A couple of years ago I wrote articles about the one-and-a-bit remaining episodes of A for Andromeda, the 1961 sci-fi series. It has taken me two years to get around to the sequel from 1962, due to the difficulty in getting hold of these episodes. They were released on DVD in 2006 in a box set with the first series, titled The Andromeda Anthology, but the set has long since gone out of production and now exchanges hands for silly prices on the second hand market. Patience pays off, and I finally found a set listed for a reasonable price and snapped it up. At last I can find out what happened next to John Fleming, Madeleine Dawnay, and the sinister Kaufman…
… and Andromeda, because it’s very soon revealed that she is still alive. I complained in my review of the final episode of the first season that her apparent death seemed unnecessary, “only serving to provide a fairly pointless emotional beat at the end.” Her survival makes that even more pointless, but I think these two seasons are best viewed as one long story, and then that becomes nothing more than a fairly weak cliffhanger between episodes. Considering we never saw the aliens who started this whole story in motion, or learnt much about them at all, A for Andromeda did feel like an unfinished series, ending in a pause rather than a finale.
In any case, Cold Front makes no concessions to anyone who hasn’t watched and remembered the first season. We pick up where we left off, and very soon Fleming has gone off in search of Andromeda, found her in a bad way, revived her with some alcohol, and they have gone off together, on the run from the authorities.
Most of the episode concerns Fleming and Andromeda trying not to be found, and the place where they hide is very atmospheric: an old hermit’s cottage in a storm. The severe weather conditions seem to have some significance beyond random chance, adding another layer to the mystery. The cottage is on a tiny island off the coast of Soay, itself a very small island near Skye, and the only inhabitant is an eccentric recluse who lives in the cottage. He’s a funny old chap. When he gets shot, his main concern is his furniture:
“It’ll stain the cushions.”
The reason he gets shot is a failed attempt to capture Fleming and Andromeda, organised by Kaufman and his associate Colonel Salim. Earlier this year I wrote about the Columbo episode A Case of Immunity, which featured “a guy named Barry playing the King of Suari, and he’s the least convincing Arab I’ve ever seen.” The Andromeda Breakthrough gives that episode a run for its money, with our very own Arab Barry: hailing from the Republic of Azaran, one of those generic invented Middle Eastern countries that used to pop up in 60s and 70s dramas all the time, Salim is played by Barry Linehan in blackface makeup. That sort of thing unfortunately tends to come with the territory if you want to watch 60s shows. Salim is the usual cliché of a shifty Arab, tricking Madeleine into having some kind of a truth drug jabbed into her arm.
All in all, I thought this was an excellent start to the second season, ending in an exciting revelation: another computer has been built to the alien specifications, and this time its in the hands of an enemy state. But the relationship between Fleming and Andromeda remains at the heart of this show. Andromeda, now played by Susan Hampshire because Julie Christie was unavailable, has childlike characteristics, most noticeably when Fleming returns to the cottage and she throws her arms around his neck and clings on, not wanting to let go. Her dependency on him is probably indicative of fantasy fulfilment from the writers, but it’s cute, and Fleming is fast becoming a very watchable hero, after a shaky start in the first season.
One final thought: the owner of the hermit’s cottage, Adrian Preen, gives the following reason for living on his own on a remote island:
“I grew tired of complaining about lunacy and decided it was more sensible to avoid it.”
If that’s what he thought of Britain in the 1960s, what would be think of us today? Anyone got an island for sale? RP
Read next in the Junkyard… The Andromeda Breakthrough: Gale Warning
To grow tried of complaining about something and therefore finding more sense in avoiding it is of course relatable. Even if it seems like wishful thinking when it comes to psychological instability in a country. A For Andromeda, like most sci-fi for its time, may have helped us to find a way to face a lot of our unavoidable dramas of life. The one choice everyone clearly has is whether we live alone on a remote island or truly live out there in the world and make the best of it that we can. That can always be a good reason for sci-fi fans of today to catch up on exciting sci-fi from the old days like A For Andromeda on the Junkyard. Thank you, RP. 🌌
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