Blakewatch - Week 32: City at the Edge of the World

Season Three Episode 6- City at the Edge of the World
(1980) Writer: Chris Boucher / Director: Vere Lorrimer
A deal arranged by Tarrant to purchase crystals needed for the Liberator’s weapons system goes wrong when Vila is sent down to collect them. Instead he is taken prisoner by the notorious criminal Bayban who is desperate to open a strange door behind which he expects to find riches.

Cue Chris Boucher to show how it should be done! After last week’s rather shambolic proceedings, matters pick up with this well written and acted tale of greed and courage. Boucher knows how to write flowing dialogue which may occasionally seem just a little too arch but which remains very watchable. There is a neat mystery at the heart of the episode that opens up the character of Vila considerably and, in what is a showpiece for him, Michael Keating excels.

"I wonder how strong the glue is?"
Vila has been a comic relief from the start and it took a while for him to seem like anything more. By the middle of season two though, partly thanks to Keating’s approach, he was both more likeable and interesting. Yet there has remained a suggestion that apart from being a genius thief and lock picker and also a coward, there is nothing else. Boucher’s script offers an opportunity to expand on that which works very well. The opening scene in which Tarrant bullies him into going down to the planet draws our sympathy straight away even though the explanation seems woolly.

The tentative romance with Kerril (a lively Cheryl Hawkins) is an enjoyable change of emphasis and the dialogue bounces between them adeptly. Mind you, as soon as she has taken a shower and dressed in nicer clothes Kerril seems to become far less assertive. Keating is also in fine form when he is trying to talk to the natives or in his banter with Colin Baker’s Bayban. Baker suits this role far more than he did his subsequent excursion in Doctor Who. Just the way he delivers lines like “My mother used to say...yes, I did have a mother,” with more light and shade than many villains of the day is enjoyable.  

The plot itself manages to hold its secrets well; we can try guessing what’s behind the door but Boucher’s idea that it is a transmat is not one anyone could guess on first watch. Once Vila and ## are inside matters seem a little rushed and the production slightly coy about what they get up to but there is just enough to give us the picture. The extended scenes between the two are perhaps a little too cleverly written and less intimate than you might expect but sometimes they score so well, like the moment Vila realises why Kerril has named the place Homeworld. It’s a shame the scene on the other planet looks so false but I suppose you could say it is an idealistic representation of the place.

After some dodgy looking FX this season, the episode looks great. Clever re-use of the same bits of scenery with different lighting works well and matters are rounded off with a well produced explosion.

1 comment:

  1. The 3rd series really gets into gear at this point. But what about Sherm (Bloodaxe with Brylcreem!)- there's someone who deserved a spin-off series of his own.