Season Four Episode 2- Power
(1981) Writer: Ben Steed / Director: Mary Ridge
Trapped in Dorian’s base unable to reach the Scorpio, Avon and co become involved in the conflict between the planet’s two races, the male Hommiks and the female Seskas..
Never the series’ deepest writer Ben Steed appears to be attempting to chronicle the battle of the sexes with `Power`. However his somewhat bland conclusion that men are strong and women weak offers nothing to add to the debate and stereotypes that even in 1981 would seem out of date. The men are all long haired, big bearded warriors, the women are servants with telekenisis and perfect hair. You wonder how it happened and what Steed is trying to say, if anything. The women are clearly really quite powerful yet they have been captured by means of sacks and metal clamps. Perhaps this is how Ben Steed views marriage!
|"Guys, shall we not bother with one and try the pub?"|
The shouty tribe who have forgotten what their technology does and ended up eking a primitive existence was an old plot even in 1981 but Steed never does anything with it. There are hints of intelligence, perhaps included by Chris Boucher? One character knows how to work the computer everyone else has forgotten but he ends up dead minutes after we find out. Warrior chief Gunsar is a bore and a half – and there is no way he can have beaten 26 challengers- but there is one moment where he is proclaiming about something, forgets his lines and says apologetically “I have to say this” which seems like a window into a far more interesting character. It’s probably not actor Dicken Ashworth’s fault that Gunsar is so annoying but he makes the episode drag. Rarely in the history of Blakewatch has there been so much temptation to press fast forward!
The Seskas are not much better oscillating between intelligence and stupidity as the plot suits and the most interesting character Gunsar’s wife is underwritten. She could have been used more inventively seeing as she occupies a unique position where she can see both sides but we wait in vain for anything so interesting.
Steed seems to have little flair for tension either. The premise of a bomb going off if Dorian doesn’t reset the alarm every two days is not a convincing one and are we supposed to even believe it is less than 48 hours since the events of the previous episode? It is a synthetic threat that never feels like it will happen. Director Mary Ridge, who has done some excellent work in the previous two episodes, seems so uninspired by the scenario that she does nothing to raise the temperature; the key fight scenes are tepid and so obviously staged you can almost see the actors counting.
Thank goodness then for Vila who manages to make proceedings bearable with his self deprecating banter, often spoken to himself and likeable failure. Michael Keating is the star of this otherwise mediocre story and has grown as the series progresses into someone with whom we can identify. It’s a strong episode for Josette Simon’s always good Dayna and Steed writes her as a much better representation of a strong woman than the Seskas. Paul Darrow has a difficult time as Avon is rendered unconscious so many times it begins to look like a running joke.
As for Soolin, whom you would imagine might be pushed forward this week after her less than auspicious debut; she goes off to Costa Coffee for the duration, turning up at the end to ask if she can join the crew. You would think she’d pop up and rescue everyone with her gun slinging skills but she can’t even be bothered to do that. Simply omitting a character because you can’t think of anything to do with her when this is only her second week in the series suggest she is not really required. After all isn’t Dayna the weapons expert?
The denouement conveniently despatches the last two Seskas meaning we can leave the planet and go somewhere else not a moment too soon.