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

We live in a twilight world.

Tenet (2020)
(SPOILERS) I’ve endured a fair few confusingly-executed action sequences in movies – more than enough, actually – but I don’t think I’ve previously had the odd experience of being on the edge of my seat during one while simultaneously failing to understand its objectives and how those objectives are being attempted. Which happened a few times during Tenet. If I stroll over to the Wiki page and read the plot synopsis, it is fairly explicable (fairly) but as a first dive into this Christopher Nolan film, I frequently found it, if not impenetrable, then most definitely opaque.

She was addicted to Tums for a while.

Marriage Story (2019)
(SPOILERS) I don’t tend to fall heavily for Noah Baumbach fare. He’s undoubtedly a distinctive voice – even if his collaborations with Wes Anderson are the least of that director’s efforts – but his devotion to an exclusive, rarefied New York bubble becomes ever more off-putting with each new project. And ever more identifiable as being a lesser chronicler of the city’s privileged quirks than his now disinherited forbear Woody Allen, who at his peak mastered a balancing act between the insightful, hilarious and self-effacing. Marriage Story finds Baumbach going yet again where Woody went before, this time brushing up against the director’s Ingmar Bergman fixation.

You can’t climb a ladder, no. But you can skip like a goat into a bar.

Juno and the Paycock (1930)
(SPOILERS) Hitchcock’s second sound feature. Such was the lustre of this technological advance that a wordy play was picked. By Sean O’Casey, upon whom Hitchcock based the prophet of doom at the end of The Birds. Juno and the Paycock, set in 1922 during the Irish Civil War, begins as a broad comedy of domestic manners, but by the end has descended into full-blown Greek (or Catholic) tragedy. As such, it’s an uneven but still watchable affair, even if Hitch does nothing to disguise its stage origins.

Anything can happen in Little Storping. Anything at all.

The Avengers 2.22: Murdersville
Brian Clemens' witty take on village life gone bad is one of the highlights of the fifth season. Inspired by Bad Day at Black Rock, one wonders how much Murdersville's premise of unsettling impulses lurking beneath an idyllic surface were set to influence both Straw Dogs and The Wicker Mana few years later (one could also suggest it premeditates the brand of backwoods horrors soon to be found in American cinema from the likes of Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper).

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…

I mean, I am just a dumb bunny, but, we are good at multiplying.

Zootropolis (2016)
(SPOILERS) The key to Zootropolis’ creative success isn’t so much the conceit of its much-vaunted allegory regarding prejudice and equality, or – conversely – the fun to be had riffing on animal stereotypes (simultaneously clever and obvious), or even the appealing central duo voiced by Ginnifier Goodwin (as first rabbit cop Judy Hopps) and Jason Bateman (fox hustler Nick Wilde). Rather, it’s coming armed with that rarity for an animation; a well-sustained plot that doesn’t devolve into overblown set pieces or rest on the easy laurels of musical numbers and montages.

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.

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.

Haven’t you ever heard of the healing power of laughter?

Batman (1989)
(SPOILERS) There’s Jaws, there’s Star Wars, and then there’s Batman in terms of defining the modern blockbuster. Jaws’ success was so profound, it changed the way movies were made and marketed. Batman’s marketing was so profound, it changed the way tentpoles would be perceived: as cash cows. Disney tried to reproduce the effect the following year with Dick Tracy, to markedly less enthusiastic response. None of this places Batman in the company of Jaws as a classic movie sold well, far from it. It just so happened to hit the spot. As Tim Burton put it, it was “more of a cultural phenomenon than a great movie”. It’s difficult to disagree with his verdict that the finished product (for that is what it is) is “mainly boring”.

Now, of course, the Burton bat has been usurped by the Nolan incarnation (and soon the Snyder). They have some things in common. Both take the character seriously and favour a sombre tone, which was much more of shock to the system when Burton did it (even…

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.