Fans of the original ‘Seventies movie will probably be irked by the new mini-series remake of The Andromeda Strain . . .

Less demanding viewers and sci-fi fans who haven’t seen the original movie or read the 1969 novel by Michael (Jurassic Park, Westworld) Crichton would most likely find it to be average if somewhat over-familiar viewing. The production values (sets, special effects, soundtrack, photography, etc.) are of a high, almost movie, quality. The acting is also pretty decent on the whole too. (Tony and Ridley Scott served as executive producers on the project, by the way.)

To recap: a deadly bacteria code-named The Andromeda Strain is let loose after a US government satellite crash-lands in Utah. The bacteria unleashes a lethal plague that wipes out an entire town leaving only two survivors an old man and an small baby to provide clues as to immunizing the population. As the military tries to contain the spreading disaster, a hastily assembled team of scientists try to figure out a cure and stop the virus from spreading.

This new version of Crichton’s novel now runs four hours and it will be broadcast in two parts on A&E television on 26 and 27 May in High-Definition.

To inflate the running time, the new mini-series adds all kinds of material not found in the original movie which after all only ran for about two hours. In addition to updating events to what seems to an unspecified future a few years away from our own time, it also adds an X-Files-like subplot about shady government officials wanting to cover their asses and an investigative TV reporter hot on their trail. It also adds several subplots involving a romance between members of the scientific team and a pointless back-story for one scientist involving a moody teenager son and a disenchanted ex-wife.

"Average, if somewhat over-familiar . . ."

Add to this some action scenes no doubt inserted with an eye on the trailer as well as bits cribbed from other Michael Crichton books such as killer nanotechnology (Prey) and a satellite investigating a wormhole (Sphere) and you have something that plays a bit like a Michael Crichton ‘Greatest Hits’ compilation.

It was as if the writers decided early on that the source material which is after all about a bunch of scientists spewing techno babble for most of the time wouldn’t be enough to sustain the interest of modern, impatient viewers. To a degree they are right. Andromeda Strain with its ‘unknown disease of the week’ plot is something which has been done to death in anything from movies such as Outbreak to endless TV shows such as StarGate Atlantis, X-Files and the like. Unknown viruses and government cover-ups may have been new back in 1971 (before Watergate) when the first movie was made, but today it all feels stale. The extra subplots also free the action up from its claustrophobic underground lab setting. Whether or not this is a good thing is debatable however.

This new Andromeda Strain will no doubt have fans of the original fuming because of all the changes it made, but we found that it passes the “would I want to watch the next instalment?” test. Yes, we were intrigued enough to want to do so except that A&E reps never bothered sending us the second episode. So come on here!


This four-hour original A&E television event will premiere in High Definition on
Monday, May 26 from 9-11 PM ET/PT and Tuesday, May 27 from 9-11 PM ET/PT. Based on the best-selling novel from Michael Crichton, the miniseries stars Benjamin Bratt, Eric McCormack, Ricky Schroder, Andre Braugher, Christa Miller, Daniel Dae Kim and Viola Davis.

The Andromeda Strain is produced by Scott Free Productions and Traveler’s Rest Films in association with Universal Pictures for A&E Network. Executive producers are Ridley Scott, Tony Scott and David W. Zucker for Scott Free and Tom Thayer for Traveler’s Rest Films. Mikael Salomon is director and co-executive producer and the screenplay is written by Robert Schenkkan.




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