There’s something strange about seeing these characters back again. Perhaps it’s because the show itself doesn’t go in for character development (e.g. ‘Dayna vows to kill Servalan! ... they go to a random planet… Dayna meets Servalan again – doesn’t kill her … they play Space Monopoly…') so when they have a big season finale narrative shift, it takes you by surprise.
Or maybe it’s just surprising that the series got renewed again.
I must say, having leafed through a copy of the Radio Times looking at listings for season 3, I’m impressed it had the success it did. Radio Times does nothing to promote it, even when they’re bigging up all the other New Year New Season shows. And why on Xenon wasn’t this on at Saturday teatimes? It’s almost literally made for it. The first season even has a Flash Gordon, Saturday-morning serials aesthetic. It should have had the Doctor Who slot. What did they put on instead? Flipping Wonder Woman!
Doctor Who was between seasons (and Doctors) when this went out. I don’t know the background details but for the first time B7 went out in the autumn instead of the spring. That means two things: it could have gone out in the Doctor Who slot – instead of Juliet Bravo, or at least The Paul Daniels Magic Show – and the production team had longer than ever to prepare this season.
One thing you can say, they’ve taken the jibes about the look of the thing to heart. The series gets off to a bang when the ship given to Avon and friends explodes in an impressive fireworks show, bettered immediately by one at the underground base. In Kevin Jon Davies’ documentary we see Mat Irvine saying the design of the Liberator made it hard to fly (for him, that is, not Jenna) and the new ship looks less interesting but zips along beautifully. Some of the most watchable sequences of this story are model shots, and there is something really beautiful about the craft and dedication that went into them.
Dorian and Soolin’s house looks fairly solid but it’s awfully boring. The spiral staircase into the monster’s cave, however, I did like – simple, nicely shot, fantastic sound. It makes perfect sense for the dull suburban grind to be going on upstairs, and the man to have a monstrous secret down in his dungeon, particularly a man who wears as much hair gel and foundation as Dorian does.
Sense is made a little less perfectly in the episode as a whole. To be frank, I’m not sure what happened. Dorian’s two hundred, lives with a gunslinger, pretends to be a galactic rag and bone man, wants the B7 crew because they care about each other – and that’s an odd reputation they’ve got, considering – because there’s a vampiric force in his cellar which purifies him…
On top of this, the Sea Devils are involved somewhere along the line. I suppose it makes sense if they live underground. Perhaps seconds after Vila’s quip about staying off the drink, three pterodactyls and a stegosaurus come lurching out of the dark too.
And what has happened to Dayna? Within five minutes, she’s twisted her ankle and has to be rescued by Avon. She falls down a cliff and has to be rescued by Dorian. Later, she throws her gun ineffectually at a Sea Devil and has to be rescued (and cuddled) by Avon. Is Ben Steed the new script editor? Dayna’s a warrior and technician. She’s the coolest cucumber in B7 – or was.
Much as the sentence may look odd in the context of B7, this episode is a case of style over substance. Boucher’s written some amazing episodes based on a series of reversals, and the mirror-monster-vampire-thing is reminiscent of his Face of Evil. But this story goes out of its way to trip up the viewer so many times it pulls a hamstring and stumbles about for the second half looking ridiculous.