Blakes 7 – Headhunter

head 01.jpg

The previous episode, Animals, established the concept that Avon is keen to recruit a whole group of experts to join him in his fight against the Federation.  Alas, Justin didn’t make it the end of that episode, I wonder if top cybernetics expert Muller (John Westbrook) will fare any better here?  Gosh, that’s a tough one …..

Tarrant and Vila have drawn the short straw of escorting Muller back to base.  Tarrant teleports down to the rendezvous, but it seems obvious that Muller’s colleagues don’t want him to leave (there’s a dead body under the table, although Muller himself seems unharmed).  Tarrant takes a cursory look at the body but seems to miss the obvious point, mentioned later, that the corpse is missing its head.  You’d have thought a small thing like that would be easy to spot, but clearly not.

Muller is a man of peace, something confirmed by Vena (Lynda Bellingham) who’s back at base with Avon, Dayna and Soolin.  But when they teleport back to Scorpio, Muller goes crazy and attempts to bear-hug Tarrant to death.  Vila gives Muller a tap on the shoulder with a monkey-wrench which apparently kills him.  Muller’s brief homicidal interlude is one of several (I assume unintentional) comic highlights.

Muller went mad after Tarrant brought back a box from Muller’s workshop.  After we learn of the headless corpse it seems obvious that the box contains Muller’s head, but not so, the truth is even stranger.  Muller’s android killed his creator, cut off his head and put it on his own, android, body.  Quite why the apparently peace-loving Muller would have created a homicidal android (who incidentally wants to enslave all human life) is anyone’s guess.  But it explains the faux-Muller’s strange dress sense and robotic delivery.


Poor Lynda Bellingham isn’t very well served by the script.  Vena spends most of her time moping that her loved one is dead, only to briefly spring back into life when it appears that he isn’t.  But her joy is short-lived as the android with Muller’s head then bear-hugs her to death.  It’s not a very dignified way to go I’m afraid.

So far, so strange, but the best is yet to come.  During the last fifteen minutes or so, Muller’s head drops off – meaning that we’re able to enjoy the vision of a headless android stomping around Xenon base, threatening to kill everyone.  There can be few funnier sights in all of B7‘s 52 episodes.

I also have to mention the wonderfully expressive hand acting from Nick Joseph who plays the headless android.  When you don’t have a head it’s hard to get your point across, so Joseph elects to waggle his hands and arms in a very emphatic fashion.  Another great comedy moment.

Muller was a protégé of Ensor, which means that Muller’s android is keen to join up with Orac in order to fulfil his dream of universal domination.  Quite how one android hopes to dominate all life is another of those small plot points which never gets adequately explained, but it does give Peter Tuddenham the chance to do a little more with Orac for once.  And indeed also with Slave, who subtly changes from servile to surly as the mysterious effect of Muller’s android takes hold.

Since Headhunter only features the regulars plus Muller and Vena, everyone – even the rather underwritten-to-date Soolin – gets a chance for a decent share of the action.  Paul Darrow elects to intone his lines with the sort of distracted, far-away delivery which would be his trademark style during S4.  He has the odd killer line (“Tarrant, what have you got up there apart from yourself, a half-wit and a corpse?”) but the best exchange is saved until the end.  After a big bang organised by Tarrant, Avon asks him what’s happened to the android.

TARRANT: Gone to the great cyberneticist in the sky.
AVON: You fool! It’s superstitious half-wits like you who hold back every advance we make.
ORAC: And arrogance, Avon, like yours and Muller’s which threaten to destroy …
AVON: Shut up!
ORAC: Yes, master!

After a less-than-serious romp, this small moment once again highlights how detached Avon has become from reality. The android, if controllable, would have been an asset, but everyone except Avon is clearly able to see that it would have been suicidal to keep it operational. Yet another example of Avon’s lack of judgement.

Whatever else Headhunter is, it certainly isn’t dull. The third and final of Roger Parkes’ scripts for the series, it falls somewhere between his other two.  It’s not as good as Children of Auron, nor is it as crazy as Voice from the Past (although it’s close).  But whatever its faults, the loopy concept never fails to raise a smile.


General Hospital – Series One


Network’s General Hospital – Series One has all the existing episodes from the first incarnation of this early seventies soap (which in this format was transmitted twice-weekly on ITV daytime between 1972 and 1975).  The fact that it contains just thirty eight episodes (and the last existing one is no. 258) is a clear indication just how much has been lost.

Indeed, since a number of editions are black and white film prints made for overseas sales, had they not been recovered then the survival rate would have been ever more desperate.  But looking on the bright side, if hundreds of episodes did exist then the chances of them all reaching DVD would probably have been quite slim, so at least the collectors urge in all of us can be satisfied that we’ve got everything from the twice-weekly version of the series that we can possibly have.

General Hospital, like many Network titles, was a blind buy but after a few episodes I’m already enjoying it greatly.  True, episode one is a touch stodgy but after that things get much more interesting.  For example, there’s comic relief from Patsy Rowlands as hypochondriac Peggy Finch, a woman who spends her time spreading doom and gloom amongst her fellow patients (usually by telling them that they’re seriously ill!)

She makes quite an impression on Albert Unsworth (Peter Hill) who instantly leaps to her defence.  Hill will be familiar to Doctor Who fans, thanks to his appearance in Day of the Daleks (which aired earlier that same year, 1972).  And there’s something of a Day of the Daleks cast reunion as elsewhere in the hospital we find Anna Barry.  She plays Mrs Sylvia Tate, whose young son is facing a kidney transplant (the son is played with such deathly earnestness that it takes your breath away).  Mrs Tate doesn’t want her husband to donate his kidney and hers isn’t suitable, so we leave her at the end of episode three on the horns of a dilemma.

The most entertaining storyline of these early episodes concerns GP Dr Robert Thorne (Ronald Leigh-Hunt).  One of the patients is convinced that he knew Thorne in Salisbury, but back then he wasn’t called Thorne and he wasn’t a doctor.  Could the respectable Dr Thorne really be an imposter?  Dr Martin Baxter (James Kerry) and Dr Peter Ridge (Ian White) certainly think so.

Baxter and Ridge are clearly the alpha-males of the hospital and even this early on it seems plain that hearts will be broken (although hopefully only in love!)  Elsewhere in the hospital, David Garth plays consultant Dr Matthew Armstrong.  It’s always one of those strange quirks of archive television watching that you can pick two totally random series and find the same actors in both.

Garth had played Charles I in The Further Adventures of the Musketeers (which had also featured Anna Barry) and brings the same detached air to Armstrong.  He’s not exactly an actor brimming with charisma but he does have a certain solid presence.  As does Lynda Bellingham as Nurse Hilda Price, who provides a sensible, capable and seemingly unflappable presence around the ward.  Quite different is Judy Buxton as Student Nurse Katy Shaw.  Shaw is just as efficient, but Buxton has a breathless, wide-eyed and innocent persona which has already won me over.

A word about the theme music.  You couldn’t hope to have a theme less suited to a medical drama than Derek Scott’s effort.  It’s pleasant enough, but its rinky, tinkly nature doesn’t really suggest drama.  Possibly they might change it later on, so I await further developments with interest.

The pictures on the back of the DVD sleeve promise later appearances by both Tony Adams and Joanna Lumley and since I’m sure that there will be other familiar faces popping up, no doubt I’ll be posting again about this series in the future.