ADV Films // 2000 // 1100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Treadway (Retired) // January 21st, 2004
On the starship Andromeda, hope lives again!
Made nine years after Gene Roddenberry's death, using material over 27 years old, Andromeda Is a sometimes smart, sometimes frustrating science fiction program.
Can a solid DVD presentation overcome an intriguing yet unsuccessful attempt at science fiction?
Many, many years in the future...
Dylan Hunt, captain of the Andromeda, discovers too late that a rescue attempt to save Hephiastos' citizens from a black hole is nothing more than a trap by the Nietzcheans to destroy the Commonwealth. An attempt to maneuver around the black hole is disastrous (due to an event I will leave you to discover) and a combination of factors leaves Hunt and the Andromeda frozen in time.
Three hundred three years later, the Eureka Maru, a salvage ship, discover the frozen ship and restore life to it. After a weary battle, Hunt convinces the crew to join him in a new crusade to restore the Commonwealth from control of the Nietzcheans.
At least that's what I think it's about.
The first question some of you may ask is how could this program contain the name Gene Roddenberry? It is true that Roddenberry is no longer with us, having died in 1991. However, Roddenberry wrote an outline that served as a possible spin-off to Star Trek in 1976. (Maybe the ill-fated Star Trek: Phase Two?) The premise bears a slight resemblance to Roddenberry's 1973 TV movie Genesis II, which also shared the same lead character, as did Roddenberry's 1974 TV movie Planet Earth. The show came to fruition when producers approached Majel Barrett Roddenberry, who holds the rights to her late husband's unfilmed projects.
Would Roddenberry have liked it? It's hard to tell. I'm sure he would have enjoyed the lead performance of Kevin Sorbo as well as the solid visual effects. We would have praised some stories, and rewritten others. I doubt he would have liked the militaristic aspects, something he fought against with the Star Trek movies.
What do I think? The stories could be so much better. There are some intriguing ideas at play here and I appreciated the intelligence and wit. Unfortunately, the pacing is awfully slow and toward the end, plots tend to repeat themselves more than I would have liked. It took me two screenings to finally appreciate the good that is in the program. The show has breathtaking special effects, but as is the case with a lot of recent science fiction, when ideas take second stage to visuals, you know you're in big trouble. The acting is okay for the genre; nothing remarkable, with the exception of Kevin Sorbo, who imbues his character with the same warmth, intelligence, and humor he invested in Hercules. If only the material were up to par.
All 22 episodes from the first season are spread out over ten discs. On a scale from zero to five laser guns:
"Under the Night"
The Andromeda is frozen in time and is freed 300 years later by a wrecking crew.
"An Affirming Flame"
Dylan Hunt is chased by Nietzchean killers who want him dead at any cost.
"To Loose the Faithful Lightning"
In a turn from Monty Python's Life of Brian, a group of savages mistakes Dylan for the messiah.
"D Minus Zero"
Dylan and Beka argue over who is really in command -- as a showdown with the Nietzcheans draws closer.
The Nietzcheans need one thing to ensure the prosperity of the race: DNA.
"Angel Dark, Demon Bright"
The Andromeda is sent 300 years back in time. Will Dylan be tempted to right a wrong?
"The Ties That Blind"
Beka's con artist brother arrives at the Andromeda.
"The Banks of the Lethe"
Dylan is once again given the opportunity to change the past and possibly the future.
"A Rose in the Ashes"
The Tribunal Council sends Dylan to a prison planet.
"All Great Neptune's Ocean"
The Commonwealth is about to happen again...until the president is assassinated, possibly by two of Dylan's own men!
"The Pearls That Were His Eyes"
Beka's Uncle Sid is not what he seems to be.
"The Mathematics of Tears"
The Andromeda's sister ship Pax Magellanic is found and believed to be frozen in time. Or is it?
"Music of a Distant Drum"
A Tyr has lost his memory -- which may hold something the Nietzcheans want desperately.
A dying alien bites Harper, causing his brain to overload on information.
Dylan is on trial again for a 300-year-old crime he didn't commit. Ho-hum.
"The Sum of Its Parts"
A humanoid joins the Andromeda -- without permission.
"Fear and Loathing in the Milky Way"
the Eureka Maru is hijacked -- in exchange for a lost diary.
"The Devil Take the Hindmost"
Slave masters take the Hajira's land -- but Dylan and his crew are on their way!
"The Honey Offering"
A Nietzchean bride may want more than just a nice wedding.
An android is the sole survivor of an act of terror and Rommie falls head over heels in love with him.
"It Makes a Lovely Light"
Beka tries an LSDesque drug and nearly jeopardizes the mission.
"Its Hour Come Round At Last"
Andromeda's memory is lost and replaced by an older backup system.
ADV has done an excellent job bringing this series to DVD. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is excellent. It's mostly clean, with the exception of some light grain in several scenes. Colors look natural and strong and there is no edge enhancement present at any time. The decision to put no more than three episodes per disc was a wise one, since the higher bitrate means better quality for your buck.
Audio is even better. Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround is the way to go with a recent science fiction series. The depths of the sound effects and majestic score will blow you away, even while you're in a deep slumber.
Extras are plentiful:
* Selected episodes feature Kevin Sorbo and executive producer Allan Eastman
on commentary. As with the Hercules box sets, Sorbo is an engaging
speaker and fun to listen to. Fans will love these tracks.
* Alternate takes are intriguing, since in some cases they are even better than what remained in the final cut. The blooper reels are just what they are and as usual, they aren't funny.
* "E! Celebrity Profile: Kevin Sorbo" is an excellent documentary that shows you the man himself. This is a must not only for fans of Sorbo but for those who want to know more about him.
* Each disc has "behind the scenes" featurettes that give good information as to what went into the production of each episode. Worth a look even for non-fans.
* Photo galleries and conceptual drawings give non-fans some insight into what went into the design of the show. Well worth checking out.
* TV Spots: ads for the syndication schedule.
For Fans Only:
* Timeline of the Commonwealth: chronological order of what happened before
and after the story. Boring for non-fans.
* All Systems University 101: material that deals with life aboard the ships. Really dull.
* A-Z Glossary of the High Guard: explains people and terminology associated with the series.
Some have said that the show improved greatly in the second season. Would I be willing to give it a try? I may surprise some by saying yes. The first season has some good episodes and they show the potential this series could fulfill. I look forward to and hope for improvement.
Die-hard fans are the only ones who would want to purchase this set. Casual viewers will be snoring before the first disc comes to an end.
I'm going to withhold a final judgment about the series itself. The first season as a whole isn't successful, but there are enough intriguing elements that would make me want to see more.
ADV is not guilty of producing a top-notch presentation and package.
Review content copyright © 2004 Bill Treadway; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 1100 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Audio Commentary by Kevin Sorbo and Allan Eastman on Selected Episodes
* Alternate Takes
* Blooper Reels
* Behind the Scenes Featurettes
* E! Celebrity Profile: Kevin Sorbo
* Photo Galleries
* TV Spots
* Official Site