13/03/2012

Blakewatch - Week 11 Bounty

52 Weeks in The Year- 52 Episodes of Blake’s 7.

This week: Season One Episode 11- Bounty
(1978) Writer: Terry Nation / Director: Pennant Roberts
Blake and Cally try to persuade the exiled former President Sarkoff of the planet Lindor to return to his people. Meanwhile the Liberator is hijacked by bounty hunters.

`Bounty` would be easy to overlook being un-showy and home to alternate sequences of long dialogue followed by lots of running around in woods. Nonetheless it has plenty to recommend it not least TP McKenna’s suave performance as Sarkoff. Rocking a look that is half John Steed and half Jon Pertwee, the dapper ex-President has self esteem issues after his fall from grace and takes solace in his 20th century antiques collection.


"Fancy a butterfly sandwich?"  "Shush Sarko this tune is the nuts!"

Sarkoff is one of the most interesting characters the series has offered so far. Veering from resigned ambivalence to proud defiance, his conversations with Blake as to why he won’t return reveal his vanity and self pity at once. These scenes give both actors an opportunity to shine and for Gareth Thomas it must have been a relief after all the capering around outside.

Sarkoff’s love of 20th century items also provides the surreal sight of a red roadster trundling about the woodland though the castle flags suggest more of a medieval look. The former President’s room is a strange blend of silver painted brickwork and museum glass cases while his unlikely `chauffeur` Tyce brandishes old fashioned pistols while sporting a red buccaneer’s coat. Carinthia West (the name!) who plays her looks as if she has skipped in from somewhere else entirely. Her true relationship with Sarkoff is kept from us till near the climax when you’ll end up going; “Ah, of course.”


The other part of the plot in which the Liberator crew succumb to what at first seems to be some kind of weird alien attack but which turns out to be bounty hunters is less successful. It has the slightly clumsy staging that dogged some earlier episodes of the series while a promising strand suggesting an attraction between Jenna (in a strong episode for Sally Knyvette) and their leader Tarvin is not followed through.


"Do you have any more bangin' tunes?" "No, only Bing Crosby mate."
The dual plots do not ultimately complement each other too well and the period when the others think Jenna has betrayed them is brushed over too quickly. There just isn’t enough time to reconcile everything into a coherent whole so the bounty hunters are despatched one by one in a conclusion that feels removed from the subtleties of the earlier part of the episode though Tarvin’s demise courtesy of an old fashioned hand gun is appropriate.

In all probability the powers that be and many of the viewers of the series preferred the second half’s material to the dialogue that dominates large parts of the first half yet it is the latter that highlights the political origins of the series. `Bounty` shows how the series can encompass both aspects even if at times they seem an awkward fit.

Notes

What are the dimensions of the building in which Sarkoff is held? At various points in the story guards take different times to go round the back. Yet even during their most serious alert it never occurs to them to have a guard posted there.

Tyce was reportedly added to the script by Chris Boucher after Terry Nation’s submission ran short. This probably explains why the conversations between Blake and Sarkoff are so detailed.

Black Park in Buckinghamshire was the location for filming.

The moniker Lindor was presumably nicked from the chocolatiers of the same name who’ve been going since 1845. Perhaps chocolate was the planet’s main export? Not quite as embarrassing as Space 1999 though which had an episode where a planet was called Luton!

TP (Thomas Patrick) McKenna who had a fifty year long career died last year. Bizarrely his last role was an Irish short film called Death’s Door in which he played Old Man.

The improbably named Carinthia West appeared in both Rutland Weekend Television and The Rutles.


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