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

It’ll be like living in the top drawer of a glass box.

Someone’s Watching Me! (1978) (SPOILERS) The first of a pair of TV movies John Carpenter directed in the 1970s, but Someone’s Watching Me! is more affiliated, in genre terms, to his breakout hit ( Halloween ) and reasonably successful writing job ( The Eyes of Laura Mars ) of the same year than the also-small-screen Elvis . Carpenter wrote a slew of gun-for-hire scripts during this period – some of which went on to see the twilight of day during the 1990s – so directing Someone’s Watching Me! was not a given. It’s well-enough made and has its moments of suspense, but you sorely miss a signature Carpenter theme – it was by Harry Sukman, his penultimate work, the final being Salem’s Lot – and it really does feel very TV movie-ish.

As in the hokey kids’ show guy?

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood (2019) (SPOILERS) I don’t think Mr Rogers could have been any creepier had Kevin Spacey played him. It isn’t just the baggage Tom Hanks brings, and whether or not he’s the adrenochrome lord to the stars and/or in Guantanamo and/or dead and/or going to make a perfectly dreadful Colonel Tom Parker and an equally awful Geppetto; it’s that his performance is so constipated and mannered an imitation of Mr Rogers’ genuineness that this “biopic” takes on a fundamentally sinister turn. His every scene with a youngster isn’t so much exuding benevolent empathy as suggestive of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ’s Child Catcher let loose in a TV studio (and again, this bodes well for Geppetto). Extend that to A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood ’s conceit, that Mr Rogers’ life is one of a sociopathic shrink milking angst from his victims/patients in order to get some kind of satiating high – a bit like a rejuvenating drug, on that score – and you have a deeply unsettli

Who’s got the Figgy Port?

Loki (2021) (SPOILERS) Can something be of redeemable value and shot through with woke (the answer is: Mad Max: Fury Road )? The two attributes certainly sound essentially irreconcilable, and Loki ’s tendencies – obviously, with new improved super-progressive Kevin Feige touting Disney’s uber-agenda – undeniably get in the way of what might have been a top-tier MCU entry from realising its full potential. But there are nevertheless solid bursts of highly engaging storytelling in the mix here, for all its less cherishable motivations. It also boasts an effortlessly commanding lead performance from Tom Hiddleston; that alone puts Loki head and shoulders above the other limited series thus far.

I'm offering you a half-share in the universe.

Doctor Who Season 8 – Worst to Best I’m not sure I’d watched Season Eight chronologically before. While I have no hesitation in placing it as the second-best Pertwee season, based on its stories, I’m not sure it pays the same dividends watched as a unit. Simply, there’s too much Master, even as Roger Delgado never gets boring to watch and the stories themselves offer sufficient variety. His presence, turning up like clockwork, is inevitably repetitive. There were no particular revelatory reassessments resulting from this visit, then, except that, taken together – and as The Directing Route extra on the Blu-ray set highlights – it’s often much more visually inventive than what would follow. And that Michael Ferguson should probably have been on permanent attachment throughout this era.

What's a movie star need a rocket for anyway?

The Rocketeer (1991) (SPOILERS) The Rocketeer has a fantastic poster. One of the best of the last thirty years (and while that may seem like faint praise, what with poster design being a dying art – I’m looking at you Marvel, or Amazon and the recent The Tomorrow War – it isn’t meant to be). The movie itself, however, tends towards stodge. Unremarkable pictures with a wide/cult fanbase, conditioned by childhood nostalgia, are ten-a-penny – Willow for example – and in this case, there was also a reasonably warm critical reception. But such an embrace can’t alter that Joe Johnston makes an inveterately bland, tepid movie director. His “feel” for period here got him The First Avenger: Captain America gig, a bland, tepid movie tending towards stodge. So at least he’s consistent.

By whom will this be rectified? Your ridiculously ineffectual assassins?

The X-Files 3.2: Paperclip Paperclip recovers ground after The Blessing Way stumbled slightly in its detour, and does so with some of the series’ most compelling dramatics so far. As well as more of Albert performing prayer rituals for the sick (perhaps we could spend some time with the poor guy over breakfast, or going to the movies? No, all he’s allowed is stock Native American mysticism).

Here’s Bloody Justice for you.

Laughter in Paradise (1951) (SPOILERS) The beginning of a comedic run for director-producer Mario Zampa that spanned much of the 1950s, invariably aided by writers Michael Pertwee and Jack Davies (the latter went on to pen a spate of Norman Wisdom pictures including The Early Bird , and also comedy rally classic Monte Carlo or Bust! ) As usual with these Pertwee jaunts, Laughter in Paradise boasts a sparky premise – renowned practical joker bequeaths a fortune to four relatives, on condition they complete selected tasks that tickle him – and more than enough resultant situational humour.

That’s what it’s all about. Interrupting someone’s life.

Following (1998) (SPOILERS) The Nolanverse begins here. And for someone now delivering the highest-powered movie juggernauts globally – that are not superhero or James Cameron movies – and ones intrinsically linked with the “art” of predictive programming, it’s interesting to note familiar themes of identity and limited perception of reality in this low-key, low-budget and low-running time (we won’t see much of the latter again) debut. And, naturally, non-linear storytelling. Oh, and that cool, impersonal – some might say clinical – approach to character, subject and story is also present and correct.

Damn prairie dog burrow!

Tremors (1990) (SPOILERS) I suspect the reason the horror comedy – or the sci-fi comedy, come to that – doesn’t tend to be the slam-dunk goldmine many assume it must be, is because it takes a certain sensibility to do it right. Everyone isn’t a Joe Dante or Sam Raimi, or a John Landis, John Carpenter, Edgar Wright, Christopher Landon or even a Peter Jackson or Tim Burton, and the genre is littered with financial failures, some of them very good failures (and a good number of them from the names mentioned). Tremors was one, only proving a hit on video (hence six sequels at last count). It also failed to make Ron Underwood a directing legend.

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 Spanley was 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 c