The first episode of The Andromeda Strain, which aired last night on A&E has shown this new version to be a skillful modernization of Michael Crichton's story which was previously adapted as a feature film in 1971.
As in the original, the small secluded town of Piedmont, Utah is wiped out almost instantly by a disease spread by a downed satellite. The only survivors are an old man and an infant. The infection, dubbed Andromeda, causes either immediate death or extreme suicidal (one victim decapitates himself with a chainsaw) or homicidal tendencies. A team of medical experts led by Dr. Jeremy Stone (Benjamin Bratt) is assembled at a state of the art government facility called Wildfire, a multi-level subterranean installation design for the study of infectious diseases. Risk of infection leaking into the outside world is not an option, and the entire base is sitting on top of a nuclear device that will be detonated if containment is breached. Further, the decision whether or not to drop a nuclear device on the infected town.
The original film saw our scientist heroes dealing with government bureaucracy, but this remake adds more modern concerns to the mix. Dr. Tsui Chou (Daniel Dae Kim) is part of the Wildfire team, but he previously worked for the Chinese government developing bio-weapons. Certain factions of the government and military have their own agendas, not all of which are in the public's best interest. The satellite is part of a mysterious Project Scoop, whose true purpose is kept from the investigating team until episode's end. A North Korean satellite was nearby when the Scoop satellite fell out of orbit, raising the possibility that Andromeda may be part of an elaborate biological attack. Meanwhile, reporter Jack Nash (Eric McCormack) is following a lead on the Piedmont incident, a lead that has already gotten his source killed.
This first episode has left me itching for part 2, even though having seen the original film I have a pretty good idea where the story is going. Modern effects technology is put to good use, letting us see things that couldn't be effectively shown the first time around, like Andromeda's attack on a fighter jet, and the devastation of Piedmont. The cast is strong, and the addition of the Nash character allows the story to go places it couldn't before. The DVD is already available for pre-order, so if you miss the broadcast you still have a chance to catch this one.
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