17/02/2013

UFOwatch: Conflict

Conflict
written by Ruric Powell / directed by Ken Turner


After his request to clear space junk is turned down and then a Moonbase ship appears to be destroyed because of the problem, Commander Straker takes matters into his own hands.
Big pencils are the futuristic accoutrement we see a lot of this week. Whether flying through space or sitting in the control
centre, no SHADO operative is complete without an outsized writing implement. Never mind all the computers sitting around- computers that can be switched off instantly and hopefully have some kind of back up- it’s a big pencil you really need. `Conflict` is a bit of a misnomer actually; they should have called this episode Authority because it’s about the use of it and shows just how much Straker has compared to his boss.

General Henderson can't wait to swivel his chair and go "Weeeeeee!"

The script is noticeably livelier this week with several curt arguments between Straker and his oddly eye browed superior General Henderson. They may be essentially having a row about rubbish collection but it makes a pleasant change to have more than cursory technical dialogue.  The sign of a well scripted argument is that the viewer can see both points of view and Powell does this admirably. It’s a disappointment whenever the action shifts elsewhere because the arguing is the best part.

Playing Henderson, Grant Taylor is suitably bellicose and intransigent but later you see something of a spark of mutual respect between them, a sense that he knows Straker probably will sort out the problem. Ed Bishop is at his authoritative best here, for the first time you can start to see why he inspires loyalty. There is a sense of cat and mouse about their respective stances and at the end, I bet Henderson and Straker go to the pub together and laugh about it.

Once again Moonbase’s defences seem far too ropey for the importance of their mission. The alien device that latches itself onto craft forcing them down too steeply so they burn up is a novel one, though you’d think they’d make more than one of them. There’s some effective model work and the sequences where the craft are speeding towards destruction are well conveyed.

The main problem lies with Michael Billington’s acting. In previous episodes you could say the character was underwritten but `Conflict` gifts Foster more than the actor can cope with. Somehow he manages to mess up key moments; in the office scene with Henderson and Straker he is so out of place. It’s a pity because Foster’s motivations in this episode are strong and he is something of a hero but whenever he moves from his default pout, the actor is beyond his reach.

The last ten minutes are tense and
well handled as the super UFO heads towards the SHADO headquarters. Of course, if it did get through the defences then the staff could still defend the place with their big pencils!


 

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