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Blake's 7: Rescue

They've changed the music, the meddling fools. I'd forgotten they did that. The beginning theme is the same, which lulls you into a false sense of security, but then right at the end of the show it all goes lounge. Still, happily the bit in between remains good, even if I do have one or two reservations.

Series four of Blake's 7 is itself probably the biggest piece of evidence in support of the 'it was all supposed to end with series three' rumour. Robbed of their amazing ship, with its uniquely fast engines, powerful hand guns, and handy teleport device, the gang are now faced with a new series that has none of these things. They therefore spend the first few episodes replacing them, magically coming back into possession of technology that was supposed to exist nowhere but aboard the Liberator. This is a bit rubbish in story terms. It's also all a bit desperate and scrambly. I really liked the end of series three. The gang had a fight on their hands to get off Terminal, and it would have been nice to have seen some of it. Instead we see precisely nothing. When we rejoin them for series four, there's snow all over the ground, which suggests that time has passed since they got stranded, but they're talking as though Servalan has only just left. Their clothes certainly don't look lived in. It's all rather a waste. Couldn't we at least have seen something of their struggle to survive on Terminal, or their attempts to find a way off the planet?

Avon uses a fabulously impractical futuristic telescope to spy out the crashed wreck of Servalan's abandoned spacecraft. Not hugely relevant, but I was rather entertained by the studs. Sorry.

One of the ape-like alleged future humans wanders into the ship and triggers a booby-trap. Very sportingly, the whole kaboodle goes boom with great enthusiasm. Avon then realises that it's likely the underground base has been similarly spiked, probably to explode in sequence with the ship. So he proceeds to walk slowly back to base to warn the others.

The slowly bit is in case of being eaten by the strangely adorable, giant Venus fly trap things that live everywhere. Mind you, moving quickly is generally seen as a good way to avoid being eaten, and does also have a definite advantage where warning people about imminent explosions is concerned. So I'm unconvinced about the walking slowly.

Not that it matters, as the underground base has by now also exploded, quite magnficently for something that's deeply buried. I've got to congratuate Servalan on her spectacularly OTT use of things that go bang. There is a downside to all this kabooming, though. Having finally got tired of three years worth of never being allowed to do anything more than operate the teleport, Cally has quit, and goes kaboom along with the base. Possibly even more unfortunately, since she doesn't appear in the episode, the whole thing happens off screen. Vila hauls a dishevelled Tarrant out of the smoking ruins, just before the whole lot blows up. They've all been struggling to rescue each other, apparently. We couldn't have seen a little bit of that?! Another downside is that nobody seems remotely bothered about Cally's death. They mention it in passing here and there with such a complete lack of emotion that you'd think she'd just gone down the street for a pint of milk.

Speeding towards Terminal comes the Scorpio, destined to be the gang's new ship. It's pretty dull in comparison with the Liberator. The model work is improving all the time, though. It looks as though series four has a bigger budget than the other three series combined.

Slave, Scorpio's computer. He's an obsequious irritant, but fair play to Peter Tuddenham for coming up with yet another very different computer voice and personality.

When this episode began, I was thinking that they'd done a pretty good job of continuity between series. Okay, so there's the snow, and Tarrant's somehow taken the time to do something slightly different with his hair, but at least they all remembered to wear the same clothes they got stranded in. And then we get this. As the Scorpio arrives at Terminal we find that, not only is it a completely different shape to before, it's also in a completely different bit of space. It's a very nice shot, but they couldn't have saved it for next week, when they're on a different planet?

Vila and Dayna fall down a slight slope, and are immediately in great peril. Later they tilt the camera slightly, to make it look as though they are actually in real danger of falling, but that doesn't change the brilliantly non-perilly establishing shot. Check out Vila's desperate situation at the top of that terrifying cliff. I especially like how Dayna lies there beneath him, doing her best to look like she can't just get up and walk. Anyway, they're soon rescued by Dorian, the pilot of the Scorpio, who heroically hauls them to safety up the deadly Slight Slope Of Extreme Fear. I very much enjoyed this scene. It's bettered only by The Five Doctors for its blatantly unterrifying precipice.

Dorian is forced to take the gang aboard his ship. Never before was one man menaced by so many sequins.

Flying the Scorpio is a lot less dramatic than flying the Liberator. There's no vacuum cleaner hose spray-painted pink, no angle poise lamp, no plastic control bank that wobbles whenever you touch it.

Instead there's what looks like the moulded bit from inside a biscuit tin. Couldn't they at least give him a nice big stick to haul around? You'd have a job making that lot look exciting during a battle scene.

Dorian leads the Sequin Collective back to his homeworld, Xenon. If you're feeling sorry for him for being pushed around at gunpoint after having just saved Vila and Dayna, don't. He's horribly annoying.

Soolin, Dorian's girlfriend. Otherwise known as the gunfighter with the galaxy's least practical haircut. And what do we need another gunfighter for anyway? We've already got Dayna. She's managed to spend series three bucking the B7 trend for leaving female characters standing around in the background doing nothing. There's little chance of a second one getting that lucky. Not that I speak from a position of foreknowledge or anything.

Soolin prepares drinks for everybody in her horrifyingly seventies apartment on Xenon.

Having had a wash and a brush up, Dorian's true character emerges. Not only is he a pompous idiot, but he's even more of a ham than Avon. He also keeps a slimy monster in the basement. His first name, as it turns out, is no coincidence. Dorian is hundreds of years old, and able to indulge in every vice. The slimy monster in the basement keeps him young and healthy regardless.

Because they get bored if they don't get into danger every three and a half minutes, the children go off to play in the basement. Vila, meanwhile, helpfully gets drunk, whilst Avon - even more helpfully - gets captured by Dorian. The irritating ham plans to feed everybody to the slimy monster, in order to win himself more life. They'll taste better for being such a close-knit gang, apparently. Clearly he's never met them.

Soolin overhears, and consequently is also doomed to be fed to the slimy monster. So far she's not being particularly impressive as a galaxy-renowned gunfighter. Dorian has even managed to secretly switch her gun for a dud when she wasn't looking. That's no mean feat when you consider where she wears it.

Triumph turns Dorian's ham dial up to twelve. It also makes him blind, as he fails to see Vila slithering down the stairs and handing Avon a bloody great rifle. Avon makes short work of the slimy monster, which has hitherto remained in the shadows.

In death it's revealed to be a spare Sea Devil. It's not even in disguise. This was 1981, so they hadn't been seen for a few years, admittedly. Even so.

With the destruction of his painting in the attic, Dorian withers away. Goodbye, Dorian. You were desperately annoying, and then you died. It couldn't have happened to a nicer man.

A mixed affair then, this episode. On the one hand, a massively missed opportunity, but on the other a fun adventure, with a good reworking of a famous tale. Shame about Dorian, though. Admittedly he probably needed to be a massive jerk, considering who he is and what he does, but did he have to be so hugely annoying in the process? I liked his speech about indulging himself in vices galore, but it would have sounded quite lot better with a less generous serving of ham. Shame about Cally, too. The poor woman could at least have been mourned a little. When Soolin, expecting the whole gang, pours out one too many glasses of wine, Dayna points out the error as cheerfully as she might point out a friend in the park. And so much for Tanith Lee's attempts to stir up a romance between Cally and Avon - from the evidence in this episode, it's painfully obvious that he cares far more about Orac. Admittedly Orac has always had more screentime than Cally, but still.


( 3 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )
Nov. 9th, 2012 06:10 am (UTC)
They'll taste better for being such a close-knit gang, apparently. Clearly he's never met them.

Yes,watching them not-mourn Cally, and then do their requisite amount of sniping, one does wonder...

And it is a pity about Soolin. So much potential for a story here! But, alas, not to be told until she's given a sliver of screen time in the final episode.
Nov. 10th, 2012 02:47 am (UTC)
Although Tarrant and Dayna are hugging, so apparently two of them like each other at least.

The really annoying thing about Soolin is that, when we finally get to hear it, her backstory turns out to be great. Why they waited until practically the last moment before sharing it with us is a mystery.
Nov. 10th, 2012 05:05 pm (UTC)
She has more reason than Blake to want to rip through the Federation.
( 3 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )

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