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Shadow

Carried away by a Moon Disc Shadow…

ShadowChris Boucher’s name elicits a round of applause from Sue.

Sue: Thank God for that.

Me: Don’t get too excited. You didn’t like Chris Boucher’s Doctor Who episodes very much.

Sue: Oh.

This episode begins with two tramps (Bek and Hanna) who are being taunted by a Bond villain named Largo (what are the chances of that?) with jellied treats made by Heston Blumenthal. Or at least that’s what it says in my notes.

Sue: He’s famous.

She’s pointing at Karl Howman.

Sue: I recognise his voice. Who is he?

Me: Karl Howman.

Sue: That doesn’t help.

Bek and Hanna turn the tables on Largo and they escape with a big bag of tasty Heston treats.

Bek: You stupid murdering scumball.

Sue: He’s a Space Cockney! Come on, Neil, pause the DVD and tell me who that is.

Karl HowmanMe: I’ve already told you – it’s Karl Howman. OK, do you remember a BBC sitcom called Brush Strokes? Theme tune by Dexys Midnight Runners (also missing an apostrophe, by the way). He played a cheeky painter and decorator. Late eighties. A bit shit.

Sue: Never heard of it.

It must have been the way I described it, because she remembered it quite fondly when I loaded up the title sequence on YouTube.

Sue: Oh yeah, he was quite dishy in that. Has he been in anything else?

Me: Well, he was in a long-running series of TV adverts.

Sue: Oxo.

Me: No.

Sue: Beer.

Me: No.

Sue: Creosote.

Me: What? No.

And then she listed practically everything that has ever been advertised on British television, including dog biscuits, toilet paper, Tango, toothpaste, and crisps. And then she gave up.

Me: Flash cleaning products. Remember?

Sue: No.

She does when I fire up YouTube:

Sue: Oh yeah. Him. I wish I’d never asked now.

While Bek and Hanna consider their next move, the Liberator can be seen through the window behind them.

Sue: That was a nice touch. I really liked that. It gives the place a sense of scale. The direction is a lot better already.

The action switches to the Liberator‘s flight deck.

Sue: Now that’s how you light a set. And isn’t it nice to see them all together in the same shot like that.

ShadowMe: Yeah, they’re one big happy family.

Sue: I like the way Blake gets the comfy seat.

Zen: All systems functioning. Status is firm.

Sue: Too much information, Zen.

Blake: So, that is Space City.

Vila: Also known as the satellite of sin.

Sue: Or Las Vegas in Space. Am I right?

Vila’s costume raises an eyebrow.

Sue: Has Vila been fencing?

Me: Not the sort you mean, no.

Meanwhile, on Space City, Bek and Hanna are arguing over a drug-addled corpse.

Sue: This is a bit bleak. Where are the dancing girls and roulette tables?

Me: This isn’t Las Vegas in Space, it’s an Edinburgh Housing Estate in Space.

Vila desperately wants to visit Space City.

ShadowSue: Vila’s sideburns are enormous. I bet Space Elvis is playing at Space Vegas tonight and Vila’s a big fan. That’s why he can’t wait to get over there. By the way, I don’t rate the actor who plays Vila. He’s over the top.

Me: I love you to bits, Sue, but you are completely wrong about Vila. Just so we’re clear on that.

Cally sees through Vila’s pathetic attempt to get off the ship.

Sue: Anyone would think she was a telepath.

So Vila persuades Orac to operate the teleport instead.

Vila: Don’t start sulking again, or I shall switch you off and throw away the key.

Orac: Soon, that will no longer be a problem.

Sue: Orac is going to take over the ship! I knew you couldn’t trust him. And Vila didn’t notice because he’s too busy thinking about Space Elvis. Oh dear. This won’t end well.

On Space City, Blake, Avon and Jenna are bargaining with an amused Largo, who claims that the drug-running Terra Nostra are a myth.

Sue: You can’t bribe the Mafia with paperweights, Avon. Everybody knows that.

To illustrate this point, Largo takes Blake and his crew hostage.

ShadowLargo: Amateur.

Sue: You can’t really argue with that. Blake is very naive. I’m surprised that Avon agreed to go along with this stupid plan.

Orac has been a very naughty boy.

Zen: The one called Orac is not concerned for the safety of the Liberator.

Sue: Hark at Zen! “The one called Orac!” Zen’s nose has definitely been put out of joint. I can’t wait to see Zen and Orac bickering with each other. It’s bound to happen sooner or later. And is Cally going to a medieval banquet tonight or what?

Cally makes radio contact with Vila.

Vila: (off-screen) What do you want, Cally?

Sue: Cut to Vila in a Space Brothel, surrounded by Space Prostitutes.

Cally: I want you back here. Get ready to teleport.

Vila: (off-screen) You’re wasting your time, Cally. I’m not wearing a bracelet.

Sue: He’s not wearing anything, Cally. Unless you count his sideburns.

Blake, Avon, Gan and Jenna have been imprisoned in Space City with Bek and Hanna. Bek isn’t impressed with Blake’s decision to employ Gan as his lookout.

Bek: I mean, he’d really blend into the background, wouldn’t he? What did you do, put up a sign?

Sue: The script is a big improvement on the rubbish we usually get. This is shaping up nicely.

ShadowLargo tests Blake by asking him how many shuttle craft he has on the Liberator, and then he puts the same question to Cally on the flight deck.

Sue: If she was a proper telepath, she’d know the answer to that.

Cally extracts the answer from Blake with her telepathic powers.

Sue: Bloody hell! They remembered that Cally is a telepath! This gets better and better.

Cally threatens to blast Space City to smithereens if they don’t release her friends. Space City think she’s drunk, so she blows up one of their ships.

Sue: Proper terrorism for a change. About time.

The crew teleport back to the Liberator, leaving Bek and Hanna behind.

Sue: (as Blake) Thanks for your help and everything but we’re off. Try not to get killed. Bye!

A few seconds later, Blake comes back for them.

Blake: I changed my mind.

Sue: Aww, bless.

The Liberator leaves Space City in its wake.

ShadowSue: I really enjoyed that. That episode flew by.

Me: We’re only half-way through.

Sue: Oh. Bollocks.

Vila is recovering from the mother of all hangovers, so Avon has to resort to insulting Gan instead.

Gan: Can’t find Orac. Even tried calling his name.

Avon: Oh, I’m sorry I missed that. It’s the kind of natural stupidity no amount of training could ever hope to match.

Sue: I don’t know why they put up with him. I mean, I love Avon to bits but you have to ask yourself: why don’t they throw him off the ship? His main function seems to be putting people on edge and winding them up.

And then Avon takes the piss out of Blake’s decision to intimidate the Terra Nostra with force.

Avon: Law makers, law breakers, let us fight them all. Why not?

Sue: Because it’s stupid?

Cally searches for Orac, who is playing hard to get.

Sue: You can’t count Orac as one of the Seven if he’s a baddie. This has completely ruined the title of the programme again.

The next thing we know, Cally is trapped in a metaphorical box.

ShadowSue: What the ****? Has Cally been on the Shadow? Is this what Shadow does to you? The last thing they need is a drug that makes them more paranoid than they already are.

Cally is in a catatonic state, but Blake isn’t bothered by that. He’s too busy planning his takeover of the Terra Nostra’s supply of Shadow.

Sue: He’s going to do a Heisenberg. It’s turned into Blake-ing Bad.

The Federation are in cahoots with the Terra Nostra.

Sue: That’s interesting. I like it when the Federation are involved. I feel like we’re actually getting somewhere. I have a lot more faith in this programme now that Terry’s left.

Me: It’s only been thirty minutes!

Sue: I feel like I’m watching a completely different programme.

Cally is trapped in Orac’s head. Or as Sue so eloquently puts it:

Sue: What the ****?

Orac: Obviously, she’s insane.

Sue: First he can predict the future – or so he says – and now he makes one of the crew go mad. I’ll ask you again: what the ****?

Blake, Jenna and Avon prepare to teleport to Zondar, the planet where Shadow is grown and harvested.

ShadowSue: (as Blake) But let’s have a quick fencing tournament, first.

Once on Zondar, Sue remembers where’s she’s seen Blake’s pyjamas before.

Sue: He’s come dressed as Luke Skywalker. They’ve even landed on Tatooine. Off-season by the look of it. Why didn’t George Lucas sue them?

Me: He was too busy suing Battlestar Galactica.

Gan has been left on the Liberator to sulk.

Sue: Gan is pissed off because they don’t have any cream pyjamas in his size.

Gan: All system are functioning normally. Status is firm.

Sue: Seriously, that is too much information!

Blake, Avon and Jenna explore Zondar’s surface.

Sue: Blake isn’t afraid to show off his chest. Avon, not so much. That is a shame.

Me: Jenna’s nipples are enormous.

Sue: I beg your pardon?

Me: The cat. Her nipples are enormous. You know, because she’s about to give birth. Actually, I don’t know why I felt the urge to say that.

Sue: I can take a bloody good guess.

The planet is populated by Moon Discs.

Sue: They look like wood-turned oyster boxes.

Me: We’ll just have to take your word for that.

Meanwhile, Orac is still driving Cally (and Sue) mad.

ShadowOrac: Listen to the voice of Orac. Remember the touch of hands and laughter and the warmth of open minds. Remember these things for they are gone. You are alone.

Sue: OK, now I’m really confused.

Blake discovers a series of reflecting mirrors in the sand which provide shade for the Moon Discs.

Blake: All we’ve got to do is plant these sensors in some form of rough circle. The battle computers will put together a complete picture of what’s there.

Sue: Sensors? They’re tent pegs!

The Shadow gardens are patrolled by men dressed in what Sue describes as the best example of restricted vision on a helmet ever. And there’s plenty of competition for that title on Blake’s 7. Blake makes short work of them, probably because they can’t see him.

Sue: What a bunch of Space Jesses.

Meanwhile, back on the Liberator, Orac is going nuts.

Sue: Quick! Pour some coffee over him!

Cally teleports to the surface of Zondar, and it isn’t long before she’s rolling around in the sand, surrounded by Moon Discs.

Sue: This planet would be a great place for a spa. You could train the plants to work as hot stones.

ShadowOrac electrocutes Hanna to death when she tries to switch him off.

Sue: At least there’s no blood for them to clean up. All that scrubbing and rinsing…

The Liberator is going to crash on the planet below.

Sue: Blimey, it’s all go. I don’t know what’s happening, but I think I’m enjoying it.

Cally sorts it out, and then she has a lot of explaining to do. It appears that Orac was taken over by a creature from another dimension, and Cally used the Moon Discs to repel it. The Terra Nostra were unavailable for comment.

Cally: Their telepathy gave me courage. Perhaps it gave me strength, too.

Sue: So the drugs do work. And you’d have to be on drugs to make sense of that. I mean, what the ****?

Blake promises to return for Bek in three years.

Sue: I bet he bloody doesn’t.

Before they leave Zondar behind, Blake offers Bek a way to avenge Hanna’s death.

ShadowBlake: Bek, that button burns the President’s garden. It won’t hurt him much, but it’ll sting a bit.

Me: Blake does all the hard work so you don’t have to.

Bek moves to press the button. Cue credits.

Sue: So they murdered all the telepathic plants. The plants that helped Cally. Well there’s gratitude for you.

The Score:

Sue: That was a step in the right direction. The dialogue was a massive improvement, the acting was pretty good, and everything Avon said was hilarious. It was still a bit of a mess, though. The Space Mafia were interesting but they didn’t go anywhere with it. I could have done without the Cally subplot completely. It didn’t make any sense. And I wanted to see more of Space Vegas. I wanted to see Space Craps.

6/10

Sue: And I don’t trust Orac.

Me: It wasn’t Orac’s fault. He was possessed.

Sue: Hmm. I’m not convinced. That was Orac’s first attempt at a hostile take-over. Quantum space monster my arse.

Next Time:

Warning: Glen’s trailers include mild spoilers for the next episode.

Good News!

Jenna has given birth!

Jenna and her five kittens are doing well. I’m a nervous wreck but they’re fine.

We’re trying not to get too attached to the kittens because they will be re-homed in a few weeks, but for now we’re calling them Alta 1, Alta 2, Alta 3, Alta 4 and Gan.

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36 comments

  • Visit site
    March 7, 2014 1:36 pmPosted 3 years ago
    James

    As per another suggestion – you have *got* to call one of your kittens ‘The Klute’.

  • Visit site
    March 7, 2014 2:01 pmPosted 3 years ago
    Chris Allen

    “I love you to bits, Sue, but you are completely wrong about Vila. Just so we’re clear on that.”

    I’m right behind you on this Neill.

    About 100 miles behind you at least.

    Chris Boucher probably deserves at least as much, if not more credit than Terry Nation for what we think of as “Blake’s 7”. He did a lot of uncredited work on series 1 and script edited the whole thing, not to mention writing some of the best episodes.

    Someone once said (in Dreamwatch Bulletin I think) that only Terry Nation and Chris Boucher really wrote what we think of as “proper” Blake’s 7 (personally I’d add Tanith Lee to that list). Maybe that’s a bit too sweeping a statement but without Chris Boucher the series just wouldn’t be as good.

  • Visit site
    March 7, 2014 2:04 pmPosted 3 years ago
    Thomas Bush

    Haven’t seen this one in yonks. I do remember the scenes in Space City and the battle with the guards on Zondar. After 14 linear Nation episodes, this is a breath of fresh air. Better dialogue, more plot strands.

  • Visit site
    March 7, 2014 3:06 pmPosted 3 years ago
    Mat Dolphin

    8 out of 10 for me. Though I love many of Terry’s scripts, this is where the writing really seems tighter and there’s much more happening. A more adult theme and interesting guest characters, and several crew members get something interesting to do.

  • Visit site
    March 7, 2014 4:10 pmPosted 3 years ago
    Rob

    9 out of 10 for me 🙂 I jumped ahead and watched ‘Shadow’ whilst this blog had a break and was mightily impressed by it all. I’d agree that the Terra Nostra are somewhat wasted after such a terrific introduction but even after all these years, this episode must rank as one of the most subversive scripts that the BBC have ever out out in prime time TV. Genius dialogue too:

    Largo: ‘Why do I feel as if I’m on trial here?’
    Avon: ‘Why do i feel as if you should be?’

    • Visit site
      March 11, 2014 8:09 pmPosted 3 years ago
      Sally M

      Shadow is my absolute favourite episode – the snark is at its absolute best, Blake’s being magnificently pigdeaded and Avon is at the top of his form 🙂

      For me, it’s also one that gets better on rewatching 🙂

  • Visit site
    March 7, 2014 4:11 pmPosted 3 years ago
    MarkyMark

    Kind of a weird episode I thought….that stuff with Orac getting possessed was just weird as fuck.

    I thought Karl Howman was very good….and still looking cute 🙂 !

    • Visit site
      March 8, 2014 9:16 pmPosted 3 years ago
      Frankymole

      I miss “Brush Strokes”. I hope it gets a repeat on BBC4 after “Ever Decreasing Circles”.

  • Visit site
    March 7, 2014 4:12 pmPosted 3 years ago
    MarkyMark

    P.S. I’m a dog, as opposed to cat, lover, but those kittens are really sweet !

  • March 7, 2014 4:43 pmPosted 3 years ago
    John Callaghan

    Yep, everything works in this ep. Everyone gets something cool to do and shows off what makes them unique, and the tone is just right. I like that Gan is the crew’s conscience, too.

  • Visit site
    March 7, 2014 5:09 pmPosted 3 years ago
    Nick Mays

    This is where B7 really begins for me… Seems like it does for Sue too!

  • Visit site
    March 7, 2014 6:57 pmPosted 3 years ago
    Richard Lyth

    The only problem with this episode is it tries to cram in too much – they could easily have made a whole episode about Shadow and the Terra Nostra, and another episode about Orac taking over the ship, and either of those would likely have been better than this one. Still, it’s a definite improvement over last season, when two storylines in an episode meant neither one was any good.

    I didn’t recognise Karl Howman till I saw his name in the end credits, and had to rewind it to make sure it was him. In the commentary track David Maloney says “Oh, he’s very famous now” which makes you wonder how long ago it was recorded! It’s a really good commentary as well, though it does have spoilers for the rest of the season, so be warned.

  • March 7, 2014 8:22 pmPosted 3 years ago
    encyclops

    Sue: Too much information, Zen.

    First laugh out loud moment of many in this post (I also loved “Quick! Pour some coffee over him!”). Ending with an “awww” moment at the end with Jenna (the cat, of course).

    I like “Shadow” a lot better than Sue does but I can see where she’s coming from. I was thinking this might have gotten a boost from coming right after the Terry Nation monopoly ended, the way I suspect “Spearhead from Space” got a boost from being in color, but oh well, no worries. More good stuff on the way (perhaps not next week, though).

  • Visit site
    March 7, 2014 8:28 pmPosted 3 years ago
    Amethyst

    “Blake isn’t afraid to show off his chest.”

    Oddly enough the location shoot was so cold it snowed periodically, according to Sally Knyvette. The crew kept having to put the cast under umbrellas, and then lay down fresh fake sand after each downpour. GT must have been frozen…

    I think Shadow’s one of B7’s best ensemble pieces. It makes full use of Gan to demonstrate how morally compromised Blake is becoming in his quest for success at all costs.

  • Visit site
    March 7, 2014 8:42 pmPosted 3 years ago
    wyngatecarpenter

    Frustrating episode because I like the Terra Nostra storyline (although it’s done on the cheap) but the ORAC storyline is crap. But I agree that it’s good thing that Boucher was now writing scripts. There’s better to come. But seriously, Sue didn’t like any of his Dr Who scripts?! Robots Of Death is in my top 5.

    “So they murdered all the telepathic plants. ”

    That never occurred to me! I think in this episode in we begin to see a darker side to Blake though, what with trying to do deals with the space mafia. It’s progress from the one-dimensional Terry Nation characterisation of Blake.

  • Visit site
    March 7, 2014 8:46 pmPosted 3 years ago
    wyngatecarpenter

    “Has he been in anything else?”

    How could you forget Mulberry! I can’t, I was in the studio audience of the first episode (long story). Painfully unfunny, and that was before the retakes. The warm-up man was funnier.
    In fact I have an unhappy history with Karl Howman as Dexys were my favourite band but Because Of You was terrible.

  • Visit site
    March 7, 2014 8:53 pmPosted 3 years ago
    Dave Sanders

    Tweet from earlier: ‘I don’t know how I’m supposed to concentrate on this Blake’s 7 blog when there are kittens around. KITTENS!’

    I remember *that* particular situation arising before when Gridlock first aired. Very vocally, on both our parts.

  • Visit site
    March 7, 2014 9:21 pmPosted 3 years ago
    Nico

    Sue: So they murdered all the telepathic plants. The plants that helped Cally. Well there’s gratitude for you.

    Exactly what I thought!

    And now Chris Boucher is writing, Vila’s a drunken idiot, not the competent expert Nation wrote. 🙁

    • Visit site
      May 13, 2014 6:24 pmPosted 2 years ago
      Fiona

      She saved one for a pet. Avon was at his most withering: “whose is …this?” while holding its little box home at arm’s length as if were a freshly used kitty litter tray.
      “you have to talk to them” says Cally. Well, talk to ‘it’ is more like, since its mates are all brown bread.
      Avon looked as if he would die of scorn when Cally said that. And no use to try and sneakily snuggle up to him, Cally. Jenna tried that when they were locked in the alien cells about to be executed. Didn’t even get a comforting hug, icy folded arms all the way.

  • Visit site
    March 7, 2014 9:58 pmPosted 3 years ago
    Pat Sumner

    I’m surprised no-one picked up on Largo’s … interesting choice of wall decor.

    • Visit site
      March 8, 2014 9:18 pmPosted 3 years ago
      Frankymole

      Looks like something from The War Games. And the Alien Scientist (Vernon Dobtcheff) is his boss!

  • Visit site
    March 7, 2014 11:26 pmPosted 3 years ago
    Dan

    Predicted the 6/10, which seems fair. I doubt many people took all of this in when it went first out. But the mechanics of the Orac storyline are quite neat. A future super-advanced computer using another *dimension* as a communications channel (for its wi-fi, and in a culture that happens to have broken the light barrier, this makes sufficient sense), but unconsciously, the same channel Cally uses consciously. It’s proper science fiction with a lot going on and develops Cally hugely. Gan also gets his first decent episode. The Federation is developed and we have Las Vegas and the Mafia in space, as well as space junkies, moral peril, dream weirdness and a message about love! It’s too crowded, but in my opinion it’s rather great.

  • Visit site
    March 8, 2014 12:47 amPosted 3 years ago
    Rassilon

    Too much information, Zen/Gan.

    I love you to bits, Sue, but you are completely wrong about Vila. Just so we’re clear on that. We all love you to bits Sue but you are so still completely wrong.

    The next thing we know, Cally is trapped in a metaphorical box & not the Opening Titles of Sapphire & Steel.

    Damn you Neil you almost had me looking for a clip of Sally Knyvette & her big nipples.

  • Visit site
    March 8, 2014 1:00 amPosted 3 years ago
    AST

    In my idlest moments I’ve wondered if Zen referring to “The one called Orac” was indeed Zen being a self-hating computerphobe or perhaps him implying that he knew something wasn’t quite right with the wee box of lights (Orac having been possessed and all).

    Any thoughts?

    • March 8, 2014 9:42 amPosted 3 years ago
      encyclops

      I think Zen was just hinting that he wanted someone to formally introduce him to Orac so he’d have an opening to ask Orac out. Why do you think Zen’s status was firm?

  • Visit site
    March 9, 2014 12:00 pmPosted 3 years ago
    Derek Handley

    Congratulations on the new kittens! And thanks for posting the video.

  • Visit site
    March 9, 2014 11:13 pmPosted 3 years ago
    Geoff

    If they’d just waited 5 minutes Largo would have keeled over with a heart attack…he looks very very unwell the whole time he’s on screen. He reminds me of Alvin Stardusts dad.

  • March 10, 2014 1:55 amPosted 3 years ago
    Dark Matter Zine

    I’ve been loving this series – yours, I haven’t been rewatching the TV series. You’ve inspired me though: I must rewatch B7. Those DVDs have gathered a bit of dust…

  • Visit site
    March 10, 2014 5:33 amPosted 3 years ago
    Katie C

    I was kind of looking forward to Sue’s reaction to Avon’s outfit. Surely the boots are worth at least a seven?

  • Visit site
    March 10, 2014 3:02 pmPosted 3 years ago
    Gareth M

    Everyone gets proper seats on the Liberator in this story except Blake he basically gets to sit in the lounge area and pretend he’s useful. But he cant’ easily reach any of the blinky lights.

    Is this the first time Orac operates the teleport?

    What this story kinda shows is that no one still seem not to know how to write an A plot and B plot.
    All the stuff with Orac is just really weird.

    I think I’d have liked to have Cally have more communication with the moon stones, or have them tied into the plot a little better.

    • Visit site
      March 11, 2014 12:41 amPosted 3 years ago
      Frankymole

      Those bicycle-saddle seats did chafe a bit though. Allegedly.

  • March 17, 2014 7:54 pmPosted 3 years ago
    Bron Sprig

    Karl Howman did panto in a theatre I worked at some years ago. He was quite grumpy.

    Jan Chappell was lovely though.

    • Visit site
      March 17, 2014 10:50 pmPosted 3 years ago
      wyngatecarpenter

      “He was quite grumpy.”

      He was probably remembering the hours of his life he spent filming Mulberry, it makes me grumoy as well.

  • Visit site
    March 18, 2014 12:00 amPosted 3 years ago
    Mark B

    Yeah, I missed the bit about blowing up the cacti until the end. I thought that they were going to plant the targeting sensors around the processing plant rather than the orchards!

    (Also, keep the kittens until they’re about 12 weeks old. They’ll grow into well-rounded and socialised cats that way, plus you get to play with them for longer!)

  • Visit site
    March 18, 2014 4:11 amPosted 3 years ago
    Ann worrall

    I love this blog thingy you and the wife have. Also you inspired me to rewatch the episode. Hated it the first time around but thought it great this time. Very funny dialogue. I’d forgotten what a sanctimonious hypocrite Blake was for much of the time and how witty if ruthlessly unkind avon could be -not just the odd one liner. Loved the boots and even found the judo kits pleasing. Those suits didn’t flatter the shadow garden guards though. Do you think they could only get overweight extras that week?

  • Visit site
    March 18, 2014 1:57 pmPosted 3 years ago
    Frankymole

    Bye bye Gan! You were much more subtle and thumped less things than Duggan.

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