Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda

"Double Helix"

3 stars

Air date: 10/30/2000
Written by Matt Kiene & Joe Reinkemeyer
Directed by Michael Rohl

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Freya, I'm fertile. I could father your children."
"Not if you're dead. Now be quiet!"

— Dimitri and Tyr

In brief: An informative look at some Nietzschean beliefs and our one and only Tyr Anasazi.

"Double Helix" does some things and does many of them well. It's not really about its plot; it's a tapestry of backstory, torn loyalties, and effective character study. It's not the most riveting story ever told, but it does get us into the heads of a few major players.

Tyr Anasazi. He had one line in "Under the Night" and was primarily a large, nondescript menace in "Affirming Flame." In "D Minus Zero" he was laconic and direct. Now we get more into the character's head. He has a lot of dialog, speeches, and interaction with other characters. And what's most interesting is that we're not sure whose side he's really on. Perhaps nobody's — it can be rightly said that his first duty is to himself.

In the course of "Double Helix," we begin to get an understanding for why that is. The plot for this episode is not fundamentally interesting — involving a murky skirmish between the Than (the bug-like aliens, improved in design since the pilot) and a band of Nietzschean pirates who have access to a powerful, long-range weapon on board an asteroid installation. What is interesting is how the plot tells the story of Nietzschean beliefs, while bringing Tyr's past and present into the picture.

The Nietzscheans have philosophies, but they're also very fragmented as a people. Factions fight other factions when vying for power; the result is that people grow up like Tyr, lacking a place in life to belong and ending up with an individualized mission of self-survival. The overall question: Can Tyr carve out a place for himself aboard the Andromeda? The opportunity of this week: Can Tyr carve out a place for himself with this group of Nietzschean pirates?

Tyr is ostensibly working on Dylan's behalf to attempt striking a deal with these Nietzscheans to bring them into Dylan's new Commonwealth. Dylan's hope is that in finding people in desperate situations, he might be able to convince them to take the alternative choice of joining his new Commonwealth. Is Dylan a hopeless optimist? I'm not sure, but if he's going up against people like these, hoping to turn them into allies, he's going to have his work cut out for him. The question isn't whether making enemies into friends is a good idea; the question is whether it's tenable.

Tyr takes a shuttle pod down to the asteroid to negotiate with the Nietzscheans. The leader of the group appears to be Guderian (Paul Johansson), but there's also another, apparently wiser, older figure of authority in Olma (Marion Elfman), whose role seems to be to either give or deny a seal of approval for Tyr based on the purity of his DNA and his survival skills. There's also Freya (Dylan Bierk), a woman who quickly begins to see Tyr as a potential spouse, and vice-versa.

These particular Nietzscheans, to be honest, are not all that interesting in and by themselves. Johansson is wooden as Guderian, the man whose trust Tyr must earn. The same goes for Bierk's role as Freya, who exists more as a major plot point for Tyr than a compelling character.

Fortunately, Tyr is of real interest here. The situation permits some useful examination of backstory for our former mercenary, whose past set him up as a loner who may or may not be allying himself with these Nietzscheans. They're members of a faction that was partially responsible for the destruction of his own family and homeworld years ago. He doesn't trust them. They don't trust him. Consequently, he assures the Andromeda crew that there is no chance that he would be interested in a place among them. But is that entirely true?

What's even better conceived is the crisis of trust that Dylan finds himself facing back aboard the Andromeda while Tyr (maybe) carries out his mission. Can Tyr be trusted? There's a prudent Dylan/Rev scene (though a bit heavy-handed with musical cues) where Dylan wonders if his own anger in having been betrayed by the Nietzscheans — who were the instigators that toppled the Commonwealth — has created in him a prejudice that may never be conquered.

Really, most of this has to do with Gaheris Rhade (Steve Bacic), Dylan's Nietzschean first officer and close friend who betrayed him (see "Under the Night") and left him tortured over the possibility that the fall of the Commonwealth hinged upon his own trust being used against him. There's an intelligent series of flashbacks involving Dylan and Gaheris playing a friendly game of go while debating the role of love and marriage as seen through human and Nietzschean sensibilities.

These scenes do a nice job of revealing the series' take on Nietzsche values, where every man's action is construed either as a credit or demerit to his value to a woman as a specimen of worthy DNA. Life seems colder and less passionate; the point is one of simple logic: Fathering as many children as possible by as many women as possible is the best bet for immortality via continuous lineage.

This plays alongside Tyr's current situation with the Nietzscheans, as he is "chosen" by Freya to be a husband and father (the Nietzscheans sure don't waste any time getting down to business). Freya could be a way for Tyr to obtain what he has long sought, and there is indeed a sex scene here that is portrayed as very "Nietzsche" in cause and effect — while Geheris' voice over makes the valid ideology connections. (The female demographic might drool over a Tyr Anasazi sex scene, but the idea also fits the story.)

All the while, Dylan's problem is in trusting a Nietzschean again. Indeed, it might be downright foolhardy to do so under the circumstances. The flashbacks reveal not only the Nietzscheans' philosophy on reproduction but also their willingness to resort to treachery. There's a moment where Gaheris is caught cheating at a game of go, and he says, "It's only cheating if you get caught," in a tone of such cool indifference that it's chilling. Not long after that discussion, Gaheris would try to kill Dylan and seize the Andromeda. It was a forewarning, and now Dylan suspects history will repeat itself through Tyr. With only five people on board the ship, it'd be awfully easy for Tyr to take over the Andromeda and hand it to the Nietzscheans.

What's kind of neat about "Double Helix" is how its ending plays like a chess game (or a game of go), with Tyr in the middle willing to take whichever side either (a) better benefits his long-term interests or (b) wins. Tyr is no fool, and plans for the possibility that Dylan will have a trick up his sleeve that will make a Nietzschean takeover of the Andromeda impossible. Indeed, Dylan does, having rigged the ship to explode (although I must say that Dylan's timing is implausibly perfect, and comes off the heels of some clunky corridor-based fight scenes). Tyr is able to double-cross Dylan and then immediately double-cross the Nietzscheans, giving the upper hand back to Dylan.

In the end, no one wins because everyone's interests are incompatible. With Tyr destroying the Nietzscheans' cannon, they're left defenseless. This affords Dylan the opportunity to recommend his Commonwealth to people who are even more desperate now than before — but also all the more angry and determined to continue in their ways. Tyr's quest to become husband and father ends in disappointment; Freya flees with the Nietzscheans, a group Tyr would never happily have served under even if he had been successful in his plan to overthrow the power structure on Andromeda.

Noteworthy is the ambiguous ending involving Freya, who apparently conceived Tyr's child, but must now decide, if I'm reading the scene correctly, whether or not to abort the pregnancy. On the one hand, the father is a powerful, worthy opponent; on the other hand, he's a traitor. Perhaps we'll see more about this down the road.

In the meantime, I'm liking Keith Hamilton Cobb's riffs on Tyr; he can be calm with an unrevealing face before suddenly exploding with urgency and emotion and then returning to calm again. He is quickly becoming one of the show's most interesting characters, with multiple dimensions, strong opinions, and hidden agendas.

Dylan, as well as the audience, comes to realize at least one thing: "I trust Tyr to be Tyr."

Next week: Andromeda's first time-travel outing. Oh wait — I mean second.

Previous episode: D Minus Zero
Next episode: Angel Dark, Demon Bright

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3 comments on this post

Sun, Sep 6, 2009, 1:19pm (UTC -6)
Tyr never wanted to join with these Nietzscheans, infact, Dylan's theory made sense. Tyr would take over the Andromeda, get rid of the rest of the Orca, and start his own pride with Freya.

This was one of the most disturbing episodes, when I watched it the first time around, because I expected Tyr to be a loyal member of the Andromeda. Now, I am so glad he wasnt.
Mon, Dec 21, 2009, 10:28am (UTC -6)
I recently borrowed a two disk set of ANDROMEDA which contained the first five episodes of the series. I had heard about the show for a while, but in my area it aired at 1am so never bothered staying up that late to watch it. So I've never seen it before.

Certainly the production values aren't as strong as the later TREK series, but there are certainly enough interesting things to look at.

I was certainly impressed with this episode. The actor who plays Tyr is a very good actor, I feel and made this character a very entertaing one to watch. His arguments with Hunt reminded of S1 DS9 arguments between Sisko and Kira. Two different people, with different ideas and philosophies trying to make it all work. The ending featuring Freya was nice in that it certainly leaves the door open to more story possibilities. My favorite scene was the flashback conversation between Hunt and Rhade was well written. Had ANDROMEDA been more focused on the drama rather than action for actions sake, it may have been a better series.
Sun, Jun 20, 2010, 10:02pm (UTC -6)
I am Tyr Anasazi, Kodiak Pride, out of Victoria, by Barbarossa!

That, and one other line (to Dylan: "I don't belong to you!") will always define the character for me.

Good times.

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