Review: Andromeda Season 1 / Cert: 15 / Director: Various / Screenplay: Various / Starring: Kevin Sorbo, Lisa Ryder, Gordon Michael Woolvett, Laura Bertram, Keith Hamilton Cobb, Brent Stait / Release Date: June 24th
Andromeda was based on an idea by Gene Roddenberry and developed after his death by Robert Hewitt Wolfe, who had previously worked on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Introduced like that, it sounds like a painful exercise in scraping the bottom of the barrel, but among late Nineties/early Noughties SF shows it's actually quite a plum.
After a raging battle, Captain Dylan Hunt (Sorbo) and his starship, the Andromeda Ascendant, pride of the Systems Commonwealth, get trapped in the event horizon of a black hole, where they are frozen in time. Three hundred years later, the Andromeda is pulled free by a ragtag salvage team. In the interim, the Commonwealth has collapsed and the galaxies have degenerated into a state of dog-eat-dog anarchy. Hunt decides to put the pieces of the Commonwealth back together, and he cajoles his unwitting rescuers into helping him with this Herculean task.
Robert Hewitt Wolfe's approach would nowadays be called Whedonesque. The tone is much more informal than that of the various Star Trek series. Everyone's on first name terms, and Hunt's (sorry, Dylan's) attempts to impose military discipline on his civilian crew are doomed to failure. (“Captain on deck!” the ship's AI declares grandly in one episode, while everyone slouches around indifferently, picking their nails.) Instead, the feel is of a dysfunctional family, with Hunt and First Officer Beka Valentine (Ryder) as long-suffering mum and dad, the bat-faced Rev Bem (Stait) as the kindly uncle, dreadlocked badass Tyr Anasazi (Cobb) as the surly and rebellious elder son, and with two squabbling kids in the form of brilliant but mischievous engineer Seamus Harper (Woolvett) and clueless Environmental Sciences officer Trance Gemini (Bertram) a dippy purple flower child with a prehensile tail.
It's a delightfully motley cast of characters, and the scripts by Wolfe and his writing team are brimming with witty interplay. The show has no lack of darker themes – Hunt regularly encounters bitterness and mistrust from planets that remember only the bad things about the Commonwealth – but what really distinguishes it is this lively sense of the absurd, as when the crew hosts a diplomatic dinner for a race of bubbly-voiced gill people who do everything to ear-piercing musical cues. It's bright, brash and doesn't take itself too seriously, while still just about steering on the right side of camp, and on the whole it's very endearing.
Looks-wise, Andromeda is very much of its time, but most of the early Noughties CGI pass muster and the alien prosthetics, although a little panto-ish in design, are well executed. The picture, digitally enhanced for this HD release, is as sharp as a Nietzschean bone blade, and the show's pageant-like colour palette is now almost shockingly vivid. All in all, a Stellar Level event for fans of science fiction telly.
Extras: Alternate takes / Bloopers / Deleted Scenes