Tuesday, April 4, 2006

GENE RODDENBERRY'S ANDROMEDA - THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON

In my youth, not a single science fiction or fantasy show hit the airwaves without my noticing it. Of course, there wasn't all that much genre stuff on the air back in the pre-cable Dark Ages. By the Nineties of course, it was a different story. Science fiction and fantasy shows were everywhere – on the networks, on cable and in syndication. I have to admit that in that abundance of riches I missed a few, and GENE RODDENBERRY'S ANDROMEDA was one of them.

I mean, I knew it existed, but I also figured that it sucked. After all, I was working for a company at the time that had dealings with the widow Roddenberry, and I knew what sort of Gene Roddenberry "creations" she was peddling around. But I also should have realized that in the right hands, even the weakest of concepts might have some potential.

Developed by STAR TREK franchise veteran Robert Hewitt Wolfe, ANDROMEDA tells the story of Captain Dylan Hunt (Kevin Sorbo, TV's HERCULES THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS, KULL THE CONQUEROR), commander of the sleek warship Andromeda Ascendant. Hunt serves in the High Guard (Starfleet) of the Systems Commonwealth (United Federation of Planets), a benevolent intergalactic union. Just as a race of genetically engineered humans known as Nietzcheans betray the Commonwealth and trigger a Civil War, the Andromeda Ascendant and her captain are trapped in the event horizon of a black hole.

300 years later, the crew of the tramp freighter Eureka Maru manages to pull the Andromeda out of the black hole and find Hunt alive and unchanged. Unfortunately for the stalwart spaceman, the universe has changed, and drastically. The Commonwealth has fallen, replaced by a freewheeling cosmic anarchy. Through sheer charisma and Kirk-like oratory, Hunt persuades the rag-tag crew of the Maru to join him on a noble quest to re-form the Commonwealth, and bring peace and order to the galaxy. It isn't as easy as it sounds.

Despite low-rent costumes, alien makeups and sets that occasionally remind one of the 70's BUCK ROGERS show, ANDROMEDA is a surprisingly smart and literary sci-fi series. Wolfe has created a show that bridges the gap between idealistic TV sci-fi like STAR TREK and the grittier, anarchistic sensibilities of shows like FARSCAPE, and manages to extract the best of both worlds. The cast is appealing, the special effects are excellent, and with only a few exceptions, the stories are surprisingly thoughtful and exciting.

ADV Films brings the first season to DVD in fine form in a box set containing all 2- episodes. The episodes are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, and look perfect. Each disc contains two or three episodes, bloopers, alternate takes, deleted scenes, text histories that elaborate upon the show's characters and backstory, the original syndication promos, and trailers for other ADV titles. No complaints at all about the presentation – ADV has more than done the show justice with theses discs.

I don't know if I'd recommend plunking down the cash for the full first season if you haven't ever seen the show, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. I thought it was more entertaining than the last couple of STAR TREK spin-offs, and am looking forward to Season Two and beyond. If you have access to someplace that rents TV shows on DVD, you might want to check it out for yourself.

BUY: Andromeda - Season 1 Collection