When you think of Gene Roddenberry, two words spring to mind: Star Trek. While his vision of humanity working together for a utopian future is possibly the best loved of all science fiction universes, it was not his only idea. First conceived in the 1970s and produced after his death by his widow, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, Andromeda saw a universe in conflict with humanity defeated and everybody out only for themselves. In its five years on TV, the crew of the Andromeda Ascendant made it their mission to restore some order into their space. The show first appeared in the autumn of 2000 and lasted until 2005.
The Long Night
Three hundred years before the series was set, the Tri-galaxies (the Milky Way, Triangulum Galaxy, and the Andromeda Galaxy1) were ruled by The System's Commonwealth, a utopian grouping of many thousand worlds, capitaled on the world of Tarn-Vedra. It was Vedrans who originally conquered the Known Worlds to form an Empire; out of this grew the Commonwealth. The military might that protected the Known Worlds was The High Guard, who upheld honour, bravery and all those kind of things.
One of the races that made up the Commonwealth was the Nietzscheans, genetically engineered humans. After getting fed up with the rest of the Systems, they started luring High Guard ships into traps, aiming to wipe out enough in secret so that by the time the Commonwealth knew what was happening, they would be too late to stop the Nietzschean Empire.
They didn't count on the Andromeda Ascendant, a Heavy Cruiser2 captained by Dylan Hunt, played by Kevin Sorbo, TV's Hercules. His crew managed to escape and raise the alarm while Dylan tried to use the gravity of a rogue black hole to make a run for it with the Andromeda. However, his Nietzschean first mate betrayed him, and the ship got stuck at the event horizon of the black hole for three hundred years.
While mere minutes passed on the bridge of the Andromeda, all that Dylan had fought for collapsed. While the High Guard vastly outnumbered the Nietzscheans, they hadn't fought a proper a war in ages and were totally defeated, managing to wipe out most of the Nietzscheans while they were at it. This left the Known Worlds easy prey for the fuzzy menace of the Magog.
To make matters worse, Tarn-Vedra upped and vanished, much to the survivors' disappointment.
After being rescued from the black hole by a team of scavengers led by Beka Valentine, Dylan tasks himself with restoring the Commonwealth and defeating the Magog. He recruits his rescuers to join him on his legendary journeys.
Warp Factor Nothing
The people, technologies and philosophies in Andromeda are more cerebral and multi-dimensional than in Star Trek. An example of this is the method of travelling faster than light, Slipstream. Because Andromeda is based over three galaxies (and to further differentiate it from Star Trek), a different method of travel was needed; step forward the Slipstream Drive. First discovered by the Vedrans, Slipstream is basically using a rollercoaster wormhole of wiry quantum interconnectiveness to jump from one place to another. In a twist worthy of Douglas Adams, the whole thing relies on guesswork; the pilot is given a choice of two routes, and the actual act of choosing a route makes that chosen route the correct one. The more frequently a path between two points is taken, the more predictable and less rollercoastery it is.
While the laws governing rollercoaster quantum wormhole routing are influenced by 'organic' guesswork, they are not by the mathematically routed computer 'guesses'. Hence no matter how intelligent, a computer has only a 50/50 chance of finding the right route at each fork, which, handily for the series, means that ships have to have pilots otherwise they'd end up lost in some backwater. During the Nietzschean uprising, all the Slipstream routes to Tarn-Vedra disappeared, thereby cutting off the planet.
The Route of Ages
The Route is a kind of junction point in space and time, which links all possible places in space time and parallel universes. It looks like a couple of wire frame boxes spinning around each other and is very hard to find. Of course, the Andromeda does find it and travels through it. It eventually collapses and becomes another slipstream route.
Captain Dylan Hunt
Armed with his trusty Force Lance3, Dylan treks the stars seeking out new worlds and new civilisations to join his restored Commonwealth. Initially the uptake is not good, but eventually more and more join up as he visits their worlds and inevitably has to complete some kind of labour or solve some problem in order to get another member world.
Although he is offered leadership of the Commonwealth, he remains a Captain, visiting places and being brave and noble. Well aware of the threat of the Magog, he seeks out a way to defeat them and whatever is controlling them.
Having been born on Tarn-Vedra, Dylan is also looking to find a way back to the planet.
Although human, Dylan is the son of a Heavy-Worlder which means he is genetically enhanced to have super human strength, reactions and lifespan, rather like a certain Greek hero. It turns out later on that he is in fact descended from a race of mysterious super beings, and he has demigod-like powers.
Gaheris Rhade (Steve Bacic)
Gaheris Rhade is Dylan's best friend and first mate before The Long Night. A Nietzschean, he tried to warn Dylan about the Nietzschean uprising, but failed, so being a Nietzschean, he betrayed him instead. He attacked Dylan on the bridge, killing the pilot which led to the ship falling into the black hole. In the original history, he killed Dylan and tried to restore the Commonwealth in the future, but he failed, so went back in time, killed his past self and took his place, attacking Dylan but letting Dylan kill him.
Captain Beka Valentine (Lisa Ryder)
Captain Beka Valentine was the con-artist and scavenger who rescued the Andromeda from the black hole. She was born in space, and grew up with her drug addict smuggler father aboard his ship, the Eureka Maru. She agreed to work alongside Dylan to help restore the Commonwealth, and acts as first officer and pilot on the Andromeda.
It would be fair to say that she lacks the diplomatic subtlety of Dylan, having grown up on the far side of the law. She is fond of her crew and her ship, which is kept in the cargo hold of the Andromeda. It tends to get used when they either want to land on a planet, or when they need something less high profile than the most powerful warship in the Known Worlds.
Beka has modified genes which make her better, quicker and like tighter war gear than the average human. She also has nanobots in her hair which means she can change her hair colour at will, but almost never does. Her Uncle Sid (John de Lancie4) is also a con-merchant, part time politician and general trouble maker.
Tyr Anasazi (Keith Hamilton Cobb)
Tyr Anasazi was brought into the Maru's crew as a bit of muscle and stayed on as the weapons officer on the Andromeda. He is a Nietzschean, one of the last survivors of the once powerful Kodiak pride.
While preferring the traditional Nietzschean approach of shoot first, shoot a bit more, shoot for luck then ask questions, Tyr is the ultimate survivor and is often quiet and secretive about his own motives. However, he decides that for the time being, the most powerful ship in the know world is a good place to stay. Unsurprisingly he has a fondness for two things: himself and his guns. Tyr tends to be strong and silent, reserving his comments for blunt sarcasm.
While having a superhuman warrior on the crew has its benefits, it also has downsides. Tyr's pride was destroyed by the Drago-Kazov Pride, so it was no surprise that the most powerful of the Nietzscheans do not join the New Commonwealth. This feud is further antagonised when Tyr runs off with the remains of the first Nietzschean, Drago Museveni. He later has a son that is the genetic reincarnation of Museveni. Tyr then has his own genetics altered so that his DNA is that of Museveni.
He uses this to unite all the Nietzschean Prides, causing a new uprising and almost destroying the Commonwealth. Having betrayed Dylan, he leaves the Andromeda to try and defeat the big bad Spirit of the Abyss, a task he thinks he can do better than Dylan. He is eventually trapped and shot by Dylan in a parallel universe.
Seamus Zelazny Harper (Gordon Michael Woolvett)
Seamus Zelazny Harper is the Earth-born super-genius engineer recruited by Beka for the Maru. Never one to underestimate his own brain power, he spends his time tinkering and creating a range of impossible machines.
Unlike the rest of the crew, he isn't exactly gung-ho when it comes to running around and fighting people, but still does participate in the occasional sneaking around with a gun mission when he is needed. Having grown up on Earth, he has an extreme dislike of Nietzscheans, who ruled the planet, and the Magog who preyed on the people there. Harper was infected with Magog larvae and was one of the few people to have them removed before they ate their way out of him. Harper has a data port on his neck which he can use to hook directly into computers or even other people's brains. This allows him (and Dylan) to enter the minds of people, which it turns out is a weird green Matrix-like place.
He has a string of failures with women, not for the lack of leering and bad chat up lines. Normally, if somebody does show interest, they try to kill him.
Rev Bem (Brent Stait)
Rev Bem was the ship's science officer and spiritual guru in the first two seasons. That most rare specimen of creatures, he was a Magog who didn't like to kill and lay eggs in people. He5 was a follower of a Taoist like faith called Wayism. This lead to him being a pacifist, and having to fight his rip-things-to-pieces nature. Rev Bem6 left the series in the middle of the second season after Stait started to become allergic to the Magog make-up.
Trance Gemini (Laura Bertram)
Trance Gemini was on board the Maru when they salvaged The Andromeda. Although nominally the life sciences officer on board The Andromeda, really she was just the extra person on the command deck (like Worf in Star Trek TNG, The Next Generation) in the early series. With a background she was highly adapt at avoiding talking about, Trance was the token cute purple crew member with a prehensile tail who talked in riddles and had an aptitude for gambling. Together with Harper, they were the more light relief from the more driven Beka, Dylan and Tyr.
Although little was revealed about Trance's past or even her species, one planet they found had encountered her kind before and as such tried to kill Trance. She explained the malevolent acts of her kin as them being bored.
Around the same time that Rev Bem left the ship, Trance decided to swap places with her future self. Although the future self had the same face she was a glitter gold coloured and preferred to wear the kind of leather outfits a Cardassian may wear to a fetish club. She also had a much more serious attitude to life, something that alienated her from Harper for a while.
Future self Trance demonstrated the ability to see all possible futures in a fraction of a second, a feat that also somehow involved the pruning of a bonsai tree. She is well aware of the big badness that is threatening not only the Commonwealth, but life in general and uses her knowledge and hunches to guide Dylan towards his destiny, as she believes that he is the best hope for life in the known worlds.
As the show progresses, she becomes perhaps his most trusted adviser. She comes to reveal that she is in fact the avatar of a star, and as such as super human powers.
The Andromeda Ascendant (Lexa Doig)
Is the most powerful warship in the known worlds. The ship is sentient, and can communicate with its crew via a female character on a display screen or as a hologram. These two instances represent different parts of the ship's personality. It just happened that unlike most of the other High Guard ships, which had male representations, Andromeda had a female face.
Part of the ship's toughness comes from its ability to sit motionless in space and have loads of missiles explode around it, have consoles and equipment spark and blow up and still no actual damage be rendered to it. As well as having the armoury to destroy ships and planets, it is also equipped with Nova Bombs, which can rip apart stars.
Once the Commonwealth was re-established and a new High Guard military created, The Andromeda was given an all new High Guard crew to augment Dylan's own gang. Except for at least one season, they tended to vanish at rather awkward moments. In one episode, Beka could have a whole squadron of fighters at her command, in the next, when a fleet of fighters would be handy; the ship seemed to just have Dylan and his gang of merry men (and golden glittery sun avatars).
Rommie (Lexa Doig)
One of Harper's creations was an android representation of the ship that could interact with the crew, the ship's Avatar. The fact that Harper had based his fully functioning android on the ship's AI, which happened to be one of the most attractive women in the Known worlds, did not go uncommented on by Tyr, who inferred that it was possibly Dylan's sex toy.
Indeed, there was a minor bit of sexual tension between Dylan and Rommie. Harper, of course, worshiped Rommie, partly as a creation of his genius, partly because she was an attractive woman who would talk to him! Part of Rommie's role on the ship was to belittle Harper in front of women wherever possible.
Rommie differed from the normal sci-fi view of a robot as being emotionless; in fact she would joke with the crew and acted as one of the girls around Beka and Trance. She even fell in love once, with another Avatar (played by Michael Shanks, Doig's real life partner and co-star when she was part of the Stargate-SG1 cast).
As well as being another crew member, she could press buttons on consoles, and was able to withstand small arms fire and perform acts of martial arts 'whoop-ass'.
Her personality was separate from the ship, and while she could control ship function by just thinking, she was able to contradict and even argue with her own ship's AI. There were times when she would be in a three way conversation with herself as on screen and as a hologram. She came over as confident in her own abilities and not afraid of a fight, fitting her role as representing a ship with the power to destroy planets.
In the final series she got blown up (blame Michael Shanks, who got Doig pregnant, so she was written out of most of the last series) before she was rebuilt by Doyle, an android Harper had built to replace her using most of Rommie's memories.
In 2001 Doig starred in Jason X, a science fiction update of the infamous tale of the indestructible hockey-masked lunatic killing machine. She was joined by Lisa Ryder, who this time took the role of the kick-ass sarcastic robot created by a sexual frustrated boy and serving on board a ship in a future populated by sexy teenagers in revealing clothes and in permanent states of arousal.
Telemachus Rhade (Steve Baci)
Took over from Tyr as the ship's weapon's officer and resident Nietzschean. When Dylan first got stuck in the black hole, his fiancée came to rescue him. Although she failed, she was somehow able to communicate with Dylan in the future, and he was even able to visit her briefly before heading back to his own time. Knowing what was to come, his fiancée took a ship of colonists to the planet Tarazed. One of these must have been a descendant of Gaheris Rhade, because when the Andromeda first visited Tarazed, which survived The Long Night surprisingly intact, they encountered Telemachus, the genetic incarnation (played by the same actor) of Gaheris, who was Admiral of the planet's Home Guard.
Later, after Tyr defected and started the Nietzschean rebellion, he was captured by the High Guard and Telemachus was assigned to transport him to prison. He was ambushed, and it just happened that Andromeda was there to save Telemachus, although not to recapture Tyr. Telemachus then joined the crew of The Andromeda.
The Commonwealth blamed Telemachus for the loss of Tyr and he was declared an outlaw and imprisoned. Dylan then rescued Telemachus. Compared with Tyr, Telemachus is much more light-hearted and relaxed, though still full of himself. Although Dylan trusts him, most of the rest of the crew are suspicious of him after their betrayal by Tyr. He is disgusted by what he sees as the Nietzschean way of putting their own personal interests over that of the greater good, instead viewing them as being created to walk amongst men as gods and should act like it. He joined up with Dylan, believing that observing Dylan would make him a better Nietzschean.
Our people were meant to be living gods, warrior-poets who roamed the stars bringing civilization, not cowards and bullies who prey on the weak and kill each other for sport. I never imagined they'd prove themselves so inferior. I didn't betray our people ï¿½ they betrayed themselves.
The Bad Guys
The Spirit of the Abyss
Also known as The Abyss, this is the big bad guy. It lives in the Route of Ages and therefore can influence people and things all over space.
The Magog are fuzzy bat-faced creatures of swarming death and destruction. Unisexual beings, they reproduce by laying their eggs in other creatures and letting the larvae eat their way out. Attacking in swarm ships, they are relentless, instinctive, animalistic killing machines, spreading fear throughout the Known Worlds.
Although Rev Bem proves they are actually quietly intelligent, their natural instincts lead them to be an unthinking mass, intent on eating and killing. Obviously, since they are able to construct and use guns and space ships, there is some overriding intelligence. This comes in the form of their god, The Spirit of the Abyss.
If this wasn't bad enough, they also have the World Ship, which is slowly heading towards the Known Worlds. It consists of a number of hollowed out planets, each containing trillions of Magog, linked together and surrounding a central sun.
It was first encountered by The Andromeda before Dylan took command. The Magog killed all the crew, and the AI jumped into slipstream to escape. As previously mentioned, AIs can't navigate slipstream and so the ship was lost for years, with the AI going virtually mad. When it finally appeared, and was returned home, the information was filed and the memory of the ship wiped.
Dylan's crew were the next to find the World Ship, and they only just escaped, mainly by trying to blow up the central star, damaging the ship. This encounter gave Dylan extra purpose to rebuilding the Commonwealth; it was only with a proper military that the World Ship could be destroyed.
The Commonwealth are not really bad guys, just not the utopian dream that Dylan remembered. It is led by three leaders, the Triumvirs, who have to make various political deals to keep their own power; hence Dylan believes there are a lot of hidden agendas within the Commonwealth.
Were a group from The Old Commonwealth charged with collecting and archiving information. As we all know, knowledge is power and power corrupts. Hence some of The Collectors work from within The Commonwealth to their own ends, often against Dylan's mission. The Spirit of The Abyss was behind a lot of this.
Are a race of genetically engineered humans. Scientist Dr. Paul Museveni created a new race based on his clone son Drago Museveni, known to all Nietzscheans as the progenitor of their race, and they believe that the genetic reincarnation of Drago will be a great leader of their race.
The Nietzscheans follow Museveni's philosophy, which as well as taking from Nietzsche, encompasses elements from Darwin (survival of the fittest, combining genetic traits when mating) and Dawkins (anybody who disagrees with us is inferior and should be shouted at). These beliefs make the Nietzscheans blunt, self-absorbed and often willing to change sides to ensure they are on the winning side.
Physically, they are superior to normal humans, with increased strength, reactions and lifespan. They are also able to resist most diseases and poisons as well as breathe for a short time in chlorine. Nietzscheans have bone blades growing out of their wrists which they can use as weapons. Tyr, however, has had his removed.
The race is split into prides, each pride tends to favour certain traits over others. Tyr's Kodiak pride favoured the warrior virtues of strength, size and interesting haircuts. The Jaguar pride on the other hand preferred cunning, treachery and table-manners.
Although they only made up a small percentage of The Old Commonwealth when they rebelled, their ability as warriors and the High Guard's unpreparedness meant they won a victory. It wasn't a total victory however as before the final battle most of their fleet was destroyed when a nebula exploded, thanks to a time travelling Andromeda. Because of this, they didn't have the strength to establish a new empire and the prides started fighting amongst themselves.
Some of the prides joined The New Commonwealth, some didn't. Even then, most rebelled when Tyr claimed to be the reincarnation of Drago Museveni and led them against The High Guard.
Andromeda discovered that Paul Museveni used the Route Of Ages to travel forward in time to use some of Beka's DNA to create Drago, meaning the whole Nietzschean race was descended from her.
The show ran for five seasons. The first two were concerned mostly with setting up The Commonwealth again, and dealing with populations who reluctant to join up with an organisation that let them down previously.
The third and forth seasons have Dylan combating both hostile races and Commonwealth politics as he tries to build a defence against the Magog World Ship.
The fifth and final season have the crew trapped on a deserted world after the Andromeda's conflict with the Magog. Most of the crew felt betrayed by Dylan as he had escaped the battle to pursue his destiny, leaving them to fight it out. The show was cancelled after this season, so many of the story arcs were not concluded.
While the show suffered from continuity difficulties, and the traditional problem of most of the planet surfaces looking the same (and all tunnel systems seemingly being formed from the same blueprint) it is a worthy science fiction show. While it may go against the Roddenberryean ideals of a humanity that all works together, he probably would have approved of a small group of people working for what they believe in being able to change The Universe for the better.
The show combined some impressive effects with a self-deprecating sense of humour that was missing from Star Trek. With complex and well-thought through philosophies and characters with genuine and believable flaws, it was one of the most human sci-fi shows.