Perhaps it is the indication of how little known Michael Crichton’s first novel (as Michael Crichton) “The Andromeda Strain ” is – the 2-part A&E TV miniseries came and went without making much of a splash. Although, there may be other reasons for that (see below).
The book revolves starts with a NASA satellite crashing to earth near a sleepy little town. The Army retrieval squad arrives later in the night, to find the people have carried the satellite to the town, and the only surviving person in the town is an old man. The squad does not survive to get out of the town.
While authorities race to contain the contagion, this activates Project Wildfire: a team comprising of five top researchers in areas related to pathology and epidemiology. The team is carted off to a state-of-the-art lab, where they race against time to identify and combat the disease agent, dubbed Andromeda Strain.
The book is mostly a biological/medical thriller, as it focuses almost entirely on the lab from the moment Dr. Jeremy Stone and his team arrive there. The outside events are peripheral, just taking the story forward. The story is as much about space-born killer as it is about 5 members of team, top talents in their chosen field trying (and almost failing) to make sense of unknown in a well-equipped lab, with limited data and even more limited time. You can almost see the elements which became common later in Crichton’s work: scientists dabbling in things out of their depth, almost complete futility of what we call our best technology etc.
In the miniseries though, the story loses this focus by introducing external characters, some elements from Jurassic Park and State of Fear and that ubiquitous Big Bad Wolf of medical thriller – Big Multinational. And although this makes for a bigger bang at the climax, the main fight in the lab comes as just another storyline, not as the main thread. While the book shows their team dynamics and tensions, the resultant triumphs and failures in detail, the 5 experts in the miniseries never seem as a single team at any point of time.
Though not all story changes are bad. The overall story is “modernized” pretty well. Characterwise, the book has all 5 scientists as white men, while the series has more multi-ethnical group with both genders. The series is also more contemporary (references to bioterrorism) than book, which is almost 40 year old now. If only the core of the story hadn’t gotten lost in the extraneous elements…
Quote of The Day:
Even in the time of Newton and Galileo, men knew more about the moon and other heavenly bodies than they did about their own.
– The Andromeda Strain
P.S. It’s nice to know that rule #6 of Thriller Deaths still applies. Only the minorities killed off first are different now.
P.P.S. It did take me a little time to get used to the fact that Jordan Sullivan was a caring, talented surgeon.
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