Monday, 4 November 2013

C9 Sarcophagus

EPISODE: C9 Sarcophagus
BROADCAST: 03/03/1980
WRITTEN BY: Tanith Lee
DIRECTOR: Fiona Cumming
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: David Maloney
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 3

"That doesn't make sense to me"

On a desolate alien planet a body is put into an ornate spaceship and launched into space. Later ..... On the Liberator Cally is brooding on Auron's fate when the Liberator encounters the ornate ship adrift in space. Avon wants to investigate a mineral asteroid but the others persuade him to investigate the ship. Avon, Villa & Cally teleport over but the Teleport lands Cally there fractionally before the others. The contents of the ship are decaying and Cally finds the remains of the body. Avon and Villa discover a sphere in the ship. Dayna discovers an energy surge from the ship as the interior goes dark. Cally is teleported to the Liberator with the sphere but Avon & Vila are trapped there. Cally returns and teleports back with them just as the ship explodes. Avon & Cally argue and she retreats to her cabin with the ring she removed from the body and has a vision. Vila, feeling unwell retreats to his quarters. Dayna gets electric shocks from panels and Avon & Tarrant argue. As Cally sleeps a voice speaks to her and she dreams. Tarrant, Vila & Dayna are disturbed in the night by a light malfunction and come to the flightdeck where the sphere begins glow. Tarrant has Orac analyses the sphere but as telekinetic activity occurs all over the flight deck Orac asks to be disconnected as the sphere crumbles to dust. Zen detects an intruder aboard before going offline. The voice speaks to Cally about her loneliness. Tarrant can't find Avon and Dayna starts searching for him. On the flight deck Vila starts performing tricks to an imaginary audience while Dayna's harp plays itself as Vila hallucinates being on spaceship. Dayna is unable to wake Cally and is overcome by a bright light. Vila is confronted by a strange woman on the flight deck before he too collapses. Tarrant find Dayna and they conject that she brought something back with her which is using the ship's power to build a new body. Avon reveals himself confirming their theory and telling them it's on the flight deck. Tarrant goes to confront it. She offers Tarrant a choice for them to serve her saying it was predicted they would serve her. He is overcome by her power as is Dayna when she arrives. The being works out Avon is missing: he enters unarmed and talks with the being as Cally struggles in her sleep. The being attacks Avon with explosions all over the flight deck. Cally resists the being's attempts to kill Avon and wakes. Avon kisses the being a steals the ring which boosts her psychic ability. The being pleads with Avon to be allowed to continue to exist as he destroys the ring and she ages & fades away and the power returns to the ship.

Not clear what's happening? Join the club!

The start is soooo slow with it's scene setting nonsense: I can remember the first time I saw it, as part of the Aftermath video compilation (more anon) and wondering what was going on. It's over SIX MINUTES before anyone recognisable appears on the screen. Over the course of the episode parallels are drawn between those at the ceremony and the Liberator's crew: Vila/the jester, Dayna/the musician, Tarrant the warrior/protector and Avon the priest/executioner. I say Executioner because I think there's some ambiguity about what's happened in the opening scenes. What brought it to mind was the ring which reminded me of the Doctor Who story The Hand of Fear. Is the body being sent into space ceremonially or to make sure that it doesn't come back? (aside: the prancing around in long red robes brought to mind the Sisterhood of Karn from The Brain of Morbius)

Tarrant, Dayna & Cally arguing while Avon and Vila are trapped on the alien ship wound me up no end: you're friends are in danger with seconds to live: take decisive action!

This is as close as Blake's 7 comes to doing Kinda and I'm not sure it works for the series. It's confusing and it drags horribly. Yes there's some nice stuff in it but I think the basic idea would have worked better with more obvious menace than the imagery presented here.

Basically the episode boils down to: Cally is possessed by an alien and Avon saves everyone. Cally being possessed/used is a well worn plot device for the series: The Web and Shadow spring immediately to mind. The thing that sets this episode apart is it's window dressing which is either new age hippy nonsense or Prisoner grade wacky $#!+ depending how you look at it.

This is director Fiona Cumming's 2nd episode of Blake's 7 and, like her first the previous episode Rumours of Death, there's some nice work in it including the overhead shots of the funeral. Unfortunately this film sequence suffers from a horrendous scratch straight down the middle of the screen.

Writer Tanith Lee had had books published since the late 60s/early 70s but this is her first television script. She'll be back for another Blake's 7 episode next season.

Sarcophagus was repeated on 29/06/81. Sarcophagus was released on video in the mid eighties as part of The Aftermath along with the opening episodes of the season Aftermath & Powerplay. *Personally* if I was going for a third episode from this series I'd have gone for either Rumours of Death or Terminal! The Aftermath was not released in the UK - I can remember seeing it listed as an import from Australia in an advert in Celestial Toyroom the Doctor Who fanzine. However when the three previous UK Blake's 7 compilation were budget re-released on video for £10 on the 5th March 1990 they were joined by the slightly retitled Aftermath. Sarcophagus was released on episodic video on 7th April 1992 on tape 18 paired with the following episode Ultraworld and alongside tape 17 Children of Auron & Rumours of Death.

1 comment:

  1. I always assumed it was included on that video as there were no other cast members to clear rights for .