Odd though it seems, the late 1950s and early 60s was the prime time in TV history for intelligent sci-fi. America had The Twilight Zone, we'd already had all the Quatermass serials and various plays. Sci-fi was smart.
In fact, so smart was sci-fi that the Beeb turned to noted cosmologist Fred Hoyle and said, "How would you like to write us a TV show?" which he did. Surprisingly, it turned out to be pretty good.
A for Andromeda is now the kind of show that other shows and movies steal from. Look at Species. Look at Contact: they're basically A for Andromeda at heart. The Earth gets a message from outer space that contains instructions on how to build a machine. With some reluctance, humanity does as it's told and then begins to wonder if it was a good idea after all.
A for Andromeda's machine is a computer which then goes on to create life in the form of Julie Christie, who, it turns out, humanity really does need to worry about. Not much of the show survives, but what does remain is available on DVD. That still makes it a Lost Gem. Cue the weird old title sequence and one of the only remaining episodes.
As mentioned previously, BBC4 is doing a season on British science-fiction called Science Fiction Britannia. Cracking open the Radio Times, etc, I've managed to get a bit of the schedule and here are my viewing tips (complete with Video Plus+ numbers and links to DVDs where applicable, in case you can't get BBC4):
Date: 10th July 2006
Host: Richard Hollis
Guests: Peter Halliday, Michael Hayes
Series summary: British scientists pick up a message from the Andromeda galaxy. After decoding it, they find it contains instructions on how to build a computer. They build it and after an accident that kills a lab worker, the computer creates a new life form in her image, which the scientists call Andromeda.
Episode summary: Episode six, The Face of the Tiger, sees the computer become ever more valuable to the government after it develops anti-ballistic missile technology. The computer, however, is starting to assert its own agenda through Andromeda, who is becomingly increasingly human.
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I'm Rob Buckley, a freelance journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of, although you might have heard me on Radio 5 Live's Saturday Edition. I've edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for trade magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider and the equally short-lived Death Ray and Filmstar magazines; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it "web site for urban hedonists" The Tribe. I'm freelance now and have contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network and TV Scoop.