November 23, 2001 - 9:36 PM
Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda co-creator Robert Hewitt Wolfe today announced he no longer serves as executive producer on the show, which will soon be retooled into a more action-oriented show with a focus on stand-alone episodes.
"You're probably wondering what the hell happened," Wolfe wrote at the Slipstream BBS. "Short answer: Television happened."
Wolfe left the show in late September, during the production of the twelth episode of the season, 'Ouroboros'. Wolfe said the reason for his departure was a creative conflict over the direction Andromeda was taking. While Wolfe had always envisioned a complex arc-based storyline, production companies Tribune Entertainment and Fireworks as well as series star Kevin Sorbo (Dylan Hunt) felt the show had to be more episodic.
"Basically, they want the show to be more action driven, more Dylan-centric, and more episodic," Wolfe explained. "They also want more aliens, more space battles, and less internal conflict among the principal characters. Also, they want a lot less continuity so as not to confuse the casual or new viewer with too much backstory. And finally, they wanted to rework the visual signature of several of the characters, most especially Trance and Rommie, but also Dylan (less uniforms, more civvies)."
The news was first announced by Sorbo, who also serves as executive producer on the show, in the latest edition of the British Cult Times Magazine. In a short news item, Sorbo confirmed the reasons for the split. "Robert is a genius, but was developing stories that were too complicated and too clever for the rest of us to understand," he told the magazine. "What we now have is a team of very talented people who write standalone stories that can, on occasion, blend together to form a story arc. That simple 'turn-up-tune-in' attitude was what was missing. Now we have that, I really feel we're on track towards making Andromeda an outstanding show."
According to Wolfe, he originally tried to work with Tribune to incorporate the changes they requested while at the same time not alienating the show's core audience. "[It's] not like we haven't compromised before, and some of the changes requested by Tribune, Fireworks, and/or Kevin have been good ones. The new production designer, the new sets, and the new costume designer have all worked great. And the way I saw it, my job was to execute their instruction, though never blindly and never without a thorough discussion of the implications of such changes. Unfortunately, they apparently felt that it was better to just let me go and implement their new vision without me."
With Wolfe now gone, the writing staff is currently being led by the writing team of Matt Kiene and Joe Reinkemeyer, while most of the original writing staff is also still working on the show. In addition, the production team in Vancouver is still led by original executive producer Allan Eastman, and Wolfe asked readers to continue to give the show a chance.
"My hope is that you'll take a look at the remaining episodes (which won't even air until February) with an open mind. If you like what you see, keep watching, tell your friends, and make the show an even bigger hit than it already is. If you don't, change the channel. And as always, I encourage you to express your opinions about the episodes here and in letters and emails to Tribune, Fireworks and Kevin."
It seems likely that fans of the show will indeed be expressing their feelings about the creative changes to the production companies. Earlier this season, the mysterious Trance Gemini (played by Laura Bertram) lost her tail, something that was widely rumoured to be the result of creative pressures from above. Several online petitions were launched to persuade Tribune Entertainment to restore the tail, and further changes to the show's format are likely to inspire further such fan efforts.
This is not the first time that a show based on the work of Gene Roddenberry is retooled in such a major way. Earth: Final Conflict, also produced by Tribune Entertainment, is infamous for the massive changes it underwent between every season. While these new changes to Andromeda do not seem quite as major, it should be hoped that Andromeda will be able to avoid the same reputation.
One large difference between the changes for the two shows is that all of Andromeda's main characters seem to be staying on board. In fact, it seems that main star Kevin Sorbo will be very influential in the creative tone of the series from now on. Sorbo has always said he had a major hand in the creative success of his former series Hercules, and hopefully that experience will enable him to let Andromeda continue to be a successful show as well.
With the show recently having been renewed through at least its fourth season (story), Sorbo and the other producers will at least have some time to find a new tone that will also appeal to fans. Hopefully, the show's new direction will be able to attract a new audience while at the same time continuing to excite its current fan base. Whether they are successful in this should become evident over the remainder of the season.
As for Robert Wolfe, the now-former executive producer said he is already working on several new projects. "Right now, I'm in the running for a couple of feature films, and SciFi Channel is considering one of my series proposals. There are several other things in the works, but I probably won't have anything solid until early next year."
Further information from Wolfe can be found in his original farewell thread at the Slipstream BBS, where he has also offered to answer questions asked to him by the fans.