Before we begin, Sue hasn’t read Frank Herbert’s Dune and she doesn’t remember anything about the David Lynch film, either. So if you’re expecting any jokes about the Kwisatz Haderach, you’re going to be disappointed. The good news is that not only is Sand directed by Sue’s favourite female director, it’s written by a woman, too. It can’t possibly fail.
Sue: This is a bit shit.
Sue: I can see what they’re trying to do, but they haven’t got the money to do it justice. It looks cheap. Having said that, the model canyon isn’t that bad. It’s ambitious, I’ll give it that.
Investigator Reeve is on his way to the planet Virn to look into the unsolved case of Don Keller, a Federation scientist who hasn’t been heard from in five years. Please note: Sue wasn’t a fan of Howard’s Way (it was too middle-class) so if you’re expecting any jokes about yachts, forget it.
Me: I love Stephen Yardley. I don’t know why, I just do.
Sue: Good, because you’re going to end up looking like him if your hair keeps abandoning your head the way it is at the moment.
Servalan Sleer is also on her way to Virn.
Me: Aren’t you going to swear or stamp your feet or something?
Sue: I’d be more surprised if she didn’t turn up. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that she has to turn up sooner or later, so it may as well be sooner.
We learn that a mysterious virus attacked a Federation outpost on Virn five years ago, but Sue is too distracted by Stephen Yardley’s posture to care.
Sue: Is he limbering up for a disco dancing tournament?
Me: It looks like they’re discussing tactics for their next Strictly performance.
Sue: (as Reeve) Does my bum look big in this?
Servalan’s demeanour as she listens to Don Keller’s final transmission is a little odd to say the least.
Sue: Why is Servalan so sad? Is she thinking about the time she used to be the president and she could order her lackeys to risk their lives on missions like this? I bet she is.
Investigator Reeve isn’t a very nice person.
Reeve: (to Servalan) There’s nothing for you on Virn. Unless someone thought I’d be lonely?
Servalan: I’m sure you’re accustomed to loneliness, Investigator Reeve. You must be alone such a lot.
Sue: Nice put down. Maybe she’d be interested if he had more hair. Sorry, I’m joking, Neil. I still love you.
And because Stephen Yardley doesn’t need any hair gel, it appears that he’s shared his daily ration with the ship’s crew.
Sue: They look like they’re auditioning for a part in Grease. Hey, I recognise that pilot…
She’s pointing at Daniel Hill. Definitive proof that even though Shada doesn’t really count, it’s impact on Sue has been so profound she –
Sue: He was in the last series of 24. You know, the funny one set in London. Do you remember, Neil?
Their ship is suddenly caught in the grip of a Pink Floyd laser show (aka a multi-gravitational field). This results in a very bumpy ride.
Sue: If this is how they usually fly the ship, I’m not surprised they need all that hair gel.
Back at Xenon Base, Avon suggests that it might be a good idea if they followed the Federation to Virn to steal whatever it is they may – or may not – have found.
Sue: It’s a bit risky, isn’t it? Is there really nothing else they could be doing or stealing today? Are they really that bored? This is needlessly reckless.
Servalan and Reeve begin a five-mile hike to Keller’s base. Servalan opts for high heels, obviously.
Sue: This set is a bit crap. The effects seem to have gotten worse as the series has gone on. You’d think they’d be better at this sort of thing by now.
The ship’s captain tests his engines and accidentally sets off a sand slide.
Sue: Servalan will be picking sand out of her gown for weeks. That’s what happens when you stroll around on a barren planet in a cocktail dress. I’ll never say this again, I promise, but IT’S RIDICULOUS! And if the whole episode takes place on this set, we’re in big trouble.
Reeve and Servalan end up sharing a cave together. Servalan boasts to Reeve that she is unique.
Sue: Who else would go camping dressed like that?
Servalan: Goodnight, Investigator. Sweet dreams.
Sue: (as Servalan) Please keep the noise down if you feel the need to toss and turn all night.
Servalan’s assistant (a man so bland he doesn’t even get a name) is murdered by a sand dune.
Sue: So the sand is alive and it kills you? I’m sure I’ve seen this in Doctor Who.
Me: You have, but Blake’s 7 got there first.
Sue: It’s a brilliant idea. The kids must have been scared to death when they went on holiday.
As Scorpio approaches Virn, Slave begins to act erratically.
Sue: Slave is even more off his tits than he usually is. He’ll be complaining about a bad case of the munchies next.
Dayna and Tarrant teleport to Virn armed with percussion bullets.
Sue: Does that mean Dudley Simpson plays his maracas every time she fires her gun?
Me: I think that always happens, Sue.
Servalan tells Reeve that she’s faced several maniacs in her lifetime, and how this adventure on Virn isn’t a new experience for her.
Sue: And yet she still insists on wearing high heels every time she leaves the house. You’d think she would have worked it out by now. Sorry, sorry… I promise I’ll never mention her clothes again.
Reeve knows who Sleer really is.
Reeve: We never actually met. But I was at one of those official receptions for good and faithful servants that you occasionally graced with your presence.
Sue: Finally! Somebody who can remember a face! He is so dead.
Right on cue, Reeve begins acting even more unhinged than normal.
Sue: So the sand takes you over and makes you crazy. The virus is in the sand. This is exactly the sort of thing that Doctor Who would do.
A gun-happy Reeve goes hunting for Tarrant and Dayna.
Sue: This planet looks fine when you can’t see the sky. As soon you can see the sky, it looks like a children’s nativity play.
Dayna teleports back to the Scorpio with a flesh wound and a pile of sand.
Sue: They are so ****ed.
Tarrant shoots Reeve, which saves Servalan the trouble of doing it herself later.
Tarrant: Well, everyone’s entitled to one really bad mistake.
Sue: I’m really beginning to enjoy this.
Back on Scorpio, it’s Orac’s turn to start acting up.
Orac: I love you!
Sue: He must have got some sand in him. Quick! Somebody get a hoover.
When Orac tells Avon that they will become lovers for a little while, or maybe even a long while, Sue spits out her tea.
Sue: It’s all coming out now! I reckon the virus makes you lose your inhibitions and you have to tell the truth, which means this programme is even more messed up than I thought.
Tarrant and Servalan agree to put aside their differences so they can work together. After they’ve finished flirting, of course.
Sue: Thank God she didn’t put that gun in her mouth.
The computer in Keller’s base begins spouting nonsense.
Computer: I love you. I know a land where love… Keller. Don. Don. Dun. Din. Dan. Den.
Sue: It’s a transcript of his last chat room visit. He was finding it difficult to type one-handed towards the end.
When Servalan finds Keller’s corpse, she pushes it to the floor in a fit of pique.
Sue: Maybe she knew him, back when she was Servalan… Which means she would have killed him later anyway, so why is she so upset?
Keller’s body is still warm. And then the sand begins to advance on the base.
Sue: This is proper scary. I hope the TARDIS turns up.
Tarrant opens the front door, which lets a huge quantity of sand into the base.
Sue: What did he do that for? What did he think would achieve? Has Tarrant lost his mind?
When a sudden noise startles Servalan, she grabs Tarrant’s arm for support.
Sue: Tarrant’s definitely pulled.
The noise they heard is the meal that Tarrant ordered from the base’s food dispenser.
Sue: He thinks he’s James Bond. I hope he’s ordered some champagne.
Back on Scorpio, there’s a subtle callback to another episode written by Tanith Lee.
Soolin: I seem to recall you telling me of an alien trying to take over the Liberator through Cally.
Sue: You’ll have to narrow it down a bit, pet. It will probably be quicker to tell you about the times when she wasn’t being taken over by aliens.
The crew begin to bicker amongst themselves. Even more than usual, I mean.
Sue: What? I don’t get it. Is there supposed to be something wrong?
After a romantic meal, Tarrant decides to grill his arch nemesis about her miraculous escape from the Liberator and her plans to take back the presidency.
Sue: At least they’re finally addressing this. Her explanation still makes no sense, though. Surely it would easier for her to get a new face to go with the new name. It must be possible in the future. This means she has to murder everyone who recognises her, and it won’t be long before killing people who recognise her will become a full-time job. It can’t be worth the aggravation.
Tarrant lets it be known that he thinks Servalan is an evil, conniving predator, and yet, if push ever came to shove… Well, you know…
Sue: Brilliant. Avon will go spare.
Avon is currently oblivious to Tarrant’s attempts at foreplay. He’s too busy playing with his probability squares.
Sue: He should design an app for that; he’d make a fortune. Avon’s App: for all your intergalactic problems.
Me: I wonder how many of those squares have Servalan’s name on them.
Sue: All of them if he’s got any sense.
Tarrant tries to work out why the base’s computer malfunctioned.
Sue: It actually makes sense when you think about it. Computers are made from silicon, so there you go. Yes, it’s very clever. And now that we’re indoors, this is very claustrophobic. Yes, I like this a lot. The sound effects are really good, too.
Tarrant has a theory about the sand.
Sue: Tarrant’s acting like he’s the Doctor, and he’s treating Servalan like she’s his companion. Are you sure this script wasn’t rejected by Doctor Who and they simply changed the names?
Tarrant thinks he has it all figured it out.
Tarrant: The sand reckoned it could afford to kill them if it saved me. And you, of course. Yes, any number of women would be safe. A herd.
Sue: Is he saying what I think he’s saying?
Me: I think he is.
Sue: He’s jumping to a very big conclusion. Hang on a minute… He’s just making this up so he can get his leg over!
Me: The only time Tarrant gets his leg over is when aliens force him to do it. At least that’s what he tells himself.
Servalan admits that she and Keller used to be lovers.
Sue: Ah, that explains why she’s been acting so sad. Oh, and Keller was punching well above his weight. He must have let himself go as he got older.
Me: Why are you suddenly looking at me?
Servalan is on the verge of tears.
Sue: I can’t believe that I actually feel sorry for her. I must be crazy.
Tarrant and Servalan snog.
Sue: Hey! Don’t take advantage of her when she’s feeling vulnerable!
When we next see Tarrant and Servalan, they have enormous smiles on their glowing faces.
Sue: They definitely did the deed. Avon will hit the roof when he finds out.
While Servalan was sleeping, Tarrant came up with another theory about the sand. And no, it doesn’t involve anal sex.
Tarrant: You cry very beautifully, Servalan, and one of your tears did this to the sand on the floor.
When Tarrant pours water onto the sand, it goes up in smoke.
Sue: Are you sure her tears were responsible for that? There must have been a lot of moisture that we didn’t get to see last night. Hey, wouldn’t it be funny if…
Tarrant and Servalan snog again, but this time she pulls a gun on the permed crusader before he can get to second base.
Sue: He must be shit in bed.
Back on Scorpio, Vila’s pulse is very weak.
Avon: Well that should go very nicely with the rest of him.
Sue: Brilliant. I can’t tell if Avon has been taken over by the sand or not. I mean, how would Avon act if the sand made him go crazy? You’d never be able to tell.
Avon believes that the sand has decided that he is the dominant male on the ship, which means Vila is now surplus to requirements.
Me: Avon IS the Kwisatz Haderach!
Sue: Avon is jumping to a lot of conclusions as well. Has he got any evidence to back this up? Or is this just an excuse for a threesome?
Me: You need an excuse?
Avon decides to make it rain.
Me: It only rains on Dune in the movie – it doesn’t rain in the book. I just wanted to point that out. If it had rained, the giant worms would have died. Don’t worry, Sue, there aren’t any giant worms in this.
Sue: I know. Just ask Servalan.
Avon: Let us get closer. Eventually there may be enough of a build-up to create some kind of rain.
Sue: I bet you wouldn’t try to save the day if a threesome was on the cards. Don’t pretend that you would, Neil.
Avon: (screaming) This is not just a rescue mission for poor gallant Tarrant!
Sue: He’s a poet and he doesn’t even know it. Is the sand making Avon act like this? It really is impossible to tell with Avon.
The rain generated by Scorpio’s rapid descent keeps the sand at bay long enough for Tarrant and Servalan to escape from the base.
Sue: That was one hell of a first date. A little bit more exciting than a game of pool in Whitby.
Me: Similar death toll, though.
When Tarrant teleports back to the ship, he decides not to admit that he’s slept with their arch enemy.
Sue: Avon will go bananas if he ever finds out. I bet Servalan can’t wait to tell him.
UPDATE: It seems that we were talking over the bit where Tarrant doesn’t deny that he’s slept with Servalan, but doesn’t want to talk about it. Either way, it’s pretty obvious that Avon knows. Sorry, it happens sometimes, especially when I’m not familiar with an episode and I don’t rewind the important bits that we miss because we’re yakking over it.
The episode concludes with Servalan filing a negative report.
Servalan: I had the gun but I didn’t kill you, Tarrant… Yet.
Sue: Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.
Sue: It started off badly. If I’m honest, the first fifteen minutes had me worried, they were so dreadful. However, as soon as the bald guy died and the sand came to life, I began to enjoy it. Even Servalan was sympathetic, and I never thought I’d say that at this late stage. The script was very clever and the direction was pretty good, too. If only they’d gone on location. Anyway, yes, I liked it a lot.
Me: Aren’t you disappointed that Tarrant was stuck on the planet with Servalan instead of Avon?
Sue: Not really. It’s a proper love triangle now. In fact, I bet Avon kills Tarrant when he finds out that he slept with her. Just you wait and see.