If there's just one word that could be used to sum up Andromeda, it's "inconsistent." And while that inconsistency has led to some frustrating results, as when the promising opening space-opera setup of Season 1 was abandoned in favor of an action-adventure style, it also means that the series is capable of reversing course out of an apparent nose dive. My review of the first set of episodes in Season 2 was unenthusiastic; however, while I missed the second set of episodes, this third installment shows a reassuring return to a more acceptable quality level. Now, we're still not talking great sci-fi here – this is no Star Trek or even Stargate, let alone Babylon 5 – but at least it's entertaining fluff.
Apparently in a spirit of "throw out new ideas and see what happens," Season 2 Volume 3 springs a few surprises on the viewer. Gone is Rev Bem, the Magog philosopher whose inner conflicts were never really used effectively in the show. I'm sure he had some fans out there, but in my book, it's no great loss. Likewise gone is "purple Trance," and in her place we get a new "golden" Trance: this is a kick-butt, take-no-prisoners kind of Trance (and the cheesy tail has discreetly vanished as if it had never existed. I doubt anyone will miss it.) with the promise of maybe, just maybe, revealing more about her mysterious nature. Or not; clearly the writers are just making stuff up as they go along. "Rommie," the avatar of the Andromeda Ascendant, also seems to have gotten a personality makeover to go along with her new blue-tinted hairdo: she's much harder-edged in personality, and much more likely to be involved with the action scenes.
Although Andromeda isn't the kind of series that invites you to take it seriously, it's interesting to see the way that the series' stated premise has begun to conflict with the actual stories that it tells. Captain Dylan Hunt (Kevin Sorbo) is supposed to be a bringer of civilization, with his goal to re-establish the Commonwealth and bring peace and justice to everyone. But if we look at what Dylan does, and how he does it, somehow he starts looking an awful lot like a mercenary who's willing to do whatever it takes to get what he wants. He clearly enjoys playing the card of "My ship is powerful enough to blow you to smithereens, so you have to listen to me" ("The Prince"); both he and his ship's avatar seem perfectly OK with bullying and even torturing people for information, and in general he's very quick to label those who oppose him as "bad guys" while he's one of the "good guys," even while he's stealing a ship at gunpoint ("Lava and Rockets"). Are the Andromeda writers intentionally setting up a conflict here? I hardly think so. We're supposed to believe in Dylan's cause and agree that it's great to kick some bad-guy butt... although the continued presence of Tyr (Keith Hamilton Cobb), the Nietzchean, does provide some sense that the Andromeda universe isn't entirely drawn in black and white.
Five episodes are included on this DVD. "The Prince" has Dylan and Tyr rescuing a royal prince from a coup, and ending up as his co-regents with an obligation to help him learn how to be a king (as well as to regain his throne). The story makes good use of Dylan and Tyr's possibly opposing goals, as well as their different strategies, in an entertaining web of betrayal and double-dealing.
"Bunker Hill" is interesting in that it actually draws on some of the plot elements introduced in earlier episodes: the enslaved Earth, and the machinations of the Sabra-Jaguar pride. Andromeda, of course, gets drawn into the thick of things. Despite some plot holes large enough to pilot a starship through, it's reasonably entertaining.
"Ouroboros" has the dubious distinction of being the episode with the most potential... but also the least interesting. In an attempt to cure his Magog infestation with a space-warping machine, Harper (Gordon Michael Woolvett) accidentally sets off a chain of collisions between past, present, and future. Yes, this sounds cool. Unfortunately, it ends up being a rather dull episode, with the crew running around the ship's corridors in a panic, shooting at random monsters. Toward the end, if you've managed to stay awake, we do get the new Trance.
"Lava and Rockets" is distinctive in a different way: it's moderately entertaining while having a completely fluffy plot. Dylan has adventures and gets the girl. Reset button is pressed at the end.
"Be All My Sins Remembered" finishes off the set in a fun way, as Beka gets called to serve as next of kin for a former lover. Dylan and Harper tag along for moral support... only to find out that the dearly departed is still alive and kicking, and causing lots of trouble. The story actually sets up some interesting conflicts, such as whether the ends justify the means, or what lengths it's ethical to go to in a good cause (do you hear that, Dylan?), and although these ideas aren't exactly explored in depth, they do add a little more substance to the episode. We also get to see some fun flashbacks of how Harper joined the Eureka Maru crew.
Andromeda Season 2 Volume 3 contains five episodes from the show's second season, spread across two DVDs in a double-wide plastic keepcase. The packaging is fairly attractive, but I do continue to find fault with ADV for releasing the series in small installments rather than season sets, as most other studios have finally shifted to doing. Packaged this way, one season of Andromeda will cost a lot more and take up a lot more shelf space than it should.
Andromeda continues to dazzle in the video department. The episodes are presented in their original widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and are anamorphically enhanced. The overall look of the image is stunningly good, with bright, clean colors, crisp blacks, and outstanding detail. If there's any edge enhancement here, it's certainly not apparent to my eye; print flaws are likewise absent. The one flaw that I noticed in the transfer is that some grain is visible at times, particularly in darker scenes.
It's a shame that Andromeda doesn't have a soundtrack to match its video transfer. The Dolby 2.0 track included here is generally satisfactory, but that's it. Especially in action scenes, it's apparent that the stereo sound doesn't provide the punch or the immersiveness that the series really calls for. The sound is generally clean and clear, although not consistently so: in several of the episodes on this set, I found the dialogue to be noticeably muffled, which leads me to mark down the audio rating a notch.
ADV seems to be getting the right idea when it comes to special features, because this set has a nice assortment of interesting bonus material. To begin with, a commentary track for "Ouroboros" with Laura Bertram (Trance) and Gordon Michael Woolvett (Harper) appears on Disc 1. Several worthwhile behind-the-scenes featurettes are also included in the set, totaling about 30 minutes of material. We get an interview with Kevin Sorbo (Dylan) on Disc 1 and an interview with Laura Bertram (Trance) on Disc 2; both are reasonably substantial interviews in which the actors talk about their experiences and perspective on their characters. Even more interesting are the true behind-the-scenes featurettes: an interview with director of photography Gordon Verheul on Disc 1, and on Disc 2 an interview with hairstylist Anji Bemben, in which she talks about her science-fictional designs, and a short piece on how Trance's makeup is done.
Both discs contain alternate takes/deleted scenes, a design gallery, TV promotional clips, and ADV previews. In addition, Disc 2 contains a section of bloopers.
This collection of episodes from Andromeda's second season may not be great science fiction, but it's reasonably entertaining fluffy fun. Given the lack of real continuity in the series, it's not really necessary to have watched all of the previous episodes to enjoy this volume, so don't feel obligated to watch the earlier volumes in this season if you're not a die-hard fan. If you've enjoyed any other episodes of Andromeda, or if you're looking for light-weight action-adventure with a sci-fi setting, Season 2 Volume 3 is a safe bet.