Although series four has its critics, I’ve always been rather fond of it. For me it’s similar to the previous three series, since it has about the same mixture of good, bad and indifferent stories. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve given them a spin so will I now be less or more forgiving? Let’s find out ….
I’m not terribly impressed with the new title sequence. The planetscape is nicely shot but there’s a distinct lack of menace. The previous series titles had an element of pursuit and danger, here we just see a ship out for a joyride. And the new logo appears in a rather muted, half-hearted way (very different from the bold appearance of the previous one). Oh well, let’s press on.
Avon and the others are still marooned on Terminal. The weather’s taken a decided turn for the worse, which is good news in one way as the snow makes the location look a little more interesting. Paul Darrow’s snugly protected against the cold, but Josette Simon isn’t so fortunate. When they both fling themselves to the ground (after a booby-trapped spaceship left by Servalan explodes) I can’t help but feel that the poor girl’s going to catch her death of cold. Clearly coats for ladies were short supply on Terminal.
Avon’s worried that Servalan might have also booby-trapped the living quarters where the others are. You may wonder why she just didn’t kill them all before she left, rather than leave elaborate traps scattered around the planet, but that would have been far too straightforward. True to her character, Danya’s keen to rush off and warn the others whilst Avon, equally true to type, is more cautious. Dayna does nip off and is menaced by a thing which actually looks rather good. Avon deals with it, forcing Dayna to admit that Avon was right once again.
Alas, they don’t all make it out alive as Cally is killed in the explosion (it’s an off-screen death as Jan Chapell declined to return for series four). Her final word is “Blake!” rather than “Avon!” which is interesting. Vila has the chance to be a hero by rescuing Tarrant although Tarrant doesn’t seem to be terribly grateful (he later hits the bottle and is found by Avon lying face down in the snow). Quite why Tarrant has gone to pieces isn’t obvious.
With no ship or escape route, what they need is someone to turn up and rescue them. And fancy that, just a few minutes later Dorian (Geoffrey Burridge) and his ship Scorpio turns up. Dorian claims to be a humble salvage merchant, but it’s plain there’s more to him that meets the eye. Avon likes the look of his ship and decides to commander it. It has a computer voiced by Peter Tuddenham (although Slave is no Zen that’s for sure) and there’s a space that would be just right for a teleport area. Of course the fact we haven’t seen any other ship apart from the Liberator with teleport facilities would make it highly unlikely that they’d be able to lash up something from scratch. That would just be silly, wouldn’t it?
Danya’s impressed with Dorian’s gun collection. “Each of these is a different mode. You clip them into the basic handgun and you’ve got a weapon for every occasion. Laser, plasma bullet, percussion shell, micro grenade, stun, drug. They’re all here. I worked for nearly a year on a gun like this. I never did get it right.” They do look a little lightweight though, much more plastic than steel.
We then meet Dorian’s associate, the feisty gunslinger Soolin (Glynis Barber) and after we’ve finished admiring her we can then admire the rather nice modelwork as Scorpio docks at Xenon base. The destruction of the Liberator meant they could no longer use the same old stock shots that had been seen multiple times over the past three years. So instead there’s some new footage which will become just as familiar ….
Once on Xenon base, Avon takes command. He makes it plain that he’ll kill Dorian if he doesn’t do exactly what he says. Danya succinctly sums him up. “Beneath that cold exterior, beats a heart of pure stone.”
Things then get slightly odd as Dorian meets something menacing in the depths of the planet. Burridge has the chance to indulge in some ripe over-acting whilst the thing writhes about in the dark. I’ve a feeling that if we see it with the lights up it’s not going to look terribly impressive.
Those with a working knowledge of late 19th century literature should be able to work out exactly what Dorian’s secret is. It’s a nice touch which serves as a decent in-joke for those who are aware of the original source material but the story still makes sense if you don’t. Once Avon discovers Dorian’s secret, it’s plainly not a coincidence that he begins to speak as if he’s just stepped out of the pages of a Victorian melodrama.
DORIAN: You think I’m insane, don’t you?
AVON: It had occurred to me.
DORIAN: The room exists, Avon. And since I found it I haven’t aged one day. It cleanses me of all the corruptions of time and appetite.
DORIAN: I can do anything, Avon.
AVON: Most madmen can.
DORIAN: I can indulge any taste, any sensation, any vice I wish and the room …
AVON: Cleanses you.
Thanks to Geoffrey Burridge’s unhinged performance, Rescue is good fun, although a little disposable. Given the small number of speaking parts it’s a little odd that Soolin didn’t have more to do – since she’s going to be a new member of the gang (although that’s not evident by the end of the story) you’d have expected her to be a little more foregrounded in the narrative.