Skip to main content

He shall recognise deliverance and speak its name.

Blake's 7
1.12: Deliverance


Deliverance sets the groundwork for the season finale, and the main plotline is likably quirky if unremarkable. We start off thinking the story will be Servalan-centric with her up to no good in the Federation Space Command wheel (the Spacemaster ship she remotely detonates a charge on is an admirable effort, but a not-so-successful piece of effects work). This episode is a veritable feast for fans of Nation’s space prefixes. Servalan cancels her meeting with the “Space Administrators”.


Aboard the Spacemaster are Ensor (Tony Caunter of The Crusade, Colony in Space and Enlightenment) and Space Surgeon (!) Maryatt. So it’s down to Cephlon they flee in their escape pods, a planet populated by a bunch of primitive types. They look the sorts to repeat “Ug” to each other throughout the day. Michael E Briant is blessed with some snow to shoot in (which may account for the line about massive variations in temperature when the Liberator crew discuss going down to search for crash survivors.) The planet also has high radiation levels.

Blake: Are you sure you want to go down?
Avon: Are you afraid I will be able to cope with it better than you?
Blake: No.
Avon: Well, perhaps you ought to be.


Yes, it’s Avon leading the away team of Jenna, Vila and lumbering lummox Gan. So maybe he’s getting slightly into the heroic thing. Or he just wants to show Blake exactly what he says above. Certainly, he doesn’t give a rationalisation or intellectual curiosity as motive for this trip.


Finding Ensor alive, Vila wonders’ “Will he survive through the teleport stress?” There’s teleport stress? No one’s ever mentioned it before. This is the third outing for the Space Walkman and Visor, as Cally is grooving away to a jaunty Space Tune. She’s not hip, that’s for sure. And, although she hears Avon calling, it’s a bit remiss not to be fully alert at the teleport controls.


Of course, nothing ever goes completely to plan, and Jenna managed to get attacked by the Ugs. She is thus stuck on the surface. Dudley Simpson uses a recognisable bit of his The Talons of Weng-Chiang score (which is a good thing).  Blake has a habit getting all mardy with Avon over events that he really has no control over. When the latter says he will go back to search for Jenna, Blake tells him “I think you better” as if Avon left her there on purpose. Why don’t the teleport bracelets return to the Liberator when activated? I don’t see why they’d need a person attached to them.


Ensor is a bit of a bastard, pulling a gun on Blake and Cally and telling them to pilot the ship to Aristo (we have our first mention of Orac, and Ensor must reach his father to provide him with a box of micro power cells, without which he will only have a few days to live).


Blake should really have called Ensor’s bluff regarding his threat to kill Cally and then him, as he wouldn’t have been able to pilot the ship himself. This plot thread manages to work better than most of the Liberator-bound ones of recent episodes, slender as it is. There’s never much doubt that the ship will eventually turn back to fetch Avon et al, but there’s some reasonably tense scenes with Cally under threat. The eventual death of Ensor sets up the season finale with two parties converging on Aristo.


The scene between Servalan and Space Commander Travis is first rate, highlighting the former’s ruthlessness and a suggesting a hint of vulnerability in the latter. Travis didn’t resign, as was expected of him following the inquiry into his failure to apprehend Blake, and wants his command back. But it’s his response to Servalan informing him of Maryatt’s fate that shows a chink in his armour. Maryatt saved his life so he shows a slight reserve at Servalan’s suggestion that the Space Surgeon be named as a deserter, which will result in his family entering slavery.

Servalan: Does it matter?
Travis: No, only Blake matters now.
Servalan: And Orac.

Servalan hasn’t told her superiors of her plan (she offered Ensor 100 million credits for Orac – who is worth 10 times that – but had no intention of following through) so she’s identified here as more autonomous than previously (when she seemed most concerned about getting results that did not reflect badly on her.) She and Travis plan to obtain Orac together. I wonder if they’ll encounter Blake next week?


The Ugs aren’t the most impressive of adversaries and we see Avon shoot one (I haven’t been keeping track, but I’m not sure that we’ve seen him kill anyone outright up until now); Avon, Vila and Gan meet Meegat behind a handy door (one that Gan and Jenna discovered earlier), and what follows provides the episode’s most humorous incidents.  Meegat is played with earnest naiveté by the attractive Suzan Farmer (she also appeared in the UFO episode Survival). In Season One tradition, she appears to be devoid of a bra. She picks on Avon to worship as her lord.


Gan: She seems to be on our side.
Vila: Yes, but the poor woman’s insane.
Avon: Not necessarily.

On the violence front, Jenna smashes in an Ug’s skull with a rock but fails to escape.


Vila: You’re enjoying this, aren’t you.
Avon: Probably.


Meegat says there are less than 100 of her people left, but where are they? And how did she end up in her bolthole? Apparently there are about 200 Ugs. So there are probably some interbreeding issues as well as mutations due to radiation poisoning.


The dusty, aging control panels prefigure the forgotten history stories of Who’s season 18 (Full Circle and State of Decay) and Meegat tells Avon that it was prophesied that he (a stranger not of their world) would come and would know what to do.

Meegat: All things are known to you. You are truly lord.
Vila: Counting yourself, that makes two people who think you’re wonderful.


 Initially, I thought the reference to a chemical rocket meant it was full of chemicals, but they seem just to be commenting on how it’s fuelled. Meegat refers to the title of the episode when she says, “He shall recognise deliverance and speak its name”. There’s a call back to Time Squad when they realise that the rocket carries dormant cells of Meegat’s race (or, less charitably, Terry Nation really has run out of ideas and is repeating himself.)


Avon is given more of a Blake action role during the rescue of Jenna (the series thus far has played up his intellect and cunning as opposed to his brawn, such that his previous showcase episode had him playing detective); he beats an Ug with a stick and kicks another Ug down, effectively rescuing both Jenna and hapless Vila. Gormless Gan also gets to beat up a load of Ugs (leading to the slightly worrying line, “For a minute there I was actually beginning to enjoy myself” – perhaps Gan’s limiter was for more than just killing a Federation guard after all).

Vila: No respect. They obviously didn’t realise who you were.


Avon seems to rather enjoy Meegat’s devoted attention, at one point putting his hand on her cheek and, on their return to her bolthole, for a moment he even looks poised to take advantage of her subservience.


But he actually says that he’s sorry she had to wait so long for help to come, which is about as nice as Avon ever gets. Michael E Briant echoes his Revenge of the Cybermen in using stock rocket lift-off footage (“My Skystriker, my glory!”); it will take 500 years to reach planet fall in the Magdalen Alpha system.  But what happened to Meegat? The crew seem to have left her on her own. I guess she could return to the rest of her people, if she can avoid the Ugs.


Avon is asked if Meegat really though he was a god.

Avon: For a while.
Blake: How did it feel?
Avon: Don’t you know?
Blake: Yes, I don’t like the responsibility either.

A priceless look from Avon in response. It’s the kind of self-consciousness the series needs so as not to fall into the kind of one note dramatics that its premise inclines it towards.


Angry primitives aren’t the most promising of elements to put in a story, but this veers closer to Beneath the Planet of the Apes in its tale of a degraded society and so maintains interest. Fortunately, it possesses a more refined sense of humour than that film. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She was addicted to Tums for a while.

Marriage Story (2019)
(SPOILERS) I don’t tend to fall heavily for Noah Baumbach fare. He’s undoubtedly a distinctive voice – even if his collaborations with Wes Anderson are the least of that director’s efforts – but his devotion to an exclusive, rarefied New York bubble becomes ever more off-putting with each new project. And ever more identifiable as being a lesser chronicler of the city’s privileged quirks than his now disinherited forbear Woody Allen, who at his peak mastered a balancing act between the insightful, hilarious and self-effacing. Marriage Story finds Baumbach going yet again where Woody went before, this time brushing up against the director’s Ingmar Bergman fixation.

You're not only wrong. You're wrong at the top of your voice.

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)
I’ve seen comments suggesting that John Sturges’ thriller hasn’t aged well, which I find rather mystifying. Sure, some of the characterisations border on the cardboard, but the director imbues the story with a taut, economical backbone. 

My name is Dr. King Schultz, this is my valet, Django, and these are our horses, Fritz, and Tony.

Django Unchained (2012)
(MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a director in Kill Bill), I was pleasantly surprised by Inglourious Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic. As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was operating at his zenith. Django Unchained is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his all-important aesthetic pr…

You ever heard the saying, “Don’t rob the bank across from the diner that has the best donuts in three counties”?

2 Guns (2013)
(SPOILERS) Denzel Washington is such a reliable performer, that it can get a bit boring. You end up knowing every gesture or inflection in advance, whether he’s playing a good guy or a bad guy. And his films are generally at least half decent, so you end up seeing them. Even in Flight (or perhaps especially in Flight; just watch him chugging down that vodka) where he’s giving it his Oscar-nominatable best, he seems too familiar. I think it may be because he’s an actor who is more effective the less he does. In 2 Guns he’s not doing less, but sometimes it seems like it. That’s because the last person I’d ever expect blows him off the screen; Mark Wahlberg.

It looks like we’ve got another schizoid embolism!

Total Recall (1990)
(SPOILERS) Paul Verhoeven offered his post-mortem on the failures of the remakes of Total Recall (2012) and Robocop (2013) when he suggested “They take these absurd stories and make them too serious”. There may be something in this, but I suspect the kernel of their issues is simply filmmakers without either the smarts or vision, or both, to make something distinctive from the material. No one would have suggested the problem with David Cronenberg’s prospective Total Recall was over-seriousness, yet his version would have been far from a quip-heavy Raiders of the Lost Ark Go to Mars (as he attributes screenwriter Ron Shusset’s take on the material). Indeed, I’d go as far as saying not only the star, but also the director of Total Recall (1990) were miscast, making it something of a miracle it works to the extent it does.

He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
(1982)
(SPOILERS) I don’t love Star Trek, but I do love Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. That probably isn’t just me, but a common refrain of many a non-devotee of the series. Although, it used to apply to The Voyage Home (the funny one, with the whales, the Star Trek even the target audience for Three Men and a Baby could enjoy). Unfortunately, its high regard has also become the desperate, self-destructive, song-and-verse, be-all-and-end-all of the overlords of the franchise itself, in whichever iteration, it seems. This is understandable to an extent, as Khan is that rare movie sequel made to transcendent effect on almost every level, and one that stands the test of time every bit as well (better, even) as when it was first unveiled.

I am you, and you are me, and we are here. I am the dreamer. You are the dream.

Communion (1989)
(SPOILERS) Whitley Strieber’s Communion: A True Story was published in 1987, at which point the author (who would also pen Communion’s screenplay) had seen two of his novels adapted for the cinema (Wolfen and The Hunger), so he could hardly claim ignorance of the way Hollywood – or filmmaking generally – worked. So why then, did he entrust the translation of a highly personal work, an admission of/ confrontation with hidden demons/ experiences, to the auteur who unleashed Howling II and The Marsupials: Howling III upon an undeserving world? The answer seems to be that Strieber already knew director Philippe Mora, and the latter was genuinely interested in the authors’ uncanny encounters. Which is well and good and honourable, but the film entirely fails to deliver the stuff of cinematic legend. Except maybe in a negative sense.

Strieber professes dismay at the results, citing improvised scenes and additional themes, and Walken’s rendition of Whitley Strieber, protagonist…

So you made contact with the French operative?

Atomic Blonde (2017)
(SPOILERS) Well, I can certainly see why Focus Features opted to change the title from The Coldest City (the name of the graphic novel from which this is adapted). The Coldest City evokes a noirish, dour, subdued tone, a movie of slow-burn intrigue in the vein of John Le Carré. Atomic Blonde, to paraphrase its introductory text, is not that movie. As such, there’s something of a mismatch here, of the kind of Cold War tale it has its roots in and the furious, pop-soaked action spectacle director David Leitch is intent on turning it into. In the main, his choices succeed, but the result isn’t quite the clean getaway of his earlier (co-directed) John Wick.

My dear, sweet brother Numsie!

The Golden Child (1986)
Post-Beverly Hills Cop, Eddie Murphy could have filmed himself washing the dishes and it would have been a huge hit. Which might not have been a bad idea, since he chose to make this misconceived stinker.

I take Quaaludes 10-15 times a day for my "back pain", Adderall to stay focused, Xanax to take the edge off, part to mellow me out, cocaine to wake me back up again, and morphine... Well, because it's awesome.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Along with Pain & Gain and The Great Gatsby, The Wolf of Wall Street might be viewed as the completion of a loose 2013 trilogy on the subject of success and excess; the American Dream gone awry. It’s the superior picture to its fellows, by turns enthralling, absurd, outrageous and hilarious. This is the fieriest, most deliriously vibrant picture from the director since the millennium turned. Nevertheless, stood in the company of Goodfellas, the Martin Scorsese film from which The Wolf of Wall Street consciously takes many of its cues, it is found wanting.

I was vaguely familiar with the title, not because I knew much about Jordan Belfort but because the script had been in development for such a long time (Ridley Scott was attached at one time). So part of the pleasure of the film is discovering how widely the story diverges from the Wall Street template. “The Wolf of Wall Street” suggests one who towers over the city like a behemoth, rather than a guy …