The Andromeda Strain (miniseries)

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This article is about the 2008 miniseries. For novel, see The Andromeda Strain. For the 1971 movie, see The Andromeda Strain (film).
The Andromeda Strain
The Andromeda Strain 2008 Miniseries.jpg
Directed by Mikael Salomon
Produced by Ridley Scott
Tony Scott
David W. Zucker
Tom Thayer
Mikael Salomon
Written by Robert Schenkkan
Based on The Andromeda Strain 
by Michael Crichton
Starring Benjamin Bratt
Eric McCormack
Christa Miller
Daniel Dae Kim
Paul Perri
Viola Davis
Ricky Schroder
Andre Braugher
Music by Joel J. Richard
Cinematography Jon Joffin
Editing by Scott Vickrey
Language English
Original channel A&E Network
Original run May 26  – 27, 2008
Running time 169 minutes

The Andromeda Strain is a 2008 science fiction miniseries, based on the novel published in 1969 by Michael Crichton about a team of scientists who investigate a deadly disease of extraterrestrial origin. The miniseries is more of a "reimagining" of the original Michael Crichton novel than an adaptation. In addition to updating the setting to the early 21st Century, the miniseries makes a great many plot and character changes from its source. The mini-series has two episodes for a total of 169 minutes (originally aired on 26 and 27 May 2008).

Plot[edit]

A United States government satellite crash lands near Piedmont, Utah, and two teenagers find it and bring it back to town. The town's inhabitants open it and release a deadly microorganism, which is later codenamed Andromeda by the Army. A team is sent from the Army's bio-defense department to retrieve the satellite, only to die from the disease themselves. The video footage recorded by the retrieval team and their strange deaths capture the attention of General George Mancheck, the head of the bio-defense department, who activates "Wildfire," a team of five scientists who are called upon when high-level bioterror threats occur in the United States. The team, headed by its creator, Dr. Jeremy Stone, investigates Piedmont. They retrieve the satellite and rescue a hysterical 60-year old man and a colicky baby who have survived the Andromeda outbreak.

In an isolated underground laboratory, the Wildfire team begins their examination of the downed satellite and the two survivors. The laboratory is powered by a small water-cooled nuclear reactor. In the event of a contamination breach, a 15-minute self-destruct sequence would be automatically initiated; however if the activated sequence is deemed unnecessary, Major Bill Keane, designated by the Odd-Man Hypothesis (which states that unmarried men are capable of carrying out the best, most dispassionate decisions during crisis), is the only person able to deactivate the sequence, using his pass key and right thumbprint.

The scientists begin their analysis of the Andromeda strain by recovering a sample from inside the satellite. They initially discover that the microorganism is contained within a delivery system of buckyballs, a technology more advanced than anything known at present. The team theorizes that Andromeda may have an extraterrestrial origin, as it has no DNA or amino acids. The team discovers Andromeda is an airborne microorganism that kills its host by entering the bloodstream through the lungs and coagulating the blood in the body, causing death within 10 seconds via a blood clot in the brain. Those who manage to survive the blood clot become insane, extremely violent and suicidal. It is revealed that the two survivors from Piedmont had not been affected by Andromeda because of their acidotic blood. However, all initial tests with antibiotics and chemical agents regularly used to kill other microorganisms show no effect on Andromeda.

Cable news reporter Jack Nash becomes aware of some of the events related to the fallen satellite and Andromeda. As he investigates further, Chuck Beeter, the Director of the NSA, uses General Mancheck's aide, Colonel Ferrus, to perform assassinations to prevent knowledge of Andromeda from reaching the civilian population. Nash travels to one of the temporary Army outposts performing quarantine procedures, and witnesses the effects of Andromeda spreading through various modes of transportation. He becomes a target of assassination due to his presence at the outpost, but manages to escape Ferrus and his subordinates.

Meanwhile, there is part of a government's conspiracy who aims to contain the microorganism for further uses, probably bio-weapon related. To handle the situation, General Mancheck deliberately isolated Wildfire team and cut their contact with the lab's exterior. However, Jack Nash managed to report to Dr. Stone about Project Scoop, a secret program that was hidden by the government and General Mancheck. Mancheck, being forcefully questioned by Wildfire and fearing for the whole world's safety being threatened by Andromeda, reveals the truth about the satellite. Project Scoop was one of several attempts to investigate a singularity, or a worm hole, that has mysteriously appeared in the Solar system. Sent specifically collect biological samples, the satellite malfunctioned upon approaching the worm hole and fell back to Earth. It was picked up and released the deadly agent.

In an attempt to neutralize the problem, the President of the United States authorizes a small tactical nuclear strike on the quarantine area in hopes of completely irradiating and destroying Andromeda. When the Wildfire team is informed, they realize that they have not reviewed the test results for irradiating Andromeda. They find that the microorganism grows at an exponential rate when irradiated. The Wildfire team alerts the President, and the air-strike is called off before the pilot launches the nuclear missile. However, as the jet continues to fly over the quarantine area, the pilot reports a malfunction of the aircraft's controls. Through video feed, the Wildfire team and President watch in shock and horror as all plastic components of the aircraft, including the pilot's visor, disintegrate. The nuclear missile is re-armed, the jet and missile crash into the ground, and the missile detonates, irradiating the quarantine area. The team examine the footage of the crash, and realize that Andromeda has mutated again and now becomes a plastic-eating variant.

As Andromeda grows and mutates into more virulent forms and takes host in anything from mammals and reptiles to the bird population, the Wildfire team continue their tests to find a way to stop Andromeda before it reaches Las Vegas, the closest city to the quarantine zone with an international airport. Further studies reveal Andromeda is actually a sulfur-based compound. A set of tests with phages reveals that one phage has the ability to kill Andromeda. However, repeated tests with this phage prove unsuccessful, causing the Wildfire team to theorize that Andromeda can communicate through an unknown mechanism among its separate parts. By the time they discover a binary code encoded on buckyball casings with potassium and rubidium atoms, the team suspects Andromeda to be a message according to the Messenger Theory. The information included the six-digit number “739528” and the words “Bacillus infernus” encoded in ASCII plus a bitmap image of a symbol with interlocking triangles. Bacillus infernus is the name of an archaebacterium found only at the thermal vents on the ocean floors. At this time, President Scott was championing the new and controversial industry of thermal vent mining, and it was likely that the mining would eradicate the bacteria. Wildfire requests samples of the bacteria to begin testing its effects on Andromeda.

Tests with Bacillus infernus reveal that the bacterium easily consumes and destroys Andromeda because of Andromeda's sulfur structure. The Wildfire team begins to grow large amounts of the bacterium in culture vats, intending to release the cultures over the quarantined area once a sufficient quantity is grown.

As the team watches the footage video of the crashed fighter jet, Dr. Stone suspects and considers the possibility that Andromeda didn't attack until the launching sequence of the nuclear warhead has been halted, which means that it could probably think and so attack the jet to force the warhead to be detonated, hence accelerating its own growth. The team therefore begins to destroy the remaining samples of Andromeda in the lab in an attempt to prevent Andromeda from communicating the nature of the tests with its other parts.

As part of a government conspiracy to preserve Andromeda for future use, Colonel Ferrus blackmails Dr. Barton to keep a sample. The sample mutates and disintegrates the sample casing, setting off the lab's contamination breach sensor and initiating the self-destruct sequence. The self-destruct sequence also causes the flashing emergency lights to turn on, triggering Chou's photosensitive epilepsy, which causes him to inadvertently destroy the self-destruct control panel on the lab level of the complex.

With the elevators deactivated due to the self-destruct sequence, Keane decides to climb to the control panel on the level above through the lab's main exhaust vent. However, the pipes and other components in the vent have begun to deteriorate due to the mutation in the Andromeda sample. The pipe Keane climbs suddenly bends, dangling Keane above the radioactive water at the base of the vent. Before falling, Keane manages to throw his badge to Stone. Realizing Keane's right thumb is also required to shutdown the self-destruct sequence, Chou sacrifices his life to enter the radioactive water to cut off Keane's thumb for Stone. With Keane's thumb and badge, Stone reaches the control panel and deactivates the sequences; albeit with only seconds to spare.

Eventually, the bacteria being dropped eradicate all traces of Andromeda.

As the remaining Wildfire team attends the funerals of their fallen colleagues, both General Mancheck and Colonel Ferrus are secretly assassinated. Dr. Stone reveals some of the events to the public in an interview with Jack Nash. In the final scene, the saved sample of the Andromeda is inserted into a containment compartment with the access code “739528”, held in a vessel marked with a symbol with interlocking triangles. Director Beeter watches over the operation on the computer in his office. The camera then zooms out, revealing Andromeda has been stored within a space station orbiting Earth. The ending implies that the sample saved on the space station is the cause of the outbreak in the future that necessitated sending the virus back to the present via the wormhole, creating an ontological paradox as to the virus's origin. The ending also implies that Andromeda could really think, since the future outbreak of Andromeda has happened after the bacteria Bacillus Infernus, the only thing capable of exterminating Andromeda, was completely destroyed, and so Andromeda avoided unnecessary risks by waiting for its right opportunity.

Cast[edit]

Development[edit]

Production[edit]

In September 2004, the Sci Fi Channel announced that they would produce a miniseries of The Andromeda Strain executive-produced by Ridley and Tony Scott and Frank Darabont. On May 2, 2007, the SciFi channel's news website The SciFi Wire announced that the miniseries would be broadcast on the A&E Network.[1] The miniseries originally aired as a four-hour, two-part miniseries, airing in the UK on May 11, 2008, and with part one premiering in the U.S. on May 26[2] and part two on May 27, 2008. It was screened as a single three-ish hour movie in Australia on September 21, 2009.

Filming[edit]

On August 16, 2007, the cast and crew filmed at the Surrey, B.C. campus of Simon Fraser University.[3][4] The production also filmed in the Kamloops Brewery in Kamloops, British Columbia. Exterior scenes were filmed in Hedley, British Columbia and Ashcroft, British Columbia.[5] Although no filming was done in Utah, the satellite image appearing in the nuclear strike sequence is that of Emery, Utah.

Marketing[edit]

A&E created an alternate reality game[6] that is set around a fictional blog, titled "What Happened in Piedmont?". The blog accompanies the miniseries and features references to trouble in the town in which the miniseries is set.[7] The "author" is a journalism student at the University of California, Berkeley, and the blog discusses his attempts to contact people from his home town of Piedmont after receiving a "bizarre voicemail" from his sister that left him with "a horrible feeling inside".[8] After the first post in April 2008, the blog revealed further insight into the plot of the miniseries, with cross-links to other fictional sites where players of the game could enter passwords to obtain more information.

The series' tagline is "It's a bad day to be human."

Reception[edit]

The Andromeda Strain mini-series received mixed reviews from critics.[9] The Hartford Courant called it an "entertaining piece of high-velocity intrigue."[10] The Boston Globe found it unoriginal, although "sometimes engaging".[11] The Los Angeles Times calls it "overwrought and dull" and criticizes its divergence from the original story. [12] Entertainment Weekly complained about the slow pace and stated that "the cluttered remake mires itself in lab work, inane backstories, and bureaucracy."[13]The New York Times stated that "it never grows quite suspenseful enough".[14]

Though it didn't win any, the miniseries was nominated for six Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Miniseries. Part one was nominated for its cinematography, single-camera picture editing and sound mixing. Part two was nominated for sound editing. Both parts were nominated for makeup (non-prosthetic).[15]

Ratings[edit]

Part one of The Andromeda Strain averaged 4.8 million total viewers, making it the second most-watched A&E program ever, behind Flight 93.[16] Part two averaged 5 million total viewers.[17]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]