Skip to main content

They must come to us.

Blake's 7
1.5: The Web


My understanding is that The Web has never had such a great reputation. Certainly, its effectiveness is hampered by elements of make-up/design that don’t quite work (the Decimas, Saymon). Balancing that we have Michael E Briant pulling out all the stops to direct an atmospheric and inventively shot episode. His work highlights that while Pennant Roberts and Vere Lorrimer have been competent thus far, that’s all they have been.


The location shoot in Black Park (Full Circle) makes a respite from two weeks of quarries, and the tracking shots through web-strewn vegetation sets the scene nicely. That said, the base here looks at best prefabricated and at worst like it would collapse if you breathed lightly on it. The interior is atmospherically lit, and the use of fades reveals Novara (Miles Fothergill, SV7 in Briant’s The Robots of Death, and a bit of a Paul McGann-alike) and Geela (Ania Marson, who would feature in Nic Roeg’s Bad Timing) reclining in separate quarters. So far so good, with an ominously breathy “They must come to us” repeated over the soundtrack.


But, then, oops. We get to see Saymon (Richard Beale, who did voice work on The Ark and The Macra Terror and featured as Bat Mastertson in The Gunfighters and Minister of Ecology in The Green Death). Achieving an effect by having someone stick their head through a hole in a wall and sticking a tiny fake body beneath them is unlikely to be dramatically powerful. Comedically, yes; if you’re Vic and Bob playing Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye. As it is, the best I can say is that Saymon manages to be both laughable and simultaneously disturbing (the same is true of the Decimas).


Unsurprisingly, no sooner has Cally joined the Liberator than she’s acting all freaky-deaky with her alien telepathy skills. Briant again shows himself as a class apart, using handheld camera and POV in her encounter with hapless Vila. It looks like catty Jenna was right to be suspicious of her last episode as she is seen to be up to no good, planting an electronic device. Jenna wears a dress, so unfortunately we don’t get her arse this week. Blake has his shirt open and is wearing a medallion, so this is definitely a 1970s future.


There’s a well-written exchange between Avon and Cally, he ever-suspicious of everyone, as she milks him for information on the workings of the ship. Darrow’s great at pulling extra beats from scenes that probably aren’t there on the page, and this is no exception.

Zen being rubbish at helping, a bit like K9 breaking down, is clearly going to be a regular feature so that plots don’t get sorted out 10 minutes into an episode.


Cally’s “Must you invite death” on being restrained (by Gan, not rubbish for a change) is a very Leela comment, in tone and sentence composition. Jenna probably enjoys giving Cally a beating a little too much (she repeats  We should never have brought her on the ship” to Blake, who is setting a standard for making dubious decisions based on hasty considerations). Avon following this up with “You made this mess” sets the “alpha” crew members (Blake, Avon, Jenna) clearly at odds.


Avon saves Blake from the exploding device:

Blake: Thank you. Why?

Avon: Automatic reaction. I’m as surprised as you are.


I’m still mystified over why we keep seeing shots of the cardboard Liberator shooting by, and then we get proper model work of the ship getting caught in the web. Whether or not there’s good reason, it makes for very weak matching of elements.


Gan asks Avon why he doesn’t just let the Liberator’s automatic repair function do its job.

AvonIt’s slow. You should appreciate that problem.

His comment that there will come a time when Blake isn’t making the decisions is prescient, even if it takes a couple of years to achieve.

Jenna’s possession is a bit on the boggle-eyed side, but the lip-synching is effectively spooky. But tying her possessors to Cally (the Lost, cast out, unfit to share the soul of Aurona) is too convenient.


The wee Decimas are kind of rubbish, and yet intermittently effective. The one with red staring eyes (Deep Roy who appeared in The Talons of Weng-Chiang and later Mindwarp) is a disturbing sight when he’s throwing a paddy.



Briant shoots them in silhouettes trying to break into the dome, which works well.  The director also handles the cuts between location and studio very seamlessly; you never question the relationship between the two spaces.


If the ethical debate on their right to live is rather one-note (of course Blake will help the repressed tiny people – yet he isn’t fussed about ensuring the survival of the (also) genetically engineered Novara and Geela, not to mention Saymon) there are a few interesting concepts to make this distinct.


Novara and Geela, more intelligent but no less engineered life forms, accept their limited purpose seemingly on a philosophical level. They have no lives of their own. It is research that has been allowed to get out of control (the web, the Decimas) that poses a threat.  Slightly unexpected is that Saymon doesn’t want to take over the Liberator. He just wants a couple of power cells. His announcement that he is a “corporate identity” threw me a bit as it put me in mind of some sort of gestalt board of directors.


Incoming Federation pursuit ships seems like a weekly threat to put a ticking clock on proceedings and give the crew remaining on the Liberator something to idly fret about.

Avon’s thorough disinterest in Blake’s moral dilemma (“If it concerns you, don’t give them the cells”) leads to a rather hamfisted bun vendor of an exchange with Novara and Geela where Avon is threatened and Blake hands the cells over.


The Decimas infiltration of the base and their little screaming voices as they go beserk is chilling (particularly as weirdy man Saymon’s screams add to the effect). Even more so, they then start playing football with the skulls of the now disintegrating Novara and Geela, having had a good stomp up and down on their bodies.


Blake: They’re fighting for their lives.
Avon: Who isn’t?

Blake’s assertion thatAt least the Decimas stand a chance now” reflects his position that oppressors surrender any rights whatsoever (they have met their just desserts). The end of the episode features the now compulsory verbal skuffle between Avon and Blake which is already like putting on a comfortable pair of slippers (on this occasion it relates to the right to life of all sentient beings). The ongoing plotting is not forgotten for this diversion, as Blake still wants to reach Centero (he mentioned this at the end of Time Squad too). I wonder if we’ll meet some Federation luminaries soon?



This really has the odds stacked against it, with some very patchy design work and a rather simplistic ethical conversation at its centre. But somehow Michael E Briant mostly pulls off an episode that is big on atmosphere and unsettling imagery. 

Popular posts from this blog

The minotaur isn’t even history. He’s mythology!

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013) The long awaited, some might suggest past-its-sell-by-date, return of Ron Burgundy doesn’t begin well. It pretty much confirmed my fears this was a sequel with no reason to be, one that weakly rehash the gags and set-ups from the first movie. It isn’t until the gang gets back together that Will Ferrell and Adam McKay hit their groove, by which I mean there’s a higher hit than miss ratio to the jokes. Many of the ideas that come with the central concept are soft connects, but the more absurd The Legend Continues gets, the funnier it becomes, leading to a final act (if you can call it that) so glorious in its silliness that much of what fails before becomes virtually irrelevant. Anchorman 2 was on-again, off-again for quite some time before it finally got the green light, with a stage musical even considered at one point. It seemed to me to be messing with a good thing; the inspired lunacy of the first picture had already shown

Piece by piece, the camel enters the couscous.

The Forgiven (2021) (SPOILERS) By this point, the differences between filmmaker John Michael McDonagh and his younger brother, filmmaker and playwright Martin McDonagh, are fairly clearly established. Both wear badges of irreverence and provocation in their writing, and a willingness to tackle – or take pot-shots – at bigger issues, ones that may find them dangling their toes in hot water. But Martin receives the lion’s share of the critical attention, while John is generally recognised as the slightly lesser light. Sure, some might mistake Seven Psychopaths for a John movie, and Calvary for a Martin one, but there’s a more flagrant sense of attention seeking in John’s work, and concomitantly less substance. The Forgiven is clearly aiming more in the expressly substantial vein of John’s earlier Calvary, but it ultimately bears the same kind of issues in delivery.

Your Mickey Mouse is one big stupid dope!

Enemy Mine (1985) (SPOILERS) The essential dynamic of Enemy Mine – sworn enemies overcome their differences to become firm friends – was a well-ploughed one when it was made, such that it led to TV Tropes assuming, since edited, that it took its title from an existing phrase (Barry Longyear, author of the 1979 novella, made it up, inspired by the 1961 David Niven film The Best of Enemies ). The Film Yearbook Volume 5 opined that that Wolfgang Petersen’s picture “ lacks the gritty sauciness of Hell in the Pacific”; John Boorman’s WWII film stranded Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune on a desert island and had them first duking it out before becoming reluctant bedfellows. Perhaps germanely, both movies were box office flops.

If I do nothing else, I will convince them that Herbert Stempel knows what won the goddam Academy Award for Best goddam Picture of 1955. That’s what I’m going to accomplish.

Quiz Show (1994) (SPOILERS) Quiz Show perfectly encapsulates a certain brand of Best Picture nominee: the staid, respectable, diligent historical episode, a morality tale in response to which the Academy can nod their heads approvingly and discerningly, feeding as it does their own vainglorious self-image about how times and attitudes have changed, in part thanks to their own virtuousness. Robert Redford’s film about the 1950s Twenty-One quiz show scandals is immaculately made, boasts a notable cast and is guided by a strong screenplay from Paul Attanasio (who, on television, had just created the seminal Homicide: Life on the Streets ), but it lacks that something extra that pushes it into truly memorable territory.

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.

Ziggy smokes a lot of weed.

Moonfall (2022) (SPOILERS) For a while there, it looked as if Moonfall , the latest and least-welcomed – so it seems – piece of apocalyptic programming from Roland Emmerich, might be sending mixed messages. Fortunately, we need not have feared, as it turns out to be the same pedigree of disaster porn we’ve come to expect from the director, one of the Elite’s most dutiful mass-entertainment stooges, even if his lustre has rather dimmed since the glory days of 2012.

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.

No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.

The Matrix  (1999) (SPOILERS) Twenty years on, and the articles are on the defining nature of The Matrix are piling up, most of them touching on how its world has become a reality, or maybe always was one. At the time, its premise was engaging enough, but it was the sum total of the package that cast a spell – the bullet time, the fashions, the soundtrack, the comic book-as-live-action framing and styling – not to mention it being probably the first movie to embrace and reflect the burgeoning Internet ( Hackers doesn’t really count), and subsequently to really ride the crest of the DVD boom wave. And now? Now it’s still really, really good.

I’ve had enough of this 2012 Alamo bullshit.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016) (SPOILERS) Not The Secret Private Military Contractors of Benghazi , as that might sound dubious in some way, and we wouldn’t anything to undermine their straight-shooting heroism. That, and interrogating the politics of the US presence in Libya, official and unofficial, and involvement in the downfall of Gaddafi (Adam Curtis provides some solid nuggets in his rather sprawling HyperNormalisation ), is the furthest thing from Michael Bay’s mind. Indeed, it’s a shame 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi bears the burden of being a tale based on (murky and disputed) facts, as it’s Bay’s most proficient piece of filmmaking in some time. So, you’re not going to find out what the CIA was actually up to in their Benghazi base (most likely, the dodgiest conclusion you can reach will be the right one). You’ll only be informed that a brave team of ex-military types were there to protect them, and stepped up to the plate, ju

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.