The Complete Series Two DVD Boxset
It’s a shame that there’s such an unprofessional attitude taken towards the marketing of the DVDs. Not that the long delay of the second boxset came as any surprise after the first time, but many magazines carried a full-page ad to promote it. Under the heading “Avon Calling!” it listed “3 charachter (sic) introduction (sic) – introducing Orac, the Matoides (sic) & The Ballad of Travis II”. This might seem like minor quibbling, but if the people responsible for promoting the set can’t even be bothered to get their national ads proofread, then what message does that send out?
It’s such a shame because the discs are so good, and Blake’s 7 has never looked better than this, with more time apparently being spent on restoration. The images on some DVDs are normally of negligible difference from VHS in some cases, but here the image quality really is marked. Unfortunately this does, of course, once again mean that you can see exactly how cheap every single set is, but that’s the breaks when you’re a fan of SF’s bargain basement. While I was perhaps a little too soft on the CGI opening sequence during my review of season one (not even comparing the new version of the theme to the Brian May it clearly sounded like) it must be said that the new treatment for this one is pretty lame. On the subject of presentation, then having the new box set a completely different colour (brown instead of grey) does suggest that – quite rightly, perhaps – Fabulous had an eye more on sales rather than how it would look on your bookshelf.
Thankfully, the commentaries are an improvement over the first. While – unless he steps in for Terminal or Blake - the star of the show will now never feature on a commentary, (nor David Jackson, should you care), there’s a greater pace and chemistry between the cast members involved. Jan Chappell, surprisingly so given how disparaging she’s been of the show in the past, is very enthusiastic, and she’s joined by David Maloney, who is far more authoritative and directing in this run. The two of them are joined by Chris Boucher (who, as he gave this site an interview, can charitably be described as “eccentric”) for Shadow and Trial. Also on Trial is Brian Croucher who adds some East End gusto to it all (at one point suggesting they should have directed the series like Martin Scorsese), even if his three co-speakers have now talked themselves out a little after their first stab at one. Chappell even goes so far as to suggest they’re talking too much, and should “stop and listen to the dialogue.” Umm… you’re being paid to talk, Jan. Also listen out for a groan from Chris after she starts a conversation about the treatment of women in the series. I wonder what she’d think if she ever read this site’s interview with him? Best moment is where David Maloney misunderstands a point she’s making and she gets testy. Lastly, there’s Gambit, which has Maloney and Croucher joined by Michael Keating and Jacqueline Pearce. Technically, this should be the worst of the three, as nearly half of the episode goes by without any talking at all. Yet in many ways it’s my favourite, especially with the likeable Croucher getting lucid (Maloney unfortunately interrupts him before he slags off George Spenton-Foster). It’s pretty much Brian and David’s show all the way, with Jackie only saying “Dahhhhhhhling” eight times, and Michael Keating strangely subdued, leaving the jokes to Brian. He does, however, get a class rejoinder to Maloney telling him about Deep Roy’s plans for a series about a midget detective: “Did he ever get it off the ground?”
One way in which the DVD extras score highly is by being shunted onto the final disc with a single episode. If they were trumpeted as an integral part of the boxset then they would disappoint, but as … well, extras… you’d be hard-hearted to complain. My God, they are a pretty ropey bunch this time around though. We have Mat’s
Then there’s look backs at two children’s Saturday programmes of the late 70s/early 80s, Saturday Superstore (5’01m) with Mike Read larking about with Mat Irvine, and Multi-Coloured Swap Shop (19’31m) with Noel Edmonds interviewing Gareth Thomas and Jacqueline Pearce. Edmonds, as The Office put it, can’t get on TV for “love nor money” these days, but it’s nice to have a reminder that, while not particularly groundbreaking, his presenting style of years gone by was sufficiently intelligent and several levels above Reid’s bland egotism. Best bit comes when a phone-in viewer asks Jacqueline “When you watch the programme on telly, do you think you could have done better in some ways?”
Scene Today (10'54m) from 1991 is pretty asinine and again features Gareth and Jackie. The programme is so similar to long-running BBC “magazine” programme Pebble Mill that Gareth even calls it that twice during the feature. Even more pointless are Episode Synopses, which are plot summaries of the episodes already on the discs, The Mutoids (1’25m), which is basically stills set to a heartbeat, and Introducing Orac (0’19m), a one-off joke shot that might amuse some.
On the first box set I noted how superb the season two trailer was. Here, sadly, the Series III Trailer – in Widescreen (2’18m) and Standard (2’11m) formats – is dreadful by opting for high camp and silliness in favour of dramatic presentation. At a convention panel it’d probably go down a treat, but as a worthwhile advert for the next boxset then all you need to know is that the clip of Colin Baker is actually one of the least hammy on there. (The observant might note that the credits-bedecked widescreen version has end titles that list Kevin Davies’s long-delayed “Making Of” documentary as appearing on the set, though part three. And yes, there’s also a line that states “If you are reading this you really should get out more”.)
Lastly, there’s Small World: Model Spacecraft (8’52m), a 1980 programme which is exactly as interesting as it sounds; June Hudson’s Costume Collection (17’16m), a look at the costumezzzzzzzzzzzzzz and The Ballad of Travis II (3’18m), a clip collection set to Dire Straits that attempts to make him look cool but only succeeds in making him look ridiculous. There are also six Easter Eggs, which, to avoid spoilers, can be found at the bottom of the page or by clicking here
Easter Eggs (Spoilers!)
The first Easter Egg can be found on disc two. Go to scene selection and at the bottom right of the first episode screen is a federation logo. Click on it for Brian Croucher telling a moderately amusing anecdote (1993, 0’44m). Also on the same disc selecting Commentary “on” and waiting for sixty seconds will bring up a 2002 interview with Pennant Roberts (1’51m) where he talks about the shooting of a season one episode. An ideal hidden extra for a season two disc. Lastly, go to episode selection, press down then up to highlight a Federation logo. Clicking on it takes you to a 2002 interview clip with Sally Kynette (2’06m) talking about The Keeper. Tube of Veet not supplied.
Disc four contains the other three eggs. Select the subtitles and commentary on for disc four, then again waiting for sixty seconds. This leads to a clip of an eleven-year-old interview with Jan Chappell (0’48m). On the same disc, go to Episode Selection, select Main Menu, reselect Episode Selection and press down then up to highlight a Federation logo. Click on the logo for an excerpt from the same Sally Kynvette interview (1’08m) – is it just dodgy lighting, do you think? Finally, as with the second disc, go to scene selection for a federation logo in the bottom right hand corner – only this time it’s on episode three, with Brian Croucher talking about the role of Blake and how he went for the part. This is by far the most interesting extra on the set. (1’35m).