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DVD Review

DVD cover

The Andromeda Strain


Starring: Benjamin Bratt, Eric McCormack, Christa Miller, Daniel Dae Kim, Paul Perri and Viola Davis
Distributor: Fabulous Films / Fremantle Media Enterprises
RRP: £29.99
Certificate: 15
Release Date: 11 May 2015

When a US military satellite, called project scoop, crashes to the ground it releases a deadly virus, which kills a whole town. Only a baby and a drunk survive the initial exposure. The Wildfire protocol is enacted bringing together an elite group of scientist who will either find a cure or die trying...

The Andromeda Strain (2008) is a science fiction thriller, partially based on the original novel by Michael Crichton, directed by Mikael Salomon. I say partially because the 1971 film by Robert Wise is closer to the book than this event television. The show was nominated for fourteen awards, but failed to win a single one.

For the most part the story follows that of the book, following the Wildfire team as they are sequestered in a remote station to work on and understand the virus. The book and the film were claustrophobic affairs, with the scientists fighting against both time and their own creeping exhaustion. When it looks like the virus will escape the base, the nuclear bomb hidden there is activated.

This new version has gone one further and added in storylines which never originally existed, including a military/political conspiracy to cover up the accident and a reporter who is out to discover the truth. Now if they had just gone ahead and followed the book, or even remade the film, there would have be those who would complain that it was a pointless exercise. On the other hand if you expand the basic premise and set it in a contemporary setting then there will be those who complain that you’re just padding the original. Look how quickly Peter Jackson went from fantasy god for The Lord of the Rings to a philistine for his work on the Hobbit. So, it’s best to take the show for the thing it is.

What we find is that the best elements of the story still remain, the added military conspiracy adds to the tension, although just what the conspiracy is, is never really explained. The alcoholic news hound, Nash, fails to add much and his storyline takes up too much of the second half, bleeding the story of much of its pace. He’s not an audience-point-of-view character, well unless you’re an alcoholic reporter and if you are looking for one, there is a plethora of them in the scientific team. In an effort to transform a story of scientific discovery to a more traditional thriller, the show takes away more than it adds.

The change which I think most will object to involves the virus itself. In the original it was deadly and threatened to unleash a plague. The new version has the virus become so much more, so much so that it no longer behaves like a virus at all, but some Dues ex machine, being able to travel across land infecting plant life and animals, creating zombie birds. Even in my most forgiving moment this was a step too far, making something which should be scary to something which feels a little silly.

The two disc DVD set comes with a number of extras. Terra Incognito: Making the Andromeda Strain (26 min, 07 sec) has the cast and crew talking about the story, the cat and some nice information about the design of the show as well as the special effects shots. Disc one also has a full length commentary for the first half of the show, which was created as two episodes about an hour and a half long. The commentary features director Mikael Salomon, Executive Producers David Zucker and Tom Thayer as well as Editor Scott Vickrey. Overall, it’s informative and well worth a listen.

Disc two has a visual effects breakdown (15 min, 39 sec) there is no commentary attached just sequences which show you how the special effects were constructed. The second disc also contain the second part of the commentary.

The final show is a bit of a mixed bag, updating the story was a fine idea, but some of the elements just don’t work, including the heavy eco message or the absurd ending. The actors do well and the scientist capture the claustrophobia of the original, but in the end, the show, as a whole, is not as cohesive as either the book or the film.


Charles Packer

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