Monday, 28 October 2013

C8 Rumours of Death

EPISODE: C8 Rumours of Death
BROADCAST: 25/02/1980
WRITTEN BY: Chris Boucher
DIRECTOR: Fiona Cumming
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: David Maloney
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 3

"What have I ever done to him?"
"You killed someone he loved."
"And there aren't many of them about. Avon's not a very lovable man, in case you hadn't noticed."

Avon has been captured and is languishing in a Federation cell. He is visited by the Federation's chief interrogator Shrinker who tells him his homing device implanted in his neck is still sending, has been for five days and his friends aren't coming. Avon replies that his friends were waiting for the beacon to stop transmitting as Dayna & Tarrant teleport into the cell to rescue Avon and take Shrinker prisoner. On Earth Servalan is hosting a conference at her presidential palace, a reconstructed country house. In attendance are Councillor Chesku, who is giving a speech, and his wife Sula. As they walk round the garden Chesku is held at gunpoint by troops loyal to his wife and she shoots him. Avon takes Shrinker to a sealed cave and questions him about what he knows of Avon's girlfriend Anna Grant, whom Shrinker is reputed to have tortured and killed. Shrinker admits he knows nothing about Anna and never met her. He remembers Avon from his banking fraud and recalls he was being run by an agent named Bartholomew working out of Central Control who were convinced he was political. When Avon was injured all of his contacts were pulled in: Shrinker didn't kill Anna, Bartholomew did. Sula's group attack a group of Federation troops and steal their uniforms. Shrinker tried to discover who Bartholomew was. He gives Avon the name of Councillor Chesku and says that the only person who knew who Bartholomew was is Servalan. Avon teleports out of the cave leaving Shrinker alone there with a gun as his only escape. Avon asks Orac to locate Servalan. Sula's disguised troops attack and take Servalan hostage. Sula's men want to kill Servalan but Sula refuses, wanting to use her and get her to resign forming a people's council to replace her. Avon intends to go to the house alone but the rest of the crew insist on helping them. Avon, Tarrant, Cally & Dayna teleport to the house infiltrate it. The find an injured survelance officer who directs them to the basement where they find Servalan chained to a wall. Servalan believes Avon is behind the attack but when he frees her Sula enters the room and Avon recognises here as Anna. Avon is suspicous of her survival, and with Shrinker's word ringing in his ears he comes to a startling revelation: Anna was Bartholomew. A disbelieving Avon shoots her and she dies claiming she loved him. As the house is retaken by Federation troops, Tarrant, Dayna & Cally are teleported back to the Liberator by a nervous Vila. Avon frees Servalan, but she finds a gun and intends to shoot him, but is distracted by one of the rebels as Avon teleports back to the ship and escapes.

Brilliant, Fabulous stuff. Loved this episode from when I first saw it way back in 1992 on it's video release and still love it now. From start to finish nothing is wasted with everything eventually coming together. Even Forres AND Grenlee, the two Federation survelance technicians that form a Greek chorus to the early part of the episode eventually feature with the dying Grenlee guiding Avon & Tarrant to Servalan.

It's obviously Avon's episode and he's clearly in charge right the way through as he should have been right the way throughout this series. You can make a case with him being distracted, he's obviously been planning this for a long while and I suggest the seeds were sown in Countdown when he met Anna's brother Del and was reminded of the events surrounding Anna's disapearance.

(I wonder if Del ever finds out that his sister is a Federation agent? You can bet your life that there's a Fanfic out there where he does or BigFinish will do a radio play round the subject)

Shrinker is a genuinely nasty piece of work, horrible. You feel he gets what he deserves. And yet the scene of Vila, Tarrant & Dayna turning on him is genuinely quite disturbing as is his fate: A slow death trapped in a room or a quick death on the business end of a gun! There is a fantastic piece of work at the start of the cave sequence: for what I think is the first time the camera remains fixed on Avon and Shrinker as they teleport with background the changing changing from the teleport bay to the cave. Avon's flashbacks, both in visual and in voice over, are a bit different to what we're used to as well. Top work from first time director Fiona Cumming who would later helm the Doctor Who stories Castrovalva, Snakedance, Enlightenment & Planet of Fire.

A rather big aside here: knowing Fiona Cumming was directing I took a look at the cast and crew to see if her Husband Ian Fraser was involved. He isn't but I did spot two names there I recognised: The Production Assistant is Edwina Craze, wife of former Doctor Who companion Michael Craze (Ben Jackson) who she met on the set of Tenth Planet where she was performing the same role as here. She also PA'd for the Doctor Who stories Enemy of the World, The Mind Robber, The Krotons, the War Games episode 10 and Terror of the Zygons as well as Blake's 7 episodes Powerplay, Volcano & Sarcophagus. Menawhile the Assistant Floor Manager is Antony Root who AFM'd for the same Blake's 7 stories that Craze PA'd plus Dawn of the Gods & Terminal as well as for the Doctor Who episode Destiny of the Daleks 4, becoming Doctor Who's temporary script editor in 1981.

It's hard to pin down exactly who Anna Grant is: we know that's her real name because of her brother Del (Countdown) but she's also been Federation Agent Batholemew and Sula, wife of Counciller Chesku. Did she really love Avon, as she claimed at the end of the episode, or was she just with him to bring him down? Then there's the rebel group she's involved with: I'm not sure they're anti Federation as such, just anti-President and very anti-Servalan. And given her multi facted nature I'm not 100% sure that Anna isn't using them to unseat Servalan and take over herself! Avon's actions here actually help supress a rebel movement and keep Servalan in power though she's about as grateful as ever and would have shot him if it wasn't for the rebel interupting at the wrong moment. Yes I suspect the approaching Federation forces would have wiped out the rebels anyway but it's debatable whether Servalan would have still been alive when they found her. She looks genuinely broken when Avon finds her in the cellar (Or is this an act for him?) and only really comes to life when she realises how mistaken her old foe has been about his long lost lady love!

There's a line in this episode about the house being restored and the basement being genuine (amusingly it's the only part of the house, bar the control room, not filmed on location but rather as a set in the studio!) and dating back to the pre atomic era. Is this the first time we've had a hint that the Federation is a post atomic war society?

Does Zen speak in this episode? I don't think so!

Earth is the first planet the Liberator has visited in two episodes - Pressure Point and here. You can throw in an extra appearance in The Way Back too. But this is it's last appearance and next season Earth will be massively overtaken as the planet visited most often.

Guest cast: I had a good look for something else that I knew Lorna Heilbron, Ann/Bartholomew/Sula, from but couldn't see anything. Until his death she was married to Nicholas Clay, who was Lancelot in one of my favourite films Excalibur. Shrinker was played by John Bryans who was previously Bercol in A6 Seek-Locate-Destroy & B6 Trial. He's got a Doctor Who appearance in Creature from the Pit where he plays Torvin. Also in Doctor Who are our two Federation surveillance officers: Donald Douglas, Grenlee, was in The Sontaran Experiment as Vural (more recently he was Mark Darcy's dad in both Bridget Jones films) while Forres is David Haig's second acting job for TV. His third would be in Doctor Who: The Leisure Hive as Pandrell. He'd become a familiar face many years later with roles including DI Grim in The Thin Blue Line and Bernard, the groom at Wedding 2 in Four Weddings and a Funeral. Philip Bloomfield plays Balon (who? One of the rebels I assume) also gets a brief Doctor Who appearance as a Foster in The Keeper of Traken part four.

Now he's done with Anna, Avon can get on with the other task that's been on his to do list..... Unfortunately we have Sarcophagus and a few other turkeys to deal with first!

Rumours of Death was repeated on 22/06/81. It was released on video on 7th April 1992 on tape 17 paired with the previous episode Children of Auron and alongside tape 18 Sarcophagus & Ultraworld. Tape 17 was also available as an exclusive from Woolworths stores containing a bonus interview with Paul Darrow. Blake's 7 season 3 was released on DVD on 20th June 2005.

No comments:

Post a comment