Monday, 3 February 2014

D9 Sand

BROADCAST: 23/11/1981
WRITTEN BY: Tanith Lee
DIRECTOR: Vivienne Cozens
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: Vere Lorrimer
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 4

"Oh, Tarrant. I'm just the girl next door."
"If you were the girl next door, I'd move."
"Where would you move, Tarrant?"
"Next door?"

On the planet Vern the Federation outpost was suffering from a plague when they made their last transmission 5 years ago. Servalan, in her guise as Comissioner Sleer, has obtained the recordings and is going to the planet accompanied by investigator Reeve. As they approach the planet their ship's systems go wild and they crash. Avon has intercepted transmissions from the Federation and has decided if there is something of value on Vern then he wants it. Soon after landing Servalan's ship is partially buried in sand. Slave is affected by the planet on approach and starts to loose control of Scorpio. One of Servalan's crew is killed while they journey to the base. Tarrant & Dayna teleport to Vern. Reeve recognises "Sleer" as being Servalan. Spotting movement Reeve shoots and wounds Dayna who returns to Scorpio, bringing some sand with her on her boots. Tarrant is found by Reeve as he sneaks into the base but Tarrant kills him as Servalan finds him. Scorpio is increasingly affected by in flight disturbances which Avon thinks is being caused by the ship irritating the atmosphere. Servalan and Tarrant shelter in the base. They find the body of Kellor, the base's chief scientist as the building is covered by a sand drift. Over a meal Servalan explains how she used the teleport to escape from the Liberator and how the presidency was stolen from her. Tarrant comes up with a theory as to how Vern's ecology works believing the sand is alive and using the last surviving pair of humans as breeding stock. Servalan explains Kellor was her lover and she came to Vern to find out what happened to him. Dayna realises the Sand on the liberator has moved round villa. When Vila spills his drink on it it disolves. Tarrant comes to the same conclusion having seen Servalan's tears strike the floor but she pulls his gun on him. Avon brings Scorpio further into Vern's atmosphere creating a rainstorm that attacks the Sand. Tarrant blasts the windows in the base letting the water in to neutralise the sand in the base. Servalan sets out to return to her ship as Tarrant is teleported back to Scorpio. Tarrant admits to the others he shared an encounter with Servalan on the planet to the disgust of the rest of the crew. Avon notes that Vern is capable of regenerating the sand and that Servalan may not make it off Vern alive.

aka "The one where Tarrant and Servalan get it on"


Far far better than Tanith Lee's previous attempt at a Blake's 7 story Sarcophagus. This time you can understand what's going on from the word go. Servalan's on a plant trying to obtain something but the sand is hostile to any visitors and the planet interferes with computers. If Servalan wants something, Avon wants it even if it's just to stop her having it so they visit the same planet. Dayna get's shot which gets the sand onto Scorpio increasing the planet's control over the ship while Tarrant & Servalan are trapped together during which the unspeakable deed is done. Avon works out what's going on and neutralises the sand. Pretty simple really. The idea that the planet is keeping the last surviving pair of humans alive as breeding stock is quite frightening. There's little details in there that are nice to, in particular that the message that Orac and the computers on the base are relaying sounds like it's Kellor's last diary entry to Servalan. We get references to Sarcophagus, Deatch Watch and Terminal too. It works for me. A little slow moving at times maybe but a decent episode.


In fact the only things I really had a problem with were the longer shots of people on the planet's surface that were filmed instead of video recorded: these really stood out badly from the rest of the video footage.


Oooh, full house on the guest cast this week, we've seen all 5 of them somewhere before! Stephen Yardley, Reeve, has two Doctor Whos to his name as Sevrin in Genesis of the Daleks and Arak in Vengeance on Varos before becoming known as Ken Masters in Howard's Way Daniel Hill, the pilot Chasgo, should have been Chris Parsons in the unproduced Doctor Who story Shada but later featured in BBC Sitcoms No Place Like Home and Waiting For God. Jonathan David, Keller, will later appear as Stratton in Doctor Who: Attack of the Cybermen. Peter Craze, Servalan's assistant, was in Blake's 7 episode A6 Seek-Locate-Destroy as Prell. He was in three Doctor Who stories: as Dako in the Space Museum, Du Pont in the War Games & Costa in Nightmare of Eden and is the brother of Michael Craze who played 60s companion Ben Jackson. Michael Gaunt, the Computer voice, has one credited Blake's 7 role as Dr Bax in Killer and teo uncredited ones in Breakdown as XK72 Personnel/Pursuit Ship Leader and the previous story Games as the Game Computer on Orbiter. Beyond Blake's 7 his CV includes some "interesting" work.

This episode of Blake's 7 was broadcast on BBC1 the same night as the Five Faces of Doctor Who repeat of Three Doctors episode 1 was shown on BBC2. The whole of Three Doctors was repeated on BBC2 during the week following.

Sand was repeated on 30/07/1983. Sand was released on video as the second episode on Blake's 7 tape 24 on 1st September 1992. It was paired with the previous episode Games and alongside Tape 23 Headhunter/Assasin. Blake's 7 season 4 was released on DVD on 24th April 2006.

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