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Buy from Amazon

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ADV Films presents
Andromeda 1.1 (2000)

"This is Captain Dylan Hunt, Commander of the Systems Commonwealth starship Andromeda Ascendant. I've been told the Commonwealth has fallen. Maybe that's true. But there's still one place where the Commonwealth endures, and that's on this ship. My ship."
- Dylan Hunt (Kevin Sorbo)

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: February 13, 2003

Stars: Kevin Sorbo, Lisa Ryder
Other Stars: Keith Hamilton Cobb, Laura Bertram, Breant Stait, Gordon Michael Woolvett, Lexa Doig
Director: Various

Manufacturer: MOFC
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (sci-fi violence, some sexuality)
Run Time: 03h:40m:00s
Release Date: July 30, 2002
UPC: 702727028328
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B B-A-B B+

DVD Review

Though the show is billed as Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda, the connection is dubious at best. Reportedly based upon notes discovered by Roddenberry's widow Majel Barrett, the show was developed in the first seasons by Robert Hewitt Wolfe, a former writer for Deep Space 9. The result is something much closer to that series' darker overtones than to the sunny messages of brotherhood and unity of the original Star Trek.

The story revolves around Dylan Hunt (Kevin Sorbo), captain of the massive vessel, the Andromeda Ascendant. As the story begins, his ship is attacked by a fleet of Nietzchian fighters, a group of genetically engineered humanoids with long-standing plans to overthrow the galactic Commonwealth. Dylan's crew abandons ship, and, due to a betrayal by his Nietzchian first officer, Dylan and the Andromeda become trapped in an event horizon surrounding a black hole. Jump ahead 300 years. The salvage ship Eureka Maru, under the command of Beka Valentine (Lisa Ryder), pulls the Andromeda free, and Dylan is surprised to find himself in a universe where the Commonwealth is but a memory, wiped off the star charts centuries prior. He's nothing if not patriotic, though, and after a little convincing, he has secured the participation of the Maru crew in his somewhat confusing master plan to reestablish the government, one person at a time. How many seasons were they expecting this show to last?

In these first episodes, Andromeda has some problems. The CGI special effects are far less convincing than the model work on the Trek shows, and the big space battles look like animated cartoons. The production design is interesting, but a little overblown. The scripts are weak, peppered with rough exposition, vague character motivations, and far too much 20th-century slang (somehow I doubt the phrase, "needle in a haystack" will survive another 11,000 years).

The show's biggest strength is its dissimilarity to Trek, despite some borrowed story lines. Much more emphasis is put on the characters and their inner conflicts, and the cast, though certainly not full of great actors, is appealing. Beka Valentine is your typical straightforward commander, but she has an emotional side that will be interesting to explore. The gruff Tyr (Keith Hamilton Cobb) is the obvious Klingon replacement, but it took years for Worf to show the dimensions that are hinted at for Tyr in just a few episodes. Harper (Gordon Michael Woolvett) and ditzy, purple alien Trance (Laura Bertram) provide the comic relief, and furry creature Rev Bem (Brent Stait) is the admittedly annoying spiritual advisor to the crew (if you count the utterance of platitudes as "advisement"). My favorite, though, is Rommie (Lexa Doig), the holographic artificial intelligence that inhabits the Andromeda computers. Though the character is basically lifted straight from Lost Universe, I like her rapport with Dylan.

This two-disc set includes the first five episodes of the syndicated series. Though they aren't all winners, they're good enough to pique my interest. Let's hope that, like the Trek shows, things only improve from here.

Disc One:

Episode 1: Under the Night
Originally aired 10.02.2000

Trance: Vex Pag?
Rev Bem: Your predecessor.
Trance: Oh, he's the guy who retired. Didn't you say he bought a farm?
Harper: THE farm, Trance. He bought THE farm.
Trance: What's the difference?

This, the pilot episode of the series, was actually filmed third so that the production team could get the kinks worked out and ensure an impressive debut. Odd, then, that the actors feel off and the special effects look more questionable than usual throughout both episodes of the two-part series opener. The first half of Under the Night is particularly slow going, as the premise of the series is established. Dylan witnesses the start of the Nietzchian rebellion and, after a betrayal by his first officer, becomes trapped in the singularity surrounding a black hole and is frozen in time for 300 years. Enter the crew of the salvage ship Eureka Maru, led by Beka Valentine and hired by the villainous Gerentex (John Tench) to pull the Andromeda from the void. Once the ship is out, Dylan is surprised to find he is in the future and none too happy about the intruders on board his ship. The events in the "past" are particularly hokey, including the slow motion firefight and the horrid makeup effects for the various alien races, and though things pick up a bit once the crew of misfits boards the ship, their belabored, expository introductions do nothing to help the rough pacing.

A bit of a rough start, this one earns 2.5 Andromedas out of 5.




Episode 2: An Affirming Flame
Originally aired 10.09.2000

"I hired you creatures to do a job. I want complete control of this ship, and I want that High Guard fossil dead." -Gerentex

The series premiere concludes with a much more promising episode. There's some nice cat and mouse interplay between Dylan and Beka's crew as he and Rommie try to get them off of the ship. Nietzchian hired gun Tyr proves a worthy adversary, but Dylan is able to convince them all that he isn't looking to fight. They are more interested in joining him after Gerentex tries to kill them all and sabotage the ship, of course, since he was really only interested in its supply of Nova bombs, devices capable of destroying a star. Where the last episode started slow, this one begins well but then peters out a bit towards the end. There's a bit of scientific chicanery involving the creation of a "white hole" (snerk) that can counteract a black hole by starting a "mini big bang" which struck me as particularly ludicrous, and the ending, which sees the crew united, is worth an eye-roll or two, but otherwise, this is a fairly decent episode.

Here's your affirmation: part two is an improvement. 3 Andromedas.




Episode 3: To Loose the Fateful Lightning
Originally aired 10.16.2000

"I have come to save you. From yourselves." -Dylan

Ah, now here's a familiar concept. Dylan and crew stumble across a colony of children who have been isolated for 300 years. A radiation leak conveniently kills off adults without interfering with reproduction, allowing the group to survive long enough to twist the ideals of the Commonwealth into a religion. They believe Dylan is a Messiah and has come to help them begin the "Day of Lightning," which involves sending out a bunch of kamikaze pilots equipped with those universe-destroying Nova bombs. Dylan, proving he's no Picard, first impersonates a deity, then allows the kids to actually load the bombs into the fighters, resulting in the eventual destruction of an entire SOLAR SYSTEM. Good job, Captain McForehead. Oh, and eventually the small band of kiddies is able to seize control of Andromeda too. Though there are some nice moments from the supporting cast, the idiocy of the main plot leeches away most of the entertainment value. Harper builds Rommie an android body, so she can walk around on the ship, but I'm not really sure why that is an advantage, since a holographic projection is much more mobile.

Didn't I say it enough in the TNG reviews? Kids and sci-fi just don't mix. 2 Andromedas.




Disc Two:

Episode 4: D Minus Zero
Originally aired 10.23.2000

"Maybe it's a baby space alien that thinks we're its mother!" - Trance

Another episode that isn't exactly unique, but at least this one is done well. The Andromeda encounters what appears to be a derelict High Guard vessel, but it's actually another ship making use of a device that will fool the sensors. Andromeda is attacked by homing missiles and forced to find shelter in the shadow of a radioactive sun, prompting Tyr and Beka to question Dylan's leadership abilities. The mutiny aspect is pretty familiar, but it does allow for some nice character moments, as we see that Tyr is worried about survival, that Beka is concerned for her crew, that Rev sees his current mission as a spiritual obligation, and that Trance is kind of dumb. The action-packed conclusion doesn't really make much sense, nor does Dylan's random attempts to get everyone they meet to join the new Commonwealth (how can an alliance be formed between random peoples across the galaxy without a governing body?), but it's an entertaining installment anyway.

It's Mutiny on the Rommie! 3.5 Andromedas.




Episode 5: Double Helix
Originally aired 10.30.2000

"Do I not destroy my enemy by making him my friend?" - Rev Bem

Here's an installment that is both halfway original and a nice character piece. If Andromeda has more episodes like this in the pipeline, I could find a lot to like about this show. The crew happens upon a skirmish taking place between a group of Nietzchian pirates and an insect-like race. Dylan wants to end the conflict by bringing both sides together into his vaguely defined Commonwealth, so Tyr volunteers to go down to the Nietzchian asteroid base, where they have some sort of giant weapon that could disable Andromeda, and try to make peace, or at least figure out if their intentions towards the ship are hostile. There's an investigation of the Nietzchian race that reveals them to be preoccupied with mating, and since Tyr has no children, there's reason to question his loyalties. Add to that a great scene with Dylan reflecting on his relationship with his former Nietzchian first officer from the premiere and a double-, nay, triple-cross ending, and you've got all the makings of a solid, entertaining episode.

It took TNG much longer than this to discuss the Klingon mating ritual. 4 Andromedas.



Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Andromeda airs in 4:3, but was shot with high-definition cameras; thus, we can enjoy the show on DVD in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. I must say, this is easily one of the best presentations of a television series on disc, easily on par with standouts like Farscape. Colors are nicely saturated, and though the rich hues are a bit cartoonish, they match the intended look for the series. Blacks are nice and deep, and shadow detail is very good. The special effects scenes show some shimmer, likely because they were mastered at a low resolution (and I'm not sure if the shimmer is a result of the DVD transfer or a part of the original materials). Aside from that small problem, though, this series looks great.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Sadly, the audio isn't quite as impressive as the video. The included DD 2.0 mix isn't bad, but I would have really liked a nice 5.1 mix to match the snazzy anamorphic video (the aforementioned Farscape sounds great in 5.1). Anyway, this mix presents dialogue well, anchoring it in the center channel with only a bit of bleeding into the mains. The wide front soundstage features some nice directionality during space battles and fight scenes, but nothing too impressive. Surrounds stay mute throughout, not even offering enhancement for the score.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 30 cues and remote access
7 Other Trailer(s) featuring Farscape: Season 2, Kimera, Zone of the Enders, Super Atragon, The Devil Lady, Dai-Guard, Martian Successor Nadesico
9 TV Spots/Teasers
6 Deleted Scenes
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by executive producer Allan Eastman and actor Kevin Sorbo for episode Under the Night
Packaging: Double alpha
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Character Profiles: Dylan Hunt and Andromeda; Production Biography for Co-Executive Producer Robert Hewitt WolfeBloopers
  2. All Systems University 101: Fighting Ships of the High GuardConceptual Drawings
  3. Timeline of the High Guard, Glossary of the High Guard
  4. Image Galleries and Concept Art
  5. Bloopers
Extras Review: ADV has put together quite the impressive extras package for this, the first two-disc release of Andromeda's first season. Though a little light on video-based features and making-of information, there's a lot of bells and whistles that sci-fi fans will appreciate. Extras are divided between the two discs.

On disc one, actor Kevin Sorbo and executive-producer Allan Eastman contribute a jovial and informative commentary track for the premiere episode, Under the Night, discussing the development of the show and outlining the premise, as well as offering behind-the-scenes info here and there. Both display a sense of humor and don't seem to take the show too seriously. Note that Robert Hewitt Wolfe was actually the exec-producer during the first season; I guess after he was fired (or asked to leave the show) in the second season, he wasn't too enthusiastic about returning to record a commentary.

The Profile of Dylan Hunt is a nice inclusion, combining a text bio of the character and actor with some brief costume design sketches and an eight-minute interview with Sorbo, in which he exposits about the characters and the show's mythology in nice little PR blurbs. Disc two includes a similar feature for Andromeda and her AI counterpart, Rommie. The second disc also includes a profile for Wolfe, though there's no interview.

There is an extensive text section that gives some backstory on the Commonwealth, including an in-depth archive of the ships of the High Guard, complete with sketches and blueprints. There's also a glossary that includes pseudo-scientific terms created for the show (A through D, anyway). Disc two's text extra is a Timeline of the Commonwealth.

Both discs include three deleted/alternate takes, and the scenes differ a bit from those included in the episodes. Both also include image galleries—the first, "Creation of the Andromeda Ascendant"; the second, "Prop and Set Concept Drawings."

There are a few extras unique to the second disc. The brief featurette The Andromeda Idea runs buts three minutes and is a total waste of time. Most of it is made up of film clips and snippets of Sorbo describing the characters, though there are some blink-and-you-miss-it shots of the producers. Much better is the blooper reel, which also runs about three minutes. Most of it is made up of clips of Sorbo asking if people have seen his force-lance, so clearly I'm not the only one who noticed its uncanny resemblance to a sex toy.

Disc one has four teasers and promos for the first three episodes, while disc two has promos for episodes four and five. ADV previews are also split between the disc; all told, there are clips for Farscape: Season 2, Kimera, Zone of the Enders, Super Atragon, The Devil Lady, Dai-Guard, and Martian Successor Nadesico.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

Andromeda gets off to a bit of a rocky start; but then, so did Star Trek: TNG. The plots are tired and the dialogue clichéd, but the characters are appealing and show promise. I'm eager to see where this one is going and ADV's wonderful DVD presentation can only add to my enjoyment.

 


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