Skip to main content

I came here to take President Sarkoff back to his people.

Blake's 7
1.11: Bounty


It was inevitable that the series would trot out a retro-planet budget-saver at some point, and it’s a shame that it comes attached to a story as unimaginative as this one. Blake and Cally teleport down to a Federation planet with the intention of returning the exiled President Sarkoff (T.P. McKenna, The Greatest Show in the Galaxy) to his people on Lindor.


Sarkoff is under guard so there’s quite a bit of extended ducking and running for Blake and Cally to do, only to find Sarkoff is extremely reluctant to return. He is content to wallow in the historical artefacts that surround him in his small castle. His daughter Tyce thinks he should grow a pair.


The B-plot, which converges eventually with the A, sees the Liberator detect an unidentified ship (we are told later that it is the civilian cruiser Star Queen, which it turns out not to be) and Gan teleports over to investigate. Vila doesn’t like it, and he’s right.


Avon: As a matter of fact, I don’t like it either.
Vila: He agrees with me. Makes it all seem worthwhile somehow.


Gan, being a great hulking goob, screws things up for everyone else although we don’t find that out until later. That we are left dangling (Gan appears to call the Liberator to teleport him back and Zen informs Vila that this isn’t Gan’s voice; Vila races to the teleport room too late, so if nothing else the Liberator should really pipe Zen through to all important stations) is the only decent suspense sequence in the episode, and unfortunately the revelation of the culprits is a bit of a letdown (not that a scheme by Travis would been unexpected, but it would certainly have been more dramatic).


The highlight of the planetary scenes is McKenna’ Sarkoff, all charm and erudition. His response to Blake’s claim that he is not there to kill him is particularly amusing:

Sarkoff: I am grateful for your semantic precision...


Tyce has a jaw that could wrestle for supremacy with Cally’s (I recognise Carinthia West from something else, but imdb doesn’t help). Blake’s exposition of the background to Sarkoff’s exile is the most interesting aspect of this plot thread, as it has the whiff of commentary on Western power-grabbing. Blake learnt the details from the cipher machine we saw in Seek-Locate-Destroy.

The Federation refer to their machinations as the Lindor Strategy, beginning with rigged elections to wrest Sarkoff from power (he was convinced it was due to his unpopularity, since Lindor didn’t even join the Federation after he lost and his opposition to joining was foremost on his ticket) and only ending when he returns to power as a puppet leader of a subjugated people. Such underhand activity, not officially sanctioned, suggests it’s only really the signposting of their “stormtroopers” that sets the Federation apart from more obviously democratic structures (that there’s a fine line between democratic and totalitarian rule).


Blake, as ever seeing things in black and white first, says that Sarkoff must come by force if necessary. He persuades Sarkoff by starting to smash his collection up, which is the same kind of clinical manipulation that saw him threaten Kane’s hands in the previous episode.


There’s some rather rum “action” involving escaping in Sarkoff’s old car before they all teleport back to the Liberator for the final 20 minutes (again, this follows the structure of the previous episode).


Where, rather boringly, the ship has been overrun by Amagon smugglers (distinguished by their Arabian looks and garb.) And Jenna gets a wee subplot, since she knows their leader Tarvin and appears to have joined up with them.


Of course she hasn’t really as she remains mystifyingly hot for Blake. Tarvin is in it for the bounty on the crew and ship (13 million credits, or only 12 million if he decides not to turn in Jenna.) She promises him the 300 million credits-worth of booty on the ship and gets rid of a couple of guards while running with this gambit.


Vila has an argument with Avon while trying to unlock the neck bracelet on Blake. Avon’s trying to unlock the door but it’s bloody Gan who causes the ruckus by getting all irate and doing a GAN SMASH! that distracts them. I can’t tell if Darrow is genuinely cracking up when Vila asks him to “Shut up, please” but it’s a great moment. Keating plays Vila’s frustration at potentially having no one to unlock his neck bracelet amusingly too.


The stand-off between Tarvin and Sarkoff (who is his guest for the time being) sees him eventually shoot the smuggler when Tarvin is distracted by Blake. It should be involving, but it’s not really, and the extensive rewrites Boucher had to undertake show in the slackness of pace, so-so characterisation and lack of drama.


More of Blake as unlikely babe-magnet when Tyce says goodbye to him; Cally and (of course) Jenna get all catty that she didn’t mean her goodbye for anyone but Blake. It’s another groan-worthy episode ending, and a worrying development that suggests the series is going down a sub-Star Trek route of “humorous” (as in shite) sign-offs to the audience.


I can’t find much to recommend here. The plotlines are dull, and only McKenna distinguishes himself. A retro-theme might have worked well but it comes across as cobbled together, while the piracy plot is uninspired. Possibly the cleverest part is that the title refers both to Sarkoff and the crew, which says something for the overall level of invention. 

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…

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.

How do you like that – Cuddles knew all the time!

The Pleasure Garden (1925)
(SPOILERS) Hitchcock’s first credit as director, and his account of the production difficulties, as related to Francois Truffaut, is by and large more pleasurable than The Pleasure Garden itself. The Italian location shoot in involved the confiscation of undeclared film stock, having to recast a key role and borrowing money from the star when Hitch ran out of the stuff.

Haven’t you ever heard of the healing power of laughter?

Batman (1989)
(SPOILERS) There’s Jaws, there’s Star Wars, and then there’s Batman in terms of defining the modern blockbuster. Jaws’ success was so profound, it changed the way movies were made and marketed. Batman’s marketing was so profound, it changed the way tentpoles would be perceived: as cash cows. Disney tried to reproduce the effect the following year with Dick Tracy, to markedly less enthusiastic response. None of this places Batman in the company of Jaws as a classic movie sold well, far from it. It just so happened to hit the spot. As Tim Burton put it, it was “more of a cultural phenomenon than a great movie”. It’s difficult to disagree with his verdict that the finished product (for that is what it is) is “mainly boring”.

Now, of course, the Burton bat has been usurped by the Nolan incarnation (and soon the Snyder). They have some things in common. Both take the character seriously and favour a sombre tone, which was much more of shock to the system when Burton did it (even…

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

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.

Anything can happen in Little Storping. Anything at all.

The Avengers 2.22: Murdersville
Brian Clemens' witty take on village life gone bad is one of the highlights of the fifth season. Inspired by Bad Day at Black Rock, one wonders how much Murdersville's premise of unsettling impulses lurking beneath an idyllic surface were set to influence both Straw Dogs and The Wicker Mana few years later (one could also suggest it premeditates the brand of backwoods horrors soon to be found in American cinema from the likes of Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper).

To defeat the darkness out there, you must defeat the darkness inside yourself.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)
Easily the best of the Narnia films, which is maybe damning it with faint praise. 

Michael Apted does a competent job directing (certainly compared to his Bond film - maybe he talked to his second unit this time), Dante Spinotti's cinematography is stunning and the CGI mostly well-integrated with the action. 

Performance-wise, Will Poulter is a stand-out as a tremendously obnoxious little toff, so charismatic you're almost rooting for him. Simon Pegg replaces Eddie Izzard as the voice of Reepicheep and delivers a touching performance.
***