A for Andromeda is simply not all there. Just like so many of our favourite series from the 1960s, episodes of this series were lost. In fact, as recently as 2005 no complete episodes of this series existed at all. Finally with the help of Ian Levine, episode 6 The Face of the Tiger was returned to the BBC archives. Quite a bit of clips from the other episodes (except episodes 4 & 5) exist.
For this viewing, I watched it from the excellent 2006 DVD set. While The Face of the Tiger exists in its entirety, the other episodes were handled in a different way. If you are a fan of 1960s Doctor Who, you should be well aware of a means of presentation called a Telesnap Reconstruction. It is a way to recreate as best as possible a missing episode. One key ingredient to this is telesnaps. Telesnaps was something only John Cura did. Very briefly, John Cura made his living by taking stills of a television screen and selling them to BBC producers, artists or anyone who actually worked on the program he was employed to make telesnaps. Productions from the BBC and ITV would pay Cura to take these stills and they would get prints to add to the production files as reference to the programs that were made. Producers knew that either their programs were transmitted live or eventually would be junked and telesnaps was a great way to keep a record of the production. Cura did this service from the late 1940s to 1969. Telesnaps was his name for what he provided to his clients. Anyone else doing this at the time of broadcast were just taking off-air stills. Cura actually adjusted his camera to be able to take his pictures. Luckily he was hired to take telesnaps of A for Andromeda. Because of this, we are able to have a telesnap reconstruction of the series.
Telesnap reconstructions originally were created for the missing episodes of Doctor Who. Legend has it that it all started back in the 1980s when the first recon was from Richard Landen with The Power of the Daleks Episode Two. The more fans saw recons the more they wanted them. It was also vastly helped by crystal clear audio recordings of the episodes that came to the attention of everyone in the mid-1990s. In fact a ton of Doctor Who telesnaps were found in 1993 by Marcus Hearn working for Doctor Who Magazine. Stories from the latter half of Season 3 through the first part of Season 6 were located in one big book at the BBC Written Archives. As a side note, not all recons include telesnaps. One of the first tapes I got when I seriously got into tape trading in the late 1980s was The Tenth Planet. It had on it a recon of Episode 4. This recon used clips from the first three episodes with fans reading the scripts and they had heavy Australian accents!
|Part of a Telesnap Sheet for Episode 5 of The Web of Fear|
This new super computer is now sending out instructions for the creation of living cells. This is where Fleming gets nervous. It’s a new life form that may be treacherous to human life. Reinhart brings in his old friend biologist Number 2. Actually the character’s name is Madeline Dawnay played by Mary Morris who had also played Number 2 in The Prisoner. Dawnay follows the code given by the computer to create this new form of life. Bridger has been found out the by the British government about giving secrets to Intel . Being confronted while at the military establishment in Scotland, Thorness, where all of these messages are being received and deciphered Dr. Bridger slips and falls to his death.
It’s now been about a year since this project has started and a life form that Dawnay created is being cultured. They call him Cyclops because….well he has one eye. The new computer has two terminals on either side that affects people’s brainwaves. Cyclops and the computer mesmerize Christine who grasps both terminals and is electrocuted and killed. With Christine dead, the team at Thorness tries to move on with their work. The Computer orders the creation of a human embryo which Dawnay agrees to do. The embryo rapidly grows to become a human woman. In fact, the form of Christine with the exception of her hair no longer black but long and blonde. She is named Andromeda which is the nebula the messages originally came from. Andromeda learns quickly and is soon the intermediary between the Computer and the humans. This gets Fleming really nervous as it is clear that there is a bigger plan that the computer wants Andromeda to carry out. Essentially Andromeda is an upgrade from Cyclops. The Computer destroys Cyclops.
|Cyclops! Which in fact was director Michael Hayes' eye!|
I would have loved to seen this series in full. It has a lot of great elements to it that I love. Even though it is set in the 1970s, it is clearly made in the 1960s. This is not a bad thing. Although the sets are not overly designed or complex; they look great and serve the purpose. I don’t think it would have looked too different if the series had been in the 1970s except in colour. Also, sad to say, it probably would look better in the 1960s because if it was made in the 1970s, it would have been the same computer props from the 1960s but very beaten up by now! I also like a sci-fi series that has part of the story preoccupied by the involvement of the British government. It even has a flair of espionage as we see the mysterious Kaufmann working in whatever angle he can to get the secrets of what is going on at Thorness. In fact by the time the series is over, Intel is actually doing business with the British government and in a sense Intel wins. There are a lot of scenes in British ministerial offices as well as with the Prime Minister. There is a great exposition in the story of traditional administrative British government vs. the sci-fi element of Andromeda and these messages from the nebula. Nothing looks dated about this production. Even the characters are cool looking. Andromeda with her long blonde hair is attractive and dangerous. Even Kaufmann with his bald head looks cool. Almost Blofeld-esque without being over the top!
The cast is really enjoyable. Peter Halliday is a great leading man but he does it on his own terms. He is a troublemaker. He doesn’t make anything easy for anyone. Once Fleming realizes that Andromeda and the Computer is a serious threat to mankind, he does nothing but try to get someone to listen to him. The problem is no one does listen to him. They are too busy making plans on what Andromeda is going to do for them. Fleming is eventually ousted from the group and has to rely on sabotage and trickery to try and get people to see his side of things. The sad fact is that by the end of the series, still only a few people believe his warnings about Andromeda.
Andromeda herself was played by Julie Christie. This is her first professional role and director Michael Hayes knew instantly that he had found someone very special. She was a student of the Central School of Speech and Drama. By the time the series was done, it was known a sequel was in the works. Hayes suggested to the BBC that they need to sign on Christie now to play Andromeda again. Watch The Andromeda Breakthrough and you will see how much the BBC took to his suggestion. I need to point out another favourite actor of mine. Jack May. He played the security chief Major Quadring. He has appeared in Doctor Who The Space Pirates, and had a regular role in Adam Adamant.
The series was devised by Fred Hoyle and he wanted to work with the BBC to get this produced. A lot of meetings took place which eventually led to the series being dramatized by John Elliott. John Elliot wrote the scripts with the idea of the series being made as 7 x 30 minute episodes. Once Michael Hayes got onboard, he thought the scripts were running long but didn’t want to cut anything. He requested the series be changed to 45 minute episodes. Of course now the scripts under run and filler had to be put in to get it to the right length. With almost all the episode presented here as a reconstruction, we don’t notice the filler in the scripts.
The film material looks great. The Face of the Tiger is wonderful looking. Film is clean and sharp. The series was recorded onto 35mm film and also 16mm. It never was recorded to videotape. So there is no tape drop out. The clips that exist from the other episodes come from a variety of sources but some come directly from 35mm film and are exceptional. From The Machine, there is a sequence shot at the computing rooms of IBM which gives the series a feel of authenticity. It’s not sci-fi with people wearing funny hats “from the future”. It’s designed to look like it can happen in our world. Clips exist from The Message, The Machine, The Miracle and the last two reels from The Last Mystery exist plus the full episode The Face of the Tiger.
A Plea for Help:
If you have not had a chance to see this series, I highly recommend picking it up. Sadly the set no longer appears to be anywhere. It may be out of print. The set had A for Andromeda, The Andromeda Breakthrough, Andromeda Memories Documentary, and Photo Gallery which has the full suite of music. It also has a wonderful set of Viewing Notes written by Andrew Pixley which is where I got some of the information for this article.
Next week: When is Tom Baker not a Doctor? It’s when he is Sherlock Holmes. Next week I take a look at the first of a two part article on the story of The Hound of the Baskervilles. I am going to view this from the original BBC 1 recording with the first two episodes next week and the other two the following week!
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