Saturday, May 31, 2014

Andromeda's Last Missing Mystery!

I have been hugely influenced and fascinated by something since mid-October. British television fans had been blessed with a significant find. Nine episodes of Doctor Who had been found. I have been basically absorbed by this subject for a long time and especially since October. The idea of one man possibly finding so many of our dreams has been overwhelming to me. I have put a lot of effort and energy into writing about the subject on my own site and other places.  Also, speaking about it on a podcast I am on called The Others. This has been with me for a long time. I even was writing an article for Warped Factor about how I think everyone has it wrong in regards to Philip Morris and the missing episodes but then I decided I had enough….for now. Writing about what Philip Morris is doing does not bring missing episodes back sooner. I do believe he has a lot of stuff but that is all for another time. My focus had shifted from what this site is about and what I vowed to do when I created it.

I decided to create From the Archive: A British Television Blog in 2007 for a couple of reasons. One reason was that after I finished grad school that I was accustomed to writing papers of mass-volume weekly. I didn’t want to completely lose that skill. I was already picking British television programs randomly to watch on the weekends so this seemed like a fun extension of that. Then, there was a man named Andy Henderson.
At the time I started my site, Andy was writing a blog called The Lost British Television Blog Site. It was what I always wanted my site to strive to become. This site was all about lost British television but not the stuff one always associates with the subject. It wasn’t articles only about Dad’s Army or Doomwatch but of stuff that had deeper connections to the earliest days of British television. I consider myself a collector of this material but he truly was the greatest at it. His site would publish articles that would educate people. By the time I was done reading an article, I was smarter for it. I use the word article. He did not do blog posts, he would write articles. They were informed by his expertise. It is one of those sites that I would not know what he was talking about but was glad he wrote about it; I learned from him.

There was one thing he was adamant about. Doctor Who is not the only lost British television series. It shouldn’t always be about Doctor Who. It is certainly the most known program to be lost but it is not the only one. Most of us know this but it is important, at least for me, to not to lose sight of this. I specifically started this site to showcase other series beyond Doctor Who. It is very reasonable that with the 50th anniversary year that a lot of attention went to this series and don’t get me wrong, I love Doctor Who. Doctor Who introduced me to a load of other British television series that I now adore. When I think of British television, I always set Doctor Who to the side. It’s too special to be lumped in with the other series. Just look around the site and there is a ton of evidence to suggest how much I adore it. I just want to make sure I don’t lose sight on the fact that not only is there a lot of great television out there; there is a lot of great missing television that is not Doctor Who. How does one rectify this situation?
In a couple of weeks, I plan on writing an article called “Missing Believed Wiped in St. Michael”. I look at the 2003 Timeshift documentary about the subject and I pick 4 episodes of something that has relatively recently been returned. Not Doctor Who. For this, I will need your help to give me direction on what to watch. I am going to spend some time writing articles on archival programs on Warped Factor where a lot of the content is more current. On their site, there is a need for articles on Doomwatch, Survivors, Adam Adamant Lives, etc and I have been asked to fill that void. I am very humbled by the offer and I accept. Currently, my 3 part article about Quatermass II is getting a run on the site. There will be more to come. Finally, I will continue to run articles on this site about the programs that might not exist in full. Today I look at such a series.

Back in April of 2012, I wrote an article about A For Andromeda titles Yay For Andromeda. It was a decent overview of the entire story, some background information and a form of tribute to Peter Halliday who had recently passed away. As far as an overview for the first series, I thought it came out pretty well. Jumping to May of 2014, as for picking an article that I would write next I randomly had chosen once again A For Andromeda. Anyone who knows this site well knows that I generally watch the last episode of a series during May. I do so because it mimics a network television season in the US. I thought this was a great idea to watch some of this series again. I hadn’t seen any of it since I watched it for my article two years ago.
The premise of the series thus far is pretty simple. As the series opens, Professor Reinhart oversees the construction of a new radio telescope designed by John Fleming (Halliday) and Dennis Bridger. Fleming is a bit of a hot head and is very passionate about what he is doing and what he believes in. They pick up a signal from the Andromeda Nebula. Fleming believes it is a computer program. Fleming deciphers further to realize that the message is to build a more powerful and complex computer. Fleming gets the help from a young assistant named Christine. Meanwhile Bridger has sold out to another international organization called Intel. It’s actually kind of funny that Bridger gives information about a powerful computer to a company named Intel. Don’t forget this was 1961! Intel is represented by a man named Kaufman played by John Hollis.

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.
The Face of the Tiger TX: 7/11/61

Andromeda creates a program that helps deter the enemies of the UK who are firing missiles over the country as a show of power.  Andromeda is even going to create and enzyme which will heal damaged cells. No one is listening to the warnings from Fleming. He is worried about the Computer and Andromeda. He doesn’t trust either of them and knows that whatever their plan is will be dangerous to the human race. Fleming goes as far as trying to trick the computer into thinking Andromeda is dead. Once the Computer knows she isn’t, it punished Andromeda by making her touch the terminals on the Computer and she badly burns her hands. Yet she heals herself with the enzyme. As a way to get back Fleming, Andromeda does something to the enzyme to make everyone ill who is working on it. This includes Dawnay.
This is the sort of production I love. There are enemy agents who wish to do harm on the UK. They fire rockets over the UK but these enemy countries are never named. It’s like everybody knows who they are so they won’t say their name as if we are all supposed to know. It’s kind of like we can fill in the blank to whoever we want it to be. Another aspect to this episode I love is the entire Whitehall storyline. The fact that the workings of Thorness makes its way to the Prime Minister and he has a hand in the decisions being made to stop this threat from another country. This is the sort of thing I love in these telefantasy series that go right back to Quatermass. It’s heavily seen in series such as Doctor Who, Timeslip, Adam Adamant Live! and of course Doomwatch. It’s part of the storyline to these series I never get bored of when I watch it. There is something procedural & English proper about it that I love even when they are doing something underhanded. It probably bores people to tears but it really fascinates me. Kind of like The Sandbaggers which is a series about people going from one government office to another to have meetings. There might be something about spying involved with that too. Yet for some reason it is really good.

We start to see Fleming press his luck in this episode. By this point, he is no longer someone anyone listens to at Thorness. He believes the super computer built and Andromeda herself have malevolent intent. No one will listen to him. He even tries to push Andromeda to see what she really is. There is a sequence literally about good touch and bad touch with her. He wants to see how she reacts to these sensations. He is curious if there is anything human about her or if she has purely taken a human form. He kisses her to see her reaction. Maybe it is for his own benefit. Who knows?
The Last Mystery TX: 14/11/61

Everything is too much for Fleming who finally gets access to go back into the Computer room and destroys it. It no longer has a hold over Andromeda. We learn that Andromeda hated the Computer but had no choice but to do what it wanted. Fleming knows that although the Computer is destroyed, the original code to make it still exists in the room. He persuades Andromeda to go back to the room and set fire to all the notes and codes. Troops at Thorness begin a massive hunt for Andromeda. Fleming tries to save her and they flee on boat to an island. It all ends suddenly as they try to escape Andromeda falls into a deep pool and apparently drowns.
The ending feels odd compared to the rest of the story. It all happens so fast. Andromeda is suddenly gone and there is a loss. Even just seeing her in a couple of episodes, I feel the emptiness that Fleming feels. It’s very strange.

The whole thing about the enzyme is odd to me. I am going to check the script but there is no mention of Dawnay recovering in the reconstruction. Mary Morris is not in the final episode. We know she must since she is back in The Andromeda Breakthough. It is clear that Fleming corrected the formula that Andromeda gave to Dawnay so one could make the leap that the antidote was given to Dawnay in time to save her. I do find it hard to believe that it would be Fleming to know how to correct the formula and not Dawnay. In fact I am surprised that she didn’t catch the problem to begin with. I would have thought Dawnay would have been more skilled at that than Fleming. I also love the fact the Jack May (one of my favourite character actors) is in this as Major Quadring (episodes 3 & 7) yet he is awfully blood thirsty. Once Andromeda turns on them by destroying the computer and fleeing, he wants her shot. I would think that the Prime Minister might have some different ideas about that.
I really do think that this production propelled the BBC into modern looking and feeling television productions than before. It is really fun and a privilege to watch the Quatermass serials and watch them progress into more contemporary looking productions especially with Quatermass and the Pit really standing out but even that still has the look of a 1950s production.

There is something really slick and cool about A For Andromeda. This goes beyond the look of the settings but also the people. I have said before that Julie Christie in this role is just a beautiful woman but as I was watching this, I would go as far as her being in this is the BBC equivalent to Ursula Andress coming out of the sea in Dr.No. It was like the beginning of the modern era of women in British television. She was a sexy woman who was powerful. She commanded every scene she was in. She was simply captivating.
I think the opening credits are some of the most haunting of any series. It is serious eerie music with visuals of outer space and familiar smoke (looks like from the 1954 production of Nineteen Eighty-Four). This emotionless head of the Greek goddess Andromeda turns to stare blankly at us. Purely wonderful stuff. I also laugh at the fact that the credits incorporate that Hartnell font for the credits. Of course calling it a font is horribly wrong if not also calling it Hartnell since this series came first but my point is made. Or so I think!

The existing film footage looks good. I really never noticed it before but The Face of the Tiger has what appear to be tramlines going down the left side of the screen. I also never put it together that there is something substantial missing from the episode. Each episode starts off with a segment from Professor Reinhart that takes place some years after the events of the episodes we are about to see. All the episodes have this yet the footage is not part of the episode returned. In the Viewing Notes for this release written by Andrew Pixley on page 28, he states “During the development of this DVD set, the return of the penultimate A For Andromeda episode, The Face of the Tiger, was returned to the BBC as a 16mm overseas film recording in an arrangement brokered by Ian Levine and Ralph Montagu.” I tried to get a hold of Andrew Pixley and Ralph Montagu for this article to see if they could elaborate on the episode find but I could not get a hold of them in time. I also tried to see if Ian Levine could shed some light on how this episode was returned but did not have time to do so. Hopefully I can update this article in the future to get some further detail on this. I certainly would like to know.
The final episode, The Last Mystery, has a surprising amount of material existing for it. In fact the final two reels. I still desperately want to hear the audio that has been found of the complete episode made at the time of broadcast. I am hoping that this becomes available to all of us at some point.

It also needs to be pointed out that most of episode 7 was presented as a telesnap reconstruction. I go into great detail about this reconstruction and telesnaps in general in the original article located here. I also mention how Derek Handley put this together. I have always enjoyed his work but didn’t realize more of a background story of the reconstruction. Here is information that Richard McGinlay left in the comments section of my original article, “The reconstruction works well, though it could have been a little better. This is not Derek Handley's fault, by the way. I have read elsewhere (on a forum post by Handley himself) that he was specifically asked by the DVD producers to provide captions for the telesnaps, which would play like a manually operated photo gallery, with each image advanced by the viewer using his/her remote control. Derek suggested that a video file might make for a more pleasurable viewing experience, but the producers insisted that they just wanted stills and captions. Afterwards, somebody (not Derek) edited the images and captions into video files! I'm sure that if Handley had been allowed to supply video files in the first place, he would have combined the stills and clips in a more seamless fashion, blending the title sequence with the episode title telesnap, for example, or prefacing the car park clip with a still frame from the start of that clip rather than a blank screen and caption. Just occasionally I got a bit confused because (I think) an incorrect character name is used once or twice in the captions.” It’s very interesting especially as I quite like the reconstruction but I see what Richard means. If Richard’s name seems familiar he is one of the authors of the excellent The Strange Case of the Missing Episodes – The Lost Stories of The Avengers Series 1. This fantastic book can be purchased here.
When speaking of Andy Henderson, I make it sound like he was dead. To my knowledge he is not. He just stopped his site and took it all down. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was because people kept asking him about Doctor Who. Would Andy be proud of me for trying to write about British television that was maybe a little lesser known and not Doctor Who or that his sight heavily influenced what eventually became my site? No, in fact I think he would be quite mortified. I always got the impression he didn’t like Americans. Knowing that doesn’t bother me a bit. Little did he realize that he inspired at least one person. Even if that person is a rotten Yank!

Next Review: Us rotten Yanks have been lucky. As I pointed out in my Poirot Series 12 review, the US gets Blu Ray releases of these series a lot of other countries don’t. A great example of this came out May 27th with the Doctor Who origins docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time. I will look at this really good value 3-disc set.
Next week: It is an interesting American perspective to think all of their favourite BBC series came from BBC1. In 2004, I was quite surprised to find that so many things that I assumed aired on BBC1 actually aired on BBC2. Did you know BBC2 turned 50 in April? I am going to spend time watching a program created in 2004 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of BBC 2 by decade and also explain how ignorant someone can be just because something has the number two behind it and not number one.

Have a great week!

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