Skip to main content

Cally. Help us, Cally. Help Auron.


Blake's 7
3.7: Children of Auron


Roger Parkes goes a considerable way towards redeeming himself for the slop that was Voice from the Past with his second script for the series, and newcomer Andrew Morgan shows promise as a director that never really fulfilled itself in his work on Doctor Who (but was evident in Knights of God, the 1987 TV series featuring Gareth Thomas).


That said, there are some serious issues with it that I will come to (and if anyone can make sense of the biggest plot hole I’d be interested to hear). There also appears to be considerable retconning of Auron going on, since the straight-edged, only recently telepathic society we’re introduced to doesn’t bear much resemblance to the quasi-mystical one, stretching into the distant past, that’s suggested by The Lost in The Web and the myths in Dawn of the Gods. Psychic abilities were a side-effect of the cloning process, we learn (although we’re never told why cloning has taken over from human reproduction) Also, Cally had previously referred to her mother and father so unless she had foster parents this doesn’t quite tie up with what we’ve been told.


The opening scenes feature Servalan, again front and centre on her Geigerseque spaceship, apparently still obsessing over the Liberator rather than concentrating on rebuilding her empire. Shouldn’t she at least be occupying a central base (Earth, for example) in order to provide an image of solidity? The shrewd, calculating persona of previous seasons has taken a serious knock in this one and while there’s some excellent character development in this story there’s also some very wobbly material.


Servalan gets two underlings to trade banter with this week, the senior being the terminally dull Captain Deral (Rio Fanning, Harker in The Horror of Fang Rock) and the balaclava-clad Ginka (played Ric Young – probably best known as Kao Kan in Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom). 


Ginka’s a much more interesting character than Deral; insubordinate to him (as he believes Deral was unjustly promoted over him due to his connections) and quite willing to lie to his superiors if it suits his purposes. This also seems to be one of the few examples of ethnic diversity we’ve seen within the Federation thus far.  


Servalan knocks out an Auron vessel with an ionic beam, which luckily renders its pilot, Michael Troughton of The New Statesman fame, incapable of telepathy. Troughton wears a silver inflatable buoyancy aid round his neck; presumably silver because he’s a space pilot.  Servalan then infects him with a deadly pathogen and sends him on his way home.


At least it initiallylooks as if Servalan may be up to something that doesn’t directly involve the Liberator. Of course, we are told later that this is part of her plan – which is a bit of a groan-inducing “Not again!” And then we find that including them really is incidental, in a surprising development that convinces just because it comes so out of left-field. It is curious that she sets up various reasons for taking the course of action she does; making an example of Auron, which has remained independent of the Federation is one such. Linking in  to her true objective she zeroes in on the need to acquire the skills of an Auron geneticist, Franton, now that the Clone Masters have been destroyed (this is not expanded upon, but I like the shout back to Weapon). The skill of “pure genetic replication” is now exclusive to Auron, it seems. I find this as unlikely as I found the hallowed role of the Clone Masters, to be honest. Why wouldn’t the Federation just take the technology by force (or infiltration – although that might be more difficult with a race of telepaths)?


As it turns out, Servalan really wants to ensure her own cloned progeny are produced at the Auron bio-replication plant. Wiping out an entire civilisation to facilitate your extended lineage is so extreme it’s actually one of the more believable plans pursued by Servalan (who has no doubt become conscious of her ticking biological clock).


Setting out its stall as a Cally-centric episode, she’s the first crew member we see. And we’re clumsily reminded that she’s from Auron by Parkes; who’d have thought that just after she’d talked about how she was exiled from her home planet she would pick up a telepathic message and the Liberator would receive a distress call from that very place?
The sudden mention of Avon’s nemesis the Shrinker is also rather clumsy. We are told that he is a Federation para-investigator and that Anna Grant was one of his victims. Avon has set course for Earth. Why this quest for revenge now, suddenly? A debate between Avon and Cally over the morality of seeking vengeance is struck up.


Avon: The trouble with the people of Auron is that they all suffer from a superiority complex.
Vila: You should get on well with them, then.

Avon’s contempt is well-portrayed here; “Neutrality or pacifism. It all boils down to the same gutless inanity.” Avon is outvoted over going to the aid of Auron; he is correct to be suspicious that this may be a trap, of course.


Of note concerning the rest of the crew; Tarrant is dressed as a cowboy, so the designers really are throwing any old crap at him from the costume department. Vila’s nursing a drink, an increasingly used prop for the character.


Auronian central control looks just like any other Earth colony, and is a bit of a come-down after the myth-building we’ve heard regarding Cally’s people. Indeed, the realisation that her generation is only telepathic due to genetic manipulation is as much of a puncturing of the mystical balloon built up concerning her as finding that level of the Force flowing through the Jedi can be scientifically measured in an individual’s Midichlorian count. 


The banality of this bunch is only emphasised by the appearance of Ronald Leigh-Hunt (The Seeds of Death, Revenge of the Cybermen) as CA One. God, the man is dull. And shouty. He may or may not have a bit of thing going with CA Two (Beth Harris).


There are some very impressive shuddering jump cuts of the dying pilot in the shuttle, a sign that director Morgan is not approaching his work by-the-numbers. Good sound barrage too.  And the plague sores on Troughton are extremely nasty-looking. Of course, this is the second virus story the series has seen after Killer the previous season. This is by some distance the more effective one. Indeed, the sight of the dead Troughton leaking mustard from his mouth is rather gruesome.


On Auron, we learn that the disease is affecting the “children” of Auron and spreading; the older generation (CA One’s age group) remains immune as they were the only ones who had contact with other worlds (although, Troughton’s character is flying about the place so I’m not sure how much sense that makes), prior to Auron’s isolationist policy.


We are also introduced to Cally’s twin sister, Zelda. Maybe it was just the very fetching balaclava she wears throughout, but I found Chappell entirely convincing as Zelda, never doubting that she was playing a different character. It is Zelda who sends the telepathic message that her sister responds to.

Avon believes the crew is displaying “crass stupidity” in their approach. But this doesn’t stop him teleporting down with Tarrant, Dayna and Cally to the infected planet. It renders the decision not to dock the Liberator void, as Dayna immediately teleports back to the ship with the infected Patar.

There’s also a lucky lack of communication in terms of the Auronians omitting to inform the crew that a Federation ship has docked and that they are also assisting in helping the Auronians. It certainly assists the plot, but it makes for a certain level of ineptitude on the part of the crew that they didn’t take sufficient precautions to scan for a Federation presence before landing. On the other hand, Franton accurately suspects that the Federation infected the pilot.


It is Franton who receives the first medical treatment by the Federation, overseen by Ginka. And she is completely cured, but the Federation have put obstacles in the way of treatment (only six at a time may be processed and the Federation will only allow this on its ship). 


We’re increasingly aware of the conflict between Deral and Ginka at this point, and this is well-portrayed. Indeed, it helps ensure that there is very little dead-weight to the episode; mostly that’s down to CA One.


Avon is very quick to hone in on the dubious aspects of how Troughton was infected, dismissing the suggestion that the disease was a result of the space war. But the assertion that the Liberator crew are now also infected doesn’t make sense if we are to assume that the diagnostic analyses by both Orac and Auronian scientists were correct. Servalan and the Federation troops weren’t infected, neither were the crumbly Auronians. So why would the Liberator crew, who should be in exactly the same situation immunity-wise, succumb (although, might Cally become infected if she did not build up a resistance in during her time away from Auron)? This is the plot hole that really damages the integrity of the story. There are minor niggles and then there’s whacking great flaws you could drive a truck through. This is definitely in the latter camp.


Vila provides a bit of comic relief, attempting to protect himself from infection by wearing a space helmet.

Dudley Simpson, clearly not having got over scoring The Talons of Weng-Chiang, uses a highly inappropriate gong to announce the reveal of Ginka in Control (taking Avon, Tarrant and Cally prisoner not long after Dayna has teleported back to the ship).  It’s a real “Lin Futu” moment.


On the Liberator, Patar reveals that the Federation are present on Auron at about the same time Avon and co find out down below. This initiates a rather amusing exchange between Servalan and Vila (their second this season, after Powerplay) in which she attempts to persuade him that she has always had some degree of personal regard for him and that if she lets him aboard she will make him governor of Earth.


That Vila needs telling by Dayna that this is bullshit means that Parkes’ reverts the character to type after his balance was redressed in the previous story. It also seems a little silly to announce to Servalan that she’s been tricked after Deral is teleported aboard and quickly captured. Couldn’t they have tried to play out the deceit a little longer? As Servalan observes, she has three hostages to their one. Given this, it’s fortunate that Deral is willing to play ball and tell them about what Servalan’s been up to in the bio-replication plant (she commandeered a gestation unit for her monstrous spawn, demanding the use of it in return for inducting resistance to the disease into the genetic stock that Franton and Zelda are prepping for evacuation).


Indeed, fortunate too that Franton is able to lead the escaped Avon and co to the replication plant. It’s a relief that, by this point, Ronald Leigh-Hunt has been shot off screen. His last exchange with Servalan is memorable:

CA one: Why have you brought this on us? I just can't believe it. I can't believe that anyone can be so …
Servalan: Successful? Well now you know.


Ginka’s deception of Servalan, telling her that Deral replaced Servalan’s cells with his own, in order to get the go ahead to bomb the replication plant is a surprising twist (it made me question whether Deral actually did that for a moment), and Servalan’s psychic pain as her foetuses die is a superbly performed moment by Pearce.  A very rare instance where she drops her veneer and displays vulnerability.


So powerful is this, that it completely overshadows Cally’s loss of her sister; everyone else, Franton and the gene stocks included, teleports back to the Liberator but Zelda remains behind to adjust the nutrient flow to the foetuses. 


It’s a needless sacrifice (as Avon says, “They’re going to die anyway”). Avon, Tarrant and Cally are looking fairly sickly by this point. Tarrant, in particular, has some virulent sores on his pasty face.


Morgan stages the death of Ginka very effectively; Servalan presses a button and he writhes in agony, his head becoming a red CSO ball. Deral meets the same fate, but off-screen, when he is teleported back to Servalan.


The final scene is firstly peculiar, and then risible. We are told that the Liberator is setting course for Kahn, where Franton and Pater will found a new Auron colony with the gene stocks (perhaps the Sisterhood could lend a hand – how many Karns can there be?)  No mention is made of the fate of Auron. Presumably everyone under a certain age is destined to die; Servalan will have no interest in helping them now, and we’re not told that Orac has passed on the cure to help the rest of the Aurons on the planet. Indeed, one might have expected the Liberator to stick around and help out (although the presence of the Federation might work against that).


The risible part of the scene is a laugh-about the like of which we haven’t seen since Breakdown. Avon makes a crack about not wanting to look after a nursery of 5,000 and everyone dissolves into hoots of mirth amidst their drinks and nibbles. While Cally, presumably, is mourning the fate of her sister and planet into her pillow. It’s a real stinker and so utterly inappropriate to the preceding 50 minutes you have to wonder who was on what when it was kept in the final cut.


A tense and poignant episode, but let down by some illogical plotting and a terrible final gag. Jacqueline Pearce, in particularly, has probably her best scene in the entire series (certainly to date) and Jan Chappell is very effective in dual roles that finally give Cally a storyline of substance. 


Popular posts from this blog

I’m smarter than a beaver.

Prey (2022) (SPOILERS) If nothing else, I have to respect Dan Trachtenberg’s cynical pragmatism. How do I not only get a project off the ground, but fast-tracked as well? I know, a woke Predator movie! Woke Disney won’t be able to resist! And so, it comes to pass. Luckily for Prey , it gets to bypass cinemas and so the same sorry fate of Lightyear . Less fortunately, it’s a patience-testing snook cocking at historicity (or at least, assumed historicity), in which a young, pint-sized Comanche girl who wishes to hunt and fish – and doubtless shoot to boot – with the big boys gets to take on a Predator and make mincemeat of him. Well, of course , she does. She’s a girl, innit?

This entire edifice you see around you, built on jute.

Jeeves and Wooster 3.3: Cyril and the Broadway Musical  (aka Introduction on Broadway) Well, that’s a relief. After a couple of middling episodes, the third season bounces right back, and that's despite Bertie continuing his transatlantic trip. Clive Exton once again plunders  Carry On, Jeeves  but this time blends it with a tale from  The Inimitable Jeeves  for the brightest spots, as Cyril Basington-Basington (a sublimely drippy Nicholas Hewetson) pursues his stage career against Aunt Agatha's wishes.

I think it’s pretty clear whose side the Lord’s on, Barrington.

Monte Carlo or Bust aka  Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies (1969) (SPOILERS) Ken Annakin’s semi-sequel to Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines tends to be rather maligned, usually compared negatively to its more famous predecessor. Which makes me rather wonder if those expressing said opinion have ever taken the time to scrutinise them side by side. Or watch them back to back (which would be more sensible). Because Monte Carlo or Bust is by far the superior movie. Indeed, for all its imperfections and foibles (not least a performance from Tony Curtis requiring a taste for comic ham), I adore it. It’s probably the best wacky race movie there is, simply because each set of competitors, shamelessly exemplifying a different national stereotype (albeit there are two pairs of Brits, and a damsel in distress), are vibrant and cartoonish in the best sense. Albeit, it has to be admitted that, as far as said stereotypes go, Annakin’s home side win

Poetry in translation is like taking a shower with a raincoat on.

Paterson (2016) (SPOILERS) Spoiling a movie where nothing much happens is difficult, but I tend to put the tag on in a cautionary sense much of the time. Paterson is Jim Jarmusch at his most inert and ambient but also his most rewardingly meditative. Paterson (Adam Driver), a bus driver and modest poet living in Paterson, New Jersey, is a stoic in a fundamental sense, and if he has a character arc of any description, which he doesn’t really, it’s the realisation that is what he is. Jarmusch’s picture is absent major conflict or drama; the most significant episodes feature Paterson’s bus breaking down, the English bull terrier Marvin – whom Paterson doesn’t care for but girlfriend Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) dotes on – destroying his book of poetry, and an altercation at the local bar involving a gun that turns out to be a water pistol. And Paterson takes it all in his stride, genial to the last, even the ruination of his most earnest, devoted work (the only disappoint

Just because you are a character doesn't mean that you have character.

Pulp Fiction (1994) (SPOILERS) From a UK perspective, Pulp Fiction ’s success seemed like a fait accompli; Reservoir Dogs had gone beyond the mere cult item it was Stateside and impacted mainstream culture itself (hard to believe now that it was once banned on home video); it was a case of Tarantino filling a gap in the market no one knew was there until he drew attention to it (and which quickly became over-saturated with pale imitators subsequently). Where his debut was a grower, Pulp Fiction hit the ground running, an instant critical and commercial success (it won the Palme d’Or four months before its release), only made cooler by being robbed of the Best Picture Oscar by Forrest Gump . And unlike some famously-cited should-have-beens, Tarantino’s masterpiece really did deserve it.

Death to Bill and Ted!

Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991) (SPOILERS) The game of how few sequels are actually better than the original is so well worn, it was old when Scream 2 made a major meta thing out of it (and it wasn’t). Bill & Ted Go to Hell , as Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey was originally called, is one such, not that Excellent Adventure is anything to be sneezed at, but this one’s more confident, even more playful, more assured and more smartly stupid. And in Peter Hewitt it has a director with a much more overt and fittingly cartoonish style than the amiably pedestrian Stephen Herrick. Evil Bill : First, we totally kill Bill and Ted. Evil Ted : Then we take over their lives. My recollection of the picture’s general consensus was that it surpassed the sleeper hit original, but Rotten Tomatoes’ review aggregator suggests a less universal response. And, while it didn’t rock any oceans at the box office, Bogus Journey and Point Break did quite nicely for Keanu Reev

I’m the famous comedian, Arnold Braunschweiger.

Last Action Hero (1993) (SPOILERS) Make no mistake, Last Action Hero is a mess. But even as a mess, it might be more interesting than any other movie Arnie made during that decade, perhaps even in his entire career. Hellzapoppin’ (after the 1941 picture, itself based on a Broadway revue) has virtually become an adjective to describe films that comment upon their own artifice, break the fourth wall, and generally disrespect the convention of suspending disbelief in the fictions we see parading across the screen. It was fairly audacious, some would say foolish, of Arnie to attempt something of that nature at this point in his career, which was at its peak, rather than playing it safe. That he stumbled profoundly, emphatically so since he went up against the behemoth that is Jurassic Park (slotted in after the fact to open first), should not blind one to the considerable merits of his ultimate, and final, really, attempt to experiment with the limits of his screen persona.

If you ride like lightning, you're going to crash like thunder.

The Place Beyond the Pines (2012) (SPOILERS) There’s something daringly perverse about the attempt to weave a serious-minded, generation-spanning saga from the hare-brained premise of The Place Beyond the Pines . When he learns he is a daddy, a fairground stunt biker turns bank robber in order to provide for his family. It’s the kind of “only-in-Hollywood” fantasy premise you might expect from a system that unleashed Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man and Point Break on the world. But this is an indie-minded movie from the director of the acclaimed Blue Valentine ; it demands respect and earnest appraisal. Unfortunately it never recovers from the abject silliness of the set-up. The picture is littered with piecemeal characters and scenarios. There’s a hope that maybe the big themes will even out the rocky terrain but in the end it’s because of this overreaching ambition that the film ends up so undernourished. The inspiration for the movie

Everyone creates the thing they dread.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) (SPOILERS) Avengers: Age of Ultron ’s problem isn’t one of lack. It benefits from a solid central plot. It features a host of standout scenes and set pieces. It hands (most of) its characters strong defining moments. It doesn’t even suffer now the “wow” factor of seeing the team together for the first time has subsided. Its problem is that it’s too encumbered. Maybe its asking to much of a director to effectively martial the many different elements required by an ensemble superhero movie such as this, yet Joss Whedon’s predecessor feels positively lean in comparison. Part of this is simply down to the demands of the vaster Marvel franchise machine. Seeds are laid for Captain America: Civil War , Infinity Wars I & II , Black Panther and Thor: Ragnarok . It feels like several spinning plates too many. Such activity occasionally became over-intrusive on previous occasions ( Iron Man II ), but there are points in Age of Ultron whe

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.