Sunday, August 30, 2009

When Cally Met... er... Cally

The next installment of B7 Enterprizes Let's Try That Again franchise with its understandable intention to give some vaguely decent material to the cast is out. My hopes are high - The Early Years has had a far greater success rate than the "genuine" Blake's 7 audios, with the only proviso seeming to be 'forget everything you know from the audio series'. As you can imagine, this works for me on SO many levels, and if these CDs had been for sale at that miserable excuse of a convention today, I'd have snapped them up... but they didn't even have the Robin Hood audios for crying out loud.

This time round I am blessed to get the actual booklet with the CD rather than the cover image. What cover image, you ask? This one, of course!

The essay by author Marc Platt is basically "the TV series treated Auron crap, didn't it?", a sentiment few can argue with and how Mr. Platt has understandable decided to extrapolate Avon's line about "the great passive majority psyched them back into line - isn't telepathic communion a wonderful thing?" and turned it into some kind of Communism paranoia parable. Also Dayna noting that "there are plenty more like Cally" is picked up as it appears that all life on Auron are clones of Jan Chappell, albeit played by completely different actresses. So that cover is out and out lying to you, dude.

I'm coming to this green, guys and ghouls, as the horrors of the audios have mercifully left Cally alone - unless you count India Fisher's wasted Laura Mezin, considering she was the one rebel we saw who, as Waldorf Sockbat would say, wasn't completely retarded. So instead of doing justice to Cally 2.0, we're getting Cally 2.0 for the first time. So to speak.

Enough of this self pity! ONWARDS!

Blood & Earth

"What the hell is a 'management consultant'?!"

Dear me, will they ever get rid of those bloody awful titles? And despite his recent rehabilitation in my eyes, "by Ben Aaronovitch" still fills me with atavistic terror. Especially as I was promised Marc Platt...

Action kicks off in the depths of the telepathic hubber-bubber of Auron, which is Kakrafoon Kappa for the squee girl generation as we hear the babble of disembodied voices discuss fashion, individuality and how that is SO last epoch, girlfriend! We focus on one of the Callys, Arianne, who is on a plane heading towards Westfield shopping centre piloted by a bloke who doesn't sound a BIT like Cally and a computer sounding just like Zen! Despite the amazing powers of telepathic conferencing, Arianne has a mobile phone and it turns out that even on Auron using a phoning on the plane leads to bad shit happening. Westfield is unlikely to be reopening any time soon as Arianne's plane does a respectable 9-11 impression and none of her airhead clone sisters can do a damn thing about it.

The militia immediately cordon off the area rather than doing anything sensible like getting the emergency services in - and Jorden Cally turns up to demand to know why her sista ain't been rescued yet, bee-yotch? Commissioner Van Reich (who sounds just like the pilot but then this IS a planet of clones... ooh, I was right!) is unimpressed with this cheap mafiosi shit and explains the plane has vanished in a ridiculously giant protected forest and thus no one's even found the damn thing yet. As none of the Callys felt Arianne die, there's strong evidence she's alive, so the Commissioner agrees to... do what he's already doing. OK.

Arianne is indeed alive, but immediately finds herself being attacked by wild green-striped grey six-legged funnel-nosed dogs, but then another Cally, who is actually played by the proper actress. Cally gives Arianne a pep talk and gets her to do the smart thing of "leave the dogs alone" which, amazingly enough, works first time. It turns out that Arianne hasn't met this particular elder sister of hers before, and it's rather odd that this distant relative happens to be in thinking distance. Oooh, could this be the proper B7 Cally after all? She's called "Aunty" in this, which lead me to expect her to be some Big Brother family head honcho, and of course, evil.

Jorden and Van Reich get into a whiskey-powered flier and decide to search the area, while Cally gives Arianne basic scout-troop info like "how to build a log fire before you die of exposure". It turns out Cally was born out of the cloning banks bum-first, hit her head and has been alone and silent ever since, which is why she hasn't sent a few thoughts to the emergency services: she's a telepathically mute hermit, and the fact she's able to communicate with the one relative who crashed in the woods really is pushing the laws of probability rather. But while Arianne is less than impressed with her redneck woodland aunty and her complete lack of bluetooth attachments, Cally is as unimpressed with her management consultant niece as you'd expect her to be. Bloody yuppies with their belief anyone who knows how to live rough is a member of the "Auron Masochist Society", eh Cally?

It turns out that this Cally (Cally Secondus - literally, Cally the Second) is the second-ever Cally ever, over sixty-years old, and the Callys were originally created as a slave work force before their intellectual capacity was discovered! Didn't see that one, I admit. But time for Arianne to finally twig her mobile was in her pocket all along and hear her pathetic ringtone (another homemade rock song, ala Eye of the Machine) and its set on vibrate AS WELL as ringtone. God I hate that for some reason... Anyway, if Arianne had stayed in the ship she could have switched on the Mayday and immediately been rescued. Still, if she wants to get back there, she'll need Cally's help to avoid being eaten by the forest dogs.

"Why are you whispering?" asks Cally as Arianne sneaks into the ship. "We're communicating telepathically!" I dunno if that dry wit is genius or stupidity, but it's definitely the kind of 'duh!' moment Cally often had in the TV series. Anyway, it turns out the mayday system is not only broken but surrounded by wild dogs, so Arianne runs off, is quietly sick, and she and Cally chat more about the history. It turns out all clones nowadays are single-born rather than twins, who are capable of synesthetic link and are much more powerful. Cally and her sister used that power to work out a revolution of the clones using the children of the masters.

"You turned them against their parents?" Arianne boggles.

"We were the cool kids, dear," Cally replies deadpan. "We could do cool stuff - like survive in the woods, build shelters and operate power tools. Their parents didn't stand a chance!"

Taking this rather personally, Arianne uses her newfound knowledge of botany to create a bunch of grenades and use them to wipe out the wild dogs by blowing up the plane altogether. Cally is mildly impressed by this Ace-style pyromania, but as she notes, it's not exactly what you'd call "sensible".

But where has that rescue team got to? Well, turns out there's a planetary emergency (Christ, don't tell me, Blake won the election and anarchy's broken out?) so Van Reich and Jorden abandon the search and return to base. A Federation ship has hyper-jumped into the solar system for the first time, 20 years before their empire was supposed to expand this far and the Aurons are mobilizing. You realize THIS MEANS WAR?!? Well, it does.

But luckily Arianne's recreation of the Tungunska fireball attracts the attention of the rescue team and while they await rescue, Cally reveals that with the slaves in control of the foundling Auron colony world a mass picnic was held. It was decided that instead of making a slave class, the entire society would become equal and communist with a 'unity of purpose'. But Cally, the last of the first generation, got sick of her vacuous descendants and went to live in the hills, and it turns out that Arianne can communicate with her due to a seemingly-fatal bout of concussion.

Events skip forward a couple of days. Arianne is now recovering in hospital after her poetic 'dropping dead seconds before help arrives' and Cally has found herself recruited to help fight the Federation... as a pen-pushing paperwork desk bound beaurocrat General. Nevertheless, Cally's impressed by Jorden's anti-authoritan streak and hires her to join her own private military business, which is presumably going to make sense if I listen to the next story.

Well, Blood & Earth continues the improved standard of the Early Years but it's far from perfect. Jorden doesn't really come across as the rule-busting anti-establishment rebel Cally thinks of, the history of Auron is badly explained (so they aren't aliens then?), and the final scene has scars from the tissue rejection it got arriving randomly into a set plot. The acting's decent, but Jan Chapell pretty much blows the fish out of the barrell they were in and then guts them with a blunt knife.

But, then again, what else were we expecting?

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