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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
The second part of 'A For Andromeda', 14 December 2001
Author: Martin Dench from West Sussex, England
'A For Andromeda' (AFA), the BBC's great lost sci-fi TV series of 1961, can
be viewed as a single story in its own right. And, perhaps because of this,
public awareness of this, the second part of the story, is very low. But it
is every bit as good and thought-provoking as AFA.
Featuring Susan Hampshire as Andromeda (replacing the unavailable Julie Christie) and the continuing cast from AFA (including the superb Peter Halliday), and again written by Fred Hoyle and John Elliott, the story begins where AFA left off. AFA ends with Andromeda being feared drowned in a cavepool. 'The Andromeda Breakthrough' (TAB) beings with her being found almost dead on the edge of an adjoining pool. Fleming escapes with her and they seek shelter on a remote Scottish island. However, Andromeda's hands were badly damaged during her attack on the now 'dead' computer at Thorness, and Fleming has to seek help from his colleague Professor Dawnay to heal them. This enables the government to track them down, and they end up back in London. However, they are then kidnapped by Intel and taken to their secluded base in the newly liberated Republic of Azeran. Fleming is shocked to find that a new 'computer' is awaiting them. Apparently his colleague Dennis Bridger had supplied blueprints to Intel as part of his deal with them (in AFA). At least he has some support, Professor Dawnay is already there, having been recruited to work on increasing crop yields.
As the story progresses, two main things happen. The first is that the world's weather deteriorates to the extent that it is apparent that something is seriously wrong. And the second is that Azeran is wracked with civil strife, fuelled by Intel.
The weather situation, it transpires, was caused by the original Thorness computer, a response to Dr Fleming's continual attempts to sabotage it. An apparently harmless formula was produced, which Dawnay washed down the sink when it apparently did nothing. Now it has spread throughout the world's oceans, and is removing all the nitrogen from the atmosphere, worsening weather conditions and making it impossible to breathe. Humanity is doomed unless it can be stopped. The new 'computer' continues blithely with its mission, unaware that the world is dying.
The political situation is made worse when Andromeda reveals the 'message' to Madame Gamboulle, the Intel leader in Azeran. She has been given a message that has no understanding of the current world situation, and she is therefore uninterested in dealing with it, except in any way that it can benefit Intel and her.
To make matters worse, Andromeda's body is lacking something, and she is slowly dying, and there is no time to waste the computer's functions on finding a cure.
The story is as good as AFA, and very satisfyingly different in the way it progresses. That said, it is hard to believe that this series wasn't conceived before AFA started, as it ties up so many loose ends and dovetails so neatly with the original story. Fleming is once again superb, wracked with doubt and guilt, and there are also excellent performances from Mary Morris as Dawnay and John Hollis as Kaufmann.
This is a vastly under-rated and sadly neglected series, which, as is apparent, not so much a story in its own right, but part two of AFA. It is not just a rehashing of the original ideas, as with so many sequels, but is a development and continuation of the original story, leading to a definite conclusion.
One of the strengths of sci-fi TV series of this era, such as the Quatermass stories, is the characterisation and the story, as opposed to the almost total reliance on effects nowadays, and these stories are no exception. They are gripping, compulsive, entertaining and totally fascinating, but you are also drawn in to empathise and sympathise and care about the characters. And, as I've said, Dr John Fleming is one of the great sci-fi characterisations, a truly memorable piece of writing and an equally memorable performance by the grossly under-rated Peter Halliday.
Unlike AFA, this series exists in its entirety in the BBC's archives, but they seem to have little interest in exposing it to a modern audience, which is a minor tragedy. If, however, you can't find a copy of it anywhere, then buy the book of the same name by Fred Hoyle and John Elliott, which is a superb book in its own right. But, if you haven't read AFA, by the same authors, get that and read it first. You won't be disappointed.
This was classic science fiction, worthy of the name, and it is very sad to think that we will never see a series like this again.
The Second Series, Better than the First, 19 April 2009
Author: robert-temple-1 from United Kingdom
This second Andromeda series survives in its entirety, all six episodes, unlike its predecessor (see my separate review), which only survives in part. Julie Christie was unable to continue playing the character Andromeda because of feature film commitments, and so her place was taken by Susan Hampshire. The other actors remained the same. Susan Hampshire did a better job than Julie Christie, so the quality improved in that respect. Michael Hayes did not direct any of these episodes. They were all directed either by John Elliott or John Knight, in turn, and the series was much better as a result. More money was spent on this series, and it looked less tacky, although the interiors, props, and sets were still as atrocious as ever. Much of the story takes place in a fictitious Middle Eastern oil-producing country which has freed itself from colonial influence and, judging from a map which is shown, is clearly modelled upon Iraq. In the series it is called 'Azaran'. A lot of location shooting of 'Azaran' took place, all of it in Cyprus, where they managed to find a mosque with minarets, presumably in the Turkish part of the island. Strangely, snatches of Greek bouzouki music are heard from time to time on the sound track, and we see occasional Greek or Turkish peasants, pretending, one supposes, to be Arabs. (In those days, few British people knew the difference.) The story is pretty corny, but in 1962 was nevertheless found enthralling because it continued to expound the underlying sci fi ideas of Fred Hoyle. The fabricant girl Andromeda has been rescued from apparent death by Peter Halliday, who seems to like carrying her in his arms rather a lot. They and the biochemist played powerfully by Mary Morris are all abducted by the sinister and totally unscrupulous John Hollis, who works for an international conglomerate called Intel. (No 'Intel inside', this was 1962!) Intel is using Azaran as a base for operations to take over the world. They want to use the extraterrestrial technology from the coded message, and have built a replica of the Thorness computer which Halliday destroyed in the previous series, so here we are again, with Andromeda staring at the viewing-tube and going into trances and being an automaton again. Susan Hampshire seems just as silly as Julie Christie in following the directorial advice to speak in a monotone and act like a humanoid. She manages to be a bit less stiff at this! Azaran undergoes a coup (shown by using what appears to be old Egyptian newsreel footage of some war with someone, perhaps Israel). However, a bizarre French woman who is a director of Intel and has been the mistress of the man leading the coup goes in front of the computer screen, becomes mesmerised, and decides it is her mission to take over the world, so she goes and shoots the military officer and, using the old president as a stooge, takes over Azaran herself. There are lots of scenes of ineffectual British ministers, and an aged prime minister, back in London, uselessly huffing and puffing and imagining themselves still running the Raj, but they don't accomplish much other than raising their eyebrows, posturing, and acting as drolly Oxbridge as possible. The world climate begins to deteriorate because the computer has launched a new bacterium into the world's oceans, which is destroying the atmosphere. Enormous storms and hurricanes (shown by using Florida hurricane newsreel footage) and drastic climate change occur. This is eerily prescient for what is happening today, just as the portrayal of a poverty-stricken Iraq trying to exploit high technology for warfare seems prophetic. It is amazing how much of this series is relevant to today, 45 years later. Now our heroes are rushing to manufacture a counter-bacterium to save the world, and, aided by Andromeda, who is on the verge of death because 'there is some vital constituent lacking from her blood, omitted by mistake when she was made', and we have a cliff-hanger situation: will the world be saved in time? Will Andromeda herself be saved? Will Andromeda become human enough to fall in love with Peter Halliday? Can Peter Halliday stop worrying about her being a threat to the world for long enough to fall in love with Andromeda? It is all gripping stuff if you go back to the standards of the 1960s, and ignore the cheap sets and aren't too critical. It is surreal for me to see Susan Hampshire in this, as I knew her fairly well in 1963, the year after this, and have only seen her once since then, so this is the way I remember her, as a fresh young thing. (I call her young even though I was so much younger than her, because looking back, she now seems practically a child, with her face not yet fully formed.) When I knew her, she was infatuated with J. P. Donleavy, the Irish novelist. I remember her bursting into tears one day when she saw that a young bird had fallen from its nest. She is an innocent, sentimental person, with a heart of gold, and a smile of gold as well.
on DVD, 1 May 2007
Author: burgarman from United States
The Andromeda Breakthrough is now available on DVD as part of The Andromeda Anthology, a 3 disc set which includes the only surviving episode of A For Andromeda. it is available from most British DVD online shops and of course is in PAL format. it is a BBC production and includes Andromeda Memories, a documentary featuring surviving cast members reminiscing. it also has a reconstruction and summary of A For Andromeda from stills. it also has a booklet and some DVD-ROM content. it is on a Region 2, PAL DVD. Susan Hampshire replaced Julie Christie who was not available. the BBC apparently let her contract lapse! Peter Halliday and Mary Morris continued in their roles.
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
The Morality of Science Under the Microscope, 28 July 2007
Author: proword from Perth, West Australia
(See review for "A for Andromeda")
"Breakthrough" continues where A4A leaves off, although with the delightful Susan Hampshire replacing Julie Christie in the title role of Andromeda, an artificially created girl who is a protoplasmic computer.
After John Fleming (Peter Halliday) and Andromeda destroy the computer which, in A4A, is constructed from an intergalactic(?) radio transmission, Andre apparently drowns in a pool on an island off the Scottish coast. Breakthrough opens with the discovery that Andre has not drowned and John escapes with her.
Pursued by the British government, bent on having revenge for destruction of their chance of world domination, and the business cartel "Intel", personified with shaven head, thin lips, rimless glasses and thin cheroot cigars by Herr Kaufmann (played with utterly satisfying, almost pantomime evil by John Hollis), who seem eager to have Fleming for their own obviously nefarious purpose, John and Andre are first of all captured by the British, then Intel, and the story moves swiftly to Azaran, an impoverished Middle Eastern "oil nation" seeking freedom from British Colonialism.
Meanwhile around the world, the weather continues to deteriorate and whole populations die or are displaced as wild storms rage.
John is horrified to discover 3 things. (1) Andromeda seems to be physically deteriorating. (2) Madelaine Dawnay, the biologist who "created" Andromeda is working for Intel in Azaran. (3) Azaran has built their own computer from plans stolen by John's (dead) mate from "the old days", Denis Bridger and sold to Intel.
Further, Intel is seeking use Azaran as its own base for its shady dealings, as having one's own country to play with would be so convenient.
Here Peter Halliday really shines. John Fleming's character starts to unravel day by day, even hour by hour. He and Madelaine Dawnay are faced with the crushing reality of their choices they made both as scientists and people in the past - possible utter destruction of the world's life. Mary Morris, as Madelaine Dawnay, gives another stellar performance as a genuine caring soul, though with a seemingly gruff exterior, who struggles to right the mistakes, making one agonising decision after another about what to do first, knowing that no matter what she does, someone will die.
John Fleming, confronted by his nightmare from the past, dashes in one direction, then another, wanting Andromeda to live, yet wishing she were dead, to, as he sees it, save the world, wanting to destroy the computer, yet trying to get Andromeda to use it to prevent another catastrophe, but knowing that in using the computer, Andromeda deteriorates more quickly. The deterioration may or may not be an intentional "obsolescence" in her original design, and can possibly be rectified - with time. Above all he utterly fails to convince himself that he's not in love with her, wanting to save her and take her away, yet doing his best not to trust her.
Susan Hampshire has both an easy job and a difficult one. The difficult one? To try and give a performance which matches Christie in her icy implacability, her logicality, as she struggles with her inherited emotions and feelings which eventually led to her demise in the first series. It's easier in the sense that that character ceased to exist with the destruction of the first computer and she (Hampshire) had then to deal with a (as she says) semi-human- semi-zombie, with intelligence but little knowledge, emotions but little experience with them, and living in a world she helped to create but knows little or nothing about, while witnessing her own tragedy, unable to reconcile her own growing love for Fleming with her inbuilt "duty to the computer's logic". (She acknowledges in the interview on the DVD that in hindsight, it would have been better for her to have known more about the first story.) The tragedy could be Shakespearean.
The production itself was in some senses, probably less satisfying than A4A, because there are many more scenes involving "loss of control" eg use of "stock footage", war scenes, tanks, planes, troops advancing in a determined manner, with the clash of film grain and timing, attempt to translate the scene to "the middle East". (I don't read anything other than English but some of the "foreign writing" looked decidedly cheesy.) But these are generally but distractions.
Whilst it tries to end on a "happy note", despite glimpses of sunshine and butterflies and rebirth of nature, I was left with the memory of the massive destruction and death that had been portrayed (which sadly are, even now, being played out, albeit on a reduced scale, in the real world) and the huge losses which will need to be recovered in the coming generation(s).
One of the nicely unresolved questions is who was "wrong"? Was the original message sent with malice, benefice or cold logic unswayed by such petty concerns?
Was Dawnay, with her great-hearted nobility to help humanity, but blinkered by this nobility, drawn down the seductive/destructive path "the Dark Side") by naiveté?
Was it John Fleming, with his anti-establishment attitude, but brilliant mind, ill-informed, bent on egotistical gratification, or was he truly aghast with the future as he saw it, and in fighting to prevent that future, made a self-fulfilling prophecy?
Intel, with its tentacles/claws in every pocket or soul, yet without whom the world WOULD have been destroyed (since they built the second computer)? Immoral or amoral?
Without doubt, it's a morality play. H.G. Wells was very pro-science on occasion and thus wrote some great literature not always hampered by questions of morality and ethics. Writers John Eliot and scientist the late Fred Hoyle, paint here a frightening picture of the results of failure to engage the mind before putting the hands into gear, with perhaps using the heart as the clutch.
Should be compulsory for all science students.
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