Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda

“Be All My Sins Remembered”

1.5 stars.

Air date: 2/11/2002
Teleplay by Ethlie Ann Vare
Story by Jill Sherwin
Directed by Allan Eastman

"Did you do it? Is it gonna work?"
"Is my name Seamus Zelazny Harper?"
"God, I hope not."

— Beka and Harper

Review Text

Note: This episode was rerated from 2 to 1.5 stars when the season recap was written.

In brief: A potentially decent story sabotaged by the typical dose of Andromeda anti-subtlety.

To me, at the center of "Be All My Sins Remembered" is the issue of why the villain — who is a stab at an actual character instead of the Andromeda duck-in-a-shooting-gallery type of bad guy that has become so popular of late — is no longer a human but instead a half-man, half-machine, killer super-robot. So many potential layers of subtlety are completely lost in favor of a bad guy who is ultimately all too obviously a Bad Guy.

That bad guy is Bobby Jensen (Costas Mandylor), who back in the day was Beka's lover and partner in crime/profit, and who now has been allegedly killed in an explosion fighting for a rebel cause. Beka launches the Maru to pay her respects, but it turns out Bobby isn't really dead; his life has been saved with the help of cybernetic implants (hence the half-man, half-RoboCop), and he has used the news of his death as bait to take Beka and the Maru hostage. He wants to forcibly draw the Andromeda crew into joining his cause. Or not — he actually just wants the ship and its arsenal.

Okay, so a good chunk of this episode was probably learned in Hollywood Hostage Plotting 101, but before we get to that point we get some backstory that hints at an attempt for character analysis for Beka. Well, good, I say. I was glad to see some of this. It probably shouldn't come as a huge surprise that this episode is Beka-oriented considering the writer is resident Beka expert Ethlie Ann Vare (from a story by Jill Sherwin).

Keeping in tune with the notion that we must get the regular characters laid on-screen, Beka gets some on-screen sex with Bobby via a flashback scene, though I'm wondering if, since she's telling this story to Dylan and Harper, Beka is including as much detail as the flashback scenes themselves are. I'm also wondering when Harper will get his turn in the sack ... or if there's an unwritten rule that says tech geeks aren't allowed to have sex on TV.

Anyway, the story. The early passages are the best. We get some reasonable character info, including flashbacks that show Beka's relationship with Bobby — who always tried to encourage her to pick a cause worth fighting for — and details of how Beka recruited Harper to serve on the Maru. Harper and Bobby didn't get along so well, and I liked the way Harper constantly tried to insert his two cents during Beka's story. (Also included among the flashbacks is one of this week's Andromeda Cartoon Action Sequences™, which I won't bother griping about but will point out that Bobby comes off looking like Rambo. Beka apparently goes for brawn over brains.)

Beka eventually dumped Bobby because he lied to her — stealing missiles from the Nietzscheans when he claimed they were computers ("They have computers in them!"), and planning to deliver them to the Muganis, the persecuted people he adopted as his cause to fight for. Beka's motto at the time: I don't do causes. Of course, by the time Dylan recruited her, Beka's attitudes had changed.

Back in the present, the hostage plot is routine as these things go: kidnapper surprises crew, takes hostages, makes demands, threatens main characters. Tyr and Rommie are aboard the Andromeda to address the hostage crisis; a separate interrupted crisis involving a planetary evacuation is so oblique and woefully underdeveloped that it should've been thrown out completely.

Bobby's partners in the hostage plot include Margot (Heather Hanson), an Eeeeevil Beeyatch who is perhaps the ultimate statement of this series' War Against Subtlety — awful, awful, awful. She wears a gaudy dominatrix-style leather outfit with garters and way too much makeup, and projects Obnoxious Evil in every scene, sometimes uttering racial epithets about the Muganis. Please. Is she a freedom fighter or a hollow vessel of slime on hand to add equally hollow conflict? You make the call.

Faring better is Lem (Berend McKenzie), who is a Mugani, the object of Bobby's cause, one of a race of aboriginal people who have been subjugated and persecuted on their own world by an off-world colonial population, against whom Bobby wants to wage a larger war. Lem is oddly performed and carries a hilariously massive gun, but the story at least tries to give him a little bit of depth. He is, of course, the avenue through which Dylan maneuvers his eventual escape, gradually turning Lem against Bobby and Margot. I can't say I really liked or disliked Lem; he's not as cardboard as Margot (but then, how could he be?), but he still only goes so far before being a rather obvious page in the Hollywood Hostage Plot 101 syllabus.

Then there's Bobby, who is, unfortunately, what the episode's Serious Intentions ride on. The fundamental problem here, which I see as an obvious one, is that having Bobby strut around as a robot is truly unnecessary and, worse, represents the destruction of what the story could've been — subtle and compelling.

Consider this alternative: Bobby is still the human he always was and found a way to lure Beka into this trap to convince — not necessarily force — her to join his cause. Rather than immediately pointing a gun at people, he tries to persuade them with compelling evidence, and we realize that, gee, maybe he's right and his cause is worth fighting for. Suddenly Beka could find herself in a spot where she must make an actual, tough decision in whether or not to join him. She could ponder whether Bobby was perhaps right all along and whether his cause always had realistic merit. She could realize how much she's grown since she dumped him and perhaps persuade Dylan to take up the Muganis' plight. And she'd maybe find that old passions are being rekindled.

That'd be a different story and, in my view, a far better one. But in this story's reality we don't have arguments or introspection; we have strong-arm tactics and unyielding threats and a standard countdown to violence. We also have Bobby as the robotic villain, whose complexities aren't allowed to adequately surface. There's a buried message that Bobby's humanity has been compromised by being made half-machine — but, then again, maybe not; Dylan's Final Judgment at the end decrees otherwise, and the point is lost.

As for our own characters being conflicted, specifically Beka, consider this exchange:

Beka: "You leave them be, and I'll stay. Just you and me, together, just like before."
Bobby: "Just like before?"
Beka: [no answer]
Bobby: "No, I didn't think so."

The issues under the surface here obviously include trust and intimacy. It's clear that this new Bobby is something Beka can't accept. But if Bobby were still human, we'd at least know that it was about him and not about his transformation. His new robotic form adds a complication to the proceedings that the story itself never sufficiently deals with.

Apart from that, if Bobby didn't instantly take Dylan & Co. hostage (which in turn forces Dylan to play his hand against Bobby, and rightfully so) the drama wouldn't be forced in its obvious and predictable direction, which is one of "Bobby's dilemma must be rejected out of hand." In the end, Bobby's apparent change from freedom fighter to ego-driven terrorist is left largely undefined and unresolved. It might very well be that Bobby was this way all along, but Beka and the story really don't seem to know. What makes this guy tick? I'm not sure, and in a way I don't really care, because he's not nearly interesting enough to make me want to care.

So why did the writers make Bobby a robot terrorist in the first place? The answer is probably (a) to simplify the drama, nixing as many shades of gray as possible, making it easy for the Action Hour Audience (AHA!) to hate him more, and (b) to warrant a lame kung-fu action payoff at the end where it's our characters going up against a super-tough robot-man. By taking the low action road, the moral dilemmas are reduced to simplistic questions with obvious answers: Of course Bobby must be stopped, because his methods are clearly wrong and our heroes' lives are in jeopardy. (Sigh.)

Bobby's cause is ultimately irrelevant, because the story isn't really about his cause, or even about Bobby; it's about the simplistic conflict on the surface — the hostages against their captors.

And that's the problem of where I see Andromeda going right now. Even stories that are potentially reasonable (or even good) are sabotaged by the fact they are reformatted along the lines of a superficial action template that destroys most higher-minded thinking. This is a story that demands to be complex, but it ends with the villain being a bland target rather than a subject with whom we can debate or sympathize with.

It's a shame, because the early unforced dialog and some of the backstory — particularly the way Harper was brought into Beka's fold — is moderately entertaining. There should've been more of it (and indeed there may have been had the show not gone through a series of unplanned rewrites due to unforeseen circumstances). But why go to the trouble of creating what Beka at the outset says was "the love of my life" (a statement not at all supported by the evidence on the screen) if you're going to turn him into an unyielding villain with whom Dylan hammers it out in the finale?

I dunno. Before jettisoning any hope for a thoughtful or meaningful ending, the episode has flashes of insight and quiet moments where Bobby briefly looks like a victim of his own obsession. At the very least, Beka — instead of Dylan — is the one who ultimately kills Bobby, giving the episode its tragic undercurrents. But couldn't something a little less melodramatic and obvious have happened? Something that would've shown that Beka is the one who has changed?

Indeed, Beka has changed, but the story barely sees that as its gold. We get too much focus on the logistics of the hostage premise and not enough on Beka as a well-observed subject. Instead of getting an interesting story, we get a typical pedestrian one. This could've been good but is executed with too much emphasis on dumbing things down until potentially complex issues are seen in black and white.

Next week: Trance is possessed in what is most certainly not a sci-fi/fantasy cliché, we hope.

Previous episode: Lava and Rockets
Next episode: Dance of the Mayflies

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Comment Section

3 comments on this post

    wtf WAS that??!! My optimism about this show's potential has almost entirely faded at this point. Post Wolfe-Andromeda so far hasn't even been entertaining from a dumb action perspective. Tyr, once the show's strongest character, has been reduced to a wimp while Unstoppable Savior Dylan performs all the heroics. Bobby and Margot were awful characters. I howled with laughter when evil Bobby was revealed in his Dollar Store costume. If this (and the last two episodes) are representative of what's to come, then I can certainly understand why you stopped reviewing the show. What's sad is how much potential this show really had, and the regular supporting actors really do seem to be trying their best. The main cast was solid and the first half of Season 2 showed how the Andromeda could still be worth watching as an exciting action show with great character moments worked into the frey. This, by comparison, is an empty void in terms of character development and the long-term story (a potential interesting civil war being written off-screen in favor of a generic hostage scenario) in favor of bad acting, bad sets, bad costumes, bad dialogue, and cliched and terrible fight scenes. Hearing how much of a POS Kevin Sorbo is in real life (from his statements about atheists, Ferguson, etc) goes a long way towards explaining the collapse of this show following Wolfe's firing amidst his reign as exec producer. That all sounds a lot angrier than I actually feel - it's just a show, after all, and I more or less knew what to expect. But MAN, this is quite a sudden and drastic drop in quality, especially given all the potential this show really had going for it.

    @ Baron Samedi

    You're reaction to post-Wolfe-Andromeda is spot on.

    However your comments about Kevin Sorbo are not only way off the mark, but who a huge lack of grasp on reality. Sorbo was dead right about what he said about Ferguson. Here is an excerpt:

    "Ferguson riots have very little to do with the shooting of the young man," Sorbo wrote. "It is an excuse to be the losers these animals truly are. It is a tipping point to frustration built up over years of not trying, but blaming everyone else, The Man, for their failures. It's always someone else's fault when you give up. Hopefully this is a reminder to the African Americans ( I always thought we just Americans. Oh, well.) that their President the voted in has only made things worse for them, not better."

    Here is what he said about atheists:

    “I know these guys must believe in something, otherwise they wouldn’t get so angry about it, and they don’t like the fact that there’s a higher power out there that’s judging how they live their life.”

    All of that is spot on, and Sorbo deserves props for standing up for morals and against hypocrisy, something we see all too few of from actors today.

    Finally an interesting Beka episode that doesn’t involve the hokey “flash” drug or her troubled father. The ex-boyfriend angle is an interesting entrance into an interesting illustration of how she’s grown and changed as a character. Good stuff.

    Loved the bunkbed conversational scene between Dylan and Harper on the Maru. Firstly it answered my question about where people sleep on that ship. Secondly it showed Dylan feeling a warm fellowship with Harper that stood out from the annoyed shouting he has done in relation to the whiz kid throughout the series. This is a nice change.

    And the episode gives us a peek into the younger “street kid” Harper when he joined the Maru. It’s an ejoyable bonus that underlines with flashbacks how both he and Beka have become less sarcastic and cynical over time. I like that Lisa Ryder gets to display an emotional range beyond the mask of irritated, self-impressed snark we’ve seen through the series to date.

    I give this episode 3 stars. This is still recognizably the Andromeda that predated the showrunner’s departure earlier in the season, but it also allows three of the regular cast (Dylan, Harper, Beka) to show how they’ve grown closer as they share old stories of the ex-boyfriend Bobby while waiting out an obstacle on the Maru. It’s not great, but I like it.

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