06:39:04 on March 04 2001
By: Steve Krutzler
Dept: Reviews - Andromeda
Reviews Ex Deus
Written for TrekWeb by O. Deus
"Sum of Its Parts"
Summary: Andromeda's Borg Redux turns on the tearjerking machines in the absence of an original story with a revoltingly saccharine reworking of TNG's I.Borg . Meet the first Borg Teletubbie. He's cute, cuddly and he wants to hug you. Get yours today.
MIA Update: RevBem is once again missing from the entire episode, his character is one of the few interesting characters on Andromeda and it appears he's being written out of entire episodes more so than any other character. It may be the makeup expenses or the fact that he's simply not liked very much by the suits.
Gene Roddenberry may have had a hand in creating many of the classic Star Trek aliens, but the Borg certainly weren't one of them. But that doesn't seem to have stopped "Gene Roddenberry's" Andromeda from borrowing them for Sum of Its Parts. Of course the Borg here have been retitled as "The Consensus of Parts" which is what the Borg are. Their costumes look quite a bit like the early designs for the Borg costume featured in Communicator magazine. They call their humanoid versions drones. They harvest and integrate human brains into their systems and they're out to assimilate Andromeda and her crew. So of course when they ask him to come to a meeting, Hunt enthusiastically accepts. He doesn't know much of these things but he doesn't ask either, as in Mathematics of Tears he offhandedly dismisses the rumors about "The Consensus" and allows their drones to have free rein of his ship. Unsurprisingly bad things happen.
Most of this episode is basically TNG's I, Borg and Voyager's Drone redone. We have a sympathetic childlike drone who develops friendships with the crew after some initial hesitation. He has to return to the Borg or risk endangering the crew. We have a situation where his sacrifice might be required and the value of his life is debated. And ultimately when the ship is threatened by the Borg, he sacrifices himself for the crew but the emotional bonds he has formed remains. The idea of a new kind of Anti-Borg consensus being born because of the crew's actions and grateful to the crew appears in Voyager's Unity. The idea of the ship being infiltrated with weird wiring and circuitry by a new lifeform taking control of the ship and trying to bring itself into being and endangering the ship as a result can be found in TNG's Emergence.
Of course I, Borg did much of the same material with intensity and a sense of genuine danger. Picard and Guinan's reactions to Hugh were borderline and disturbing in the sense of altering what we thought we knew about these people and what they were capable of. The friendly drone here though is just one of the missing Teletubbies, he's cute, he's friendly and kind of stupid. And most of all he's loveable. And we meet him before we meet the Directing Intelligence, pretty much guaranteeing that the DI and its parts o' junk ship won't be particularly threatening or impressive. Where the beginning scene focusing on Andromeda's personality suggest that this will develop her character, no such luck. Instead the better part of the episode is spent on the Borg Teletubbie acting cute and desperately trying to worm his way into the viewer's affection like a Hallmark Gold Crown store on "cute steroids." And his departure in not one, but two death scenes to milk the maximum amount of pathos for a character whose sole reason for existence is emotional manipulation.
Where I, Borg focused on developing Hugh as a viable sentient being separate from the collective which happens only by stages, the Borg Teletubbie arrives eager for your love and affection. I, Borg worked because of Hugh's contrast between his Borg exterior and his essentially innocent mind. But this only worked because we knew the Borg and because Hugh wasn't waddling around hugging everyone and as desperate for affection as a Tribble. Instead of developing the Consensus first and introducing Borg Teletubbie later to make a contrast and humanize the Consensus, Sum of its Parts goes for cheap emotional manipulation and pushes the tearjerking lever as far back as it can. Of course no intelligent adult would care about the robotic equivalent of a teddy bear with no contrasts or complexities, but then that doesn't exactly seem to be Andromeda's demographic. As such the Borg Teletubbie basically comes off as the Simpson's Funzo or the creature of David Gerrold rejected Pre-Tribbles TOS script who looks cuddly and cute but is actually practicing mind control on the crew with evil intentions. Like it, the Borg Teletubbie invades Andromeda and nearly gets everyone killed when he tries to take over the ship but since he had good intentions, it's all written off as okay in the end.
And just in case the average viewer hadn't just consumed so much sugar, he was headed for diabetic shock; the episode ends with Trance burying the Teletubbie's heart in her garden proclaiming that "even though you only lived for one day, you already became a hero." There's a certain appropriateness to Andromeda's most nauseatingly saccharine character who doesn't just mug for the camera but practically beats its senseless delivering a saccharine eulogy for a character almost as nauseatingly saccharine as herself. If this scene could somehow be harnessed and transferred into actual form, it could produce enough melted sugar to feed several starving third world nations.
Now this episode could have been hilariously awful if Sum of its Parts had featured dozens of similar Borg Teletubbies invading Andromeda and trying to take over the ship all the while talking in a childlike voice and attempting to assimilate their victims by hugging them. Unfortunately that idea never comes into practice and so this episode is simply awful. Voyager and TNG Season 7 have done some awful things to the Borg, but Andromeda has topped them all. This makes Unimatrix Zero look practically delightful, Descent begins to look like Must See TV. Unless Voyager's season finale features the ship being invaded by huggable Borg signing "I love you, you love me, we're a happy collective family", Andromeda has officially taken the Borg to the lowest nadir possible. I can't imagine what could possibly be worse than this, but no doubt Andromeda's writers will discover it in the second season.
Next week: Borg Barney Attacks!