Case Number 07611

ANDROMEDA: SEASON FOUR, COLLECTION FIVE

ADV Films // 2003 // 250 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Ryan (Retired) // September 21st, 2005

The Charge

...and these are our adventures.

Opening Statement

On this DVD from ADV, Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda reaches the tail end of its fourth and penultimate season. Can the show overcome the maddening inconsistency it has shown so far in this season, and end on a solid, entertaining high?

Well...

Facts of the Case

He's Dylan Hunt (Kevin Sorbo, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys), and he's the bad ass mutha who's brought peace, stability, and harmony to the galaxy. Cruisin' in his pimped-out sentient starship, the Andromeda Ascendant, D-Dog gets all up in the shiznit of the Abyss, a malevolent entity that is, in many ways, the embodiment of death. Along for the ride are his homies: no-nonsense pilot Beka Valentine (Lisa Ryder, Forever Knight); big, steaming slice-o-man Telemachus Rhade (Steve Bacic, Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever); fly, solar homegirl Trace Gemini (Laura Bertram); crazee whack engineer Seamus Zelazny Harper (Gordon Michael Woolvett, Bride of Chucky); and his robot -- his girl robot -- Rommie (Lexa Doig, Jason X).

By this point in the show, there's so much backstory to recount that it would only confuse you. Suffice it to say that Dylan's a man out of time, seeking to fend off evil. You'd think people would be into that, but darned if the whole freakin' universe doesn't give him a hassle. As we start this set, Dylan's a rebel, having unavoidably triggered a civil war within the Systems Commonwealth he helped recreate. Meanwhile, the evil Magog -- a race created by the Abyss to be its instruments of destruction -- are headed towards the civilized parts of the Three Galaxies in extremely large numbers. And you just know they aren't bringing a hostess gift, or even a bottle of wine.

The Evidence

This DVD collection contains episodes 418-422 of Season Four, presented in their broadcast order:

(I'd say "spoiler alert" here -- but if you aren't familiar with the show, you'll have no freaking clue what I'm talking about in these capsules, so I'm just going to fire away.)

* "Trusting the Gordian Maze"
The Triumvirs send their lapdog, super-spy Indra Xicol (Emily Holmes, Taken), to get the starmap to the Route of Ages from Dylan. Dylan claims the map has been stolen, but that he sent a copy to some friends of his. These friends -- a crazy couple named Calvino (Peter DeLuise, Seaquest DSV) and Astrid (Anne Marie Loder, Mrs. Peter DeLuise) -- live behind a series of mazes, of the slipstream and traditional variety. Dylan, Rhade, and Indra Xicol head off to find the map, while Beka and the rest of the Andromeda crew try and hold back the Triumvirate fleet.
Grade: D

* "A Symmetry of Imperfection"
Beka, while investigating a mining planet, is jumped by some Magog. When Dylan and the Andromeda show up to help, they find a large Magog satellite ship moving in on the planet. Dylan and Trance rescue Beka, but Rommie takes the Andromeda out of the system to keep from being swarmed by Magog. Unfortunately, this act of self-preservation triggers a safety protocol in her core processor, which malfunctions and cuts her avatar self off from the ship. Faced with imminent destruction by the Magog, Rommie must decide whether or not to reset her AI systems -- thereby losing her memories and personality -- in order to regain control of the ship.
Grade: B+

* "Time Out of Mind"
The Andromeda rescues some Wayist refugees traveling on board a tramp freighter. One of them seeks out Beka, but is killed by Abyss agents posing as Wayists. Before he dies, he gives her a cryptic message concerning a gift from her past. He turns out to be Beka's "Uncle" Wezlow, a business partner of her father, as well as -- to her shock -- a Collector. The path leads to a large Collector library facility, where information is kept in the form of virtual reality recordings. With the help of a friendly (and frighteningly attractive) librarian (Erica Durance, Smallville's Lois Lane), they find the relevant recording, and witness the younger Wezlow (Aaron Douglas, Battlestar Galactica) hiding a powerful anti-Abyss device called the Voice of Darkness. Will Beka unravel the mysteries of the recording and find the Voice before the Abyss?
Grade: C+

* "The Dissonant Interval (Parts 1 and 2)"
The Andromeda rescues a freighter from an attack. On board are citizens of Arkology, a self-contained space colony that lives in peace and harmony with each other and nature and stuff. For their own nefarious reasons, the Abyss-driven Magog are heading straight for them; one of the passengers has just returned from the Magog Worldship after "successful negotiations." The lack of success of these negotiations is amply demonstrated when Magog larvae chew their way out of the ambassador's stomach. Dylan travels to Arkology in an effort to warn them, and possibly convince them to move their colony. After much singing, contemplation, navel-gazing, and Nietzchean romance, they don't. The Magog show up, and all hell breaks loose. Each member of the crew must decide how they will face the prospect of death.
Grade: C-

Andromeda wound up its fourth -- and, it was thought at the time, final -- season not with a bang, but with more of a confusing, muddled pop. Throughout Season Four, the show was plagued by inconsistent writing. At times, it could rip off a solid, entertaining, action-packed show like "Symmetry of Imperfection." But it could just as easily turn around and drop a stinkbomb like "Trusting the Gordian Maze."

Really, I can't understate the stinkbombiness of that episode. I'm not sure whether the whole show was just an excuse for Sorbo to hit the video hay with a superhot willowy blonde, or a meditation on the themes of Waiting for Godot as seen through the prism of two or three speedballs, or something completely different. All I know is that watching endless scenes of corridor-walking, combined with the occasional scenery chewing by Peter DeLuise, does not a satisfying sci-fi experience make. It's not that the show is that horrible; it's just terribly pointless and poorly executed. In one sense, it's the epitome of everything that was wrong with Andromeda in the Bob Engels era.

But the real epitome of Andromeda is the "Time Out of Mind" episode. It's a decent episode. Not good, not bad, just decent. There are a lot of good elements in there -- seeing bits of Beka's childhood, the mystery, the babeage. But the big anti-Abyss device, when it's finally revealed, is laughable. Also, I didn't find the imminent threat of attack by a hazy blob of "energy" to be suspenseful in the least. But hey -- Dylan gets to tongue-fence another hottie. (I detect a pattern here...) The episode, taken as a whole, is entertaining enough. But you wish the writers and producers had taken a bit more time to polish the episode to a greater shine. There were few episodes of Andromeda that lacked the potential for greatness -- but there were also few episodes that achieved that potential.

In any event, the attraction for fans on this set is the season-ending couplet, "The Dissonant Interval." At the time of its production, Andromeda's fate was very much up in the air. The Tribune Company had already announced that it would not fund production of a fifth syndicated season. Eventually, the Sci Fi Channel picked up the show for a fifth season, which recently concluded. But "The Dissonant Interval" was made to be a series-ending episode, albeit one that left open the possibility for continuation.

"Dissonant Interval" certainly pulls out all the stops with respect to CGI and action sequences; it's the best Magog work since the show's second season. On the other hand (there seems to always be an "other hand" with this show), a lot of goofy philosophy and mysticism is also brought in. The second hour of the show -- the actual finale -- is a great hour of television. On its own, it would merit at least an A or A- grade. It's the first hour, with its elaborate and largely unnecessary set-up, that drags the two-parter down. And then there's the ending.

Besides the ending that originally aired, this disc set includes an "alternate ending" as an extra feature. Neither of them are satisfying. Silly me -- I sort of expected that they had filmed an alternative ending that completely ended the series, to go with the aired ending that leaves things a bit in doubt. Isn't that what you'd expect? But no. The "alternate" ending is just the aired ending with quite a bit of extra footage. Does it change the feel and implied message of the ending? Well, I guess it does. Or, more accurately, it would...if the ending made much sense. Incidentally, you may have seen this ending before -- it's admittedly (in the included brief interviews with Sorbo and Engels) copied from the ending of Patrick McGoohan's The Prisoner.

But I come not to bury Andromeda. When I embarked on this Season Four journey of criticism, I had never seen the show, ever. Now, I consider myself a great fan of it. Season Four is a very, very mixed bag, but the show as a whole is well worth investigating. The cast has, since day one, been solid, interesting, and entertaining. There's a good deal of action -- far more than you find on Star Trek: TNG or Earth: Final Conflict -- and some worthwhile CGI and makeup work. Yes, the show did lose its Babylon 5-caliber potential when the powers-that-be ousted original head writer Robert Hewitt Wolfe. But the Bob Engels era had a lot of fine stories in it; certainly enough to recommend the show.

The extras on this set are consistent with the packages offered on the previous Season Four sets. Three blooper reels are included, one each for Sorbo and Steve Bacic, and one collection of bloopers by the show's various guest stars. Jorge Montesi -- who directed "Trusting the Gordian Maze" -- is the subject of the "Meet the Director" featurette. Some brief storyboard-to-scene comparisons for "A Symmetry of Imperfection" and "The Dissonant Interval, Part 2," plus the usual haul of deleted scenes, cast and character bios, and TV promos round out the package.

The anamorphic widescreen video is, once again, crisp, clear, and colorful. ADV has done a terrific job with making Andromeda look great on DVD.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

This section is now officially a broken record. At the risk of repeating myself yet again: The sound on the episodes is subpar, a Dolby 2.0 stereo mix that muddles the dialogue unless it's turned way up; and charging $40 for a four-episode disc is ridiculous.

Closing Statement

Although the show did continue on with a fifth season, Season Four was the last season of Andromeda as its fans had come to know and sort-of love it. Season Five was dramatically different in style and tone, thanks to the reduced production resources available under the new Sci Fi Channel contract. (The show rarely left the planet Seefra, for example, mainly to save money by reusing sets, costumes, and CGI.) The season was not the crowning achievement in science fiction television that some thought might be in store during the show's early episodes. Instead, it was just another run of episodes from an uneven, but often entertaining, good quality sci-fi action-adventure with a talented and engaging cast. I'm not trying to damn the show with faint praise -- like I said, I've come to really enjoy it, even when it's failing to reach the expectations one reasonably should have for it. It just is what it is; no more, no less.

And sometimes, it's a lot of fun.

The Verdict

The cast and crew of Andromeda are free to go wander the galaxy, doing...whatever. Also -- someone get the Magog their own show! Man, those were great Big Scary Monsters from Outer Space...

Review content copyright © 2005 David Ryan; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 94
Audio: 70
Extras: 87
Acting: 85
Story: 75
Judgment: 79

Perp Profile
Studio: ADV Films
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

Subtitles:
* None

Running Time: 250 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Alternate Ending for "The Dissonant Interval, Part 2" With Comments
* Meet the Director: Jorge Montesi
* Kevin Sorbo's Bloopers and Gags
* Steve Bacic's Bloopers and Gags
* Guest Stars' Bloopers and Gags
* Deleted Scenes
* Storyboard/Scene Comparisons for "A Symmetry of Imperfection" and "The Dissonant Interval, Part 2"
* Season 4 Visual Effects: From Concept to Completion
* Character Bios: Rommie & Telemachus Rhade
* Cast Bios: Lexa Doig & Steve Bacic
* TV Promos

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0213327/combined

* Official Site
http://www.andromedatv.com/

* SciFi Channel Andromeda Site
http://www.scifi.com/andromeda/

* Review: Season Four, Collection One
http://www.dvdverdict.com/reviews/andromedas4c1.php

* Review: Season Four, Collection Two
http://www.dvdverdict.com/reviews/andromedas4c2.php

* Review: Season Four, Collection Three
http://www.dvdverdict.com/reviews/andromedas4c3.php