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

  1. I do like this episode, A couple of times Avon seems to be trying to impress Cally - where he holds up the Iso Crystal for instance.
    I too thought they should have kept a couple of guns, and have looked in the box to be certain the Neutrotrope should be there.
    And why did not one of Destiny's people go with Blake? I would have thought that would be the obvious thing to do, and the rest could limp home later.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It definitely has a number of problems logic-wise, but the sheer pleasure of Avon in Agatha Christie mode sees it through.

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

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…

Your honor, with all due respect: if you're going to try my case for me, I wish you wouldn't lose it.

The Verdict (1982)
(SPOILERS) Sidney Lumet’s return to the legal arena, with results every bit as compelling as 12 Angry Men a quarter of a century earlier. This time the focus is on the lawyer, in the form of Paul Newman’s washed-up ambulance chaser Frank Galvin, given a case that finally matters to him. In less capable hands, The Verdict could easily have resorted to a punch-the-air piece of Hollywood cheese, but, thanks to Lumet’s earthy instincts and a sharp, unsentimental screenplay from David Mamet, this redemption tale is one of the genre’s very best.

And it could easily have been otherwise. The Verdict went through several line-ups of writer, director and lead, before reverting to Mamet’s original screenplay. There was Arthur Hiller, who didn’t like the script. Robert Redford, who didn’t like the subsequent Jay Presson Allen script and brought in James Bridges (Redford didn’t like that either). Finally, the producers got the hump with the luxuriantly golden-haired star for meetin…

He mobilised the English language and sent it into battle.

Darkest Hour (2017)
(SPOILERS) Watching Joe Wright’s return to the rarefied plane of prestige – and heritage to boot – filmmaking following the execrable folly of the panned Pan, I was struck by the difference an engaged director, one who cares about his characters, makes to material. Only last week, Ridley Scott’s serviceable All the Money in the World made for a pointed illustration of strong material in the hands of someone with no such investment, unless they’re androids. Wright’s dedication to a relatable Winston Churchill ensures that, for the first hour-plus, Darkest Hour is a first-rate affair, a piece of myth-making that barely puts a foot wrong. It has that much in common with Wright’s earlier Word War II tale, Atonement. But then, like Atonement, it comes unstuck.

Who are you and why do you know so much about car washes?

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
(SPOILERS) The belated arrival of the Ant-Man sequel on UK shores may have been legitimately down to World Cup programming, but it nevertheless adds to the sense that this is the inessential little sibling of the MCU, not really expected to challenge the grosses of a Doctor Strange, let alone the gargantuan takes of its two predecessors this year. Empire magazine ran with this diminution, expressing disappointment that it was "comparatively minor and light-hitting" and "lacks the scale and ambition of recent Marvel entries". Far from deficits, for my money these should be regard as accolades bestowed upon Ant-Man and the Wasp; it understands exactly the zone its operating in, yielding greater dividends than the three most recent prior Marvel entries the review cites in its efforts at point scoring.

Dude, you're embarrassing me in front of the wizards.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
(SPOILERS) The cliffhanger sequel, as a phenomenon, is a relatively recent thing. Sure, we kind of saw it with The Empire Strikes Back – one of those "old" movies Peter Parker is so fond of – a consequence of George Lucas deliberately borrowing from the Republic serials of old, but he had no guarantee of being able to complete his trilogy; it was really Back to the Future that began the trend, and promptly drew a line under it for another decade. In more recent years, really starting with The MatrixThe Lord of the Rings stands apart as, post-Weinstein's involvement, fashioned that way from the ground up – shooting the second and third instalments back-to-back has become a thing, both more cost effective and ensuring audiences don’t have to endure an interminable wait for their anticipation to be sated. The flipside of not taking this path is an Allegiant, where greed gets the better of a studio (split a novel into two movie parts assuming a…

The simple fact is, your killer is in your midst. Your killer is one of you.

The Avengers 5.12: The Superlative Seven
I’ve always rather liked this one, basic as it is in premise. If the title consciously evokes The Magnificent Seven, to flippant effect, the content is Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, but played out with titans of their respective crafts – including John Steed, naturally – encountering diminishing returns. It also boasts a cast of soon-to-be-famous types (Charlotte Rampling, Brian Blessed, Donald Sutherland), and the return of one John Hollis (2.16: Warlock, 4.7: The Cybernauts). Kanwitch ROCKS!

I freely chose my response to this absurd world. If given the opportunity, I would have been more vigorous.

The Falcon and the Snowman (1985)
(SPOILERS) I suspect, if I hadn’t been ignorant of the story of Christopher Boyce and Andrew Daulton Lee selling secrets to the Soviets during the ‘70s, I’d have found The Falcon and the Snowman less engaging than I did. Which is to say that John Schlesinger’s film has all the right ingredients to be riveting, including a particularly camera-hogging performance from Sean Penn (as Lee), but it’s curiously lacking in narrative drive. Only fitfully does it channel the motives of its protagonists and their ensuing paranoia. As such, the movie makes a decent primer on the case, but I ended up wondering if it might not be ideal fodder for retelling as a miniseries.

Everyone creates the thing they dread.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
(SPOILERS) Avengers: Age of Ultron’s problem isn’t one of lack. It benefits from a solid central plot. It features a host of standout scenes and set pieces. It hands (most of) its characters strong defining moments. It doesn’t even suffer now the “wow” factor of seeing the team together for the first time has subsided. Its problem is that it’s too encumbered. Maybe its asking to much of a director to effectively martial the many different elements required by an ensemble superhero movie such as this, yet Joss Whedon’s predecessor feels positively lean in comparison.

Part of this is simply down to the demands of the vaster Marvel franchise machine. Seeds are laid for Captain America: Civil War, Infinity Wars I & II, Black Panther and Thor: Ragnarok. It feels like several spinning plates too many. Such activity occasionally became over-intrusive on previous occasions (Iron Man II), but there are points in Age of Ultron where it becomes distractingly so. …

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 …

Gloat all you like, but just remember, I’m the star of this picture.

The Avengers 5.11: Epic
Epic has something of a Marmite reputation, and even as someone who rather likes it, I can quite see its flaws. A budget-conscious Brian Clemens was inspired to utilise readily-available Elstree sets, props and costumes, the results both pushing the show’s ever burgeoning self-reflexive agenda and providing a much more effective (and amusing) "Avengers girl ensnared by villains attempting to do for her" plot than The House That Jack BuiltDon't Look Behind You and the subsequent The Joker. Where it falters is in being little more than a succession of skits and outfit changes for Peter Wyngarde. While that's very nearly enough, it needs that something extra to reach true greatness. Or epic-ness.