Moving into its third season (2002-2003), Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda appears to be striking out in a somewhat new direction. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be a particularly well-thought-out direction. The quest to restore the Commonwealth was a goal that at least gave Andromeda some structure, an overall story arc, and something to make it stand out from the crowd... not that it ever really capitalized on its opportunities in Season 1 or Season 2, but still the potential was there. As Season 3 starts, it looks like the Commonwealth is now a "done deal": with the charter signed, a full government and military structure appears to have sprung up overnight, making Dylan and the Andromeda into agents of the system rather than creators of it.
The opening episode, "If the Wheel Is Fixed," gets the season off on a rather shaky footing. If I were to explain why the conclusion to Season 2's finale made very little sense in plot terms, I'd end up describing the whole episode, so I'll just leave it with the comment that if you try to make sense of the plot, you'll probably sprain your brain. This episode also handles the whole "Trance and her warning of a very bad future" in a decidedly limp manner; the hints were much more interesting than the way it actually played out.
"The Shards of Rimni" and "Mad to Be Saved" are run-of-the-mill action episodes with minimal plot. In the first, Dylan and Harper go off on a secret mission and end up as fugitives from the Commonwealth (notice how quickly the new Commonwealth is up and running!), and in the second, the Andromeda rescues a ship full of refugees who turn out to be torture victims.
"Cui Bono" seems to promise a little better, as we see the return of Sid Barry (John DeLancie) as Beka's criminally-inclined uncle; this time, he's running for office in the Commonwealth, and the Andromeda is supposed to protect him. This episode makes a valiant attempt to be interesting, with a "who did it?" assassination plot and some deep character moments with Beka, but in the end it falls curiously flat. Finishing up the set is "The Lone and Level Sands," in which a stranded Eureka Maru is rescued by a ship that hails from thousands of years in the past, thanks to time dilation. The plot centers around Dylan and company's attempt to repair the Maru's slipstream drive, and a planned mutiny against the other ship's rather obsessed captain, but truth be told, the plot has more holes than a slice of Swiss cheese. Is it so hard to write a coherent script? Apparently so. The only redeeming factor here is that the ancient ship and crew is clearly presented as a take-off on Star Trek, from uniforms to interior ship design. It's mildly amusing to view this episode as "rogue Star Trek ship meets Andromeda."
And now, a few words about continuity. Andromeda has always played fast and loose with continuity, leaving viewers to wonder if the changes they saw (like Trance's now-you-see-it, now-you-don't tail) were meaningful in terms of the story, accidental, or just a reflection of the convenience of the costumers, actors, or writers. In Season 3, however, continuity goes straight out the window. The season opens with the second half of a two-part episode: the Andromeda and her crew are still in the middle of the situation that started in Season 2's finale. Yet in the second half, the Andromeda has been completely redesigned: the ship looks different on both the outside and the inside. The characters all have new costume and hair styles, and by the end of the first episode, one of them has lost a body part as well... without any explanation. By the time we get to "The Lone and Level Sands," it's clear that no-one is paying any attention whatsoever to the rules of the universe as laid out in earlier seasons. Remember how Rommie's android body used to have a limited energy supply when away from the main ship? Not any more!
These five episodes suggest that Andromeda is heading more into the "episodic storytelling" style in Season 3. Even the back cover copy has shifted from describing Dylan's job as reuniting the galaxies to "battling evil wherever it is found." That's all well and good, but let's hope that in the following sets of episodes, they find some better plots along the way.
Andromeda: Season 3 Volume 1 includes episodes 301-305, packaged in a two-disc set in a double-wide plastic keepcase.
The image quality is excellent here. Apart from a touch of grain in the darker scenes, the image is consistently sharp and detailed, with excellent colors. The episodes appear in their original widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and are anamorphically enhanced.
Andromeda's Dolby 2.0 soundtrack remains somewhat underpowered for the kind of action-oriented episodes that we get, with all their weapons fire and space battles, but apart from wishing there were more surround effects, I found the track to be quite satisfactory. The dialogue is reasonably clear, and overall the sound is clean and natural.
After getting used to the reasonable sampling of special features in Season 2, the almost bare-bones treatment here is a bit surprising. There are no commentaries or interviews at all. The only real features we get are about ten minutes of deleted scenes and ten minutes of sketches in the "Design Gallery" (each split between the two discs). Oh, and ten minutes of "Kevin Sorbo's Gags and Bloopers"... even a minute or two of Sorbo mugging at the camera and deliberately acting silly on-camera is tiring; ten minutes is insufferable.
Lastly, we get the standard ADV previews and TV promotional trailers for the episodes.
Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda gets off to a very shaky start in Season 3, with episodes that have more plot holes than a hunk of Swiss cheese, and no clear signs of an overall story arc developing. Viewers who hung in through Season 2 will probably want to rent this set, but especially with the skimpy extras, I'd only suggest a purchase if you've already seen these episodes and really enjoyed them. Rent it.