the Last Word in
|critical articles, interviews, author profiles, retro lists, genre essays, incisive media reviews|
Sky One, Mondays, 8pm
review by Ceri Jordan
There's a story in one of the Dark Terrors anthologies about a studio that holds its most famous writer to his contract until he produces a final hit show - even though he died decades ago. You can't help wondering if Gene Roddenberry's contract read like that. And alas, judging by Andromeda, he won't be resting in peace any time soon.
The democratic, inclusive and generally nice Commonwealth of Planets is falling apart, thanks to former members the Nietzscheans, genetically engineered superhuman Darwinists. Captain Dylan Hunt and his sentient ship Andromeda Ascendent are betrayed by his Nietzschean first officer, and end up dragged into the orbit of a black hole. Time slows to a crawl.
By the time a salvage ship drags them out, hundreds of years have passed. The Commonwealth is a distant memory and Earth is a slave colony for the Nietzscheans. Captain Hunt, of course, immediately co-opts his rag-tag rescuers as his new crew, and sets off on a diplomatic mission to restore the Commonwealth.
Hang on, I hear you cry. Heroic idealist and ill-assorted crew on the finest ship in the galaxy, trying to restore order... All right, guilty as charged. It's basically Blake's 7 with (slightly) better special effects. Unfortunately, it's nowhere near as much fun.
For a start, it's cheap. Every single episode takes place on the ship, with three or four guest stars if you're lucky. More importantly, it has that Star Trek sense of anti-conflict. Conflict is the essence of drama, and while that doesn't mean every scene has to be stuffed with screaming and fighting, it does mean confronting the characters with real dilemmas and real challenges.
The potential flashpoints are there - an outcast Nietzschean, a slave-camp escapee, a pacifist priest from a predator race - but nothing ever comes of them. Instead we have murder mysteries, courtroom drama, hostages, political negotiations and time travel: standard plots imposed upon the characters, telling us nothing about them or their world.
The cast do what they can with the material: Kevin Sorbo has the square-jawed compassionate hero down pat, and Michael Gordon Wolvitt charms as a sex-starved engineer, despite his grating 20th-century slang. The imposing Keith Hamilton Cobb makes the most of his role as the outcast Nietzschean, sneeringly superior yet quietly vulnerable, and episodes focused around him tend to be the best of the bunch. Lexa Doig, as the physical manifestation of the Andromeda's controlling intelligence, handles the science bits with aplomb and looks good in a catsuit, but the other women - salvage ship captain and irritatingly childlike alien - barely register.
This is very much science fiction of the old school - full of techno-babble and flashy graphics, and totally lacking in danger or relevance. Not entirely unwatchable, but expect no surprises.
Buy stuff at:
|home articles profiles interviews essays books movies contributors guidelines subscriptions issues links archives email|