Sunday, 27 December 2009

New Hamlet

I have now seen another version of Hamlet. It had David Tennant in it as Hamlet instead of Derek Jacobi. Both are very nice, they give me ideas for stories...
Patrick Stewart was Claudius again but he had a more modern beard this time. In fact all the mannys were dressed modern and had guns and cameras and things so I was confused if it was proper Shakespeare or not. But then there was a swordfight and everyone died at the end so I knew it was.
My best bits were the funeral scene when Hamlet fights with Laertes. Then Hamlet mentions cats.

"Let Hercules himself do what he may,
The cat will mew and dog will have his day."

One Year in the Zone

It is one year ago today since Duncan started posting on the Anorak Zone Forum. He has posted pictures of me and talked about Blakes 7 and Doctor Who and lots of things with other mannys and it helped him feel better when he was not well and sad. So here is a big thank you and a Prenty Thumbs Up from Duncan and me to all at the Anorak Zone.

Thanks guys.

Duncan likes Doctor Who a lot more than I do. He watched it on Christmas Day while I was busy on the internets writing a story about Willie from Mission Impossible. But Duncan says he got a new story on DVD for Christmas and it is by Terry Nation! I look forward to watching it because Terry Nation writes exciting stories that are good. It is called Planet of the Daleks.

Monday, 21 December 2009

The I Claudius Challenge: 12 episodes in 12 weeks - Part Three

Mon 7 Dec: 10. Fool’s Luck

With help from his friend King Herod, Claudius persuades the senate to accept him as Emperor. But after that the real plot begins - Messalina, Claudius’s wife, whom he loves unquestioningly, tries to become “the Livia to his Augustus” (if he has a moment’s pause this episode, it’s when she uses that very phrase to him - he knows the truth about Livia; she - presumably - doesn’t). Messalina begains to maneuver the man she wants to become her lover, Appius Silanus, into a position where she can gain access to sleep with him, and pretty skilfully at that, but when he refuses her she loses her grip - Silanus tries to kill Claudius and ends up getting executed.

The Messalina story is something of a return to the subtleties of the early Augustus and Livia episodes, after the OTT Caligula parts. It draws me in as it twists and turns; I want to know what happens next. These are wonderful episodes.
…and there’s a great comic scene with John Bennett as a Greek doctor, giving Claudius medical advice.

Notable characters that die this episode: Cassius Chaerea and Appius Silanus.

Mon 14 Dec: 11. A God in Colchester


The second half of the Messalina story.

Messalina manipulates events to the point of overthrowing Claudius to set up with a new lover/husband, but his advisors Pallas and Narcissus, fearing for their own lives if the coup comes off, out-play her and she finally gets her comeuppance.

It shows Messalina’s skill at manipulation that they have to ensure she never gets a chance to speak to Claudius or else she would talk her way out.

It’s difficult for me to think of anything more to say about this one - it’s all in the writing and the magnificent (as ever for this series) performances.

Notable characters that die this episode: Quintus Justus, King Herod, Messalina.

Sun 20 Dec: 12. Old King Log

“Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out.”

The final episode.

Before Claudius dies he tries one final scheme to restore the Roman Republic. He marries his niece Agrippinilla (Caligula’s sister) and makes her son Nero his adopted son and heir - the idea being that Nero will be a tyrant as bad as Caligula and be overthrown, as Caligula was, but with no Claudius around to succeed him, the Republic will be restored instead.

Agrippinilla is no Livia or Messalina, Claudius is always ahead of her, and her attempts at manipulating him only play into his own plans. And between her and Nero, she’s the brains.

“Farwell Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus.”
(It reads like a list of five characters from the series, but it’s actually Claudius’s full name.)

Notable characters that die this episode: Claudius. Britannicus, Narcissus, Agrippinilla and Nero’s deaths are foretold by the Sibyl.

Guest-star of the week: Christopher Biggins (Nero).
“What a pretty thing a fire is.”

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Sar Trek 4: Voyage Home

I have now seen Star Trek 4: Voyage Home and I am a very happy cat. Shakespeare one day and Star Trek the next. It was a funny film but serious as well. My best bit was Dr McCoy in the hospital making people better. I was in a hospital once visiting Duncan when he was ill and sad. I didn't see Dr McCoy there. But it was still a happy ending because Duncan got better and came home. Captain Kirk got a happy ending when they made him a new Enterprise to thank him for saving Earth by being clever and brave and a hero.

Happy cat!

I know there are more Star Trek films for me to see. I am looking forward to the next one.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

I am a Shakespeare-liking cat

I have been watching the First Part of King Henry the Fourth. I like Harry Hotspur, he is a good baddy. I like Sir John Falstaff, he is a very silly manny. And I like Prince Henry, he is a good protagonist as he starts off silly like Falstaff but he shows he is brave and a prince by the end. King Henry the Fourth is not in it that much when you think that the play is named after him. He was a baddy in Richard II, who was nice and was played by Derek Jacobi. My best bit is the big fight at the climax, but I also like it when Harry Hotspur mentions cats.

"I had rather be a kitten and cry mew
Than one of these same metre ballad-mongers;
I had rather hear a brazen canstick turn'd,
Or a dry wheel grate on the axle-tree;
And that would set my teeth nothing on edge,
Nothing so much as mincing poetry:
'Tis like the forced gait of a shuffling nag."

I have had a happy Caturday because I got to watch Shakespeare.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Star Trek 3: Search for Mr. Spock

A manny called sfdebris has reviewed Star Trek 3 Search for Mr. Spock on his Youtube Channel and he gives it 6 out of 10 and calls it "average."

I disagree.

It is fantastic! Captain Kirk was brave and it was great and then his son got killed and I was sad and then the Enterprise blew up and I was excited because Captain Kirk had a plan and then he won and I was happy!

It is now my second favourite film after Wrath of Khan. The only thing it does wrong is that it is not as good as Wrath of Khan. It still has many good bits. My best bit is just after the Enterprise has blown up in space and Captain Kirk says:
"My God, Bones, what have I done?"
and Dr. McCoy says:
"You did what you had to - what you always do - turned death into a fighting chance to live."

I am a happy cat!

Saturday, 12 December 2009

I love Captain Kirk!

I have been watching more Star Trek.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Your mission, should you decide to accept it...

I have been watching Mission: Impossible. I like Willie, he is my favourite. He is big and strong and I think he is really the clever one, not Jim. I liked Dan Briggs as the leader in the early episodes though, I miss him. There were also episodes with Ricardo Montalban and George Takei in them, they were good too. Later on there's Paris, and he is played by Leonard Nimoy who was Mr. Spock! It's amazing! He is a master of disguise. So is his character. I like Paris, and I like Barney and Rollin.

I don't like the films. I think Tom Cruise is rubbish and they spoil Mission: Impossible by being too silly.

Monday, 7 December 2009

The I Claudius Challenge: 12 episodes in 12 weeks - Part Two

Some thoughts at the halfway point

I haven’t bothered to give the individual episodes ratings (out-of-five or otherwise), partly because that’s not my style but mainly because I’d just be giving every episode top marks. They really are that good.
They’re not flawless productions - if I wanted to nit-pick I could say that they’re not first-rate production values, with the studio-bound sets shot on videotape, or that the aging make-up isn’t always perfect on, for instance, Tiberius, Livia, and especially Claudius himself. But it is so easy to forget about these things when watching the episodes because the acting is utterly brilliant from pretty much everyone. It’s a play performed by some of the finest actors of that era - as such, the sets and make-up are adequate to the task of letting the actors do their job.

If I Claudius were made today, it would be like Rome. Almost exactly like Rome, in fact, given that Rome’s second season leaves off in almost the perfect place for the events of I Claudius to start. Rome’s a bit like the Star Wars prequel films in that respect - also it has all the modern production values that one would expect of a present-day TV series that they could only dream of in the ‘70s, but the script and the performances aren’t up to the standard of the original. Though, that said, I do like Rome in its own way.

Sun 15 Nov: 7. Reign of Terror

This is the story of the downfall of Sejanus. At the moment of his triumph, thinking he is to be named Tiberius’s successor, he is undone.
First he is shown still rising towards his ambition in scenes that illustrate how ruthless he is - torturing confessions out of senators and arranging to marry Livilla’s daughter when Tiberius refuses him permission to marry Livilla herself.
The downfall itself - organised by Tiberius and Caligula with help from John Rhys-Davies’s Macro, Sejanus’s ambitious second-in-command (and therefore his replacement) - is equally ruthless; it’s not just Sejanus that dies, there’s a purge in Rome and the episode ends with the streets full of bodies, including Sejanus himself. I like the way Sejanus’s murder is shown from his point-of-view, with Macro and two guards advancing towards him - the camera - with swords out.

His death scene is followed by Livilla’s, locked in a room and starved to death by her own mother, who had uncovered her poisoning of her husband and attempted poisoning of her daughter.

Claudius again plays a small but significant role in the plot - he is the one that brings the news of Sejanus’s treachery to Tiberius since, in spite of the fact that Sejanus controls access to the Emperor, he doesn’t consider that Claudius could be a threat. It’s a nice touch that keeps the title character from being merely an observer of events.

Mon 23 Nov: 8. Zeus, by Jove!

This is my favourite episode. For all the brilliance of BRIAN BLESSED, Sian Phillips, and the other actors in previous episodes, at this point John Hurt totally steals the show.
Caligula becomes Emperor. He started mad, and gets madder; thinking he is a living god. His madness, and the episode, builds up to the stunning final scene.

Don’t go in there. Don’t go in there.”

Mon 30 Nov: 9. Hail Who?

You set the standard of sanity for the whole world.”

Caligula, backed by German guards loyal to him alone, is all-powerful, and reaches new heights (depths?)* of insanity:
- Claudius saves two senators from death by quoting Homer to amuse Caligula.
- Caligula thinks the Jew’s prophecy about the coming Messiah refers to him.
- Thinking he is the god Jove, Caligula makes war on Neptune and his armies take seashells as plunder.
- After a campaign against the Germans (and Neptune), Caligula orders no Triumphs upon his return, and then rages at the lack of them awarded to him.
- He also reprimands the Romans for celebrating the victory of the battle of Actium, when his ancestor Mark Antony was defeated, but later admits he would have done so if they hadn’t - because Augustus, who won, was also his ancestor.
- And then there’s the most utterly crazy and unforgettably insane scene of the series - the dance. If you’ve seen the episode, you’ll know the bit I mean. If not, words cannot describe. As evidenced by the following exchange between Caligula and Claudius:
“Did you like it?”
“It was… indescribable.”
- Caligula forces the beautiful Messalina to marry old, crippled Claudius as a joke, though it backfires somewhat as they are happy together… for a time, but more on that in episodes to come.
- “The noble senator Incitatus.”

Eventually a conspiracy gets underway to kill him, and finally, he’s dead.
Then the Praetorian Guard force Claudius - virtually on pain of death - to be the next Emperor so they can keep their cushy jobs guarding him. The final shot of the episode is Claudius wearing a golden laurel wreath - less than gracefully.

With Caligula, and the fabulous John Hurt, gone, the series will never be the same again. But that doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to the remaining three episodes. Far from it.

* Yes, I know I’ve used this before, for episode 6, but the point remains.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Christmas is coming...

...look busy.

That seems to be what all the mannys are doing nowadays. I am a cat, though, so I don't have Christmas because us cats have Caturday instead. It happens 52 times more than Christmas so it is better in that way. Yay for Ceiling Cat who is watching us.

I don't get presents on Caturday but I don't mind because I don't have to give anyone presents or else get called bad names like "scrooge" or "humbug" which is what happens to mannys who don't do Christmas. At least that is how it seems to me, although because I'm only a cat I may not see the whole picture. Ceiling Cat sees the whole picture, though.

If I want to give someone a present I will not wait until Caturday, I will give them it right away unless they are not there in which case I will give it to them the next time I see them. I do not have money because I am a cat, so if I give someone a present it will be hugs, kiffs, or fish. Or sometimes I will write them a story and put it on the internets.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

I has a puppy

I has a pet puppy. His name is Puppy. He is a sock puppy, but not made from a pair of long socks like me, he was made from socks that were tiny and cute. So he is a tiny and cute puppy. Here is a picture of me and Puppy.

I love my puppy.

I also has a nemesis. He is a monster called Longstealer. He is stripey like me but he is not long. He wants to steal my long, but he can't because I am too clever. And long.

This is what Longstealer looks like.

Friday, 27 November 2009


I have been watching John Silver's Return to Treasure Island. It is a TV programme that has BRIAN BLESSED in it.
BRIAN BLESSED was in Blakes 7 where he blew up in space. He was a very shouty manny in that. He was also in I Claudius where he acted properly and he died at the end of his bit.

In this he is Long John Silver - not a long cat but a long manny. I didn't know you got long mannys until I saw this. He only has one leg. He is very clever and sneaky and does not die at the end. He is also very shouty, but BRIAN BLESSED still acts properly in it even though it was made after Flash Gordon, when he started just being loud and shouting "GORDON'S ALIVE!" a lot.

I think BRIAN BLESSED is now one of my heroes, though I don't like him in the way I like Paul Darrow.
Gamma Longcat doesn't like him because BRIAN BLESSED is so loud he wakes Gamma Longcat up when he is trying to have sleeps. BRIAN BLESSED is VERY LOUD.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Enlightenment wasn't the diamond...

I have seen a lot of Doctor Who recently.

First I saw The Invasion, which is a long story. I approve of long stories because I am long. I saw it over three days. It was good and had Jamie in it. Kevin Stoney was the baddie. He is a good baddie. He was in Blakes 7 and I also saw him in Measure for Measure. I think he is very good. He had a henchman called Packer. He was silly and kept getting thing wrong and making his boss angry. It was funny. The Cybermen were in that story too, but they only appeared half way through and were not in it that much.

On Saturday Duncan had a 'Doctor Who Night.' He had one last year - here are some pictures of me being curious about things that I didn't know about a year ago: Chocolate Daleks!

This year I saw three stories in a row: first the Mind Robber, another story from the black-and-white '60s era. I had heard of it before from the Anorak Zone, where it is renowned for this image:

I like Jamie though.

Second was Ghost Light, which was a very confusing story. I am only a cat, and did not understand all the silly things that were happening. The mannys that were watching with me liked it being weird and Victorian but I was left being a confused cat, like when Duncan watches documentaries about manny things that I don't understand.

Last was Enlightenment, which I liked very much. It was a Special Edition version of the story, but I have not seen the original so didn't know the difference, except I could tell some of the special effects were not '80s effects so they must be new. Some silly mannys don't like old effects, but I do not mind them - I like Blakes 7 after all!
I liked the silly Guardians with the birds on their heads, they were funny. One of them was a baddy and the other was a goody, and the Doctor - who was a proper goody in those days - helped the good Guardian to beat the baddy. He was helped by Turlough, the oldest schoolboy ever.

Here is me dressed up as the Long Guardian:

Here is me and Gamma Longcat doing an ultimate showdown dressed as Guardians:

Gamma Longcat has Cthulhu on his head, so he must be the baddy!

Don't worry, we are best friends really.

Monday, 16 November 2009

A Mars A Day

There was a Doctor Who story on TV yesterday, called Waters of Mars.

I don't like Doctor Who very much. I mean, I like some of it, but not all of it. I'd rather watch Star Trek or Blakes 7. I liked Doctor Who when Paul Darrow was in it. And I like some of the old stories in black and white and written by Terry Nation. I quite like Daleks. I like Steven Taylor, he's nice. And I like Jamie, he's nice too.

I don't like David Tennant playing the Doctor. He's too silly and shouty. I prefer Jon Pertwee. At least when he is silly and shouty you know he is serious as well. I like Captain Jack, but I don't like Torchwood at all. I don't know why they made Captain Jack into Captain Scarlet, but then I'm only a cat so maybe I just don't understand these things.

I wasn't really watching the story yesterday, I was busy having sleeps. It was supposed to be very scary though, like the scary face at the end of Star Trek. I didn't think the water monsters were very scary, but the Doctor turning into a baddy was scary, because he is meant to be a goody. That was very dramatic but I am confused because if the Doctor is a baddy now then who is the goody? Maybe that is why it is called Doctor Who.

Christmas seems a long way away...

Sunday, 15 November 2009

The I Claudius Challenge: 12 episodes in 12 weeks - Part One

Sun 4 Oct: 1. A Touch of Murder

A double-length episode that seems to have been two episodes edited together, as evidenced by the two halves having separate plots* - the first half is the power struggle between Marcus Agrippa and Marcellus for who should be Augustus’s successor. Although Marcellus dies first, neither of them wins because Livia poisons them both.
The second half is about Claudius’s father Drusus and his relationship with his brother Tiberius, so we understand that when Drusus dies there is nothing keeping Tiberius ‘good’ any more.

The episode is utterly dominated (in both plot and acting stakes) by Livia and her subtle manipulation of everyone to maneuver Tiberius, her son, into position as Augustus’s heir. It’s not long into the series before she poisons Marcellus and claims her first victim, with the audience her only co-conspirator. It’s wonderful to watch, and I especially love the sly asides that only the audience can appreciate the meaning of.

The other great performance in this episode is BRIAN BLESSED as Augustus Caesar, for one scene in particular, where he subtly hints to Drusus that he would make a very dangerous enemy, while otherwise acting like an affable father-figure to him.

*Wikipedia tells me that it was made as 2 episodes and then edited together for the original BBC broadcast.

Guest-star of the week: Ian Ogilvy (Drusus), who went on to play Simon Templar in Return of the Saint.

If we were counting the first half of the episode separately, then I guess either of the actors who played Marcellus and Marcus Agrippa could count. But as I have also recently been watching John Silver's Return to Treasure Island, I'll nominate Christopher Guard (Marcellus), who went on to play Jim Hawkins.

Sun 11 Oct: 2. Waiting in the Wings

Probably the most memorable of the BRIAN BLESSED episodes, for the scene where, having just discovered his daughter is the town bicycle, Augustus goes down the long line of Romans daring any of them to deny it, and then he yells at the top of his lungs-

Livia is once again behind all the intrigues, and I noticed this episode how a couple of her key moves are illustrated for the audience by nice directorial flourishes - the first is when the camera zooms in on Lucius as he falls into her trap. The other is when she makes a rare miscalculation, and the camera pans steadily - without cutting - from her face to Augustus, his face showing he is not going along with her before he speaks to confirm it.
Still, one more murder and she gets her way in the end.

Guest-star of the week: Nobody very well known, but I certainly recognised Darien Angadi (Plautius) from Blakes 7, where he was Ro in season two’s Horizon.

Sun 18 Oct: 3. What shall we do about Claudius?

This is the first episode with an adult Claudius taking part in the plot, and it's only in his second scene being played by Derek Jacobi that he first receives the advice that will keep him alive - play up his disabilities so he is not perceived as a threat. This time it is given to him by Pollio, a leading historian/scholar of the day, and it is paralleled by a later scene where Posthumous Agrippa - whose downfall forms the main plot of the episode - gives him the same advice.

The other plot for this episode concerns the historical event where three entire Roman Legions were wiped out in an ambush by German barbarians. We don't see any of that, of course, just the report of the events from a messenger and, crucially, the reactions of the main characters to it - they just can't believe such a disaster was possible. I think the episode implies that Augustus, already old and going senile, is just about finished off by this event.

Livia still has all her wits about her, and it shows in every scene she’s in, with the possible exception of the scene where she and Augustus argue like any old married couple, not the Emperor and Empress of Rome, about their family affairs. It’s a very funny scene because of that contrast.

The scene where Livilla (for those keeping track: Claudius’s sister, married to Castor, who is Tiberius’s son) lures Posthumous to destruction - by accusing him of attempting to rape her - is very, very nasty. Livia puts Livilla up to it because removing Posthumous will put Tiberius (and thus Castor) as Augustus’s only heir. But unlike Livia’s previous schemes, which she carried out in a cool, calculating way with all the considerable charisma Sian Phillips could put into it, Livilla is a shrieking harpy so the scene is brutal.

The episode ends with everyone laughing at Claudius at his wedding, because his bride is revealed to be about a foot (or more, perhaps) taller than him. This shows nobody takes him seriously, so nobody perceives him as a threat - not even Livia, who seems to enjoy laughing at him the most. He’s safe. We know this because the final shot goes back to him as an old man, and it shows this is how he survived to become the old man.

Guest-star of the week: John Castle (Posthumous).

Sun 25 Oct: 4. Poison is Queen

An early scene confirms a thread begun in the last episode, that Livia, who seems to know everything that goes on in Rome, is incapable of suspecting someone she considers to be a fool. Livia doesn’t suspect Claudius of having the wit to guess her schemes when even Livilla suspects him of causing the truth behind the rape accusation to reach Augustus.

It is established that Livia has been driven to poison her husband before he can undo her work of the last episode by pardoning Posthumous and reinstating him as heir. Livia is seen drunk in a couple of scenes, indicating the inner turmoil she feels about her actions, even though in her speech to Tiberius she remains resolute.

The stand-out moment in this episode is Augustus’s death scene: Livia talks (about herself and Tiberius, and how her actions have been for the greater good of Rome) and BRIAN BLESSED says nothing, but acts like the death like nothing else I’ve ever seen him do - you can see him die as the camera stays on his face, in extreme close-up, until Livia comes over and her hand closes his eyes. Then we see Tiberius come into the room, and there are tears in Livia’s eyes.

“By the way… don’t touch the figs.”

So we have reached the end of the section with BRIAN BLESSED in it. The very next scene Sejanus (Patrick Stewart) arrives, and is sent by Livia to execute Posthumous and remove the last couple of people who might stand in the way of Tiberius becoming Emperor.

Guest-star of the week: Virtually all the significant characters of this episode appear in other episodes. I guess I’ll nominate Jonathan Burn as Fabius, who knew Augustus’s true Will and so died for it.

Sun 1 Nov: 5. Some Justice

Tiberius is now Emperor and immediately things go wrong for him, because Germanicus (Claudius’s brother) is more popular than he is. But even when Germanicus dies it is not entirely good news for him, because there is a republican faction, headed by Aggripina (Germanicus’s wife) and Castor (Tiberius’s own son), that seeks to put governor Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso and his wife on trial for the murder of Germanicus and treason against Rome - they have evidence Piso arranged for Germanicus to be poisoned, including the alleged poisoner as a star witness. What makes this bad for Tiberius is that Piso was his agent and has letters to prove it.

Most of the episode is about the trial - in the senate - of Piso and the manipulation of it by the interested parties. The republican faction, of which Claudius is a member and actively involved, want justice. Piso, naturally enough, wants to get off. It gets complicated when Tiberius and Livia get involved. Piso was acting under orders from Tiberius, so thinks the Emperor will side with him, but an acquittal would be incredibly unpopular in Rome so Tiberius withdraws his support. Livia, not trusting her son to handle the affair himself, steps in to ensure that Piso doesn’t damage Tiberius by revealing any embarrassing letters as he goes down.

Once again it is Livia who comes out on top in the end. She also gets the best scene in the episode, having a gossip with Martina - the poisoner, whom Livia had arranged to have disappeared - about poisoning methods. Over the course of the conversation Martina realises that Livia’s knowledge is not just academic…

This episode also sees the first appearance of Caligula (not yet being played by John Hurt). Here he is a creepy child, already showing signs of the monster he will become.

Guest-star of the week: Stratford Johns (Piso).

Sun 8 Nov: 6. Queen of Heaven

“You must have a very long reach.”
“The empire is very large - I need one.”
-- Claudius and Livia

This gets going immediately, skipping the usual lead-in with elderly Claudius, with a very dark tale about Tiberius, told by the woman Lollia who then kills herself because of what she has experienced at the hands of the Emperor. This is shortly followed by the first appearance of John Hurt as the adult Caligula, giving a gift of p*rn to Tiberius. The scene establishes their relationship perfectly.

The key scene of the episode is where Livia reveals all to Claudius - her ultimate ambition to be made a goddess after her death (wonderful roman logic behind this - she’ll go to hell for all the bad things she has done, unless she becomes a god and therefore immune to any punishments), and in exchange for Claudius’s promise to fulfil this for her when he becomes Emperor (which has by now been foretold more than once) she shares with him all her plots - previously only shared with the audience.

This builds up to Livia’s death scene at the end of the episode - Caligula reaches new heights (depths?) of monstrousness, explaining gleefully to the dying Livia how he will not make her a goddess because it has been foretold that he will be the greatest god of all (though, cleverly, the audience can recognise the prophecy as referring to Jesus, not Caligula).
Claudius arrives and restates his own promise to her, then Livia finally dies. Only at the end, when she needs Claudius, does Livia recognise he’s not such a fool.

So farewell to Sian Phillips's fantastic performance as Livia, which has utterly dominated the series up to now.
But this episode sees her passing the baton on to John Hurt, whom I know will give a very different, but at least as show-stealing, performance in the episodes still to come.

Meanwhile the other plot of the episode is Sejanus’s rise to power. He uses Claudius to get one step closer to his goal by arranging Claudius to divorce his first wife and re-marry Sejanus’s sister - so Sejanus’s family is now connected to the Imperial family. This shocks Claudius’s mother and sister, but his friend Herod recognises Claudius has made the smart move - not antagonising Sejanus by a refusal.

Guest-star of the week: Kevin McNally (Castor). Although Castor had appeared in previous episodes, he was only in a few scenes. This, his most significant appearance, is the run up to his death at the hands of his wife and her lover, another stepping-stone in Sejanus’s rise to power.

Little Boots, Long Cat

Hey guys, Big Gay Longcat here again!

So that was last year's project. It took Duncan the whole year to get through all four seasons of Blakes 7. I'm glad he did it because if he hadn't I might not have found out about Avon and Tarrant or seen all the good stories by Terry Nation and other people.

This year Duncan has gone for another Challenge, which at the moment he is half way through. He is watching the 12-part series I Claudius, again one episode a week up until the end of the year. It has Derek Jacobi in it, who I have seen playing Hamlet and Richard the Second in Shakespeare plays and I think he is very nice. It also has BRIAN BLESSED in it - he was in Blakes 7, but only once because he blew up in space. He is the loudest manny in the world!

So it's over to Duncan again to blog about his I Claudius Challenge so far. It will have lots of spoilers for the story, so be warned if you have not seen it.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

The Blakes 7 Challenge: 52 episodes in 52 weeks - Season Four

Sun 5 Oct 2008: 40. Rescue
Season 4 has such a different feel to what has gone before. They have lost regular characters before (and gained new ones, of course) but the loss of the Liberator (and Zen) is bigger than any of them. Compare this to the loss of Cally (off-screen) - no contest.
Dorian takes ages to die - but it is done quite well.

Mon 13 Oct: 41. Power
Crap. Battle of the sexes is cheap sci-fi rubbish, executed badly and unconvincingly, with poor dialogue. Just a terrible episode.

Mon 20 Oct: 42. Traitor
I guess the return of Servalan was meant to be a surprise, but they could have left it more than three episodes.
Some of the minor characters are good in this.

Sun 26 Oct: 43. Stardrive
I quite like this episode. It’s a bit slow, evidenced by various shots of the characters running around outside, but it allows for a simple story to be done well. It’s also quite dark, like a lot of this season, which is why the contrasting end-music jars a lot.

Sun 2 Nov: 44. Animals
Below-average, slightly dull episode focussing on Dayna. Most noticeable bit is Avon slipping on the floor in a scene near the end. As pointed out on the Anorak’s Blakes 7 site. Once you have noticed this bit, you can’t un-see it.

Tue 11 Nov: 45. Headhunter
I like this episode, it’s very atmospheric and has a chilling villain that the heroes really need to work to defeat. It fits the 45 minutes well, too.

Mon 17 Nov: 46. Assassin
It’s a pretty good idea - trapped on a ship with a killer, and the execution is OK, but this episode is seriously let down by the actress playing Cancer - she’s really bad.

Mon 24 Nov: 47. Games
I quite like this episode, though it’s not outstanding. The main reason it’s good is Vila, who is shown to act with intelligence - rather than be the idiot/comic relief - which he rarely does. It’s often hinted at but very seldom shown.

Sun 30 Nov: 48. Sand
I really like Sand. It seems as if the entire episode is there to set up the scenes of the Tarrant/Servalan ‘romance’ but it works so well that it gets away with it.

Mon 8 Dec: 49. Gold
OK ‘heist’ episode, most notable for Roy Kinnear as the guest star who gets killed at the end. Avon goes a bit mad in this one, especially once he realises the outcome.

Tue 9 Dec: 50. Orbit
The entire episode builds up to one scene, where Avon hunts and tries to kill Vila. Unbelievable, even in a series like Blakes 7 where the ‘heroes’ are portrayed as much less than perfect (with Avon the worst of them since the start), that one of the good guys would seriously try to kill another. This episode pulls it off convincingly and is brilliant because of it.

Sun 21 Dec: 51. Warlord
There are a couple of great scenes here, such as the destruction of Xenon base and the trap sprung on Avon and Soolin, though the Federation guards suffer the law of inverse ninjas here more than ever before.
The thing that brings this episode down is the incredible ‘80s hair. That might seem like a very minor quibble, but it has to be seen to be believed - Zeona looks like she is wearing a wig on top of another wig!
Servalan’s last episode - good riddance. She was a great character, but really overstayed her welcome.

Sat 27 Dec: 52. Blake
Masterpiece. As an end-of-season cliffhanger episode it would merely be genius, but as the end of series cliffhanger episode it is perfect.
Though Blake appeared in the last episode of season 3, it was only for one scene which later turned out to be a simulation anyway, so it feels as if he hasn’t been in it for two whole seasons (half the total series length), thus his return is suitably epic for a grand finale.
Avon is once again at the heart of the episode, of course. Insight into his character: he’s not completely psychopathic - he clearly pauses before leaving Tarrant on the crashing Scorpio. But he does shoot Blake. Three times. Blake brings it on himself, in a way, with his mind games and his not answering a straight question even when Avon is pointing a gun at him. But Avon pulls the trigger. And after that it all goes horribly, horribly wrong for the characters. Just last episode the Federation guards were at their least effective, now they wipe out the heroes and surround Avon ready for the ultimate ending.
One last moment worth mentioning: it’s Vila that punches out the Federation Officer.