Andromeda: Season 1 was
a bumpy ride, with highs of exciting, well-thought-out episodes alternating
with lows of incoherent plotting and nonsensical characterizations. Somewhere
in the middle, the average episode was fairly cheesy but often reasonably good
fun. Even so, by the end of Season 1, it was clear that the promise of the
early episodes would, at the least, have to wait until the next season to be
fulfilled. Unfortunately, from the first five episodes of Season 2, it's
looking increasingly unlikely that Andromeda is going to live up to anything
remotely related to the promise of its beginning.
At its best, Andromeda
offers what are basically adventure stories in space, with a consistent goal
for the protagonists (restoring the Commonwealth) and a handful of potentially
interesting adversaries (the Nietzcheans and the Magog). However, the opening
episodes of Season 2 suggest that Andromeda is heading in a direction that
includes far less story content, and far more "action" for its own
sake. Now, I enjoy a good action scene, but for it to be exciting, it has to
make sense in terms of the plot, and ideally something needs to be at stake.
These conditions are rarely met in the five episodes included here.
"The Widening Gyre"
finishes off the cliffhanger of Season 1, but in a fairly lackluster manner. We
get more Magog mayhem left over from the first half of the cliffhanger, but
it's all pretty ho-hum: the Magog keep on coming, and Our Heroes keep shooting
them. At least there's some genuine sense of menace left over from the
introduction of the Magog in Season 1, though it's not handled well at all. In
the end, we get no interesting revelations, no plot twists, just a generic
action sequence and a shelving of the Magog world-ship problem for future
"Exit Strategies" is
simply dreadful: Dylan and company are forced to crash on a planet to escape
pursuing Nietzcheans, and have to escape said Nietzcheans on the planet as
well. Shooting sprees (in which, of course, the Bad Guys can't hit the broad
side of a barn door, despite theoretically being genetically engineered
supermen). Too many plot holes to count. Fake-looking CGI "sinkhole"
effects. Inane dialogue. More shooting. Gratuitous slow-motion action moves.
You get the picture.
"A Heart for Falsehood
Framed" is probably the best episode of the five included here, and it's
actually a sad victim of Andromeda's mishandling of decent story
material. In more capable hands, this episode could have been a great
"caper" story, with an interesting premise and some fun twists and
turns and double-crossing. Unfortunately, the plot ends up being muddled and
unclear, and the triple-cross ending lacks punch as a result.
"Pitiless as the Sun"
and "Last Call at the Broken Hammer" both use fairly simple plots (in
one, freighters are getting blown up by a mysterious adversary; in the other,
Dylan goes looking for a government leader on the run in order to recruit her
to the Commonwealth's cause) as a loose connector for a sequence of CGI space
battles and hand-to-hand fight sequences. Neither offers much to the continuing
There's nothing inherently
wrong with a primarily episodic approach to the material, although much of Andromeda's
potential to be a good story depended on developing the various story threads
set up in the first few episodes of the show. But unfortunately, Andromeda
doesn't handle single episodes well either; none of the episodes here really
offer anything worthwhile to the viewer. Compare any Andromeda episode to the
entertaining and well-written stand-alone episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space
Nine, and it's obvious that we're looking at widely diverging
approaches to telling a science fiction story every week. One approach works,
consistently. The other approach... well, Andromeda does have the rest
of Season 2 to pull out of its dive and get its act together, but it's not
looking too promising.
The episodes in volume 2.1
offer a solid transfer, though not up to the high standards of some of Season
1's offerings. As always, edge enhancement is pleasingly absent and the print
is free of any flaws. Colors are bright and natural-looking throughout, though
contrast in some of the episodes seems a little off: whether it's the lighting
or the transfer, the darker scenes were sometimes too dark and lacking in
detail. I also noticed a substantial amount of noise in some scenes, such as
the sky in the outdoor shots in "Exit Strategies." The text of the
saying that prefaces each episode, though, was distinctly wavery, though on the
whole, the print looked clean and sharp. The CGI scenes continue to be
Andromeda continues to be
presented in a Dolby 2.0 soundtrack, though this is one show that would benefit
from a 5.1 treatment. I noticed on a few occasions that the dialogue wasn't as
clear as it ought to be, but on the whole the sound is reasonably clear. Music
and sound effects are well balanced with the rest of the track.
The menus for Season 2 are
significantly better than those in Season 1: there's no longer a lengthy
animated introduction, and the menus are more centralized and easier to use.
Disc 1 contains the first three
episodes of the set, along with a full audio commentary for the episode "A
Heart for Falsehood Framed" from actor Lisa Ryder (Beka) and production
designer Richard Lewis. Also on this disc is a short but entertaining tour
around the set of Andromeda by Gordon Michael Woolvett (Harper). A "design
gallery" offers about a minute of shots of various matte paintings for the
Disc 2 contains the last two
episodes of the set, conceptual drawings, and a three-minute bloopers segment
that includes a few genuinely funny moments along with mostly ho-hum fooling
Both discs include deleted
scenes (about three minutes' worth), TV spots for the episodes are included,
along with a set of previews for other ADV releases.
For viewers who really enjoyed
Season 1 of Andromeda, it's probably worth renting this first volume of
Season 2. I don't think it's worth buying, in no small part because the overall
price of the series is jacked up by its release in multiple volumes, but also
because the quality just isn't there.