Shiny Shelf

Andromeda A1.1

By Mark Clapham on 08 November 2002

Coming so soon after the first releases of ‘Enterprise’, this initial volume of ‘Andromeda’ raises an important question – do we really need two ‘Trek-to-basics’ space opera shows?

Both series are clearly based around the idea of cutting through the problems with modern Trek and getting back to the days of fist fights and beautiful alien women. Both shows are also created by the architects of recent incarnations of Trek – in the case of ‘Andromeda’ post-DS9 bod Robert Hewitt Wolfe. There are fundamental differences in approach, though. While ‘Enterprise’ dodges the Federation’s tedious utopia by going back to the early days of humanity’s exploration of space, ‘Andromeda’ goes beyond the fall of the Feder- sorry, the System’s Commonwealth, stranding idealistic hero Dylan Hunt and his ship the Andromeda Ascendant in a more compromised time.

It’s a smart move – as the representative of an omnipresent superstate, recent Star Fleet Captains have been little more than dull authority figures bolstering the status quo. Dylan Hunt is a different character – his principals aren’t backed up by a space empire, he’s struggling to spread them against the backdrop of a barbarised universe.

There’s also plenty of hints that Dylan may be a fanatic rather than a hero to muddy the moral waters nicely.

The two-part opener, ‘Under The Night’ and ‘An Affirming Flame’ see Dylan and the Andromeda Ascendant falling into a time distortion which causes their personal time to freeze, and being salvaged centuries later. Needless to say Dylan is less than happy to find his ship being fought over for scrap, and even less pleased to discover that the Commonwealth is long gone. It’s a good pilot for the series, introducing a set of strong, flawed and conflicting characters. Dylan’s new crew – recruited from the salvage team who attempted to take his ship – are not going to follow him meekly, and have no reason to believe he can genuinely restore the Commonwealth. Its an intriguing and well executed start to the series.

‘To Loose The Fateful Lightning’ is less successful, a bog standard SF story about children growing up with only handed down knowledge, aping the beliefs of their forefathers. If nothing else the episode shows the production team are willing to be fairly hardcore in their approach to threats, with the apocalyptic nova bombs a suitably destructive and spectacular menace. ‘D Minus Zero’ is straightforward ship-bound tension as Beka and Tyr lobby for command of the ship – no quick-fix instant loyalty for Dylan here – while ‘Double Helix’ is a strong Tyr episode that, while sluggish in places, shows the characters viewpoint without making him too human or fluffy.

This is a good show, and when it launched it was a much needed remedy to the sanitised likes of ‘Voyager’. Edgy, pacy and with a nice line in computer generated effects, it’s an exciting hour of space opera every week. Can it survive now it has a competent rival in ‘Enterprise’? Will ‘Firefly’ knock both off their perches? Time will tell. For now this double disc set is a good introduction to an underrated show.

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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named

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