... Oh, well, while I'm blogging I might as well mention that I recently procured rehearsal script for the last episode of Blake's 7! Bwahahaha! What amazing secrets will be unveiled...
...or, you know, not.
- a shot of a fireball coming up the shaft into Xenon Base which takes out the whole mountain top
- Blake wears a Travis-style eyepatch
- Arlen is a teenage girl who is shown to recognize the name Roj Blake
- Avon sits beside Tarrant aboard Scorpio
- Chris Boucher was not expecting much of a budget; he lists stock footage be used wherever possible, no model shots, and Scorpio's crash is entirely off-screen
- Tarrant doesn't try to steady out Scorpio before it crashes, but does scream uncontrollably throughout
- so much detail is put into describing the fliers and Blake's silo it's a certainty Boucher had an eye for reusing them again, even listing stuff like flyer cargo holds that aren't used in this episode
- Blake's silo is built into an old mine with freestanding equipment forced into spaces, very similar to Messaline in The Doctor's Daughter. The tracking gallery is effectively a large empty tunnel and Arlen is held prisoner in a spare cave
- Klyn is an unnamed male technician who has no real relationship with Blake, who gives the impresion of being an uncontrolled dangerous maverik to his own side even when no one is watching. The vibe is that Blake joined Deva's pre-existing group and has no real ties with them; Deva is shown to be ill-at-ease with the famous rebel.
- the abandoned cabin is like the prefab survival dome Stott used in Nightmare of Eden
- Tarrant recovers from the crash almost immediately and appears to be in full health for the rest of the episode.
- the genuine bounty hunters are described as having a Weeping-Angel ability to appear of nowhere around Vila and Arlen, and this is their main strength in overpowering people. The attack on Vila isn't slapstick.
- Blake is shown examining and dismantling Slave, suggesting that the computer could have been resurrected in Season E
- Tarrant recovers in one of the flight seats when Blake leaves the diamonds and Arlen's gun right in front of him, as a test to see if Tarrant will try to snatch up the gun and steal the diamonds. When Tarrant doesn't (and points out how obvious and crude this ploy is), Blake is described as displaying his former warmth and charm for the first time.
- Blake's mention of Jenna is another test, but there is no hint whether her death is true or not. Up yours, Alan Stevens.
- Arlen's arrival in Deva's office is a drammatic reveal as a door slides open to reveal her in non-Federation uniform
- There is no reference to Orac after the flier scenes. So we still don't know what happened to him.
- As the tracking gallery is now a tunnel, the accoustics mean the ever-increasing alarms become deafening. "They must positively shout to make themselves heard here".
- Avon shoots Blake with his clipgun. There is no blood, and Blake is not described as having been killed.
- Blake's final words are: "Oh Avon. I didn't take any of them on trust... except you... you are my... only friend." Which freaks Avon out.
- The explosions from the Federation attack cause the gallery to fill with smoke and debris to rain down from the ceiling (presumably explaining why our heroes are so easily overwhelmed in the confusion).
- Dayna "goes down" after Arlen fires at her, but is not said to be alive or dead.
- Vila's fight with Arlen is quite a struggle. He "spins and falls" from an unseen shot, but we don't see a trooper with a smoking gun - suggesting that he did, in fact, just panic and duck and cover.
- Soolin is the only one described as "shot"
- Tarrant is "knocked to the ground" by a gunshot. The smoke and explosions as scripted mean we don't see any bodies on the floor bar Blake, and the Federation attack occurs more rapidly. It's more like the shootout in Mindwarp Part 3 and more obviously a cliffhanger
Anyway. Moving back...
"Battle Tracer or not, I don't take kindly to criticism from someone who comes from Delta-Grade stock! You were born in the baby-farm slums of Outer Europe, weren't you, Mikalov? Parents were municipal workers! Why don't you clean a street, Battle Tracer? Empty a few garbage pods? After all, your father can't any more - your DEAD father. I'm an Alpha-Grade! I'm also a Field Commander with five years' experience on the outpost worlds! I have campaign ribbons for Chenga and Revotil! I shouldn't even be here on this... this... SCHOOL PLANET! So you can call me 'sir', Battle Tracer!"
The second installment of Season BB (no, wait, don't call it that, it's rubbish) kicks off with the crew finishing their stupidly-random quest introduced about of absolutely nowhere in the previous episode, Fractures - to whit, the Federation now have an Orac-style device of their own to track down the Liberator and by jingo by crikey they are going to use it. The only clue to this thing's construction is a woman called Alexei Mikalov, but as they dare not use Orac to search for her they've had to basically check the phone book and facebook records to track down every A. Mikalov they can find - including a rather puzled schoolkid and a psychopath in a maximum security jail who suffocates small animals with his testicles.
At last, our designated heroes have tracked down the only possible Mikalov to her current address - the distant planet of Straxus (which in true B7 fashion of Kaldor, Xenon, Auros, Cygnus A, et all, is already infamous in the Whoniverse as the name of a rather camp Time War era Gallifreyan). However, Straxus is codenamed Battleground 9 and the entire planet has been turned into an extremely violent paintball war game kind of place... if the paintballs were plasma bullets and ICBMs, anyway. Here, the fresh recruits of the Federation are trained to kill and desensitized to violence as they organize war games against a "rebellion" consisting of everyone who isn't sent to Cygnus Alpha.
One such political prisoner is the Governor of Tarsus (mentioned in Traitor, because author Andrew Smith seems to have actually done a bit more research than Justin Richards - though, to be fair, this does add to the ambiance of televised B7), who had an attack of conscience and resisted the Federation. As he's an expert in the Federation military mindset, he's survived on Battleground 9 for longer than any other rebel - four months! He's even got his own non-speaking ragtag army of politicos, crooks and deserters who would probably justify their own spin-off if any of them had any dialogue.
The main badguy this week is a disgraced Federation Captain who has been sent back for retraining because not only is he psychotically violent but subversively stupid (you never think for a second that Travis was considered so dumb he needed a refresher course like this). In a strange quirk, the Captain is played by Dave Starkey - the bloke who now rivals Nick Briggs in dominating both TV Who and BF audios - so the main villain on Straxus is Strax! Classic Terry Nation! Absolutely lampshade!
But Strax - not his name, but I'm feeling sick - is not the endearingly brain-damaged Sontaran but a whining little Daddy's Boy with a huge chip on his shoulder and a severe inferiority complex. So the fact he has to be constantly justifying his monumentally retarded battle plans to a young, former-Delta-grade woman with a higher IQ than Strax can actually count does not make the brave little soldier happy.
Oh, and said woman is Alexei (isn't that a boy's name?) Mikalov. She's a strategic analyst, which means she's like a Carnell style puppeteer only without all the bisexual fourth-wall-Magic-Bullet-arousal stuff. She's trained to predict military reactions with complete impartiality and likes shouting "Advisory!" at Strax in a clearly-defined "No, Baldrick, This Is A Bad Idea" codephrase. Mikalov's job is to be a pro-active Kiff to Strax's Zap Brannigan and, amusingly, this seems to be standard Federation Procedure.
So, as Strax tries and fails to bully Mikalov into passing him and the Governor rouses the rabble, the set is scene for the Liberator to arrive in orbit with a so-over-this-crew aboard. However, Battleground 9 is surrounded by Galaxy-Quest-style space mines which immediately blow the ever-loving crap out of the Liberator and then, with computerized sadism, use EMPs to throttle Zen unconscious and cause absolutely everything to break down and fall apart.
Apparently this is standard Federation defenses. But they've never been used before because they're only on Battleground Planets and this is the first time they've been to one of those. Even Cally is struggling to big up this suicidal plan (or, as Avon calls it, something with all the hallmarks of being thought up by Blake).
Blake teleports down to the planet to find Mikalov and Avon, deciding it's safer down there, goes with him. Alas, he misses Vila redeeming himself for the previous episode by effortlessly creating a jamming field that instantly saves the Liberator and everything on it. Like Stardrive, he's been in shit like this before and he's actually better travelled and more multi-talented than the rest of them put together. As the EMPs work the same way as certain burglar alarms, Vila fucks them up with such effortless badassery that Orac double takes and tells him "Well done."
Oh yes. Vila is the Man of Fist this week.
Of course, this is all undone as instead of getting the hell out of there, the Liberator remains in orbit long enough for the satellites to upgrade a patch and resume battering the shit out of the deep space vehicle. As soon as Avon gets back, he rants that he left these morons alone for five minutes... Of course, he has yet to meet Tarrant and know what REAL incompetence is like.
The rest of the plot flows predictably but not unentertainingly. Blake and Avon arrive in the bombed out pine forests of Straxus and are captured by either sides of the conflict, then Blake leads the rebels to victory (well, leads them to take advantage of the five seconds where Avon takes over the Federation stronghold) before the Federation send in reinforcements and kill everyone.
Blake has eagerly asked the Governor and some of his mute pals to join them on the Liberator, so it comes to absolutely no surprise he decides to stay behind and face death as the rebels teleport to safety. No doubt you're also unshocked that Mikalov, having decided to help the rebels after they wiped out the Shadow dealing busines (aw... so ALL the moondiscs had to die?), is immediately killed before she can help our heroes beyond saying something useful is on an asteroid somewhere she's a bit vague about.
The episode ends on a cliffhanger, with our heroes trapped on a broken down Liberator about to either fall into Straxus' atmosphere or be used as target practice by an approaching fleet of pursuit ships.
Look, I am definitely not in the right mindset to appreciate this particular episode. Not only am I conditioned to expect self-contained episodes or, at the least, the next episode directly afterwards, I was listening to this down by Cook's River where various gardening chemicals were being used and I suddenly became a vomiting extra from GuestHouse Paradiso. So, distracted and unwell but I still laughed at the hilarious dialogue free fight between Avon and Strax, which sounded like it had been sampled from Bottom: Gas.
BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!
BANG! BANG! BANG!
BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!
5/10 (until such time as I am healthy enough to review again)
BLAKE: You cut that very fine, Avon. Did I wake you?
AVON: You've been down there for two hours and the first thing you say is "teleport now". Be grateful I reacted as quickly as I did. Or even at all.
BLAKE: Heh. I like putting my life in your hands, Avon. I like the uncertainty of it.
AVON: Speaking of uncertainty, Mikalov?
BLAKE: Do you want the good news or the bad news?
AVON: I want an answer.