Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Mission to Destiny!

A couple of weeks ago I was mean about Terry Nation and his episode titles, but perhaps I spoke too soon. The Web was nice and spooky, as well as literal, and Seek – Locate – Destroy was quite playful in referring both to Travis's mission and Servalan's command. And now we have a really cheesy title, but pretty soon we find it's perfectly adequate: there is a mission, and it is to a planet called Destiny.

Avon's having none of it, to everyone's great pleasure. The fungal infection Destiny's crops (all of them) have been suffering lately could, if he was involved, literally just mushroom. But there's a mystery surrounding the tools of the mission – a murder mystery, with an element of the locked room and the lead piping about it. Instead of Miss Marple, however, we have Cally and Avon.

Avon, like Sherlock Holmes, proves to be an aloof but alert judge of character, as well as a man capable of reading the desperate bloody scrawl of a dying man. Cally holds her end up in the business by managing to unerringly walk past people while they are doing suspicious things, without being seen. To be honest, the pair of them (along with Blake) do very well not to be arrested and/or executed within the first five minutes as the most suspicious bunch of people you could wish to find on a crime scene.

It feels almost unfair that this story should hinge upon the release of sleeping gas upon a spaceship. I'm not going to fall for such a lazy metaphor. However, this is an exceedingly dull story, which not much to recommend it beyond the strong showing from Avon throughout, a fine performance from Avon. If Blake isn't necessarily meant to fear for his position in this story, Gareth Thomas probably should have been.

It's crushingly disappointing, coming after the arrival of Blake's murderous ex-boyfriend and Avon's equally villainous future girlfriend (or do I have that wrong?) in the previous story – not to mention a story with a lively momentum and some real lawbreaking for the Libertor's crew of vigilantes. In this story, Blake and his friends explore an abandoned spaceship out of the goodness of their hearts (Blake obviously tells Avon they're just there to loot the place, but his conversation with Jenna beforehand suggests otherwise), and then embark on the titular Mission to Destiny, despite the fact they nearly all die when they run out of petrol in a very heavy hailstorm.

I'm not saying they wouldn't, just that it's a bit too nice of everybody this early in the season. At the very least, it should have been clearer that Blake is helping the Destinettes (or whatever they're called) to avoid having to join the Federation after their farming woes.

The major diversion of this story, however, is the low-key appearance of one of Doctor Who's most beloved companions. I really wish I'd kept a running tally of Who star guest appearances – we've had representatives from Revenge of the Cybermen, Robots of Death and most recently, Genesis of the Daleks itself (and please let Peter Miles have a recurring role, particularly in scenes with Servalan and Travis). But in this story we have K-9 himself in a key role.

He should be unrecognisable, being as he's a human being here and not a silver box with ears and a tail. But if you'd been told that K-9 was onscreen somewhere, you'd point immediately at John Leeson. He's not as up himself as the robot dog itself, but he's just as adorable. It's reassuring to think that in the distant nightmare future, there are still men who can be played by John Leeson.

It's just a shame he doesn't (as I hoped) turn out to be a bastard underneath the cute facade – but then, this show never has been particularly true to life so far...

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