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"


Blakewatch - Week 21: Hostage

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

This week: Season Two Episode 8- Hostage
(1979) Writer: Allan Prior / Director: Vere Lorrimer
Fleeing from federation pursuit ships, the Liberator receives a message from Travis on the planet Exbar and now a fugitive himself, offering an alliance. But can he be trusted? No, actually but Blake goes anyway and puts them all in danger. Again.

`Hostage` is a fairly average runaround which though written by Allan Prior is a very Nationesque scramble around a rocky planet as Travis lures Blake into an obvious trap. After a driving opening sequence in which the Liberator is under attack- and for once genuinely looks as if it is- matters soon settle down to a lot of crouching behind rocks and people being threatened.

Fleeing the Federation, Travis got a job as a newsreader


Plaything of Sutekh- The Doctor Who Fanzine Still Available!!

Yes, you can still buy the acclaimed new Doctor Who fanzine `Plaything of Sutekh` featuring...

What Did the Sixties Do For Who? – a look at how the Patrick Troughton era of the show reflected the changes facing Britain in the late 1960s
A New Direction? – a look at the evolution of the series under Steven Moffat
Accidental Art – While Terry Nation and Douglas Adams were pulling in opposite directions, how Ken Grieve’s innovative approach raised `Destiny of the Daleks` above the norm.
Secret Who – we re-evaluate a clutch of less celebrated stories and find there’s more to them than meets the eye: We’re talking `Underworld`, `The Krotons` and `The Android Invasion`. Do not be afraid- they are better than you think.
Franks’s Who – the lasting influence of Frank Bellamy’s `Radio Times` art on Doctor Who illustration.
Return of the King- Reviews of Tom Baker’s return as the Doctor in Big Finish audios.
Plus recent DVD releases reviewed and we tell you who the next Doctor will be.
Oh, and the inevitable lots more.
The issue is 40 b/w A5 pages fully illustrated with colour cover.
How to order
Please send a Paypal payment (via paypal.co.uk or paypal.com) to playthingofsutekh@mail.com.
You can also pay by cheque- please drop us an email for the payee details.
Don’t forget to include your address!
United Kingdom: £2.35 / Elsewhere in Europe: £3.60 / Outside Europe: £4.60 / Offworld: 41 credits
If you’ve already bought it, then tell us what you think at http://www.playthingofsutekh.blogspot.co.uk/


Up-words - The Mummy

Up-words features the best of the articles from This way up when it was published as a print fanzine from 2002- 2010.

The Mummy / Dave Rolinson / June 2005

Ever since Press Gang (1989-93), my other favourite series in the whole world ever, I’ve been waiting for Steven Moffat to find a vehicle for the sheer breadth of his talent as a dramatist, and here it is! Although Press Gang respected its Children’s ITV audience (particularly in its early investigative and ‘issue’ episodes and dating gossip), Moffat’s boldness and versatility also made demands of that audience. Take ‘Monday-Tuesday’ and ‘The Last Word’, suspenseful and emotionally draining stories built upon ambitious time-schemes, unapologetically comedic farces like ‘In the Picture’ and the sex-obsessed ‘Food, Love and Insecurity’ (sample filthy dialogue: ‘Do you want to blow my cover?’ ‘Sounds great, when do we start?’), or the semi-mystical final episode ‘There Are Crocodiles’. Press Gang’s central relationship combines Moonlighting-style banter with emotional and psychological complexity: the Freudian nightmare of Lynda’s realisation of her similarity to Spike’s mother, or the just-plain perfect ‘Love and War’, in which we realise that Spike’s angry answerphone messages to his father are his way of dealing with his father’s death. High drama, fascinating ideas, cracking one-liners: for some of us, Moffat seemed destined for a glittering career as a dramatist.


Blakewatch Week 20 - Killer

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

This week: Season Two Episode 7- Killer
(1979) Writer: Robert Holmes / Director: Vere Lorrimer
While Avon and Vila undertake a mission to steal a pulse crystal from a base on the planet Fosferon that will help them translate the new Federation message code, the Liberator detects a spaceship that could be hundreds of years old and appears to contain signs of life…

Thus far the series has largely kept away from the sort of horror influences that had made Doctor Who so successful in the mid 1970s so it is interesting to see one of that show’s architects Robert Holmes bring the different approach to Blake’s 7. Though it opens with yet another raid on a top secret security installation (you really think the Federation would have instigated more robust security by now), `Killer` takes a different turn once we are inside.

"Ronald, I can't move anything"


Schools of Thought

A complementary double bill of David Hare’s new play South Downs and the Terrance Rattigan classic The Browning Version, first performed together at last year’s Chichester Festival.
David Hare’s new play South Downs opens with teacher Reverend Eric Dewley asking nervous schoolboy John Blakemore what he wanted to see him about, whereupon the latter announces he can’t tell him. This confuses the reverend; after all it was the boy who asked to see him? Such witty sleight of hand is very much the means by which Hare approaches what could otherwise be the too solemn or alternatively hysterical topic of growing up and questioning the accepted values.


Up-words - It's Time for Doctor Who

Up-words features the best of the articles from This way up when it was published as a print fanzine from 2002- 2010.

It’s Time for Doctor Who / John Connors / June 2005

Imagine you’re a Doctor Who fan. One day in the 1990s someone appears from the future (and, hey, he might be a bit Northern with prominent ears and a black coat, you never know) and tells you that your favourite telly show will be back on air in 2005 and not only will it be great, exciting, terrifying and epic but it will be a ratings trouncing success, the serious critics will rave and even people who previously thought it was all silly wobbly set laden kids stiff will swoon when they catch an eyeful. There will also, he adds with a twinkle in his eyes, be Daleks, millions of them. “Fantastic!”  It sounds like something that could never happen but here we are in 2005 and it has happened. It were never been like this in the old days when effects were rarely special and Daleks were mostly cardboard cut outs and fans existed in their own enclosed world. A short write up in the `Radio Times`, the odd snippet wedged in the midst of a big `Saturday night on BBC1` trailer and that was your lot in the halcyon days of the 70s. Doctor Who, however successful it was, never had the cachet it has right now.


Blakewatch week 19 - Trial

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

This week: Season Two Episode 6- Trial
(1979) Writer: Chris Boucher / Director: Derek Martinus
Blake takes a hiatus on a seemingly uninhabited planet as he considers the implications of the attack on Control while Travis is on trial accused of war crimes.

In penning `Trial`, Chris Boucher is trying to draw some parallels between Blake and Travis’s respective situations even though there really aren’t any. I suppose you could say they are both on trial except that in Blake’s case it is through his own guilt. Why else would these seemingly unconnected events be brought together in the same episode? The answer only comes at the end when Boucher does manage to link them in a manner so bold yet unlikely that you can only applaud.

"There's a kickin' club in town if you fancy it, Blakey?" "Bog off shorty"


Up-words - Unquiet Slumbers

Up -words features the best of the articles from This way up when it was published as a print fanzine from 2002- 2010.

Unquiet Slumbers / John Connors / June 2005

Martin McDonagh is notorious in literary circles for once telling Sean Connery to “Shut up, you’ve only made three good films” when the original Jamesh Bond berated him for being drunk at an awards ceremony. The son of an Irish construction worker and a cleaning lady, McDonagh left school at 16, spent ten years on the dole watching his brother attempt to become a writer before having a go himself. Eventually, the Druid Theatre Company picked up his work and he found himself acclaimed as `the most promising playwright to emerge in Britain in the last ten years`.  Plays like Beauty Queen which featured an old woman doused in chip fat, The Lonesome West where a priest put his hands into molten plastic and The Lieutenant of Inishmore in which bodies were seen being hacked up on stage have earned him a reputation as theatre lands’ Tarantino but all his work has a strong moral point to make and doesn’t mind making the audience feel uncomfortable in the process.

The Pillowman asks us to think about responsibility; is a crime justified in extreme circumstances? Is a writer morally responsible for what happens as a result of his words? At a time when theatres have twice recently been threatened with violence for staging `provocative` work, it’s certainly a timely reminder that once a drama is unleashed it is very difficult for its writer to control the results. Premiered at the National Theatre in November 2003, with a cast that included Jim Broadbent, this three month provincial tour saw The Pillowman playing to packed, enthusiastic houses even if the venues were sometimes off the beaten track. For example, sitting in the bar of the slightly surreal, ultra modern Salford Quays theatre, a few miles from the centre of Manchester, I was surprised to see a fully working barge pumping past but that was not to be my only unusual sight of the evening.


Up-words - Hell Hath No Fury

Up-words features the best of the articles from This way up when it was published as a print fanzine from 2002- 2010.

Hell Hath No Fury... / Sean Alexander / October 2004

The decade of yuppie culture and Thatcherism marked something of a renaissance in home-grown television drama.  The ‘greed is good’ ethos of corporate privatisation, combined with rising unemployment and the now familiar sight of British soldiers defending some far-flung nation all provided ample stimulation for some of television’s most renowned playwrights.  Inevitably, such social and cultural upheaval bled heavily into these fictional consciousnesses of the time - with Alan Bleasdale, Dick Clement & Ian La Frenais and Dennis Potter all writing career-defining works come decade’s end.  But while Bleasdale‘s Boys from the Blackstuff and Clement & La Frenais’ Auf Wiedersehen, Pet both took tragi-comic looks at the effects of mass unemployment, Potter instead turned his attention to the past; penning the highly-autobiographical, sexually explicit TV-noir The Singing Detective.  Indeed, so controversial was it that it marked something of a cauldron-peak in the decades-long debate on suitable peak-time viewing.  And the resultant questioning of its cultural merits in Parliament only underlined British drama’s then position at the zeitgeist of popular culture.


Blakewatch week 18 - Pressue Point

The story so far: There are 52 episodes of Blake’s 7 and 52 weeks in the year so a group of us are watching an episode a week....

This week: Season Two Episode 5- Pressure Point
(1979) Writer: Terry Nation / Director: George Spenton- Foster
Blake persuades the others to reluctantly go along with a daring raid on Control, the Federation’s notoriously inaccessible central monitoring system on Earth. However his decision leads to tragedy for one of the Liberator crew.

Sometimes, ol’ Terry Nation does hit the spot. `Pressure Point` jangles with the tension hinted at last week as the crew argue over the ramifications of Blake’s plan to strike at the heart of the Federation. We see a more fanatical than ever Blake, who manages to get them to Earth before even revealing his plan which he presents as a fait accompli. The subsequent arguments draw out the differing viewpoints of the crew, suggesting that the usual bickering masks even greater divides. While flawed heroes are nothing new in tv drama per se, a lot of telefantasy of the 1970s was filled with simplistic archetypes with none of the grey areas writers prefer to explore these days.  If the others seem to capitulate to Blake’s idea a little too easily Nation isn’t finished tricking us yet. It’s as if he is gleefully subjugating his own storytelling traits culminating in a double whammy at the end.

Gan starts to suspect there is something a bit different this week...