I missed the radio broadcast of The Syndeton Experiment and have spent the time since then avoiding reading the messages on the list about it. However, I bought the CD today and here are my views:
First, I thought this was far superior to The Sevenfold Crown. The story was more coherent and overall the characterisations were better - it was so nice to see Vila drunk again, though he did seem to have some remnants of that strange eating disorder that overcame him in TSC. The one main let down was Angela Bruce's portrayal of Dayna. I thought the lines she was given were suitable for Dayna, but that her delivery of them was awful, for an actress I'd go as far as saying lazy - how much effort would have been needed to at least learnt how to pronounce Orac.
Paula Wilcox made a much better job of Soolin than last time, mainly helped by a more fitting script (I think Barry Letts' writing of the two women is massively improved), despite the uncharacteristic piece of stupidity when she let the Servalan-controlled Tarrant fool her into untying him.
Of the new characters, I enjoyed Judy Cornwell's Gaskia the most - very over the top and a typical B7 guest. She also provided the funniest moment of the play when she embarrassed Avon, first with the sloppy kiss and then calling him a "cheeky little sod". However, the general lack of humour was a bit of a let down - where were all the one-liners? The only half decent one was Tarrant saying "What could I do with one hand?" I bet that'll end up as a badge.
I had a few minor gripes, such as federation troopers being called feds and Orac saying "this Servalan" as if he'd never heard of her before. Also, since when has boolean algebra been complicated? Tarrant too had an uncharacteristic bit when he forgot his teleport bracelet - he's much too professional. Eeek, did I really say that?
These though were more than made up for by the gorgeous scene of Peter Tuddenham arguing with himself as Orac and Slave (he only gets credited with Orac on the sleeve) and Servalan's dalek impersonation as she loses control of the machine. In fact, I thought Jacqueline Pearce did an excellent job, apart from the silly tantrum when she temporarily lost control of Tarrant.
Peter Jeffrey's Dr Rossum was an average guest character who had his moments. Graham Padden's Vledka was too minor a role to really comment. I also think the BBC are underselling it with such a dull sleeve for the CD - how about some pictures for the next one? Also, anyone spot the 'deliberate' mistake of the first broadcast date?
In summary, I was a bit wary of this after The Sevefold Crown debacle, but was pleasantly surprised by what turned out to be a good story, well acted. Paul Darrow and Michael Keating shone as expected, but there were significant improvements on the other characters. I am now looking forward to the next one, and I could even handle another Barry Letts if he continues in this vain, though like most of us I would prefer to so see a Chris Boucher written episode set in the first two seasons with Blake and Travis. Brian Croucher has said he'd be willing to do it, and I'm sure Gareth Thomas would as well.
Congratulations to the BBC for getting over The Sevenfold Crown and producing a welcome addition to my B7 collection.
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