12/04/2013

UFOwatch: Confetti Check A OK


Written by Tony Barwick
Directed by David Lane


A celebration at SHADO HQ brings back mixed memories of the foundation of SHADO for Straker.

UFO is a series that possess a remarkable capacity to surprise. Just when you think you’ve seen the dullest episode they could manage, along comes one that is even less exciting. This one takes the entire packet of biscuits. While it might seem interesting that we get to see how SHADO formed, we should know better by now. Once again any thrills are left to one side in favour of exposition, meetings and people looking worried. Presumably the writer imagined that focussing on the deteriorating Straker marriage would add emotional ballast but when every conversation the couple have is clich├ęd and unconvincing it does not. Never mind the confetti; you can check off all the expected signposts along the way- he stays later at work; check, she demands to know where he’s been: check, she suspects he’s having an affair; check AOK.

 


"Ed- are you wearing the curtains again?"




For such a high tech guy, Straker’s choice of home d├ęcor is more of the Lawrence Llewellyn- Bowen school of rich ostentatiousness. His walls are over hung with paintings in gaudy gold frames, his furniture is pseudo antique and he appears to have an untouched Ferrero Rocher pyramid permanently lurking in the background. Perhaps in case an ambassador happens to call?  His wife does nothing all day – she actually admits such at one point. She does however read a lot which seems to be show’s stock depiction of at- home women. Don’t they ever watch TV? At least we’re a step on from other shows of the day that always depicted the wife in the kitchen or knitting.

It is absurd shorthand to try and show us SHADO’s early development in this manner if indeed we really need to see it at all. For example Straker goes to a meeting to gain budgetary approval, hands out the figures on paper which the board read in five minutes flat, hand back to him and which he then shreds on his way out!  That’s that; funding secured! We’re told it is multi billion investment which suggests the writers imagined that the governments of the day were awash with money. Straker’s involvement in the work is also ludicrously hands on; are we really expected to believe someone in his position can never be spared during construction or would be checking cables and wires after midnight?  Mind you, I wonder why he doesn’t order a regency painting for his office wall instead of the swirly screen he ends up with as it would be more in keeping with his taste.

An episode filled with trivia demands a counterpoint but there is none to be found. The only frisson is when Mrs Straker tumbles down the stairs presumably because she falls asleep trying to remember her lines. Never mind, she is ok, the baby’s ok, no real drama to see here.  Clearly the production team thought they would produce something bold and unexpected and it is the case that we see a more human side to Straker that we haven’t glimpsed before, something that Ed Bishop handles very well. Despite the nonsense they have to say, both he and Mrs S (Suzanne Neary) exude warmth together and had the dialogue been better and some proper adventure introduced something good might have been made from what is an episode that seems to be as boring as a TV show could be. Next week: Straker orders too many sprouts but Alec has an idea to turn them into a refreshing alcoholic drink.

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