Set in 1970, a team of scientists decipher a mysterious signal from space and discover that it provides instructions to build a powerful super-computer. Once built, this computer provokes ... See full summary »
Set in 1970, a team of scientists decipher a mysterious signal from space and discover that it provides instructions to build a powerful super-computer. Once built, this computer provokes argument between two of leading team members, Fleming and Dawnay, over the machine's real intentions as it provides further instructions to create a living organism, which Dawnay starts to develop. Later it appears to compel lab assistant Christine to commit suicide, and when the organism is fully developed, it appears in the exact form of Christine, and named Andromeda. But what is the purpose of this "creature" ...? Written by
This was a very poorly made sci fi series which was of enormous historical importance because of its central ideas, which came from joint author Sir Fred Hoyle, the famous cosmologist and astrophysicist. When this series was broadcast on the BBC in 1961, twelve million viewers were glued to their screens. They did not notice the cheap sets, bad direction by Michael Hayes, corny story lines, inferior camera work, or terrible performance by Julie Christie as the character Andromeda, who was fresh out of the Central School of Speech and Drama because rumour had it that she might 'become the British Bardot'. No, none of these things deterred them. Because what they were gripped by (apart from Julie Christie being glamorous, whether she could act or not at that stage of her career being immaterial to the lustful) was Hoyle's idea that a signal might be received from intelligent beings on a planet in another galaxy, in this case, the Andromeda Galaxy, otherwise known as Messier 31, two million light years away. In the story, this signal is detected and it turns out to contain a message which is decoded and leads to the construction of a super-computer. The message continues and, using the computer, it instructs biochemist Madeleine Dawnay (who in the novel had been a man but was changed into a woman for the series), excellently played by Mary Morris, how to make a living creature with a single eye which lives in a tank as a kind of palpitating lump of protoplasm. This clearly isn't good enough, so a secretary named Christine (played by Julie Christie in a black wig) is killed by the computer and 'replicated' into a fabricated humanoid, whom they call Andromeda, who is Julie Christie with her white-blonde hair of that period of her life. They actually mention that the computer got the hair wrong. (As far as I could determine when I briefly knew her in later life, Julie's hair was naturally a rather dark blonde. And, by the way, she is a charming and interesting person, and very far from being just a humanoid.) Christie was instructed to speak in a monotone and act like an automaton, so this partially explains her performance, of course. After all, she was supposed to be a fabricant under the control of a computer. Enter a young heroic scientist played by Peter Halliday, who does very well throughout this series and its sequel (see my separate review of it), 'The Andromeda Breakthrough'. Halliday, like Hoyle, is a rebel who hates authority and insists on thinking for himself. He has to run the computer, and Julie Christie gets him all romantically excited, when he isn't worried that she is trying to destroy humanity. Now I have to explain that, as the BBC has always contained a great number of morons on the payroll, most of this series does not exist anymore because it was 'wiped', as so much important early material was by the in-house thickos. One entire episode survives, as well as the last fifteen minutes of the final episode, and bits and pieces of the rest. The remainder of the series is 're-created' by stills and narration, so one gets a good idea of it. A great deal of work went into this, and the series is for sale in the same DVD (set of three discs) with its sequel and a documentary of 'Andromeda Memories'. It is a pity that it does not also include the astronomical documentary presented by Fred Hoyle of which brief clips appear in the 'Memories'. What this series is really all about is Fred's provocative thinking and his genius. I knew him pretty well, and everything he ever wrote or touched was original, stimulating, and magnificently brilliant. He was one of the great scientific geniuses of twentieth century Britain. And he was a very unaffected and modest man, with a gruff Yorkshire accent and a one hundred percent straight talker. You always knew where you were with Fred, until he started writing down his equations, of course, and then he tended to leave everybody behind, because he could never understand that other people weren't as quick at math as he was. He should have shared Willie Fowler's Nobel Prize, since Fowler was Fred's junior partner in working out the production of chemical elements in the interiors of stars, but Fred was blackballed by the Nobel Committee and denied the chance to share the Prize since he had publicly criticized them in the press in earlier years. So watch out, if you ever want to win the Nobel Prize, never criticize the Nobel Committee publicly, as it is in their constitution that they can never give the Prize to anyone who has attacked them. But for all those who knew Fred and know his work, he 'won it' really, because his work was awarded the Prize even if he individually was not. The preservation of what is left of this TV series is a worthy addition to Fred's legacy.
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