Volcano

Written by:
Allan Prior
Directed by: Desmond McCarthy
Episode Length: 51'37
Original UK Transmission Date: 21/1/1980
Original UK Ratings: 9.0m
Original UK Chart Position: 41

DVD Availability: Try sendit.com
DVD Availability: Not yet released - check back later for pre-order details

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

Guest-Starring: Jacqueline Pearce (Servalan), Michael Gough (Hower), Malcom Bullivant (Bershar), Ben Howard (Mori), Alan Bowerman (Battle Fleet Commander), Judy Matheson (Mutoid) and Russell Denton (Milos).

Crew: Stuart Fell (Stunt Co-Ordinator), Edwina Craze (Production Assistant), Sheelagh Rees (Production Unit Manager), Hermione Stewart (Director's Assistant), Antony Root (Assistant Floor Manager), Peter Chapman (Film Cameraman), Ian Sansom (Film Recordist), Sheila S. Tomlinson (Film Editor), Brian Clemett (Studio Lighting), Malcolm Johnson (Studio Sound), Elizabeth Parker (Special Sound), Steve Drewett/Jim Francis (Visual Effects Designers), A.J. Mitchell (Electronic Effects), Doug Burd (Graphic Designer), Dee Robson (Costume Designer), Sheelagh J. Wells (Make-Up Artist), Dudley Simpson (Music), Terry Nation (Series Deviser), Chris Boucher (Script Editor), Gerry Scott (Designer) and David Maloney (Producer).

Story: The Liberator travels to the planet Obsidian (a vital point in the sixth sector, of strategic importance to the Federation) looking for Blake and trying to recruit it as a base. Knowing the planet has detector beams, Avon sends down Tarrant and Dayna as he still does not fully trust them. There they seek out Hower, an old friend of Dayna's father. However, his son betrays them to the Federation, with Hower eventually killing his own son. In order to preserve his planet's pacifistic way of life (where citizens are kept peaceful by means of electric treatment and psychotherapy), Hower destroys his planet by detonating a nuclear device deep in its heart.

Tarrant: Despite claiming in the previous episode that he only trained as a Federation Captain, here Tarrant claims he was one "for a time, until I deserted."

Vila: Vila states that he brought his "grade four ignorant" classification from a friend of the testing centre as he didn't want the higher classification. This would suggest that the grades aren't ascribed to children as previously believed, though Vila could be lying. He is also seen drinking again, as he would do for 10 of the 23 remaining episodes now Blake wasn't around*. In season four's Power and Blake he doesn't actually do it, but talks about it frequently, and he pretends to be drunk to get out of work in Stardrive. Oddly, the episode Assassin ends with Soolin making them all a drink, though only Vila isn't passed his. His drunkest moment is definitely in Sand, where he's so paralytic he can't stand and even has a go at Avon. Though even in Warlord he's pretty plastered and nearly gets punched by Tarrant as a result…

* For completeness' sake, Vila's post-Volcano drinking episodes are: Dawn of the Gods, Rumours of Death, Moloch, Death-Watch, Terminal, Rescue, Animals, Sand, Orbit and Warlord.

The Liberator: Zen informs Avon that he can only scan around half of a planet's surface from geostationary orbit, something Avon claims he already knew.

The Federation: Zen claims the Federation has a "teletext" system. Presumably it comes online after BBC2 has closed down for the evening…


Viewpoint:
"Never mind. We're still here."

Allan Prior brings in his fourth of five Blake's 7 scripts to the screen with Volcano. The previous three were rubbish, his last is rubbish* and this is rubbish. Say what you like about the guy, at least he was consistent. (* Actually, I do like Animals, but if I'd have admitted that then it would have ruined the flow of the sentence, wouldn't it? Besides, liking Animals? That's a revelation for another time…)

This story features Michael Gough in a wicker chair, living under a volcano with the world's most pathetic robot. (Check out 2'53m in for one of the best-ever boom mike shadows, reflected on the robot's "casing") Could only Tarrant be so thick as to say "what's that" while looking at a volcanic eruption? Mind you, exposition is a problem all throughout the episode, as Vila asking to be reminded of the planet's name should attest.

Hasn't Josette Simon got long legs by the way? It's refreshing to see that even in the future VPL still hasn't been cured. And that shot of the guard falling into the volcano was apparently so expensive that it took a decade of the licence fee for the BBC to be able to pay for it. Still, it's nice to see all the grainy stock footage that surrounds it - I bet the descendants of Hiroshima just loved that nuke clip at the end.

Desmond McCarthy's direction holds reasonable angles and shots, though fails to get the best from the actors. And Michael Gough is a class act, but having awful lines like "It is our belief that every man is at war with himself" sees him hamstrung from the outset.

Having Servalan's spacecraft revealed as looking like a whale with teeth corrodes any credibility she once had, leaving sole good bit to be where Vila appears to break the fourth wall on the line "I just hope I was right!" Oh, and the bit where he says the title quote to Avon. Avon's reaction is priceless…