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The Andromeda Strain on A&E

The opening scene shows a pair of lovers who are staring at the stars when something crashes to the Earth in front of them. The young man is inquisitive and decides to take it back to town. Cut to the next scene where we see a military team communicating that the satellite is gone. Cut again. This time we see the retrieval team following a tracking signal into a small town. They turn down a street that’s littered with bodies. Suddenly a man jumps in front of their Humvee and screaming for help. Now we see the driver convulsing and screaming in agony before he falls over dead. Immediately his partner starts to exit the vehicle when he’s overcome by the same malady. The lone man falls forward into the street.

This is the opening sequence of “The Andromeda Strain”, an A&E miniseries set to air for two days over Memorial Day weekend. It’s a remake of the 1971 film based on Michael Crichton’s best seller of the same name. Starring Benjamin Bratt as Dr. Jeremy Stone and Andre Braugher as General George Mancheck, the story revolves around a mysterious and super-deadly infection- dubbed “Andromeda”- that is carried on a downed satellite and set loose in the small town of Piedmont, Utah. Dr. Stone heads a team of renowned scientists- played by Christa Miller (Dr. Noyce), Daniel Dae Kim (Dr. Chou), Viola Davis (Dr. Barton) and Ricky Schroder (Major Keene, M.D.)- who are trying to determine what Andromeda actually is and how to stop it. We meet them all as they are dramatically gathered up from their everyday lives and flown to a mysterious airport hangar. There they watch video of feed of what happened to the initial retrieval team and an overhead sweep of the area, which tells them that there is at least one survivor.

From here the first day of the movie follows a somewhat predictable pattern. The best of the team put on their safety gear and go in to save the survivors, bring them back, and attempt to find out how and why they survived. Interspersed with the scientific action, we meet Jack Nash (played by Eric McCormack), an investigative reporter who has learned about Piedmont via a hacked feed. He’s hot on the trail of the secret while the government is hot on his trail. There are the obligatory congressmen trying desperately to keep their own secrets concerning Andromeda from getting out and a President caught in the middle of everyone else’s agenda. I’m not sure if the show is predictable because of the many copy-cat stories of mutant viruses that came after the original novel, but I was able to discern with amazing accuracy where the movie was headed.

However, there are enough surprises in “The Andromeda Strain” that I was left with questions after viewing certain scenes- only to later have those questions answered very cleanly. The stereotypical nature of many of the characters is overshadowed by the small twists the audience to which the audience is privy but the characters are not. The surprises outshine the clichés so you’ll definitely want to watch to see what happens next. Or at least to see how what happens next is played out.

“The Andromeda Strain” will air Monday, May 26, 2008 and Tuesday, May 27, 2008 on A&E Network.

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