Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Blake's 7: Making Do (I of II)

B7's got away from me again. It's been so depressing of late, particularly the B7 Chronicles which manage to be even bigger downer than genuine Season D episodes! Anyway, the second miniseries is finally out so I might as well review it, right? BF has been loathe to recast the Seven for some reason, bar the computer voices, which means we don't get any Gan stories or Soolin stories and also have a huge difficulty with Dayna stories - and since Angela Bruce is on the payroll, and she's played Dayna before, and she wasn't crap at it, this just boggles the mind. But no, let's go to huge lengths to avoid that and have her temporarily-replaced with Tom Chabdon's Del Grant (apparently motivated by the fact Douglas Adams rights embargo prevent doing any future Duggan stories) as the regular.

So... quick summary.

Post Rumors of Death, Grant approaches the Liberator crew for help. The Federation have the Armageddon Storm, a planet-busting gizmo, and only our main characters can stop it. Naturally, they fail spectacularly. However, Avon sends a message across the universe telling everyone the Federation are genocidal fuckwits and he has his own Armageddon Storm and if the Federation ever, ever, ever try using their doomsday weapon again, Avon will instantly nuke Earth. This has consequences and repercussions, obviously: the Federation have to be "nice" again, but at the same time Avon's both made himself the biggest threat in the galaxy when before the only enemies were those who wanted the Liberator.

Even more consequently, in a tragic farce Avon accidentally let slip that he shot Anna to Grant (who, we must remember, is the only living being Avon is actually afraid of). However, Grant proves to be surprisingly understanding: after all, the fact Avon's guilty and ashamed about it proves the story Anna did a real number on him, and it's obvious Grant couldn't make Avon feel any worse about it than he already has. So, Grant joins the crew for the time being to deal with the fallout from the armageddon arms race thing.

Then we get a trilogy of stories with Grant involved - an incredibly complicated assassination attempt with Grant and Tarrant working together (hilariously, Tarrant is deeply resentful of the fact everyone likes Grant more than him, not realizing this is because Grant doesn't act like a fuckwit 24/7); then a raid on a doomed space casino; and then an arms dealership where Grant meets Vila's biological father, the President of Mars played by David Warner who gets the sort of end you expect from any relative of a Liberator crewmember.

Finally these apocryphal addendum bleed out into a brand new series of full-cast audios...


"What is it now? Did you lose another member of the crew?"
"Perhaps we will, unless you can successfully identify the object we are currently investigating - or is that simple task beyond you?"
"Not 'beyond', but certainly 'beneath' me."
"Isn't everything?"
"You are learning quickly, Del Grant."

In that lazy way that would give most OHS officers heart attacks, the crew of the Liberator finally notice that one of their number has disappeared but for once it's slightly more than a "hang on, we teleported down with one more than we teleported back" type scenarios which totally proves Gan is a sex killer.

Dayna has abruptly teleported off the Liberator with Orac's help and a simple message for anyone who wants to follow her: Don't. (Avon finds this very amusing, in one of numerous moments in the story that play up his disinterested foster father role, in that he is the only one who refuses to consider maybe it's time to let Dayna grow up and do whatever the hell she wants). Needless to say, the others (even Zen) are far from pleased that they've lost their 19-year old horny serial killer weapons fetishist off-screen and immediately set out to find her. God, no wonder Avon was suggesting people swallow tracking devices in previous episodes: if only Blake had done that, the whole series would be different because space is big, really big, and it's very easy to disappear in it especially if like Dayna you're going walkabout and don't want to be followed.

Heading back to the last planet they passed where Orac confirms Dayna teleported to and then departed from. Seeking more detailed answers, Grant and Tarrant teleport down and pretend to be some creepy Holmesian Gaimsian double act to intimidate the local spaceport administrators into answering their questions (I dunno if it's clever or stupid that people only recognize Dayna from a description that she's "deadly" rather than black, I mean, its as an important descriptor as her age and hair colour...)

Turns out Dayna took a one way trip on a pirate ship to the Desolation, the nickname for the edge of the galaxy nuked in the Galactic War and reduced to a gigantic lethal radioactive asteroid feild (fact fans will notice this is where Gross and Lector from Moloch wisely decided "screw this and get out of here" rather than keep fighting the good fight.) Meanwhile, we cut to Karlov and Drintz - a truly stereotypical pair of B7 characters, big-ego-small-skilled civilian salvage-worker losers plotting their promotion now they've got a job from Servalan and Space Command - as they fly towards the Desolation themselves, just in time to see Dayna's ship arrive, turn around and then leg it at top speed.

As it's now obvious even to Clive Palmer Dayna's not going to be found this week, the plot has to kick in: and when the Liberator arrives looking for Dayna, they find an anomaly - something that reads on the sensors as a big asteroid, but is strangely not radioactive like everything else. Vila works out the answer first ("Vila's right." "I am?" "Don't make me say it twice.") that the asteroid is actually a disguise to fool computers that they're not scanning but the Scimitar, the biggest baddest Federation flagship ever which is deserted and derelict but still viable enough to be worth checking out to see Dayna there. Even though she isn't. But Karlov and Drintz are, planning to salvage the Scimitar for Servalan. Get it? Got it? Good.

Avon, Cally and Grant teleport aboard, have a bit of a look round. Karlov sees the Liberator and summons the Federation while Drintz generally whines they're pushing their lucks being such obvious redshirts. Tarrant and Vila guess the salvagers have sold them out because it's just typical, isn't it? And all that radiation means the bracelet communicators don't work either! Then the bloody Scimitar starts to disintegrate around them in a ship-quake as it ploughs straight into a real asteroid. Not worth getting out of bed some days, is it?

Vila manages to teleport Avon and Cally to safety but it looks like Grant's goose is cooked as the derelict is blown apart with more finality than Chef's death scene in South Park. "Nothing and no one could have survived," declares Avon which is the perfect point to have a shouting match of how they've lost yet another comrade in a stupid and easily-avoided accident but Avon's more interested in checking the wreckage to see if its cool chameleon circuit gizmo has survived the explosion. When he gets told off for being heartless (in fairness, Avon DID try to go back for Grant at the time), Avon gives a little speech: "Cally, I'm sorry Grant didn't make it. He and I go back a long way as well you know, so let me tell you something about Del Grant: he was a mercenary of the very first order and as such his whole life consisted of risk. I can assure you, if it makes you feel any better, that when he boarded that shipwreck he most certainly knew the risks. Despite what you think, Cally, I won't waste a sacrifice like that."

"That wasn't a sacrifice, Avon. It was a needless, pointless death," the Auron retorts.

"Is there any other kind?"

Um. OK. Meanwhile lazy cow Karlov sends grumbling Drintz in a rockman outfit to fly into the wreck of the Scimitar to find the chemeleon circuit. But, ye gods and little fishes, he stumbles across one of the life rockets containing a very-much-alive Grant and the chameleon circuit in tow. They attempt to use Grant to lure the rest of the Liberator crew into a trap, a very obvious trap, but the gang go in it a) to save Grant and b) to get the chameleon circuit. I'll let you guess which crewmember chooses which reason.

Cally and Avon let themselves get captured in a surprisingly tense sequence - by which I mean, tense as we wait for the arrogant Karlov and Drintz to suffer a hideous and ironic fate. Instead, our heroes take the chameleon circuit, retreat to the Liberator and use said circuit to hide from the approaching pursuit ships who mistake the salvage ship for the rebel ship and nuke it in one easy move. The pursuit ships then bugger off and the rest of the episode is Avon explaining this to everyone. Of course, the chameleon circuit is nuked as well, the Federation think they're all dead and they're no closer to finding Dayna.

Well, pilgrim, if that don't spell "t o b e c o n t i n u e d" then what the hell does?


"Blake would have loved it here: local partisan politics, a new bunch of extremists to rally against... he'd be right at home. Me, I couldn't care less."

As with stories like Time Squad, Killer, Volcano and Traitor you can tell the author is using a plot idea that might have sat easier with Doctor Who: a clone race of homicidal maniacs, a zombie plague ship from a space Bermuda Triangle, a race of robot-ruled dying pacifists worshiping an atom bomb, or a parody of the British Empire conquering alien planets. (Mind you, it's not exactly one-way even in the new series: hello, Caves of Androzani, Mindwarp, Planet of the Ood). So perhaps a story where the Liberator crew visit a sinister futuristic Disneyland full of bodysnatchers is perhaps the truest evocation of B7 as Doctor Who's sister show and the lines getting blurred...

So, anyway, word has gotten out that the Liberator crew is looking for Dayna and they hear through the grapevine some guy called Rankin is willing to tell them where she is for a price. The Liberator crosses to the heart of the galaxy to a pleasure planet called Solus to meet Rankin. While Avon and Tarrant head to the orbiting space station, Vila is left sulking over the brochure of the tourist spot they won't be allowed to visit. Oh, what could possibly go wrong? I'm surprised the neutral-territory fun palace Solus wasn't named "Freedom City II: This Time It's Personal" to complete the allusion...

At the space station bar, Avon and Tarrant easily catch Rankin who says Dayna was seen on Solus before she mysteriously went missing - one of a number of mysterious disappearances including Rankin's missus plaguing the run-down theme park planet for the last few months. Thus they agree to help each other find out who is behind this kidnapping, and travel down to Solus. Rankin explains that he's a retired rebel/criminal now trying to look after his sickly kid and beside himself with worry now his wife has vanished. It soon becomes clear that Rankin might actually be a trustworthy, honorable guy which, of course, sickens Avon to his stomach even as he assumes his Hercule Poroit persona from Mission to Destiny.

Tarrant meanwhile, manages to get as far as asking a passer-by if they've seen Dayna before a mob of MIBs leaps out of the shadows, beat the crap out of him, drugged, covered in sealing wax and taken off to a warehouse. Avon is forced to bring Grant and Orac down to help search. Orac laughs at the pathetic deductive skills of Avon and bets he can Sherlock Holmes this whole mess in five seconds flat, explaining that the sealing wax is used to preserve foodstuffs in stasis for transport. Thus, someone is using this as a homemade stasis gunge to coat the kidnapping victims to keep them out of the way and the only people on the planet with access to this sort of wax are the Agriserve warehouse on the other side of town. Orac takes a rather long while to explain this, as he keeps digressing into what a fucking genius he is. Heh.

Orac uses an earpiece for a handsfree IT support for Avon (and though this is a hugely helpful and useful idea they'd be mad not to use in the future, it is justified by Avon as a one-off because having Orac bitching into your ear without an off switch or volume control is simply too high a price to pay) and Avon and Rankin sneek into the warehouse, then pretend to be health inspectors to bully the workers into revealing what's happening. Unfortunately, the workers go psycho and don't answer any questions as they dive into the wax vats screaming "Fortuitas!" as they do so. Rather non-plussed, Avon learns from Rankin that Fortuitas is an extremist isolationist xenophobic terrorist group that want to turn Solus into a free state of zealots. The disappearances must be being staged to provoke a climate of terror and get people voting Fortuitas! Clear?

Avon and Grant head to the local theatre (not hand in hand or anything you'd read into that) to sneak into one of Fortuitas' weekly meetings about how generations of running theme parks has driven them mad and determined to create a fifth reich that will last for at least the rest of the episode. It takes approximately three seconds for Avon and Grant to realize all the Fortuitas members are just morons parroting slogans rather than genuinely zealots: Fortuitas has gone downhill since the original leader split to create her own, even MORE extreme extremist group with eco-warrior stuff.

Orac meanwhile notices that all the kidnapped victims are young, heathy, fertile would easily fit inside one of the amusement parks which just so happens to be named after the leader of the splinter faction. Well, he noticed that earlier, he just didn't bother to mention it until now. Avon and Rankin head off to sneak into the wierd ghost train after dark, while Grant and Orac are then ambushed by more extremists. Oh noes! Luckily, Orac is a martial arts expert and shouts advice to Grant and describes a brutal fight scene for the audience interspersed with him shouting "Punch him, you wuss! My dead creator could kick them harder than that! God dammit you suck!" and other such moments of hilariousness.

Avon and Rankin find the wax-coated bodies arranged in the ghost train only to be captured by... Rankin's wife Eva! Who is evil after all! SHE is the leader of the splinter fraction, and has started strutting around the place calling herself Gaia and generally being a smug bitch who has been luring Avon into a trap. She reveals that she is in fact following a generic Sparacus story idea: a doomsday cult capturing all the young 20 somethings to breed a super race to take over the world - death to the chavs, all hail Spode! Together she and her smooth legions will steal the Liberator and set forth to a new world to live in peace and harmony, enjoying the smell of their own farts and listening to the sound of their own bigotry. Avon is so utterly depressed at this cliched Invasion of the Dinosaurs he's not even surprised when Gaia reveals she intends to give the Liberator to Servalan for a pinkie-promise for the Federation to leave them alone.Then Gaia whines that Rankin is a puny-no-fist loser for abandoning his revolutionary ways and also having a shitty double-helix that could create a kid with a heart condition. So she stabs him and laughs evilly and shouts she will save the future by leaving everyone else, even her sickly son, to die...

Grant, Vila and Cally turn up and Gaia stupidly shoots one of the vats of boiling hot wax which empties out over her head. Because she was a complete fucking moron, but at least she dies smoothe and presumably with a degree from Cambridge. Shaking his head in disgust, Avon stays to help the injured Rankin and it's hard not to think he feels a touch of empathy for an unwilling rebel betrayed by the woman he loved. With the emergency services on the way and Tarrant (but not Dayna) found, Avon decides they should avoid awkward explanations and slip back to the TAR... the Liberator.


"Excuse me? I'd appreciate it if the talking could be done out loud. The rest of us would like to know what's going on..."

Late at night, Vila looks through all of Dayna's google searches on Orac to find a clue as to where she's gone and finds Dayna was researching her late mother Kareen (who we are reminded was apparently killed in the purges on Earth, but as Vila notes, that doesn't mean a thing). The next morning, Vila has disappeared - having got Orac to teleport him down to the planet Carwain which they just happened to be passing. Carwain is apparently the home of the Water of Life - aka the Fountain of Youth, Elixir of the Eternal Flame, etc - which Vila has apparently been googling for shits and giggles.

Our four remaining rebel-terrorists decide to head down to Carwain to find the thief and chase his footprints to a magical-looking waterwall emptying into a lake, while Cally makes mental contact with another Auron called Rino who happens to be in the area. Avon points out they can't keep digressing from finding Dayna, but nonetheless allows Cally to seek for her new pal even though he seems a tad jealous. However, Rino turns out in five seconds be a creepy stalker who's too busy lusting after Cally (even though he has no idea what she looks like) to actually tell her anything useful, like where the hell he is actually is.

"It's turning into a torrent, Tarrant!" cries Grant as they investigate the magical waterfall, before he's swept away for the second is-he-dead? plot twist in as three episodes. This time Grant is seemingly drowned, and his body floats underwater next to Vila's, and the water somehow becomes feral whenever Tarrant tries to reach in and grab them. Spooky, huh? Then the water swallows up Tarrant as well! Unable to teleport him up, Cally heads down there and opens her mind: and hears millions of voices screaming in horror at their hellish purgatory beneath the waves, including Grant, Tarrant and Vila.

The only voice not shrieking is Rino, who is even more stalkery than ever, as he dribbles on about beauty and obsession and all sorts of stuff you'd only really talking about if some psycho's broken your legs, tied you to a bed and is telling you they're your biggest friend. Rino explains he is an Auron but very, very old; from before the time of the clones. Tormented by his Verne-like beauty he fled to Carwain in desperation to keep young and beautiful, and he like everyone else was swallowed up by the Water of Life - or rather the Living Water, as the name was mistranslated by Oolon Caluphid in his wholly-remarkable book - and kept eternally young and alive. But also trapped in an eternal stasis until they go mad while Rino's telepathy not only keeps him lucid, he has to listen to all their screams. Caveat Emptor, huh?

Cally has nothing to say but the Tenth Doctor's catchphrase ("I'm sorry, I'm so, so sorry!") and isn't exactly pleased when Rino suggests she join him under the water to keep him company. She's not cheered either when Rino reveals he used his age-boosted telepathic power to draw Vila to the planet, then Grant and Tarrant to lure Cally closer. Cally offers to try and free Rino along with the other lads, and the obnoxious Auron Jimmy Saville helps - but Vila's low self-esteem means he's tempted to remain in the watery hell, and it takes longer to wrench him free.

Then Cally lays some heavy shit on Rino - the trio were the only ones in the lake. There were no other bodies; all the other souls were detached from their bodies which have rotted away into nothing and Rino's gorgeous body are just bones. Rino goes absolutely apeshit and tries to swallow her into the water, but he hasn't reckoned on Big Damn Kerr "Who's Your Daddy, Mofo?" Avon being in town.

The next thing you know, Avon's saved everyone and set course for Auron (ostensibily for the good of Cally, who's still a bit glum at the lack of mental communion). Of course, Auron was destroyed and Avon knows that, which makes this suspicious. The fact that he was laughing like a madman and screaming "AT LAST I AM FREE!" is also suspicious, but Orac doesn't think much of it. Cally, however, worked out ages ago that the ghost of Rino who has taken over Avon's body and has been trying to bluff him until Tarrant runs in screaming "He's not Avon!" over and over again.

Rino's plan is to go to Auron, clone one of his bones and create a new body. He tries to sweettalk Cally with the prospect of a telepathic Kerr Avon who isn't such a high-functioning sociopath and nice in polite society, but as we all know that just isn't the Avon Cally's interested in. Plus, Auron is destroyed which kinda screws up Rino's plan good and proper. What follows is a painful mockery of that bit where Luke discovers Darth Vader is his dad, as Rino gasps that this is impossible but he has to look in his heart to know it's true.

One exorcism with a broken bone, some wet clothes, a mop and a teleport bay later, Avon is back to normal. Or is he? He says he is, but Rino is trapped inside the living hell of Avon's mind screaming in horror. Oh, this can only bode well, amirite?

Well, those stories weren't too bad. It made a nice change to be exploring the wild and wierd universe beyond Federation territory, without the whole 'let's go undercover as spies' business which let us remember never happened once in the entire TV canon. Similarly there are no wet-sack-subtle sequels to Liberator Chronicles bar Grant's presence and he's working out rather well, and having a good influence over the crew by virtue of neither being insane nor stupid. He's a bit like Soolin in a way, except the crew aren't so emotionally damaged that the stability provides actually goes somewhere. The search for Dayna routine however shows without a doubt why they never looked hard for Blake and Jenna - it just gets old quick and every episode without her makes you wonder if they really needed another bitchy serial killer aboard the ship. I mean, ALL of them have equal reason to hate Servalan after all...

Looking forward to the next three stories.

Next Time: the Liberator crew meet yet more discarnate entities on a haunted planet, Tarrant makes another determined effort to get his legover, the President before Servalan is back with avengence, Dayna is found and her mother's nasty secret is discovered. Not necessary in that order, though...

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