Friday, 26 February 2016


I write this listening to John Miles' 1975 classic, 'Music Was My First Love'. I've seen the first season of Blake's 7 in its entirety and I'm in a party mood. If you're wondering why this particular track should take my fancy, I suggest you bung it on your hi-fi now and listen along with me.

The best thing about this end of season party is that I really enjoyed Orac! Having spent the rest of this blog bellyaching about stories that go too slowly or do nothing with the characters or are just Genesis of the Planet of the Dalek Invasion with 'DAVROS' tippexed out and 'PIPE-CLEANER-MAN' scribbled over the top, I found this engaging throughout.

I love little worlds, little created environments with their own peculiar atmosphere, and Professor Ensor's little pied-à-terre (or should that be pied-sous-terre?) beneath the acid seas of Aristo, a hop, skip and a slither away from the forgotten underground cities and phibian-nests, with plants, clutter and electronic birdsong in a gilded cage, was somehow tantalising and cosy at the same time.

I suppose the Liberator itself is a little flying world. One of the problems with the show is the fact you really can't believe they all knock about that big ship together in-between stories. They don't seem to have duties, hobbies, books, sexual relationships, random arguments. Cally was watching Youtube on the space goggles last week, but that's it.

Not even four dimensional chess. People are always playing four dimensional space in the future. Never five dimensional billiards or six dimensional Mousetrap. Chess. But on the Liberator, not even that.

After my closing comment of last week's blog, I was excited to see the story begin with the crew all looking the worse for wear, but it turned out to be only radiation poisoning. Are we ever going to see this bunch cut loose? Robin Hood and his Merry Men were always hitting the mead and sack.

I can't believe that Gan and Phil don't get pissed together now and then. But that's a different area of the internet...

So yes, the crew actually suffer the effects of last week's over-extended visit to the wintry parts of Skaro, and there was I thinking Terry Nation had just forgotten he'd ever mentioned the radioactive atmosphere by the end of his script (after all, Destiny of the Daleks – which must surely have been made around this time...? – skates over this bit of the story with no backward glances). You do have to wonder exactly why none of the crew checked the effects of the radiation before nipping off to Aristo at the start of this story.

Then you have to put it out of your mind and get on with the story.

Blake and Cally beam down to the planet and, due to a force-field that takes five hours to switch off, can't beam back up until they've navigated the buried city and evaded the slimy phibians and the even slimier Travis and Servalan. We've seen a lot of that this season: someone teleports down, and then something arrives to chase either the teleport-operator or the ship away so the teleportees can't escape until the absolute nick of time. But I thought it worked really nicely this time – it was a race against the enemy, a physical battle – and it actually felt quite tense at times.

But the best bit of the episode, and perhaps the whole season, was the moment that Avon rouses Villa from his sickbed, and the pair of them defy their horrible space hangovers to go and help Blake and Cally. It shouldn't have worked, because of the four crew-members up on the Liberator, these are the least heroic pair. But somehow Avon's self-interest and Villa's cowardice were important here: they were survival traits, and they came from a cynical and pragmatic place. Gan and Jenna have too much faith in Blake to make it back from the planet alone.

At the same time, though he hides it under a thick facade of Paul Darrow-ness, the audience can see Kerr Avon's fondness for Blake – whether it comes from pity, envy or genuine respect, we can't quite tell. It's a heroic moment when the pair of them teleport down and save the day – just as Blake's decision to humiliate and undermine his enemies, rather than gun them down in cold blood, is a fantastic end to the series.
Except it's not the end. There's a cliffhanger – and a new member of the crew! The scene where Orac arrives and gets tetchy with EVERYONE – and actually makes Avon laugh – is weirdly satisfying. The crew are all on the back foot, all riled. And I'm thrown too.

I know Doctor Who had two K-9's, but at least he had the decency to have them one after the other. You can't have a show with both Zen and Orac, can you? Never mind too many lead characters, that's too many of the same character!

Or perhaps it works wonderfully?

Perhaps this is where it's all going to happen?

Perhaps Season 2 is where the fun really starts?

Here we go again...

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