The Andromeda Strain: The Complete Miniseries

The Andromeda Strain: The Complete Miniseries


Reviewed by: Merlin Harries

Michael Crichton’s science fiction novel, Andromeda Strain, was first released in 1969 and almost instantaneously spawned a big-screen adaptation in the shape of Robert Wise’s picture starring Arthur Hill, released a year later. In terms of small-screen adaptations, Mikael Salomon’s two-part mini-series is ambitious to say the least, and wouldn’t look at all out of place in your local multiplex. Boasting an enviable cast with Benjamin Bratt alongside high-end TV stalwarts such as Daniel Dae Kim (Lost) and Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Street, Hack) all of the proverbial bases are covered. Add to the mix a big budget coupled with some stellar CGI work, and the rich source material is able to shine with a fresh make-over by Robert Schenkkan.

It is in the ambition of the work that Salomon’s The Andromeda Strain stands apart from other made-for-TV miniseries. The story is so overt in its questioning of global environmental stability that you almost miss how the script taps into the zeitgeist of urban paranoia currently sweeping through the continental US. The overwhelming presence of eco-disasters and extreme weather is an effective mainstay of our daily lives and this is played upon in a visual motif faintly reminiscent of 24 or The X-Files. The pace of the story moves in almost Herculean strides and, in covering a complex plot at pace, it manages to avoid the common error of leaving the viewer behind.

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In terms of performances, Bratt delivers in his portrayal of Dr Jeremy Stone, chief governmental scientist and moral barometer for the shady intelligence types lurking in the wings. Eric McCormack also stands out as a roving reporter who is plunged head-first into the mire after chasing the story surrounding the initial disease’s outbreak. Alongside this you have the somewhat groan-inducing shady government types who clearly want to harness the disease for their own ends nonchalantly dispatching many an innocent bystander who gets in their way.

Following the initial outbreak of the virus, the government swoops in with its top-notch scientists, who are hastily accosted from their homes and flown to the quarantine zone. After eventually locating the fallen satellite and the biological material responsible for the outbreak, the conspiracy plot kicks in and we begin to realise that forces are working against our crusader scientist from within the very administration he serves. The climate of paranoia plays second-fiddle, however, to the environmental crisis currently afflicting the US, which comes in the shape of oceanic mining. The critical themes of the threat posed by the disease and the threat posed by hazardous ecological harvesting are at the fore throughout, giving the viewer much more meat to chew on then that of the more run-of-the-mill TV fare.

The climactic scenes of the second episode are where the real quality of the story lies and, in striving toward the fierce pace of shows such as 24, it punches up a gear at just the right moment. The big challenge for the two-parter is to not only grab your attention in part one, making you want to come back for more, but keep the pace in sync with a movie without making any glaringly obvious errors. The Andromeda Strain does this and more with only a few hiccups (insert dodgy CGI buzzards and needlessly self-sacrificial scientists) making it not only enjoyable over two nights of TV, but something you’d be hard-pressed not to plunder your coffers for on DVD.

Reviewed on: 20 May 2008
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Director: Mikael Salomon

Writer: Michael Crichton, Robert Schenkkan

Starring: Benjamin Bratt, Daniel Dae Kim, Nicola Anderson, Eric McCormack, Andre Braugher, Viola Davis, Magda Apanowicz, Ted Atherton

Year: 2008

Runtime: 170 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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