Blakewatch - Week 36 Ultraworld

Season Three Episode 10- Ultraworld
(1980) Writer: Trevor Hoyle / Director: Vere Lorrimer

The Liberator crew are forced to investigate a metal planet made by aliens after Cally disappears.


If you were to watch one segment of this episode with the sound turned down you might think it was some bizarre version of The Great British Bake Off. An army of lookalike chefs are loading people onto a conveyer belt that runs into a large oven to help create a giant crusty loaf.  Perhaps this image burned itself into the minds of dance group The Orb who in 1989 released an ambient track called ` A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld `.  It certainly made the episode more renowned than many. So is `Ultraworld` actually any good if you try to take it seriously?

"Do you think we've put too much yeast in that loaf, Cyril?"

Writer Trevor Hoyle cooks up a rather slim plot about a planet that has been constructed of metal and whose inhabitants; the blue skinned Ultras lure passing travellers inside in order to drain their brains of knowledge and then feed them to the aforementioned pulsating brain. Hoyle doesn’t concern himself much with how they managed to build a planet when there appear to be just three of them- or if the planet made itself how it created the Ultras. Nor is he concerned with why people’s memories can be stored in physical objects. Nor indeed where the brain came from in the beginning. The fact that it looks like a massive crusty bun is therefore not the worst of the problems `Ultraworld` has.

Hoyle mixes the technological with the physical and never bothers too much with logic. The designers hardly help- for example the contents of the brain can be removed using little more than coloured lights- and can seemingly be put back without so much as a headache! So you can’t really take the episode seriously in any way.

On the other hand, as a brash run around it kind of works Ok. With uncanny skill Tarrant soon gets the hang of the layout of seemingly identical tunnels and for little reason than to keep up the excitement he and Dayna spend much of the time dashing around. Both Cally and later Vila succumb to the Ultra’s brain drain leaving Vila to literally fool about on the ship. All of the characters seem to be behaving as if the events of recent weeks haven’t happened- perhaps this episode was intended for earlier in the season?

The Bee Gees'  new image shocked fans in 1980

There are some good points. Before the mystery is fully unfurled the impressively designed Ultra’s mysterious agenda creates some intrigue. It is odd that they’ve made most of the drones middle aged balding blokes but it adds an intriguing, surreal touch. Director Vere Lorrimer includes some interesting flourishes notably framing these workers in red laser light and smoke to make them appear rather more menacing than they are. The location serves to open up the adventure providing a rare example of somewhere that really does look as large as it is supposed to. Vila’s solo work back on board is entertaining and once again Orac’s awkwardness proves fun.
In the end though- and rather like our giant loaf-the whole thing collapses under the weight of itself. The denouement is unlikely and the execution scrappy. It has a whiff of weaker Doctor Who stories wherein our hero unravels the workings of a whole planet too easily and the antagonists’ own inability to act sensibly causes their demise. They’re clever enough to construct a planet and a giant computer but can’t deal with a handful of people. As for the bread, once it starts oozing nasty looking green liquid the whole thing has gone stale.  


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