A for Andromeda: The Last Mystery

A for Andromeda The Last MysteryLast week I wrote about The Face of The Tiger, the sixth episode of A for Andromeda, and the only one that exists complete (well, almost) in the archives. However, it is also possible to get a very good impression of the final episode as well, from what survives. The second half of the episode exists, and if you can track down a copy of the DVD set you will also find there the scripts for all the episodes, plus telesnaps (photos taken of a television screen when the series was originally broadcast). The soundtrack to this episode, and only this episode, also exists, but frustratingly it was only found after the DVD was released, so there is not currently any way to enjoy that, unless you know the right people I suppose. And I’ve rarely found myself in the happy position of being one of the “right people” in life. Even without that, the telesnaps for the first half of the episode and the existing second half combine to give a reasonably clear picture of how this fascinating series ended.

Let’s start by dealing with the missing first half of the episode. We ended last week’s episode with the shock revelation that Prof. Dawnay and her colleagues had been poisoned by the computer. That is resolved between episodes, with Fleming having found a cure and administered it. Apart from providing a pretty good cliffhanger ending, this plot strand was therefore largely pointless, and I can only guess that it played out in such a hand-waved manner to avoid paying Mary Morris a fee for appearing in the last episode. She will be back for the second season, which I am yet to watch.

As annoying as it is to not be able to listen to the soundtrack to the first half of this episode, it seems to have been quite a visual experience anyway, and what I really regret is not being able to see Andromeda creeping around at night, planning to electrocute Fleming in his sleep. If it was anything like the atmospheric, moody night filming used in the second half of the episode, this would have been a visual treat. There is also a little clip from earlier in the episode of Andromeda approaching the camera, at a point when she is suffering an inner turmoil about working for the computer, and it’s a good indication of how strong the direction was for this episode.

The strong visuals continue for the final half of the episode, the bit that exists. We have just missed Fleming sneaking into the computer room in disguise, hiding as Andromeda enters, and Andromeda getting electrocuted by the machine. We have also missed Fleming smashing up the machine, but unable to access the code that would allow it to be rebuilt, and then Andromeda turning up at Fleming’s hut with her badly burnt hands in bandages. And then we’re into the live action. Poor Andromeda has been a victim in all this, working for the computer because she felt she had to, not because she wanted to, and ultimately she becomes a tool for Fleming to use in his battle against the machine instead. It’s hard to watch her suffering so much, going back into the computer room and struggling to destroy the code with her damaged hands. If you turn the volume up reasonably loud at this point you will be able to hear something you shouldn’t be able to hear: talkback from the gallery. Although this shouldn’t be audible, it’s actually a fascinating little insight into the value an astute director brings to a production like this, with Julie Christie asked to “wait a minute, wait a minute”, bringing a little pause into the scene at a moment that really helps the pacing. It’s hard to put into words why it works so well, but it’s just an interesting little instinctive note from the director.

With the computer destroyed, the army are out for blood, lead by Major Quadring (rich-voiced Jack May, who will be familiar to the Doctor Who fans as Hermack from The Space Pirates), and what remains is a lengthy chase sequence, ending in the demise of Andromeda. It’s a visual treat of night filming, with the action rapidly transitioning from land to boat, to caves on an island.

I enjoyed every minute of this episode, but I can’t pretend it’s a great conclusion to the story. The computer is destroyed relatively easily in the end, without any opposition from the military or the machine itself, which feels like something that might as well have happened a couple of weeks ago. Andromeda’s death seems unnecessary, only serving to provide a fairly pointless emotional beat at the end. It’s all a bit hollow, and straightforward. It would have been better to see the problem solved in a more intelligent way than with an axe and some matches. The series also feels a bit lacking in the end because we never got to see or hear anything from the aliens who instigated this whole thing, and one wonders whether the destruction of the computer would achieve anything other than a delay to their plans, but maybe that’s deliberate, to leave things open for a second season.

Doctor Who tends to grab all the headlines when it comes to missing episodes, but there is so much more of our television heritage that has been sadly lost, presumably forever. The rest of this series would be very near the top of my wish list for any miraculous discoveries in future, but apart from that I’m happy to have been able to experience what remains, via the decent number of clips, telesnaps, and about three-quarters of the original footage for the final couple of episodes. For a 1961 production it’s pretty awesome, so I’ll give Andromeda an A.   RP

About Roger Pocock

Author of windowsintohistory.wordpress.com Co-writer on junkyard.blog Editor of frontiersmenhistorian.info
This entry was posted in Entertainment, Reviews, Science Fiction, Television and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to A for Andromeda: The Last Mystery

  1. scifimike70 says:

    Jack May is also familiar as Garkbit, the headwaiter of Milliways in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

    Liked by 1 person

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