Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda
"Tunnel at the End of the Light"
Air date: 5/13/2002
Written by Matt Kiene & Joe Reinkemeyer
Directed by Allan Eastman
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
"I'm Seamus Harper, and this — is my line in the sand."
In brief: Lots of stuff blows up ... and I quite simply don't give a damn.
Well, here you have it — a big, bad season finale whose payoff is a Big Huge Explosion while anything resembling actual storytelling content comes across as completely secondary and/or perfunctory. Bravo, Andromeda.
"Tunnel at the End of the Light" may as well be called "Explosion at the End of the Hour." While whatever it is we supposedly get here could arguably serve as the backdrop for the inevitable Part II follow-up next season (yes, this is yet another "cliffhanger"), trying to extract an actual story from what little information we get in "Tunnel" is pretty much a waste of time. The plot is an arbitrary concoction — bad, campy sci-fi — with nothing in terms of wit, imagination, or ingenuity. It's another video game, with a few moments of would-be "relevant" dialog shoehorned between explosions.
It wasn't enough last year that we learned of a big Magog world-ship headed our way. Now we have to one-up last year's finale by supplying a new, bigger alien threat. And the writers didn't hold back in the interests of tasteful restraint; they go for all-out madness and goofiness, because this is a Bigger-Than-Big, Mucho Grande Badass Threat — like taking last year's threat and super-sizing the fries. Who are these aliens? I haven't a clue. Are they a mystery? Nope, because a mystery requires a certain level of actual mysteriousness.
What we have here, rather, are aliens that are cartoon action props who apparently want to come across from their universe and rule/destroy/conquer ours. Bwahahaha. They have no motive, no dialog; they are yet another swarm of faceless locusts. Last year we got hundreds of faceless Magog swarming onto the Andromeda. This year we've got tens of thousands of super-duper phase-shifting alien spaceships emerging into our galaxy out of "a tunnel from another universe" and attacking our heroes. I came down pretty hard on last year's overblown finale, "Its Hour Come 'Round At Last," but at least it was a recognizable piece of a larger puzzle. This, by comparison, is just big and lame.
No, I did not like this episode, not one bit. I'm of the opinion that Andromeda has degenerated into a mindless farce that more often than not requires me to be dumber while watching it. While "Tunnel" admittedly makes some efforts to tie in with previous episodes to make this somehow Andromeda-relevant, there's absolutely no escaping two things: (1) The plot at hand involving the eeeeevil aliens is so minimal as to be laughable, and (2) the space battles exist only to supply endless, hollow sound and fury, not to provide anything dramatic, remotely interesting, logical, or even fun. Once upon a different show called Andromeda was an episode called "Angel Dark, Demon Bright" (from which this episode steals its share of stock special-effects shots) — where a really big explosion actually had equally big dramatic impact and meaning.
"Tunnel" ends with what may be the biggest explosion yet depicted on a sci-fi TV series, though I can't say for sure; it's a big, BIG explosion that's somewhat impressive in terms of audible decibels and visual fury. But did I care about any of it the way I cared during "Angel Dark, Demon Bright"? No. No, I did not.
This all takes place on the eve of the signing of the new Commonwealth charter. The concept of the Commonwealth, once this series' mission, has been simplified to a relatively minor plot point. Planet No. 50 signed up in "The Knight, Death, and the Devil," but we have no idea what holds this alliance together or what its values are. Most of the recruitment of worlds has been off-screen and scarcely even implied. Here it seems like half the planets are ready to back out of the alliance if things don't easily go their way. (I'll talk more about the Commonwealth in my season wrap-up.)
The aliens have phase-shifting abilities that allow them to walk through walls and appear and vanish at will. No idea what they want or why, though — that would be too revealing and tangible for the story to bear, and might require our heroes' understanding beyond that required for their immediate need to blow them all up with the biggest explosion ever.
Before the explosion there's of course a fight scene, stylized beyond recognition. I'm honestly not even sure what to make of the alien design — whether they actually look like that or if they're supposed to be wearing body armor. If it is body armor or an exoskeleton or whatever, I'm interested in knowing how it is Dylan can head-butt one of them and win. The action is cartoonish and sloppily choreographed to the point of being hard to follow — it apparently doesn't matter how things happen as long as it's quickly edited, fast-moving, and we get a vague sense that Dylan and Rommie win the kung-fu match and the bad aliens lose.
I guess it's of some consolation that the show's most irritating guest character, a grating Perseid, is quickly dispatched by the phase-shifting bad guys. Meanwhile, the plot hurries along and touches a few reasonable bases regarding the uneasy alliance, as when the Sabra-Jaguar delegate doubts the Andromeda's ability to fight off this threat. There's also the use of Trance, who informs the crew that this invasion is the turning point in the timeline where things went bad and the reason why she crossed through time in "Ouroboros." This plot point is also reasonable, but not used nearly as well as it should have been ... and watching Trance blow up alien ships while saying "Yeah, that's it, baby!" is something — like much of this episode — I could've easily done without. (As space combat goes, the action is so indistinct as to be humorous. Dylan's commands to engage the enemy include, "Fire — a lot." Good to see that military background applied to its fullest.)
The season ends with the fate of Tyr and Beka — who deliver the super-bomb that causes the humongous explosion — up in the air for us to ponder, such as we will, until fall. Are they killed? Kidnapped to another universe? Who knows? And, more to the point, who really honestly cares? I for one do not.
Andromeda, it's pretty clear to me, is determined to be a show about poorly staged action, big explosions, simpleminded heroics, and, on the rarer occasion, some individual stories that might be watchable. Meanwhile, the issue of the Commonwealth's real purpose — ostensibly an important issue to this series — is constantly left muddled, indistinct, and perfunctory. (Can/will it even survive having been thrust into war barely 10 seconds after being almost-founded? Such a question is barely considered while the episode instead baits us with the "Did Tyr and Beka die?" question — which, let's face it, is already answered.) Either we cave in and accept this series as a pale shadow of what it could've been (and perhaps even once was), or we keep arguing in favor of the higher road.
I don't know what else to say. I can only cry "uncle."
Over the summer: Reruns (and relief) begin. I'll be posting my season recap one of these days, so stay tuned
Previous episode: Immaculate Perception
End-of-season article: Second Season Recap