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A for Andromeda

Given that the 1961 original was lost in one of the great BBC tape purges of the 1970s (to make way for Match of the Day, no doubt), it's unsurprising that I've never seen A for Andromeda. Rather more embarrassingly, I've not read any of Fred Hoyle's novels.

ias and I watched the live remake of The Quatermass Experiment that BBC Four showed last year; I enjoyed it, but I didn't think that the plot had dated especially well, and the pacing required of a live production with outside broadcasts felt artificial. I've just seen BBC Four's remake of A for Andromeda, and I have to say that I was really rather impressed. Good dialogue, and an intelligent script - what more could one want? The closing quotation by Carl Sagan was a deft, if slightly in-jokey touch, considering the considerable conceptual debt that Contact (written 1985) owes to A for Andromeda. I shan't deign to comment on the similarities between AFA and the execrable Species.

In other news, I'm back from Sofia, and will possibly write something about that tomorrow.

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I saw the last half hour and it had a 60's feel to it, an air of inevitable doom; The end of life as we know it. At that time it could be the fear of a monolithic force such as the Soviet Union or the ever present fear of nuclear weapons. This could explain the simple notion of 'we are superior, you will be eliminated'.

I think an interesting twist would be for the research team to upgrade themselves to the point where they were equal then surpassed Andromeda. At this point they can start to contact the mystery messengers.

Life can react to an environment by changing it or adapting to it. The play focused on biogenetics, rejecting this nascent tech was conventional, embracing it would have been more dramatically satisfying.

I think that the 1960s feel is entirely unsurprising, given that it's almost a straight remake. In part, this is why I found The Quatermass Experiment unsatisfying. The world has moved on since the 1950s/1960s, and the genre expectations of SF have become more sophisticated; at the time they were made, both Quatermass and AfA were a step above contemporary space opera, but the SF tropes they use are now mainstreamed to the point where the audience for a C21st remake of AfA will most likely have seen one of the thinly-veiled copies that I mentioned above. Put simply, there would be no shock of the new.

The case should be made for the adaptation of more recent British SF for a BBC Four audience; keep retreading old plots, and you're in danger of making highbrow SF look more like period drama. I think that the Langford Blit stories could be suitably adapted, being thoughtful and not overly reliant on special effects, as might Charlie Stross's Laundry stories.

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