Voice From The Past

Written by:
Roger Parkes
Directed by: George Spenton-Foster
Episode Length: 48’35
Original UK Transmission Date: 13/3/1979
Original UK Ratings: 7.0m
Original UK Chart Position: 80

DVD Availability: Try sendit.com or Amazon

Starring: Gareth Thomas (Blake), Sally Knyvette (Jenna), Paul Darrow (Avon), Jan Chappell (Cally), Michael Keating (Vila) and Peter Tuddenham (Orac/Zen).

Guest-Starring: Jacqueline Pearce (Servalan), Brian Croucher (Travis), Frieda Knorr (Governor Le Grand), Richard Bebb (Glynd) and Martin Read (Nagu).

Crew: Michael Brayshaw (Production Assistant), Sheelagh Rees (Production Unit Manager), Mat Irvine/Peter Pegrum/Andy Lazell (Visual Effects Designers), Max Samett (Film Cameraman), John Gatland (Film Recordist), Sheila S. Tomlinson (Film Editor), Brian Clemett (Studio Lighting), Malcolm Johnson (Studio Sound), Elizabeth Parker (Special Sound), A.J. Mitchell (Electronic Effects), Barbara Kidd (Costume Designer), Anne Ailes (Make-Up Artist), Dudley Simpson (Music), Terry Nation (Series Deviser), Chris Boucher (Script Editor), Ken Ledsham (Designer) and David Maloney (Producer).

Story: The stressed crew is on route for a stay at Del 10, an ultra planet rich in vita particles. However, Blake inexplicably changes course for Asteroid PK118, an asteroid with a diameter of 0.102 spacials that was removed from the Seron orbit five years previously for euhrite ore extraction. It was discarded two years later in the beta system, with its installed life support systems still functional.
It emerges that a triumvirate of rebels - a disfigured man named Shivan, Governor Le Grand (A Federation official who reveals she is not from Earth, suggested origin Outer Gal) and Venn Glynn - are controlling Blake using a course interceptor. Glynn was the Arbiter General at Blake’s mock trial (see The Way Back) and has evidence that will destroy the Administration.
It emerges that Glynn and Le Grand were genuine rebels, yet Servalan knew about them all along, and has them both killed by Federation Guards at the Governors’ Annual Meeting Hall. Shivan, meanwhile, remains back on the Liberator, where he reveals himself to be Travis in disguise. He beams down to kill Blake, though is distracted by a dying Glynn, while Blake, Jenna and Vila make their getaway and teleport back up to the ship. Blake suggests they resume looking for Star One, having completely forgotten the events of the story since the course interceptor was destroyed.

Orac: Orac references the events of Shadow, informing Avon that he cannot access the course interceptor as he is programmed not to engage in telepathic activity. The device was created by the Federation, after being taken from the research of the scientists of Auron.

“You’re in charge now are you?”
“Can you think of anyone more suitable?”

Ultra planets? Space fatigue? It’s like Terry Nation never left, but this is actually the first script by Roger Parkes. A Parkes trilogy that progressed into the superb Children of Auron and ended with the laughable Headhunter.

Maybe the direction killed this one - for once I admit George Spent On Foster’s direction is feeble, and no one’s at their best. This is the only time I’ve ever been embarrassed by Gareth Thomas’s acting. Was he just bored rigid with only three episodes left to go or was it Big George? Even by Blake’s 7’s 50p and a roll of sellotape standards this is cheap. Really cheap. Gareth in a plastic spacehelmet walking around a CSO landscape? And if it was someone else you’d swear not showing the teleport effect, but having the light of it reflect on observers’ faces was a touch of French nouveau. But as it was George you know he was just penny-pinching so he could buy an extra packet of fags down the off-licence.

In a moment of fannish self-referencing we’re reintroduced to a minor character you probably never thought twice about from The Way Back. Handily, he’s played by a completely different actor, which helps serves as a keen memory-jogger.

Add to this Brian Croucher dressed up as The Invisible Man and putting on his best Marcel Wave impression and you’ve got what is an almost relentless parade of tat. In fact, so rubbish is this episode that I honestly lost the will to live halfway through.

I did love the scene where Servalan’s lips appear on a cinema screen, that was stylish. But any such plusses fail to make up for Nagu with a plastic knife in his back that wobbles all over the place and a unwittingly self-parodying Croucher who booms “to the teleport!” with all the wit and gusto that line conjures up. A Travis who is so thick that, after taking over the Liberator, then beams down to the planet leaving Avon back in charge. And, for reasons known only to himself, decides to pronounce co-ordinates “co-ord-in-ates.” Okay, it’s only a little thing, but if you can’t get your basic diction right, what chance have you got to kill the Federation’s most wanted, you Cockney cretin?

As it ends - as thankfully it must - only Paul Darrow’s final, superbly delivered, line, amuses. But my God, this really is dire.