Thursday, 6 October 2011
We Can Dance Again
More Blake's 7 reviews from 2002. I seem to have missed 'Gambit'. Probably the least of my worries at the time!
Well, things picked up a bit at the end of Season 2.
The Keeper: Bruce Purchase painted bright yellow playing a medieval king, for a start. He's a cut-price Brian Blessed. Blake is sidelined, but Jenna gets some stuff to do. Perky. Unusually for the 7, it has a plot twist which isn't completely predictable. Not sure about the use of magic in the 7 universe, though - seems too wacky for this gritty vision of the future. Servalan involved for no apparent reason.
Star One: Now, in my memory I'd confused this one with the one on the Planet Of The Space Monkeys. But that must be the almost-completely-identical story from the end of the third year. Anyway, this is great. There is a real sense that Blake's plans are falling apart and he hasn't thought things through. It's got the guy out of Sapphire & Steel and Blue Jam in it. We never see the Andromedans except when they've been reduced to green slime. Actually has some shocks and spooky moments. Love the final shoot-out between Blake and Travis, who I was beginning to start liking again. It's a shame they didn't write Blake and Jenna out properly when they had the chance. But this is best of Season 2, I think, along with Pressue Point and Countdown.
Oh my goodness, what have they done to the opening titles? They are so dreadfully lame. This is the point when I start remembering the stories from when I saw them as a kid, but I don't remember these titles at all. I remember the one where they're flying over a moon, which must be from later on. The original titles set up the series and told a story; the new ones are just spaceships, and seem all rather directionless. Which rather sums up this series so far.
Aftermath: After quite an exciting opening, things take a turn for the dull. My memories of this were a bit confused with Orac, which also features a base under water accessed via a tunnel on a beach. Servalan's involvement seems odd; her relationship with Avon doesn't fit what we already know and seems much too soap-opera-y. Introduces Dayna, who does a good job with the lines she's given, unlike her father who is another mad-accented scientist.
Season 3 was made around the same time as Season 17 of Doctor Who, wasn't it? They sort of look and feel the same. There is that same air of desperation.
Powerplay: In a staggering coincidence, Servalan now gets picked up by a ship and meets up with Cally. It's beginning to feel like Howards' Way In Space. Vila's plot requires him to be deeply stupid as he meets the 'Why father? Why? Why? Why? Why?' girl from 'The Pirate Planet'. Cally meets 'May my bones rot' from 'The Twin Dilemna'. Introduces Stephen Pacey as Tarrant. I remember him being quite good. Oh, and Michael Sheard's in it too.
There are a couple of really noticeable continuity mess-ups; the planet Servalan is picked up from doesn't look like the planet in 'Aftermath', and I'm not sure whether her control room is supposed to be in a space wheel or inside a spaceship that looks like a cuttlefish with big point teeth.
Volcano: Things are continuing downhill. The characters are all slightly-off; Vila is becoming a stereotype, a drunkard, a stupid wisecracking idiot. I'm not entirely sure the foregrounding of Avon and Vila actually works. Tarrant and Dayna, just like Blake, seem to have friends and relatives scattered around the universe, and they seem to be treating the Liberator as a chance to catch up on them all. Servalan is in it, for no readily apparent reason. Has Michael Gough in it; he's a great actor, but in line with BBC Blakes 7 policy he has to leave his talent at the studio door. I liked the robot; this was the time of robot-dancing on Top Of The Pops, but Doctor Who and Blakes 7 never really picked up on that, except here, and in the sublime 'Timelash'.
By now, I'm beginning to forget what the series is actually *about*. The Federation doesn't exist any more, except it does, a bit, sometimes. What are Avon and the others actually trying to do? No-one seems to know any more. They've stopped looking for Blake and Jenna, and instead just spend their time playing Space Monopoly. These are hard-bitten space terrorists, and yet they're behaving like the F**king Famous Five.
Dawn Of The Gods: It's another cheap one, which means that Cally gets things to do. Why did they lose Jenna and keep Cally? Jenna was great. Cally just looks miffed. Anyway, it's not quite as dreadful as 'Voice From The Past', but at points it really, really does try. We see Vila - who is now just a cypher - being terrified by what appears to be a Sinclair C5 with big pointy teeth painted on it. The plot is The Wizard Of Oz, via The Three Doctors. Has Keynsham from 'The Seeds Of Death' in it and some costumes I'm sure I recognise for somewhere. Again, it feels a too 'wacky' to fit into the 7 universe. But I liked the bit with Tarrant having the tell the truth in a misleading way.
Avon's motivation is all over the place. Tarrant speaks every line as though his hands are on his hips. Orac is getting too much to do and he's f**king annoying. At least K9 never deliberately piloted the TARDIS into a black hole!
The Harvest Of Kairos: The problem with Servalan is that now that Travis has gone, she has no-one interesting to talk to. Jacqueline Pearce's acting has gone through the roof. She sticks her arms out when talking for no real reason, and over emphasises every line to the point where all meaning and significance is lost. I notice her boyfriend's chest gets more and more exposed throughout the story. Yes, this is the story where Servalan decides the let the bloke who works in the Federation post room decide how to capture the Liberator [said post room bloke being an old mate of Tarrant's, naturally - it's a very small universe]. Avon is completely out of character. That said, though, it does have some good stuff in it, and I rather enjoyed it - there are occasional brief flashes of story logic.
The 7's plan seems to be a] to look up as many old mates as they can and b] to nick valuable stuff. They're not looking for Blake or Jenna, or doing anything, particularly. I'm beginning to wonder why I'm watching the programme. Servalan is in it far too much, but for no real reason. The stories are more interesting when she's not around.
The City At The Edge Of The World: Colin Baker isn't really grizzled enough to pull off a barbarian. What the part really needed was a cut-price Brian Blessed. But this is - quite surprisingly - a very good story, with a plot that makes sense all the way through and actually works. Vila is the lead, and he's back in character, for a change, rather than just getting pissed all the time. Valentine Dyall is in it, as is the door to Soldeed's office from 'The Horns Of Nimon'. I remembered this vividly as a kid, particularly the CSO moon-planet with the paddling pool.
I'm missing the great storytelling of the first series, and in particular, Terry Nation's feel for character and dialogue. That may seem an odd thing to say, but none of the other writers - with the possible exception of Boucher and Holmes - seem to have any clue as to what the series is *about*, and how 'realistic' it should be - they get the characters wrong, the dialogue is appalling and the science fiction conceits are absurd.
But I'm really enjoying it.