Thursday, 22 March 2018

Custom DVD Cover: Moonbeam City

Really need to do more custom covers, forgot how much I enjoy it. So a cover for the much-missed (by me, anyway) Moonbeam City, seeing as the lone half-series made before cancellation doesn't seem to be set for an official release. A shame, though it was more funny than hilarious and they'd probably hit the limit for the premise; if the animation didn't tap Patrick Nagel quite so hard I suspect I'd like it less. Anyway, largely based on promotional elements found on the web.

Blake's 7 - Statistics

Having finished reviewing B7 I decided to have a look at some of the stats brought up by my ratings; I'm fully aware of how self-indulgent this is, so feel free to ignore. 

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

TV Review - Blake's 7: S04E13 Blake

This is the one, this is what it's all been leading up to. I've mentioned before that the Federation could not be plausibly defeated by our heroes and it stands to reason it wouldn't be as long as the show was running (maybe a sequel series where Avon and Vila try to get to grips with the day-to-day admin of revitalising a post-fascist Earth? No?) it wouldn't be either. And the universe is something of a downer anyway - two regulars had already been outright killed off and a third has disappeared, not to mention the myriad defeats the crew have suffered. So, when Vere Lorrimer and Chris Boucher realised it was highly likely the series wouldn't be returning (audiences were healthy but 2m down on the previous year, while critical savaging of the series had stepped up) there was only one thing that could be done.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

TV Review - Blake's 7: S04E12 Warlord

After finally getting the three or four episodes that should have set the Scorpio format up properly at the start of the season all of a sudden we get six episodes of arc material squeezed into fifty minutes. Simon Masters chipped in with his first and only script for the show; he had written odd episodes of this and that but his main body of work was as script editor for The Brothers, a sort of proto-Dallas about a British haulage business that did very well but is now only remembered for making Colin Baker famous enough to be in the running for the Doctor Who job. You wonder if these skills at compacting were necessary to make "Warlord" work after so much time treading water.

TV Review - Blake's 7: S04E11 Orbit

The crew interactions during Season 4 were largely limited to Avon using the other four crew members as a unit; with Orac and/or Slave on teleport duty everyone got to go on trips off the ship more often than not. While different pairings would go off to do this or that for a few minutes there was never really much time for the dynamics of any particular couple of crew members to be explored, with the deciding factor often seeming to be that all the actors had about the same amount to do. Robert Holmes however had already shown a considerable affinity for the pairing of Avon and Vila in his two Season 2 scripts and returned to them here; the result feels like a reunion, which is odd when you think about it.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

TV Review - Blake's 7: S04E10 Gold

Chris Boucher has stated in interviews that the Scorpio format might have worked better with another season before the finale so it could really stretch its' legs. Now, I like Boucher and the season does finish strongly but "Gold" is probably a case in point for it not being the case. In the first and only B7 script from Colin Davis (who had a short career as a TV writer, this apparently being his first work since contributing to a Cliff Richards series in 1974) sees the crew get involved in a heist that features an untrustworthy charismatic middle man played by someone quite famous. Which is the same plot as "Games" a fortnight before.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

TV Review - Blake's 7: S04E09 Sand

Tanith Lee's first episode, "Sarcophagus", was probably the most unusual of the show and certainly very interesting. It felt very weird in the show's wider tone when ran in order even if it got to the nub of a lot of Season 3's main points but she's actually better suited to the loose standalone format of Season 4, which in turn benefits from some actual serious sci-fi. As with "Sarcophagus" it hinges on a central pairing of regulars and their romantic feelings - in this case Tarrant and Servalan.

Friday, 16 March 2018

TV Review - Blake's 7: S04E08 Games

Season 4 took an intolerable amount of time to get comfortable but when it did it was very good for the most part, though by then there were only six episodes left. It's an odd thing but there's not really a transition; it's more a switch flicks. "Games" therefore marks a turning point but at the same time there's that nagging question of whether it's actually all that good or just so much better than the dross so far this year it feels good. It's the first and only script from Bill Lyons, another Z-Cars alumni, and while it's probably not anything special it's good fun.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

TV Review - Blake's 7: S04E07 Assassin

Season 4 of B7 didn't really improve in any sort of curve, it just suddenly jumped to being good after a long trudge where it was very poor to just about mediocre. Much of this came from the addition of some fresh writers. While this does feature a new writer the improvement doesn't come yet, though; the new blood is Rod Beacham, who had mixed acting (best known to genre fans as an ill-fated Corporal in Doctor Who classic "The Web of Fear") with writing (largely for the radio up to this point). This was only his second television script (the first was a play) but presumably the production team were commissioning all sorts to make up for the loss of Terry Nation and Chris Boucher's decision to top and tail the series and otherwise concentrate on the editing side.

TV Review - Blake's 7: S4E06 Headhunter

Roger Parkes was another to get the call for Season 4 due to owning his own typewriter; his first story, "Voice from the Past", was probably the worst of the first two years but didn't involve Slave in any way shape or form, while the second - "Children of Auron" - was actually good. Which end of the scale would an episode made for Season 4, which has seen Bob Holmes and Chris Boucher turn in shit scripts, be? Go on, guess.

TV Review - Blake's 7: S4E05 Animals

Season 4 continues to run on the spot with the fifth and final contribution from the much-maligned but actually genuinely awful Allan Prior. It's clear that at least early on Vere Lorrimer and Chris Boucher were concerned more with seasoned pros who could turn in a script on time than in exploring a brave new direction. Prior's debut "Horizon" was poor and since then "Hostage", "The Keeper" and "Volcano" have seen a decline. So the signs for a script originally written with a major role for Cally in a format that's still like quicksand by possibly the series' worst writer is not exactly a recipe for success. 

TV Review - Blake's 7: S4E04 Stardrive

Despite curling out "Dawn of the Gods" for Season 3 and giving a fair indication that he should never be allowed to work in writing again Mad Jim Follet was asked back for Season 4, most likely because there were no scripts, what with Terry Nation concentrating on keeping merchandise money coming in and Chris Boucher having to rewrite everything they did have five times. To be fair to Follet, the episode is a quantum improvement on his first attempt but then the other direction wasn't really available.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

TV Review - Blake's 7: S4E03 Traitor

Robert Holmes didn't actually contribute anything to the third season (his script "Sweetly Dreaming... Slowly Dying", which doesn't sound like a very B7 title but then cancelled scripts always sound weird, was abandoned as unworkable) but did contribute two to Season 4. "Traitor" was the first and has the task of retouching with the Federation while also getting the crew back on track as revolutionaries while also bringing Servalan back into the mix; the result is another story with a lot of work to do.

TV Review - Blake's 7: S4E02 Power

After turning in "Moloch" in double-quick time at the end of Season 3 it was no surprise to see Ben Steed roped in to get a script up and running for the frantic process of preparing Season 4. The episode nominally forms the second section of a two-parter with "Rescue", handling the crew actually getting access to Scorpio and Soolin joining up. However, while most of the plot does indeed take place on Xenon (one of only two episodes to show more of the planet than the base) it feels a bit like Chris Boucher's rewritten it so that some nebulous sealed artifact is replaced by the Scorpio landing silo.

TV Review - Blake's 7: S4E01 Rescue

Blake's 7 didn't so much continue after the unexpected announcement of a fourth series as stop and restart (notably switching from the spring to autumn seasons for broadcast), with Chris Boucher among those noting it should really be considered the start of some sort of second generation sequel show. The production office shut down at the end of the third series and some of the crew moved on, notably producer David Maloney. His role was taken over by Vere Lorrimer, who had directed a dozen episodes, while Boucher returned and hurriedly they began to patch together a season, with Boucher himself writing the opening episode setting up the new format (beyond collecting his creator's cheques for the show Terry Nation had no further involvement). Of the main cast Paul Darrow, Michael Keating, Josette Simon, Steven Pacey, Jacqueline Pearce (once she'd seen off a nasty illness) and Peter Tuddenham all returned, the only decline coming from Jan Chappell - who had apparently already privately decided to leave during Season 3 anyway and refused offers to come back for 13, 6, 3 and then 1 episode, finally agreeing to a brief vocal cameo.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

TV Review - Blake's 7: S3E13 Terminal

For the conclusion of Season 3 Terry Nation returned as writer for his third script of the year, and the last of eighteen he penned. The story was famously planned to kill off the series but watching at home was Head of the BBC Bill Cotton, who was impressed and phoned the station while the finale was still on air so the continuity announcer could relay news that it would be back for another series, bypassing the then-closed production office. Which is a bit of a weird decision when you think about it; the majority of the cast were delighted to come back and before Season 3 wrapped it had already bounced back in the ratings, which were around 9-10m compared to the 6-7m of Season 2. Why go to all the effort of reworking the format in order to then wind the thing down? Anyway; "Terminal" works as a fine episode and a fine season finale but overall I'm glad it didn't end the whole series for several reasons.

TV Review - Blake's 7: S3E12 Death-Watch

Like "Moloch", "Death-Watch" was a late replacement script for a story by John Fletcher (apparently about Hell's Angels in space, though presumably not related to "Stardrive") written by Chris Boucher. This perhaps explains why the story goes over some ground uncomfortably close to that covered by other episodes - a key character is Del Tarrant's brother Deeta, with both parts played by Steven Pacey. While dialogue indicates Deeta is older the effect is that we've got another unannounced 'twin' sibling story (and twins will often call each other big/little brother even if there are only minutes in it) just four episodes after "Children of Auron". 

TV Review - Blake's 7: S3E11 Moloch

If "Rumours of Death" and various other Servalan scenes across Season 3 suggested her empire was constantly at risk "Moloch" (a second story of the year from Ben Steed, this one being a late replacement for a Bob Holmes story that fell through) outright confronts it. After two episodes all but Federation-free it's nice to get back to the meat of the conflict. Jacqueline Pearce appears in nine of the year's 13 episodes; it's only one more than in Season 2 but whereas some of those were effectively cameos (e.g. "Hostage", "Voice from the Past") this year she's more central - and clearly being banked upon to help ease the show past Blake's departure (in Season 4, more sure there are legs in Avon as a lead, she'll only be in eight). This would be in danger of breeding overfamiliarity (think the Roger Delgado Master in Doctor Who, an excellent villain you're sick of the sight of rapidly) but the roving format means she can be put in a variety of situations, with most of them coming off well, compared to when she was always sat in her office at Space Command yelling at Travis.

Monday, 12 March 2018

TV Review - Blake's 7: S3E10 Ultraworld

The fourth and final addition to the scriptwriting team for the third series was Trevor Hoyle, who like Tanith Lee was primarily a writer of novels - though not especially acclaimed or famous, his Q series of sci-fi books had found enough of an audience to run to a trilogy. He had also written for B7 before in a way, penning the two official novelisations based on the series - Terry Nation's Blake's Seven adapting on the opening episodes and Project Avalon, covering the initial Travis/Servalan battles. It's been a while since I've read them but despite being based on scripts rather than finished episodes my memory is they were satisfactory; Hoyle would write a third in 1981, Scorpio Attack, based on the opening salvo of the fourth series. This would be his only script for the actual show, however, and it's really not very good.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

TV Review - Blake's 7: S3E09 Sarcophagus

Sitting awkwardly alongside hacks like James Follett, Ben Steed and Trevor Hoyle as a new recruit was fantasy writer Tanith Lee, an actual proper author who even had an international deal and part of her Tales from Flat-Earth series would win a British Fantasy Award (the first woman to do so) the same year Season 3 was broadcast. She wasn't Tolkien or anything but it was a bold and imaginative idea for David Maloney and Chris Boucher to even approach her considering the series' critical stock, and Lee would contribute a story apiece to the next two series - she would also pitch to Doctor Who around this time; actually, considering Christopher H Bidmead's drive for the middlebrow on Who would be happening, so it's perhaps more likely she was re-directed to the slightly more grown-up unofficial sister series B7. Her works are probably the most curious, divisive and individual of the whole show; whereas there seems to be a broad consensus on most B7 episodes among fandom, hers seem to be very much an acquired taste.