Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda

“The Sum of Its Parts”

2 stars.

Air date: 2/26/2001
Teleplay by Steven Barnes
Story by Celeste Chan Wolfe
Directed by David Winning

"In my experience, Devils very rarely wear horns and carry pitchforks." — Tyr

Review Text

In brief: Andromeda to Star Trek: "Resistance is futile. Your storyline will adapt to service us."

I almost hate to say it, but sometimes it can be pretty hard to take Andromeda seriously. I suppose it's a good thing that "The Sum of Its Parts" has a science-fiction ring to it, but it's not at all good that just about everything contained in the story is glaringly derivative. Do the writers think they're telling a remotely original story? I hope not.

What might have been interesting in a parallel universe where I'd never seen Star Trek is what the Andromeda encounters here — a culture of machines calling itself the "Consensus of Parts." They look like scrap metal floating dead in space but exist as independently intelligent components; when they come together, they can form a powerful consciousness. As rip-offs go, this is about as blatantly close to the Borg you can get without actually inserting the line "resistance is futile" (though it nearly comes to that before it's over, with a collective-like voice stating its intentions).

Dylan and his crew first encounter the Consensus through an ambassador-like scout machine, which assembles itself on cue and is called HG (Matt Smith). As special-effects creatures go, HG is another in an unfortunately long line of Andromeda creations that seem oddly dated and clunky, looking too obviously like a guy in a suit rather than a convincing sci-fi presence. HG has an androgynous persona and an innocent voice, undoubtedly so the crew will not perceive him as a threat.

HG invites Dylan & Co. to the Consensus' domain of space, where it is hoped a mutual understanding between the Consensus and the would-be Commonwealth can be struck. Dylan, of course, dares to deal with the Consensus even though it is widely known that avoiding them is generally the best course of action. Dylan's quest to make friendly ties on behalf of a new Commonwealth resides on one side of the line separating "brave" and "stupid"; the jury's still out on which side of the line that is.

While interacting with the Andromeda crew, HG begins developing a fully sentient consciousness and expresses an interest in a continued existence. In short, HG has become alive and aware, and does not want to dismantle himself, something he begins to understand as death. Helping HG through this journey of existence is Trance, who plays cute and emotive to the hilt here, with sometimes annoying results.

I for one don't need every emotion cued for me; I'd rather think about an argument on its merits than be spoon-fed my predetermined emotional response. No such luck here, as we have sweet little Trance getting misty-eyed while HG talks about his forthcoming death. Matthew McCauley's score goes for the jugular — using excessive sappiness as the assault weapon.

HG is selfless, too. The reason he intends to dismantle himself rather than go on living is because the Consensus does not tolerate unified parts existing beyond their given function. To do so would apparently invite individuality and destructive chaos into the Borg collective — er, I mean Consensus — and the larger presence of the Consensus will not permit that. The Consensus would sooner destroy the Andromeda than allow HG to remain intact.

To complicate matters, we have another assembled Consensus entity, VX (Kevin Durand), who comes aboard the Andromeda to personify the Consensus threat and, thus, anti-individuality. He's the inverse-HG, with a growling voice and a threatening demeanor. As a side-note to up the ante of the plot, VX also requests that the Andromeda, as an intelligent machine herself, join the Consensus of Parts. No points for guessing VX won't take no for an answer.

Meanwhile, HG goes through on his intent to dismantle himself, in a goodbye scene where the entire Andromeda crew sees HG off as he gives them parts of himself to remember him by. (No tears allowed.) Strangely, it felt almost like the show was ending here, but then it starts up again when it turns out HG's independent parts don't take no for an answer and implant themselves throughout Andromeda's systems, effectively taking over (assimilating?) the ship.

Once HG merges with Andromeda, parts of the plot feel like a cheesy supernatural/possession thriller. Dylan communicates with HG by talking to Andromeda. Rommie talks back in a combined HG/Rommie voice. HG, by the way, still doesn't mean any harm; he just wants to find a way to exist, if he can.

Of course, we still have the Consensus to deal with, of which HG is officially no longer affiliated. In short, if the Consensus cannot have the Andromeda, no one will (bwahahaha). Meanwhile, this new HG-Andromeda amalgam could be a threat to Consensus interests. This leads to our requisite chase scene and weapons fire. The depiction of the Consensus space vessel is actually one of the episode's higher points, showing a massive ship — assembled seemingly out of millions of smaller chunks of metal — that dwarfs the Andromeda. Of course, the similarity to the Borg concept is still all too evident, and VX's machine-like mandates for surrender have that Borg-like ring of an authority that cannot be appealed.

The resolution is mildly interesting, as HG, eventually separated from the Andromeda, combines its consciousness with an outcast set of parts to form another super robot-vessel that attacks and destroys the Consensus' massive spaceship. HG no longer exists as an individual but as a part of a new collective that may choose not to employ the oppressive ways of the Consensus. That's actually covering a decent amount of ground in the last act; thematically, I find myself strongly reminded of the Voyager episode "Unity," where former Borg drones willingly reconnected themselves to one other.

Still, I'm left cold by the lack of originality. Once again, we too often have ourselves the argument stressing the wonders of individuality (HG/humanity) over the collective drone-like consciousness (Consensus/Borg). When was the last time this theme was new?

In my opinion, Andromeda hasn't yet paid its dues in using its own material to be going out and plundering the existing sci-fi archive.

Previous episode: Forced Perspective
Next episode: Fear and Loathing in the Milky Way

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Comment Section

6 comments on this post

    Just strikes me that it's somewhat less than cool to complain of copycat-elements in a show unless one can supply suggestions for other things the show could have done to achieve nearly the same results. As for the Borg...machine intelligences that has to be able to communicate with humans. how many ways would there be to depict that in a threatening manner that -didn't- remind people of the Borg?
    Seems to me the 'independent parts becoming a humanoid figure' is as far from the concept as Andromeda could get, the borg being more 'metal on a biological frame'.

    In summary - Andromeda goes the full Borg in an interesting but somewhat derivative and then genuinely surprising, unpredicatble and touching way at the end.

    Hats off to the costume guys whom obviously had just seen The Eve of the Future or Metropolis. Either through budget constraints or a deliberate process they had probably seen some of the Borg stuff in various Star Trek shows and decided to go a very different way....

    I love how some people who disagree with someone reviewing something bring out the old "Well could you have written a better story!?" non-argument. It's not the reviewers job to write a better story, it's the reviewers job to nitpick the episode and it's plot points, good or bad. The Consensus of Parts is a shameless copy of the Borg, plain and simple. I think Jammer was generous enough to give this episode 2 stars.

    I would have to disagree with the 2 star rating, O would give it atleast 3 stars...Reasons? Well I listed them below;
    1. While yes the Consensus of Parts, has a remarkable similarity to the Borge Collective, it lacked a very vital part where the Borge want to "consume" or "assimilate" all life hell conquer all soly to "upgrade" itself, the Consensus wishes only to "assimilate" other machines or spare parts (all be it for only specific tasks), and for the most part assume a neutral stance (all be it more of a Neutral-evil ailnment) towards other lifeforms and lacks a distinctive need/want to consume all things.
    2. I am not a huge star trek fan nor an Andromeda super fan, I find the physical appearance of both the Borg and the Consensus "drones" quite different from one another and not just due to budget differences, meaning Borg drones, ships and equipment are very uniform, perpiusly designed for unitary and functional purpose, where as the two Consensus Drones we see could not be more different from one another one very intimidating and functional while the other seemed very nonfunctional and deliberately designed to seem passive aggressive. As for the ships nothing close to cubes and spheres not even aesthetically pleasing, I would even argue not even functionality, a bit excessive and intimidating, sole purpose to look bigger than life titanicly designed for the sole purpose of intimidating its opponents nothing more nothing less. Quite the opposite of what the Borge field in the Star trek universe.
    3. While I did think as far as the Andromeda universe goes they kind of underrepresented the effect the crew of the Andromeda actually had on poor HG and OC-1, one would think such a strong plot tie would reappear again on the shows and future seasons of the Andromeda, for example the OC-1 could have had a huge place in the Reformation of the Commen Wealth, bringing in a more unique type of AI into thier ranks, they could have played a much bigger role in the Commen Wealths development, serving as advisers, reservist (planetary security forces) and most importantly in infrastructure development (aka great engineering drones) which would have shown a much better separation from thier more Borgish supposed copy cat, which they are accused of being.
    I could definitely see so much more potential of both the Outcast and the Collective Consensus factions.
    4. Finally yes I could see the originality of the HG/humanity vs. Collective/borg suffered some on this episode but is thier really any way to really change the center theme, it really can only be played out in very similar ways, of which I think the writers of the Andromeda series did very good at if not lost some very good potential in another minor plot twist to add to the armory that is the Andromeda Universe.

    A lovely, thoughtful episode in the Roddenberry vein. Beyond the initial visual appearance of HG evoking Hugh, I don’t think the episode ripped off the Borg explicitly, The idea of a unified machine consciousness was done many times on TOS and in Star Trek the Motion Picture, which themselves took the idea from classic sci-fi works, so I think it’s silly to pretend that TNG invented it. Maybe TNG made it cartoonishly villainous, but Roddenberry was fascinated by AI for many decades.

    This is an aptly titled episode. There were certain parts that I thought were decent, but the whole…ugh. In fact, until VX made his first appearance this was a struggle to watch. The dialog was especially poor, to these ears anyway. Too many unnecessary one liners. Rather than being genuinely humorous where appropriate this show tries way to hard to be funny.

    And it hurts the drama of the story. None of the characters were talking like how I would think people would talk and react under these circumstances. Wisecracks? Really?

    The episode improved once VX showed up, but even so this all just seemed too generic. Certainly the physical appearances of HG and VX shadow that of the Borg, including the basic makeup of the Consensus. But the wake scene was just too much too soon.

    I can buy that Trance would be most devastated at the possible loss of HG. She seems like someone who loves hard and loves fast. But she really got under my nerves when she came across as morally superior to Dylan and Harper. I liked how Dylan confronted her, basically ordering her to stop playing around and come out and say just what they needed to do in order to the save the ship and HG. But she still equivocated and in the performance it came across as purposeful. And it really, really bugged me.

    I don’t know what role he would’ve played in this story, but I did miss the presence of Rev Bem. I kept waiting for some explanation as to why he wasn’t there this episode, but if one was given it must’ve wound up on the cutting room floor. I guess he was just meditating in his quarters throughout the whole thing.

    The CGI for VX’s ship looked decent and I liked the design. Looked appropriately menacing.

    I was surprised that HG would hug a wall monitor and not try to interact with any of the faceless droids that randomly wander the corridors in the background. And this episode featured a lot of them. I thought that would’ve been a no brainer for a quickie comic scene.

    It’s been several weeks since I’ve watched any ANDROMEDA. I wasn’t expecting “the greatest episode ever”, but this was more disappointing than I thought it would be.

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