Blakes 40. Blakes 7 40th Anniversary Rewatch – Series Three, Episodes Five to Seven

Harvest of Kairos

This one is odd, very, very odd. For just this episode, Tarrant has become the unopposed leader of the group (Servalan keeps chuntering on about his command skills, and when she boards the Liberator once again reminds everybody that Tarrant’s the boss). Wat’s Avon doing whilst Tarrant’s running the show? He’s staring at a rock he’s found (Darrow plays this episode like the Avon of S4 – whether that’s a good or bad thing depends on how much you enjoy S4).

Andrew Burt’s not a bad actor, but he’s woefully miscast as Jarvik (mind you, any actor would struggle with this role). From his first words (“Woman, you’re beautiful” as he grasps Servalan for a quick snog) it’s hard to keep a straight face whenever Jarvik has any dialogue.

How he temporarily humanises Servalan is interesting, but it’s a pity that it’s done in such a ham-fisted way. “When was the last time you felt the warmth of the Earth’s sun on your naked back? Or lifted your face to the heavens, and laughed with the joy of being alive? How long since you wept at the death of a friend?” Another actor might have delivered this with a little more subtlety, I’m afraid that Burt’s line reading only generated tears of laughter from me ….

Jarvik is a man. Tarrant is a man. Therefore they have to do what men do – face each other in combat. It’s possible that there’s an element of satire in Ben Steed’s script, but I don’t really think so – it seems we’re required to take everything at face value. The climax of the story (Jarvik is accidentally shot dead) is incredibly unconvincing (I assume the clock was ticking round to ten pm). But it does allow Tarrant to remind everybody that Jarvik was a special kind of man. A man’s man, you might say.

The creature is monumentally silly as well, but that’s the least of this episode’s problems. And yet, like Voice from the Past this is an episode that I still derive some pleasure from. It’s illogical and made on the cheap (Servalan seems to be flying around in a space station) but whatever else it is, it’s not dull.

City at the Edge of the World

Whether by accident or design, all the regulars get at least one starring episode during series three (Cally is especially lucky as she gets two – Children of Auron and Sarcophagus). City is Vila’s chance to shine and it’s nice to see Michael Keating given more to do for once than just act as the comic foil. The episode’s a bit of a run-around, but Colin Baker’s performance as Bayban helps to keep things ticking along nicely. Subtle his turn isn’t, entertaining it is.

Always nice to see Valentine Dyall, although he isn’t called upon to do much more than stand around looking noble. Carol Hawkins looks lovely, although Kerril’s sudden mood swing (from hating Vila to loving him) is a little hard to swallow. Maybe this was all just one of Vila’s soma induced dreams?

The relationship between Vila and Kerril is delightfully chaste (their ‘sex’ scene seems to mainly consist of them lying on adjoining couches). An agreeable romp then – not a story with great depth or impact but thanks to the performances it breezes along nicely.

Children of Auron

Oh no, not another story where Servalan attempts to steal the Liberator ….

On the plus side, Liberator pinching does very much play second fiddle to her other (frankly bonkers) plan – feeling a little broody, she intends to wipe out vast swathes of Cally’s people just so she can use their cloning facilities to create a race of mini-Servalans. But compared to Roger Parkes’ previous script (Voice from the Past) this seems quite sensible.

Auron never really comes alive as a planet. Their isolationist nature is touched upon (but if this is the case, why was a pilot tootling around in space?) and Ronald Leigh-Hunt does his usual gruff act, but it’s hard to really connect to the tragedy that befalls them.

Cally has a twin! I love Chris Boucher dearly, but sometimes his script-editing was odd. Cally has a twin? Fair enough, but pulling the same trick with Tarrant a few episodes later makes this harder to swallow (you can’t help but expect the same thing to happen with Avon, Vila and Dayna too).

Odd that Zelda wasn’t given more to do, although her final scene with Cally was touching.

All the regulars get some decent lines (plus Paul Darrow has some serious brooding time) but it’s really Jacqueline Pearce who gets the best of the script. Even though Servalan once again displays an astonishing lack of judgement, it’s impossible not to feel something after she’s tricked into destroying her embryos. “They were mine, I felt them die”.

Rio Fanning and Ric Young (as Deral and Ginka) offer some light relief (although I’ve a feeling this wasn’t intended). Poor Servalan, good men must be hard to find if these two are the best she can come up with.

Serious points off for the chucklesome ending (almost as bad as Breakdown – we’ve just witnessed a catastrophe, so let’s have a bit of a laugh). Children of Auron is a bit static and wordy (and the plot isn’t exactly watertight) but it’s a solid character piece.

Blakes 40. Blakes 7 40th Anniversary Rewatch – Series Three, Episodes One to Four

Aftermath

The great galactic battle is a bit of a damp squib – with various bits of reused footage being pressed into service. Interesting that Cally and Vila only play a small role in this one – partly this enables new arrival Dayna a decent slice of the action, but it also means that Avon can move centre-stage unchallenged. What are the odds that Servalan would have ended up on the same planet as Avon? Hmm. If that’s hard to swallow, then so is the fact that Avon and Servalan immediately lock themselves into a hate/hate (with maybe a dash of love) relationship.

How many words had they previously exchanged? Judging from what we see here, they seem like the best of enemies with a lengthy history, which isn’t the case at all. Avon’s roughhousing (“Imagination my only limit? I’d be dead in a week”) is played nicely.

My interest always flags when hairy primitives pop up, although since they only feature in a fairly minor subplot it’s not too much of an issue (the Avon/Dayna/Servalan triangle is the main point of interest during this story). Josette Simon makes an instant impression whilst Paul Darrow easily steps up to the mark as a leading man. And another good cliffhanger!

Powerplay

I’m not the greatest S3 Tarrant fan, but he does have a decent introductory episode. Not quite sure though weren’t more explicit about making him a rogue Federation officer rather than just another freedom fighter. Although maybe Tarrant was fibbing about his freedom fighter status – this would have been an interesting angle to develop at a later date.

Michael Sheard is entertainingly gruff and Darrow and Simon continue to work well together. On original transmission, I was sure that Blake was the secret killer. Alas, that was a bit wide of the mark.

Cally doesn’t do a great deal but Vila’s subplot – especially his “we’ve got you surrounded” shtick – is good fun. Mind you, his effusive appreciation of the lovely young ladies is so overdone that you just know a sting in the tail is coming.

Following Servalan’s encounter with Avon last week (straining credibility) this time she runs into Vila and Cally. It’s clearly a small galaxy.

I’ve always been fond of this one. The fairly small guest ensures that pretty much all the regulars get a good crack of the whip. Mind you, given the number of times I watched the VHS omnibus back in the day, it does seem odd not to be carrying on with Sarcophagus ….

Volcano

Some of the volcano stock footage looks familiar. Was it also used for the Doctor Who Inferno title sequence?

As it’s an Allan Prior script it’s probably best to ratchet down your expectations. The planet Obsidian does at least boast one decent actor – Michael Gough as Hower – but even he struggles with most of the dialogue. Malcolm Bullivant, as Hower’s son Bershar, is pretty wooden throughout though.

Things aren’t much more promising on the Federation front – Ben Howard (as Mori) is operating in Travis (Brian Croucher) territory. The fact that he, and a small group of Federation troops, manage to take over the Liberator should be a standout moment, but it turns out to be something of a damp squib.

The battle fleet commander (Alan Bowerman) maintains the generally low standard of the guest cast.

Why did they gag Cally but not Vila? Anyway, it’s pretty pointless to gag a telepath ….

There are a few bright spots though. With only Avon and Vila left aboard, Vila has to step up to the mark after Avon is injured. He taunts Servalan very nicely. Vila doesn’t do much in the story, but STILL gets many of the best lines.

Servalan’s plan (she wants the Liberator, then at the last minute decides she doesn’t) sums up the incoherent nature of the story.

Dayna and Tarrant get a nice slice of the narrative down on the planet, even if Hower and Bershar aren’t great conversationalists. They do possess the most wonderful robot though. It’s hard not to take your eyes off him.

The most intriguing part of the story occurs when Tarrant tells Hower that they’re mercenaries and in exchange for the use of his planet he’d be in line for a percentage of the spoils. Was Tarrant fibbing or did he seriously think they’d be setting off for a life of crime as intergalactic pirates? I suppose this does anticipate later stories such as Gold though.

Not a very good story, but it’s fitfully entertaining.

Dawn of the Gods

I love the fact that everybody – except killjoy Tarrant – begins the episode by enjoying a nice game of Space Monopoly.

This is one of those stories which features a great many Liberator scenes. On the positive side this means there’s ample time to develop and explore the characters of the regulars, the negative is the sense that the story is proceeding at a snail’s pace.

The needle between Avon and Tarrant is entertaining though.

TARRANT: One day, Avon, I may have to kill you.
AVON: It has been tried.

I love Vila’s dazed comment as well (“I’m in hell — and it’s full of Avons”).

Actually, the Liberator part of the story is easily the best thing about Dawn of the Gods – when we reach the artificial satellite of Krandor things get very odd. The sight of the top-hatted Caliph for starters.

Groff, with his eye shade, also looks out of place, but at least he’s played by a decent actor (Terry Scully) who’s able to take the paper thin character and flesh it out a little, thereby ensuring that we care just a little about Groff’s fate.

Yet another mystical legend from Cally’s home planet, at least the Thaarn looks impressive, even if it’s difficult to work up much interest about his politely spoken desire to rule the universe.

The way the story stumbles to a conclusion is a bit of a problem, but this time round I didn’t find Dawn to be that painful (whereas in the past I recall it being much more of a slog). Perhaps I was just in a good mood today.

Three films from the Play For Today series to be released by Simply Media on the 1st of October 2018

Simply Media will be releasing Our Day Out, The Imitation Game and The Fishing Party on the 1st of October 2018. Below are details on all three, taken from Simply’s press release.

Our Day Out

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An anarchic, bittersweet comedy drama from Oscar-nominee Willy Russell, creator of Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine. Rated 8.2 on IMDB. Directed by BAFTA-winner Pedr James (Our Friends in the North) and produced by David Rose (Z Cars).

A hilarious and chaotic romp about a group of inner-city Liverpool schoolchildren let off the leash for a day’s outing. Different teaching approaches clash when the compassionate Mrs Kay (Jean Heywood – Billy Elliot) and disciplinarian Mr Briggs (Alun Armstrong – Krull) attempt to supervise.

Stopping at a cafe, a zoo, the beach and a funfair, the children take every opportunity to cause havoc. This tender comedy draws on Willy Russell’s own experiences of school trips as both pupil and teacher.

Originally broadcast in 1977, it was later adapted as a stage musical and still features today as a popular school text.

What the Press Said:

“I laughed out loud a great deal, and secretly wept a little.” The Sunday Times

“A gloriously funny and touching play.” Guardian

The Imitation Game

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Bestselling writer Ian McEwan (The Children Act) wrote this impassioned drama, inspired by stories of women who helped to crack the Enigma Code during WWII.

Rated 7.8 on IMDB and first shown in 1980. Directed and produced by BAFTA-nominee Richard Eyre (Notes on a Scandal).

Starring Harriet Walter (Sense and Sensibility / The Sense of an Ending) in her first major screen role alongside Oscar-nominee Brenda Blethyn (Vera) and BAFTA-nominee Patricia Routledge (Keeping Up Appearances).

19-year-old Cathy Raine (Harriet Walter) lives in 1940’s Frinton on Sea, expected to spend the war working at the local munitions factory. Against the wishes of her family she signs up for the Auxiliary Territorial Service.

There she befriends working-class Mary (Brenda Blethyn) and moves to the code-breaking centre at Bletchley Park where Cathy meets Turing-like mathematics don John Turner (Nicholas Le Provost). But Cathy is being kept in the dark by the secretive male hierarchy – until she stumbles upon a secret intelligence file that may jeopardise her safety.

What the Press Said:

“A Play for Today of rare distinction” Clive James

The Fishing Party

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Crown Court creator Peter Terson’s comedy of class and manners. Rated 8.9 on IMDB, and first shown in 1972. Directed by BAFTA-winner Michael Simpson (Prince Regent).

Derbyshire miners Art (Brian Glover), Ern (Ray Mort) and Abe (Douglas Livingstone) head north to Whitby for a boys-only fishing escape.

Checking into a shabby B&B run by haughty landlady Audrey (Jane Freeman – Last of the Summer Wine) and her henpecked hubby, the trio are bamboozled into paying a high price for their rooms.

Their boat is piloted by a stern ex-fisherman, who warns them about mixing chips and brown ale on choppy waters. The boys are half-cut before they leave the harbour, and as they head out to sea they’re decidedly off-colour.

What the Press Said:

“A joyous comedy… overflowing with brilliant observation and wonderfully circular dialogue.” TV Cream

All three DVDs have a RRP of £12.99, Our Day Out runs for seventy minutes, The Imitation Game for ninety two minutes and The Fishing Party for fifty seven minutes.

Blakes 40 – Blakes 7 40th Anniversary Rewatch: Series Two, Episodes Eight to Ten

Hostage

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Oh dear, this isn’t very good is it? Plus points, we get a brief smidgen of Kevin Stoney whilst Servalan placed under a little pressure is always good to see.

Continuity isn’t a strong point of this story. Servalan reacts with amazement when Joban tells her that Blake’s become a hero amongst the rank and file of the Federation, which flatly contracts previous stories where Blake’s growing reputation was becoming a problem.

I don’t know if it was ever seriously considered, but the possibility of Travis teaming up with Blake would have been very interesting. Having Travis as a new crewmember aboard the Liberator opens up all sorts of possibilities (which would have been more satisfying than the increasingly odd way his character was used – Voice From The Past, anyone?).

The crimos are pretty rubbish, as are the polystyrene rocks, whilst Travis seems stupider than usual (does he really not know who is weakest out of Blake, Avon and Vila?).

So not good, but there’s a few good one-liners scattered about and – as ever – great interaction between the regulars, so it’s not completely unwatchable.

Countdown

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The main drawback with a story which has a ticking countdown throughout is that things only really get exciting during the last few seconds. And so it proves here – even though we know that Avon and Del will save the day just in the nick of time, there’s still some decent tension wrung out as the clock ticks down to zero.

As for the rest of the episode, the development of Avon’s character (especially the revelation about his love for Anna and his uneasy relationship with her brother) is clearly the main point of interest. Darrow and Chadbon spar very effectively and it’s a pity that Del was never seen again (although given what we learn about Anna in Rumours of Death that’s possibly not too surprising).

Elsewhere, the characterisation of the remainder of the guest cast is pretty sketchy. Provine is a nasty piece of work and that’s about it – his only function in the plot being to give Blake another clue to the location to Star One (which is done in a highly unconvincing way). The locals are all pretty forgettable as well but I’ll give a bonus point out for the fact that there’s a female amongst their number (I’ll then deduct a point for the fact she’s such a wet lettuce).

Once again the girls are stuck by the teleport whilst the boys go down to play. This is becoming rather monotonous. Since it was already known that Sally Knyvette wouldn’t be returning for S3 (indeed she wouldn’t have done S2 had her contract not forced her to) it almost looks like all the writers had given up any interest in developing her character.

I do like the way that the Federation troops (supposed to be the best of the best) spend the opening few minutes doing nothing except running away as fast as they can from the advancing rebels!

Decent enough, but never a favourite.

Voice From The Past

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It may be mad as a box of frogs, but it’s impossible not to love Voice From The Past. I like the notion that Cally has badgered the others into doing exercises although it doesn’t seem to be agreeing with Blake, who is having the funniest of all funny turns.

Gareth Thomas goes right over the top and then back up again during the first fifteen minutes or so. It’s great stuff, as are Paul Darrow’s karate chops when Avon attempts to subdue a hysterical Blake!

Given Blake’s often arbitrary command style, it’s surprising that the others twig quite quickly that he’s not himself. Avon, as so often, is gifted most of the best lines (“Well, he’s certainly not normal, not even for Blake”).

Jenna, looking especially lovely today, is persuaded to share Blake’s nightmares (so she too gets the chance to register high on the hysteria scale). But once that moment of fun is over, the plot starts to fall apart somewhat.

It’s barely credible that Avon would leave Vila in sole charge of Blake. Equally hard to believe is the fact that a gullible Vila swallows Blake’s story that Avon and Cally are the guilty ones. Also, why are Avon, Cally and Jenna all sitting in a room with a door that Blake can lock? A touch careless of them ….

All of this messing with Blake’s mind ultimately does feel like filler, since when the main plot kicks in – Blake is invited to join a cabal of notable Federation types who plan to bring down the current administration – it seems clear that Blake would have been happy to join them without any manipulation.

What can you say about Shivan? Words fail me ….

Servalan’s tussle with Governor Le Grand tops the episode off in style. Servalan on the big screen is some sight.

Something of a messy episode, but it’s also great fun.

Howards’ Way – Series Six, Episode Thirteen

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It’s something I’ve touched on before, but Howards’ Way – despite the fact it was sometimes labelled as a show which embraced Thatcherite ideals – often took pains to spell out that business success counted for nothing without personal happiness. And that’s very much a theme of this final episode as three characters – Jan, Abby and Charles – discover.

Jan’s not had the most interesting things to do this year, but finally things pick up. For the first time in ages there’s a fashion show, which means there’s plenty of attractive models flouncing about whilst Jan (armed with a walkie talkie) prowls around looking stressed. Her single-minded focus on ensuring that the show goes off without a hitch means that she has no time to speak to Lynne, which is spelled out by the way she shuts her down on more than one occasion.

The fact that Lynne had important news – her pregnancy – to impart is a weapon later used by Kate. She tells Jan that it’s no use being a successful businesswoman if you neglect your family. With Leo suffering traumas over the custody of Thomas and Lynne sobbing in her room it’s fair to say that Jan’s not been offering a great deal of support to either of them. But in previous years her business focus (and the way it was detrimental to her family) was more explicitly stated – in series six it’s remained undiscussed until this final episode. That’s slightly disappointing, had it been raised earlier it would have given Jan something dramatically satisfying to play with – certainly more than the endless scenes of her looking stressed in the office (which has been her main contribution to the series this year).

Has Jan learnt her lesson? Things seem to end optimistically when she touches base with Leo, but only the unmade seventh series would have revealed whether she could reconnect with those she’d neglected.

Abby’s story is by far the most intriguing and certainly the one with the darkest ending. Again, a seventh series might have reversed this episode’s conclusion, but at this point it’s hard to see how a reconciliation between her and Leo could have been on the cards.

A rare meeting between Ken and Gerald enables Ken to air some unpalatable home truths – he believes that Abby, as the child of Polly and Charles, is now showing her true colours. Gerald reacts angrily to this, but since he later repeats it to Abby’s face it does seem that, on reflection, he’s come to the same conclusion. Abby’s manoeuvring – albeit with Orrin’s assistance – has removed Charles from the chairmanship of Frere Holdings, with Gerald neatly slotted in as his replacement.

For a successful businessman, Gerald does have some scruples – he reacts strongly when Abby tells him the news – but he’s plainly also a realist as he does later accept the position. The father/child relationship (with both her natural and adopted fathers) has reversed totally, with Abby now in a very dominant position. That would have set up a number of possibilities had the series continued.

Abby’s exit – taking Thomas to America (ignoring the joint custody agreement arranged with Leo) – leaves us with an unresolved cliffhanger. Would she have returned or made a new life for herself in America with Orrin, William and Thomas? I’d favour the latter, but others may disagree.

How does Charles take the news that Frere Holdings is no longer his? Not very well. Drinking heavily and raising his glass to the portrait of his father that for some reason he’s not taken down, it’s the darkest we’ve ever see him. Bitterly applauding his father for triumphing from beyond the grave, Charles seems set on a downward spiral (angrily telling Lynne to leave him alone). But as with Jan, there’s hope for the future since we later see Charles negotiating a reconciliation with Lynne. Easy to see how his story would have continued – plotting to regain control of Frere Holdings, whilst juggling a possible wife and child – but would he have been able to maintain the correct balance in his life which had (up until now) proved impossible? Another of those imponderables.

I have to confess that keeping track of the various businesses and their share holdings has become a little confusing over time. It seems unlikely that Charles could have been levered out of the chairman’s seat so easily, especially when all previous attempts had failed. True, Abby and Orrin now have access to Sir Edward’s shares in Frere Holdings (plus Pierre Challon’s minor holding also played a part) but it’s hard to imagine that would have been enough. Just how did Sir Edward manage to gain control of such a large block of shares, and if he did have them why didn’t he attempt to force Charles out in the past?

Equally perplexing is the way that Ken regains control of Leisurecruise. Orrin’s shares were enough to tip the balance, but again this seems a little too convenient to be true. Ah well, it least it gives us one final Ken/Laura confrontation, this time with Ken gloatingly telling Laura to clear her desk. Ken might be the only one who seems content with business success alone, but even he’s given a small personal beat of regret (at the end of the episode he looks longingly at Jan – strengthening my suspicion that they might have got back together sometime in the future).

Even by HW‘s own standards, the resolution of Brigette Dupont’s claim on Lynne’s perfume was dealt with in a very half-hearted way (Admiral Redfern dropped by to casually let Jan know that Ms Dupont didn’t have a leg to stand on). Goodness knows why they raised this plot-thread in the first place if they were going to dismiss it pretty much straightaway.

Jack’s decision to leave the Mermaid for another yard where he can work in wood (he likes wood you know) is also rushed through at breakneck speed. But this does allow the series a sense of closure as well as an air of new beginnings – Jack exits the yard for the final time and Leo takes over. Leo’s story is also at a crossroads – following in his father’s footsteps at the yard, he sees his design for the America’s Cup accepted by Admiral Redfern’s consortium. That’s a remarkable (if not to say totally improbable) development for a novice designer. And when Jenny came home from her round the world trip, would it be into Leo’s arms or would Abby have returned to stake a claim on him? Alas, we’ll never know.

And that’s that. Seventy eight episodes which were sometimes confusing, sometimes infuriating but almost always highly entertaining and never dull. If Howards’ Way lacked the tight scripting of Glaister’s previous soapy drama – The Brothers – then the performances of the regulars always helped to paper over most of the cracks. It’s certainly a series I’ve revisited a number of times and I know I’ll come back to it again in the future. The world of Tarrant is always an enjoyable place to visit.

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Howards’ Way – Series Six, Episode Twelve

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Charles and Lynne’s relationship continues to blossom – mind you, being in Bermuda (even if it’s largely on business) probably doesn’t hurt. Although Lynne is doing her best to try and distract Charles from paperwork – taking a dip in the ocean whilst Charles rifles through papers aboard his yacht, she does the old “give me a hand up” trick and then pulls him into the water. An astute man like Charles should have spotted that one coming ….

Ken continues to taunt Laura. Now he’s back in the ascendant again he’s merciless about putting the screws on although later we’ll see that Laura is hatching schemes of her own. It’s always good to see these two cross swords, but even more interesting is Ken’s later dinner date with Jan. Fair to say that these two have had a chequered history but despite all they’ve been through, crafty Ken is still able to make Jan laugh. Clearly she’s got a short memory and has totally forgotten that Ken attempted to ruin her last year.

Another of those “what ifs”. Had HW gone to a seventh series, could Ken and Jan have finally got together? It might have happened, and if so would have been rather interesting.

Kate’s on the prowl – attempting to chivvy up Leo (his mind is understandably elsewhere these days). There’s more fun with Kate later as a stuttering Admiral Redfern attempts to express his feelings for her. The fact that Dulcie Gray and Michael Denison were a real life couple adds a little extra spark to this nicely played scene.

There are a few points of interest elsewhere – such as Jack and Vanessa winning a boat race (although it’s only a fairly fleeting plot point) and Jan’s attempts to stabilise the fluctuating fortunes of the House of Howard – but the meat of this episode takes place in Bermuda where the question of William and Thomas rumbles on.

Previously I’d marvelled at Gerald’s attire, this time it’s Orrin who impresses – his golfing clothes includes long shorts and white knee socks. Abby’s also wearing some eye-catching togs, but I need to be strong and pull myself away from this trifling fashion talk in order to concentrate on the plot. Robert Hudson (Bruce Boa) is back and we also see the often-talked about but rarely glimpsed William (Daniel Bortolli).

William’s a lad of a few, if any, words. But given his upbringing it’s no surprise that he’s not exactly a voluble, friendly child. In clothing he’s thoroughly Americanised and although he’s happy for Orrin to give him a piggy-back ride there’s no such happy reunion with Abby. She later tearfully tells Gerald that he didn’t even recognise her, which floats the possibility that even if Abby did regain William, he may not match up to her idealised dreams.

Last time Hudson was on the scene he was very much running the show, but now the power dynamic has shifted with Abby and Orrin (especially Abby) firmly in the driving seat. Abby is the one who offers Charles a settlement of fifty million dollars whilst Orrin symbolically stands directly behind her, rather than by her side. Once again she’s icy and controlled – is this something of an act to intimidate Hudson and Charles or has Abby really crossed over to the dark side? That’s something else that might have been explained and explored in a seventh series.

A few late items of interest. Lynne reveals that she’s pregnant to an overjoyed Charles. Either they’re quick workers or their relationship has been developing off-screen, since it only seems like a few episodes ago when they re-met. And Claude’s mother, Brigette (Carina Barone), pops up. It’s pleasing to know that Claude’s silly accent runs in the family, although since Barone seems to be French, I’m not quite sure why she sounds as if she’s putting the accent on. Maybe HW had employed too many faux foreigners over the years and by now I’m programmed to regard all foreign accents as false?

Brigette has come to stake a claim in Claude’s perfume line, but the matter gets more intriguing when it’s revealed that she’s being bankrolled by Laura. Eek! So there’s just one more episode to go – will all these plot-threads be neatly tied up? We shall see.

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Howards’ Way – Series Six, Episode Eleven

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The great and good of Tarrant are on the waves today, competing in a race organised by Charles. Leo and Jenny make for a very attractive team (maybe the lad should forget all about Abby and hook up with young Jenny instead). The equally comely Charles and Lynne are crewing another boat – and whilst it’s maybe a little odd to see Charles enjoying himself rather than sitting at his desk fretting about share prices, since he’s keen to beat the Relton boat it’s not just a pleasure cruise for him.

Jan and Robert make for the oddest combination. Way back in series one, Jan had a cordial dislike for mucking about on the water, but now she appears to be an old hand as she takes the wheel with a nonchalant air. Given that she spends all her time running an international fashion business (including designing all the clothes herself) I’m not sure where Jan’s found the time to become a first class sailor as well. Does she never sleep?

Who wins? Leo and Jenny, whilst Charles is a man overboard. Luckily there’s no damage done, indeed as Lynne hauls him back onto the boat he has a little chuckle. Certainly this is a much more relaxed Charles than we’ve seen for a long time. Has he finally escaped from the imposing shadow of his father?

If Jan and Robert also share a few laughs on the water, then it’s not long before she’s wearing her more usual expression (pained). This is after she learns that Robert has also been handling Charles’ affairs, although there seems to be nothing in this (Robert tells her that he only deals with Charles’ personal affairs, meaning that there’s no conflict of interest). We learn a little more about Robert – he’s divorced with several children – and indeed the rush to humanise him continues at a rate of knots. We later see the pair of them share a smoochy dance (to The Lady In Red, the slushy song of choice from this era) which suggests that they’re slowing falling in love. They’d better hurry up though, only two episodes after this one.

Jack’s been on a bit of a roll recently. After his entertaining antics last time, there’s more fun today – first when he comes clean to Vanessa and tells her that Tony could be his son. This is topped by the arrival of Bill who admits that Tony might actually be his son ….

Clearly Tony’s mother was a generous hearted woman (although, possibly thankfully, no further suspects step forward). This sort of material was like gold to Glyn Owen, who doesn’t disappoint after Bill drops his bombshell. The pair then decide to break the news to Tony, who confides that he’s no longer interested in the identity of his father. So this plotline rather staggers to a conclusion with no resolution.

It’s not all fun for Charles today. It’s revealed that he was behind the break-in at the Mermaid (sponsoring Hector Burrage to dislodge Admiral Redfern from the chairmanship at the bank). It’s a mildly interesting nugget of information, although you have to wonder why Charles – if he finds Redfern so disagreeable – doesn’t simply move his business to another bank.

The saga of William rumbles on. Abby and Orrin are in Bermuda (certainly makes a change from the south coast of England). They seem close – holding hands for example (plus there’s a non-explicit bedroom scene) – and are very much of one mind. Gerald, having headed out to Bermuda to advise, finds himself surplus to requirements. But his presence is worthwhile for the sight of Ivor Danvers in shorts. Not something I’d thought that I’d ever see.

Laura is making a bid to muscle in on the House of Howard by attempting to snaffle some shares. This late development feels a little odd – so close to the end of the series it probably would have been wiser to try and tie up all the existing loose ends rather than create new ones. Unless there had originally been some thought to carrying on with a seventh series.

Leo and Jenny kiss. And why not. Since Abby and Orrin seem to be coupling, you can’t blame the lad for seeking succour elsewhere.

Jack exploding for no good reason is a HW staple. This episode has a humdinger of an example – unhappy at Leo being given more control over the yard, Jack tells Avril that she’s “devious” and on exiting her office, informs Pierre Challon (James Coombes) that he’s a “frog”! Hovering around the periphery of the series for a while, Pierre slightly moves more into focus today – sharing a meal with Avril, there’s just the hint of a spark between them. In 2017 Coombes provided the voices of the Kraags in the BD/DVD reconstruction of the Doctor Who story Shada – a nugget of information which probably isn’t of interest to many people, but I thought I’d share it anyway.

Back to Jack, he’s still fuming that anybody – not least his daughter – could boss him about in his yard (his mood wasn’t improved after Avril told him that it’s not his yard anymore – Relton own it) and so he decides to quit. We’ve seen Jack threatening to leave the Mermaid Yard before, but this time could he really mean it?

h10