Skip to main content

Well, he's certainly not normal, not even for Blake.


Blake's 7
2.10: Voice from the Past


The best thing that can probably be said about this one is that it isn’t dull. Ridiculous, yes. Treats its characters with complete disrespect, yes. Prone to unintentional hilarity, yes. But it can’t plumb Hostage depths of banality. This is Roger Parkes’ debut script, and he shows Allan Prior’s flair for lumpen plotting and making the crew act like idiots. George Spenton-Foster did decent enough work on Killer and Pressure Point, but here it seems he can’t be arsed, and you can’t really blame him.


Blake starts acting all strained in the Liberator exercise room, as if he’s constipated but hasn’t quite grasped it yet. This is the sort of introductory sequence they tried in Horizon with the Space Fatigue (yes, it’s back again) and Cally again as the unofficial Dr McCoy, and it works as badly here. Cally’s got them all doing exercises. Yes. At least Avon’s sarcastic. 


Blake may be under the influence of as yet unknown forces, but he’s acting just like the prick he does every week when he wants to throw a tantrum at the Federation. He instructs a change of course to asteroid PK-118 (instead of the relaxing Del Ten).

Blake: I command the ship.
Avon: Do you, indeed?
Jenna: You lead. We don’t take commands.


In practice, they pretty much do what he tells them. And he’s become such a self-righteous arsehole that I’m not sure the series could have taken another full season of him.
Avon: He’s used a number of ploys to get his own way, but “Just try trusting me”? That’s weak even by his standards.


Thomas is dependable playing a distressed Blake, and even better at playing a wanker one, so from that point of view it’s a fun episode for him. Just not for the viewer.  It’s realised that he’s re-experiencing the brainwashing of his recent past and that the frequency he’s hearing is one used by Federation crimino-therapists (I know, I know).  


Orac, who’s had bugger all to do this season since Shadow (such that the events of that story are referred to here), is giving most of the advice in this one although hooking Jenna up to Blake doesn’t do much good.


So far it’s all been mildly intriguing, but with Blake restrained Avon tells Vila to look after him. 


Which means Vila has to become a total moron (at least his cowardice is reasonably logical; here he’s got a single digit IQ). Blake manages to convince him that Avon and Cally have paired up and have mutual affinities and Vila should let him go and set course again for the asteroid. It’s terribly lazy writing, but then most of this episode is.


Once Blake’s teleported down to the asteroid (having locked Avon, Jenna and Cally in a cabin) he encounters some CSO-d backdrops that would make Captain Zep ashamed. 


If a story sets up a situation where the hero looks like he’s walking into a trap, the events have to be intriguing enough for the audience not to get exasperated with his behaviour. 


We can buy that Blake is under the influence so not at his best, but not so much what he encounters on the planet. About the only surprising thing about this story is that Ven Glynd doesn’t turn out to be a bad guy, as it looks from the off that this is the clumsiest set-up ever.  


Who could the bandaged man with the chronic Italian accent be? Is he really the rebel Shivan, with a fake eye sticking through his bandages (is it supposed to look like a fake eye? I’m not really sure)? Or could it be someone else with one eye who’s prone to over-acting? To that extent, it’s also the point where Travis finally turns into the Master, since his character so far only really lacked a penchant for disguises.


It’s also a problem that Avon and Cally (and Jenna) are convinced foul play is afoot throughout but never get it together to do anything about it. Down on the asteroid, they comply with Blake’s demand to take Shivan and Glynd with them to Governor Le Grand. 


Le Grand will present the case against Servalan at the Federation’s Annual Governors’ Conference (sounds like quite a bash). But they know it’s all bollocks and it’s this kind of lack of motivation undermines what had potential as a premise (if it had maintained a level of never quite knowing what was going on/who’s up to what).


At least the appearance of Servalan (although, really, I’m beginning to tire of her inevitably arriving to hatch an inevitably thwarted plan every other episode) casts a little doubt over the precise nature of the scenario – we can only be certain that she has it in for Governor Le Grand.


Blake’s refusal of “Shivan’s” gift of necklace is a bit confusing in retrospect; I assumed it was a control device, but that’s the bloody great box Avon destroys later. 


Orac’s positively effusive throughout, more chirrupy than crotchety. He advises Avon and Cally that they should look for the control device.

Avon: Locate and destroy it.
Orac: And restore Blake to his senses.
Avon: The two don’t necessarily follow.

Avon’s “Oh, well done Orac!” is Baker-esque in quality; perhaps he thought he had his very own K9?

In order to make Vila an even bigger cock, Parkes has him hoisted by his own petard at the thought of being ranked Deputy Leader to Blake, and puffed with the importance of bringing Le Grand to the ship. Croucher continues to his Italian Inspector Clouseau impression as plans for Blake’s anointing as leader of the new order proceed.


By the time Blake takes Orac’s key, and still Avon and co are standing around like lemons because the plot requires them to, you want to start throwing things at the TV. 


And why does Travis suddenly reveal his true identity, other than the episode is getting on a bit? He confirms that Le Grand and Glynd are traitors. But why on earth does he want to teleport down to the conference? He’s got the Liberator! What a dickhead.


There’s actually a decent bit of intercutting, as Servalan’s mouth appears in close-up on the screen in the conference hall, telling the two Gs they’re rumbled as they get shot down. 


What follows is as idiotic as everything else in the episode; Jenna farcically struggles to get Blake to put his bracelet on while a wounded Glynd goes for beardy Travis. 


Fortunately Avon smashing the control box puts an end to at least some of this. Biggest unintentional laugh award goes to Travis again (he’s stacking them up with this and Hostage) as Federation guards burst in and he gives them an “Easy lads!” look. I almost like Croucher for that moment. Almost.


And it’s back to Blake being himself again; a complete tool. I’m itching for him to get lost in the melee on Star One now. Fortunately Avon’s on form (“Why don’t you just say thank you nicely”). I think part of the problem I have with Blake is that Thomas isn’t charismatic enough to sell the character’s wankerishness.

Avon: I am sorry to inform you that he is himself all right.



Abysmal, so bad it occasionally becomes giddily entertaining but unfortunately only rarely. With this and Hostage, Season Two isn’t showing the consistency of Season One. Worse, with the incessant Servalan/Travis encounters it’s beginning to feel a little tired.



Comments

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…

Rejoice! The broken are the more evolved. Rejoice.

Split (2016)
(SPOILERS) M Night Shyamalan went from the toast of twist-based filmmaking to a one-trick pony to the object of abject ridicule in the space of only a couple of pictures: quite a feat. Along the way, I’ve managed to miss several of his pictures, including his last, The Visit, regarded as something of a re-locating of his footing in the low budget horror arena. Split continues that genre readjustment, another Blumhouse production, one that also manages to bridge the gap with the fare that made him famous. But it’s a thematically uneasy film, marrying shlock and serious subject matter in ways that don’t always quite gel.

Shyamalan has seized on a horror staple – nubile teenage girls in peril, prey to a psychotic antagonist – and, no doubt with the best intentions, attempted to warp it. But, in so doing, he has dragged in themes and threads from other, more meritable fare, with the consequence that, in the end, the conflicting positions rather subvert his attempts at subversion…

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…

Must the duck be here?

The Favourite (2018)
(SPOILERS) In my review of The Killing of a Sacred Deer, I suggested The Favourite might be a Yorgos Lanthimos movie for those who don’t like Yorgos Lanthimos movies. At least, that’s what I’d heard. And certainly, it’s more accessible than either of his previous pictures, the first two thirds resembling a kind of Carry On Up the Greenaway, but despite these broader, more slapstick elements and abundant caustic humour, there’s a prevailing detachment on the part of the director, a distancing oversight that rather suggests he doesn’t feel very much for his subjects, no matter how much they emote, suffer or connive. Or pratfall.

Whoever comes, I'll kill them. I'll kill them all.

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
(SPOILERS) There’s no guessing he’s back. John Wick’s return is most definite and demonstrable, in a sequel that does what sequels ought in all the right ways, upping the ante while never losing sight of the ingredients that made the original so formidable. John Wick: Chapter 2 finds the minimalist, stripped-back vehicle and character of the first instalment furnished with an elaborate colour palette and even more idiosyncrasies around the fringes, rather like Mad Max in that sense, and director Chad Stahleski (this time without the collaboration of David Leitch, but to no discernible deficit) ensures the action is filled to overflowing, but with an even stronger narrative drive that makes the most of changes of gear, scenery and motivation.

The result is a giddily hilarious, edge-of-the-seat thrill ride (don’t believe The New York Times review: it is not “altogether more solemn” I can only guess Jeannette Catsoulis didn’t revisit the original in the interven…

I don’t think you will see President Pierce again.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
(SPOILERS) The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and other tall tales of the American frontier is the title of "the book" from which the Coen brothers' latest derives, and so announces itself as fiction up front as heavily as Fargo purported to be based on a true story. In the world of the portmanteau western – has there even been one before? – theme and content aren't really all that distinct from the more familiar horror collection, and as such, these six tales rely on sudden twists or reveals, most of them revolving around death. And inevitably with the anthology, some tall tales are stronger than other tall tales, the former dutifully taking up the slack.

Can you float through the air when you smell a delicious pie?

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
(SPOILERS) Ironically, given the source material, think I probably fell into the category of many who weren't overly disposed to give this big screen Spider-Man a go on the grounds that it was an animation. After all, if it wasn’t "good enough" for live-action, why should I give it my time? Not even Phil Lord and Christopher Miller's pedigree wholly persuaded me; they'd had their stumble of late, although admittedly in that live-action arena. As such, it was only the near-unanimous critics' approval that swayed me, suggesting I'd have been missing out. They – not always the most reliable arbiters of such populist fare, which made the vote of confidence all the more notable – were right. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is not only a first-rate Spider-Man movie, it's a fresh, playful and (perhaps) surprisingly heartfelt origins story.

I don’t know if what is happening is fair, but it’s the only thing I can think of that’s close to justice.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
(SPOILERS) I think I knew I wasn’t going to like The Killing of a Sacred Deer in the first five minutes. And that was without the unedifying sight of open-heart surgery that takes up the first four. Yorgos Lanthimos is something of a Marmite director, and my responses to this and his previous The Lobster (which I merely thought was “okay” after exhausting its thin premise) haven’t induced me to check out his earlier work. Of course, he has now come out with a film that, reputedly, even his naysayers will like, awards-darling The Favourite

There's something wrong with the sky.

Hold the Dark (2018)
(SPOILERS) Hold the Dark, an adaptation of William Giraldi's 2014 novel, is big on atmosphere, as you'd expect from director Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin, Green Room) and actor-now-director (I Don’t Want to Live in This World Anymore) pal Macon Blair (furnishing the screenplay and appearing in one scene), but contrastingly low on satisfying resolutions. Being wilfully oblique can be a winner if you’re entirely sure what you're trying to achieve, but the effect here is rather that it’s "for the sake of it" than purposeful.

Never compare me to the mayor in Jaws! Never!

Ghostbusters (2016)
(SPOILERS) Paul Feig is a better director than Ivan Reitman, or at very least he’s savvy enough to gather technicians around him who make his films look good, but that hasn’t helped make his Ghostbusters remake (or reboot) a better movie than the original, and that’s even with the original not even being that great a movie in the first place.

Along which lines, I’d lay no claims to the 1984 movie being some kind of auteurist gem, but it does make some capital from the polarising forces of Aykroyd’s ultra-geekiness on the subject of spooks and Murray’s “I’m just here for the asides” irreverence. In contrast, Feig’s picture is all about treating the subject as he does any other genre, be it cop, or spy, or romcom. There’s no great affection, merely a reliably professional approach, one minded to ensure that a generous quota of gags (on-topic not required) can be pumped out via abundant improv sessions.

So there’s nothing terribly wrong with Ghostbusters, but aside from …