Yes, my poignant friends, the time has come to once more dive face first into the strange shadowy dimensions of B7 Enterprizes! No, put down the crucifixes, their Second Season of Pain has yet to air and the 'gap' is being filled by flashbacks to the lives of such vital characters as Vila, Gan, Avon and Travis. But not Blake. That'd just be stupid.
You know, I wrote a prequel of similar intent and action for The Youth of Australia. The idea was a flashback at them at school interspersed with them at a school reunion, so there'd be the delight of seeing Nigel Verkoff as the most important and popular person in the past and finds out that NO ONE remembers him in the present, things like this. Yet it quickly occured to me that this prequel was actually a better episode to start the show than the One Where They Look For A House. My point is, if these Missing Adventures were so bleeding good, they should have occured in the regular run, surely? I mean, it's not as if the main series is going to consider them canonical.
Looking back at When Vila Met Gan, well, I enjoyed it as nothing it was meant to be. Character-building? Fail. Well-plotted? Fail. Good dialogue? Fail. Even vaguely fits in with continuity? The wrong guy plays Vila! FAIL! As a mildly stupid way of passing an hour, this A-Man Does "Mr Jolly Lives Next Door" isn't too bad, but the main series goes out of its way to contradict it. At no point does regular Gan 2.0 confirm he's a superhuman mutant, and Vila 2.0 knows Blake best of all from a time when he apparently had no interest in politics.
In a way, it's B7 Reborn Unbound... which is really depressing, as these sidesteps are without doubt better than the main product. If that's particularly difficult.
Point of No Return
"Roj Blake's not my concern. You are."
No nice bite-sized chunks this time round, just 30 minutes and 44 seconds of hardcore James Swallow material. A sentence which sounds downright WRONG now I look back at it. Mercifully, not only is the butch voiceover narration down by the so-over-it Gary Russell impersonator, the music is the usual nuveau remix rather than the awful brass farts that accompanied When Vila Met Gan.
After 50 seconds of rain, helicopters and what sounds like Dudley Simpson on acid, Gizzy - I refuse to call him Travis - arrives as "Security Central" (AKA London) and is as pleased at this development as you're sure I am. There he meets his good pal Adam Garcia for the first time, since JS has decided to eschew the framing narrative that was used so abysmally last time round. Although sick of being treated like he's never done whatever he's doing, Gizzy is glad Garcia has had the initiative to actually look up his new boss on wikipedia.
And so they board the helicopter again to visit some high-risk (but very cooperative prisoner), Gizzy starts to sound less like Monseiur Armitage and more like a seriously pissed off Paul McGann. Very much an exponent of honesty and self-motivation, Gizzy manages to in a matter of moments come across as a more likeable and believable central character than Blake 2.0 managed in three long, soul-destroying hours. Garcia is creeped out that the prisoner has expressly asked for Gizzy, yet Gizzy insists they have never met before. I wonder what that's all about.
We then meet the only other person in the play - the creepy smart bald guy who was in Gladiator and faked the alien invasion in Jonathon Creek: The Omega Man and ominously narrating a nature documentary on penguins on the ABC as I type this. Clearly some kind of pro-revolutionary of the Radical Party, this dude is calm, clever and reasonable. No wonder Garcia's scared shitless of him. It's not exactly Hannibal Lector, but Karl Varon is more on India Fisher's playing field of credibility and professionalism rather than everyone else. He's almost like a mellow Davros.
Gizzy meets Varon and I feel a stab of terror that this could descend into the same self-congratulatory Prisoner bollocks of Kaldor City, with two dudes in a cell playing mind games until my patience runs out and I start getting strange people pretending to be Alan Stevens in the bloggosphere being longwinded and annoying.
Varon has apparently been arrested in an open and shut case, yet he protests his innocence despite CCTV showing him supporting violent terrorism. Interesting that his dismissal of the Federation describes a world from the TV series rather than the dull highrise Cardiff of the audios. Varon insists that the holograms of his Osama Bin Laden party pieces are fake, but Gizzy is not convinced. Unlike Kaldor City: Occam's, suicide bombing is considered horrific rather than a point of humor. Mind you, ELSE probably pissed itself laughing at this scene, so this stuff with Gizzy having the (apparent) moral highground is surprisingly adult.
Varon insists that the majority of his followers are peaceful political activists, and if the government wants to portray anyone as a bunch of psycho terrorists they should stick with the genuinely unhinged Roj Blake. Hah! See how good and consistant the writers can be without script editors - this is the same quality that made the mid-section of Liberator so damn enjoyable.
With the elections only days away, it IS slightly suspicious that such incrimination evidence be so conveniently found and Gizzy (who's been round the galaxy twice and knows for a fact how bloody awful things are) is willing to investigate Varon's claims of lies with somethingly vaguely approaching impartiality. Sure enough, Gizzy and Garcia soon find evidence of corruption and conspiracy - quelle surprise. What really worries Gizzy is how cack handed the government are: they can normally fake stuff to much higher quality, and the crucial evidence they have is legally inadmissable. Gizzy snatches up Varon and takes him to "the Thames Sink" so they can talk alone and be all suspicious.
Gizzy shows off his "King-Ming" sonic blaster in a painfully obvious "I am not actually going to use this to kill you, I'm just trying to get you to shit yourself in terror and judge whether or not you're corrupt" sequence. But, you know, it's not a bad bit in and of itself. This is Big Finish to the regular series' DWAD.
Anyway, using the kind of ruse the Gene Genie would approve of, Gizzy gets Varon to prove he's not a psycho terrorist ala Roj Blake (while Gizzy never once being sucidally insane). Only for, moments later, for apparently genuine evidence against Varon to turn up. Is Varon lying? Is it a conspiracy? Of course it's a bloody conspiracy, this is Blake's 7 - the question is... which side will Gizzy go for. I have to say, it's uncertain. The only thing for sure is that Gizzy will not allow ANYONE to manipulate him. Monsieur Kelly is very good without Servie 2.0. Or ELSE/the A-Man. Let's hope to hell niether get involved in Robin Hood any time ever.
With mere hours to the election - and for those stupid enough to try and tie this to continuity, Vila and Gan are wandering around being stupid in Croydon as we speak - Gizzy plays his hand and must compromise what principles he possesses. Either Varon is a wrong innocent or someone twice as dangerous as Frying Pan Blake! (and if that concept doesn't scare you then you lot haven't been paying attention...)
Without doubt, this is hands down the best thing out of B7 Enterprises so far. Acting, dialogue, sound design, pacing. There's one freaking huge albatross that's been ruining the series and they are curiously absent from this short story which actually improves When Vila Met Gan with the revelation the riots and explosions were not some two-faced Federation trap, and indeed nothing they had any hand in at all. It's the kind of complexity that you don't find anywhere near Aaronovitch's "All Fascists Must Die!" work.
Oh, and look who's decided to rewrite Rumours of Death with Keeley "Alex Drake" Hawes as Anna Grant...