And then with a fit redhead Scot cast as the new Doctor's companion by Steven Moffat and his Creep Me Out My Casting Someone Identical To My Cousin Amanda But Who I Might Actually Fancy, the forums predictably went into meltdown. Forever. Yes, the long quest to ban the entire OG population occurs at the end of July, an end-time foretold when the mods finally cracked and en mass told Sparacus to piss off and stop saying everyone under thirty years of age was a braindead chav.
I suppose I best loot the forums for the next month for anything I might need as no one is saying anything about archiving the damn thing - but this means that Ben Chatham will forever be retained to the bloggosphere! The new fans of Matt Smith will grow up in a world free from smoothe absinthe and lucious peachy bubblebuts! Apart from my fic, Barren Earth on Fan Fiction Dot Net, which has got three squeeing fangirls praising it to the sky in the last twenty four hours! On top of that, my cheap hackwork on Carribean Blue has been dubbed "a story which will definately be one of the best of Darker Project's ENTIRE output" by one of the Executive Producers!
But now I've finally found Blake's Junction 7, the fan film done years ago with such verisimilitude that - until anyone actually GLIMPSED the finished product - everyone assumed was a proper rival. Instead it's the B7 equivalent of The Curse of Fatal Death apparently. I say apparently as no one who has actually seen it ever bothered to review it online.
And so I shall!
It starts off with a green-fonted info dump across a starscape, being as generic as ever while explaining the format of the show, almost identical to that of Star Wars in content and context.
We then see Avon (Mark Heap, or Bryan from Spaced) done up in a perfect recreation of his Terminal outfit, with a Liberator side-arm stalking through the mist. But Heap is no Paul Darrow and, despite this visually being a dead ringer, it's clear that this Avon is less the icy tormented soul or even the audio's Only-Remotely-Normal-Person-In-The-Universe: this is a frustrated Peter Davison of a man, stuck in a job he doesn't particularly like looking after people he'd rather avoid. So in a sense he's truer to the spirit of Avon than anything certain audio dramas have done. His lack of spitting, "You tell me," in lieu of dialogue makes up for the unordinary colloquial dialogue he does possess.
Avon is not on Terminal but a grassy noll near a motorway service station (seemingly the one where the Eighth Doctor and Lucie Miller contrived to bore me to suicide in 1977). He returns to his ship... or rather, car with caravan attached and informs his companions they're going to have to cross the footbridge to get to the station. This is met with a generally negative reaction.
Avon's pals are:
Gan - a big, balding bloke who is the driver but tends to doze off and not do much
Dayna - a pissed off black chick who bickers with Vila
Vila - (Martin Freedman) who is only really differentiated from his equivalent by his bladder issues
Jenna - a peacemaker-type woman who until now I always assumed was a transvestite. But no, an actual woman.
Cally - a rather spaced-out ditzy girl who has to sit in the boot with Orac (who I think was Freedman's girlfriend in Hardware)Orac - (Peter Tuddenham, but he sounds geriatric and sleepy, which doesn't help the script which portrays him more as an over-eager K9)
Sapphire & Steel didn't make it out of this place - what chance does THIS lot have?
With, ironically, the only original cast member the one not quite fitting in, the group head across the footbridge, filmed in the kind of loving detail that reminds us their 'futuristic neon-lit surroundings' are pretty much identical to the ones the original series used, except without any pretence it's somewhere exotic. Jenna placates Orac as he tries to tell everyone about the atmospheric compounds, and Vila whines that when Blake was around he got to sit in the front of the car until Avon wearily tells him to build a bridge and get over it.
At the food bar, they act... disturbingly like the real crew probably would. Dayna and Cally split off to find some decent desert, Vila and Orac stock up with food (the computer longing for "brown ale" and Vila trying to make friends with the staff - like most of Freedman's characters, he's awkward, unfunny and talks too much), and Avon struggles to get a coffee dispenser working without losing his temper. Give Heap his dues, he's got the body language of Avon absolutely perfect. Jenna hangs around him, sensibly worried about his stress levels and pointing out that, you know, a broken coffee dispensor ISN'T the end of the world.
But what's this? Servalan and Travis (decked out like they were in Orac) are also at the cafe. I forget who plays Servalan, but he's that creepy jerk from The Office with the crewcut that only Brent likes. And although the makeup is a bit exuberant, it's no more than you'd see in Season 4. Frankly, the only real giveaway is the voice, but he does the 'simmering anger' pretty well. Travis has managed to get them completely lost, and the two token Federation Troopers sit there, silently drinking through straws in their gasmasks, hiccupping.
The heroes meanwhile are sitting down to their meal (bar Vila, who keeps having to go back for condiments for the girls), and Gan and Avon do a crossword ("How do you spell 'inhibitor'?"), and Dayna hides Vila's food while Orac sucks down booze like an extra in Black Books. A rather childish fight breaks out between Vila, Cally and Dayna over where his dinner is until "spoilsport" Gan tells him. It's amusing to note Avon doesn't even take his studded leather gloves off to eat food.
Servalan and her possie are mincing menacingly in best Federation fashion. Through the pokies. Not looking like they have any clue as to what any of the try-your-luck-machines might be for. While the funky Federation March plays in the background. And then Servalan fails to get a fluffy toy. I'm laughing my ass off just typing this. There's no dialogue, just the Bitch in White's facial expressions.
Cally, Dayna and Vila run off to play the arcade games while Jenna lights up a fag (until Orac complains about the smoke and Jenna spills the booze into the computer, causing it to shortcircuit), and Avon heads off to the Little Computer Genius' Room. While the children play the shoot-em-ups, Servalan has a rather naughty-looking go on the drag racing games. Vila is, of course, the only one to twig they're in the same arcade as their mortal enemy, while Avon encounters Blake (Johnny Vegas) in the gents. Not like that, you filthy bastards. Fan fics should know that Blake gets the runs from calamari. Blake is delighted to see Avon again ("I tried to call you a few times! Did you not get my messages?") but Avon just finds this awkward ("We moved... a couple of times..."). Blake hands over his mobile number and uncomfortably asks Avon if he's seeing anyone nowadays? "Blake," sighs Avon reprovingly in an uncanny Darrow impression, and hurries out of the gents, leaving Blake looking downcast.
57 slash fic writers just punched the air...
Pausing only to top up with some petrol, the crew head off with Jenna still worried about Avon's headaches, Vila needing the lavatory, Dayna teasing Cally, and everyone seemingly forgetting about Gan and Orac (mind you, Terry Nation did that himself often enough, so who can complain?).
I have to say I enjoyed it, which is the main thing, but I'm not surprised it sank like a stone. While you don't need to be a hardcore B7 fan to appreciate it... it helps. To the great masses, it's just a rather surreal short film about a bickering family and all the subtle gags (Gan's crossword, Blake's scar, Jenna's eyebrows, the Liberator air freshner, Servalan full stop) probably didn't mean a thing. I dare say some of them watched this and never suspected there was a TV series called Blake's 7 and it was just a generic sci fi parody. The only real problem I have is Freedman's Vila, who just becomes every single character he's ever played from Arthur Dent to whatisname Robinson. He seems to be the only one cast because he LOOKS right rather than he IS right (Simon Pegg would have done wonders). Meanwhile, despite all the indoctrination from Sparascripts, Vegas does well as the past-his-Gauda-Prime Blake, and is genuinely more convincing as the awkwardly-emotional rebel than Derek Riddell (I agree with SFX though, that James Nesbitt could NAIL that not-quite-good-guy character).
It's a far better tribute to the show than anything Mark Gatiss did on Doctor Who Night. For a start, it's funny, and it accepts the basic rule that - bar the shootout - people only remember B7 for the antics of the characters, not the political turmoil of the galaxy. Is there any real difference between this and the scenes in Terminal where Vila tricks Dayna into losing Monopoly against Cally? Or Sarcophagus? Or Sand? True, continuity goes out the window with a fourth-season Blake, first-season Jenna, Gan and Vila, and a third-season Cally, Avon and Dayna, but seriously, who cares? For a bit of frippery, it sums up the reasons we like the show better than anyone Ben Aaaronovitch has tried to smuggle past us and, I dare say, had the camper van been replaced with a spaceship and a few references to this service station being on an asteroid, everyone would clamor for it to be canonical.
The commentary is hilarious for all the wrong reasons. The Steve Moffat/Noel Clarke commentary for Girl in the Fireplace seemed to come from some City-of-Death sitcom starring the two, while this one seems to be Lano and Woodley do Ren and Stimpy - Paul Darrow and Mark Heap seem to spend the whole thing at cross purposes, Darrow seeming to rhyme every word with "What the HELL are you on about?!" while Heap remains firmly in character throughout. Unfortunately, the character is someone with little to no idea about anything to do with either Blake's 7 or even this movie. Despite Darrow's attempts to get some kind of conversation going, Heap sabotages it at every turn, "Can't remember! Don't know! No idea!" he enthuses cheerfully, unable even to remember if he was wearing a wig at the time or who the cast were. At one point he forgets Darrow is even talking to him, and assumes the great PD was "talking at the television" at people who - get this - can't actually hear you!
Indeed, it is only toilet humor that seems to fire Heap's enthusiasm, leading Darrow's embarrassed "well, let's just move on from there." He even cracks at one point and begs Heap not to keep dragging the commentary back to the pet hates of "doing a big job in the pooh-pooh porceline". Darrow manages to get a few strikes in, such as remembering a Brazillian couple who saw the film and couldn't understand why someone as ugly as Heap was chosen to represent Paul Darrow; musing that neo-Jenna is better than Sally Knyvette ("She's awfully attractive, isn't she?" "Well... in a female sort of way..." ""); describing the Blake scene "the most moving part of this epic, at least he washes his hands..."; and his alpha-male snarl of "I'm GOING to the MEN'S room, OKAY?!?!" to describe how Kerr Avon would tell others of his ablutions.
"This is definitely how they felt about each other," he muses over the sight of Vegas' Blake (a bit of casting both agree was surprisingly good). "There's something pitiful about him." Heap observes. "Yes, which is why the performance is so good," Darrow adds, "unlike yours." Then the discussion turns to the fact both Avons lived in the same town and never realized it till now, and how the cheap petrol prices will forever date this production as that of a bygone age. When the film finally ends, there's the bewildering, "Shall we keep talking?" asks Darrow. "Don't know." "Well, why not?" asks Darrow, and they read out the credits, before Heap reveals he's not wearing his contacts and has been effectively blind throughout the entire commentary. "Ooh, that was painful. And on that note... which note are we waiting for? That one?"
"This is a fourteen minute twenty two second film masquerading as a fifteen minute film," Darrow concludes.
Ne'er a truer word spoken.It could be a Ben Steed script... or maybe a rather crap Tanith Lee one...