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Series / A for Andromeda

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Julie Christie as Andromeda and Peter Halliday as John Fleming.

"Our intelligence is going to take over and yours is going to die. You'll go the way of the dinosaurs."

British television Sci-Fi drama serial broadcast in 1961, written by famous cosmologist Fred Hoyle in partnership with television producer John Elliot. The series took place in the future, specifically the years 1970 to 1972.

A radio message from the distant Andromeda galaxy gives instructions on how to build a Master Computer which can aid mankind. The computer then creates synthetic lifeforms to serve it — first a protoplasmic organism, and then a beautiful Emotionless Girl whom the scientists call Andromeda. When Andromeda helps resolve an international crisis, hot-headed mathematician John Fleming believes that the computer and its creation are planning to make the world dependent on them, with the eventual goal of superseding humanity altogether.

A for Andromeda has been remade twice; first by the Italian television station RAI in 1972 and later by the BBC in 2006. A sequel The Andromeda Breakthrough was made by the BBC in 1962, with Susan Hampshire as Andromeda. Roger Fleming and Andromeda are kidnapped and taken to a Middle Eastern country where another computer has been built by MegaCorp Intel, based on stolen plans of the first. At the same time freak weather conditions herald the End of the World as We Know It, and the scientists must make use of the computer in an attempt to avert the disaster.

The two serials contain the following tropes:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Set ten years on from when it was broadcast.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: This has been designed into the computer from the beginning.
  • Alien Invasion: By proxy.
  • Artificial Human
  • Bald of Evil: Intel hatchetman Herr Doktor Kaufman.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The fire axe installed in the computer room, used by Fleming to destroy the computer. In "Breakthrough" it's the early reference to freak weather conditions.
  • The Chessmaster: The computer
    Fleming: "How did you know he would do that?"
    Andromeda: "It has been calculated."
  • Computer Equals Tape Drive: Averted. Fleming has to destroy all the components of the computer, plus the original radio message, to ensure its destruction.
  • Creepy Monotone: Andromeda. In "Breakthrough", Gamboule after seeing the message.
  • Death from Above: Britain finds itself being overflown by satellite bombs launched by an unknown power, and uses the computer to design a rocket capable of shooting them down.
  • Eagleland: Inverted with government officials becoming arrogant once they realise that their ownership of the computer means Britain no longer has to play second fiddle to the United States.
  • Giant Eye of Doom: The protoplasmic lifeform stares out of its tank with a single giant eye. Unsurprisingly the scientists call it Cyclops.
  • Hard-Work Montage
  • Hollywood Science: Averted as Fred Hoyle is a noted astronomer, best known for his work on the understanding of the creation of the elements through stellar nucleosynthesis, for developing the steady state theory of the universe, and for coining the term "Big Bang". He already had a taste for science fiction, having written a novel The Black Cloud in 1957.
  • Interface with a Familiar Face: Andromeda looks exactly like a female operator killed earlier by the computer (except she's now blonde). The computer used the woman's death to gain all the knowledge it needed to create an Artificial Human.
  • Is That a Threat?
    Fleming: "Becoming quite indispensable, aren't you?"
    Andromeda: "Please be careful what you say."
    Fleming: "Is that a threat?"
    Andromeda: "Yes."
  • MegaCorp: International trading consortium Intel, which isn't too particular about its methods.
  • Mind Control: The computer can directly control its synthetic lifeforms, and can brainwash susceptible people. However human greed and conflict are more effective means of extending its influence.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The computer reacts to Fleming's attempts to sabotage it with increasingly hostile acts. In the sequel it's revealed that one of those acts was to create the bacteria that's going to destroy all life on Earth.
  • Straw Vulcan: Andromeda gradually develops emotions, and when Fleming destroys the computer admits that she hated it. When Fleming asks why she didn't help him earlier, Andromeda replies that logic is more powerful than emotion, and that humans too are bound by the logic of a situation to continue on as always, even if they hate their circumstances.
  • Wetware Body: Andromeda, though she works in conjuction with the computer rather than having it downloaded into her head.
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: Fleming explains to Andromeda the difference between right and wrong ('nasty' and 'nice') by pinching, then caressing her. Later on Fleming grabs her for a snog, though by that stage she has already started to develop emotions, including concern for his life.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The computer kills Cyclops the moment Andromeda is created; our first indication that it is 'evil'.

The Andromeda Breakthrough also has:

  • A Child Shall Lead Them: Spoofed — Dr Dawnay is told that the ruler of Azaran is arriving, and is surprised when the door opens to admit a young boy. She starts to bow regardless...only for the real ruler, a middle-aged man, to walk through the door.
  • Back from the Dead: Andromeda apparently drowns after falling into a deep pool at the end of the first serial, but is shown to have survived.
  • Batman Gambit: Andromeda reveals at the end that the brutal nature of the first computer was deliberate so that mankind would step in and take control of it, and therefore its own destiny. Fleming suggests that bringing the world to the brink of disaster was part of its plan too.
  • Call-Back: When Fleming discovers that the computer has not been destroyed by the violent storms, we see him eyeing a fire axe.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Kaufman is allowed to become more human (though never to the extent of doing a Heel–Face Turn); in the first serial he's more of a Smug Snake.
  • Hollywood Silencer: The bowler-hatted Intel assassin uses a .25 Beretta with a miniscule silencer that makes so little sound it can be covered by a camera flash.
  • Improperly Placed Firearms: The British soldiers who recapture Fleming carry World War II Lee Enfield bolt-action rifles and a German MP40 submachine gun (the soldiers in the first serial are correctly armed with L1A1 self-loading rifles).
  • Just Friends: Fleming on his relationship with Andromeda (though he kisses her at the end).
    "We are what is popularly known as just friends."
  • Qurac: Azaran, a newly-independent Middle Eastern country which hopes to use the computer to resolve its agricultural problems.
  • Reluctant Mad Scientist: Scientists are lured to Azaran by Intel under various pretexts, whereupon they discover You Can Never Leave.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: The hermit, implied by his possession of a German MP40 submachine gun and his desire to live away from human contact.
  • Trolling Translator: When Kaufman announces that Intel has effectively taken over Azaran, the translator shows his disapproval by talking loudly over him. Also this scene:
    Kaufman: "The army and all other branches will report directly to the President. The present parliament will not be called back into session. Help will continue to be provided by..."
    (Translator gives long stream of Arabic)
    Kaufman: "...a new international technological and trading consortium..."
    Translator: "Intel."
    (Kaufman glares at translator)
  • Truth Serum: One of Intel's tools.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: The radio message warns that without intervention most intelligent life destroys itself, and the computer tries to set up a world dictatorship to avert this.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Gamboule goes Laughing Mad because she refuses to accept that the world is being destroyed. Eventually Kaufman locks her out on the balcony so she gets killed by a tornado.
  • Weather-Control Machine: The oceans are being filled with a bacteria that absorbs nitrogen, eventually killing off all plants and reducing the air pressure, reducing the ability to produce or (in animal life) absorb oxygen.
  • We Can Rule Together: While not stated in those terms, that is what Andromeda offers Fleming. When he says he's not interested, the computer takes over Intel director Gamboule instead.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Gamboule after she sees the message sent from the Andromeda galaxy.

Alternative Title(s): The Andromeda Breakthrough