21/11/2012

Blakewatch: 52 weeks of Blake's 7. Week 47: Games

Season Four Episode 8- Games
(1981) Writer: Bill Lyons / Director: Vivienne Cozens
In pursuit of valuable energy generating Feldon crystals, the Scorpio crew have to deal with the wily head of the mining operation Berkov, whom nobody can trust.
 Bill Lyons seems to have a strong handle of what works and what doesn’t in this series. Keeping matters moving along, he frames the entire scenario as an elaborate game with trickery and deceit all over the place. We may smile now at the primitive – though still deadly- electronic games people have to play during the episode but remember this was made at the dawn of the computer age. Lyons does complicate things by having too many locales but this is a strident and enjoyable piece of 1980s TV.

Stratford Johns posters featured on many walls in the 70s
 
In Stratford Johns’ Berkov we have a memorable guest star. At times acting childishly and possessed of an arcade game mentality, Berkov is much more than the dotty inventor or pioneering scientist we’ve grown used to in the show lately. The role is aided by Johns’ ability to switch from confidence to humility and a clear enjoyment of the role. The dialogue between him and Servalan is a delight, full of sarcastic barbs, rolled eyes and covert meaning. Yes, Servalan is here possessing as she does the ability to zip anywhere in the Universe at the drop of a silk hat. She does wander off near the end with an exasperated expression once she realises yet another scheme hasn’t worked out; perhaps it’s time she stopped blaming her generals!
As the title suggests, there is playfulness to the episode not always of the nice sort. In the opening seconds a series of explosions apparently kills thousands but the crew seems unconcerned; “they’d all have died anyway” surmises Avon who is in giddy form this week, Paul Darrow taking every opportunity to mug for the camera. The episode does underline how Avon seems to be going off the rails; his schemes are seemingly risky and often begun without the knowledge of his crew-mates. You sometimes wonder why they stick with him.
Berkov’s friendship with his computer Gambit is odd as well – it’s a as if he has transferred the personality of a woman he once knew into it, though this is not stated as such. When he makes his escape at the end, Gambit won’t let him off the hook and starts its/ her self destruct. Lyons also constructs a succession of twists that satisfy right to the end. The one element that perhaps doesn’t work as well, only because there is not enough time to explore it, is that of the indigenous population who are on odd combination of modern visors, priests’ robes and mellifluous chanting in caves. It is slightly too neat that each of the games the crew encounter suits a particular one of them but it does ensure that everyone has something to do.
Visually there was clearly some money spent on this one with two sequences of pounding explosions that are definitely real. It’s an odd accolade to bestow for sure, but I’d say this is the best pyro we’ve seen in the series. Vivienne Cozens directs with a great sense of dynamism taking full advantage of the screens and the outdoor locations as Lyons’ script jumps from one place to another. He manages to end on a strong note too with the revelation that there are actually no crystals at all left on the planet while the ones that Vila swipes are fakes. Of course Avon knew all along…!
 

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