Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda
"A Heart for Falsehood Framed"
Air date: 10/15/2001
Written by Ethlie Ann Vare
Directed by David Winning
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
"Just do it like we practiced."
"When we practiced we messed up."
"Except that part."
— Harper and Trance, master criminals
In brief: Derivative, derivative, derivative.
The storyline in "A Heart for Falsehood Framed" plays like an extended cliche. Everything about it seems familiar, recycled from crime-movie plots. Yes, I suppose it's watchable. But interesting? I think not.
Andromeda is docked at Pierpoint Drift, a space station where theft is a way of life, and where the peaceful relations between this space station and a nearby Than society is quickly breaking down. The administration at Pierpoint Drift maintains ties with and has the protection of the FTA; if the situation gets out of hand — and it looks to be headed that way — there could be erupting violence on a significant scale between the two parties. Dylan, always the optimist, hopes to keep the peace and make new friends that may be valuable down the line.
The Than want returned to them the Hegemon's Heart, a sacred artifact in their culture that has been stolen. Mayor Doge Miskich (Peter Kelamis) has the artifact on display and under heavy guard in his museum; to him it's little more than a high-valued showpiece, one he's not planning to turn over anytime soon.
The Andromeda crew's mission is twofold: Dylan attempts to help Miskich and the Than representative (Nicole Parker) come to an agreement that will avert violence. If that fails, he has a card up his sleeve: Deliver the Heart to the Than himself, which Beka & Co. will have stolen from Miskich's museum and replaced with a fake. This is termed a "covert operation," which is a semantic substitution for "grand larceny."
How exactly this plan would've worked is beyond me, since I'm not sure how the crisis could be avoided in the first place by having an uninvolved third party turn over an item the first party wants from the second. How is this situation at all changed by the diplomatic situation turning more heated, at which point Beka's orchestrated theft becomes moot? Maybe I missed something, but maybe not. This is an engine to drive the A-story, in which Beka must now return the stolen artifact to its proper place so that when and if negotiations succeed, the real artifact will be returned.
The story's core arrives in Beka's emerging relationship with Leydon Bryce-Hawkins (Anthony Lemke), a former Master Thief who has Gone Straight and now works in Miskich's museum doing security. Beka herself is a Master Thief Gone Straight, which is itself a cliche. (I suppose this mission serves as her being reactivated for One Last Job before Retiring From the Life.) The plot takes these two characters, initially mild adversaries, and becomes a Tale of Rival Master Former Thieves Destined to Fall in Love. I'm not sure how many individual cliches that counts as, but I'm sure it's several.
These two meet by falling on top of each other, prompting viewers across the globe to roll their collective eyes. For the second week in a row, Beka lands on the floor with a guy such that they are up close and horizontal, staring awkwardly into each other's eyes (last week it was Dylan). This is a cheap Meet Cute cliche, but twice in two weeks? Don't the writers compare notes before doing things like this?
If you didn't already notice, "A Heart for Falsehood Framed" is heavy on cliches. It might, in fact, make a good drinking game: Find the Familiar Plot Elements In This Story. We have ourselves the Caper Scene, in which our characters thwart high security to steal their big target; the Fruitless Negotiation Scenes, in which two parties yell across a table, bickering and slinging insults while Dylan wipes his face and lets out a weary sigh; and the Accelerated Romance Scenes, in which Beka and Leydon fall for each other (well, maybe not really) in 10 seconds flat, and spend the course of the hour coming to terms with those feelings/cons, while sexual consummation serves as the avenue to carry out more hidden agendas.
What always gets me about caper scenes is that a room that is supposedly as secure as a vault is always actually vulnerable. Would it be so hard to hire living, breathing people to watch the valuable items 24/7 and make them promise not to fall asleep? I suppose that would render the high-tech caper obsolete, in which our hero thieves use their cunning technical acumen (and Trance's tail) to pull off an audacious crime. Or maybe a not-so-audacious crime, seeing as Trance is able to hide inside a museum exhibit and come out after closing time. Uh-huh.
If the story is assembled off the shelf, then the emotional depth is of only slight consolation. These two characters are not remotely near the concept of love, because there's virtually no foundation for it. This is a relationship built on mutual admiration for former careers they both once lived, and present scheming convenience. That's it. Nothing wrong with a little casual nookie between two single people who are attracted to each other and have common interests, but to even hint that this is "love" is a stretch. Since it's not, there's no emotional depth to be found. It's just two people playing con games. The story is thus only as good as the games, and unfortunately the games are convoluted rather than complex and skillful, and they too often drag.
There's very little to be found in terms of warmth or chemistry, which is maybe the point, but makes for an hour where it's hard to care about the characters. Anthony Lemke plays Leydon as cocky but otherwise bland. In some ways this episode reminds me of Voyager's "Counterpoint," which was also about a con game posing as a would-be relationship. But in "Counterpoint" the con games were more interesting. Here they stall.
Instead the story gives us sex and a marriage proposal, and we're left wondering where the true motivators are. The sexual aspect is used — not exclusively, I hope — as a typical device to allow Beka to search Leydon's apartment after he's fallen asleep, at which point he of course wakes up and she's caught. Leydon's own trickery reveals that the real Hegemon's Heart was never in the museum when Beka stole it in the first place; he stole it for himself long ago. He proposes marriage as a matter of mutual scheming convenience — his plan is that he and Beka can escape with Heart and live the life of thieves happily ever after. Assuming, of course, he's not about to pull a fast one.
There's more maneuvering and double-crossing when the Heart is finally turned over to the Than. The use of multiple Hearts and the elusiveness of Beka and Leydon is more confusing than it is interesting. Apparently, the Heart contains a treasure map (?), which Beka is crafty enough to copy and save in the computer before turning over the Heart. Meanwhile Leydon rats out Beka to save his own neck.
I dunno. None of this has spark or originality to it. It's a plot that clicks through the usual cliches of the crime-and-caper genre without the genuine emotion, wit, or energy required to turn it into a compelling story instead of a cold, convoluted assemblage. Beka's dilemma is not permitted to turn into a crisis of conscience, emotion, loyalty, or anything else. The ambiguity of the story, surprisingly enough, doesn't make it more effective. The best moments are when Beka is questioning herself (Harper: "He reminds you of you." Beka: "And I know I can't trust me."), and there are only a few of those.
In the background we've got Tyr sneaking around in a largely unnecessary peripheral plot to fill screen time and provide superfluous fight scenes, and Dylan enduring an obnoxious bureaucrat arguing with an angry bug (an overacting one at that), whose design, alas, still resembles little more than a pricey Halloween costume.
"Falsehood" is a disappointment coming after the entertaining first two episodes of the season, both of which had engaging plots and revealed interesting new information and character insights. This latest outing is more like tried-and-true filler, substituting generic archetypal characterization for the distinctive personalities and individuality we need. Too often this doesn't really even feel like a Beka show, but more like a plot using Beka as a template for a character amalgam. It drags, and it's derivative.
Next week: Cigarette-Smoking Man interrogates Trance in an intergalactic plot to cover up the remaining 831 keys to the X-Files.