There have been many names for groups of planets in an organisation, including Federation, Congregation and Collective. This time we’ve got a Commonwealth which spans three galaxies and many alien species combined with humans to make a peaceful union. Patrolling the vast space of the Commonwealth are special ships, powerful and resourceful, of which Andromeda Ascendant is one, captained by Dylan Hunt who is the boss of the 4000 crew. However, as historians will tell you, every empire comes and goes over time. The Commonwealth disintegrates after a brutal war and similar to the collapse of Rome, a dark age ensues during which mayhem and death rule the galaxies.
Dylan Hunt witnesses the initial collapse when a group of people called the Nietzscheans rebel, these people being a race of genetically manipulated humans bred to be superior in every respect. Dylan loses the 4000 members of his crew but becomes suspended in time when Andromeda falls into the influence of a black hole. They would have remained there forever, suspended in time, if not for the actions of a salvage vessel which pulls Andromeda out. Slight snag was it was 300 years later! Incidentally, the Nietzscheans were supposedly based on the works of Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher from the 19th century. Okay, a good idea but a little fanciful considering he had a life far removed from anything portrayed in Andromeda. Largely ignored in the 21st century, is it conceivable that such a person would be revered thousands of years later?
In this space opera Science Fiction series, which first appeared in the year 2000, Dylan Hunt begins a quest to re-establish the Commonwealth, years after it had collapsed into anarchy. Created by ‘Star Trek’s Gene Roddenberry, it ran for several seasons and here we have the first season presented in high spec Blu-ray, a bonus to any avid Andromeda fan. Most people will be familiar with this series but may not have watched it in its entirety. As far as I can remember it was not shown on a regular basis on any of the British terrestrial channels and from a personal point of view this is all new to me. Watching the discs of season one was therefore an interesting experience, one which turned out to be quite enjoyable.
Released by Revelation Films, the slight discrepancy exists in that the advertising blurb states ‘this wonderful six disc box set filled with action’ and yet later says that five discs exist. The review package contained five discs and a talk with Revelation reveals this is the correct number not six, which amounts to 22 episodes and a total runtime of 906 minutes.
Dylan Hunt is played by Kevin Sorbo. Many will remember him as and in ‘Hercules’, the TV series, which appeared before ‘Andromeda’. He is accompanied by Andromeda, a woman representing the ship who is an artificial intelligence sometimes appearing in human form as an android (Lexa Doig). The others are crew from the salvage ship, Beka Valentine (Lisa Ryder), a headstrong woman normally used to being the boss, Seamus Harper (Gordon Michael Woolvett), a technical expert with happy-go-lucky attitude, Trance Gemini (Laura Bertram), an odd purple girl with a tail, and Rev Bem (Brent Stait), a brutal alien now a religious minister. The other member is former mercenary, Tyr Anasazi (Keith Hamilton Cobb), a Nietzschean, with a name that could include the word Nazi. These characters are the basis of the series and as the episodes progress, the interaction between them becomes apparent allowing three-dimensional personalities to evolve.
Overall, the special effects are okay but nothing startling, nothing we really expect from movies today. This was produced a dozen years ago and even that short time has seen enormous changes in computer graphics. One has only got to think of ‘Babylon 5’ which now appears rather dated. ‘Andromeda’ has gone that way as well but it doesn’t really matter because the stories make up for any shortcoming in presentation.
This isn’t another ‘Star Trek’, far from it, and it deliberately steers a path away from the Enterprise. The world inhabited by ‘Andromeda’ is much removed from the Federation, and it was later emulated by other TV shows such as ‘Firefly’. It has an abundance of alien species of all forms and shapes, including a race of bugs. On delving into the series one discovers an entire universe of different species, religions, cultures and militarily spheres of influence.
Trying to re-establish the Commonwealth with only one ship and a very small crew seems like an impossibility yet Dylan Hunt tries his best. This is the raison d’être behind the series, all through season one and beyond. It’s the prime directive. Sorry, delving into ‘Star Trek’! Sometimes the plots are a bit contrived but other episodes are splendid. Overall, this is a very good space opera series. Its transition to Blu-ray is an added bonus but it may be a little expensive and you have got to ask the question, is it worth the expenditure? Incidentally, the second series will be released in September and the third in December this year. I expect the fourth and fifth will appear sometime next year. Be prepared therefore, if you get hooked on this, to fork out over £200 for the whole lot.
How does ‘Andromeda’ compete with other space opera out there in the universe? It’s far behind ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Star Wars’ in popularity but it comes high up on the list. It is an identifiable project with definite appeal for all ages and it will probably continue for some time with sales of DVD and Blu-ray making it more and more popular as time goes on.
As with all episodic DVDs, the best part is being able to watch them through without any advertising breaks. You can detect where they would appear but thank goodness there are none to break the continuity. You can put the disc in the player, sit back and relax knowing you will not be interrupted by insurance adverts, cat food adverts, soap powder adverts or any such like.
Now for some bad news. Usually, with Blu-ray, you expect to get quite a few extras with a box set but in this case it’s a bit disappointing. Despite saying ‘loads of special features’ you only get three lots which include, deleted scenes, bloopers and alternative takes. Frankly, this just isn’t enough. There are no commentaries or interviews with any of the stars, directors or producer. Okay, so you get a better definition picture but is this worth it? From Amazon season one, Blu-ray costs about £42 and you can buy the DVD set for £25. I’m not sure what extra material is available on the DVD set but can it be any worse than this Blu-ray boxset? I doubt it. Maybe they are keeping lots of extra material for subsequent seasons which will appear shortly on Blu-ray.
There is a big fan base out there for ‘Andromeda’ and they will want more than this for their money. Blu-ray may be a way of making extra money from existing material. While that’s okay, I would suggest that if you want to save money stick to the DVD.
(region B blu-ray: Revelation Films B00BEI9AVM. 906 minutes 22 episodes with extras 5 blu-ray discs. Price: £43.62 (UK))
cast: Kevin Sorbo, Lisa Ryder, Laura Bertram, Gordon Michael Woolvett, Lexia Doig, Keith Hamilton Cobb and Brent Stait
check our website: www.revfilms.net