Classic TV

Lost Gems: A for Andromeda (1961)

Julie Christie in A for Andromeda

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.

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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.

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BFI events

NFT’s got some TV classics next month

The remake may have been rubbish, as was the sequel and… erm, those clips from the final episode that were around for years, but A for Andromeda is getting a massive amount of attention next month.

Julie Christie as Andromeda in A for AndromedaThe one remaining 1961 A for Andromeda episode, which only got handed back to the Beeb this year, is getting an airing at the NFT on the 10th. This special event will also feature appearances by members of the cast and crew. As if that weren’t enough, a DVD release that will include all sorts of things, including the remake, the remaining bits of the sequel (probably) and some “intriguing extras”, will be following shortly afterwards, either on the 17th or the 24th. Is there something ‘Andromeda-ish’ about July I should know about?

Adam Adamant Lives!As an aside, following the Andromeda showing at the NFT, there’s another special event, this time featuring Adam Adamant Lives! A “little-seen” episode of the series will be shown and once again, cast and crew will be on hand to reminisce. If you’ve never seen Adam Adamant, I’ll just say it’s an acquired taste: watch one episode and you’ve seen them all more or less, but it’s kind of fun to see Gerald Harper prance about as an Edwardian adventurer who’s frozen in ice and wakes up in the 1960s. I’m not sure if Harper is going, but if he is, I’m not sure I’ll have the nerve to ask him how he managed to go out with Sarah Alexander for so long. Honestly, I’m not making this stuff up! She really did (scroll down to the bottom). If you can’t go to the event, you can always buy the DVD.

There’s supposed to be a bundle deal if you buy tickets to both events, although I couldn’t find the option on the site. I’m hoping they’ll only charge me the bundle price (yes, I’ve booked already). Maybe you have to phone to get the discount price? Oh well.

If you’d rather watch something a bit more serious and a bit less fantastic, also showing at the T (not sure that’s going to catch on, but I’ll give it a try) in July are some Armchair Theatre plays, with producer Leonard White coming along to reminisce, too. Should be well worth it.

BBC Four: Now comes with a bottle of Night Nurse aka A for Andromeda’s ‘Face of the Tiger’

Having trouble getting to sleep on a Saturday night? Well happy happy joy joy, this Saturday coming sees not only a repeat of the stupefyingly dull remake of A for Andromeda, there’s now the glorious chance to watch the only remaining episode of the original series, The Face of the Tiger, at the reassuringly late time of 10.40pm. Now, remember that the oh-so-dull remake clocked in at only 90 minutes. This is episode six and runs at 40 minutes. Oh my. Can’t wait.