Posts Tagged ‘Redemption’

You know that thing that happens when you and your nearest and dearest sit down with your new games console or piece of AV kit, or possibly a Siri or Alexa, and the first damn thing it does is rather smugly prophesy your home blowing up and everyone in it dying? Well, that’s the situation that Blake and his gang of (roughly) seven find themselves in at the start of the second season of their show (the episode title is Redemption). They must be rather regretting ever going in search of the wonder-brain Orac, which is the source of their current predicament.

(I feel it would be remiss not to mention, even if only in passing, the strange wardrobe choices this crisis seems to have occasioned in more than one member of the crew: Gan has opted for a full-length waistcoat, while Blake is rocking a spectacular version of Seinfeld’s puffy shirt in what looks rather like mint-green fleather.)

As is usually the case with this kind of show, the team seem to have taken advantage of the break in production to take a breath and think about which elements of the show really work and which don’t, and what they can do to emphasise the former and improve on the latter. Note One – and, I know I must be becoming a bit repetitive, but even so it’s an obvious one – is to keep feeding Paul Darrow with good lines and scenes as Avon. This gets implemented virtually at once, as while nearly everyone else is nervously checking the ship’s systems for signs of an impending catastrophic breakdown, Avon has already figured out a workable way of avoiding disaster – but not bothered to tell anyone else about it.

At least Blake is man enough to acknowledge Avon’s cleverness: from looking at the projection he has managed to calculate exactly where Orac has predicted the destruction of the Liberator will occur, and it’s off on the far side of the galaxy. All they have do is avoid ever going anywhere near the spot and all should be well. Of course, this turns out to be easier said than done, as no sooner has Avon finished expositing than the Liberator comes under attack from some oddly familiar-looking ships. With key systems knocked out and Zen refusing to respond, the ship is heading at high speed for… well, what are the chances that it will turn out to be off on the far side of the galaxy?

Not actually from the episode, obviously, but so pretty I thought I would share it. Art by someone going by the title of Tenement101.

Yes, this is the episode filling in a key blank spot in the back-story of the series – who built the Liberator and how did it end up being abandoned in space? Actually, only the first half of that actually gets addressed, but the original operators of the ship – the cyborg avatars of Spaceworld, or the System – are such a charmless bunch it’s easy to imagine how they might go around ticking people off on a cosmic scale.

The question of why the System turn up to reclaim their property at this exact moment in time is never really addressed – given it’s intrinsically tied up with the whole question of how Orac’s prophecy is fulfilled, it opens the door to a whole range of posers about predestination. Either Orac has intentionally whistled up the System as a means of ensuring its prediction is fulfilled – which begs the question of why it made that particular prediction in the first place, the most obvious answer being that the machine is borderline psychotic – or it was already aware of the incoming threat of the System attack and just opted not to tell anybody about it – which, again, doesn’t suggest the most stable of personalities.

Either way, it forms the basis of a rather strong and enjoyable episode, despite the fact that the script is – in terms of this series, at least – quite Terrynational. By this I mean that it includes a couple of narrative features usually present in the weaker episodes of the first year – the crew spend half the episode travelling to the location of the climax of the story, and the ongoing story of Blake’s struggle against the Federation is quietly parked so some pulp space opera can take place.

On this occasion, however, it works, possibly just because everyone has come back from the break between seasons refreshed and up for giving the script some welly. There is a real sense of tension and excitement in the early scenes as the Liberator comes under attack; the prospect of finding out some answers about the ship and Zen’s occasionally erratic behaviour is rather enticing too. Once the Liberator arrives at its home port, it’s true that not very much happens beyond the crew immediately escaping again – but the location filming gives the episode a real sense of scale, Vere Lorrimer’s direction is unexpectedly fluid and inventive, and the sequence of the crew’s escape is genuinely pacy and exciting. Everyone gets some sort of moment to shine except Cally; some light may be shone on the ongoing question of ‘Gan – gentle giant or surgically proscribed violent psycho?’ by the evident delight with which he lays into a bunch of System guards along the way.

In the end, Orac proves that while it may be quietly psychotic, it is quietly psychotic in the service of the crew, comprehensively messing up Spaceworld’s computer systems and blowing up the pursuit vehicle it launches after the Liberator. I know we’ve touched on this before, but even so – it looks like Orac manages to topple an entire civilisation in a matter of hours (we never hear from the System again). It’s a small civilisation, and a very computer-dependent one, but even so – why does Blake make such limited use of Orac’s abilities from this point onward? (Possibly what happens in the very next episode may somehow be pertinent.)

By the end of the episode the cliffhanger has been resolved and we are all set for more space opera escapades across the rest of the season. (It was a fairly dramatically-inert cliffhanger, summoned up out of nowhere just to create some end-of-season tension, but even so.) We have been reminded of what most of the characters do, that Avon usually gets all the best lines, and that Blake is the one who gives the orders (even if why the others routinely obey them is sometimes a bit obscure). The tension between Blake and Avon has also been foregrounded, which bodes well for the future. At this point the show seems set fair for a promising run of episodes in its second year: Redemption may have a thin story beneath its pacy and impressive surface, but it hits all the right notes and has some very positive energy to it.

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