, and massive invasion forces swarm onto the decks of Dylan's crippled vessel. As suspense, the initial boarding sequence does a nice job of capturing the impending doom of the invasion, as the Magog clang and chant in a creepy unison — and then suddenly go silent just before their massive assault.
... At which point the episode apparently wants to become an intergalactic version of Assault on Precinct 13.
In short: If you want to see Magog after Magog after Magog falling down, this is the episode for you. If you want much more, you are advised to look elsewhere.
I'd like to know how the Magog can even have space technology based on the average level of intelligence they show here. They don't carry weapons and they have no apparent strategy for their attacks, aside from charging straight toward armed people and getting shot. There's exactly one Magog here who has the status of a character with dialog, an overseer named Bloodmist (Gerard Plunkett) who seems to be in charge of the invasion. He alone exhibits sentience; the rest are anonymous monster-props and apparently expendable resources on a suicide mission.
There are, fortunately, some redeeming qualities that save "Its Hour" from its own overindulgence. The pairing of Harper and Tyr works reasonably, as Harper must come face to face with the dreaded race he feared growing up — though Gordon Michael Woolvett again seems to be on the edge of hyperventilating through his performance, and I wondered where the tough guy from "Fear and Loathing in the Milky Way" went. Similarly, the camaraderie between Dylan and Beka also works, including their brief discussion about rebuilding the Commonwealth, something Dylan admits may very well be impossible but must be attempted nonetheless. Lastly, Rev's inner-struggle between his animal instincts and his faith is interesting, though arguably ham-handed.
Mystery backdrops also abound. First is the connection between the secret mission from 300-some years ago and the encounter here with "20 worlds joined in some kind of structure." Said structure is an imaginatively depicted sci-fi sight, housing trillions of Magog. Also, the Continuity Patrol must report that the mysterious shadow-man from "Harper 2.0," who apparently is a god to the Magog, also appears here. And these Magog, according to Bloodmist, are a different breed of Magog, supposedly with a higher purpose than the unenlightened Magog from which Rev descended. These mysteries could come together to reveal something potentially compelling in the larger Andromeda mythos.
And, admittedly, director Allan Eastman does a good job staging furiously paced scenes of mayhem in darkened areas of the ship. Obviously, some substantial work went into the pervasive stunt coordination. Heck, half the season's budget was probably spent on this episode.
But if none of it is believable or has any impact, who cares? It's decent execution of a very flawed idea — the idea that we'll be scared by Magog just because there are a ton of them. I've said it before, even recently, and I'll say it again: Less is more. More is often less ... and in the case here, ridiculous. (Notions that don't play fair with the audience: Tyr and Harper appear to be gnawed to death by Magog before a commercial break, but only insofar that they're unconscious after the commercial break. Holes are blasted through the ship and the bridge explodes, but only knocking people unconscious for cliffhanger purposes. Come to think of it, everyone is unconscious by the time the "to be continued" sign appears, except Rev, who finds himself either on the Precipice of Villainy or Pushed Too Far by the Magog, you decide which.)
The intrigue and limited character work in "Its Hour" are little more than an isolated enclave buried under an avalanche of Wretched Excess. As it stands, the mystery I'm most interested in seeing solved is one of housekeeping: Once the problems set up here are resolved next season, who's going to go traipsing through the decks of the Andromeda to clean up all those Magog corpses littering the floor?
Upcoming: Reruns, starting with "Harper 2.0." Stay tuned for a steady release of back reviews for episodes that aired earlier in the season, and then a full-season recap late this summer.
End-of-season article: First Season Recap