Probic Vent Ood For Thought

24Jul/110

The Airzone Solution

The Airzone Solution was, if you were a Who-starved fan in the early 90s, probably the most exciting thing that happened in fandom since that leotard picture of Nicola Bryant emerged.

Featuring four ex-Doctors and a host of other Doctor Who talents it's fairly explicitly a rip-off of Edge of Darkness down to its plot, themes and even incidental music. The pre-occupations of the narrative are easily identifiable from the period, namely environmental collapse and corporate/governmental conspiracies.

Peter Davison plays investigative journalist Al Dunbar; Colin Baker is star weatherman Arnie Davies; Sylvester McCoy is nervous eco-warrior Anthony Stanwick and Jon Pertwee plays journalistic legend Oliver Trethewey.

It is rather peculiar mix and it's hard to imagine anyone who's not a fan taking a huge interest. Nevertheless there's a lot of good stuff here. Colin Baker is particularly good in another opportunity to show how good he can be and the other leads are solid and throw themselves into it; Nicola Bryant is a million miles away from whingey Peri.

There's a nice cameo from Michael Wisher and a very good turn from Alan Cumming as Mandelsonian spook. Look out too, if you dare, for a sex scene between Nicola and Colin, one of the worst bits of acting ever from Gary Russell and Bill Baggs managing to assemble four Doctors together on the programme's 30th anniversary – something the BBC notoriously failed to do to any real extent.

The music by Alistair Lock and some directorial flourishes from Baggs also catch the eye but unfortunately the production is undermined by some of the amateurish moments in the script, plot, direction and general production. There are no howlers but the overall impression is of something decidedly fannish.

Further, the production values don't stand up at all. The sound is particularly poor; the lighting, while better, doesn't always look right either and the quality of the picture typical of early 90s videotaped dramas.

Nevertheless, with the prospect of new Doctor Who as remote as ever – this being a time when it seemed Who might be gone for good – the Airzone Solution was a welcome addition to a Who-less world.

I suspect that BBV – Baggs' production company – envisaged potential sales to an ITV franchise, or a commission to base a similar series with a larger budget, but it never came to pass.

Still, along with Shakedown, Downtime, and other series such as The Stranger and Auton, this is a fascinating curio from Doctor Who's dark days. The BBC offered up the risible Dimensions In Time in 1993 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of what is now its flagship show. Idiots.

Watch The Airzone Solution here:

31Aug/100

New Blake’s 7 sent to Cygnus Alpha

So, the rejuvenated Blake's 7 has gone down the toilet, like everyone with any sense always knew it would.

I've followed this story for a good few years and never thought B7 Productions, or B7 Media, or whatever they're called this week had anywhere near the clout, the experience or the goodwill to get a new TV series off the ground.

After Paul Darrow left, they lost the one vital connection back to the original series that may have convinced fans they were headed in the right direction.

And the fairly bizarre set of announcements and appointments, the stuttering audio episodes, and the extremely niche nature of B7 Media's other productions, didn't do much to convince me.

The Sky announcement took me by surprise, and it pleased me, but it was still a case of 'I'll believe it when I see it".

I suspect the new Blake's 7 has got as far as it was ever going to get, which admittedly is further than I ever thought it would - namely because Blake's 7 just doesn't have anywhere near the brand equity - to apply a horrible phrase to something rather wonderful - that Doctor Who does.

And while Who wasn't historically massive in the States, I doubt there was much more than a flicker on interest in Blake's 7. That will mean it will be nigh-on impossible to secure overseas funding.

Who can run and run and run. It's the ultimate flexible TV show. Blake's 7, or much of its equity, is long gone, and was bound up in the charm and style of those original characters.

As it stands, a remade B7 would increasingly be a run-of-the-mill TV sci-fi runaround. The set-up, especially these days, does not seem especially novel; the nostalgia nowhere near that of Doctor Who; the genre moved on a long way - you only have to look at what Farscape did with a similar set-up.

Blake's 7 was a wonderful, brilliant show. But it belongs well in the past. Still, I wouldn't be surprised to see Andrew Sewell, surrounded by Federation guards, start to smile over a black fade.

Hush child stop addlepating me!

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