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A for Andromeda Mar 29

On Monday, following on from last year’s live remake of The Quatermass Experiment, BBC Four screened a new version of 1961’s A for Andromeda. I’m not going to be nice about it, so let’s start with the positives.

Tom Hardy was good in the lead role, although, as with Quatermass, he seemed a little young for the part – perhaps the idea of a middle-aged science fiction hero is too much even for BBC Four. I see from his IMDb entry that Hardy is no stranger to bad sci-fi, having played the Captain Picard Mini-Me villain in the dreadful Star Trek: Nemesis. Also in A for Andromeda was Jane Asher, who did this sort of thing in the superior Nigel Kneale play The Stone Tape in the 1970s. Her presence did allow me to relabel it I for I-slept-with-Paul-McCartney. (You probably had to be there.) Other positives… Nice to see the Beeb making science-fiction?

The negatives, then. It was a load of technobabble-ridden poppycock. For no apparent reason, a new satellite supercomputer snooping station was sharing a facility with some sort of biology laboratory (Asher: “The machine can produce any kind of tissue!” Me: “Used?”). This was particularly unfortunate as the combination of fantastic computer and life lab allowed a malevolent alien force a route to Earth, which Asher and the MoD (represented by David Haig from The Thin Blue Line, the best episode of Blake’s 7 and, yes, Doctor Who) seemed, bogglingly, quite happy to allow. There was also a geek who should’ve gone to SpecSavers, but he got killed early on as part of a not particularly relevant subplot – I’m not sure by whom as I was looking away at that moment, but it was probably Colin Stinton from Broken News to whom he’d been selling secrets (of the military rather than celebrity “I saw Jane Asher picking her nose” variety, I assume). Meanwhile, two months pass and Tom Hardy’s comedy beard and moustache combo doesn’t change a hair. Oh, and there’s a quick bit of obligatory sex.

The finale was very Quatermass too, and far worthier than a dramatic fight or, say, a laser gun battle. Instead, the alien was talked round and killed herself. Despite being less than a third of the original running time, it felt overlong, with padding posing as dramatic pauses. “Bringing it up-to-date” seemed to involve some jerky camerawork and mentioning e-mail.

I’ve saved the worst for last: throughout the whole production, a giant mirrorball, apparently made from aluminium foil, spun round and round in the middle of the set, as if to shout “Look, it’s science fiction! Science is shiny!” Most distracting.

My favourite line in the whole thing was:

Where there is intelligence there is Will,
and where there is Will there is ambition.

Ta. Shame the rest of it was a load of old boots.

For an alternative view, ask Millennium Elephant.

4 Responses

  1. 1
    Joe Otten 

    Noble of you to keep watching. I gave up after half an hour.

    What is this human thing called kissing?

  2. 2

    Like Quatermass, I think it was a good idea to do it but it was let down by a poor script – interestingly, both were by Richard Fell, who’s more of a producer than a writer. Given that some of the themes (government interference and paranoia in a claustrophobic environment) are similar to his Spooks episodes, I’d have got Howard Brenton to come up with a script for it.

  3. 3

    I’m probably underestimating the amount of work that goes into adaptations, but surely there was already a script for both Quatermass and A for Andromeda, they were simply edited for 2005/6?

    Have seen neither tho, A for Andromeda is on my laptop having recorded it on my PVR.

  4. 4
    chris walker 

    I missed the program – ntl timer overridden by my 15 year-old daughter – and am looking for a copy on dvd or tape.

    Any one got one – I can send blank media if required.

    Hopefully it will be re-run if not.