Monday, 26 August 2013

B12 The Keeper

EPISODE: B12 The Keeper
BROADCAST: 27/03/1979
WRITTEN BY: Allan Prior
DIRECTOR: Derek Martinus
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: David Maloney
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 2

"Don't leave me here I don't like the dark, I like to see what I'm afraid of!"

The Liberator arrives at the planet Goth, where a chief is said to possess a brain print containing the location of Star One. Blake, Jenna & Villa teleport down to being the search. The Liberator detects a Federation ship launching from Goth and Avon insists they pursue recognising it as Travis' ship. While the Liberator is out of Teleport range Blake & Vila are captured. Travis's ship sends a transmission into space before Avon destroys it. The Liberator returns to orbit picking up Blake's cry for help and teleporting him back to the ship. Jenna & Vila are taken to the Goth chief Gola who is being amused by his fool when Travis arrives. His sister Tara predicts their arrival. Blake returns to the planet where Servalan is a guest of Gola, with Travis working for her again, both seeking the secret of Star One. Travis is certain that either the chief or his sister possess the secret of Star One. The Liberator picks up another pursuit ship launch and Avon believes it to be Servalan's ship but Cally refuses to pursue. Blake rescues a Goth warrior Rod, Gola's brother, who was being taken away to be executed. Gola tells Jenna that Lurgen has gone. He intends to take her as a wife. She enquires of Tara as to who the Keeper of the Brain print is. Tara does not have it. Gola has Jenna bought to him. Blake finds an old man imprisoned in a cell. Servalan demands that Gola come to he tent to speak with him. The fool impersonates Vila's voice and Gola has Vila thrown in a cell where Blake finds him. Jenna demands of Servalan where Travis is. Jenna has Vila released when the fool is slung into the cells and discovers that Gola doesn't have the brain print either. Rod returns with men to assist Blake and confronts his brother. They fight, Gola killing his brother, but Gola is poisoned by his sister. Tara tells Blake that their Father, the old man in cells was the true leader and he has the secret of the Keeper's identity. They discover the brain print is gone, taken by Travis, but as he dies he gives Blake a clue that his fool knows the location. Given the code phrase "The Fool Knows Everything and Nothing" the fool recites the location of Star One which Blake gives to Zen to set a course there.

oh dear that was heavy going. Goth is, I assume, a Federation Colony gone primitive which automatically starts to ring bells for us with the likes of Cygnus Alpha and Deliverance. It gives the BBC an opportunity to break out the Viking costumes for everyone to wear and do this on the cheap, Into this walk Blake and co looking for Lurgen or his computer brain print. Why on earth a Federation cyber surgeon should choose to come here I don't know but there we go. They seem ok with the idea of Federation visitors though as Servalan and Travis are being treated as guests.... and yet the ruler's brother has never seen a gun fired before.

But my main problem with the episode if the whole where is Star One plot thread. We get repeated reminders here about what it is, the computer governing every aspect of Federation operations and how powerful it is. WE KNOW! Even if you've not been watching this season they've already said this episode. The Star One thread started in B5 Pressure Point where Blake discovers that Central Control isn't on Earth. It then goes quiet for three episodes until B9 Countdown by which point Blake has discovered Major Provine knows where it is. Except he doesn't and sends Blake after Docholli who Blake finds in B11 Gambit and he doesn't know where it is either, but by this point Travis is also interested in knowing where it is. Docholli sends them after Lurgen which brings us here..... Threaded through this is Travis a renegade - put on trial in B6 Trial he's on his own in B8 Hostage working for Servalan in B10 Voice from the Past, on his own again in B11 Gambit and they're seemingly back together here. Servalan does seem to get forgotten about half way through this episode and, unless there's another ship there, she's marooned on the planet after Travis took hers! I think BOTH plot threads could have done with some more work from script editor Chris Boucher: I'd have made Travis' break from Servalan a lot cleaner and maybe have made the finding Star One plot something running less low key in every episode rather an on off on off plot thread. I think B6 Trial in particular could have done with something in it relating to Star One in it, perhaps the missing element directing Blake to Provine, kickstarting Blake back into action from his despondency following Gan's death. That'd probably mean reshaping the entire Blake portion of the episode though....

Thankfully the major guest star in this episode does add something to proceedings. Playing the tribal chief Gola is Bruce Purchase who played The Captain in The Pirate Planet, the first Doctor Who story I saw the whole way through and love to bits to this day. His character's Father, chained up in the basement, is played by Arthur Hewlett who's two Doctor Who roles in State of Decay as Kalmar and Terror of the Vervoids as Kimber lie in his future. Lurking at the back of many scenes as "The Patrol Leader" is Ron Tarr a noted extra. He was already in Blake's 7: A12 Deliverance as a Scavenger and would reappear in D2 Power as a Hommick.... oh look all three of his Blake's 7 appearances involve primitive civilisations. In fact the Hommicks and the Goths are very similar. Before his next Blake's 7 return he's be in Doctor Who: Destiny of the Daleks uncredited as a Prisoner (he's easy to spot) and would find national fame when cast as stall holder Big Ron in Eastenders a role he also filled in the Doctor Who/Eastenders crossover Dimensions in Time. Seeing his name on the credits got me looking at the uncredited supporting artists again and sure enough there's some familiar names there: Stuart Fell (credited as Dortmunn in A7 Mission to Destiny, uncredited or stunt coordinator on a load more plus a bundle of Doctor Whos) is a Goth Warrior and the stunt coordinator. In amongst the Goth Warriors are two famous stunt performers: Nosher Powell and his brother Dinny. Dinny's got a credited Red Dwarf role to his name as Famine in Gunmen of the Apocalypse but they've both got credit lists a mile long including the Bond Films.

The location filming for this episode took place at Bream Scowles in Gloucestershire.

The Keeper was released on video on 05 November 1991 as part of Blake's 7 tape 13 with the following episode Star One and alongside Tape 14 Aftermath & Powerplay. The Blake's 7 season 2 DVD containing this episode was released on 17 January 2005.

Monday, 19 August 2013

B11 Gambit

EPISODE: B11 Gambit
BROADCAST: 20/03/1979
WRITTEN BY: Robert Holmes
DIRECTOR: George Spenton-Foster
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: David Maloney
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 2

"And do all your ex-patients try to kill you?"

In a bar in Freedom City Travis is acting as a bodyguard for Docholli the surgeon Blake is seeking. Blake teleport teleports to Freedom city with Jenna & Cally. Servalan is also at Freedom City seeking Docholli & Travis - she consults with the local ruler & casino owner Krantor and they strike a deal for 8 million credits for them both. Krantor discovers that Docholli is working under the alias Klein and decides to capture him for the information he possesses. Avon & Vila decide to use Orac to swindle the Casino. They use the theory of molecular reduction to shrink Orac so it can be taken with them. Travis is captured by Krantor's men. In the casino the Klute is challenged at speed chess, but the Klute wins electrocuting his opponent as Vila & Avon watch proceedings. Servalan as a grenade planted in Travis' robotic arm and dismisses him. Blake witnesses a bar owner being roughed up by one of Krantor's thugs Cevedic who is searching for "Klein" Cally deduces Klein is in the back of the bar. Avon & Vila's successful run on the roulette wheel is detected. Jenna & Cally stage a fihght allowing Blake to gain access to the Bar's back room where he finds Klein's abandoned surgical kit. Servalan wants Krantor to get the knowlege of Star One's location so she can have him killed and clean up Freedom City. Travis seeks Docholli to have his arm fixed, but he is being monitored by Krantor who also discovers his location. Travis kills Krantor's men seeking Docholli. Blake finds them and demands the location of Star One but Docholli doesn't know where it is. Vila is corerced into playing the Klute at speedchess. Docholli tells how he erased the memories of the technicians who worked to build Star One. He faked the operation on the last victim. Orac advises Vila wha moves to make and he defeats the Klute allowing Avon & Blake too escape with their winnings. Docholli tells Blake the last man to remember Star One's location is a man named Lurgen. They faked the operation and he is hiding on a planet Goth where the brain print is now being held by a tribal chief on a necklace. Blake returns to the Liberator where Avon & Vila insist they have been waiting for him all along.

What on Earth was that?????? A lawless frontier colony, where anything goes, yes I can get that. But one where they're all dressed up in ancient Earth costumes?????? It's worth pointing out that this episode occupies the same spot in the season that Bounty did last season and that too featured someone with an ancient Earth obsession. The basic idea is just so mental, so insane, that it just doesn't belong in the same series as the rest of what we've seen. And hiding in the middle of this is the cyber surgeon Blake is seeking now conveniently being guarded by Travis. EH???? How did Travis work out Blake wanted this man? And why has it suddenly become expedient for Servalan to have him eliminated? Has there been an episode between the last one and this one that we missed out???? Or did Chris Boucher just forget to have the line about Blake hunting Docholli dropped into a scene that Travis was present in in the last episode????

Another lawless frontier world where you can get away with anything sounds a lot like Space City in Shadow and the script compounds this by drawing attention to the fact. Yes swindling the casino is the obvious thing Avon & Vila (teamed for the second time in a Robert Holmes script) would do if they could.... but doing it with an Orac they can suddenly miniturise ?

It's mad. Barking absoloutely mad. I can't decide if Holmes' script is genius or he's just completely lost the plot!

Right the way through there's little touches which suddenly make you think eh????? Cally showing a huge bit of leg to tuck Docholli's picture into her boot because the designer's not given her pockets. Servalan who we're now used to wearing odd outfits, but always in white, suddenly has red on (it doesn't suit her at all). And as for what Kandor and his staff are wearing..... The Foppish Prince Regent stuff is bad enough but putting a 70 year old woman in the outfit from Cabaret????? I feel we need to name the guilty here: Costume Designer Barbara Kidd who'd worked onnthe show since Trial and has contributed to both old and new Doctor Who. Since it's someone with some experience we have to assume that the costumes are a specific instruction from on high! If they're meant to be there in the middle of some odd festival fair enough, and indeed Krantor makes a brief reference to Mardi Gras without justifying it, but they just seem to be wearing odd costumes for no reason!

The cast, a larger than average one, features a whole load of familiar Doctor Who names. Docholli is played by Denis Carey who would go onto play Professor Chronotis in Shada, the Keeper in The Keeper of Traken and the old man Borad in Timelash. Aubrey Woods, Krantor, was in Day of the Daleks as The Controller (come to think of it he had odd eye make up there too) Sylvia Coleridge, the Croupier in the Casino, was in the Seeds of Doom: Amelia Ducat while Paul Grist, Cevedic, was in Claws of Axos as Bill Filer. Deep Roy, The Klute, Had been in Doctor Who: Talons of Weng Chiang as Mister Sin but also appeared in Blake's 7 Searies 1 episode 5 The Web as a Decima and would return in series 3 episdoe 11 Moloch as Moloch. At the time of this episode's broadcast John Leeson, playing Krantor's assistant Toise, has just completed his first stint as K9 in Doctor Who from the Invisible Enemy to Armagedddon Factor. He'd previously been in Blake's 7 episode A7 Mission to Destiny as Pasco. Another Blake's 7 returnee in this episode is Michael Halsey, as Zee one of Docholli's former patients seeking revenge. He was Blake's defence attourney Tel Varon in the first episode The Way Back (odd that an actor from that episode should show up the episode after a character from that episode returns! As we noted then he emigrated to the USA where he had a successful career playing Brits including two Airwolf episodes:Peter MacGregor Moore in Echoes from the Past and Dunkirk in HX-1. Finally the actress who played Chenie, Nicolette Roeg had been previously used by director George Spenton Foster in Terry Nation's Survivors as Blossom in The Peacemaker.

Those Chess Graphics date the episode a bit! I'd have them updated if ever the opportunity to do a CGI version of the show arose!

One little bit of dialogue sprang out at me: Chennie mentions a planet hopper - we'll see one of those a little later in episodes from Rescue on onwards!

No still can't make my mind up if this episode is madness or genius!

Gambit was released on video on 3rd September 1991 as part of Blake's 7 tape 12 with Voice from the Past and alongside tape 11 which contained Hostage & Countdown. The Blake's 7 season 2 DVD containing this episode was released on 17 January 2005.

Monday, 12 August 2013

B10 Voice from the Past

EPISODE: B10 Voice from the Past
BROADCAST: 13/03/1979
WRITTEN BY: Roger Parkes
DIRECTOR: George Spenton-Foster
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: David Maloney
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 2

"He's used a number of ploys to get his own way, but "Just try trusting me"? That's weak even by his standards"

The Liberator is on course for planet Del10 for rest when Blake hears a noise an sets course for an Asteroid PK118 without telling the rest of the crew why. Cally & Avon discover Blake having a nightmare about his brainwashing. Avon believes Blake has been subject to some form of conditioning and Orac comes up with a rehabilitation therapy. They resume their original course but Blake convinces Villa to reset the course to the Asteroid and seals the others in a room. Cally believes Blake has been controlled by a telepathic trigger. Blake teleports to the Asteroid where he is taken prisoner. The group introduce him to Shivan, a resistance leader who is now a badly wounded bandaged man, and Ven Glynd, the man who sentenced him to Cygnus Alpha who has now defected. Blake agrees to take them to a governor's summit meeting where they have evidence against Servalan's activities including her attempt to swindle Orac and Blake's fixed trial. They need to make contact with Governor Le Grand. Servalan passes Le Grand rumours that Blake and Shivan pose a threat. Servalan transmits a cryptic coded message to someone. Orac confirms to Avon that Blake is still being influenced. Le Grand is bought aboard the Liberator and meets with Shivan and Blake.Avon & Cally interrupt the meeting at gunpoint and reveal the device controlling Blake but Orac removes Orac's key. Shivan remains on the ship, pleading tiredness, while Blake, Le Grand and Glynd teleport to the shuttle with Jenna & Vila to the conference centre on Atlay. The guard left with Shivan is found murdered and Shivan reveals himself to be a disguised Travis. As Le Grand and Glynd enter the conference room they are presented with a message from Servalan revealing she knew of their plot and that they are surrounded. The Federation troops begin killing those present there. Vila and Jenna save Blake and the wounded Glynd as Blake is subjected to another spell of remote conditioning. Avon is forced to teleport Travis to Blake's location, but then breaks Travis control device. Travis kills Glynd but Avon teleports the rest of the crew back to the ship with Blake back in his right mind and once again set on finding Star One.

Arrgh! More space fatigue to start the episode. We get it, the crew are exhausted. From there on it's obvious what's happening the main question is who's controlling Blake and why: the moment a resistance leader shows up swathed in bandages you should start worrying! And sure enough yes it's Travis. The idea of bringing back the judge from Blake's trial, albeit played by a different actor, now defecting and in possession of evidence against Servalan is a very good one. What happened to said evidence though? A bit of a mixed bag from experienced TV writer Roger Parkes on his Blake's 7 debut. He'll be back for two more episode C7 Children of Auron & D6 Headhunter.

Some nice new model work with the shuttle landing shot and it's descent into the silo. And the use of Wembley Conference Centre adds something to the episode but a big section of the location filming is affected by a very visible tramline scratch. Servalan's appearance on the screen is a fabulous moment, but because these sequences are so washed out it looses something.

When Ven Glynd first appeared in the very first episode of Blake's 7, The Way Back, he was played by Robert James (Lesterson in Doctor Who: Power of the Daleks & High Priest in Masque of Mandragora). This time round he's played by Richard Bebb. Martin Read plays Nagu, the Bodyguard and he had a recurring role in several early episode of The Sweeney as DC Jimmy Thorpe. And yes there's Aitch helping the wounded Shivan out of his chair!

I can't let this episode go without pointing you at This YouTube video!

Voice from the Past was released on video on 3rd September 1991 as part of Blake's 7 tape 12 with Gambit and alongside tape 11 which contained Hostage & Countdown. The Blake's 7 season 2 DVD containing this episode was released on 17 January 2005.

Monday, 5 August 2013

B9 Countdown

EPISODE: B9 Countdown
BROADCAST: 06/03/1979
WRITTEN BY: Terry Nation
DIRECTOR: Vere Lorrimer
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: David Maloney
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 2

"Typical Federation policy: things are more important than people. "

The Federation base on Albian is attacked by the natives. When defeat looks inevitable the base's crew activate a device to kill the population of 6 million. Blake is approaching Albian seeking a Federation officer called Provine he believes can tell him where Central Control was moved to. Provine is the sole command officer to have escaped and is being sought to help deactivate the device which is running on a countdown. Blake, Avon & Villa teleport to the surface. They find a rocket pod hidden on the base. Blake finds the rebel leader Cauder who enlists their help deactivating the device - a solium radiation device which will destroy tissue instantly - installed to keep the population under control. Avon reveals the bomb is elsewhere: the device in the command centre is just a transmitter. Provine is found trying to access his escape ship. He tries to convince the guard that finds him to help him escape in exchange for his survival. Provine overcomes him and kills him before taking his uniform before seeking a replacement mechanism for the damaged launch doors. Cauder reveals the revolution was led by a mercenary named Del Grant, who is known to Avon and has sworn to kill him over Avon's part in the death of his sister Anna.Vila breaks into a safe and gains access to information on the bomb which he takes to Orac for analysis. Grant blames Avon for the death of his sister at the hands of a Federation Torturer. Orac traces the device Albian's polar region. Grant & Avon teleport there to disarm the device while Blake & Cauder search for Provine. Avon & Grant discover a relay cable buried in ice and they start digging it out. Blake goes to check Provine's escape rocket and escorted by a guard. Avon & Grant's safety is threatened by the ice in the room they are in melting & cracking as they dig the device out and work on it. One of Cauder's team identifies Provine as the guard accompanying Blake. Avon explains to Grant while they worked how his sister Anna was captured: he had been to obtain exit visas, was attacked and rendered unconscious. The Federation came for him while he wads gone. She came looking for him and was caught. Provine traps Blake in the rocket silo but is shot by Blake. With his dying breath he tells Blake that control is now at Star One and only cyber surgeon Dochelli knows where it is. As the countdown nears conclusion the chamber Grant and Avon are in begins to crack and flood. Grant is crushed by a girder but Avon reaches the device and deactivates it saving Grant and the entire planet.

Aw that was cracking that was. From the very start it looks good with a superb extended battle sequence between Albian rebels and Federation Troops. That setup leads into the Federation officers and it's during this sequence that Provine really leaps off the screen at us proving a better villain than Travis II is! Then Terry Nation breaks out an old favourite, the Countdown of the title, which automatically injects some urgency into proceedings. He's done it before in various forms in The Daleks, Dalek Invasion of Earth, Genesis of the Daleks and Android Invasion plus would have been working it into his next Doctor Who story, Destiny of the Daleks, as this episode aired. But it is effective and it's injected into the episode early on, rather than to boost things at the end, so is absolutely central and probably Tel's best use of the trick. He's done things with ice before as well in Planet of the Daleks now I think about it.

It was only after glancing at Maximum Power that I was reminded that this is the second Terry Nation episode this season where someone is crushed by a girder. Come to think of it that happens in Destiny of the Daleks too!

Blake's got a reason for being there but I wonder how he discovered that Provine knew where Central Control is now? Orac research? The results he eventually gets starts off the thread that drives most of the remaining episodes this season.

Throw into this Del Grant, the mercenary brother of Avon's now deceased girlfriend Anna. This adds some tension to the episode as they're forced to work together to deactivate the bomb. Just as Blake's pursuit of Provine kicks off the rest of the season we're not done with Anna Grant yet: this starts Avon on the process of investigating Anna's death which resurfaces in the third series in Rumours of Death.

One major criticism though: for the third consecutive episode the female members of the crew, Jenna & Cally, are left on the ship while the three men go to the surface. The last time Jenna got out the ship was briefly in B5 Pressure Point with Cally last leaving the ship in the episode before Horizon. The last time Blake chose her to leave the ship was way back in A11 Bounty - in A13 Orac she was the only other crew member standing!

Yup, it's the Capsule from Time Squad (and Deliverance) back again as Provine's escape vehicle! There's a sphere in the capsule silo that there's a long lingering shot of early on which makes in look like it'll turn out to be important... but it isn't. I'm willing to put a fiver on the long tracking shot of polar region, before Grant and Avon teleport in, was taken from a BBC/Richard Attenborough nature documentary! All the sequences in the ice base are on film so you know it's going to be subject to a fight or an action sequence before it happens!

I liked this episode a lot. Much better than those I've watched recently and possibly the best one since the first two. There's nothing added on or wasted like in some other episodes (I'm particularly thinking the space battle at the start of the previous episode) and the B plot - Avon's feud with Grant - is nicely integrated with the main story. Top stuff.

Del Grant and Provine are both recognisable faces to Doctor Who fans: Grant is played by Tom Chadbon, shortly to be seen in City of Death as Duggan and then 7 years later in the Trial of a Timelord as Murdeen while Paul Shelley plays Provine and later appears in the first Fifth Doctor story filmed, Four to Doomsday, as Persuasion. Down the order Nigel Gregory, playing Arrian, later appears in K-9 and Company: A Girl's Best Friend as Sergeant Vince Wilson.

Countdown was released on video on 3rd September 1991 as part of Blake's 7 tape 11 with Hostage and alongside tape 12 which contained Voice from the Past & Gambit. The Blake's 7 season 2 DVD containing this episode was released on 17 January 2005.