Skip to main content

A beautiful woman! And a fool.


Blake's 7
2.12: The Keeper


Heaven help us, Allan Prior’s back. He maintains his consistency, making it a hat trick of stinkers in Season Two. Apparently this one came about late in the day after Nation’s planned two-part finale fell through. A shame that Derek Martinus was given such a duffer to direct, as he’s unable to breath much life into the proceedings. That comes mostly from Bruce Purchase as Gola, showing the same restraint he brought to the role of the Captain in The Pirate Planet (but unfortunately without the good lines).


The recap of why they’re there at the start doesn’t really sound any more convincing than it did in the last episode. Why did Lurgen even decide to hide the secret in not one but two places if (as Blake says at the climax) he never wanted the secret in the first place? It doesn’t seem like a very effective method if the intention was to maintain it for the future discovery of someone such as Blake (the Fool is lucky to still be alive, while it might have been better to hide the brain print than have it worn and potentially damaged by a warrior type – and how did Docholli ever find out that the brain print ended up as a pendant anyway?) For such an evocatively named planet Goth isn’t up to much.

Avon: Through Star One we could control everything. The Federation could belong to us.
Vila: I could be president.
Avon: Ah.


With Blake, Vila and Jenna down on Goth, Prior gets busy making Avon act uncharacteristically (he’s good at doing this to the crew). Avon’s reckless decision to leave orbit and blow up Travis’s ship lacks the logical and calculating demeanour we usually see, and it’s also unlike him not to deduce that Travis isn’t on his ship due to the ease with which they found and destroyed it. At least his lack of hesitancy about shooting Travis in the back is consistent, and refreshing, since the reason they have to compete to find the location is because Blake yet again refused to kill him in Gambit. 


The warriors on Goth are your rather standard medieval-looking fur-clad types. It isn’t long before Vila and Jenna are captured, and while the latter is ostensibly centre stage here her role is as unmemorable as Blake’s in Hostage. Obviously Blake gets all aggro with Avon for leaving orbit, and you have to side with him for being dubious over Avon’s claimed success in getting rid of Travis.


Bruce Purchase is very effective at playing Bruce Purchase. He has a partner in theatricality with Croucher, having a big old larf with him. The entire guest cast in this one overplay, but it’s mostly not particularly entertaining overplaying as the dialogue and plotting aren’t up to snuff.

Gola: Kick that fool as you pass him. Possibly I might smile at his pain.


As for Servalan, this is pretty much like sticking the Master in The King’s Demons. There’s not really a good reason for her to be here other than she’d probably already been contracted for Nation’s finale. And having her in cahoots with Travis without any kind of mention of their strained relations in Freedom City feels rather off.

The clarification what Star One does is welcome, though (it controls the climate on 200 worlds, communication, security and food production – so one wonders how many innocents will die as a direct result of Blake destroying it). Blake’s emphasis on stopping Travis getting there first and taking control of the place seems like an unnecessary additional threat, as the idea  has a rather far-fetched Master scheme-to-rule-the-universe quality that probably doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny.


The “Which member of the royal family has the brain print?” plot is too banal to sustain much interest, so it’s not very much of a twist when we learn that it isn’t anyone we’d been led to suspect.


Blake teams up with Derek Smalls lookalike Rod while Gola gets to woo Jenna. Vila’s fairly well served in this one (someone had to be), with all the best lines and quickly noticing the pendant around Gola’s neck. He also gets to consciously play on the sometime fall-back position of his character being portrayed as an idiot, currying favour with Gola through performing magic tricks.


Why can’t Avon pilot the Liberator? Surely he could learn? 


I ask as Cally refuses to redirect the ship to intercept Servalan’s craft and Avon doesn’t reply, “Alright, I’ll do it myself”. Actually, couldn’t he just instruct Zen to pilot it?


There are a few nice compositions that give away Martinus’ skill as a director; noticeably a foregrounding of some skulls and Jenna being entranced by Tara. Freda Jackson’s Tara is about as low key as Purchase, and deserves an award for unremitting maniacal laughter (this telegraphs to us that neither she nor Gola has the brain print). There’s nothing particularly spooky about her mysticism apart from that bit, though.


Gola’s language has overtones of rape towards Jenna (“You will pair bond with me whether you like it or not, you know”) and we learn from Servalan that “She is a superior grade person of the Federation. Her IQ is very high”. An alpha grade like Blake, then?


Vila: I don’t like the dark. I like to see what I’m scared of.

Just when you didn’t think this could get any more clichéd, we get the old man locked in the cellar. He’s played by Arthur Hewlitt (Kalmar in State of Decay and Kimber in Terror of the Vervoids) as if he’s auditioning for Monty Python, moaning and groaning so unconvincingly that he’s probably the funniest part of the story.


Vila: Who’s that?
Blake: He seems harmless.
Vila: He smells horrible.
Blake: So would you if you’d been down here as long as he has.
Vila: Well, let’s not think about that.

Blake’s harmless line sounds odd, almost as if Keating is saying it but it’s supposed to be coming out of Blake’s mouth. Vila’s complete lack of care for the old crusty’s constant moaning and groaning is rather funny.

Vila: Shadap will you? Who is he anyway?


The confrontation between the brothers doesn’t muster much interest, and the scene only picks up when Tara starts laughing and laughing and laughing. And laughing.


Travis making off with the brain print is a decent enough idea, but having the backup trigger phrase of the Fool relaying the location of Star One in a trance seems a bit unlikely, and jolly lucky for Blake.


A curious decision to have the camera tilt 45 degrees when the Liberator changes course, as we never see it lurching like that normally.



Not outright terrible, but not particularly good either. Servalan’s presence is unnecessary, and the setting and characters are uninspired. 



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…

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 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.

You look like an angry lizard!

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
(SPOILERS) I can quite see a Queen fan begrudging this latest musical biopic for failing to adhere to the facts of their illustrious career – but then, what biopic does steer a straight and true course? – making it ironic that they're the main fuel for Bohemian Rhapsody's box office success. Most other criticisms – and they're legitimate, on the whole – fall away in the face of a hugely charismatic star turn from Rami Malek as the band's frontman. He's the difference between a standard-issue, episodic, join-the-dots narrative and one that occasionally touches greatness, and most importantly, carries emotional heft.

He mobilised the English language and sent it into battle.

Darkest Hour (2017)
(SPOILERS) Watching Joe Wright’s return to the rarefied plane of prestige – and heritage to boot – filmmaking following the execrable folly of the panned Pan, I was struck by the difference an engaged director, one who cares about his characters, makes to material. Only last week, Ridley Scott’s serviceable All the Money in the World made for a pointed illustration of strong material in the hands of someone with no such investment, unless they’re androids. Wright’s dedication to a relatable Winston Churchill ensures that, for the first hour-plus, Darkest Hour is a first-rate affair, a piece of myth-making that barely puts a foot wrong. It has that much in common with Wright’s earlier Word War II tale, Atonement. But then, like Atonement, it comes unstuck.

I am so sick of Scotland!

Outlaw/King (2018)
(SPOILERS) Proof that it isn't enough just to want to make a historical epic, you have to have some level of vision for it as well. Say what you like about Mel's Braveheart – and it isn't a very good film – it's got sensibility in spades. He knew what he was setting out to achieve, and the audience duly responded. What does David Mackenzie want from Outlaw/King (it's shown with a forward slash on the titles, so I'm going with it)? Ostensibly, and unsurprisingly, to restore the stature of Robert the Bruce after it was rather tarnished by Braveheart, but he has singularly failed to do so. More than that, it isn’t an "idea", something you can recognise or get behind even if you don’t care about the guy. You’ll never forget Mel's Wallace, for better or worse, but the most singular aspect of Chris Pine's Bruce hasn’t been his rousing speeches or heroic valour. No, it's been his kingly winky.

It seemed as if I had missed something.

Room 237 (2012)
Stanley Kubrick’s meticulous, obsessive approach towards filmmaking was renowned, so perhaps it should be no surprise to find comparable traits reflected in a section of his worshippers. Legends about the director have taken root (some of them with a factual basis, others bunkum), while the air of secrecy that enshrouded his life and work has duly fostered a range of conspiracy theories. A few of these are aired in Rodney Ascher’s documentary, which indulges five variably coherent advocates of five variably tenuous theories relating to just what The Shining is really all about. Beyond Jack Nicholson turning the crazy up to 11, that is. Ascher has hit on a fascinating subject, one that exposes our capacity to interpret any given information wildly differently according to our disposition. But his execution, which both underlines and undermines the theses of these devotees, leaves something to be desired.

Part of the problem is simply one of production values. The audio tra…

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.

Yes sir, that is how it is happening, all times.

The Owl Service
Episode Two
Huw tells the story of the Mabinogion (“Yes sir, that is how it is happening, all times”). Roger takes on both an investigatory position and a reluctant one (he conceals Alison’s scratch with a plaster, perhaps embarrassed by the carnal passions it implies). And no one seems all that concerned about the vanishing plate designs (although the others think Alison must have done it).

The tensions between the trio have started to mount up. Most effective is the scene where Gwyn confronts Alison. Clad in a bikini, she lies on a sun lounger reading the Mabinogion. As Gwyn angrily sends the book flying, we see quick cuts of her painted face (“You shouldn’t have done that!”) and the sound of fluttering pages/birds as he flees, apparently pursued by something. And then they make up, as if all is fine and it was just a lover’s tiff. Now Roger, wearing, Alison’s sunglasses and with an impassive expression suggesting subdued jealousy, observes them. Roger gets many of the …

Believe me, Mr Bond, I could shoot you from Stuttgart und still create ze proper effect.

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
(SPOILERS) Some of the reactions to Spectre would have you believe it undoes all the “good” work cementing Daniel Craig’s incarnation of Bond in Skyfall. If you didn’t see that picture as the second coming of the franchise (I didn’t) your response to the latest may not be so harsh, despite its less successful choices (Blofeld among them). And it isn’t as if one step, forward two steps back are anything new in perceptions of the series (or indeed hugely divisive views on what even constitutes a decent Bond movie). After the raves greeting Goldeneye, Pierce Brosnan suffered a decidedly tepid response to his second outing, Tomorrow Never Dies, albeit it was less eviscerated than Craig’s sophomore Quantum of Solace. Tomorrow’s reputation disguises many strong points, although it has to be admitted that a Moore-era style finale and a floundering attempt to package in a halcyon villain aren’t among them.

The Bond series’ flirtations with contemporary relevance have a…