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A For Andromeda
BBC 1961
" Our intelligence is going to take over and yours is going to die. You'll go the way of the dinosaurs" -dialogue spoken by Andromeda
The Message
TX : 3rd October 1961

Synopsis : The year is 1970 and it is the event of the opening of a new giant radio-telescope. Professor Reinhart's (Esmond Knight) staff are making routine tests when something unexpected cuts across the usual background static of outer space and across all their lives.

Notes : A For Andromeda saw the screen debut of a fresh from drama school Julie Christie. Christie portrayed both the doomed lab assistant Christine and the mysterious Andromeda, but was unavailable to continue with the character in the sequel The Andromeda Breakthrough. Susan Hampshire would have the honour of this.


Publicity : The Radio Times dated 30th September 1961 trailed the first episode as follows:
A For Andromeda by Peter Browne. A new science-fiction series is an exciting prospect at any time. When it is backed by the authority of a scientist with the international reputation of Fred Hoyle, Professor of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy at Cambridge University, it ranks as a major television event. A For Andromeda, which begins tonight, has the special distinction of being soundly based on mathematical possibility.

Set in the near future, it opens as a group of scientists working with a powerful new radio-telescope pick up a strange message from outer space - from the constellation Andromeda. In six succeeding forty-five-minute episodes, played out against the stark background of a remote stretch of coast in the Western Isles, the dramatic story tells of the impact of an alien intelligence upon life on earth, and of the ruthless pursuit by rival factions of a secret on which the future of mankind may depend.

Fred Hoyle has established himself as a novelist as well as a scientist with two much-praised science-fiction books, The Black Cloud and Ossian's Ride. The original story of A For Andromeda was dictated on to a tape-recorder and then dramatized for television by John Elliot. The serties has an exceptionally authentic flavour, for in addition to Hoyle's unparalleled knowledge of his subject, producers Michael Hayes and Norman James have been able to enlist the cooperation of the computer and aircraft manufacturing industries, the Army and the R.A.F.

An outstanding cast includes Edmond Knight, Mary Morris, Noel Johnson, Maurice Hedley and Patricia Kneale. Peter Halliday, whom many viewers will remember in Stress Point and The Train Set, plays John Fleming, the brilliant young scientist whose discovery reveals that it can be dangerous to extend the frontiers of human knowledge too far, too quickly…


The Machine
TX : 10th October 1961

Synopsis : The radio message from outer space received on the new giant radio-telescope throws the country into a panic. Scientists, military, security forces, and a great international cartel are all competing for the information it contains. The only one with the answer is the young scientist John Fleming (Peter Halliday): "It's a do-it-yourself kit. And it isn't human!".

Notes : Seven scenes from this episode have survived and reside safely in the BBC archives.

Sir Fred Hoyle was a college professor and a respected astronomer and science fiction writer. He died aged 86 on August 20th 2001. His novels included The Black Cloud (1957) about an intelligent cloud around the sun. His only other piece of TV drama is the Andromeda's sequel The Andromeda Breakthrough.


Publicity : The Radio Times dated 5th October 1961 trailed the second episode as follows: The time is 1970. High in the Yorkshire Dales, while technicians are casually testing a giant new radio-telescope before its official opening, a totally unexpected sequence of dots and dashes is picked up, apparently from a source a thousand million million miles away in space - the constellation Andromeda. A brilliant, unconventional young scientist, John Fleming, makes tape-recordings of this strange sound which has taken two hundred years to reach the earth, and becomes convinced that it is sent by another intelligence. "It doesn't have to be flesh and blood - it doesn't have to be organic at all. Just an intelligence". In tonight's episode, the second of this exciting seven-part series based on an original story by Fred Hoyle, Professor of Astronomy at Cambridge and a noted science-fiction novelist, Fleming solves the riddle of the signal. It is a series of arithmetical instructions for building a computer of a size and complexity beyond anything in existence. As the implications of Fleming's discovery are realized in Whitehall the Minister of Science takes a hand. After Fleming's comment that "whatever intelligence sent this message is way ahead of us. We're just homo sapiens, plodding along", it is agreed at Cabinet level that the computer shall be built at a remote rocket establishment in the Western Isles. `Project Andromeda' is classified Top Secret … but it is a secret for which certain people are prepared to kill…


The Miracle
TX : 17th October 1961

Synopsis : John Fleming (Peter Halliday) interprets a message from outer space as a plan for the construction of a super computer. His colleague Dennis Bridger (Frank Windsor) sells information about the computer to an international cartel, and a Government agent following Bridger is killed. When the computer is built, it begins to print out information which only Fleming understands.

Notes : An extract from this episode was discovered in an edition of Points Of View, broadcast the day before episode six (The Face Of The Tiger) was transmitted. Frank Windsor, who portrayed Dennis Bridger, would later become an enduring character in Z Cars and its respective spin offs.

Publicity : The third episode also benefitted from publicity in the Radio Times dated 12th October: Behind barbed wire at Thorness, a remote rocket-testing base in the Western Isles, a group of scientists led by brilliant John Fleming are working on Project A For Andromeda. Strange signals picked up by a powerful radio-telescope from a source millions of miles away in outer space, somewhere in the constellation Andromeda, have been interpreted by Fleming as mathematical instructions for building a huge computer - an electronic "brain" - of fantastic complexity, and the decision has been taken at Cabinet level to go ahead and build it. In the third episode of the serial tonight the outstanding cast which already includes Edmond Knight, Noel Johnson, Peter Halliday, Patricia Kneale, and Julie Christie, will be further strengthened by the first appearance in it of Mary Morris, playing Professor Dawnay, a distinguished biologist who sees Project Andromeda as a heaven-sent opportunity for laboratory research. Miss Morris, like several other members of the cast, played a memorable part in the Age Of Kings Shakespeare series, of which Michael Hayes, co-producer of Andromeda, was director. For Julie Christie, on the other hand, the role of Christine is her first major one in television: Hayes discovered her recently at a drama school exercise.

The Monster
TX : 24th October 1961

Synopsis : John Fleming (Peter Halliday) and his colleague Bridger (Frank Windsor) have built a super computer to a plan received from outer space which acts as a means of communication between the source of the message in the constellation of Andromeda and the Earth. With the help of the computer, the scientists produce a synthesized living organism. Bridger, who has been selling information about the project, is arrested, escapes and, after a chase, falls to his death.

Notes : Major Quadring was played by Jack May who would later appear as butler William E Simms in Adam Adamant Lives!. Born in 1922 May also had genre credits in Dr Who (The Space Pirates), R3, The Avengers (The Secrets Broker), Out Of The Unknown (Stranger In The Family) and The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy. He was also an accomplished voice artist and provided the voice for the long running character Nelson Gabriel in Radio Fours The Archers and Igor in Count Duckula. He died in 1997.


The Murderer
TX : 31st October 1961

Synopsis : With the help of a computer designed from a message from outer space, Professor Dawnay (Mary Morris) succeeds in making and keeping alive a synthesized creature, and even makes it grow. The computer achieves a haphazard and unsatisfactory communication with the creature. Against his better judgement, Fleming (Peter Halliday), who built the computer, suggests arranging a direct electrical supply between it and the machine. Even this is not entirely satisfactory, and the computer, in an attempt to extend its knowledge of humanity, compels Christine (Julie Christie), one of Professor Dawnay's assistant, to take hold of the exposed terminals, and kills her.

Notes : A For Andromeda also featured another actor who would appear regularly in Adam Adamant Lives! in the form of Peter Ducrow who played super villain The Face against Gerald Harper's gentlemen adventurer.


The Face Of The Tiger
TX : 7th November 1961

Synopsis : The computer built by Fleming (Peter Halliday), from a design received in a message from space, begins to show its power. In spite of Fleming's warnings, Professor Dawnay continues to use it for her experiment in the synthesis of life. The final result of the experiment is a human body, which is christened Andromeda and which grows up to show a startling resemblance to the dead Christine. She is clearly in mental communication with the computer. When the international situation becomes desperate, the Prime Minister (Maurice Hedley) turns to Andromeda and the computer for help. Meanwhile, Kaufman's `Intel' organization becomes yet more deeply involved with Fleming's super-computer project.

Notes : This episode was returned to the BBC archives in 2006 after being in the hands of a private collector for several decades.

The series was transmitted between 8:30 pm and 9:15 pm.


The Last Mystery
TX : 14th November 1961

Synopsis : The computer designed by an intelligence from another world, and its girl-like creature Andromeda, provides the Government with a rocket capable of intercepting and destroying any space satellite. Everyone is delighted except Fleming (Peter Halliday), who refuses to see the conjunction of Andromeda and the computer as anything but a menace. He tries to sabotage the computer. It takes its revenge, but the blow falls by mistake on Professor Dawnay.

Notes : The last two reels of this episode (including the final scene and end credits) are held by the BBC archives.

Kenneth Kendall, a BBC television newsreader of the time, has a cameo in the series as a TV interviewer. This helped to provide a grounding in reality for the show as would Kendall's other telefantasy appearance in the Adam Adamant Lives! episode The Doomsday Plan.


Characters
Portrayed By
THE SCIENTISTS
 
John Fleming
Peter Halliday
Professor Reinhart
Esmond Knight
Professor Madeline Dawnay
Mary Morris
Dr Geers
Geoffrey Lewis
Christine/Andromeda
Julie Christie
Dennis Bridger
Frank Windsor
Harvey
John Murray-Scott
Dr Hunter
Peter Ducrow
THE SECURITY
 
Judy Adamson
Patricia Kneale
Major Quadring
Jack May
Harries
John Nettleton
WHITEHALL
 
J M Osborne
Noel Johnson
General Vanderberg
Donald Stewart
Minister of Science
Ernest Hare
The Prime Minister
Maurice Hedley
Minister of Defence
David King
INTEL
 
Kaufman
John Hollis
Egon
Peter Henchie

All episodes where directed and produced by Micheal Hayes and Norman Jones. The series was written by Fred Hoyle and John Eliott. Film Cameraman for the series was Peter Sargeant. Film Editor for the series was Agnes Evan. The series was designed by Norman James.


A true classic which, for its time, was a ground breaking production. Transmitted on Tuesdays at 8:30pm, towards the end of 1961, A For Andromeda helped in its own way to usher in the radical thinking and cultural explosion that characterised the decade.
It also dealt with issues far ahead of its time including genetics and high powered computers as well as putting women in a central and powerful roles.



Written by BBC producer John Elliot, and respected astronomer/novelist Fred Hoyle, the story was set in 1970 and featured a young Julie Christie. Scientists on the government funded Thorness research programme decode messages buried in signals received by radio telescopes, and build a powerful computer to run the programme contained in the signals.



This proves to be a genetic code and a strange creature is developed as a result which can only communicate with the computer when placed between two electrified plates. A young research assistant is killed (Christie) when she touches these plates, and this is quickly followed by a second genetic code, which rapidly grows into a replica of the dead assistant (again played by Christie).



The creature, called Andromeda, displays supernatural mental powers and slowly it becomes increasingly obvious that the being has a capacity destruction.




The series boasted an excellent cast including Julie Christie in her
debut TV role, Mary Morris and Peter Halliday whose later potential was never quite achieved thanks to a long line of character roles. The series also boasted well known faces in smaller roles, often early in the respective actor's careers, including Anthony Valentine, Frank Windsor and Frederick Treaves.



Direction came from the BBC staff director Michael Hayes, who would later handled severeal fondly recalled Tom Baker era Doctor Who adventures.
The series was a tremendous success and commanded audiences of up to thirteen million.



Italian television remade the series in 1971 and was faithful to the original production. Unlike it's BBC counterpart the series is retained intact and it has been released on VHS in Europe. The series was novelised by Hoyle and first published in 1962 by Souvenir Press, with a Corgi paperback edition following in 1963.



Fragments of several episodes, including the climax to the series, still survive in the BBC archives. These were complimented by the return of a full episode, The Face Of The Tiger, in 2006. The production was remade by BBC 4 also in 2006 as a ninety minute stand alone programme broadcast on 27th March.
The existing footage of A For Andromeda was released along with the complete series of the sequel, The Andromeda Breakthrough in 2006.



Text © Andrew Screen and Matthew Lee, 2006