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Games

Arcade Fire…

GamesScorpio‘s crew are watching a series of explosions on a monitor screen.

Sue: Is it New Year’s Eve? Are they watching a firework display?

A Federation planet is being blown to bits.

Avon: Well, that’s one way of solving your energy crisis.

Sue: Paul Darrow is bored. Tom Baker had the same problem when he was Doctor Who – and Paul Darrow’s been doing it for quite some time now – he can’t say his lines without hamming it up. I still love him to bits, but he’s chewing the scenery in the very first scene. There’s nowhere left for him to go.

Avon has his eye on some feldon crystals – the hardest and most valuable substance in the known universe. (Unless you include Sopron, which is a little bit harder and marginally more expensive, obviously.)

Sue: What is it with Avon and rocks? He’s only ever happy when he’s playing with his crystals. He’s obsessed.

On the planet Mecron Two, a man named Belkov is playing chess against his personal computer, Gambit.

Sue: Ooh, he’s famous.

Me: Yes, he is.

GamesSue: Is it Stephen Fry’s dad?

Sue eventually recognises Stratford Johns from Z-Cars, a programme she remembers fondly.

Sue: He’s very good. I’m surprised to see him in this, though.

Me: He was in Doctor Who as well. He played a giant frog, so I’m not surprised you don’t remember him.

Sue: He looks like he’s working for The Body Shop, or a spa of some sort. He’s surrounded by beauty products.

Back on Scorpio, the crew are quarrelling over what to do with the feldon crystals: use them to power their ship, or sell them for a huge profit. They haven’t even stolen them yet.

Sue: I like it when they set out to steal something. They are much better at being outlaws than they are at being terrorists. It’s a lot more believable, and it reminds me of Firefly, which is no bad thing.

Me: Joss Whedon says he’s never seen a single episode of Blake’s 7.

Sue: Well he would say that, wouldn’t he. For legal reasons.

GamesAvon tells the crew that the consignment they’re after is protected by a security system that’s supposed to be impregnable.

Sue: Paul Darrow has lost a lot of weight. His clothes don’t hug his figure like they used to. I’m worried about his health.

Belkov monitors three men as they attempt to break into an Orbiter that contains his illegal cache of crystals. The only thing standing in their way is a computer game. The first contestant reaches for a gun attached to the wall.

Sue: Phew. For a moment there I thought he was going to play Binatone badminton.

The first player’s opponent is a mirror image of himself. The player is so surprised by this, he loses his focus and is shot and killed by, er, himself.

Sue: Well, that was a shit game. I think they should play something else. Haven’t they got Wii tennis?

Then, despite an excellent first round, Player Two suffers the same fate. A third man – Gerren – barely escapes with his life.

Sue: He looks like the German submarine captain in Das Boot. I love that film. “Dive! Dive! Dive!”

GamesShe doesn’t recognise David Neal from The Caves of Androzani, but given the size of his beard this is only to be expected. Anyway, Avon has blackmailed Gerren into helping them.

Sue: So Avon’s latest expert is practically dead and we’re only ten minutes into the episode. That must be a new record. I don’t rate his chances of making it to the credits.

Meanwhile, on the surface of Mecron Two…

Sue: Great. Another ****ing quarry… Oh no. Even better! Another ****ing Servalan story. You’d think she’d wear something practical, just this once. You know, like a nice pair of dungarees and some hiking boots. She could accessorise the look with a nice diamond broach if she wanted to, but come on, Neil, it’s ridiculous having to watch her teetering around on a beach in those stupid heels.

Sue sighs deeply.

Sue: And this is too much of a coincidence for me. It stretches believability to breaking point. Can’t they think of a way for Avon and Servalan to meet each other on purpose? Is it really that hard?

When Scorpio arrives at Mecron Two, someone tries to make contact them.

Slave: I fear I am unable to identify them Master. I regret this failure most bitterly.

Avon: Orac?

Orac: The message is coming via a Federation-class Alpha-One-Nine-Seven computer.

Sue: What is the point of Slave? Just switch him off and let Orac take over the ship. Slave sounds like he’s stoned all the time, anyway.

GamesBelkov wants to do a deal: his safety in exchange for his secret cache of feldon crystals.

Sue: He’s a fabulous actor. He’s probably the best guest star to appear in the series so far. They must have been over the moon when they booked him.

Servalan isn’t very happy with Belkov.

Sue: Do you think people believe that Sleer is Servalan’s twin sister? Is that how they make sense of this madness?

Me: You have to let it go, Sue.

Sue: I can’t. It’s a big problem for me. Not only does it make absolutely no sense whatsoever, I don’t see the point of it. Why can’t she just be Servalan? It’s needlessly complicated.

Dayna, Tarrant, Gerren and Vila teleport to the surface of Mecron Two.

Sue: The direction is a lot better than usual. The high-angle shot of the quarry just then really pushed the boat out. They didn’t have to do that, but it was worth it.

Dayna shoots a Federation guard, although it looks like one of the planet’s natives got there first when Vila removes a blood-stained metal triangle from the trooper’s back.

Sue: I bet they got into trouble for that scene. That was very gruesome.

Avon wants to move Scorpio so it will be perpetually eclipsed by the Orbiter.

GamesSue: That’s a lovely shot. I bet they wish they had a bigger window they could look out of.

Avon brushes off Soolin’s concerns for the rest of the crew.

Avon: At least you and I can be certain that we can get away when we want to.

Sue: Avon’s still a selfish **** at the end of the day. Nothing’s really changed over the last – what is it – four years?

Gerren escorts Tarrant’s party to the planet’s high pressure processing plant.

Gerren: That’s the pressure container. An electro-magnetic field produces such high pressure that everything except the feldon crystals is reduced to a fine dust.

Sue: There’s a lot of chat in this episode. There’s only five minutes left and nothing’s happened yet.

Me: We’re only twenty minutes into this, Sue.

Sue: Really? Bloody hell, it’s even slower than I thought.

Federation troopers detain our heroes and demand to see their identification.

GamesSue: If Avon’s gang are on the Federation’s Most Wanted list, you’d think the Federation would know what they looked like, wouldn’t you. This just proves that they don’t give a shit about them, unless you count Servalan, and that’s definitely personal.

Our heroes make short work of the troopers.

Sue: Wow. A nicely staged fight for a change. I’m impressed.

Tarrant pushes a Federation trooper into the pressure plant and a puff of red dust fills in the blanks.

Sue: That was pretty grim for 7 o’clock. This episode isn’t pulling any punches. At least they didn’t dwell on it too much.

Me: It reminds me of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. And Belkov reminds me of a Bond villain, too.

Sue: So who’s James Bond? It can’t be Avon if he’s stuck on the ship.

Me: Well, Vila, obviously.

Sue: **** off!

Servalan wants to know where Belkov has hidden his crystals.

Sue: Are you sure he hasn’t stuck them up his jumper. Maybe he isn’t as big as he looks.

Belkov offers to trade Avon, Tarrant and Vila in exchange for Servalan’s help.

Sue: He didn’t mention the women. They can’t be infamous enough, which means they should both run away the next chance they get. I mean, why doesn’t Soolin ask to be dropped off on the nearest inhabitable planet? I don’t get it.

GamesOn the planet’s surface, Vila, Gerren and Tarrant approach the door that will lead them to Belkov.

Sue: The Federation are using supermarket packing trolleys. My friend Christine stole one of those from the back of a shop after school one day. I have a very vivid memory of me pushing it down the road while she sat in it and played her saxophone. Don’t ask me why we did it because I don’t know.

Me: When I was a teenager, I worked in supermarket called Victor Value as a shelf-stacker. When the shop was closed, we used the packing trolleys as stock cars. We’d race down the aisles pretending we were taking part in Mad Max meets Dawn of the Dead. The worst culprit was our supervisor, and he was in his thirties.

We swap more supermarket packing trolley stories before resuming the episode, at which point our heroes are practically knocking on Belkov’s front door.

Sue: That’s the best door-in-a-cliff to appear in Blake’s 7 so far. And to be fair, there’s been quite a few.

Avon wants Orac to tell him everything he knows about Belkov’s supercomputer.

Orac: You suggested I spared you the technical details.

Avon: Oh, don’t sulk, Orac.

Sue: I could watch these two sniping at each other all day. I like the way that both Avon and the other guy treat their machines with more respect than they do other human beings. And why does Paul Darrow sound like he’s appearing in a Shakespeare play?

GamesAvon: So what we need is not the right answer, but the right question!

Sue: To be or not to be? See, he’s auditioning for Hamlet.

Tarrant, Dayna and Gerren reach Belkov’s lair. Belkov warns them that Gambit will raise the alarm if they kill him.

Sue: Wasn’t there a Doctor Who story called Gambit?

Me: No, but there is a Blake’s 7 story called Gambit. We watched it four months ago.

Sue: It’s all beginning to blur together into one big… thing. I don’t know how you can remember all this stuff. How can there be enough room for it in your head?

Belkov keeps switching sides. This time he offers to send Servalan into a trap so they can all steal a spaceship together.

Sue: He’s playing games with everyone and they don’t even know it. It’s really good, this. It’s a very clever script.

There’s an almighty explosion and Vila watches in horror as a man rushes out of the cave in flames.

Sue: **** me! Look at that! Either that’s a fantastic stunt or something’s going horribly wrong and we’re witnessing a terrible accident.

I usually only capture those moments in Blake’s 7 that are so bad they have to be seen to be believed. Today, I’m making an exception to that rule. I mean, come on! How good is this?!

When Servalan and her men investigate another cave, they interrupt a religious ceremony that’s already in progress.

Me: It’s all gone a bit Eyes Wide Shut.

Sue: You wish.

GamesServalan’s men are butchered on the spot.

Sue: Why is Servalan posing for a calendar shoot?

Servalan shakes her head and leaves.

Me: I’m sorry, Sue, but as far as I am concerned, that’s Blake’s 7 funniest moment by far. The look of disinterest on Servalan’s face just then – priceless.

Avon has identified Belkov’s weak spot:

Avon: Belkov does not trust anyone except that machine. It is his bodyguard, his companion, his playmate… his friend.

Sue: He reminds me of someone I could mention. Someone who isn’t sitting all that far away, Neil.

I don’t know what she means.

Sue: And Orac is the closest thing Avon has to a real friend, so he knows what he’s talking about.

Vila sneaks into Belkov’s lair.

GamesSue: His computer reminds me of a giant game of Frustration. I just want to pop it.

When Belkov returns, Vila hides behind the computer. Belkov asks for a security update and Gambit provides him the location of every single person except Vila.

Sue: (as Gambit) Oh, and I almost forgot to mention: there’s a weird guy squatting behind me. You might want to check that out.

Gambit: Security scan completed.

Sue: What? Did she do that on purpose? That was crazy.

Belkov has some bad news for his computer: he will have to leave her behind.

Gambit: Is there some other function you wish me to carry out?

Sue: (as Belkov) Yes, whatever you do, don’t forget to erase my porn collection as soon as I leave.

Belkov: I shall miss you. I don’t suppose that concept could possibly mean anything to you. I just thought I’d mention it.

Sue: This is touching. Weird, but touching. I couldn’t imagine Avon having this conversation with Orac, but he is really selling it to me; he’s such a good actor.

Vila convinces Gambit to part with one of her circuit boards before persuading her to set Tarrant, Dayna and Gerren free.

Sue: And he didn’t even have to raise his voice. There’s a message there, somewhere.

GamesVila shoots a Federation guard at point-blank range, as calm as you like.

Sue: Vila is stealing the show this week. Even I’m impressed.

Gerren is shot and captured, but Vila, Dayna and Tarrant are teleported to safety.

Sue: This is probably Blake’s 7‘s best directed episode so far.

Me: Even better than Douglas Camfield’s?

Sue: It’s definitely up there.

Me: The director’s name is Vivienne Cozens and you’ll be pleased to know that she directs the next episode as well.

Sue: Excellent. Things are finally looking up for this show. The direction is very cinematic. It makes all the difference.

Servalan interrogates a badly wounded Gerren.

Sue: Is he not dead yet? He’s ****ing indestructible!

Soolin prepares to play the Orbiter’s first game.

Soolin: You have to out-shoot yourself.

Sue: It’s the perfect game for people with low self-esteem.

Me: I bet this isn’t what Vila had in mind when he said he wanted to watch Soolin play with herself.

Sue: When did he say that?

Me: In a dream I had last week. Sorry.

Against all the odds, Soolin wins.

GamesSue: Is that it? All she gets is a message on a TV screen that says ‘Very Good’!? Doesn’t she get any tickets that she can exchange for sweets later on? Or a goldfish?

It’s Tarrant’s turn to step up to the plate – this time in a high-tech flight simulator.

Sue: (as Tarrant) So where do you put your fifty pence piece?

Meanwhile, on Scorpio…

Dayna: Slave, what’s the position of those Federation ships?

Slave: The leading ship will be within firing range in one minute, Madam.

Sue: What would have happened if Dayna hadn’t asked that question at that precise moment? Would Slave have kept his mouth shut, or would he have warned her? I need to know.

Tarrant’s piloting skills are put to the test.

Sue: This is way ahead of its time. Computer games were just coming into fashion back then – we wouldn’t see games as good as the one Tarrant is playing for years. If they ever bring Blake’s 7 back, this is one of the episodes they should definitely remake.

Vila uses his initiative to open the next door.

Sue: Vila is showing everybody up today. There’s no stopping him.

The Orbiter moves out of orbit, which leaves the Scorpio exposed to a Federation attack.

Sue: Ooh, this is really exciting all of a sudden!

GamesSue finally notices that Gambit’s circuit board has been bolted to the top of Orac.

Sue: So is she Orac’s girlfriend, now?

Me: STOP IT!

Avon: There aren’t any damned crystals. There never were any damned crystals. They’re like everything else on this ship: a game!

Me: It’s basically 3-2-1 in space.

Sue: They should have included a version of Tipping Point, but with bombs instead of coins. They missed a trick there.

Gambit decides to turn the tables on Belkov. Well, you know what they say about a computer scorned.

Sue: Checkmate, mate.

Belkov opens a door to a black hole (keep up at the back), but Avon has a cunning plan.

Orac: It would appear that positive and negative inputs were balanced by the feldon crystals. Indeed, the balance was so perfect, that they simply ceased to exist, along with everything in their immediate vicinity.

Sue: Eh? What? Oh, forget it. I don’t care. Whatever happened, it was exciting. So is the bad guy dead or what?

Me: I guess so.

Sue: That’s a shame. And Servalan? Where has she got to? Has she ceased to exist as well?

Me: What do you think?

Sue: I think she’ll be back next week.

GamesJust when the crew think they’ll be heading home empty-handed, Vila produces a crystal necklace that he’s stolen from Belkov. Unfortunately, Avon has some bad news:

Avon: It’s a fake. End game to Belkov.

Cue credits.

Sue: They didn’t even get a miniature Dusty Bin. What a shame.

The Score:

Sue: It took a long time to get going – it was very talky at the beginning – but when it pulled its finger out, it was great. The direction was especially good and the man from Z-Cars was brilliant. I even liked Vila, so it must be good. I could have done without Servalan, but I’m getting used to that. And Paul Darrow needs to tone it down a bit, obviously. But apart from that… Yeah, I enjoyed that one a lot.

8/10

Next Time:

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171 comments

  • Visit site
    August 10, 2014 8:19 pmPosted 2 years ago
    executrix

    Well, maybe there’s a God above,
    But all I’ve ever learned of love,
    Is how to shoot at someone who out-drew ya.

  • August 10, 2014 8:25 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Chris Allen

    “He’s probably the best guest star to appear in the series so far”

    He certainly gives the episode a much needed boost.

    “At least you and I can be certain that we can get away when we want to”

    I still don’t think Avon should be quite so open about ditching the others in front of Soolin (see “Stardrive”). She might get the idea that one day it might be her. And she’s not a woman you want coming after you seeking revenge.

    “Well, Vila, obviously”

    Villa could be a half-way decent Jimmy Bond, Bond’s nephew. I’m not sure he needs the Woody Allen glasses though.

    • Visit site
      August 12, 2014 7:01 pmPosted 2 years ago
      Fiona

      Avon has now been open about ditching everyone in front of everyone and why this seems to bother no-one and why they will leave him in charge of the escape route instead of insisting he comes along, at blaster-point if necessary…is a giant mystery.
      Not to mention a giant hole in the entire story. Just once would be enough to end all trust between leader and team, never mind consistently. Jesus, the guy lost them the Liberator with his personal shenanigans!
      And I miss Zen and hate Slave. Why bother getting an I-dont-know, I’m-worthless, Master, from that annoying whining Midlands voice when wonderful Orac, best character after Avon, is simply waiting to precisely rap out the answers? Is it just to not hurt Slave’s feelings?
      I adore Orac’s pronunciation: love how he says ‘problim’ and ‘systim’. There is a problim, with the systim…
      Incidentally, someone on youtube was mooting the idea that “Orac Makes Eight” would be a good band name.
      Would it? Any thoughts??

      • Visit site
        August 13, 2014 3:57 pmPosted 2 years ago
        Frankymole

        “Jesus, the guy lost them the Liberator with his personal shenanigans!” True, and I bet Cally tore him off a massive strip in the discussion they had in the Terminal base just after episode C13 and before D1, before deciding on a course of action (checking out Servalan’s ship).

        You could see it on Cally’s face in her last on-screen appearance. So maybe, in mitigation, Avon explained why he’d been pursuing the Blake signal – after all, he must’ve, as no-one asks about his motivation in “Terminal” from “Rescue” onwards. The others trusted him just enough – as far as trust ever goes amongst this crew – to believe even Avon made a fallible human mistake.

        [He had 18 months to make himself clear ;)]

        • Visit site
          August 13, 2014 4:41 pmPosted 2 years ago
          Fiona

          And how was he going to explain that Blake was supposed to have found some fabulous source of wealth and he was going to stiff them out of it?
          I guess that part would be left out, especially given it was just a complex excuse to give himself a non-emotional reason to go.
          Yeah, actually, wait. How was he going to explain it to them? “I got and then followed Blake’s signal, threatening all of you with death if you came after me”.
          Its beyond explanation.
          “I was so desperate to find this guy, even though I always acted like I hated him, that I dared not take the risk you’d not go along and physically stop me. Perhaps you’ll recall how I would wind him up to the point of nearly hitting me and then fling my arms around him when he got knocked to the floor. You are free to speculate about the depth, origin and reason for these feelings, openly and to my face. I’ll discuss them: it might be therapeutic. No sense bottling things up, is there? It isnt healthy”.
          Yeah riiiiiggghhht!!!! As in, no way. Not even Cally was going to demand reasons and apologies. They were all going to tiptoe around it forever and ever and it will Never Be Mentioned Again.

          • Visit site
            August 13, 2014 8:13 pmPosted 2 years ago
            Frankymole

            Well, they are British! Of course it’d all go without saying, lost in stiff upper-lippery. Cally’s accusatory glance said it all.

  • Visit site
    August 10, 2014 8:58 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Licence

    I’ve never much cared for this one.

    Nothing particularly wrong with it (no more than any Blake’s Seven episode)… it just doesn’t float my boat.

    I even tried watching it the other day but was bored stiff throughout most of it.

    Still much better than Animals though!

  • Visit site
    August 10, 2014 9:18 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Dave Sanders

    Judged next to today’s gaming metro
    Belkov prefers his to be retro,
    With no server lagging,
    Uncalled-for teabagging
    Or teammates that dub him non-hetero.

    • Visit site
      August 12, 2014 7:02 pmPosted 2 years ago
      Fiona

      Oh Dave, fabulous!

  • Visit site
    August 10, 2014 10:43 pmPosted 2 years ago
    DPC

    I’ve read conflicting articles – one has Whedon saying he hadn’t. And another saying he had…

    http://thewertzone.blogspot.com/2012/07/blakes-7-remake-announced.html

    “Games” is a fun story. Obviously it’s convenient that the computer will obey Vila without thinking about anything (despite being programmed to be uber-paranoid it obviously has enough AI and bought into Vila’s discussion point), and that it’s far more convenient that the cool trope of getting past traps were met by just the right people (Soolin, Tarrant, Vila), but it’s highly enjoyable.

    Even Servalan is fun as she psychologically tortures Garren and plays mindgames with Belkov. Series 3 and 4 overused her, but it’s times like this when I’m glad somebody other than the actor made proper use of her. Ms. Pearce had to elevate her character a lot, but “Games” had her being genuinely interesting as a character.

    I love the CGI (the text panel saying “very good! Score 100”.) or CTI since it’s text and not graphics. It’s so modern… if it was generated on a Commodore PET in 1980, which it probably was… if not a BBC Micro… but computers were more functional back then and not as pretty. It’s crude yet it’s not as fakey-mannequin-like as some stuff made today.

    And I don’t think B7 ever got more topical to a problem (“energy crisis”, as Avon says) than “Games”.

    Definitely 8/10. I wonder how next week’s will be – am hoping Sue sees it as being a classic…

    • Visit site
      August 11, 2014 12:55 amPosted 2 years ago
      Dave Sanders

      I was going to joke about imagining if Avon had to input the correct entry code by playing Dance Dance Revolution, except that had already near-as-dammit happened in series one of The Adventure Game.

      But now the mental image is in your head, the next challenge is to *stop* imagining it. You’re welcome.

      • August 11, 2014 6:28 pmPosted 2 years ago
        encyclops

        I can just see his fierce concentration face as he hops around like a maniac.

        • Visit site
          August 11, 2014 7:44 pmPosted 2 years ago
          Dave Sanders

          Oh good, Youtube still has it. Here, refresh your memories with this.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bt3GrUEz9_c

          • Visit site
            August 11, 2014 10:06 pmPosted 2 years ago
            Anniew

            Why did I know nothing about this? The crystal maze with dragons. Awesome

          • Visit site
            August 11, 2014 10:47 pmPosted 2 years ago
            Karyl

            I literally could NOT sit through that video! NO, NO, NO, NO!!!

            That narrator didn’t do a THING for me, and the plot was just, just…..EW!

            Watching ‘Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too’ was more entertaining!

          • August 12, 2014 9:35 amPosted 2 years ago
            Michael Clark

            Gronda gronda, Rangdo. Say that to a kid today and you’ll be on a register in seconds!

          • Visit site
            August 12, 2014 8:37 pmPosted 2 years ago
            Supersynths

            Or they could just say “doogy rev!” 😉

          • Visit site
            August 13, 2014 11:42 amPosted 2 years ago
            Fiona

            Was Paul filming Drake’s Venture then? Hence the beard? I didnt even recognize him til he spoke.
            Actually I didnt recognize him til the guy said “Paul Darrow”. the slacks and maroon jumper didnt help. Here come the 1980s, it is only going to get worse.

          • Visit site
            August 13, 2014 8:28 pmPosted 2 years ago
            Dave Sanders

            It’s not proper 1980s until the shoulderpads turn up.

          • Visit site
            August 13, 2014 9:53 pmPosted 2 years ago
            Frankymole

            Who exactly was “Robert Malos”?? His only IMDB credit is this thing and I can’t find anything about him on any web search. Was he just a random member of the production team or of the public, put in as a late replacement for someone who dropped out?

          • August 14, 2014 8:59 pmPosted 2 years ago
            Andy Luke

            I love you Dave Sanders.

        • Visit site
          August 12, 2014 7:07 pmPosted 2 years ago
          Fiona

          I wish to God I was a smart computer person and could make that.

          • Visit site
            August 13, 2014 10:28 pmPosted 2 years ago
            Frankymole

            I’ve just realised that one of the “Dragon-anagrams” aliens in “The Adventure Game” clip is a Phibian costume from “Orac”. Belt me round the head with one of Professor Ensor’s pot-plants for an idiot.

    • Visit site
      August 11, 2014 1:35 pmPosted 2 years ago
      RLF

      DPC: I think the text is from an Aston electronic (not computer!) character generator which was used all over the BBC for captions and titles. It’s being displayed on a perfectly standard Hitachi-type CRT monitor which, if memory serves, could work as an extension screen for an oscilloscope, which means you’re seeing vector, not raster text.

      (although, the Aston was capable of input to a normal CSO or Inlay generator, so it must have had genlocked Composite Video output too…)

    • August 11, 2014 7:52 pmPosted 2 years ago
      Adam Whitehead

      Whedon mentions it very vaguely in some interviews about ten years ago, I think maybe with SFX Magazine. It’s surprising that he’s more certain in his biography about never having seen it. Whedon was studying in the UK in 1980-81 when the show was at the peak of its success and getting its largest viewing figures, and when he did watch DOCTOR WHO, so it’d be surprising if he had avoided it altogether.

      • August 12, 2014 11:43 amPosted 2 years ago
        Michael Clark

        Since Firefly is basically Blake’s 7 I think he was trying to avoid publicising the connection. There’s a few writers working in America that are fans, you sometimes see nods popping up in their work. Probably the most blatant was going to be Babylon 5’s spin off ‘Crusade.’ The planned, but never filmed, second series had a crew of freedom fighters running away from the evil earth federation in their 3 winged spaceship.

  • Visit site
    August 10, 2014 10:45 pmPosted 2 years ago
    The Hand of Fear

    Belkov opens a door to a black hole (keep up at the back), but Avon .

    Incomplete sentence alert! It’s been ages since I saw this story so I’m dying to find out what Avon was up at this point.

  • Visit site
    August 10, 2014 11:24 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Rob

    Love this eppy for the same reasons as Sue. Great location filming, *spectacular* explosions that you simply didn’t see in any other show on the box at that time and a cracking performance from Stratford Johns who was brilliant in everything he appeared in (no saving Four to Doomsday though).

    Belkov: I shall miss you. I don’t suppose that concept could possibly mean anything to you. I just thought I’d mention it.

    A great B7 moment and probably how I will feel once this blog reached Gauda Prime.

  • August 10, 2014 11:29 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Andy Luke

    “Well now, just who are they sending?”
    asks Avon, sure not intending
    He gave his eyelids give a bat
    And asked “Which is that
    Servalan: the blonde or redhead contending?”

    Btw, anyone else hear Avon introduce his friend as Hadamission Gerren?

  • August 10, 2014 11:34 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Andy Luke

    I have a memory of a sequence near the start too were characters would say something, then it would appear on the computer, and then they’d say something else and that would appear on the computer as well, then there would be another thing and that would come up on the screen. I might have dreamed this or it might have happened but I couldn’t be tossed to go back and watch out or it.

    Oh god no.

    Ah well, at least it was a flight simulator, not the karaoke. I’m not ready for that.

    I think the C-plot of the computer games could have totally sucked for me had it been later in the decade. There’s a beauty in the nostalgia invocation. “Games” transcend ludicrous to give a nice warming nurture. If you get my drift.

    Sue finally notices that Gambit’s circuit board has been bolted to the top of Orac.

    Sue: So is she Orac’s girlfriend, now?

    Me: STOP IT!

    YES! Gambit is a lot more pleasant to be around than Slave: very polite, obviously good company. Is there any slash fanfic on Gambit getting it on with Orac? Or Slave? I think Avon could marry them, and they’d name their first child Zen.

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    August 10, 2014 11:43 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Katie c

    “Belkov opens a door to a black hole (keep up at the back)”

    Yes that’s me…someone please explain the ending because I don’t get it.

    Apart from that, Games is ok, everyone has their moments (especially Vila)
    great stunts and explosions. Just not one of my favourites that’s all.

    For some reason I’m insanely excited about Sand and what Sue will make of it. Should be fun…

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      August 11, 2014 1:15 amPosted 2 years ago
      Dave Sanders

      The rushed ending is the only part of the plot that really lets the side down, but gets away with it by at least looking exciting, with enough “shit’s going down” build up just ahead of it. As close as I can figure it, rather than the black hole making a physical presence (which would be absurd), the Orbiter’s feldon panels generate a traction field as Belkov explained on the video link with Scorpio earlier; one with a power source so strong that it can drag in every vessel in a wide area until the self-destruct countdown hits zero, and Orbitor, ships, Uncle Tom Cobbley and all go up together in one tidy package. Belkov is basically ensuring that if he can’t get away safely, he’s buggered if anyone else is going to either.

      No matter how you try and look at it though it doesn’t *quite* work, since apparently that power source energy is capable of escaping the pull of a black hole now.

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    August 10, 2014 11:57 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Karyl

    Holy Jiminy Crickets, I don’t even REMEMBER this eppy and I watched all four series back in the day on PBS!

    Either it really sucked eggs, or my memory is utter crap these days.

    From the review, I don’t think I can get up the enthusiasm to watch it myself. Jackie Pearce was definitely overused in the third and fourth seasons.

    And what was UP with Paul Darrow’s weight loss? Was he sick or something? Or was he simply trying to recapture his glory days when he was in his twenties?

    I tell you one thing though, from what I’ve seen of how he looks NOW, he is NEVER going to be that thin AGAIN!

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      August 11, 2014 7:10 amPosted 2 years ago
      Anniew

      Re weight loss. I imagine it was an instruction from the production team. And since the man is 70 plus and comfortable in his skin he no longer feels the need to be super slim – and has eschewed cosmetic enhancement.

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        August 11, 2014 3:10 pmPosted 2 years ago
        Smile

        It maybe helps too that the new costume is a bit more flattering to his figure. As I understand it, the new costumes for the crew were intended to be lighter, for filming in the Summer months.

        The location filming for the episodes Rescue – Headhunter was all recorded in February and March 1981 when it would still have been fairly cool or temperate outside most days, and you may also notice that Vila and Tarrant’s costumes in those episodes have several layers. They’re each wearing a jumper, dark blue for Vila and white for Tarrant, under their top tunics and Vila also has a jacket additional to that. I think Dayna’s and Soolin’s costumes are also made of a thicker fabric than their later ones. Avon’s meanwhile has about three layers on top, a black jumper, a black tunic over that with a sort of v-neck white collar, and a black jacket with padded shoulders on the sleeves. It may have meant making him look a little fatter than he actually was, although admittedly he probably also had lost some weight by the time they did the later episodes.

        Whereas the second location filming block for the season, covering all of the subsequent episodes that year, was recorded between July and October 1981, with most of the material apparently being recorded in July and August. Hence the regulars have much lighter costumes for filming during a warmer time of year. Avon’s is basically a jumpsuit with boots and a belt, so it’s mostly only one layer, and although he does also sometimes wear a sleeveless jacket, it’s a much thinner and lighter one than before, so it doesn’t seem to add so much to his form.

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          August 11, 2014 7:46 pmPosted 2 years ago
          Doogles

          I own the Avon costume from the first half of that season and can confirm that it is pretty heavy. The main part of the costume is a jumpsuit of some kind of black velvet material, with studded leather padding round the shoulders. Under this Paul would wear a black top and on top was a sleeveless jacket with again studded leather padding round the shoulders – this has gone walkabout so I only have the main jumpsuit piece. But the theory about it being a heavy winter costume is sound.

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            August 13, 2014 11:24 amPosted 2 years ago
            Fiona

            Can you get into it? Do you take on the Avon Personality? Grab the last taxi and leave all your mates behind….

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        August 13, 2014 11:44 amPosted 2 years ago
        Fiona

        Yeah right on Annie! You’re mean, Karyl! We love our Paul any way he is.

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          August 13, 2014 9:37 pmPosted 2 years ago
          Karyl

          I most certainly was NOT being mean! I didn’t really notice that he had lost a lot of weight that year UNTIL other people her pointed it out.

          Then, I went back, looked at a couple of eppies and thought, “Holy mackerel! He’s SKINNY!”

          To be honest, I thought that he had come down with something back then.

          So, no. I was NOT being mean!

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      August 12, 2014 7:19 pmPosted 2 years ago
      Fiona

      Actually, Ive seen a recent shot of him and he looked as if he had dropped all that middle-age spread and iit looked to me like maybe he had had some surgery in his throat, and maybe lost weight through this, but I doubt we would ever know because he doesnt seem to do the personal gossip stuff. He looked thin, and has to be said, he looked really good.
      Actors in those days had more gravitas than vanity. They didnt spend their 40s and 50s in the gym but clearly on enjoying life, and so you would see your favourites being cast in age-appropriate, and middle-aged spread appropriate roles.
      And that wasnt such a bad thing. The way modern actors do, you get the likes of Hugh Jackman all overbuilt like crazy because once you start that bulking up, you have to keep going and keep going they do.
      Our Paul Darrows and Gareth Jones’ looked more human.
      I wouldnt call Paul’s ‘glory days’ his twenties. He is 37 at Blakes 7 start and he could not look better.

      He’s lucky he was at his most beautiful in the 70s. What tabloids would do with him now.

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        August 13, 2014 11:50 amPosted 2 years ago
        Fiona
        • Visit site
          August 13, 2014 4:11 pmPosted 2 years ago
          Frankymole

          A little greyer than when I last saw him, but granted that’s a nice casual pose, looks cooler than with my Blakes 7 annual in his hand, but don’t take up the coffin nails, kids 🙂

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            August 13, 2014 4:58 pmPosted 2 years ago
            Fiona

            Lol, I swear, looking at that snap, the temptation to take up again a long-sacked habit nearly overcame me. Paul Darrow gives good smoking, no doubt about it.
            Would Avon smoke? It’s illogical and irrational and all. But, maybe, now Avon cares nothing about anything, ‘rumours of his death being slightly exaggerated’ only, why not?
            Hey, now I think on, are there any future world series where people smoke? Smoke fags that is, not drugs of other kinds. Would spaceships have smoking areas? Cant really make people go outside. You’d think the kind of gritty spacebars in gritty spaceports inhabited by washed-up smugglers and lost-in-a-bottle bounty hunters that show up with monotonous regularity in fanfiction, would have to have fags. How can a place like that operate without a pall of nicotine? How can you give the impression that you no longer care, yet still have a certain wistfulness, without fags?

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            August 13, 2014 5:56 pmPosted 2 years ago
            executrix

            Avon’s favorite DIY project is making ashtrays out of No Smoking signs. In my fics, Avon and Jenna smoke cigarettes, Vila would like to but they aggravate his weak chest, Blake, Gan, and Cally don’t smoke. Servalan and Travis probably smoke cigarettes (Servalan with a long cigarette holder, Travis space!Gitanes).

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            August 13, 2014 8:33 pmPosted 2 years ago
            Frankymole

            Avon maybe smokes thin cheroots or cigarillos. Travis smokes black Russian cigarettes. Vila’s on the dogends of woodbines. Servalan of course smokes a pipe.

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            August 13, 2014 8:35 pmPosted 2 years ago
            Frankymole

            There are a couple of future-set “Dr Who” stories where people smoke cigarettes. “Resurrection of the Daleks” for one (Eric Saward trying to look “hard”), and “Day of the Daleks” for another (the guerrillas from a destroyed 22nd century Earth smoke cigars).

          • August 14, 2014 9:21 pmPosted 2 years ago
            Andy Luke

            I bet Gan says, “they’re disgusting”, but Jenna and Blake are just blaise. I think they could both be ex-smokers. Jenna on the same brand as Servalan, and Blake used to be on the rollies. But that was many years ago when they were kids.

            The big thing will be vaping I think. It’s made for SF, in fact I think it theirs origins in a 2000AD strip? Sam Slade?

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    August 10, 2014 11:58 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Karyl

    Sorry about the good with my email addy.

    I had wondered why I wasn’t being notified of follow-up comments.

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    August 11, 2014 12:51 amPosted 2 years ago
    Anniew

    I actually thought Avon had toned it down for this episode! My ham detector must be on the blink. Loved the interactions between Belkov and Gambit and Avon and Orac. Actually loved the whole thing. Still not sure what happened at the end. Does Belkov commit suicide ( effectively) or do Gambit’s actions enable him to escape? His laughter could portend either scenario.

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      August 13, 2014 11:22 amPosted 2 years ago
      Fiona

      I thought he had as well. There was considerably less stamping around and he seemed more subdued.
      Maybe that’s what crash diets do to you. Less scran=less ham.

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        August 13, 2014 1:24 pmPosted 2 years ago
        Anniew

        Lol. Enjoyed the pic you posted. Xxx

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      August 13, 2014 4:40 pmPosted 2 years ago
      Frankymole

      “Does Belkov commit suicide ( effectively) or do Gambit’s actions enable him to escape? His laughter could portend either scenario.”

      See my detailed “explanation” but, in short… it’s left beautifully ambiguous.

      The romantics amongst us can assume Belkov decided to die along with the “wife” he’d ordered to self-destruct. The pragmatists amongst us can assume he survived to repent at leisure (and that Vila made another gem-thumping-on-desk-related mistake).

      It’s all a bit like the very careful dual-interpretations allowed for all of Avon’s actions.

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    August 11, 2014 1:02 amPosted 2 years ago
    Frankymole

    Gambit does release Belkov’s controls to manual at the end (which is why he starts laughing – it’s relief, not despair). So presumably he got away. It’s a bit like Rutger Hauer letting Harrison Ford live in Blade Runner, even though he can’t himself survive.

    • August 11, 2014 6:31 pmPosted 2 years ago
      encyclops

      Oh wow…I’m pretty sure I always used to read the laughter as despair, and assumed he died at the end. Strike one more potentially interesting thing about this episode off the list.

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    August 11, 2014 1:25 amPosted 2 years ago
    Amethyst

    Loved this episode, but I too would appreciate someone explaining how Belkov intended to use a black hole to facilitate his escape…

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      August 11, 2014 4:07 pmPosted 2 years ago
      Frankymole

      Gambit gets Belkov in his ship to the escape position (from Mecron II). Belkov at first demands “automatic” control which Gambit refuses to give him (she’s in a sulk).

      Belkov says he’ll die otherwise (presumably he can’t escape the black hole when it is opened by Avon and Co completing the final game in the Orbiter game station); his “automatic” pilot presumably is a course setting to escape the power of the black hole (super-crushing gravity channelled by the feldon panels?).

      Avon works out the “final game” solution i.e. what completing the final star in the sequence will be – the black hole will be “opened” i.e. the Orbiter will link into it and they’ll all be killed; so Avon refuses to complete the game and teleport back to Scorpio.

      Belkov then asks Gambit to “lock” his controls to Orbiter and Cygnus XL (the black hole), allowing him to open the “gateway” to the Black Hole for Orbiter anyway, dooming Avon (who he assumes is still on it). Belkov seems unlikely to do this whilst he can’t escape the vicinity, so presumably when

      Gambit confirms Belkov now has his controls back he laughs because he can avoid the trap whilst (he thinks) making sure Avon and Co fall into it and can’t pursue him or find him again ‘cos they’ll be all squished by the power of the black hole.

      We don’t see Belkov escape, but we don’t see him die either. It’s all down to whether Gambit really gave him control or tricked him – which we have to guess for ourselves!

      That’s how I interpret it anyway. The blakc hole’s force is merely magnified through the feldon panels on the Orbiter to destroy it and whoever completes the Games and finds that Belkov doesn’t keep his fortune there. The black hole has nothing to do with the actual escape, except that Belkov needs to avoid being near/between the Orbiter and the black hole (which he does thanks to Gambit allowing him to control the Orbiter).

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        August 11, 2014 6:24 pmPosted 2 years ago
        Frankymole

        ^^ Missing sentence ending! A bit missing from my summary. “so presumably when… Belkov is sure that Gambit’s transferred control to his sip (after all, his “don’t let’s end it this way” plea might’ve worked) he can then choose to activate the trap that Avon successfully avoided by not finishing the game. Otherwise, it’s pure suicide by Belkov. He could wait and find that Avon didn’t complete the game, and nothing would happen. It is Belkov who actively, manually, sets off the trap.

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          August 12, 2014 7:22 pmPosted 2 years ago
          Fiona

          wow I am glad you worked all that out because I was baffled to say the least. So thanks.

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          August 13, 2014 11:29 amPosted 2 years ago
          Smile

          Belkov must have escaped. Otherwise how could he have appeared in this video a few years later?

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6iqzi7N2Ds

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            August 13, 2014 12:01 pmPosted 2 years ago
            Anniew

            That has made my day. I now understand why you are smile! Thank you.

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            August 13, 2014 2:07 pmPosted 2 years ago
            Licence

            That video was shot where I grew up on Canvey Island.

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            August 13, 2014 3:50 pmPosted 2 years ago
            Frankymole

            Definite proof. End game to Belkov! And he had fun, to boot.

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            August 13, 2014 7:08 pmPosted 2 years ago
            Rob

            Great tune from a golden era of pop 🙂 I remember hearing at the time that Stratford was related to one of the band members and did the video as a favour.

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    August 11, 2014 2:48 amPosted 2 years ago
    Robert Rowles

    I love this episode and I’ve now dredged up a second childhood memory of Blakes 7: Avon’s comment that Belkov trusts no one apart from his computer. It suggests that, like Terminal, this one left a strong impression. But it’s only on rewatching it as an adult, that I’ve come to realise Gambit is effectively Belkov’s wife and, appropriately, the woman scorned who screws him over at the end. His final laugher, and acceptance of mutual distruction, seems natural from an emotionally stunted, obsessive games-player. Their last conversation in his lair is well-observed and touching: turning away, saying ‘self-distruct’ sotto voce, and admitting something like ‘I’ll miss you but this can’t mean anything to you because it makes it easier for me to destroy you’. As close as he ever gets to emotional attachment, which he flinches away from. Well it does mean something to Gambit, as reinforced by by her ‘yes?’. Completely natural intonation, not a hint of computer-speak. Fine acting from Stratford Johns and Rosalind Bailey. Also, there’s something satisfying about the ending, where Belkov outwits everyone else, even in death. A great villain – alongside Count Grendel in my pantheon – but sadly he doesn’t live to scheme another day. A gem of a story. I’m pleased Sue liked it.

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      August 11, 2014 5:57 pmPosted 2 years ago
      Dave Sanders

      There’s a heavy dose of The Wheel In Space here – for the black hole, substitute the Cybermen’s ‘ionised star’. Neither episode seems to grasp just how far away such things would have to be from the action at hand just to not be utterly lethal in their natural state, let alone the script giving them a bad case of Spanish tummy.

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        August 12, 2014 5:23 pmPosted 2 years ago
        RLF

        Well, I think WiS is clearly Kit and David messin’ with each other in a very good-natured way. David is taking the rip out of hard sci-fi, and Kit is making fun of the woo-woo. On one set. For hours. And Hours.

        Hey, maybe there’s one of those handy ‘eternally dynamic equations’ that enable folks to move black holes around and hide them under the floors of meeting halls, that sort of thing.

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        August 13, 2014 4:14 pmPosted 2 years ago
        Frankymole

        Well, the Black Hole has been bangin’ out the gravitons for centuries, all it needs is the “magnifying glass” of feldon to give ’em a big boost and squashing a small orbiting satellite is child’s play for 30th-century engineers. Doesn’t matter how far away it is, in fact if anything Feldon seems to work on some kind of inverse-exponential law – if it helps, handwave it with some kind of eleven-dimension expansion crap, modern cosmologists do!

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    August 11, 2014 3:02 amPosted 2 years ago
    Dave Sanders

    Avon: So what we need is not the right answer, but the right question!

    Sue: To be or not to be? See, he’s auditioning for Hamlet.

    Richard III actually, a few years down the BBC line.

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      August 12, 2014 7:25 pmPosted 2 years ago
      Fiona

      What? when did he do that? Jesus i would have paid plenty of brass to see that. Paul Darrow was born for that role.
      I did read he played Bassanio in Merchant of Venice as a young man and that must have been marvellous too. He’d have had the perfect look. And I bet he would have played the ambiguities of that character very very well. Between Antonio and Portia…sigh. Why isnt theatre routinely recorded.

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        August 12, 2014 10:27 pmPosted 2 years ago
        Dave Sanders

        That was a reference to how he played Tekker in Timelash.

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          August 13, 2014 11:19 amPosted 2 years ago
          Fiona

          I havent seen this Timelash but I have sure heard about it here. so he played the role like Richard III? Is this what you’re saying, Dave? this I have to see.

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            August 13, 2014 11:27 amPosted 2 years ago
            Smile

            Timelash is a Doctor Who story from its 22nd Season in 1985. Darrow’s character in it is a sort of henchman to the main baddie but as he’s on screen more often than the latter, and has plans of he’s own, it often feels more like he’s the adversary. He does play it in a rather Richard III style.

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            August 13, 2014 12:06 pmPosted 2 years ago
            Anniew

            He played it in the style of Lawrence Olivier playing Richard 111 to be pedantic and slightly less subtly but that may have been because the script for Timelash wasn’t as good as Shakespeare’s. It’s worth a view for the unabashed enjoyment Darrow gets from his performance.

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            August 13, 2014 9:57 pmPosted 2 years ago
            RLF

            Um…Fiona…be advised. ‘Timelash’ is widely regarded as one of the worst things ever to be shown on television (although it doesn’t make me want to vomit the way that ‘Warriors of the Deep’ does). It contains everything that people mock and belittle about ‘Doctor Who’ in general: sub-primary-school performances, cardboard sets, pathetic monsters and a script that scans like it was written by a first-year ESL student.

            You might not want to subject yourself to the sight of earnest, dedicated professionals like Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant and Paul D. being publicly humiliated in a production which would honestly be beneath the dignity of Robin Askwith and Bob Grant, but I’ll promise you one thing: you won’t forget it.

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        August 13, 2014 9:38 amPosted 2 years ago
        RLF

        Theatre, opera and classical music isn’t routinely recorded because of collective bargaining. No union agreements sought or obtained.

        A lot of actors dislike the way that their theatrical performances show up on video. I think ’twas Leo McKern who was asked about his definitive King Lear being recoded, and he passed a comment that theatre on video ‘looks like bad acting’.

        Or, another way, it was once explained to me that classical music (meaning ‘orchestral’) is a composers’ medium, jazz is an arrangers’ medium and rock is a performers’ medium. Analagously, cinema is a producers’ medium, TV is a directors, and theatre is an actors. It’s practically impossible to find any one theatrical performance that the director will sign off as definitive, less still the leads, tech staff or whoever happens to be operating the cameras.

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          August 13, 2014 3:52 pmPosted 2 years ago
          Fiona

          I guess. Still, almost seems a shame that out of a whole run, you wouldnt have just one night as a document. How do theatre actors look back at their careers, with nothing to look at?

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            August 13, 2014 4:00 pmPosted 2 years ago
            Frankymole

            I wonder how McKern would’ve reacted to stuff like the Benedict Cumberbatch “Frankenstein” being live-streamed to cinemas!!! It’s not recorded but it is still on a “larger than life” flat screen.

            * hurries off to scrabble for the McKern Lear *

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            August 13, 2014 4:01 pmPosted 2 years ago
            Frankymole

            Oh, and looking back – critic clippings, and issues of “Theatre World”. They can probably remember the evenings of shouting on stage after 200+ performances… 🙂

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        August 13, 2014 4:03 pmPosted 2 years ago
        Frankymole

        The one role of Paul Darrow’s I regret missing (given that Drake’s Venture is on film and so likely to see the light of day at some point) is his on-stage Elvis Presley. It’s probably the role he hankered after the most, too. Unless they’re casting for a Jack Palance biopic.

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          August 13, 2014 4:48 pmPosted 2 years ago
          Anniew

          Oh yes!!!!

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    August 11, 2014 9:03 amPosted 2 years ago
    Marcus Sheppard

    Nonsensical black hole send-off!
    Servalan does nothing to speak of!
    Darrow’s outshone
    By Stratford Johns
    So “Endgame to Belkov!”

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    August 11, 2014 9:11 amPosted 2 years ago
    Robert Rowles

    Sorry, it is the laughter of despair. Belkov’s final words are lock the controls of both this shuttle and the orbiter into Sygnus XL. The black hole was never a means of escape, only a trap for other people who wanted to steal his booty. As soon as Avon realises that’s where they’re going he says ‘shit, we’d better get out of here’. But I think he’s also genuinely tickled by finally being outwitted by her. A true games-player. Maybe there’s the possibility of some kind of manoeuvre like the way Scorpio gets free of the black hole, but from his face and the laughter I don’t think he’s planning this. And there’s Villa’s comment at the end ‘Belkov won’t be needing it (the necklace), not where he’s gone’. Makes it conclusive to me.

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      August 11, 2014 9:47 amPosted 2 years ago
      Anniew

      On the other hand…….. Villa may be assuming erroneously that Belkov is dead. After all Servalan has escaped. Deliberately ambiguous ending??? Wouldn’t be the first. Anyone else noticed There seem to be interesting parallels between Avon and the guest lead? At first they seemed to be used to demonstrate that he is a better, cleverer Option ( Dorian/Forbus, Justin, ) but lately he seems on a par with or even worse than them (dr plaxton, muller, Belkov) Intentional tarnishing of an already ambiguous image?

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    August 11, 2014 12:17 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Robert Rowles

    Actually, on reflection ‘I don’t think he’s aware of this’ is better than ‘planning this’. I’d need to see a lot more evidence from the script before I’d treat ‘Games’ as something like ‘the Turn of the Screw’ (my favourite example of an ambiguous ending). Also, there’s something poetic, albeit twisted, about Belkov and Gambit both playing a game to the death.
    But a gradual tarnishing of Avon’s ‘brand’ during season 4? I agree: he manages to get them away from the black hole, but only just, and it’s desperation rather than strategy. Perhaps there’s a correlation between Avon losing the plot and dramatic quality skyrocketing? I have mixed feelings about Sand (immediately hit by assorted cushions and loo rolls), but otherwise I don’t remember a bad episode from here on. And ok, I’ll rewatch Sand this week.

  • August 11, 2014 5:05 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Michael Clark

    I do like Villa in this episode, I actually like him in most to be honest.

    It was also during the episode where Mrs Servalan was wandering her hotel, after filming, with no kit on – as she couldn’t be bothered changing for the pool. Mad as a cactus. I do like her.

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      August 11, 2014 7:50 pmPosted 2 years ago
      Anniew

      Are cacti particularly susceptible to irrationality? The ones I am acquainted with have seemed rather dull.

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        August 11, 2014 8:09 pmPosted 2 years ago
        Dave Sanders

        The Meglos punchline is too obvious even for me.

        • August 12, 2014 9:36 amPosted 2 years ago
          Michael Clark

          That’s funny, I wasn’t even thinking of Meglos. But it does work better:)>

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          August 12, 2014 10:03 amPosted 2 years ago
          Anniew

          Shame it didn’t think to take it’s clothes off when it took Tom over. I’d have enjoyed that.

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            August 13, 2014 3:46 pmPosted 2 years ago
            Frankymole

            Well, it kept giving away its coat. One of the space brigands coveted the coat, and ended up with two… Tom did shed (and shred) that costume bit by bit but only once he became Davison.

      • Visit site
        August 12, 2014 7:28 pmPosted 2 years ago
        Fiona

        “mad as lorries”; ‘away with the mixer’; now ‘mad as a cactus’: where do they all come from?
        How I love the English English.

        • August 13, 2014 9:51 amPosted 2 years ago
          Michael Clark

          I don’t think there’s a lot of English going on here, Fiona. I just make up phrases as they come.

          Although my mate did say ‘happy as a bag of kittens,’ recently and I haven’t stopped laughing.

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            August 13, 2014 11:13 amPosted 2 years ago
            Fiona

            Lol I say, ‘as much fun as a bag of kittens!’

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          August 13, 2014 10:51 amPosted 2 years ago
          RLF

          You can trace a lot of it back to the first generation of people who studied postmodernism in their undergraduate Eng. Lit. courses: the basic idea of ‘why does metaphor work?’. There are old aphorisms like ‘mad as a kite’ or ‘mad as a coot’, which are just as meaningless (are small water-fowl well-known for suffering from debilitating mental illnesses, or had Arthur Ransome got it wrong?), and you had a swath of pseudo-academics putting forward folk-etymology theories of the words having originated in Old English or Norse or something (file under: dodgy volkisch neo-nazi/neo-pagan sh!te, mid-70’s variety), whether it was common figures of speech, West Midlands dialects, Cumberland place names or the ‘pycho-geography’ of the Yorkshire moors, everything had to have an an ‘ancient meaning’.

          Now, collide that with the Continental influence (constructivism, structuralism, French feminism), despised by the folkies, which suggested that language was not ‘natural’ or ‘a product of the landscape’ at all, but was either constructed to serve an oppressive purpose, or worse, was just a completely arbitrary system of signifiers and signifieds. The postmodernists seized on this with glee, and realised that you could make a simile or a metaphor whose key-value pair had no meaningful relationship at all, but still functioned to communicate the desired concept, hence ‘mad as a balloon’, ‘hanging in the air the way bricks don’t’, or ‘a face like a bulldog licking cream off a chocolate bar’.

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            August 13, 2014 11:15 amPosted 2 years ago
            Fiona

            Poetic, RLF.

            Dodgy volkisch,
            Neo-nazi,
            Neo-pagan,
            Shite.

            70s variety.

            How it flows….it sounds like an advert, somehow.

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            August 13, 2014 12:24 pmPosted 2 years ago
            RLF

            Fiona:
            Since you said that, in my head, it keeps trying to crowbar itself into a ‘Country Life’ advert (“with a Totenkopf / and great-grandma’s knife. If you ahnenerbe in / from St. Ives to Fife / . ‘cos fake Norse roots are boring.”)

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            August 13, 2014 12:32 pmPosted 2 years ago
            Anniew

            This is brilliant but surely all the comparisons you cite DO have a meaningful relationship – just not a direct one? They only work because we can attribute ‘madness’ as the reason for a balloon’s random movement, or visualise the opposite of something built on a foundation or picture the look on the bulldog’s face. And only a culture that had a meaningful relationship to a balloon, bulldog or brick ( or indeed had balloons, bricks or bulldogs) could coin the metaphor in the first place. For the theory to work wouldn’t the metaphor have to be something like as mad as a muglit ( a muglit being an arbitrary made up construct with no presence in the landscape and having a meaning personal to me . And even that is arguably not totally made up as I probably got the concept from a coffee mug with a literary quote in it) ?

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            August 13, 2014 12:33 pmPosted 2 years ago
            Anniew

            On reflection I prefer Fiona’s response!

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            August 13, 2014 2:06 pmPosted 2 years ago
            RLF

            AnnieW: You certainly could make that assertion, but it still follows that the signifiersignified relationship is not a ‘natural’ or what Saussure called an ‘iconically correlated’ one. Metaphors by their nature are culturally located, and if the signified ‘means something’ different to different readers, why not disconnect them completely? In time, culture will take up your new relationship, and it will acquire a meaning as meaningful as one validated by historicity.

            In other words, can we get over the idea of a difference between ‘real meaning’ and ‘aquired meaning’, and is there an order of preference between the two? In my culture, there’s a loan expression meaning “a suicidal attempt to obtain a Phyrric victory” which means “God Wind” in its native culture. One of them is the ‘original’ meaning, but the other holds the greater provenance in my native language. So which, if any, is correct?

            I suppose it’s an attempt, or invitation, to make use of expressions that have culturally encoded meanings as a way to have fun with language. Nobody wants to be around the tedious bore who starts off with “…actually, there is nothing mad about the motion of a balloon. The Brownian motion of the helium atoms inside it, and the thermals that influence its external movement are very predictable on a macroscopic scale and can in no way be compared to the observable behaviours resultant from diagnosed and understood conditions such as manic depression or schizophrenia…”. It’s a playful rebellion against (in Marxist terms) organisations and institutions who claim ownership of ‘real’ ‘meaning’ in an attempt to commodify meaning itself.

            You are quite right, and I used bad examples, because Muglits appear in popular culture all the time. It’s perfectly possible to make a reference to Darth Vader or Lolcats or The Elders of Zion, and people will know what you mean, even if those things once existed only in the imagination of one person. In fact, I just made a semiotic identification with ‘muglit’ and I intend to use it in my daily conversation. So there.

            On reflection, I prefer Fiona’s response to mine, too.

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            August 13, 2014 2:52 pmPosted 2 years ago
            Fiona

            So what is your culture and what was that loan word about Pyrrhic victory you mentioned?

            Neil Neil, I know this is going off-topic, but pls let me find out this as it sounds really interesting.

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          August 13, 2014 3:48 pmPosted 2 years ago
          RLF

          Fiona: the UK. And ‘kami-kaze’.

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            August 13, 2014 4:03 pmPosted 2 years ago
            Fiona

            Oh! the way you spoke, it sounded like it wasnt the UK! I thought it was going to be a Maori word or something.
            The BBC looked down on Blake’s 7 and even though it had 10 million viewers, I guess they snobbishly thought it was just the masses being so undiscriminating. But look at the level of debate on this blog. And I love it is so civilized. There havent been any trolls, there havent been any bannings (I think…or Neil’s dealt with them…have there been, Neil?) I reckon closest might have been Nick and I disagreeing over The Office.
            And isnt that so heartening?

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            August 13, 2014 4:54 pmPosted 2 years ago
            RLF

            Fiona: Yes it is. I’ve been laying off commenting on here until now, because I wanted to line up with the first episodes I saw, for-real, on the telly (‘Power’, for the record). I never commented on WiT&S because everybody else seemed to be doing such a great job, and because I didn’t discover it until the episodes being covered were ones I had nothing good to say about.

            I think that the reasons for the BBC sneering at B7 were something like this: Science Fiction was considered either ‘a BBC2 thing’ in the tradition of ‘Out of the Unknown’: very, very Hard, with unimpeachable credibility, and striving for the absolute extremes of avant-garde in the design, music and storytelling, OR, pabulum for the soft-headed, you know, the kind of thing ITV might show. Never you mind that the BBC had massive Science-Fiction (or at least Dystopian Near Future Fiction) hits throughout the ’70’s (at the very least ‘Doomwatch’ and ‘Survivors’).

            So you have B7 – a show in a damaged-goods genre, helmed up by a notorious old hack…of course the BBC1 brass are going to hate it. And when it launched with huge ratings and appreciation figures, that was all the proof they needed.

            Honestly, if I’d have had my way, B7 would have been much more cutting edge, much harder about its science, much nearer the knuckle about its class and gender politics and everything an Angry Little Boy in the early-80’s could have dreamed of. And it would have been cancelled after three episodes, which is why it’s a good job Vere and Terry never paid a bit of attention to me.

            Instead, we got a show which was derided on transmission, but ran for 52 episodes, still picks up new fans after 35 years and still finds ways to be relevant every time I re-watch. How about that.

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            August 13, 2014 7:18 pmPosted 2 years ago
            Fiona

            Why do you need to wait for TV? Its on youtube. I am still going to buy the DVDs though as I want to watch with the commentary, but Ive been happy to have youtube for this project or couldnt have joined in: Amazon can take forever here. Still, ads five times through, aiyah……

  • August 11, 2014 6:41 pmPosted 2 years ago
    encyclops

    If I squint I can kind of understand how this episode might be appealing. Now that both the main entry and the comments have refreshed my memory of it, I remember enjoying it while it was on. I just find it difficult to remember after it’s over. I can recall the last line, and Stratford Johns saying “I shall miss you”; I remember how dopey was the match-up between games and Scorpio crew; and I dimly remember those triangle-shaped shuriken, but that’s about it. On paper I agree with Sue — I like their heists better than their strikes, and there’s a lot about this that feels like it belongs to an earlier, more lighthearted season. Maybe if I watch it again I’ll agree off paper too.

    • Visit site
      August 13, 2014 12:35 pmPosted 2 years ago
      Anniew

      It’s got the totally charming Stratford Johns in it. Ya gotta love it.

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    August 12, 2014 10:42 amPosted 2 years ago
    Robert

    Has anyone done the story yet about JNT being brassed off about getting Stratford Johns to agree to make Four to Doomsday, and then, *after* they made it, dear dear Vere realised SJ was prepared to do this kind of tat, cast him in Games and then it aired first, stealing DW’s thunder…

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    August 12, 2014 12:39 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Robert Rowles

    If it’s true, Blakes 7 got lucky. Four to Doomsday is weak, and times embarrassing – nothing to do with Stratford Johns – but Games is a great story. To be honest I’m too young for Z Cars (maybe I should watch a few), but I think there was some irony involved in casting one of the most famous TV policemen as an inter-galactic swindler.

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      August 12, 2014 1:19 pmPosted 2 years ago
      Smile

      Stratford Johns was also playing Magwitch in a BBC serial of Great Expectations that was being shown on Sundays the same Autumn as this series. If I’ve calculated it correctly, the seventh episode, where he suddenly returns and meets Pip in his apartment, would have been shown the day before this episode.

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      August 12, 2014 3:46 pmPosted 2 years ago
      Dave Sanders

      It could be true – Four To Doomsday was the first Davison to go into production, and series 4 of Blake was hurried even from the outset.

    • Visit site
      August 12, 2014 5:18 pmPosted 2 years ago
      Rob

      Not heard that one but have previously heard JNT being brassed off that B7 Season 4 was given a bigger budget than Season 19 of Dr Who. Interestingly, Stratford was one of five or six actors that had appeared in both B7 and I Claudius – two of the Beeb’s most endearing dramas in my humble opinion.

  • Visit site
    August 12, 2014 5:03 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Smile

    Games was recorded in the studio on 10 – 12 September 1981, about five months after Four To Doomsday, so they probably wouldn’t have needed to rush that much.

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    August 12, 2014 6:51 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Fiona

    Great episode. Sue is so right about the cinematic direction, the earliest episodes were more like that. It was still a bit over-complicated…thats what comes of it being 50 minutes long, lesson for remakers, please note, half hour long enough.
    Wasnt Vila great? Love the fingerprint! Would that actually work?

    Oh my god, the Belkov guy was utterly top. What an actor. I am really interested in things like this: what is it that makes a good actor? Why is it some people seem to just have this something, it isnt the same as charisma…they hardly need to say anything and just steal the show.
    “The Krays” for example: the Spandau Ballet brothers arent doing a bad job, but then, Steven Berkoff popped in for just a small role as George Cornell. And in just a few seconds he blew everyone else off the entire movie: but why is it?

    And I dont think Avon is really much over-acted, I feel like the others just arent measuring up, all their personalities, with occasional Vila exceptions, seem flat. Doesnt help they all have the same voice, same level and tone. Paul Darrow certainly has talent to burn but it seems like in making Avon so mean and crazy he’s leaving the rest behind. They arent becoming anything and Avon has changed so much since Rumours Of Death.

    If you think about it, thats where the really awful Avon started to appear, no more Avon trying to be a bad guy and really saving everyone, now here’s someone developing into a genuinely nasty piece of work.
    The rest…who are they? They dont get under the skin.

    Definite crash diets…Soolin looks marvellous, but Sue is right, Avon looks frighteningly thin. Why wouldnt they tailor his outfit like they did Soolin’s? Hers fits like a glove: Avon looks baggy and unkempt, almost.

    Ahhh….is Avon disappearing because he hates himself..like anorexics may do? I read that Leslie Van Houten, of the Manson Family, once she was in prison, and her sort of brainwashing wore off and she realized, she was a killer, a real actual took-away-a-life killer, her guilt was so overwhelming and extreme she became severely anorexic. She was trying to do things to make amends, not just knock herself off in remorse, but its like her mind over-ruled her and started to starve her.
    Avon starves himself in self-hate while all the time acting worse and worse to his crew …”at least you and I can get away” Jesus. Surely by now the crew would be completely paralysed. Anytime Avon says, ok, off you teleport, I’d be like, you first Avon, where we can see you. Plus how does he do these sneaky deals! He is always up to summat, he really is.

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    August 13, 2014 9:53 amPosted 2 years ago
    RLF

    Overacting in B7: I always assumed (maybe naively!) that this was a conscious attempt to portray the manners and social conventions of a society and language that is derived from ours, but recognisably no longer ours.

    Avonspeak is very close to the ultra-refined RP they teach you in SW Radio training: you assume you’ll be speaking on poorly-modulated signals, so you have to do all the modulation yourself. You emphasise the distinctive consonants and consonant-vowel groups, and suppress the fluffy glottals and soft vowels. You speak partially though your nose to maximise the amount of high frequencies in your voice’s spectrum, and you learn disambiguations for easily-confused words. It sounds strange when someone in the same room actually speaks that way, but as clear as is possible to whoever is receiving you. (which is, of course, why it’s called ‘received pronunciation’ in the first place.)

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      August 13, 2014 4:26 pmPosted 2 years ago
      Anniew

      RLF I love your posts. A fascinating explanation of the ways meaning is ascribed to language in order to control others and also your explanation of Blake’s 7’s posh voices. Thank you. Is a disambiguation something like emphasising the h in where so it sounds like w.hair ? I also love the idea that the developers of the series might have discussed how the characters should sound rather than just hiring a bunch of middle class actors, although I suspect it had more to do with snobbery. A Blake who said, ‘ well my loverlies,’ or ‘ ain’t that sad’ would have instantly been characterised as comedy value or villain. My old mum was very anxious I should speak with ‘received pronunciation’ so doors would open rather than with Dad’s broad Sussex accent.

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        August 13, 2014 5:35 pmPosted 2 years ago
        Fiona

        Yep, my mum too…coming from a council house in Wythenshawe, she wanted her daughters to ‘speak nicely’ to open doors…and it maters, it really does make a difference. Not least getting regularly battered in said Wythenshawe by local kids when visiting Grandma. My Grandma also used to trundle me round the shops and have me air my pronunciation for all the old ladies: “Eeeh, dunt she speak lovely!”
        And when it came to kid’s programming, you didnt hear common accents like you do now. I cant help disliking it and even feeling snobby about it. I hate hearing this kind of thing, ungrammatical broad working-class accents. Ending up with a nice voice made my life a hell of a lot better. Encouraging kids to speak in common voices is going to stunt their prospects and that is never going to change in England.
        Sometimes I think this is a conspiracy against the working-class, like Ebonics in the US: telling people their own accents are just as good as anyone else’s while closing all the doors on the speakers. They were worried you see. The likes of Annie and me meant they couldnt identify the oiks anymore.
        I am indoctrinated with the idea that Doctor Who and Avon and Blake and Lesley Judd and people of this kind are meant to ‘speak lovely’ and then you know what to aspire to.
        I just never want to hear Doctor Who shout: “Do one, it’s on top, the fuckin’ Daleks are fuckin’ ere…check out me Tardis, it’s well sorted….Oo you lookin’ at, Dalek, think yer ‘ard?””
        or whatever. In fact, “Whatever ” speech would be more acceptable. At least its not aggressive sounding. Imagine beautiful Avon and graceful Blake talking like that.

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          August 13, 2014 6:09 pmPosted 2 years ago
          Anniew

          Have you been watching pirated episodes of Capaldi’s doctor? You know the characterisation based on Malcolm Tucker. ‘If you so much as squeak Exterminate again at me I’m going to shove your eye stalk so far up your arse that you’ll never see the sun again, you fucking electronic moron.’

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          August 13, 2014 8:34 pmPosted 2 years ago
          RLF

          Hee hee…..my regional accent is the one that the producers of B7 thought was appropriate for an utterly subservient and incompetent computer to have (you know, the one nominated in successive surveys as the stupidest-sounding mode of speech in the Commonwealth), so I suppose I know my place. Somehow I managed to avoid becoming inculcated with yam-yam. And no, for the millionth time, I don’t think it makes me “better” than anyone else.

          Anniew: In the context of the series’ narrative, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to imagine that a future fascist regime would indoctrinate its alpha-through-delta grade citizens with certain ways of speaking. The most properly aristocratic accents in the whole series come from Raschel the sex-slave in ‘Weapon’ and Kai-Iri the disobedient slave turned mutoid in ‘Duel’. Servalan, on the other hand, sounds like elocution but not breeding (and I’m sure Jackie does that deliberately). I can never get rid of the idea of Servalan’s dad as a stinking-rich scrap dealer who made sure his Princess got voice lessons, poise-and-deportment lessons and riding lessons, but no actual manners at all.

          Thoughts?

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            August 14, 2014 2:50 amPosted 2 years ago
            Anniew

            RLF: can go along with Servie as Self made though I see her more as a futuristic Mrs Thatcher from a similar background with Jarrier as the screw up cousin she’s forced to find a post for. The scrap metal would account for the wealth however.
            It does make sense that a regime that employs a caste system would re-inforce the boundaries through language and the most fascist characters like Kane or StarKiller or the military lot in traitor , even Jenna all speak with the clipped Avon-type pronunciation which suggest they attended similar schools. Dr Bellfriar, Ushton, Blake perhaps attended the next grade down of schooling? As for Travis – well presumably he and Villa are from the same mean streets but learned to speak proper although Travis2 seems to have forgotten a lot of what he learned!

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            August 14, 2014 6:07 amPosted 2 years ago
            executrix

            From what we see on screen, scrap Perspex is the route to wealth.

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            August 14, 2014 6:04 pmPosted 2 years ago
            Fiona

            No way, Chorlton! I am from Gatley myself and moved to West Didsbury at 16..it would be too weird if we are both regulars from the Barleycorn or Woodstock. I lived on The Beeches for years…Shaun Ryder lived at the end of the street.

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            August 14, 2014 8:09 pmPosted 2 years ago
            RLF

            Hee! He moved with his dad’s job…..mid-’80’s if memory serves.

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          August 13, 2014 11:33 pmPosted 2 years ago
          Leia

          Gosh that’s harsh!

          Not sure I at all agree you can lump accent and correct grammar together as a single marker for proprietry. This country would be a miserable souless place without the accents and dialects scattered across it.

          Why in the world would be working class be something to be ashamed of and hidden?

          Mind you I speak as a common as muck taff with a certain level of fairly strongly held opinions about the nasty, divisive social engineering that went on here in Wales as regards language.

          I also delight in having an accent which makes everyone except people actually from Wales think (correctly) that I’m Welsh and everyone from Wales think I’m English, unless I’m actually speaking Welsh at the time in which case other Welsh speakers can usually pin me to a specific half of a specific county!

          What that says about the reliabilty of accents-as-markers I’m not sure… 😉

          Blake’s 7 on the other hand is almost certainly saying nothing at all, RP was just the done thing at the time. Pretty sure if they recast now that a lot more thought would be given to how they wanted the characters to sound.

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            August 14, 2014 6:41 pmPosted 2 years ago
            Frankymole

            If they’d got Gareth Thomas to use his Welsh accent (like in Morgan’s Boy) it might’ve made for a nice rebellious-Briton distinction against the evil Anglo-Norman Travis and Servalan…

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            August 15, 2014 10:26 amPosted 2 years ago
            Fiona

            I am not saying working class is something to be ashamed of, quite the reverse. What I am saying is straightforwardly practical: in England, accent matters. If you want to be a lawyer or doctor for example, better speak the right language.
            And it used to be working class kids got a chance to learn the codes. They could carry on speaking with their own accents at home and click into a ‘nice voice’ when required. So lots of us got on. The grammar school boys who ejected the upper class from government..or at least a bit.
            and one way that was done was hearing the well-spoken voices of Paul Darrow and Lesley Judd and Tom Baker.
            But now there seems to be an encouragement to speak like…those people you see on Jeremy Kyle. Aside from anything else, a lot of good jobs put you in touch with foreigners now…and foreigners cannot understand a word of Jeremy’s guests. Doesnt stop them being hugely entertained, though.

            Its not about hiding your roots as such: its about being able to communicate with power. Talk like that, and well paid work is very unlikely to come your way.

            after the riots a few years back, some journalists went to interview these marginalized kids on the council estates and said that they ‘couldnt even do a nice telephone voice” they havent a prayer for a decent job…its not just accent, its the aggressive and uneducated sound.

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            August 15, 2014 11:35 amPosted 2 years ago
            Smile

            I think, to be honest, the assumption that to get on in life you need to ditch a regional accent is a rather outdated one which doesn’t really apply much in practice, and has been for decades now. You certainly don’t need to do that to become a doctor anyway. It doesn’t prevent you from having a successful career in business and even MPs can still manage a career with one.

            Really, if we’re going to be frank about it, television was probably about twenty years behind the times on this one. Films largely abandoned RP, or whatever we choose to call it, in the normative sense, around the late 50s/early 60s, and television was lagging behind if anything.

            Let’s not forget that actors like Albert Finney, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Richard Harris and Bob Hoskins, to give some examples, all managed to achieve long lasting and successful acting careers without having to speak in all their roles the way that the people on 70s/80s BC programmes we’re talking about did, and indeed a fair bit of their work predates B7. Any discussion on modern day phonics is going to be highly incomplete without some basic acknowledgement that the 1960s made a huge difference as far as popular culture is concerned, with working class accents becoming far more predominant in films and entertainment.

            It’s not that difficult to still hear relatively modulated accents on television and radio, such as with some presenters and newsreaders, and sometimes with actors on some programmes. Even then, accents and norms evolve over time. If you watch or listen to recordings from the 40s or 50s you can sometimes hear people talking in accents which are far more plummy than even the royal family talk in these days.

            That’s partly because it’s also a bit simplistic to think of it as if it were simply one option versus another as if they were rigidly incompatible. Doesn’t really work like that in practice. A lot of people are able to talk in a way which combines modulated standard English and their own accent and be quite comprehensible in their speech. If someone lives in the same area throughout their lives, and works there, then most people they know will be familiar with the speech patterns and intonation anyway, and if they move away and live and work elsewhere, their accent tends to adapt over time. With exposure to various accents including relatively modulated ones still continuing vis various media, there’s nothing particularly obstructing anyone’s access to them.

            I get the feeling that, as far the present day goes, you may be referring to what’s commonly known as Estuary English, which probably became somewhat influential around the 90s and 00s as opposed to the Cockney or Liverpudlian kind of accents which had become quite fashionable in the 60s and 70s. It’s a demotic form of the language, possibly soap opera-influenced, which people often find a bit flat and ugly, but it’ll eventually move on, as per, no doubt. It’s certainly not universal on screen or radio at any rate.

            Actually, the Australian Question Intonation was something else that used to cause a bit of mild controversy, an alleged trend a decade or two ago where young people, influenced by watching soaps like Neighbours or Home And Away, would start speaking in a rising intonation which would make any sentence they spoke sound like a question even when it wasn’t. At least, that’s what I think it was meant to be. But it’s reportedly dying out now anyway, and relatively few people in the UK still watch those programmes nowadays.

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            August 15, 2014 11:50 amPosted 2 years ago
            Smile

            Oh, and I would say that the reasons for increasing inequality in society are fairly complex and structural and that problems with inarticulacy likely relate mainly to issues around poor socialisation, ineffective education, underinvestment in some areas or neighbourhoods, decline of industries, lack of work or training opportunities, among others. As such, I think that an issue such as badly articulated speech is more of a symptom of problems like these than television drama being a little less middle class than it was nearly forty years ago.

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            August 15, 2014 11:52 amPosted 2 years ago
            RLF

            Fiona: I’d add that a lot of people have been fooled by this media-generated piece of false consciousness (sticking to ‘your roots’, acting like a scally, despising intellectualism, being ‘unpretentious’) as some imagined idea of ‘authenticity’. Certainly no-one from the Owenite or any other proletarian socialist tradition would fall for that.

            The dole-bludgers from Little Hulton or Wren’s Nest who buy Range Rovers out of their coke profits certainly don’t identify as working class. They consider themselves to be businessmen, living the yuppie dream, and they’ve got enough Rolex and Stone Island to prove it.

            Learning a mode of speech which is readily and mutually intelligible to other English-language (including English as Foreign Language) speaking persons is not stuck-up or posh or thinking-you’re-better, unless you happen to think that ‘being interested in communicating with other human beings’ is stuck-up etc etc. RP functions quite well in that model, as does Northern California, British Columbia and quite a few others. In the future, that will change, and global culture will treat you with the same irresistible, unprejudiced indifference with which a glacier treats a sedimentary outcropping. Deal with it, or prepare to stay disenfranchised forever.

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            August 15, 2014 12:30 pmPosted 2 years ago
            RLF

            But Smile…
            At the risk of flogging my horse to death, RP isn’t anyone’s actual accent. Not even people from areas associated with aristocratic breeding and inherited wealth (say, Surrey, West Riding or Worcestershire) actually speak like that. RP was cut from the whole cloth to fulfill a specific job: to be understandable across communication barriers and poor transmission/recording media such as wax-cylinder phonography and single side-band radio, or cinemas or railway stations with little 10w amplifiers and horn speakers to serve 400 people. You can think of it more as a recording industry standard rapidly adopted by the RAF, RSA, RADA, RSC, RCS and BBC.

            One you think of it as a Kitemark as opposed to an ISO, or a DIN instead of an ASA, it makes perfect sense. The increase in the use of (a carefully circumscribed subset of) regional accents in the period 1950-1960 coincided with the increase in capability of recording technology coincident with the availability of inexpensive magnetic tape, comparatively good-quality dynamic microphones and solid-state alternatives to vacuum tubes. Like all great social changes, it was only possible once the necessary technology became affordable.

          • August 15, 2014 12:31 pmPosted 2 years ago
            Neil Perryman (Author)

            I think we are in danger of spiralling wildly off-topic… Meanwhile, on Blake’s 7

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            August 15, 2014 12:44 pmPosted 2 years ago
            Smile

            I know Neil’s asked to stop it going off-topic, so to respect that, I’ll just keep this very brief and reiterate that in practice almost everyone speaks a combination of their own accent, modulated with RP, and to a varying extent in either case – given that, therefore, it’s not nearly or as commonly difficult in practice, as it would have been a century or so ago, for people to be unable to understand each other when they’re from different parts of the country.

            I would also say that I think slovenly or inarticulate speech is a separate – not necessarily unrelated, but not the same – issue from that of regional accents, and it’s best not to conflate them. It’s still possible to speak clearly, articulately and comprehensibly in an accent, and many do throughout their lives with no real issue.

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            August 15, 2014 12:44 pmPosted 2 years ago
            Smile

            That’ll be my last word on it if Neil wants the discussion closed.

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        August 13, 2014 8:42 pmPosted 2 years ago
        RLF

        Anniew again: the bit of radio disambiguation you’ll be familiar with is sounding a very sharp //na// at the end of ‘nine’. ‘Where’ is a difficult one, it’s all vowel phonemes. Trying to enunciate might risk sounding like ‘aware’. You probably wouldn’t say ‘where’ at all. You’d say ‘location’. Just like Avon does.

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          August 13, 2014 9:39 pmPosted 2 years ago
          Karyl

          God only knows what you English would make of my North Bronx accent.

          You’d all be thinking “WTF? What kind of education did SHE have?”

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            August 13, 2014 10:29 pmPosted 2 years ago
            RLF

            Sad to admit, Flushing is the closest I’ve been to N. Bronx. Which is still closer than I’ve been to Sussex.

            But me bezzie mate used to live in Cheadle Hulme. Before he moved to Chorlton.

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    August 13, 2014 10:18 amPosted 2 years ago
    RLF

    “Rumours of Death” is the turning point, but I got a slightly different vibe from it: it’s where Avon’s calculated, cold-blooded detachment comes to its inevitable conclusion and becomes outright sociopathy. It’s an idea that we come across first in ‘Voice from the Past’, where Travis actively tries to immerse himself in the role he’s playing (and fails, can’t resist unmasking himself, and scuppers his own play). In Avon’s case, the role-playing actually takes over. It happens all the time with real-life con-men, spies and undercover cops.

    A year and a half previous to this, Avon had said that he didn’t see why it was necessary to prove that you care (i.e, you either care or you don’t, and being emo doesn’t alter that. Which was Avon’s biggest beef with Blake, after all.). By midway through season 4, without Blake’s ego to mock / contrast himself against, Avon has subsumed himself completely to one of the roles he’s been playing: the cruel, heartless, borderline-sadist, who regards everyone as an enemy to be destroyed or a sucker to be exploited. It’s an incredibly prescient character type for the beginning of the ’80’s, and next time you read ‘American Psycho’ or watch ‘Wall Street’ or hear anything about the Austrian School, remember who got there first.

    A lesser production in a less nihilistic era would have found a way to have Avon redeemed by….love or humanity or a baby panda or something, but we’ve got ‘Sand’, ‘Gold’ and ‘Orbit’ coming up which…well. No spoilers allowed here, right?

    I’ll just say: (i)Servalan keeps her grip on role-play and consensual power exchange better than Avon and (ii)The Most Robert Holmes Thing EVAH!

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      August 13, 2014 12:50 pmPosted 2 years ago
      Anniew

      Yep. Brilliant analysis. My enduring interest in the show is that Avon has tragically reached a place by this episode where he probably never would/could love me or anyone else and then there is the fascination of that moment when he crosses the line and all hope that he might ever return is lost. I guess that’s why there is so much fan fiction devoted to re-writing the show’s history or it’s end.

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      August 13, 2014 3:39 pmPosted 2 years ago
      Frankymole

      “A lesser production in a less nihilistic era would have found a way to have Avon redeemed by….love or humanity or a baby panda or something” – brilliantly lampooned by Gareth Thomas and the “Terminal” production crew, with Avon’s Teddy popping up… “careful, Avon, your sentiment’s showing”.

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      August 13, 2014 4:17 pmPosted 2 years ago
      Rob

      ‘Rumours of Death” is the turning point, but I got a slightly different vibe from it: it’s where Avon’s calculated, cold-blooded detachment comes to its inevitable conclusion and becomes outright sociopathy.’

      I would totally agree with that. A lot of people didn’t seem to understand why or how Avon becomes so unstable towards the end of season 4 at the time but given what the character goes through, there can only be one conclusion to it all. I think also that people are more comfortable watching infallible TV characters that save the day at the last minute (TV is still full of all this). I think the closest we’ve come to a lead character like Avon is Walter White from Breaking Bad.

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      August 13, 2014 6:01 pmPosted 2 years ago
      Fiona

      But Avon didnt really have calculated cold-blooded detachment. He tried to. And it let him down all the time. He tried to take the Liberator and ditch the crew on Horizon and instead, having worked out there was no reason to stay, stayed, til the decision was made for him. He saved Blake at risk of his own life with that electrical coil, and the time he pushed him away from an explosive in the wall, surprised and uneasy at his own behaviour.

      Cally understood him so well…” Have you ever cared about anyone, Avon, except yourself?” Gan and Vila asked sneeringly but Cally understood that Avon cared and his indifference was a pose.

      In fact, Avon repeatedly did not act cold-bloodedly, quite the reverse. How could we love him if he really had been sociopathic?
      But the loss of Blake left him with no good person, no innocent idealist to protect…all that was left was to try and avenge his other love. I hated that episode at first and grew to find it a lot better…there’s a great moment when Anna reappears and asks why he didnt come back for her and he says because she was dead: “As you can see, I’m not…” and “As I can see” says Avon…but he looks so bewildered and helpless because he can’t ‘see’ anything at all.
      The only time I ever saw Avon look as human and unguarded as that was when Blake told him he’d always trusted him (and why did Blake say that? Hardly goes with ‘Avon might run” better take the pilot with me).
      Avon looks totally different at that moment to any time before, everything visible, but when he shoots Anna, it’s like a shutter has gone down. And it doesnt come up again. You know, I dont think Avon makes eye contact with people now.
      That’s such a fine piece of work from Paul Darrow.
      So its not that detachment has become sociopathy: its that an emotionally damaged man, nursing a painful memory and an undying love, seeking to protect himself from further hurt, drawn against his will into an intense relationship with Blake, and then dealt a shocking blow of betrayal, withdraws for real. Becomes what he only pretended to be.
      Even so, it doesnt always happen, does it? look at Nebrox’s rescue! Here’s the old heroic Avon, saving a clapped-out old slave, no ruthless sociopath there.

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        August 13, 2014 7:36 pmPosted 2 years ago
        RLF

        Fiona: Maybe I didn’t explain myself too well. Avon is constantly role-playing. He’s a confidence artist and a swindler; it’s what he does. He’s good enough at it to have gotten past Federation psychiatric screening and to fool Blake most of the time (it’s reasonable to assume that he couldn’t fool Anna.) But he’s running the risk that comes with excessive role-playing…

        ….there’s a great line in the Pilot episode of ‘Miami Vice’, where Saundra Santiago’s character asks Don Johnson “Do you ever forget who you are?” and he replies “honey, sometimes I remember who I am”. I hadn’t thought of your excellent point that Avon is constantly failing to be as ruthless as he thinks he is, and sometimes just decides to be magnanimous and humanitarian for the hell of it. But by the end of season 3, he’s very close to giving in to one or other of his roles. I am forbidden by Board rules from making the point I want to right now, but in 3 episodes time, we’ll have to take this subject up again.

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          August 14, 2014 3:30 amPosted 2 years ago
          Anniew

          Mmm- Avon as con man. Can’t really see that. He commits computer fraud but is far too poor an actor to succeed as a con artist. He’s far too abrasive as well. He could I suppose be a double agent but he lacks the easy charm of Anna or Carnell which he would surely need for the role. Where is the evidence that he’s fooled Federation psychiatric screening? What does he have to gain as a confidence artist by putting himself through 5 days of torture to find out what happened to Anna? Why does he put so much emphasis on keeping his word ( in the end that’s all there is he says and it’s his reason for taking Nebrox with him ) . I like the idea if his being a talented Mr Ripley but really there’s a little too much angst about him for me to be convinced by the theory. Terminal: take the Liberator and keep going ( what’s in it for him if this is role play apart from near certain death) ) We, I lost the Liberator. ( why the admission of the mistake?) I’ve worked with some swindlers in my time and the thing that made them so dangerous was that they’d never give up on the game or allow a second of vulnerability – they’d never allow Blake to shut them up but would push and push until he broke.

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            August 14, 2014 9:10 amPosted 2 years ago
            frankymole

            I suppose he cons Klegg in “Powerplay”.

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            August 14, 2014 9:46 amPosted 2 years ago
            RLF

            –Where is the evidence that he’s fooled Federation psychiatric screening?

            I’m sure there’s a line somewhere in the text. I possibly I’m back-engineering that from my assumption that totalitarianisms are very rigorous in testing Party Apparat members for signs of criminal or social deviance.

            –Avon as con man. Can’t really see that.
            Whatever the mechanics of the ‘computer frad’ he’s got planned, he’ll have needed to have considered a way to make his gains liquid, portable and untraceable. Even assuming that there’s some sort of Space Zurich where he can deposit them afterwards, he needs to turn his easily-traceble, Federation-only Credits into a hard commodity. (I’m assuming here that Federation currency is hyperinflated and basically valueless on unincorporated planets, which is how Jenna can make a living as a ‘smuggler’. I’m trying not to imagine her in the drugs or human-traffic business.) He’d need a ship. He’d need a fake / bought identity on a planet cosmopolitan enough to satisfy him, and he’d need some sort of sinecure job to provide a plausible explanation for him being loaded all the time.

            All of that takes confidence skills, and the ability to communicate as an equal with all kinds of people. And it requires the ability to wing a lot while the plan is being carried out; pull off a few minor swindles along the way.

            The reason he holds up to torture for all that time is that he wants to get close to Shrinker, whose identity he presumably doesn’t know. It’s personal, not professional in that case.

            It’s not remotely surprising to me that Avon sets great store by his word and his promises. It’s a recurring motif in the series, the notional idea of ‘personal honour’ and what that means for different people in a universe where everyone is expecting to be sold out, betrayed, dragged out of bed at 3:00am and never heard of again or just be lost to Natural Wastage.

            And then, there’s the problem of, against your better judgement, just straight out liking people. That’s something no-one can help.

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            August 14, 2014 2:41 pmPosted 2 years ago
            executrix

            There are lots of reasons why someone might have a profitable smuggling business* that don’t involve drugs or human trafficking, and even if Federation currency is good as, well, gold. Let’s say that the planet Zlorg imposes sin taxes on booze, cigarettes (I don’t think that’s what you meant by “drugs”), or fattening foods and beverages. The planet Blahblahcron IX has sumptuary laws taxing silk and velvet. There are also smuggling opportunities in stolen merchandise, rare plants and animals, etc.

            *Or an unprofitable one, cf Firefly

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            August 14, 2014 3:08 pmPosted 2 years ago
            RLF

            I hadn’t thought of that. [[Blush]]

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          August 14, 2014 6:01 pmPosted 2 years ago
          Fiona

          No, dont agree. Dont think he was fooling Blake in any way. The thing about Blake is how good he was at manipulating people. Look at Spacefall whjen they get the Liberator: Blake wants to go after The London and rescue the others, and he sells that to Jenna and Avon differently: to the one as altruistic and to the other as practical.

          I dont think Avon role-plays: he isnt a confidence trickster, he is a fraudster, not the same thing. He’s actually very consistent in his behaviour.

          But after Rumours, there’s a great change and the line about his death being only slightly exaggerated is foreshadowing. The good Avon is now going to die, not right away and a bit at a time, and the cruel ruthless for-real cold-blooded Avon come to life.
          Actually, its more like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: that after you keep letting Mr Hyde out, you cant put him away again, and in Avon’s case he doesnt want to. He wants kindly Dr Jekyll to die because where has the good side ever got him?
          It’s hard not to see his point. Imagine finding out all about that person you were willing to die for and had nursed a broken heart and carried a flaming torch for: you had transposed her image onto another innocent and been willing to die to protect him, fought all kinds of emotional battles and tried to maintain an icy image, allowed nobody in, dealt with it all alone, altogether a psychological toll heavy enough and complicated enough to keep a team of therapists in grant money…he must have kept an image of Anna as elevated and perfected and idealized as the Virgin Mary…you go in the most Romantic and Grail-Knight style to hunt down her killer, put yourself through agonizing torture to get the guy..bloody your own hands, and lo and behold: she was a Federation agent sleeping with you in order to winkle out al your secrets and catch all your friends and at the very least, send you on your toes on a forged exit visa with no money and certain to be gripped eventually.

          And we only have Anna’s word “I let you go” …I loved you and was real with you and wouldnt have turned you in: logically Avon would have to call big hairy bollocks on that one. How would she have justified it to her superiors? Anyway, he did get caught and that can be laid at Anna’s door in that the authorities knew all about him, because of her. She cant have just been fucking him and telling the bosses, sorry, no news.

          So, its not that he has turned into a sociopath. He’s been given a message practically from God: everybody sucks and you cant trust anyone and look where love gets you, so turn it in Avon, treat everyone very badly and pretty soon, someone will put you out of your misery. Probably Tarrant. Just to really improve the shining hour, Tarrant chose within an episode or two to horribly insult Avon and remind him his whole life is a giant screw-up. Even Tarrant felt a bit embarrassed about saying that.
          I really feel Avon is practically trying to commit suicide. Perhaps if one of his crew kills him, he’ll feel better. Or perhaps he just hates everyone and is going on because there’s nothing left to do.

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            August 14, 2014 7:38 pmPosted 2 years ago
            RLF

            Fiona: if you’re right, I think it’s probably the case that he’s been wanting to be beaten down or killed. (What’s the expression for someone who’s suicidal but won’t actually off themselves?). So he keeps on antagonising people, taking bigger and bigger risks. Makes sense.

            It’s funny that you should mention grail knights at this particular moment, because Sir Lancelot is a pretty good analogue in classical literature. I can buy the idea that Avon wants to die, but only at the hands of a warrior who is his equal. Good. I’ll go for that.

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            August 14, 2014 8:17 pmPosted 2 years ago
            executrix

            I think the phrase you want is “suicide by cop,” or, in context “by Trooper” or “Space Captain.”

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            August 14, 2014 11:04 pmPosted 2 years ago
            RLF

            Or very specifically “suicide by Captain Willard. In space.” Cheers!

          • August 15, 2014 11:28 pmPosted 2 years ago
            Andy Luke

            I wish he wouldn’t grab Vila so tightly. Those look really painful, chinese burn style.

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    August 13, 2014 12:56 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Amethyst

    Michael Clark: Where does your stonking hotel anecdote come from?

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    August 13, 2014 6:57 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Robert Rowles

    Sod it, before this thread winds up, I have to say I’ve rewatched the ending again, and I still think it’s probably enforced suicide at the end, or at least the viewer is encouraged to think that way – the parallell with Gambit’s self destruct sequence is clear, Belkov’s last request sends his ship, as far as we know, heading into a black hole, and there’s Villa’s off-hand comment. And I’m also inclined to think that, had he survived, the final shot would have seen him chuckling in his space ship. Yet….I can now see there’s wriggle room. In particular, the ‘please’ he adds when he asks Gambit to lock the controls seems strange, and fits better with an inveterate schemer asking to live, than a man saying kill me….more quickly? or in a way I choose? In fact I’m not sure how exactly he’s going die before the path to the black hole is opened, and how being sucked into it might be preferable to this. So thank you Frankie for an ingenious theory; it’s made me realise the ending is not as clear cut as I’d thought.

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      August 13, 2014 8:11 pmPosted 2 years ago
      Frankymole

      You’re welcome Robert, and thanks to those who’ve given me the alternative of a shared death for Belkov+Gambit. I like the ambiguity.

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    August 13, 2014 8:41 pmPosted 2 years ago
    executrix

    Gan sounds surprisingly posh. It’s possible that the Auronar are influenced by Terran media and adopt a Terran accent. Vila uses received pronunciation; some of his word choices are demotic, but I think of him as a conscious verbal artist who likes to sound picturesque. Given half a chance, I’m sure he’d be posting fanfic (and you could pick out his posts to anonmemes).

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      August 13, 2014 9:20 pmPosted 2 years ago
      RLF

      You beat me to it! I always got the idea of Vila teaching himself to speak that way to help him sound more respectable when he was scamming old ladies out of their antiques. I think he likes to sound more picaresque than picturesque, but maybe I’m thinking of the bit in Niall Stevenson where Jack Shaftoe says that he used to hang around actors to learn how to sound and act less declasse.

      Auron and Terran media? Reminds me of the bit in ‘A Clockwork Orange’ where the prison psychologist figures out that future teens speak cod-Russian because of subliminal Soviet propaganda broadcasts. Neat that you picked on that.

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        August 13, 2014 9:51 pmPosted 2 years ago
        executrix

        I was thinking more in terms of people outside the US picking up expressions and mid-Atlantic accents from watching Hollywood movies, but your point is a good one.

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          August 13, 2014 10:39 pmPosted 2 years ago
          RLF

          I got the idea that Auron had too strong of a separatist movement to be Gently Catchecised, but their telepathy may have made them susceptible to more subtle propaganda…?

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    August 15, 2014 12:31 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Anniew

    RFL SMILE. FIONA and of course anyone else whose interested. Aren’t we confusing accent with language structure? One theory that working class kids are disenfranchised by the education system is that the language they learn doesn’t contain the same means of communicating certain concepts or even the understanding of those concepts as the middle class language structures responsible for curriculum content, delivery and assessment. They should be taught differently in primary school to enable this to be remedied but they aren’t. Those presenters that maintain a regional or ‘foreign’ accent still use advanced language structures such as ‘ it’s not that I don’t agree with you but’ as opposed to ‘ I don’t agree because…’, the former conveying a subtly different meaning to the latter which can be misunderstood.
    I’m punching above my weight here so I could have got this wrong.
    Was this the sort of debate you envisaged Neil when you started this blog?

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    August 15, 2014 3:32 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Anniew

    Sorry. Couldn’t you sell it as a Watch Blakes 7 and learn more about the Universe sort of thing or perhaps use the more direct Avon approach : Shut up Annie!

  • August 15, 2014 11:29 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Andy Luke

    Really good use of the budget in this ep. What a great lesson in how to make cool shit cheap. In Bercov’s computer lab, I saw strawberry shoelaces, cake covers and cassette racks.

    Did you notice the miners in the background when Gerren, Vila and Tarrant assault the cave of the supermarket trolleys? There must have been at least four extras. That’s a proper crowd scene.

    • August 15, 2014 11:31 pmPosted 2 years ago
      Andy Luke

      And the same cake cover returns in the next episode. Fair indicting evidence that the Scorpio crew love cake.

  • August 17, 2014 9:42 pmPosted 2 years ago
    Mat Dolphin

    I watched this one tonight, and I still can’t decide if Belkov escaped or not.

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      August 18, 2014 12:50 amPosted 2 years ago
      Frankymole

      If they’d made a fifth series and he came back, then we’d know. It’s a bit like Anthony Ainley’s Master being definitely dead at the end of the Dr Who story “Planet of Fire”. I suspect they’d only make a decision pragmatically.

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      August 18, 2014 12:28 pmPosted 2 years ago
      Anniew

      I’ve been trying to work it out logically. Belkov asks Gambit to release the controls of his vessel and she refuses. He then begs her to lock his controls and that of he orbiter onto Cygna Alpha. He now controls the feldon crystals in Orbiter and can open the black hole pulling everything into it including him. He laughs ( like Avon) because ironically he has both lost and won (lost his life but destroyed the only Feldon crystals left -or because he can now escape and the evidence for his treachery is destroyed or…… Oh. Give up. Frankie’s right!

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        August 18, 2014 3:34 pmPosted 2 years ago
        Frankymole

        Thanks! I usually am 🙂 If it helps at all, Annie, there’s a bit of extra evidence (I must thank Winnie-I on the Horizon forum for this, so I’ll quote): “According to the book Liberation the confusion is because the actor said the line wrong.

        It should have been “Lock the Orbiter panels into Cygnux XL”, but he had, the authors say, a “tendency to ad-lib some of his lines” which resulted in him saying what he did, “which turns the scene into nonsense”. According to the authors, they have this info from the script, so…”

        And I reply: Interesting – so, basically, Belkov did give the order to destroy Avon and Co and Gambit went along with it. Still doesn’t really resolve whether he died and/or whether Gambit did something to ensure he would die. Why did Belkov think he was going to die anyway, if he didn’t get his “automatics”? I’d love to see the script.

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    August 18, 2014 12:07 pmPosted 2 years ago
    RLF

    “There must have been at least four extras. That’s a proper crowd scene.”

    It’s better than 4 extras. It’s four walk-ons, as in, no speaking, not unionised and flat-rated. Never more a repeat fee or royalty!

    Did they ever use ice-cube trays with colour-filter torches underneath as spaceship controls? Looked great, they did.

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    August 18, 2014 9:23 pmPosted 2 years ago
    wyngatecarpenter

    This episode left me cold when I weatched it on the VHS release years ago but watching it again it’s definitely one of the better Season 4 episodes. I’m not overly keen on the twisty turny Ocean’s 7 style of plot, but Stratford Johns’ performance is very good (though even he couldn’t salvage Four To Doomsday)

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    August 18, 2014 9:29 pmPosted 2 years ago
    wyngatecarpenter

    Darrow-watch: “that’s – a – BLACK – HOLE!!”

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