Skip to main content

I don't like an unsolved mystery.


Blake's 7
1.7: Mission to Destiny


An exercise in format-testing/stretching, Mission to Destiny ditches Blake’s beef with the Federation for a week and replaces it with a good old-fashioned murder mystery. One in which Avon gets to call the shots. For the most part the proceedings are handled reliably if unshowily by Pennant Roberts. Although, he seems to have taken an arbitrary approach to shooting some scenes on film and others on video. If the mystery itself is a fairly standard set-up, it succeeds by revelling in the trappings rather than paying lip service to them.


Vila: Mock if you like, but I can always sense danger.
Gan: Yes, even when there isn’t any.


Avon, Blake and Cally teleport across to an orbiting Galaxy class cruiser where all the crew have been rendered unconscious by sono vapour. The pilot has been killed, but managed to scrawl 54124 in his own blood before expiring (it’s always useful when dying people are so forward thinking). One of the crew is missing and a life rocket has been launched. We learn that the crew are taking a valuable neutrotope back to their fungus-afflicted planet of Destiny (a name that’s asking for trouble). The neutrotope should save them from the fungus.


With news that it will take five months to reach Destiny, Blake elects to take the neutrotope ahead while Avon and Cally remain as willing hostages, although Avon has his own reasons, not caring about the fate of the farmers.

Avon: I shall stay because I don’t like an unsolved mystery.


Leaving their guns with Blake is daft, though. The B-plot of the Liberator’s journey to Destiny is fairly risible; they get afflicted by some meteors, then turn back when they find the neutrotope wasn’t in its box (checking before leaving would have been sensible). Obviously, it was the murderer who went to fetch the neutrotope to give to Blake.

Cally: My people have a saying. A man who trusts can never be betrayed. Only mistaken.
Avon: Life expectancy must be fairly short among your people.


The assembled murder suspects are Dr Kendall (Barry Jackson – Drax in The Armageddon Factor), Sara, Mandrian, Sonheim (Bulic in Roberts’ Warriors of the Deep), Levett, Grovane (Carl Forgione, Nimrod in Ghostlight and Land in Planet of the Spiders) Pasco (K9 himself, John Leeson) and Rafford. Oh, and Stuart Fell plays dead Dortmunn. He gets all the best parts.


Paul Darrow relishes playing Avon as Hercule Poirot with a sneer. Cally suggests that the death of the pilot was an accident.

Cally: A misfortune.
Avon: It certainly was for him.


And his non-verbal response to Leeson being anal about how the air vent in the flight deck should not have been left open is hilarious, particularly as Leeson won’t shut up about it. There’s the expected succession of misplaced suspicions (Avon suspects Mandrian, Cally thinks its Sonheim) until Sonheim is killed and suspicion falls on Mandrian.

At this point Avon latches onto the truth (the numbers were actually badly written letters, spelling out Sara, which is almost quite clever, but in practice rather unlikely that the pilot would badly spell all the letters of her name as numbers). Also amusing is Avon lapsing back into not-giving-a-toss mode, having finished his mental exercise and unmasked the fleeing murderer.


Avon: Well she’s one of your crew. You’d better get after her.


Less satisfying is the ruse to persuade Sara to leave the flight deck, by making it appear the crew killed each other in some sort of dispute. It gives Darrow another delightfully nasty moment as Avon, though, punching her out.


Avon: You better get her out of here. I really rather enjoyed that.


I’m not sure that Blake ought to be so gleeful about having rigged a charge on the engine hatch of the cruiser, which blows up Sara (she managed not to transport to the Liberator at the last moment) and the rendezvous-ing ship that is set to buy the neutrotope. A bit unnecessarily ruthless.


Great fun this one, if atypical of the mission against the Federation storylines we expect. Darrow relishes taking centre stage, but the Liberator subplot is very weak.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

We live in a twilight world.

Tenet (2020)
(SPOILERS) I’ve endured a fair few confusingly-executed action sequences in movies – more than enough, actually – but I don’t think I’ve previously had the odd experience of being on the edge of my seat during one while simultaneously failing to understand its objectives and how those objectives are being attempted. Which happened a few times during Tenet. If I stroll over to the Wiki page and read the plot synopsis, it is fairly explicable (fairly) but as a first dive into this Christopher Nolan film, I frequently found it, if not impenetrable, then most definitely opaque.

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 can’t climb a ladder, no. But you can skip like a goat into a bar.

Juno and the Paycock (1930)
(SPOILERS) Hitchcock’s second sound feature. Such was the lustre of this technological advance that a wordy play was picked. By Sean O’Casey, upon whom Hitchcock based the prophet of doom at the end of The Birds. Juno and the Paycock, set in 1922 during the Irish Civil War, begins as a broad comedy of domestic manners, but by the end has descended into full-blown Greek (or Catholic) tragedy. As such, it’s an uneven but still watchable affair, even if Hitch does nothing to disguise its stage origins.

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).

James Bond. You appear with the tedious inevitability of an unloved season.

Moonraker (1979)
Depending upon your disposition, and quite possibly age, Moonraker is either the Bond film that finally jumped the shark or the one that is most gloriously redolent of Roger Moore’s knowing take on the character. Many Bond aficionados will no doubt utter its name with thinly disguised contempt, just as they will extol with gravity how Timothy Dalton represented a masterful return to the core values of the series. If you regard For Your Eyes Only as a refreshing return to basics after the excesses of the previous two entries, and particularly the space opera grandstanding of this one, it’s probably fair to say you don’t much like Roger Moore’s take on Bond.

Twenty dwarves took turns doing handstands on the carpet.

Bugsy (1991)
(SPOILERS) Bugsy is very much a Warren Beatty vanity project (aren’t they all, even the ones that don’t seem that way on the surface?), to the extent of his playing a title character a decade and a half younger than him. As such, it makes sense that producer Warren’s choice of director wouldn’t be inclined to overshadow star Warren, but the effect is to end up with a movie that, for all its considerable merits (including a script from James Toback chock full of incident), never really feels quite focussed, that it’s destined to lead anywhere, even if we know where it’s going.

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…

I mean, I am just a dumb bunny, but, we are good at multiplying.

Zootropolis (2016)
(SPOILERS) The key to Zootropolis’ creative success isn’t so much the conceit of its much-vaunted allegory regarding prejudice and equality, or – conversely – the fun to be had riffing on animal stereotypes (simultaneously clever and obvious), or even the appealing central duo voiced by Ginnifier Goodwin (as first rabbit cop Judy Hopps) and Jason Bateman (fox hustler Nick Wilde). Rather, it’s coming armed with that rarity for an animation; a well-sustained plot that doesn’t devolve into overblown set pieces or rest on the easy laurels of musical numbers and montages.

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.

When I barked, I was enormous.

Dean Spanley (2008)
(SPOILERS) There is such a profusion of average, respectable – but immaculately made – British period drama held up for instant adulation, it’s hardly surprising that, when something truly worthy of acclaim comes along, it should be singularly ignored. To be fair, Dean Spanleywas well liked by critics upon its release, but its subsequent impact has proved disappointingly slight. Based on Lord Dunsany’s 1939 novella, My Talks with Dean Spanley, our narrator relates how the titular Dean’s imbibification of a moderate quantity of Imperial Tokay (“too syrupy”, is the conclusion reached by both members of the Fisk family regarding this Hungarian wine) precludes his recollection of a past life as a dog. 

Inevitably, reviews pounced on the chance to reference Dean Spanley as a literal shaggy dog story, so I shall get that out of the way now. While the phrase is more than fitting, it serves to underrepresent how affecting the picture is when it has cause to be, as does any re…