Skip to main content

May you die alone and silent.

Blake's 7
1.4: Time Squad


Oh dear, unfortunate that we kick off with a cut-out animated Liberator against a starry backdrop. Captain Zep would approve. I don’t know why they couldn’t just keep reusing the same model shot.


Team Liberator learning the controls and bantering sets the scene for their first mission proper, and firms up the dynamics of the group. Gan damply follows Blake’s every suggestion, Vila trys to chicken out and Avon acidly puts down any proposed action from their self-nominated leader.

Vila (to Blake): I don’t follow you.
Avon: Oh, but you do. And that’s the problem.

The mission proposed is your fairly bog standard affair; land on a planet (Saurian Major), infiltrate a Federation structure that does something terribly important (in this case an all-redirecting transceiver), blow structure up. And contact any rebels skulking about the place. Fortunately we have a B-plot to keep things lively, although this also has its clunky aspects.


Avon is right to expose the lack of democracy on the ship; all actions are supposed to be agreed, but Blake’s giving instructions as a fait accompli. And the opt-out option is basically that if you don’t agree with Blake, say goodbye. I also have the same icy contempt for goody-two-shoes Gan that Avon does.

There’s some very clumsy exposition/plotting in this episode, mainly involving shipboard matters. Gan throws in a comment about Zen having a limiter (as the computer is failing to explain matters in relation to the craft that has put out a distress signal), signalling that this will be important later. As for Zen’s unforthcoming, stuttering approach it’s never clear why he acts this way. It’s not alien tech causing it and the final discussion on the point (that his attitude somehow relates to the cell bank) is dissatisfying. Are they suggesting that Zen has a moral imperative to want to preserve the cell bank so he won’t warn the crew of the threat from the guardians? If so, it’s vague (the comment comes after discussing how a single cell could grow to adult in 1.6 minutes). And clearly it’s nonsense, as Zen only decodes the navigation computer that reveals this information a significant way through the episode. The answer really is that Zen didn’t tell them of the risk because the plot required him not to.


The B-plot concerns aforesaid craft, with occupants in suspended animation (and pronounced veins covering their faces). The escalation of problems requiring Avon to manoeuvre the Liberator around this craft (now also supporting Blake and Jenna, running out of air) is involving, even if it relies on a number of things going wrong (Zen being uncooperative, the teleport burning out), and the model work is quite effective here (so why not in the opening shot?)


The comment from Avon that, “They weren’t planning on coming back. All instruments are set for landing. There’s nothing for take-off” doesn’t make enormous sense. The guardians must have taken off from somewhere; how do the crew know they won’t just retrace their course at some point? And the line noting that they have no weapons so either they are going to a civilised destination or “we are missing the point entirely” eludes me as to meaning. I mean, yes, it turns out that they are fighting-tough but I’d have thought they’d be better armed in order to defend the brood bank.


Sally Knyvette’s arse, in skintight purple jeans, is afforded significant coverage throughout the episode, but I’ll only mention it this once.


It was a good decision to give the de rigueur BBC quarry a pink tint (doubling as Saurian Major), and a few triffid-esque plants dotted about. Pennant Roberts is again competent holding the reins of this story, so maybe he just has problems on Doctor Who.

Blake: Some of the plants even have an intelligence rating.
Vila: Well that’s a comfort. I should hate to be eaten by something stupid.

The tiresome plot thread concerning Gan’s limiter continues (he just about gets to the point of explaining all to Jenna but is too exhausted to continue, slumps and we see the bits in his skull – it’s telegraphed with all the finesse of a bludgeon). His explanation that he killed a security guard “who killed my woman” makes him sound a bit Neanderthal in attitude (why not his “special lady friend”, why so possessive, huh, Gan?) I guess this does give a reason for him being a “yes man” to Blake (when discussion turns to the option of leaving Blake, he tells Jenna that he can’t be on his own due to the limiter). He’s more a massive moron than a gentle giant, however.


The scene where Jenna gets attacked by Kim Newman in the docking bay is marred slightly by Kim trying really hard to lunge at a slow enough speed to hit his marks. But it’s mostly quite atmospheric. Gan’s wet blanketness in the next scene (maybe we shouldn’t judge them, maybe they’re scared) is too much, though. Jenna’s not so smart either, as she elects not tell Blake of the incident when he calls in. Useless bloody crew.


Jan Chappell’s jawline is as impressive as Knyvette’s arse (okay, I mentioned it again). I’ve never been that keen on Cally. I know she is (or was) a fan favourite but once you’ve got “telepath” on your CV it replaces the need to work much on character development. Anytime you need a plot where someone’s sensitive or possessed or spooky, just go straight to Cally with her big jaw. The fracas with Blake is good fun, during which Cally wishes the blog post title on him, as is Avon’s insistence on being top dog (“I’ve had a gun on you the whole time. You were dead as soon as you broke cover”). Has Boucher drawn on Leela for some of Cally’s speech patterns/phrasing?

Cally: You fear death?
Vila: I plan to live forever. Or die trying.

There’s an interesting audio effect for Jenna’s distorted voice on the intercom (calling to dozy Gan, who’s gone and got himself clobbered/brain-fried/whatever – it’s hard to tell as for the rest of the episode he seems to have aches and pains all over his person). And Jenna answers the question she posed during Cygnus Alpha regarding killing someone, shooting first one and then another of the Guardians.


Frankly, Gan’s limiter is a stupid plot device. He surely doesn’t need to have the intention of killing the guardians, just a desire to restrain them (as in Space Fall, or punching people in Cygnus Alpha). He even says, “It’s not possible for me to kill now” so I don’t see what the problem is. And how does he know to tell Jenna “They kill anyone who isn’t theirs”?


The Federation don’t have very advanced locks, so it’s no wonder Vila is such a shit-hot thief. The industrial refinery location sets the standard for grim places to film “futuristic” bases in Blake’s 7. The tension is effectively ramped up, despite the drab surroundings, with the quartet trapped in the control room for the paraneutronic (!) generator. Which is rigged to blow. And they are unable to contact the Liberator (Gan, all useless achey-pains, has terrible difficulty reaching the controls). Admirably cheap of the production to opt for a white-out for an explosion rather than blowing up a model. Did the planet blow up too? Or was the explosion we see from space just a BIG one on the planet?


Blake’s arrival just in time to save Jenna from the extra guardian (Zen piping up that there’s four of them just the moment another is revealed) is a bit of a “well that’s what heroes do” kind of moment.  Still, Jenna killed more than you Mr Leader.  The Blake-endorsed decision to dump the craft in deep space seems a bit mean-minded – why not set it down on a planet somewhere (I don’t like to agree with Gan, but he has a point in his objection – he also grew enough of a pair to have his own opinion).


Jenna coming over all jealous of the newly joined Cally is a lovely touch (the craft encounter “should have taught us something about the wisdom involved in bringing aliens aboard”). Meow. And Blake spells out who the seven are; Zen is included but since the series isn’t called Blake Is One of Seven, I’m still counting the Liberator in there.


A victim of clumsy plotting throughout, this nevertheless a lively episode courtesy of having equal A and B plot strands. The more we get to know Gan the less I wish we did, while Cally makes a big (jawed) debut. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

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 nourish, 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.

Poor Easy Breezy.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)
(SPOILERS) My initial reaction to Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood was mild disbelief that Tarantino managed to hoodwink studios into coming begging to make it, so wilfully perverse is it in disregarding any standard expectations of narrative or plotting. Then I remembered that studios, or studios that aren’t Disney, are desperate for product, and more especially, product that might guarantee them a hit. Quentin’s latest appears to be that, but whether it’s a sufficient one to justify the expense of his absurd vanity project remains to be seen.

I just hope my death makes more cents than my life.

Joker (2019)
(SPOILERS) So the murder sprees didn’t happen, and a thousand puff pieces desperate to fan the flames of such events and then told-ya-so have fallen flat on their faces. The biggest takeaway from Joker is not that the movie is an event, when once that seemed plausible but not a given, but that any mainstream press perspective on the picture appears unable to divorce its quality from its alleged or actual politics. Joker may be zeitgeisty, but isn’t another Taxi Driver in terms of cultural import, in the sense that Taxi Driver didn’t have a Taxi Driver in mind when Paul Schrader wrote it. It is, if you like, faux-incendiary, and can only ever play out on that level. It might be more accurately described as a grubbier, grimier (but still polished and glossy) The Talented Ripley, the tale of developing psychopathy, only tailored for a cinemagoing audience with few options left outside of comic book fare.

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 …

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.

Well, it seems our Mr Steed is not such an efficient watchdog after all.

The Avengers 2.7: The Decapod
A title suggesting some variety of monstrous aquatic threat for Steed and Julie Stevens’ Venus Smith. Alas, the reality is much more mundane. The Decapod refers to a Mongo-esque masked wrestler, one who doesn’t even announce “I will destroy you!” at the top of his lungs. Still, there’s always Philip “Solon” Madoc looking very shifty to pass the time.

Madoc is Stepan, a Republic of the Balkans embassy official and the brother-in-law of President Yakob Borb (Paul Stassino). There’s no love lost between him and his ladies’ man bro, and dark deeds are taking place with the embassy confines, but who is responsible proves elusive. Steed is called in, or rather calls Venus in as a replacement, when Borb’s private secretary is murdered by Mongo. Steed isn’t buying that she slipped and broke her neck in the shower; “I shouldn’t like a similar accident to happen to you” he informs the President.

The trail leads to wrestling bouts at the public baths, where the Butcher…

It always seems a bit abstract, doesn’t it? Other people dying.

Game of Thrones Season Six
(SPOILERS) The most distracting thing about Season Six of Game of Thrones (and I’ve begun writing this at the end of the seventh episode, The Broken Man) is how breakneck its pace is, and how worryingly – only relatively, mind – upbeat it’s become. Suddenly, characters are meeting and joining forces, not necessarily mired in pits of despair but actually moving towards positive, attainable goals, even if those goals are ultimately doomed (depending on the party concerned). It feels, in a sense, that liberated from George R R Martin’s text, producers are going full-throttle, and you half-wonder if they’re using up too much plot and revelation too quickly, and will run out before the next two seasons are up. Then, I’m naturally wary of these things, well remembering how Babylon 5 suffered from packing all its goods into Season Four and was then given an ultimately wasted final season reprieve.

I’ve started this paragraph at the end of the eighth episode, No One (t…

Just make love to that wall, pervert!

Seinfeld 2.10: The Statue
The Premise
Jerry employs a cleaner, the boyfriend of an author whose book Elaine is editing. He leaves the apartment spotless, but Jerry is convinced he has made off with a statue.

Genuine eccentrics are a dying breed.

The Avengers 3.11: Build a Better Mousetrap
This really oughtn’t to work, seeing as it finds The Avengers flirting with youth culture, well outside its comfort zone, and more precisely with a carefree biker gang who just want to have a good time and dance to funky music in a barn all night long. Not like the squares. Not like John Steed… who promptly brings them on side and sends them off on a treasure hunt! Add a into the mix couple of dotty old dears in a windmill– maybe witches – up to who knows what, and you have very much the shape of the eccentric settings and scenarios to come.

Cynthia (Athene Seyler) and Ermyntrude (Nora Nicholson) are introduced as a butter-wouldn’t sisters who, concerned over the young bikers riding nearby, threaten that “We’ll put a spell on you”. But this amounts to misdirection in an episode that is remarkably effective in wrong-footing the audience (abetted to by Harold Goodwin’s landlord Harris: “Witches, that’s what they are. Witches”). We might have caus…

You can’t keep the whole world in the dark about what’s going on. Once they know that a five-mile hunk of rock is going to hit the world at 30,000 miles per hour, the people will want to know what the hell we intend to do about it.

Meteor (1979)
(SPOILERS) In which we find Sean Connery – or his agent, whom he got rid of subsequent to this and Cuba – showing how completely out of touch he was by the late 1970s. Hence hitching his cart to the moribund disaster movie genre just as movie entertainment was being rewritten and stolen from under him. He wasn’t alone, of course – pal Michael Caine would appear in both The Swarm and Beyond the Poseidon Adventure during this period – but Meteor’s lack of commercial appeal was only accentuated by how functional and charmless its star is in it. Some have cited Meteor as the worst movie of his career (Christopher Bray in his book on the actor), but its sin is not one of being outright terrible, rather of being terminally dull.