Monday, 17 June 2013

B2 Shadow

EPISODE: B2 Shadow
BROADCAST: 16/01/1979
WRITTEN BY: Chris Boucher
DIRECTOR: Jonathan Wright Miller
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: David Maloney
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 2

"I own you dreamheads!"

The Liberator arrives at Space City, the satellite of sin, run by galactic gangsters the Terra Nostra which Blake intends to use against the Federation. They contact an acquaintance of Jenna's, Largo and Blake, Avon, Gan & Jenna teleport over leaving Vila and Cally behind. Vila has always wanted to visit space city and gets Orac to teleport him over. Largo takes Blake and his party prisoner and imprisons them with two others, Bek & Hanna, the relatives of a now deceased Shadow addict. Cally discovers Villa missing and that Orac has been hidden on the ship and has taken it over. Blake is forced to demand money from the Liberator but communicates a coded message to Cally who then warns the station she will fire unless they release Blake and her friends. Avon and Gan escape release Blake & Jenna and teleport back to the Liberator. Blake returns and fetches Bek & Hanna to help him find Vila. Largo communicates with the Terra Nostra chairman revealing he has an agent on the Liberator looking to claim the bounty on the crew and and ship. Blake has Zen analyse the Shadow drug to find out what it is made of, Moondiscs, and they set course for the planet Zonda where they are found. A recovering Vila finds an unconscious Cally lying beside Orac. Largo is murdered on the orders of his chairman. Blake, Avon & Jenna teleport down to the surface of the planet and find some Moondiscs. Vila reactivates Orac to operate the teleport for him. Orac takes control of Cally teleporting her to Zonda too. Blake's party start planting sensors round the Moondisc cultivation and harvesting area. Cally collapses on the surface and a Moondisc approaches her. Vila finds Orac's key electrified and connect disconnect it. Zen reports a power drain and the Liberator falls towards Zonda's atmosphere. Hanna tries to disconnect Orac and is electrocuted. Avon, Blake & Jenna are attacked by guards on Zonda. Wild Moondiscs converge on Cally and she talks telepathically with Orac realising he's controlled by something. Orac's key materialises in her hand and she wakes teleporting back to the ship. She explains that Orac had been possessed by an alien intelligence that was using the ship's power to cross into this dimension. It attacked Cally as she was a threat. Avon booby traps Orac to stop such a possession from occurring again. Avon reveals he took a Federation ID off a guard that attacked him who was from the Federation president's personal security force: The Shadow supply is controlled by the Federation who thus control the Terra Nostra. Cally has brought a Moondisc back with her and is uses it to practice telekinesis. Blake promises to take Bek back to Space City so he can fight the Terra Nostra and thus the Federation there and promises to return for him in 3 years. As Federation ships approach Bek fires the Liberators Neutron Blasters destroying the Federation's Moondisc cultivation unit.

OK..... < reaches for Scalpel >

There's two plot threads here:

1) Blake wishes to use the Terra Nostra, pedlars of the Shadow drug, against the Federation. when they don't co-operate he traces the source of the Shadow to destroy it and in the process discovers the Terra Nostra are controlled by the Federation. All good.

2) Orac is being influenced by an extra dimensional alien intelligence looking to cross over into our realm. It in turn uses? tries to get rid of? Cally who's telepathy poses a threat to it. She's teleported to the planet the Liberator is orbiting which just happens to contain a "plant" life form that boosts her telepathic powers enough to turn her into a "telekinetic" (quote marks intentional!) and teleports Orac's key to her disabling it and severing the connection to the alien intelligence.....

and the plant life form just happens to be the source of the Shadow drug as well????????? I'm sorry that's too big a coincidence! Yes I know this sort of fiction relies on coincidence, but it's usually to start the plot - our heroes are in the right place at the right time - not finish the episode.

Hmmmm. I think this may need a second watch. It is after all the first time I've seen it in a long long time.

Bear With.....

I seem to recall this episode being very popular with fans - I've got some old Horizon fanzines in the loft at Mum's which I'll check the next time I'm in London. I suppose it's because Cally actually gets to do something with her telepathy (for the first time since the Web) in it and because there's a drugs sub plot which automatically makes something adult and good in some people's eyes. But any episode that confuses the actual viewer so much that it needs a few minutes of expository dialogue at the end to make sense of it and hinges on a massive coincidence can't be a good thing.

In fact this episode bears one big similarity to The Web: in that episode, Cally's first full episode on the ship, she's possessed by an alien intelligence. In this episode, Orac's first one on the ship after his introductory storyline he too is possessed by an alien intelligence.

There is another big coincidence hanging in the background: that the dimension Orac uses to communicate with other Tarriel celled computers just happens to have something evil in it lurking behind the scenes wanting to get out. Oddly I have less problem with this probably because it's a science fiction trope that you don't go poking around in other dimensions because there will be something nasty waiting. Unfortunately first time Blake's 7 writer, series script editor Chris Boucher used both of these Lovecraftian ideas in his last Doctor Who script The Image of the Fendahl! This is the first of 4 episodes he writes this season: I'm intrigued to know how a script editor can end up writing 1/3 of the total output for the year of the show he's working on. Script Editors writing for their own show is a practice frowned upon by the BBC and the matter comes up frequently in Doctor Who's history. The Mausoleum Club's Time Screen magazine has an article on the development of the script that you can read.

This is the first episode to hint at Vila having a drink problem. It won't be the last!

Blake describes Cally's ability to teleport Orac's key to her hand as telekinesis. Now my understanding of telekinesis, supported by years of reading the X-Men, is that it's physically moving objects by the power of your mind and not moving them to one place to another. Searching for telekinesis on Wikipedia sends you to the Psychokinesis entry which confusingly says Telekinesis can be used interchangeably with Psychonkinisis and that Psychokinesis is an umbrella term for lots of phenomena including Telekinesis and Teleportation.

I can't remember seeing Derek Smith in anything else but he gives a top, almost Patrick McNee like performance as Largo. According to IMDB he was in the new Doctor Who story Human Nature as the Doorman and a Professionals episode The Ojuka Situation as a Doctor. Karl Howman, playing Bek, however is instantly recognisable to anyone of my generation as Jacko in Brush Strokes. Adrienne Burgess, as Hanna, was Veet in the Doctor Who story The Sunmakers and is married to the actor Martin Cochrane (General Chellak in Caves of Androzani). They recorded a Podcast with Toby Hadoke recently which you can download from here. Appearing very briefly as the Terra Nostra chairman is the great Vernon Dobtcheff. He's got a Doctor Who to his name Chief Scientist in The War Games (directed by Blake's 7 producer David Maloney) and a CV a mile long that takes in the Sweeney and Bond films....

A thought: If he's the Chairman of the Terra Nostra is he the president of the Federation?

This episode is a first for Jonathan Wright Miller who I know nothing about. He's got no wikipedia entry, no details on IMDB beyond his TV credits which have two huge holes in in the mid/late 80s an mid/late 90s to late 2000s. He'll be back in two episodes time for episode B4 Horizon.

This episode of Blake's 7 was broadcast 3 days after Doctor Who episode 499 The Power of Kroll Part Four, which was broadcast on 13/01/1979, and 4 days before episode 500 The Armageddon Factor Part One, which was broadcast on 20/01/1979.

Shadow was released on Blake's 7 video tape 8 which also contains the next episode Weapon on 7th May 1991 (18th Birthday present for me!) alongside tape 7 which features Orac & Redemption. The Blake's 7 season 2 DVD containing this episode was released on 17 January 2005.

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