A for Andromeda


90-minute episode

SF elements

danger from the unknown


Scientists intercept a signal from the direction of the Andromeda galaxy. When they learn how to read it, they discover that it is a set of instructions to build a computer, which they eagerly build. The computer tells them how to build a person (Andromeda), which they also do. And then things start to go wrong...


This is the BBC's remake of its 1961 original TV series by Fred Hoyle and John Elliot -- that had 7 45 minute episodes, this is packed into a single 90 minute slot. This compression leads to whipsawing plot elements: Why/how was Christine killed? What made John Fleming change so quickly from eager building of a computer to demanding its destruction? What made Andromeda herself change so quickly from menacing to self-sacrificing? And why were the disc backups kept in the same room as the computer itself? Apart from all being necessary to move the plot along, of course...

Said plot exhibits another example of the Gerry Anderson school of staffing levels. The past three years have been spent building a new state of the art surveillance station, by: a computer scientist genius, his best mate, a mathematician (who never seems to do any mathematics), and an ... astrobiologist.

Yet despite this compression, the action is leisurely, and feels more 1960s than 2000s in pace. And the SFX are nothing spectacular, either: the pictures of the source galaxy are sub-Blake's7. But that might be because the story itself has not been updated well -- we do have references to firewalls and interception of terrorist emails, but the technobabble sounds remarkably dated. As does the entire premiss of "There Are Things Man is Not Meant to Build".

Maybe we have come too far, and portentous 1950s/60s SF can't be updated: the BBC's recent attempt to do something similar with Quatermass was also pretty dismal -- so dismal I appear to have forgotten even to review it! However, clearly certain message-lite 1970s SF can be successfully "reimagined" , and other SF from the 60s has grown and adapted well , so all is not lost.

Rating: 4.5

[ unmissable | great stuff | worth watching | mind candy | waste of time | unfinishable ]

reviewed 7 April 2006