Monday, October 20, 2008

B7: Retconned

Well, with B7: Rebel doing unto the first two episodes of the original series what Tara the vending machine android did unto Rod Foxx in the House Party episode of Double the Fist 2, it is time for me to bite the bullet and confront the rest of the bloody thing. Note I reviewed episode six before When Vila Met Gan, so no doubt it's full of mistakes and missing important points, etc...

The story so far: the insane, frying-pan-wielding mass murdering maniac Roj Blake has regained the memory of his glorious insane, frying-pan-wielding mass murdering past and goes on a rampage, only to be charged on the one crime he didn't commit - kiddy fiddling! He is then thrown into cryo-storage with a bunch of similarly unsympathetic cons and sent to Cygnus Alpha, Devil's Planet. However, his captors are complete morons who decide to release him on the promise he'll collect them a giant alien war craft and not, repeat not, steal it with a bunch of similar cons and run amock through space and, well, space. Blake cunningly crosses his fingers and now rules a giant, very fast ship full of skutters almost as deranged as he is. Now his only companions are the schizophrenic and very poorly acted Jenna, the ugly and stupid Mezin and top hacker Kerr Avon. Meanwhile, the fury of the Terry Nation estate is blamed for their red hot fury melting the polar ice caps...


"They call it the Planet of No Return but has anybody ever considered that maybe it's so good no one wants to leave?"

Why they choose to use that title instead of Cygnus Alpha I don't know but it's one of Rebel's more forgiveable crimes. Naturally the story starts with "Spacer" Jenna bitching anti-Earth, pro-colony propaganda with that complete lack of emotion that makes me wonder whether Carrie Dobro has just stopped giving a shit. Hand on my heart, can I blame her? Well, unlike me, she's getting a paycheck to experience this hideousness. Jenna has absolutely no real desire to join Blake's crusade, but once this is established, we get another scene you'd never have got in old B7:

Blake and Jenna spot some big, scary, spiky androids in the Big Corridor and freak out, ringing up Avon who tells them to grow the fuck up and walk around them. When they try this, they come to life and try to kill them. It turns out our incredible computer genius had forgotten to switch them off. It's a good thing that the auto defense system has a handy off switch, huh? No risk of accidents happening there...

It's amazing to think that there are people in this world who buy the Box Sets where the Liberator consisted of more than two rooms and a corridor (at least conceptually) and there weren't robots everywhere. Did the A-Man think that the security robot from Season 1 was some kind of regular character and part of the crew or something? In any case, he's finally remembered Zen - and with the kind of genius that has made Aaronovitch world famous, it's an interface Avon built into the Liberator whose first word is "Confirmed". Because, you know, mentally shagging Jenna and speaking in unhelpful Bhuddist parables ("Wisdom must be acquired, it cannot be given!") as welcoming the crew would just be the same ordinary dull thing every other show does.

After letting Zen (who's not actually called Zen yet) say that single word, Avon and Mezin start a tedious conversation about trust. Which dovetails beautifully into Jenna and Blake having a tedious conversation about trust. Since Mezin is a) an original character b) a consistently intelligent character and c) Federation, she is clearly not trustworthy. Well, oddly enough, you threatened to kill her if she didn't come with you, so why the fuck SHOULD she be trustworthy? Blake (or "mein capitan" as Jenna refers to him) deals with this complicated moral problem by... changing the subject.

It turns out that the Liberator has a shuttle bay. With shuttles. Just like the Enterprise! Oh, yay! Because a ship designed by a culture mastering teleport is way less interesting than one with shuttles, right, Benji? Jenna immediately wants to take one such shuttle for a joy ride (intelligently noting that the shuttle is designed for atmospheric flight since it has wings), and Blake decides they need a crew to run this ship, of people they all trust. Of course he refers to the rest of the criminals on the London.

Of course.

Because that's what happened in Cygnus Alpha. Except, again, these were people Blake had lived with for the two thirds of a year and who had already agreed to help him with a revolt. Of course, Blake 2.0 is clearly barking mad and so deciding to get a bunch of random crims on the grounds that the enemy of the Federation will automatically make them fellow rebels (in exactly the way Menzin isn't) is probably not so big a deal. And I'm not a hundred per cent, but it's hinted that Blake chatted with his fellow prisoners before they were frozen in one of those scenes not worthy of being recorded, unlike the truly awesome Frying Pan Gram scene which will no doubt go down in history as rivalling the death of Old Yeller.

Introducing Oleg Gan and Vila Restal and a postal worker called Soris who has killed over 250 people (just to enforce how brilliant a choice London prisoners are for Blake's crew). Interestingly, apart from the spelling of his name, Gan is pretty much identical to the original version and his performance by Owen Aaronovitch (nepotism? Never!) is very good. If you were trying to get a proper retelling of the original, Owen's your pal. As for Vila.


OK. The positive is that a cowardly compulsive thief is enough for the A-Man and on paper, Vila is pretty much the same guy we remember. Albeit not as witty or likeable, but clearly the same character. However, they've cast a septugenarean Jew told to "do Fagin, but camper". At his best, he sounds like Grash from Sword of Orion. At his worst, well, I hate to drag Chip Jamison into this again... Why couldn't they have got Michael "The Hooded Man" Praed to play Vila? Why couldn't they have got Simon Pegg? ANYONE from Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes. Nelson as Vila! WHY NOT THAT?!

Back to the plot. The London arrives at Cygnus Alpha. Unlike the TV episode, where no one knows what will happen to them after they leave the ship, Vila knows all about the primitive society that has evolved there. He doesn't know that the London will spit out the prisoner section of the ship to land on the planet. This prompts Vila to have an incredibly annoying screaming fit. A really annoying one. Things don't get better as they are forced to parachute out of this section of the ship... hang on, this is a rip off of Prison in Space, the Troughton story that they gave up for good taste which I know for a fact was transcribed in DWM at the time Transit was released and Benji would have been reading the mag.

For some reason, the prison pod is threatened with destruction (apparently it's going to hit another pod...) and Gan uses his last words to apologize to Vila for 'getting him into this' (?!?), there follows around half a minute of solid SFX... as they land on a cliff. Just next to the edge. So... what were the parachutes for, then? Gan and Solis escape the pod as it starts to fall over the edge, taking Vila with it.


But, hah, get this! Vila escaped at the last second with all the food and supplies they were given, which is the sort of magical teleportation he can do for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Presumably the A-Man assumed this mystical gift was explaining how Vila can vanish into a building with an editing trick in Seek-Locate-Destroy. The trio head for the valley as strange monsters roar in the distance. Still not as spooky as the original, is it? Solis already proves himself more intelligent and charismatic than the other two, as Gan starts projectile vomit and passes out.


"They won't expect us to head for Cygnus Alpha." "No. Because they'll be working on the assumption we're not insane."

Another day, another bewildering chapter, another Terry Nation stock title.

Just in case there was still the faintest connection between the alien ship of Rebel and the Liberator we knew, it vanishes as Blake intends to use the ship to jump into hyperspace but stay a really long time so it reappears at Cygnus Alpha. How the hell do they know it's meant for hyperspace? Since every other Federation ship can jump into hyperspace, why do we need this edge to the rebels? Why couldn't it travel really fast like the old Liberator? Did A-Man think that offhand gag about "negative hyperspace" from the episode he's 'rebooting' justify this wholesale mockery of the JMSverse?

Anyway, Avon finally gets some Avonish dialogue. He thinks Blake is completely insane and going to Cygnus Alpha isn't a brilliant plan, even given the fact the Federation won't be expecting them to go there. Since I have no real desire to listen to Vila 2.0 ever again, I'm happy for Hacker Boy to win this argument. Let em rot. However, as I have no control over this and they head for the planet which is currently in the middle of an ice age. Why, I do not know. I mean, obviously the poisonous plot of soil Terry Nation came up with was too mundane. Let's send them to a block of ice where they freeze! Or, how about, WE JUST SHOOT EM!!

Back on Cygnus, the trio of prisoners are feeling pretty sick. I was hoping that we could have kept the original Curse of Cygnus, which was simply the prisoners reacting to being planetside for the first time in eight months, a kind of reverse seasickness. But no. A genuine poison in the atmosphere. And odd how the other prisoners haven't turned up yet (there's at least one other according to First Contact) when logically they should all end up in the same place. Vila finally brings up the point that this is a remarkably longwinded method of execution as Solis FINALLY notices the growls of Aggedor or whatever the hell it is stalking them.

"What's going on?" asks Vila. I dunno. Suddenly some bloke announces that Gan has the "tertiary phase" of the Sickness and is going into shock and we get a sudden cliffhanger as Vila tells the bloke he can't go now. Or is he telling Gan he can't go now? What was that monster? Was it some lizard horseback for this guy? Where did Solis bugger off to? Huh?

This adventure was already incoherent but now it's got downright bewildering...

CHAPTER NINE: Tertiary Stage

"Whoa, big man, at least put some clothes on first!"

It takes a criminal genius to come up with a satisfying cliffhanger resolution to an incoherent cliffhanger premise, so it's not surprise this episode ignores Gan dying from plague as Vila is surrounded by monsters and has him wake up naked in the bed of this story's Kara substitute, Sheeva. Seems the A-Man is finally getting the hang of these 'name' things, though I notice he only renames characters who have names also used in Doctor Who. But I have to say that Sheeva does manage to do 'sweet, innocent, duped farmer's daughter' voice very well. I defy anyone not to have worked out her entire life and personality from her second line onwards - of course, that's not exactly difficult with folk in this series, to be sure...

Owen's Gan however, has lost something in the acting department (which in Owen's defense he somehow regains for When Vila Met Gan, but that's no real help here, is it?), exposing the horrific void where the character's personality and motivation should be. You'd almost think it was deliberate - Aaronovitch versus Aaronovitch...

Anyway, Gan finally gets dressed and pops into the local pub (I assume) to check on Michael Caine Wannabe and Swarthy Ladies Man From Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, or Vila and Solis as they insist on being referred to. Worried sick about their comrade, the two criminals have been unable to even START their third course meal. OK, fair enough Solis is a complete arsehole, but aren't we meant to like Vila? Why do Audios always make Vila a bulimic overeater rather than a drunk? Huh? It turns out that natural grown food on Cygnus Alpha tastes a thousand times better than the Starbucks crap fed to the Federation masses, which is disappointing as one of the many moments of brilliance in the original series was Blake admitting the suppressants actually improve the flavor of the drinking water (which is logical, as it would make anyone stumbling across untampered food sources reject them for tasting crap and look for the LSD-soaked hot dogs like every good citizen wants).

However, this Good Life bollocks doesn't fool me when Vargas... sorry Borchu... does the 'poor, honest farmers get food as God intended' shtick. Having caught an eyefull of the genuine Cygnus Alpha the other day, I have to say that the barren, hellish wasteland littered with crucified bodies and run by Brian Blessed and a flintlock was more interesting, and true to character. It's a prison planet for the love of God! Are we really meant to expect a pleasant rustic world of terribly nice people? Has the A-Man forgotten this too? Is it, as he appears, actually using a Doctor Who story ripped off Cygnus Alpha? Like that bit in The Keys of Marinus where our heroes find a utopia is actually a horrible lie? Focus on which bit of Nation you're ruining, Benji!

Borchu says grace and some bollocks about the Creator making the Sickness to put humanity in its place and remind them of their humble origins and dear god I can't go on! This is 200 years plus in the future! Are we supposed to think people still practice religion! The whole point of Vargos using a religion was to show just how fucked up Cygnus was as a place, and that all the newbies were blackmailed into it! And these newbies are hardened cons - why the hell are they being the perfect guests? OK, Vila and Gan aren't psychos but Solis is: why the hell doesn't he just kill them all and keep the house? People exiled from Earth in an age where your entire personality can be rewritten must surely be the worst of the worst! Even so, why is no one - especially Vila - laughing their heads off at the idea of intelligent design? How has Borchu developed such a perfect copy of Christianity when Vargas made a deliberate mockery of it? Gah!

While I've been ranting, Borchu takes the murderers and lunatics for a stroll through the town and explains the magic cordial must be drunk once a day to combat the sickness of 'something worse than death' occurs. Me? I reckon it involves turning into those unexplained monsters in the previous episode, but what do I know? I just have a short term memory. Borchu explains that their little Roysten Vasey village is sealed from the outside world at night and shows Vila and Gan their new best friend: Mr. Spade.

Vila deadpans he's never seen one outside a museum. Wow, that gag really works with all the frying pans, helicopters, police cars and Chinese takeaways, doesn't it? Thank Christ it's the unfunny end of the episode.


"Vila, are you talking or working?" "Do I get a choice?"

The Liberator (have they called it that yet? Do I care?) jumps into orbit around Cygnus Alpha and lots of boring "check the settings" talk occurs. God it's boring. Quite a surprise, really as Rebel so far has been interesting, if brain-damagingly awful. But boring? In the meantime, Mezin reveals that Cygnus Alpha is covered with a Star Wars defense program not at all ripped off Galaxy Quest. Why? I mean, the atmosphere's poisonous, the planet's covered in monsters and hardened criminals - if there was anything worth nicking or mining, the Federation would have got it long ago. So, as there's no reason for anyone to go there and no way of the prisoners getting a space craft off world... why is there such an elaborate defense? Especially what with the Sickness, huh?

Jenna suggests a boringly predictable 'drive by and drop a shuttle' trick to reach the surface (what brilliance! It's exactly what the Federation do!), while Avon raises the point that Blake is going to a planet full of criminals - and not wrongly-exiled, since Solis is there - and expecting to get the Seven Samurai out of it. Blake's witty rejoinder is that the crims will not want to stay there. So they wouldn't, for example, kill you, steal the shuttle and run off to rape and pillage to their hearts' content. Blake, no fist.

Meanwhile, what seem to be the only crims we know are still alive are digging ditches. Gan and Vila discuss Sheeva who despite her Britt-Ekland-from-The-Wicker-Man voice, is actually as ugly as sin. Odd how only Servalan appears to be the only owner of an XX chromosone who does not cause the revulsion of Meg Griffin on men, isn't it? And Gan - who, we now know, began stalking the love of his life because she "looked like a blow-up doll" - immediately points out that Sheeva is nice and therefore counterbalances her hideous non-inflatable features. Mind you, she's the closest thing to available on the entire planet AND the daughter of the local boss, so Gan's probably only interested in her for her dad. Which sounds so wrong, doesn't it?

Suddenly, an Aggedor monster snatches a small kid whose Bonnie-Langford squeal it is immune to (my God!) and Gan bounces off to save him, but when Vila tells Sheeva and Borchu, they immediately close the gate, explaining that they trapping Gan outside to his certain death. Coz it's cliffhanger time.

God these episodes are getting shorter, aren't they?


"You gotta love those Federation planners."

This is, without doubt, the worst episode so far. I mean, it might be one thing to completely mess up the continuity of the story with previous episodes, but this can't even keep the facts straight at the beginning of a scene!

It starts off with Vila and Solis blaming each other for Gan's self-inflicted predicament, and then in a sequence which might have made me sick with laughter had it made any sense the first time I listened, Vila rescues Gan from certain death? How, well, he throws Gan a rope, ties the other end to a canon, throws the canon over the wall, Gan is pulled up to safety but, HAH!, Vila gets knocked into a pig sty. Just THINK about this.

Where did they get the canons? Where did they get the pigs?! Were these pigs the descendents of evil criminal pigs who ran amuck in synagogues before the Federation exiled them here centuries ago when it was a utopia to be cherished? Why the hell is there a pig-sty under a canon station anyway?! And how the hell did Gan rescue the kid and send her back to the town without the monster noticing?

But this is a bastion of human logic compared to the next scene where Borchu and Gan celebrate this victory with a massive meal (where Borchu reveals he gives all new-arrivals a clean slate and no doubt would allow convicted child molester Blake to become a babysitter, and this policy is no doubt a symptom of the head man's total insanity... or Aaronovitch's insanity, at any rate), and Borchu promplty invites Gan round to dinner. The dinner they just had. But, more bafflingly, he warns Gan that Sheeva's cooking and it's awful! HAHAH! You see, ugly people are stupid and can't cook, so it's funny.

Mind you, it might not be Sheeva's fault as Solis and Vila find the lovely homegrown food they were wolfing down an episode ago taste disgusting - and there's no hint they're getting something different. In fact, I'd say all this is down to Vila's schizophrenic portrayal. From his moral outrage when Solis idly think Gan might bonk Sheeva to his xenobiological grasp of 'anaphalactic shock' (which is so ridiculous even Gan can't believe it's Vila talking), Vila grows a multitude of new personalities as he reveals that Borchu is using tap water and the whole Sickness is, as I noted earlier, just culture shock. Well, that showed me.

"Everything here is a fake!" Vila rasps. Apart from the monsters. And the weather. And the pigs. And the locals being criminals. Apart from that, it's as genuine as Aaronovitch's writing talent. Gan however, doesn't give a shit, as there's no point them rebelling against Borchu anyway. Right. Well, it does beg the question of why Borchu needs to scare locals into staying when there's the Star Wars bollocks trapping them all anyway.

Meanwhile, more boring talk as Blake and Jenna leave the Liberator in the completely trustworthy hands of Avon and Mezin. Avon immediately tells Zen to get ready to run and Mezin does her 'meek sidekick' act of sighing, "Avon", like she's Butters in South Park getting caught in another fine mess. But, let's be honest here, ladies and gents, the sooner Avon nicks the Liberator and gets some proper characters on board, the better.


"My name is Roj Blake. I come in peace."

The last episode. I can do this. Only five more minutes. I've suffered an hour plus that already. I can finish this.

Blake and Jenna land at the sight of one of those drop capsules, rather than say looking for civilization or villages or setting the controls to search out carbon-based life forms. Because that would just be stupid, we've got to pad out this story as much as possible, even with only five minutes left. Blake decides they should wander around and hope for the best while Jenna reveals the two cardinal rules for landing on an alien planet: never leave the shuttle unguarded and NEVER leave the shuttle unguarded. As Buffy would say, "that's one rule said twice, you halfwit". So Blake, using the logic and deductive genius we've been marvelling ever since the fryingpanogram of chapter one, tells Jenna to guard the shuttle while he wanders off. So. Jenna gets teleport duty and there isn't even a teleport. Harsh karma there.

Meanwhile, Vila and Gan continue to argue about Borchu's homeopathy as they dig more ditches. Vila cares, Gan doesn't and Solis suggests they use this info as leverage to improve the society. Because mass-murdering postal workers are the go-to guys when it comes to moral quandaries. They then narrate Borchu and Blake meeting each other in 'the compound' but, ahah, Blake never met Gan and Vila in this reality so they don't immediately recognize him. But Vila does, which is odd considering WVMG notes Blake won the election and had his posters everywhere and it was Gan who knew him on sight. Still, just because the same author wrote both and the same actor read the lines, why should we expect any kind of consistency.

Blake shouts to the town that he has a spaceship and is willing to give a lift to everyone and Borchu tells him to fuck off, what with the Sickness and everything. Blake protests he has medical facilities (what medical facilities?!) and shrewdly decides that the head man of the village cannot be trusted. For some reason. Don't expect us to know, except there's only three minutes left. Blake offers to stay till sunset in case anyone changes there mind and by God he sounds like a total loser. (Remember how it happened in the original? So do I, it's all that's keeping me going through this dreck...) Blake runs back to tell Jenna that the natives aren't friendly (you bloody liar! They welcomed you, introduced themselves, listened to what you said and let you leave alive...)

Since the three sole prospective crew men all know about Borchu's lies, there's absolutely no possibility for dramatic confrontation. Or just drama. Vila decides to hook up with Blake as "there's nothing worth stealing here" (Oh, Benji, steal another line that good!) and makes a break for it... and he is instantly captured and dragged back by Borchu's invisible, unmentioned stooges. "I hate personal violence, especially when I'm the person!" (Again, Benji, AGAIN!). Gan confronts Borchu who shuffles his feet and mumbles something about social control. (Oh, god, this is killing me...)

Time for action as the Liberator suddenly annoys the Star Wars defense program (how? No idea), giving Avon the perfect excuse to escape with Charley, er, Mezin, and save us from the shitstorm. Unfortunately, she tells Jenna who immediately grabs Blake and prepare to leave the 'typical Earthers' to their fate. Sweet Jesus, why couldn't I be making this up?

With less than thirty seconds left to the episode (and the story), Vila is sulking in a cell when Gan rips the window off the building to rescue him. Cause, you know, that super strength sure as hell would have been instrusive everywhere else in the story, wouldn't it? I know Vila's annoyed since he could have just opened the door and left - so why didn't he? Gan wants to get Vila to the shuttle to join Blake, intending to stay and live the rural life with bad food, ugly women and bug eyed monsters.

It seems that Blake has had a last-second change of heart and is now hovering above the village asking everyone if they're a 100 per cent sure they want to stay. A volley of canon fire is the local response, which Blake hopefully takes as a 'maybe'. Remember people, this is the most charismatic and brilliant terrorist ever, who also won a legitimate election across an entire planet. Remember it, because Ben Aaronovitch sure as hell has forgotten. Just then Solis arrives and forces Gan and Vila at gunpoint to join Blake, allowing him to blackmail his way to control the town. "Relax, Gan," Solis says soothingly in regards to Sheeva, "I'm a sociopath, not a sadist." (Uh... what does that mean? He's criminally insane but Sheeva's too ugly to have sex with? Aaronovtich, I think you need some kind of therapy.)

"This is insane, Blake, we are SO out of here!" Jenna drawls with twenty two seconds left, while Blake looks over his sorry recruit drive and reveals that yes, he had worked out there was no sickness and Borchu was a lying bastard. He only reveals this after Gan and Vila have told him, though.

Meanwhile, Avon and Mezin discuss the millions of drone satellite things that act in the exact same way get me the lawyer on the phone Galaxy Quest did. You wonder why they're nicking this detail to pad out an episode when they could have had a farting competition to achieve the same end. Maybe more entertaining, too. "You trusted Blake over me, this is the consequence," Avon tells us. I'm right up there with you buddy.

The mines strike the Liberator, they explode and... not much happens. Jenna rings them up and, psychotically cheerful explains that another wave of mines are approaching, so Avon decides to fuck this for a game of soldiers and flee - while Mezin reproaches him for his selfishness and DEAR GOD, Indie, you deserve better than this! It turns out super genius Avon didn't realize ugly, bipolar and ridiculously loyal Mezin has a BFG pointed at him... and that Avon doesn't simply shoot her dead and get on with it. Since waiting for Jenna takes all of three seconds, you wonder why Avon was so desperate to leg it (apart from the obvious reason he doesn't want to be stuck with these losers). If it's the fear of death, why does he childishly refuse to leave once Mezin tells him do? This is insane! BOWEL-SHATTERINGLY INSANE!!

It turns out that Blake didn't trust them at all and effectively stole the car keys. Wow. Clever there, Blake. Luckily they didn't say, ask Zen, fix the engines themselves or say, shoot your shuttle down while in complete ignorance of your value to them. Nevertheless, this is a Carnell-style psychostrategy from a man who normally cuts off his own fingers at the first sign of trouble.

Meanwhile, the ONLY attractive/intelligent/vaguely sane woman in the entire universe, Servalan is sending bitchy emails and telling Guisborne (I refuse to call him Travis) to tell her what she already knows about the Auronar... they're a punch of pointless jerks who couldn't defeat a wet paperbag. She is not interested in reports of Blake and his magnificent flying machine being "a continuous and serious threat" or that Blake is "the most dangerous individual known to man" since Guisborne can't even break out of a monotone to say these crass and unbelievable lines. Servalan thinks that since Blake is an 'earther' and automatically unable to do anything of any significance away from his own turf.



Meanwhile, Avon and Blake insult each other and generally say things like "I'm not going to underestimate you again" in a way that's supposed to be witty and memorable, but I have had to listen to twice to even notice.


The End Thank Fucking Christ

In conclusion, if there was ever something that screamed 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it', it's this. It's terrible. The writing, the acting, the thinking, the design, the music, I honestly wonder if Aaronovitch wanted to sabotage this enterprise. Why did they choose him? He's never had anything to do with Blake's 7 before and his career with Doctor Who was, how shall we say, less than good. And why did they let him revamp the show so pointlessly? There's no reason for any of this and is full of godawful dialogue, bad jokes and incredibly stupid plot developments anyone should notice, especially new viewers.

But let's not hang all the blame on Benji. He's a talentless hack who makes the average Ben Chatham adventure look like Cracker, but is he solely responsible for this abortion of deffocation onto a sci fi institution? Surely not. No, he typed this crap up, but people accepted it. They thought it was good enough. They went to record, to press the CDs, broadcasting it to the internet.

But surely the public weren't fooled? Surely the relative dearth of any new Blake's 7 over the last couple of decades won't make them panting bitches accepting anything they're given? Right?


Jesse Willis: The producers of this stunning re-imagining have improved upon the original Blake’s 7! It is absolute audio drama perfection. The show is fast, surprising, darkly thrilling and utterly unflinching. Roj Blake is a folk hero, his struggle to free the deluded citizens of the galactic federation is full of ambiguities not found in the simplistic Star Wars films. If you like audio drama, you’ll love Blake’s 7 - Audio Adventures! The show is super-compelling - like a tractor beam sucking you in.

The Gamemaster: I totally enjoyed listening to this re-imagining of Blake's 7. The cast was superb , the acting quality was excellent. Totally recommend these for listening to and its great to see one of my favourite shows from the past coming back like Dr Who has. You cannot go wrong with these discs !

Jackie Emery: These adventures are good – I would go as far as to say they’re excellent! They’re an enjoyable alternative version of the story and characters. So, what is it that makes these new adventures good? First, the quality of the writing. They’ve also kept Terry Nation’s dark, dystopian vision and themes of trust and betrayal; while the science bits are – dare I say it? – far more scientific than in the original! Then there are the high production values. This version of the Liberator reminded me of the Lexx. Whether or not you’re a diehard B7 fan, give them a go – you’ll be in for a treat!

wschaffer: The script is quite good. It condenses the events of roughly three of the original televised episodes into 70 minutes. The audios set up Blake as a much more convincing and effective rebel leader than the TV series. In the first couple of minutes of Rebel, Blake wipes out a squad of soldiers sent to arrest him by boobytrapping his apartment, performs surgery on himself with a kitchen knife to remove a secret tracking device implanted in his index finger by the Federation, and is only captured when he is betrayed by a former associate he thought he could trust. If you're not a fan, but if you're intrigued by the idea of science fiction audio plays, and want something to start with that's not as continuity-laden as Doctor Who audios, Rebel would be a good place to start.

Alt9thDoctor: With a total re-cast, and tapering of the scripts, this new attempt to go back and remake Blake's 7 on audio actually has a lot to be desired. With a mostly scottish cast the tapering of the stories does not make them better, but actually makes them rather unexciting. There is one positive though - India Fisher.

Dan: I've listened to it twice already and I certainly intend to listen to it again. The script is written by Ben Aaronovitch and his familiarity with the original series shines through. Many of my favourite lines of the original dialogue occur in the present series. Liberator has a shuttle rather than a teleport. This makes excellent sense. Using a shuttle should make it much easier to set up dramatic situations. The series won my heart about the time the Commander of the London ordered a thrust of several million Newtons. Yeah! I love SI units and I hate technobabble. I'm hearing plausible sounding stuff about ship courses and accelerations and they appear to have determined the basic rules of the way space flight operates in this universe.

DanielW: I LOVED the new Liberator.Colin Salmon is amazing, and possibly the only man who could have challenged the Darrow as Avon. And Derek Riddel managed the nigh impossible (IMO) - he made Blake interesting. Never liked Blake in the Classic Series, but here he's the sort of bloke you'd actually follow.

Ben Aaronovitch's Blog: Yes I, large fat man, genius writer and reformed geek, say buy a Blake 7 CD today, be entertained, be educated and above all do some real good in the world. The first 12 Chapters were written by me and I'm terribly proud of them. On radio, it takes too long to cement characters, so that's why there isn't Cally, though she will be modified like everyone else. We will keep the strengths but not the weaknesses and obviously the diehard fans will send me death threats, even though the original was weak and crap.

(You sicken me, you weak, spineless dog. You're DEAD to me, DanielW. I hope you all die horribly.)

21st Century Anorak: A noisy, vacuous series that's more interested in laser zap battles than what made the TV series what it was: ie. political and with great characters. Vila is beyond irritating.

Apparatchik: I have read other reviews which praise the series so much, yet I found it so lacking. I think part of the problem though is that I first encounterd Blake as a TV show and not a radio gig. Still first impression aside, I cannot get over how this audio series reminds me of the CSI shows here in the states. Lots of glitz and one liners but no depth.

Stormgeist: In the Blake's 7 audios, all we have is some rather pompous rebels telling us second hand, often in highly generalised terms, that the Federation's dreadful, and offering up precious little evidence of its crimes. Like I say, the plays give us a lot of words while saying very little. It's a story written by Ben Aaronovitch. Making sense is not a big priority when the pen's in his hand.

Hancocked: Wasn't impressed at all; the storyline felt horribly compressed and contrived, jumping from one situation to the next with barely a cursory attempt at resolution. For instance, the Judge at Blake's trail is revealed to have doubts about the veracity of the Federation's case against Blake; then Servalan makes a threatening reference to the Judge's grand-kids, and suddenly she's declaring Blake guilty. What?!? What's worse, the characters are totally unengaging. Derek Riddell is simply dreadful as Blake, though he's not at all helped by Aaronovich's turgid dialogue. Similarly, Daniela Nardini and Dean Harris's interpretations of Servalan and Vila as a bitchy debutante and a wise-cracking knockabout cockney respectively are very badly misjudged. And the less said of Colin Salmon's totally anonymous Avon the better. Only Carrie Dobro and India Fisher bring anything resembling life to their characters, and they're basically cardboard cut-outs too.

Jared "No Nickname" Hansen: Listening and writing down everything that pisses me off... Theme music is shit to start with... Pompous, patronizing, shitty narration. Helicopters? Actor playing Travis sucks. Exploding frying pan? Also, Blake never commited acts of terrorism. Lorries? LONDON? POLICE SIRENS? All Blake put out was a really, really short soundbite through his website? WHY the tracker? THIS IS SO SHIT! It's meant to be a sci-fi allegory of the current world, a flipside representation of the Utopian sci-fi futures we see to demonstrate mankind's inherent moral corruption! Not an RTD-style future world where everything is EXACTLY THE SAME as it is now! Haven't even gotten to Avon. Heard some of the courtroom scenes and then stopped because I couldn't take it anymore. I don't even know if I made it to the end because the site was playing up but this is so shockingly unbelievably bad that I am gobsmacked that a) it got made and b) that they dared put the B7 name on it. Binks to Enlightenment: Nothing of salvageable value.

Youth of Australia: This is Blake's 7 for people who are scared off by Torchwood's adult realism and internal complexity. I'd Laugh My Arse Off if it weren't for the inherent and burning truth of that statement.


Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

Man, it seems like no matter how bad you think it is, it finds ways to get worse. None of that Cygnus Alpha stuff makes the slightest bit of sense. Why the hell did Aaranovitch change ANY of it? Sigh.

Ah, well, your hardship has amused me greatly. With moments such as:

But Vila does, which is odd considering WVMG notes Blake won the election and had his posters everywhere and it was Gan who knew him on sight. Still, just because the same author wrote both and the same actor read the lines, why should we expect any kind of consistency.



"This is insane, Blake, we are SO out of here!" Jenna drawls with twenty two seconds left, while Blake looks over his sorry recruit drive and reveals that yes, he had worked out there was no sickness and Borchu was a lying bastard. He only reveals this after Gan and Vila have told him, though.

In response to one of those fools you quoted..

Liberator has a shuttle rather than a teleport. This makes excellent sense. Using a shuttle should make it much easier to set up dramatic situations.

Erm, from the perspective of designing a ship that makes LESS sense, unless you get off on dangerous situations. And I seem to recall they set up quite a lot of dramatic situations WITH the teleport..

The series won my heart about the time the Commander of the London ordered a thrust of several million Newtons. Yeah! I love SI units and I hate technobabble.

So, what, everything wil be measured in laboratory quantifiers of force in the future? Can you even give me the definition of what exactly a Newton represents in numbers? You think this unit will be used as shorthand in the future? Would you care for this grip on reality I'm selling?

I do find it impressive how dull BA set out to make the Liberator. I mean, shuttles? What's exciting about shuttles? Time-consuming, clumsy, dangerous. Wow. Aren't they amazing. Every sci-fi has shuttles.

Why do the Federation want Liberator if it's just another ship? From the description of it, it sounds like an average ship. It also sounds like Blake could be better off by selling it and buying a used pursuit ship in Space City.

As far as I can tell, the only weakness from the original B7 that BA has taken out in this version is Avon's Srooge McDuck-style money room. And that's a bit of a no-brainer, surely?

I'm also amazed that BA thought it would be a good idea to introduce Travis and Servalan four episodes early, show them to be impotent and ineffectual, not give them any active role in the story and THEN make them not even CARE about what's happening. No fist.

Youth of Australia said...

Man, it seems like no matter how bad you think it is, it finds ways to get worse.
Yes. It amazingly was cruising at a level of godawfulness I could cope with but took a dive with 'compress two episodes into twenty seconds on audio with unrealistic dialogue'.

None of that Cygnus Alpha stuff makes the slightest bit of sense. Why the hell did Aaranovitch change ANY of it? Sigh.
No idea. He justifies the changes he made to Jenna and Gan on the ground that they weren't properly defined in the first place.

Why, pray tell, he had to define them as an insane cowgirl with no brains and the Thing from Fantastic Four, he wouldn't tell me.

He says he refused to tamper with the characters of Blake, Avon and Vila. So presumably there was some chronic adlibbing going on...

Erm, from the perspective of designing a ship that makes LESS sense, unless you get off on dangerous situations. And I seem to recall they set up quite a lot of dramatic situations WITH the teleport..
Benji says that it kills drama to use a teleport, so that's why there isn't one. Yet in WVMG he uses it anyway, the hypocrite.

Besides, remember Nation worked out a dozen thrills related to teleports:
- will the operator bother to save your life?
- will you get teleported in time?
- can you keep your bracelet?
- what if all the bracelets get broken?

Hell, the first time Blake actually RELIES on the teleport to save him from danger, it's the same time evil alien clones have taken over the Liberator!

Besides, it's the bloody teleport that makes them surviving in ANY way realistic...

Why do the Federation want Liberator if it's just another ship? From the description of it, it sounds like an average ship. It also sounds like Blake could be better off by selling it and buying a used pursuit ship in Space City.
As far as I can tell it is very big and it can do its own hyperspace jumps. It is also full of psychotic skutters and very boringly designed.

I want Scorpio.

As far as I can tell, the only weakness from the original B7 that BA has taken out in this version is Avon's Srooge McDuck-style money room. And that's a bit of a no-brainer, surely?
Certainly the fact he happened to find it at the exact moment he could be tempted to abandon Blake. It would have been funnier if everyone was safe and sound and THEN Avon had found it.

I'm also amazed that BA thought it would be a good idea to introduce Travis and Servalan four episodes early, show them to be impotent and ineffectual, not give them any active role in the story and THEN make them not even CARE about what's happening. No fist.
Making Travis/Guisborne more intelligent and imaginative than Servalan was pretty stupid too.

Cameron Mason said...

I have tired many times to listen to this, but after thirty seconds I turn it off and watch Masterchef Goes Large. Now there's a decent script India Fisher can get her teeth into...