Against a blackboard of equations, chemical reactions, waveform analyses, particle interactions and circuit diagrams, Professor Bernard Andromeda is hard at work, but his devotion to science, his “preoccupation with the subject of space,” as he terms it, does not mean that he is unable to find the time to discuss his work and findings with the capacity audience of Edinburgh’s Pleasance Dome.
Having graduated first in his class (well, his name comes first in the alphabet) he is a founder member of the British Rocketry Commission whose aim is to put a man into space “before the Russians and the women,” but his services are in demand from another agency, the British Alien Intelligence Taskforce.
Taken from his office in the dead of night and brought to Colonel MacGregor, Professor Andromeda is given the details of a discovery made during building work at the abandoned Devil’s Crescent tube station, a stone covered in geometric carvings carbon dated to two hundred million years old, but also two words etched into the surface, a name…
The audience ushered in to the sound of Mars, the Bringer of War from Gustav Holst’s orchestral suite The Planets, most familiar to followers of classic science fiction from its use as the opening theme of 1953’s The Quatermass Experiment and its sequel, it would not be in the spirit of proceedings to protest that the adventure which The Andromeda Paradox most closely spoofs, 1958’s Quatermass and the Pit, actually featured a bespoke piece composed by Trevor Duncan as its theme.
As Professor Andromeda (and indeed the rest of the cast, including a potted plant and an alien life form), Tom Neenan is vastly more youthful than the traditional interpretation of Nigel Kneale’s most famous creation, even Jason Flemyng’s take on the role in the live television restaging of the original Experiment, but he’s a talented physical comedian who segues constantly and effortlessly between the multiple characters.
Many of the themes of Kneale’s work are included, with the Professor caught between the Ministry and the military, neither of whom he wishes as masters, and an object from the deep past whose psychic vibrations cause chaos in the present as in The Stone Tape and The Quatermass Conclusion, recently released on Blu-ray, the escalating danger to the public conveyed through news bulletins.
Carried with vicious and unrelenting punning, there are other influences (“A door once opened can be walked through in either direction” is a thought more familiar to The Girl in the Fireplace) but after a thoroughly entertaining hour the show concludes, as it should, with the Professor’s traditional statement, pointing to the possibility of a more optimistic future.