Well, I've finally - as in, years - got the special "DVD extras" to the first series of audios and what would you know, they're actually more enjoyable than the genuine product which if you'll remember pushed me to the very brink of psychosis as the Evil Script Editor ground me into the dirt.
Taking a very long time to un-winzip and play is this video documentary about why the hell any of this is happening, narrated by Zen himself. I must say that this proves my long held theory that the actors within aren't actually BAD at acting, they're just bad at AUDIO acting. They rely on bodylanguage, eye contact, faint smirks or smiles. Maybe this says something about actors in the 21st century, maybe it doesn't. Either way, the final confrontation of Liberator (where Avon, Blake and Servalan face off) suddenly becomes Robin-Hood quality entertaining as we see Servalan's bitchy smiles, Blake's camp haughtiness, and the fact Avon looms, Lurch-like, over the entire cast. If this stuff was on TV, at the very worst it would be entertaining.
Other notables is being able to tell Blake's taking the piss when he asks for 4 years adjournment for him to bring down the government (it really is hard to tell on audio alone), his judge was Matilda from RH: Dunking and Diving, India Fisher and Carrie Dobro's "in a damaged spacecraft" acting which resembles tackling the dude playing Blake (meh, forgotten his name - Derek Riddell or something), the effort Salmon puts into giving a Shakespearian rhythm to his opening narration (he's conducting an orchestra), Mezin's "I will fucking break your neck" pout and expression truly terrifying to behold, Gizzy looking exactly how you'd expect,
All of which is punctuated by sweeping close-ups on the logo in such a way I can't even tell what it says.
Finally this amusing montage is replaced by talking heads (including Ben Aaronovitch, who seems to have suffered 13000 volts of direct current upon sitting down to be interviewed) who give us the crudest, most boiled-down-to-inaccurates summaries of Blake's 7 available. Salmon, oddly enough, is the only one to convince he HAS seen the original and actually LIKES it -
- Blake thinks it was on when Jon Pertwee was the Doctor
- Zen doesn't know what the Liberator is called or anything beyond the title sequence
- Cartmell does a near Monty Python Spanish Inquisition style rant where he starts of with B7 being the best, then the best after Doctor Who, then the best after Quatermass, and so on...
- a vocal extra is awe-inspired at the idea of unhappy endings and killed-off characters (and he's more informed that Cartmell, who is shocked to learn 'people died in it')
- and Benji clearly thinks the whole premise ridiculously naive - criminals fighting evil organizations, AS IF!!!!
The fact the producer looks just like Steve Coogan doesn't inspire confidence that these are the best people to reinterpret a pretty-damn-good-as-it-is legend. I mean, I like B7 but saying it is the only notable science fiction apart from Star Wars? Does this guy WANT Trekkies to lynch him? True, I concede Farscape and maybe Firefly took a leaf out of B7's book, but the suggestion they have NOTHING ELSE to offer ANYONE just pisses me off.
Again, Salmon is the voice of sanity as he notes that B7's "fight the machine" message was what made it popular in the rebellious era of the late 1970s. Presumably this is why he must be immediately discredited by stock footage from Blake's Junction 7 (I still laugh) as Zen suggests this barely-seen short skit is somehow up there with Blackadder in the National Consciousness of England. Mind you, it seems this whole thing just seems to be an excuse to SHOW some of it at all. Which makes more sense than Cartmell's dodgy logic that, since the original series is now more relevent than ever... we should now change ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING. If I were paranoid I'd start to think this is some kind of pro-anti-terrorist propaganda conspiracy.
My suspicions grow as seemingly everyone does their "reimagineed TV shows suck mighteously" rants before we get the writers similarly doubtful that this revival could be ANYTHING but a hideous waste of time. Curiously we don't get anyone saying, "well, this sure proved me wrong - revival is brilliant!".
Rebel is discussed. The producer, who is clearly not paying attention, believes Blake is forced to resist the Federation only AFTER he's false accused of crimes he did not commit... despite the fact he was arrested while bombing central London and murdering people. Indeed, it seems that no one is talking to each other - the producer sees Blake as a white-as-white hero, the actor sees him as more realistic and Benji makes it quite clear this frying-pan-gram pyscho is DANGEROUS!!! No wonder the stories are all over the place with three completely irreconcilable forces pulling on one character... "He's very charismatic," the producer says innocently after we get a scene of Blake threatening to burn out a guard's eyes with a glue gun. "His charisma inspires people," our gormless friend continues as we see a scene of Avon dissing Blake mighteously, forcing him to crudely bully the hacker into shutting up.
Onto Avon, and everyone seems to be on the same page (indeed, Benji impresses me by noting that Avon's logical demeanour is front for a passionate idealist), or as Salmon notes "Avon's strength is knowing what he doesn't know." (interspersed with a hilarious scene where Blake berates Avon for not being a people person and Avon rolls his eyes in disgust and boggles, 'The man's in fantasy land!'). Quite simply, this scene affirms my belief that Avon Mk 2 is the best thing in this audio series and, on TV, would rock like a washing machine on top of the San Andreas fault.
Onto Jenna. Well, sad to say that the idea of a cussing ho from the hood Jenna works better than the one we actually get as all Carrie Dobro's "American energy" is completely wasted. On screen, she's a bit better. Out of character, she's a lot better. It doesn't matter how sassy she is, when her dialogue is either technobabble or platitudes, it's going to make the character a boring waste of time. Apart from stealing the Liberator and then, um, not stealing the Liberator, the character has been completely surplus to requirements. And putting her up against India Fisher just wasn't fair to start with, was it?
Onto Vila, AKA Dean Harris who resembles some kind of Bill Oddie stunt double and without the crap Jewish accent inspires less murderous instincts within me. He's not interesting enough to be interviewed on his own, so we get Owen Aaronovitch as Gan, who resembles both the original character and the guy on the When Vila Met Gan CD cover as much as David Tennant can bluff as Hulk Hogan in a disco. "They're a double act," the producer says, as if anything else would be redundant. Um, I would have thought that the double act was Avon and Vila. (And what really was the point CGI-ing laser beams into a recording studio?)
Onto Mezin (since Cally sensibly has refused to be part of this mess). India Fisher rocks. What more needs to be said? Her exhuberance, coupled with the fact she has given the character more thought than any of the writers ('ugly Federation Cally-substitute to be killed off ASAP')... Frankly, she works even better on camera than off it, and she and Salmon deserve their own series. Unlike the others, there's no camp smirkery here; every word is meant, every glance full of passion and everything is real. With them in the room, Dobro's New Yoik stand-up comic really IS wasting space.
Finally Zen with Alistair Lock and his disturbingly futurekind teeth as he notes he's playing a pscychopath with a messiah complex. Yeah. "Playing". This guy is almost as disturbing to watch as Steven Greenhorn or the Chick With The Yellow Eyes in Hot Gossip. Blink, damn you! Jeez...
Wait, there's Servalan. Okay. That shouldn't be quite so scary. Benji's redefinition of the character is less power-mad bitch-in-white, but someone who agrees absolutely with Blake that the Federation is crap. Which is why she wants to take over and crank everything up to 11. And she doesn't fancy Avon. In less than 30 seconds the doco realizes there is nothing to say and switches to Travis. And why would an embitted, cyborg military commando be interesting when we can have a tortured "good guy" on the wrong side? No idea.
Well, that's where the documentary ends. Everyone had a fun time making it and the best thing they can show is... India Fisher. Doing a speech. WHAT A SURPRISE!
A website/podcast video interview at a sci-fi convention. Benji bigs up his own version of the myth, the producer longingly wishes to be in charge of Battlestar Galactica instead, Ridell notes the cast are nice, Alistair Lock is a scary Harpo Marx who never speaks, the producer disses anyone who enjoyed the original... points for originality there, telling your initial fanbase to go fuck itself... people are quizzed what they thought after they heard about six seconds of material (which they say they like... I mean, what would YOU say beyond, "How the hell should I know?"), Benji panics when asked if he's actually written anything original, Lock breaks his silence to talk about cinema, and the presenter checks out the arse of a woman in her 70s and tells the camera man "She's a bit of all right!"
A glorified trailer for Rebellion Reborn and the previous thing at the convention. Only with time-lapse photography of the recording studio. Ends with the suitably ironic quotes of Avon noting "You trusted Blake over me, this is the consequences," and Jenna musing, "This isn't going to be pretty."
Truer words never spoken. Unlike the claim that Rebel was filed "under A for Awesome Audio Adventure!!!!!"
Self-explanatory, but these things actually work better on camera, since you find it hard to tell if it's still the same-out-take or another. Apart from demonstrating that Colin Salmon is seemingly the only one capable of remembering his lines (which, considering they're written down RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM, shouldn't be a big boast), I find myself wishing that some of this stuff was in the finished stories. They're so po-faced, it would be a boon if - in the middle of trying to bluff a pursuit ship captain - that Blake suddenly gets the giggles at his ridiculous and unconvincing cover story, or - when discussing the horrors of Cygnus Alpha - Jenna muses that on the bright side "the girls are topless and they make mean pina colartas"! Mezin mocking Avon's "Barry White" groans as he links with Zen are a lot more credible than half the macho dialogue they spout, as it's an edge of reality you don't get when fried bodies at your feet are forgotten for whole scenes.
Doing Zen's fluffed lines in character isn't half as amusing at it might seem, though.
RAW THEME TUNE
Hmmm. What do you know, it doesn't sound any better without the narrator.
Um, OK, this is a slash metal garage punk band song which... I assume... is about Blake and his plight. It's rather very hard to actually understand the slurred, drunken lyrics from some KD Lang impersonator, but the chorus seems to be "He's the one, Blaaaaaaa-haaaaaaaay-yaaaaaaaaaake! Death or freeeeeee, or freeeedommmm!" with what sounds like Blake's manifesto (the one he plays on websites before blowing up innocent people) put to music. You thought In Due Season was awkward and embarrassing? As background music, it's not very bad, which is probably why it was on at one of the raves Anna and Avon cop off at during Eye of the Machine.
I know Rush songs that do better with the same tune, though.
A transcription to the best of my abilities:
Travel in my direction
For a crime I didn't commit
Found society to be there
We don't expect to be hanging around here
Don't underestimate me
No retreat, surrender
It can't represent the people, the planets, yeah
Must be, must be
Escape route, escape route
We're under attack!
Must be, must be
Escape route, escape route
He's the one! Blake!
He's the one! Blake!
He's the one! Blake!
Death or free! For freedom!
Death for Blake! He's the one!
A green montage of Blake and Avon and Genghis Khan's mongel hoardes. In four different sizes. Yay.
What is there left to say?