August 6, 2015

Blake's 7: "The Keeper"

It's 27 March 1979, and time for more Blake's 7.

Blake's wild goose chase leads him to the planet Goth, where a Federation cyber surgeon once went underground - leaving behind the coordinates of Star One behind. Blake, Jenna and Vila teleport down to investigate, only to discover that Servalan and Travis are already there.

It's very difficult to pin down Servalan's relationship with Travis this season. First he's working for her, then he's being put on a show trail so she can save face, then he's a runaway from the Federation, then he's captured by Servalan and let go, then he's captured by Federation troopers, then he's living rogue in Freedom City before being captured by Servalan and rigged with an explosive booby-trap in his mechanical arm, and now he's working with Servalan again. It's been so inconsistent that it's difficult to take seriously.

It's also difficult to fault him for stealing the coordinates to Star One early in the piece, taking Servalan's pursuit ship and getting the hell out of Dodge before Servalan, Blake or anybody else is any the wiser. The character has been poorly used this season. It's a combination of inconsistent writing with a change of actor (Stephen Greif to Brian Croucher). The result has been a much less interesting villain: all of the texture and cool professionalism is gone, replaced by a manic, gloating psychopath. In many respects he reminds me of Doctor Who's 1980s revival of the Master, where Roger Delgado's calculated, suave antagonist was replaced by Anthony Ainley's gleeful pantomime bastardry. In neither case did the replacement come close to the quality of the original.

Much of this episode focuses on Jenna and Vila's captivity at the hands of the barbarians of Goth. They're intended as viking warriors, I suppose, but their hairstyles and thick moustaches make them all look more like members of the popular metal band Motorhead. The Goth's leader Gola is over-acted with enthusiasm by Bruce Purchase, who becomes besotted with Jenna (Sally Knyvette) and makes her his queen. Vila (Michael Keating) is stuck playing the fool - much to the chagrin of the real king's fool - and Blake sneaks around some tunnels with Gola's resentful brother (a similarly over-enthused Shaun Curry).

It's ultimately so ridiculously silly and inconsequential. It's better than Allan Prior's other scripts this season, but that doesn't actually mean it's good. "Gambit" was ridiculous and silly, but its cast seemed to be having a good time so it was relatively easy to go along with the ride. In "The Keeper" much of the cast seem slightly embarrassed instead, and so that sort of awkward inability to look away rubs off on the audience instead. 12 episodes into the season, and seven have been good: the quality ratio slips back down to 58 per cent.

It does conclude with some movement in the overall story arc: Blake has the coordinates to Star One, but Travis got them first and is already on his way. The stage is set for a final showdown in the season finale.

3 comments:

  1. loving the reviews and I am also watching the whole series again. I probably last watched them 10 years ago and they were a staple of growing up, as I was aged 14 to 18 when originally shown. I only mention as it gets me each time, you have series 2 as series 1 on the main page for the shows.

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    1. Oops! Will fix - thanks! I was pretty young when the series was first on, and was about four when it started. It was my favourite show at the time though.

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  2. Looking at the picture, all I can think of is..."Gordon's Aliiiive?"

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