2.12: The Keeper
Heaven help us, Allan Prior’s back. He maintains his consistency, making it a hat trick of stinkers in Season Two. Apparently this one came about late in the day after Nation’s planned two-part finale fell through. A shame that Derek Martinus was given such a duffer to direct, as he’s unable to breath much life into the proceedings. That comes mostly from Bruce Purchase as Gola, showing the same restraint he brought to the role of the Captain in The Pirate Planet (but unfortunately without the good lines).
The recap of why they’re there at the start doesn’t really sound any more convincing than it did in the last episode. Why did Lurgen even decide to hide the secret in not one but two places if (as Blake says at the climax) he never wanted the secret in the first place? It doesn’t seem like a very effective method if the intention was to maintain it for the future discovery of someone such as Blake (the Fool is lucky to still be alive, while it might have been better to hide the brain print than have it worn and potentially damaged by a warrior type – and how did Docholli ever find out that the brain print ended up as a pendant anyway?) For such an evocatively named planet Goth isn’t up to much.
Avon: Through Star One we could control everything. The Federation could belong to us.
Vila: I could be president.
With Blake, Vila and Jenna down on Goth, Prior gets busy making Avon act uncharacteristically (he’s good at doing this to the crew). Avon’s reckless decision to leave orbit and blow up Travis’s ship lacks the logical and calculating demeanour we usually see, and it’s also unlike him not to deduce that Travis isn’t on his ship due to the ease with which they found and destroyed it. At least his lack of hesitancy about shooting Travis in the back is consistent, and refreshing, since the reason they have to compete to find the location is because Blake yet again refused to kill him in Gambit.
The warriors on Goth are your rather standard medieval-looking fur-clad types. It isn’t long before Vila and Jenna are captured, and while the latter is ostensibly centre stage here her role is as unmemorable as Blake’s in Hostage. Obviously, Blake gets all aggro with Avon for leaving orbit, and you have to side with him for being dubious over Avon’s claimed success in getting rid of Travis.
Bruce Purchase is very effective at playing Bruce Purchase. He has a partner in theatricality with Croucher, having a big old larf with him. The entire guest cast in this one overplay, but it’s mostly not particularly entertaining overplaying as the dialogue and plotting aren’t up to snuff.
Gola: Kick that fool as you pass him. Possibly I might smile at his pain.
As for Servalan, this is pretty much like sticking the Master in The King’s Demons. There’s not really a good reason for her to be here other than she’d probably already been contracted for Nation’s finale. And having her in cahoots with Travis without any kind of mention of their strained relations in Freedom City feels rather off.
The clarification what Star One does is welcome, though (it controls the climate on 200 worlds, communication, security and food production – so one wonders how many innocents will die as a direct result of Blake destroying it). Blake’s emphasis on stopping Travis getting there first and taking control of the place seems like an unnecessary additional threat, as the idea has a rather far-fetched Master scheme-to-rule-the-universe quality that probably doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny.
The “Which member of the royal family has the brain print?” plot is too banal to sustain much interest, so it’s not very much of a twist when we learn that it isn’t anyone we’d been led to suspect.
Blake teams up with Derek Smalls lookalike Rod while Gola gets to woo Jenna. Vila’s fairly well served in this one (someone had to be), with all the best lines and quickly noticing the pendant around Gola’s neck. He also gets to consciously play on the sometime fall-back position of his character being portrayed as an idiot, currying favour with Gola through performing magic tricks.
Why can’t Avon pilot the Liberator? Surely, he could learn? I ask as Cally refuses to redirect the ship to intercept Servalan’s craft and Avon doesn’t reply, “Alright, I’ll do it myself”. Actually, couldn’t he just instruct Zen to pilot it?
There are a few nice compositions that give away Martinus’ skill as a director; noticeably a foregrounding of some skulls and Jenna being entranced by Tara. Freda Jackson’s Tara is about as low key as Purchase, and deserves an award for unremitting maniacal laughter (this telegraphs to us that neither she nor Gola has the brain print). There’s nothing particularly spooky about her mysticism apart from that bit, though.
Gola’s language has overtones of rape towards Jenna (“You will pair bond with me whether you like it or not, you know”) and we learn from Servalan that “She is a superior grade person of the Federation. Her IQ is very high”. An alpha grade like Blake, then?
Vila: I don’t like the dark. I like to see what I’m scared of.
Just when you didn’t think this could get any more clichéd, we get the old man locked in the cellar. He’s played by Arthur Hewlitt (Kalmar in State of Decay and Kimber in Terror of the Vervoids) as if he’s auditioning for Monty Python, moaning and groaning so unconvincingly that he’s probably the funniest part of the story.
Vila: Who’s that?
Blake: He seems harmless.
Vila: He smells horrible.
Blake: So would you if you’d been down here as long as he has.
Vila: Well, let’s not think about that.
Blake’s harmless line sounds odd, almost as if Keating is saying it but it’s supposed to be coming out of Blake’s mouth. Vila’s complete lack of care for the old crusty’s constant moaning and groaning is rather funny.
Vila: Shadap will you? Who is he anyway?
The confrontation between the brothers doesn’t muster much interest, and the scene only picks up when Tara starts laughing and laughing and laughing. And laughing.
Travis making off with the brain print is a decent enough idea, but having the backup trigger phrase of the Fool relaying the location of Star One in a trance seems a bit unlikely, and jolly lucky for Blake.
A curious decision to have the camera tilt 45 degrees when the Liberator changes course, as we never see it lurching like that normally.
Not outright terrible, but not particularly good either. Servalan’s presence is unnecessary, and the setting and characters are uninspired.