Majel Barrett Roddenberry took a project from her late husband's desk and turned it into "Andromeda," with the help of Robert Hewitt Wolfe, who later developed "The Dresden Files" TV series. The plot, backstory, and tech resolve many of the holes that the original Star Trek series was known for. On "Andromeda" there are no quasi-scientific phasers, just railguns and missiles; no force fields, just super-hard hulls. And no transporter. In one "Andromeda" episode the ship's AI (artificial intelligence) says sarcastically, about a crew member imprisoned on another ship: I could just dematerialize him and make him reappear here, if such things actually existed. And the backstory explains why the captain puts himself personally in harm's way so often -- something the captain of a large warship rarely does.
But the star of the show is the actress playing the title character. Lexa Doig plays both the warship's AI, seen as a hologram, and an android imbued with a version of that AI, called a "ship's avatar."
Why do so many say the show was great for the first three seasons (and then...)? One main reason was that Lexa Doig got married and pregnant with the first of two children about then. Her role was much reduced -- some appearances as the the AI, but not as the athletic, kung-fu kicking avatar, naturally.
Perhaps the only gain for her fans is that she may use her married name when she continues acting. "Doig" is about the rockiest name for an actress since "Zellweger," and as inappropriate in its way as "Bullock."
The other cause for the apparent change in quality was the departure of Wolfe due to "creative differences," or some such. However, this isn't that clear. What I much liked about the series was its exploration of different species, particularly villains. A human subspecies called "Nietzscheans" -- think of Ricardo Montalban's "Khan" from "The Wrath of Khan," multiplied into billions. A ravenous race embodying the worst attributes of any villain imaginable, called the Magog. Humanity itself ranking only second or third in capabilities in this federation -- called the "commonwealth." A species called Vedrans are acknowledged by all as superior.
And the warships are beautiful. And their names are fresh and thoughtful.
I'd rate the middle part of "Babylon 5" -- after Boxleitner's arrival -- ahead of Andromeda. B5 achieved a gritty, naturalistic tone. The current "Battlestar Galactica" takes that too far for my taste, into gruesomeness and nihilism. For me, "Firefly" and "Serenity" got it almost precisely right.
Both B5 and Andromeda for me slackened at the end when they got all cosmic and mystical. Of course, that's the same problem many had with "2001." Seems a vulnerability of sci-fi.
I'd thought Andromeda moved from first-rate space-opera to mysticism after Wolfe left. But Wolfe published a script online that shows he was fully on-board with the mystical stuff.
An earlier poster asked for comparisons with "Farscape." I only tried the first episode of "Farscape" on fancast. The video broke up, and I wasn't motivated to try later. Some similarities, perhaps. Castaway spaceman, going back to "Planet of the Apes" and well before.
But Andromeda's castaway is himself not of Earth. And he brings along his ferocious warship, and his AI. Makes all the difference. And the aliens aren't Muppets. Different flavor, different shows. "Farscape" looked like it had a sort of sword-and-sorcery quest type theme. "Andromeda" is far more Roddenberryesque.
Enjoy Andromeda for its excellent parts.