Ultraworld

Written by:
Trevor Hoyle
Directed by: Vere Lorrimer
Episode Length: 48'58
Original UK Transmission Date: 10/3/1980
Original UK Ratings: 9.2m
Original UK Chart Position: 28

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Starring: Paul Darrow (Avon), Jan Chappell (Cally), Michael Keating (Vila), Steven Pacey (Tarrant), Josette Simon (Dayna) and Peter Tuddenham (Orac/Zen).

Guest-Starring: Peter Richards/Stephen Jenn/Ian Barritt (Ultras) and Ronald Govey (Relf).

Crew: Tex Fuller (Stunt Co-Ordinator), Catherine Page (Production Assistant), Sheelagh Rees (Production Unit Manager), Shuna Young (Director's Assistant), Riita Lynn (Assistant Floor Manager), Peter Chapman (Film Cameraman), Ian Sansom (Film Recordist), Sheila S. Tomlinson (Film Editor), Steve Drewett/Jim Francis (Visual Effects Designers), A.J. Mitchell (Electronic Effects), Doug Burd (Graphic Designer), Peter Valentine (Technical Manager), Dave White (Senior Cameraman), Paul del Bravo (Vision Mixer), Brian Clemett (Studio Lighting), Richard Partridge (Studio Sound), Elizabeth Parker (Special Sound), Nicholas Rocker (Costume Designer), Dudley Simpson (Music), Terry Nation (Series Deviser), Chris Boucher (Script Editor), Jan Spoczynski/Ken Ledsham (Designers) and David Maloney (Producer).

Trivia: Sheelagh Wells asked for her onscreen credit to be removed from this serial after disagreements with costume designer Nicky Rocker. Despite her protests, she was presented with costumes that both dislodged the Ultras' neck veins, and rubbed off her blue skin paint. As a result, she asked for her name to be taken off the episode as Make-Up Artist.

Story: The Liberator encounters an artificial planet known as "Ultraworld". A vast computerised system controlled by "the core", a self-compensating brain, it's filled with germanium circuitry and able to regenerate by means of nuclear plasmic absorption. The servants of The Core have encountered "millions of species" and Ultraworld contains information "on all known worlds and civilisations." They also have specimen drones from various worlds they have encountered, including specimen P7943011, a humanoid vertebrate, sub category menial, known as "Relf" from Probus 4.
Eventually the crew of the Liberator is captured, with Avon and Cally's minds placed onto chips, ready to be added to The Core. However, back on the ship Vila is teaching Orac nonsense rhymes, which Orac then directs to the Core, destroying it with illogical information. The crew escapes and flies the Liberator out of Ultraworld before it self-destructs.

Avon: Avon notes that "I tend to suffer from insomnia", though this could be a bluff to the Ultras who are trying to induce sleep.

Dayna: Dayna again uses her mobile, heat-seeking bomb (see City at the Edge of the World), and has some explosive that can be charged by placing it between her teeth like chewing gum.


Viewpoint:
"Shall we stay and observe or scuttle off with our closed minds intact?"

Writer Trevor Hoyle was behind the not-particularly-well-received Blake's 7 novelisations. Perhaps amusingly, when the novels were widely available on Amazon and slated by site visitors, Hoyle himself logged on to post a mardy "time restrictions" justification of his work. "Of course my novelisations of Blake's 7 differ from the actual transmissions of the programmes," he ranted, "because I was writing them BEFORE they were recorded, in order to meet publishing deadlines. Changes were bound to be made, but by then I had written and delivered the final typescript. Get it?" (with thanks to Amazon) Official witness statements believe that Trevor has since picked his teddy up off the floor after he threw it out of his pram. Sadly, however, his dummy still lies on the floor where he spat it out.

As for his sole episode, then imagine, should you care to, a story full of guys in blue jump suits, ordering Tarrant and Dayna to undergo "bonding" so they can observe it. Avon and Cally's memories are wiped onto chips, with the possibility that their minds might get mixed up, and a giant brain controls it all. Vila saves the day by telling Orac limericks. Yes, really.

All this pulp SF nonsense should be awful, yet somehow it's quite watchable, if not actually any good. There are three main problems with the episode, however: 1. Hoyle's Nation-like adherence to linear scripting, contrivance and motivational shorthand; 2. Complete mishandling of the crew's characteristics; and 3. The light entertainment touch to it all. With zombified guards and remarks like "they could take us out quite easily with their technology" the Ultras are built up as a formidable, oppressive force. Sadly, this never comes across on screen, although the brain is surprisingly well realised, and otherworldly in its appearance.

This never really feels like a Blake's 7 episode, more a pale imitation written by someone who'd half-seen an episode years earlier and thought they'd have a bash using only the basic stereotypes and a few b-movie stock clichés. It's a pleasant enough viewing experience, but let's all be thankful that Trevor never wrote another, eh?