of the original ‘Seventies movie will probably be irked by the new
mini-series remake of The Andromeda Strain . . .
Less demanding viewers and sci-fi fans who haven’t seen
the original movie or read the 1969
novel by Michael (Jurassic Park,
Westworld) Crichton would most likely
find it to be average —
if somewhat over-familiar
— viewing. The production values (sets, special effects, soundtrack,
photography, etc.) are of a high, almost movie, quality. The acting is
also pretty decent on the whole too. (Tony and Ridley Scott served as
executive producers on the project, by the way.)
To recap: a deadly bacteria
— code-named The
— is let loose after
a US government satellite crash-lands in Utah. The bacteria unleashes a
lethal plague that wipes out an entire town leaving only two survivors
— an old man and an
— to provide clues as
to immunizing the population. As the military tries to contain the
spreading disaster, a hastily assembled team of scientists try to figure
out a cure and stop the virus from spreading.
This new version of Crichton’s novel now runs four hours and it will be
broadcast in two parts on A&E television on 26 and 27 May in
To inflate the running time, the new mini-series adds all kinds of
material not found in the original movie which after all only ran for
about two hours. In addition to updating events to what seems to an
unspecified future a few years away from our own time, it also adds an
X-Files-like subplot about shady government
officials wanting to cover their asses and an investigative TV reporter
hot on their trail. It also adds several subplots involving a romance
between members of the scientific team and a pointless back-story for one
scientist involving a moody teenager son and a disenchanted ex-wife.
"Average, if somewhat over-familiar . . ."
Add to this some action scenes no doubt inserted with an eye on the
trailer as well as bits cribbed from other Michael Crichton books such as
killer nanotechnology (Prey) and a satellite investigating a
wormhole (Sphere) and you have something
that plays a bit like a Michael Crichton ‘Greatest Hits’ compilation.
was as if the writers decided early on that the source material
— which is after all
about a bunch of scientists spewing techno babble for most of the time
— wouldn’t be enough
to sustain the interest of modern, impatient viewers. To a degree they are
right. Andromeda Strain with its ‘unknown disease of the week’ plot
is something which has been done to death in anything from movies such as
Outbreak to endless TV shows such as
and the like. Unknown viruses and government cover-ups may have been new
back in 1971 (before Watergate) when the first movie was made, but today
it all feels stale. The extra subplots also free the action up from its
claustrophobic underground lab setting. Whether or not this is a good
thing is debatable however.
This new Andromeda Strain will no doubt have fans of the original fuming
because of all the changes it made, but we found that it passes the “would I want to watch the next
instalment?” test. Yes, we were intrigued enough to want to do so
— except that A&E
reps never bothered sending us the second episode. So come on here!
original A&E television event will premiere in High Definition on
Monday, May 26 from 9-11 PM ET/PT and Tuesday, May 27 from 9-11 PM ET/PT.
Based on the best-selling novel from Michael Crichton, the miniseries
stars Benjamin Bratt, Eric McCormack, Ricky Schroder, Andre Braugher,
Christa Miller, Daniel Dae Kim and Viola Davis.
Strain is produced by Scott Free Productions and
Traveler’s Rest Films in association with Universal Pictures for A&E
Network. Executive producers are Ridley Scott,
Tony Scott and David W. Zucker for Scott Free
and Tom Thayer for Traveler’s Rest Films. Mikael
Salomon is director and co-executive producer and the screenplay is
written by Robert Schenkkan.