John Edward Cooper’s Notes

HomeContentsAlphabetical listingWhom I’d like to meet in eternity…

A for Andromeda

Early Days

A for Andromeda was a British television science fiction drama serial, written by the noted cosmologist Fred Hoyle, in conjunction with author and television producer John Elliot, which was made and broadcast by the BBC in seven parts in 1961.
A group of scientists detect a radio signal, sent from a distant galaxy, which contains instructions for the design of an advanced computer. When the computer is built it gives the scientists instructions for the creation of a living organism, named Andromeda. However, one of Andromeda’s creators, John Fleming, fears that Andromeda’s purpose is to subjugate humanity.
My Mum pointed it out to me in Radio Times, thinking it might interest me.
It was shown on Tuesday evenings, which was when Mrs. Webb, the somewhat portly, silver-haired widow who lived next door, used to visit my Mum and Dad. I wanted to watch the programme, but they were talking so intrusively that it distracted me. The following weeks, Mrs. Webb let me go to her house to watch it on her TV.
The dates of transmission and the episodes were as follows:

“The Message” Tuesday 3rd October 1961
Britain, 1970—a new radio telescope, designed by the young scientists John Fleming (Peter Halliday) and Dennis Bridger (Frank Windsor) under the supervision of Professor Reinhart (Esmond Knight), has been built at Bouldershaw Fell. Shortly before its official opening, the telescope picks up a signal from the distant Andromeda Nebula. Examining the signal, Fleming realises that the signal is a computer program.
“The Machine” Tuesday 10th October 1961
Fleming is permitted to use the computer facilities at the London Institute of Electronics, where he is aided by Christine (Julie Christie). Using the computer to decode the message, Fleming realises that the message contains a set of instructions for the construction of another, more advanced, computer and for a program to run on it. Bridger, meanwhile, has sold out to an international conglomerate, Intel, represented by the sinister Kaufmann (John Hollis). The British government decides to build the computer—at a military establishment at Thorness in Scotland. The computer is switched on and begins to output its first set of instructions.
“The Miracle” Tuesday 17th October 1961
The team at Thorness is joined by the biologist Madeleine Dawnay (Mary Morris). The computer is outputting instructions for the creation of living cells. Fleming becomes nervous, worried that whatever lifeform they are creating may not have humanity’s best interests at heart. Dawney proceeds with the experiment, however, synthesising a primitive protoplasmic lifeform. In the meantime, Bridger’s leaking of Thorness’ secrets has been discovered. Bridger is confronted by Ministry of Defence agent Judy Adamson (Patricia Kneale); fleeing he tumbles over a cliff to his death.
“The Monster” Tuesday 24th October 1961
It is now 1971 and the protoplasmic lifeform, now nicknamed “Cyclops” on account of its giant eye, continues to grow. Fleming has become ever more sceptical about the project, certain that the computer has its own agenda. He comes to realise that two terminals positioned either side of the computer’s main display have the ability to affect the brainwaves of those who stand near it. His warnings are not heeded, however, and Christine, mesmerised by Cyclops and by the machine, is compelled to grasp the two terminals—she falls to floor, killed by a massive electric shock.
“The Murderer” Tuesday 31st October 1961
Following Christine’s death, the computer outputs a new set of instructions—this time for the creation of a complete human embryo. Fleming is horrified and demands that it be killed. He is ignored. The embryo rapidly grows to maturity; everyone is stunned when it is revealed to be a clone of the deceased Christine. The creature—which they name “Andromeda”—quickly learns to communicate and is brought before the computer. The computer, realising its instructions have been carried out, destroys Cyclops as it has been superseded by Andromeda.
I remember Alan Clapp in my form, 1A, at Fleetwood Grammar School,[more] trying to taunt a girl in our form-room at Broadway, and saying to her, “You’re only TWO!” She didn’t know what he meant, and he added, “—like Andromeda.”

“The Face of the Tiger” Tuesday 7th November 1961
Andromeda is put to work developing a program to enable Britain to intercept orbital missiles which a foreign power is firing over British airspace as a demonstration of power. Using the missiles designed by Andromeda they are successful in destroying one of the missiles. The Government is now determined to make full use of Andromeda, not just for defence but also to aid industry. Fleming continues to make trouble and has his access to the computer revoked. He is horrified to discover that the Government has made a trade deal with Kaufmann and Intel for the rights to a new enzyme that Andromeda has developed that heals injured cells. By this stage, Dawnay is also beginning to have doubts about Andromeda—she agrees to aid Fleming by entering a program into the computer to convince it Andromeda is dead. The program is quickly discovered and reversed by Andromeda. However, the computer soon exacts its revenge—it corrupts the formula for the enzyme, making Dawnay and her assistants sick.
“The Last Mystery” Tuesday 14th November 1961
It is 1972 and the message from Andromeda has stopped transmitting. Fleming has been able to determine the correct formula to counteract the effects of the enzyme and save Dawnay. Fleming, Dawnay, Reinhart and Judy now agree that Andromeda must be stopped—however, the military now have control over the project. Andromeda tries to kill Fleming but fails; she confesses to Fleming that she is a slave of the computer which is working to take over humanity. Fleming gains entry to the computer room where he takes an axe to the machine, destroying it. Now free of the machine Andromeda is able to access the safe that contains the copies of the original message with the instructions for building the computer which she burns so that the machine cannot be rebuilt. She flees with Fleming to one of the islands near the base. Pursued by soldiers, they hide in a series of caves on the island. However, Andromeda is apparently killed when she falls into a deep pool. The dejected Fleming is brought back to Thorness by the soldiers.
In my imagination, Rainmac-Crocodiles[1] rescued Andromeda, and recruited her and Fleming into the organisation. So it was a bit awkward when, the following year, the BBC produced a follow-up series, The Andromeda Breakthrough, in which Fleming rescued Andromeda. What’s more, in my mind, Andromeda looked like Julie Christie, but in The Andromeda Breakthrough the part of Andromeda was played by Susan Hampshire.
[1] Rainmac-Crocodiles are introduced in Class 4: Rainmac and the Jake Lads.

Comments: Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]