The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011


More Blake's 7 episode reviews, from back in 2002:

'Countdown' yesterday. Great stuff; a simple, straightforward and relatively cheap plot by Terry Nation that not only works, but also manages to fill up its 45 minutes with no padding. Sadly Jenna and Cally get even less to do than usual; Jenna's performance is so knowing I'm surprised she doesn't wink at the camera. Cally's getting a bit tetchy. Vila's comedy banter falls a bit flat, as usual, but he's a likeable enough sod. Avon unusually heroic, and Blake unusually gullible. I really enjoyed it. I would give it a good '8 out of 10' if I awarded things marks out of 10, but I don't.

Voice From The Past

Oh my goodness. There's some real vying going on in the competition for 'most sheepish episode of Blake's 7 ever'. But it will be difficult to out-sheep this.

To begin with, this appears to be the episode that has had no money spent on it whatsoever. Four sets - three of which are the Liberator control room, a room in the Liberator and Servalan's office. Three non-regular speaking cast members. And five minute's location filming, at the Barbican if I'm not mistaken, unless that's a corridor in TV Centre.

The plot is essentially, 'Blake gets a headache and goes a bit mad'. He has to be restrained to a chair. Cue lots of nasal hair shots. There is some endless to-ing and fro-ing - will they go to the asteroid or the bouncy planet with the Fera particles? For the longest time this viewer was convinced they wouldn't even get off the bloody Liberator. Cue model shot of Liberator turning left. Cue model shot of Liberator turning right. Cue model shot of Liberator turning left again.

In all its years of rubbishness, Doctor Who never managed a special effect as colon-evacuatingly awful as the space-suited Blake wandering across the surface of the asteroid. I mean, I think it's lovely that they let the producer's four-year-old daughter paint the backdrop, I really do, but what is that big white line supposed to be? Is that big round thing a moon or something? Is that a giant Gin and Tonic?

It gets worse. Blake is here to meet Shevan, a rebel leader. Who is covered entirely, from head to foot, in bandages. And who talks like Papa Lazarou after he's had a stroke. 'Elllo Blaaaake. You wanna buy some pegs? Maaaaa wife was right, there was a problem with the Federation, but I fixed it. Of cooourse you can join us! etc. etc.'

It transpires, in a trouser-changingly absurd plot twist, that Shevan is none other than Travis in what must be the feeblest disguise since John Simpson tried to smuggle himself into Afghanistan dressed in only an Hawaiian grass skirt and a coconut bra. A disguise which somehow fools not only Orac, but which has passed every medical examination test known to man. Even Scooby Doo could've spotted this one.

The actors are past caring. The dialogue is ridiculously out of character - whoever wrote this episode seems to think the Blake gang are a bunch of petulant 17-year olds out on a jolly picnic. So whenever a line comes along which doesn't fit with the character, it is delivered flatly, with just a hint of 'get me out of this series NOW' desperation. Cally and Jenna seem embarrased by the juvenile bitching they have to perform, never mind discussing how pretty asteroids are. Vila makes no pretence to be taken in by Blake's loopy plan. Only the Darrow bothers to put in a performance, but even his gritting seems somehow half-hearted. He's only semi-clenched.

You know the woman in Timelash, the one with the cheek blusher and wide-eyed facial expression? Vena, played by Jeanette or Jean something. You probably thought she gave the most wooden performance by anyone in a sci-fi series ever. But, no, the woman who plays the rebelling planet president leader thing in 'Voice From The Past' is even worse. No emotional inflection what-so-ever. She takes inanimation to extraordinary lengths.

And how is this dire situation resolved? It suddenly occurs to Avon that it might be a good idea to smash the box which is controlling Blake's brain. He does so. Blake then wakes up - and lucky old Blake has no memory whatsoever of the events of 'Voice From The Past'. I wish I were Blake. Apart from the puffy sleeves and space wellies, of course. But that's it, that's the ending. Fnnurk.

The - rather unexpected - couple of scenes shot at Barbican look quite nice, though. You get to see the federation guards in spotlights, looking quite sinister. But that's hardly enough to redeem the most sheepish Blake's 7 Episode ever. So far.

And those exercises looked extremely painful.

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