Assassin

Written by:
Rod Beacham
Directed by: David Sullivan Proudfoot (and Vere Lorrimer, uncredited)
Episode Length: 49'32
Original UK Transmission Date: 9/11/1981
Original UK Ratings: 8.8m

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Starring: Paul Darrow (Avon), Michael Keating (Vila), Josette Simon (Dayna), Steven Pacey (Tarrant), Glynis Barber (Soolin) and Peter Tuddenham (Orac/Slave).

Guest-Starring: Jacqueline Pearce (Servalan), Betty Marsden (Verlis), Richard Hurndall (Nebrox), Caroline Holdaway (Piri), John Wyman (Cancer), Peter Attard (Benos), Adam Blackwood (Tok) and Mark Barratt (Servalan's Captain).

Crew: Terry Forrestal (Stunt Co-ordinator), Rosemary Crowson (Production Manager), Frank Pendlebury (Production Associate), Joan Marine (Production Assistant), Christopher Moss (Assistant Floor Manager), Fintan Sheehan (Film Cameraman), Stuart Moser (Film Sound), Sheila S. Tomlinson (Film Editor), Jim Francis/Mike Kelt (Visual Effects Designers), Robin Lobb (Video Effects), Dick Bailey (Graphic Designer), Francis Smith (Properties Buyer), Jack Walsh (Technical Manager), Dave White (Senior Cameraman), Mary Kellehar (Vision Mixer), Warwick Fielding (Studio Lighting), Malcolm Johnson (Studio Sound), Elizabeth Parker (Special Sound), Nicholas Rocker (Costume Designer), Suzanne Jansen (Make-Up Artist), Dudley Simpson (Music), Terry Nation (Series Deviser), Chris Boucher (Script Editor), Graham Lough/Roger Cann (Designers) and Vere Lorrimer (Producer).

Story: Vila intercepts a transmission from Servalan asking Cancer to meet her at the planet Domo. A planet colonised by a group of space pirates "about a decade ago" and near the edge of the sixth quadrant, the crew travels there to intercept him. Avon has heard of Cancer, an infallible assassin, and plans to meet him first.
They eventually get aboard Cancer's ship, and rescue Piri, his hostage. However, it turns out that the helpless Piri is really Cancer herself, and that the man she is with is a hired actor to deceive them. Her ship is controlled by Servalan, who had planned on Vila intercepting her transmission. Cancer is killed by her own trap, while Avon, Soolin and Tarrant are teleported back aboard the Scorpio with seconds to spare before Servalan destroys Cancer's craft.

The Federation: Servalan talks of a "communications net." (A clever presaging of the Internet?)


Viewpoint:
"I've learned to live with disappointment."

The middle episode of Blake's most sanitised season, and the bridge between the weak first half and the much improved second half. When I first saw Assassin I thought it was pretty decent-ish. Seen again it's another load of ropy old tot. One thing I did cotton on to straight away is that Piri is not all she seems, as her initial "poor victim" acting is so bad. I didn't realise she actually was Cancer, but I knew something was amiss. Sadly, it turns out that her dodgy performance wasn't intentional and that Caroline Holdaway really is a terrible actress. "I thought he put up rather a convincing performance, didn't you?" Yeah, he did, which is more than I can say for you - you say your lines like you've got a cucumber rammed up your arse, you am-dram bint. For God's sake, get some acting lessons, you mousey old tart!

Rod Beacham (the first of four writers to make their debut in season four with one story apiece) doesn't turn in a bad script, but the excessive use of fades and lack of strong actor control exhibited by David Sullivan Proudfoot mire the piece. Format-wise, it appears to be based on the tenets of a slasher horror movie (topically, as the UK "Video Nasty" debate was just around the corner), though this never achieves its potential and the amazing spider-crab is pathetic.

Paul Darrow (who has notably lost weight) hams it up alongside the old git who played Hartnell in The Five Doctors. As the budget couldn't stretch to recurring guest actors, he's just one in a line of season four "allies of the week" that get killed off. Speaking of Who, this one is so cheap it recycles many old costumes from that series. Just as Rescue had a painted Sea Devil, here we have a guy in Omega's outfit. Ironically, out of the two producers, the series creator and the script editor, it was only Vere Lorrimer that had never worked on Doctor Who. The fake beards don't help matters, and how annoying is that clichéd Arabic music?

Lastly, a word on Jacqueline Pearce. Watching the series again, virtually back-to-back, I've been consistently impressed with her performances and feel she actually contributed a great deal. Most of the trepidation I had about her I now realise was solely related to season four. She's awful here, a camped-up Dynasty reject doling out smutty innuendo and trashing the programme as a result. It's gone too far, too silly, too self-aware, and there's no getting back. The "battle of the sexes" subtext is just too patronising to the viewer to even be worthy of comment.

Pretty lame when all's said and done, though Tarrant managing to grow back his balls (albeit in the most dumb, macho way) save this episode from the indignity of a single mark: