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A FOR ANDROMEDA (2006)





A FOR ANDROMEDA
(1961)

Available on DVD (ish)

A for Andromeda DVD cover




The Message
The Machine
The Miracle
The Monster
The Murderer
The Face Of The Tiger
The Last Mystery





John Fleming -
Peter Halliday

Judy Adamson -
Patricia Kneale

Madeline Dawnay -
Mary Morris

Christine/Andromeda -
Julie Christie

Dennis Bridger -
Frank Windsor

Ernst Reinhardt -
Esmond Knight

Kaufman -
John Hollis



OTHER ANDROMEDAS
A For Andromeda (2006)





Series Overview

A FOR ANDROMEDA was groundbreaking in its day and ranks with the QUATERMASS series in terms of early television science fiction, but whilst the science is quality stuff, some of the rest of the show leaves a bit to be desired.

Due to the BBC's policy of taping over old shows, there is little of the original A FOR ANDROMEDA left.
Episode 6 remains in its entirety as does the last half of the final episode along with a few snatches of film from elsewhere in the series to give an idea of what it must have been like.

Thanks to astronomer Fred Hoyle, the central theme of a radio message from outer space bringing instructions to build a machine whose purpose is uncertain is fabulous and compelling enough to be reworked by another famous astronomer Carl Sagan in his book CONTACT years later. Hoyle goes further, postulating the ability to send information enough to create a living being, something that spawned the popular SPECIES film series.

Around this thrilling central core there is a less thrilling story of industrial espionage and political wrangling that always looks like it was tacked on to give the story some action and excitement.

Julie Christie was launched by the show and she looks fantastic as both computer operator Christine and the alien creation Andromeda, but her performance is one of the lesser ones. Peter Halliday is somewhat overwrought as scientist and doomsayer Fleming, whose constant harping on how dangerous everything is means that the audience start to discount him almost as soon as the authorities do. Patricia Kneale provides some heart as security operative Judy Adamson.

A FOR ANDROMEDA is not, overall, as good as it reputation suggests it ought to be, but it does have a scientific core story that has stood the test of time and deserves every plaudit that can be thrown at it.


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The Message

A new radio telescope due to be opened in the UK picks up a signal from space, somewhere in the Andromeda galaxy. This astonishing discovery has differing effects on the various scientists and the newly arrived PR person.

Thanks to the now-lamented practice of wiping old video tapes, A FOR ANDROMEDA remains only as a series of stills interspersed with short sections of actual filming. This allows us to guess at the quality of the production, but not fully enjoy it.

Penned by Fred Hoyle and John Elliott, this opening episode is very much a set up as Judy Adamson (quite clearly working for someone other than the people she says she's working for) gets introduced around the various people who are to take part in the rest of the plot. There's idealistic scientist John Fleming and his wayward partner Dennis Bridger. Their boss is the dependable sort and there's an Australian who knows too much and so has to get posted overseas. This round of introductions is a bit dull, but when the message finally starts coming in, the pace picks up a bit and interest perks up quickly.

Considering the credentials of the authors, it's no surprise that the science here is all very smart and very realistic, which is more than can be said for the furtive spying of Adamson and her cleaner associate, or mention of a shadowy cartel that might have its hooks into Bridger.

There is much play on the tension between the scientific and military goals being shared here and things look promising.


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The Machine

The message is deciphered as instructions to build a computer far more advanced than anything known. The shadowy cartel tells Bridger that he must stay with the project and sets about eliminating Adamson and her colleague.

This episode introduces Julie Christie, but does very little with her. The main focus is on the spying side of the plot, which is the weakest aspect in reality. The motives and methods of the Cartel seems rather odd considering what they are trying to gain.

Fleming's views on the computer that they are building are an interesting side alley and the location filming is pretty good for the period, building authenticity.


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The Miracle

Two new scientists come to the research facility and discover that the information coming out of Fleming's new computer is biological in nature, leading the possibility of creating a wholly artificial reproducing cell. Bridger's treachery, meanwhile is uncovered by the security forces.

There are two stories going on her in parallel, almost from different shows. The first, and more interesting, is the scientific story that leads to a new twist. The computer gives information about creating life and the question becomes whether or not to do so. What could be the computer's purpose in doing so? Are the scientists creating the very creatures that will destroy humanity?

The second story is the pulp story of the security and Bridger's unmasking as being a mole for the mysterious cartel that wants what they've got. It pretty unexciting stuff compared with the groundbreaking science story.


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The Monster

The monster in question is Cyclops, an amoeba-like creature that has been created using the computer's own recipe. Now the computer wants to communicate directly with it and seems to pick Christine as the way to do so.

Cyclops is clearly the focus of this episode. There is some attempt to keep the spy story going with Fleming being approached by the cartel directly, but it is the monster in the tank, seen only as an eye at an observation window, that is the attention-grabber here. How it is to be given intelligence is the question and whether it should be is the debate.

The climactic ending is the most exciting yet.


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The Murderer

The computer operator Christine is dead and Fleming is blaming himself for it. The computer, though, has come up with even more complex biological data, information that leads to the creation of a human baby, a baby that grows into a copy of Christine and is a slave to the machine.

The Cyclops monster and the death of Christine are quickly forgotten as the story forges on with the creation of the new being, the Andromeda of the title. It takes half the episode to get to her and then the other half is devoted to considering what she might be like.

The sudden appearance of unknown vehicles orbiting the planet is an unwelcome distraction.


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The Face Of The Tiger

Andromeda and the machine create a missile capable of destroying the unknown vehicles in orbit and they all go away, making the new arrival something of a heroine. Fleming challenges the machine and Andromeda is burned as a result. Fleming is thrown out, but the restorative used by Andromeda could become a medical miracle. Another challenge by Fleming and the miracle becomes deadly.

The battle for Andromeda's soul is nothing more than a sidebar in the battle of wills between Fleming and the machine. He doesn't care about her, even whilst he is kissing her, just looking for a way to beat the computer. Others are finally starting to get the message that what is happening is bad, partly when they are suddenly doing business with those that were trying to kill them only a short while ago. That's business and it's chillingly plausible.


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The Last Mystery

Fleming finds a way to sneak back into the computer room and uses the chance to destroy the machine once and for all after it tries to use Andromeda to kill him. It can be rebuilt, since he could't destroy the original data, but Andromeda can. They are then on the run for their lives.

The Cyclops monster and the death of Christine are quickly forgotten as the story forges on with the creation of the new being, the Andromeda of the title. It takes half the episode to get to her and then the other half is devoted to considering what she might be like.

It's hard to believe that Fleming would find it so easy to destroy the machine that the country had come to rely so much. Security this lax is inconceivable. The latter part of the episode devolves into a chase sequence that is hardly convincing since the soldiers are right behind the fugitives one second and then miles away the next. It's a disappointing end to an otherwise interesting series.


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A FOR ANDROMEDA (2006)

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