30/05/2012

Blakewatch - Week 22: Countdown

There are 52 episodes of Blake’s 7 and 52 weeks in the year.....

This week: Season Two Episode 9- Countdown
(1979) Writer: Terry Nation / Director: Vere Lorrimer
In a last ditch attempt to foil a rebellion the Federation set off a deadly weapon that will irradiate the entire planet of Albion unless the Liberator crew can stop the countdown.

This is a punchy episode with Terry Nation in his element introducing new twists to what initially does not seem like too exciting a scenario. Using a relatively small number of extras effectively, the episode shows us the climax of the rebellion which arrives at the door of the Federation officials. Their leader, a clinical space major called Provine escapes while one of his subordinates manages to start a bomb that cannot be defused. It just happens that Blake wants to find Provine whom he believes will be able to provide information about the new location of central control.  If you can leap over the coincidence that these two things would occur at the same time the results are enjoyable.


"I think it's ham and cheese again"

The spanner in the works for Avon- tasked with defusing the weapon- is that the rebels have been helped by Del Grant, none other than the brother of Avon’s now deceased girlfriend.  Paul Darrow and guesting Tom Chadbon get to glare at each other though true to form when Nation comes to write the key dialogue it needs all the actors’ efforts to make it sound anything less than clichéd. Ultimately Chadbon seems miscast in the role. Would Grant really assume Avon had run off leaving his sister to die? Given what we’re told about him it’s unlikely Grant would believe such a thing. Avon’s line that the Federation are “more interested in things rather than people” could apply to Terry Nation scripts! The episode is replete with devices yet when it comes to the moment that should be at the heart of the episode it isn’t too effective.

What is undeniable though is how Nations’ love of pulp adventure infuses the episode as the duo attempt to defuse the bomb against the countdown while melting ice falls around them. The countdown stops on 1 by the way; where else would it stop? Elsewhere the search for Provine is less engaging which is a shame as Paul Shelley is excellent in the role, ruthless and tricky. He might have been a better choice to take over the role of Travis actually. Unfortunately Jenna and Cally are left on the sidelines to operate the teleport and look worried. Considering how they started, it is a pity they can’t be found more to do.

The staging is top class, with some surprisingly graphic blood and well choreographed opening sequence involving the rebel attack. The scenes where the crumbling ice is falling around Avon and Del as they work on the bomb is particularly well realised adding some genuine peril to what would otherwise be fiddling about with some flimsy plastic tubes.

Notes
This is quite continuity conscious episode with the back story of Anna Grant filled in as well as references to Blake’s ongoing search for the new location of Control. In a rather unlikely final revelation, a dying Provine gives him a clue to follow up.

Paul Shelley who plays Provine was most recently seen in a recurring role in Doctors. He is the younger brother of Francis Matthews, 1970’s star of Paul Temple and several other series.


"So you're saying that if we let go the console will float away?"


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