52 Weeks in a Year- 52 Episodes of Blake’s 7
Episode 5- The Web
(1978) Writer: Terry Nation / Director: Michael E. Briant
Aliens from the legends of Cally’s people force her to ensure the Liberator is diverted towards a large web in space inside which is a planet inhabited by genetically engineered creatures called Decimas and their enigmatic creators. And some tables. And a head in a jar.
Hampered by some overly wordy dialogue and some mixed direction,` The Web` never quite fulfils its potential. Terry Nation taps into his inspiration for the development of the Daleks with a plot exploring the ramifications of genetic engineering and the value of life. Interesting enough you’d think, but every time the episode seems about to take off a pile of techno babble pushes it back. In fact it becomes so un-involving that you lose interest in the outcome.
|Darrow and Mrs Darrow often took the kids on a forest picnic|
It starts well enough with Cally wandering around casually sabotaging the Liberator and knocking Vila out. There’s weird camera povs interspersed with whispering messages from afar and glimpses of a forest covered in a web like material.
The flat direction often comes in the bridge scenes. For example as the ship is being pulled at increasing speeds there is little in the way of sound effects to emphasise that fact. While the actors are speaking about what is happening, there is no sense of urgency and at the least a rising engine noise might have helped. Much better are the scenes highlighting Avon’s potential duplicity. Blake transports to the planet where he is attacked by small green creatures later identified as Decimas and initially helped but then politely threatened by the inhabitants of what looks like an ostentatious tent who are after power cells.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the Decimas are the result of the couple’s experiments and there’s some strong righteous anger from Gareth Thomas as Blake argues against a plan to wipe them out. The script starts to come apart because there is no context to what is happening and the connection with Cally’s people, mentioned earlier ends up having no relevance. . While the revelation that Geela and Novara are actually machines themselves is a surprise, we never really find out much about the creature sitting in the jar and the ending sees the Decimas rampage through the tent squealing like infants overdosing on marzipan!. One of them seems determined to turn a table over and has quite a struggle doing it!
|"Get it, lads!" The Decimas spot another table|
Visually the episode’s planetary scenes are given a woozy quality that suits the plot. There’s an impressive amount of web stuff in the woods and the Decima costumes are very good even if their behaviour does little to evoke our sympathy but you can see what they were going for. Less excusable is the appearance of the tent which just looks silly and the head in the jar that doesn’t really work either visually or as an idea. But you wonder if a young Mighty Boosh were watching.
Geela and Novara use Cally to sabotage the Liberator but if they want its power cells, why not just get her to hijack the ship?
It’s very convenient that the aliens happen upon someone from Auron. If the Liberator had not ventured nearby, what would they do for power cells?
Deep Roy is the lead Decima a couple of years after his role in the classic Doctor Who story `Talons of Weng Chiang` as Mr Sin while Miles Fothergill who plays Novara was SV7 in another Doctor Who classic `The Robots of Death`