UFOwatch: The Sound of Silence

written by David Lane and Bob Bell
directed by David Lane

A UFO lands somewhere in the English countryside and SHADO have to find it and its occupant before anyone is harmed.

Isn’t this the plot to a previous episode? There is certainly a sense of déjà vu about matters which seem to tread already well -worn ground with no new perspective to add. Given the credits, it’s tempting to speculate that David Lane was just given some resources to go and shoot something in the woods. Every scene is superbly directed with Lane displaying a talent for atmosphere yet all that effort is poured into a story that has nothing to say. It’s as clear an example of style over content as the series has yet managed.

We do notice come changes suggesting this is after a production break in which the series was rebooted slightly to fix any lingering problems, though obviously not in the script department. Certainly the show has never looked so crisp or well- made as it does here. The model shots interact very well with the live setting while the brief but noisy exchange of fire between the SHADO mobiles and the UFO is as well executed as it could be. Lane’s busy direction pulls off several impressive moves- the freeze frame opening titles, the lurking alien peering through foliage, the cameras running alongside horses and people. Even the sound effects are excellent.

However good all this is, we shouldn’t really be noticing the sound effects though and all these attributes don’t stop the episode becoming tedious. How many minutes horse riding do we have to watch for example? As if the opening sequence isn’t enough we get more later on in extended scenes when we already know that Russell Stone is a show jumper. There’s an initially promising plot involving someone living in the woods that peters out when he is killed without serving much purpose at all. Sure enough, Stone himself is later taken by the alien but even this doesn’t give the narrative any traction. We don’t even have the faintly silly, but at least dramatic, scenario of him being partly turned into an alien or something, instead he’s found, thawed out and, er, that’s it.

There’s some interest in seeing the guest cast as they are all younger versions of actors we are more familiar with later in life; Michael Jayston playing a rather lighter character than he has more recently, Susan Jamieson from New Tricks looking somehow more than 40 years younger and Richard Vernon who made his name playing old men looking merely middle aged. 

"Unless this episode gets more interesting, I'm going home"

The big change- apart from Straker’s new less distracting screensaver- is that Alec Freeman has gone. Supposedly Straker’s long time mate, no reference is made as to the reasons for his absence which takes away the only discernable human character from the show. It leaves Paul Foster as Straker’s right hand man which can only drain some of the colour away from the series unless of course Foster’s plan is to worm his way into Straker’s confidence before selling him to the aliens as payback for all the trauma he’s been through. As for Alec, perhaps he’s just gone for a very, very long liquid lunch.

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