The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

A Huge Evergrowing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld

On the end of one of my Doctor-Who-off-UK-Gold tapes, there is a short interview with Jacqueline Pearce. You know the sort; lit so that the subject looks like an embalmed fish in front of a CSO projection of stars and galaxies. The interviewer has been excised so we only get the subject's apparently unsolicited sci-fi musings.

Anyway, so Jacqueline Pearce is there. She has a sort of wicked, knowing look, her eye lids half-closed languidly. She's treating it as an intimate confessional. Just out of shot she has a glass of champagne in one hand and a cigarette in the other.

She leans forward. 'Of course, I received many letters about me as Servalan. I was adored up and down the country. For many young men, seeing me as Servalan was the moment of their first sexual awakening'. Dirty pause. Wide knowing smile. Flirtatious twitch of the eyebrow.

Yes. But how ironic it is that all of those young men then grew up to become raging homosexuals. Because the moment they saw Servalan on screen, they realised - 'Right, that's it, I'm going to be like one of those gays like off of Are You Being Served? from now on'. Poor Jacqueline Pearce. Thousands of young men, up and down the country, captivated and enthralled by her.

But they didn't want to get into Jacqueline Pearce’s knickers. They wanted to get into her frock.

Anyway, this is entirely irrelevant, because I've just watched two Servalan-free episodes.


SARCOPHAGUS

It's happened before in Blakes 7. The writer is told; 'Sorry, cock, but we've got no money for your one. You're allowed one set and ideally, cock, try to keep the guest cast to a minimum. No guest cast at all would be ideal.' And the results have usually been dreadful. They tend to concentrate on Cally far too much, and usually have one of the cast being mentally possessed by something which makes them behave strangely. 'Voice From The Past'. Bad. 'Dawn Of The Gods'. Bad. And 'Sarcophagus'...

Something has gone seriously wrong here. Because it's good. Very good. No guest cast. One set. And yet... the writing is very clever. Yes, it does the old 'Cally has been possessed again' thing. Yes, Cally seems to have angst about never returning to Auron even though she only went there about three weeks ago. Yes, it has Stephen Pacey in diaphanous red pyjamas.

But the story is great, the dialogue bounces, and the direction is... unusually competent. The opening sequence is lovely - okay, it goes on a bit, but then, so do the Paris sequences in City Of Death - it's all quite arty and ambiguous. It's doing the science fantasy thing, becoming unreal and mystical. So there's these aliens, on a spaceship. And they're watching some half-hearted light-entertainment routines. But it's weird. Wonderfully weird.

And the performances... Jan Chappell is very good. Paul Darrow is leaving the scenery bereft of teeth marks. Michael Keating is sympathetic rather than stupid and annoying. There even seems to be some point to Dayna and Tarrant's existence. And Avon looks so evil in his black pyjamas.

It's a ghost story. It's a cheapo. But somehow a little bit of magic happened along the way.


ULTRAWORLD

'Och no Jonnee', goes REDACTED (MY FELLOW BLAKE’S 7 VIEWER WHO MAY WISH TO REMAIN ANONYMOUS – JONNY 2011). 'Ultraworld no very good.' This is his description of my favourite Blakes 7 story. It's the one I have great memories of, from watching it as a kid twenty-odd years ago. It was scary and exciting and strange and new. I remember being terrified of the Huge Evergrowing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld as it greedily and gurglingly ate up all the people on the conveyor belt and then exploded into green goo. And yet it's not highly regarded in Seven circles.

What is wrong with it? Virtually nothing. Okay, it's a shame that the zombies don't look like zombies but instead look just like balding, overweight men in their forties in blue pyjamas And maybe the Huge Evergrowing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld is a bit of an Erato beach-ball. But otherwise it's tops. Terry Nation-mongous. A great, solid story.

Okay, so it's 'Redemption' all over again, more-or-less. Orac saves the day, by utilizing Vila's ability to come up with feeble jokes and weak wordplay. Apparently, poor puns are the only defence against the Huge Evergrowing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld. So Peter Anghelides has his uses.

It's a shame, perhaps, that Vila's jokes are a bit on the lame side, though, because his banter with Orac is tops. Orac this week is basically K9, anyway. My favourite thing about Orac, though, is the rather irked mewing noise he makes when he's switched off.

Oh, and we're in the same tunnels as for 'The Sun Makers'. Except sometimes they are lit in a dark red, to indicate that we're in the vicinity of the Huge Evergrowing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld.

What I like about Ultraworld, though, is that it's one of those simple, straightforward, no-arsing about Blake’s 7 stories, like what Terry Nation used to write. That said, though, it's a bit Original Star Trek too... but it's great, mindless fun. The Glitterball of doom! Plus lots of running up and down cylinder-shaped corridors. Monsters. Guns. Spaceships.

I note that the Huge Evergrowing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld, despite having absorbed the minds and memories of over a billion people, still doesn't know about 'the bonding ceremony'. This means that the Huge Evergrowing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld has, in fact, absorbed the minds and memories of a billion balding, overweight fifty-year old virgins in blue pyjamas. No wonder it's frustrated. No wonder its throbbing, groaning and leaking fluid. No wonder the Huge Evergrowing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld wants to watch some hot Tarrant-on-Dayna action at the first opportunity.

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