Event review: Andromeda at the NFT

Julie Christie as Andromeda

Event: Andromeda at the NFT

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.

Event summary:

I must confess I hadn’t been looking forward to this one desperately. Watching the remake, the sequel (The Andromeda Breakthrough) and the few clips remaining of the show other than this episode, I’d generally been bored out of my tiny mind. So I was expecting something of a snooze fest, particularly since this was episode six of a seven part serial, so was likely to be pure plot filler.

Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised. After about five minutes of confirming my suspicions, the show began to perk up. Although pretty wordy and a little ridiculous at times, it was actually very good. Julie Christie was a hell of a lot more compelling as Andromeda than her successor Susan Hampshire was and about seven million times more compelling than Kelly Reilly was in the remake. Peter Halliday was OTT in a big way, but at least he had spark and his character, bully though he was, was interesting and relatively natural, unlike the walking dead Tom Hardy.

I can’t pretend it utterly grabbed me in the same way that Quatermass and the Pit did, since there was some reasonable plot filling and Halliday’s character was less than likeable, but I hardly needed my 1950s* helmet in order to enjoy the show.

After the episode screening, star Peter Halliday and producer/director Michael Hayes came out to recall the making of the show. Compere Richard Hollis managed to keep everything flowing very nicely and proficiently and was as knowledgeable as the guests about the show.

Both Halliday and Hayes had pretty good memories of the time and had a nice rapport, no surprise given they’d been friends for 50 years. Hayes recalled how Fred Hoyle had approached the BBC with the idea for the show, how he had found Christie, who was then still a drama student, and how he’d tried to predict the then far-off future of 1970. Halliday, while short on anecdotes, was still thoroughly entertaining and was able to give dispassionate appraisals of both the original series and the remake.

As well as the episode, there were a couple of clips from The Andromeda Breakthrough, which, as I recalled, was an absolute stinker.

Amazingly enough, time flew by and by the end, I wanted to see more A for Andromeda, which is something I never, ever thought would happen.

Best anecdotes:

  1. Halliday recalling how he’d been accosted in the pub by an irate gentleman, who had grabbed him and demanded, “How can you do all those horrible things to that beautiful woman?”
  2. Hayes recalling how he’d made as many parts as he could female in order to be futuristic (“I thought there would be more women in public life in 1970”). Unfortunately, although he changed the names of the characters, he overlooked some of the stage directions, which left Mary Morris the job of “filling a pipe, lighting it, then putting an arm round Andromeda”. That got changed prior to filming…

Audience: Pretty old, but not quite dead yet. Some had mucous issues, no doubt of the hayfever variety. Rather too many conversations about Doctor Who being conducted before and after the event by the younger (20s-50s) members. Questions were pretty good, with none veering into the “In episode 2, what was the combination of the safe?” territory.

Use of The Voice: I counted only three uses of The Voice.

Footnotes

* To really enjoy television from a particular decade, you need to adjust your sensibilities to take into account the directing style, acting style, pacing, plotting, characterisation, etc of the period. You can either use self-discipline to do this, or you can use a helmet, like I do.

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