Thoughts on The Syndeton Experiment

By Judith Proctor.

Overall, I feel The Syndeton Experiment was an improvement on The Sevenfold Crown.

I noticed several small changes which showed that previous comments by fans had been taken on board. Slave now addresses the crew correctly. All the action on board Scorpio now takes place on the flight deck. Small details, but they help to make it more believable.

The women came over as stronger characters and that was something I particularly appreciated, as I felt they were written more like a stereotyped Dr Who companion in the first play.

Scorpio's clip guns were used with more imagination than they ever were in the series, so thumbs up to Barry Letts on that score.

I think going for a one hour play rather than an hour anda half was a good move. The pacing feels more like a typical Blake's 7 episode now.

There were some nicely written scenes in which Servalan referes obliquely to her past role as Empress in such a way that the listener picks up on what she means, but the character she is talking to remains oblivious.

I enjoyed the scenes with her and Vledka and particularly liked his reaction when he was told what the mousse he was eating was made of. Instead of spitting it out, he just went 'yum' and carried right on enjoying it.

Steven Pacey has managed far better at picking up Tarrant's original voice. In fact, there's a nice difference in his voice between when he was being 'himself' and when he was being controlled by Servalan.

I haven't gone back to The Sevenfold Crown to check, but I think Paul Darrow was less over the top this time, and that's good too. Avon always feels more dangerous when he is more restrained.

Orac being unable to read information from a ship that is running 'blind' with electronic equipment switched off is a useful limitation on its abilities and one that makes perfect sense to me. (Although I'm not sure how long a ship can run with life support switched off. An hour is probably about the maximum.)

That's the good points. Here's a few things that I didn't care for so much.

'Feds' and 'fedsec'. These phrases were never used in the series, and they jarred every time I heard them.

A very minor point that annoys my scientific background (and Barry Letts is far from the only writer to do this) - syndeton was an element. Given that the periodic table is full, there's only space for new elements in the trans-uranic region and as far as I know, most possible new elements there have half lives of no more than a few days and would not occur naturally. Can't we ever have new 'substances', 'minerals', 'compounds', 'complex molecules' or whatever?

Some of the cast voices in other roles were too easy to spot and one or two actually confused me. eg. I though the tour guide was Vila initially.

I was very surprised when Servalan's ship arrived before Scorpio. Scorpio is significantly faster than anything the Federation has. That was the whole point of the episode 'Stardrive'. Scorpio can't fight anything more aggressive than a bicycle, but it is very good at running away.

Blake's 7 is set a minimum of 800 years in the future. This makes some of the colloquial language feel very odd. eg. 'rollers' (as in roller skates), or 'shawl and rocking chair'.

The idea of not being able to see anything or change course while in hyperspace is very neat. In any other context I'd applaud it. Unfortunately, things have never worked that way in the B7 universe. Space battles at high speeds were pretty well par for the course.

Avon says: 'You know all about me, so you'll know that I enjoy hurting people.'

One of the two things that really got to me was this - Avon *isn't* a sadist. He's a bastard, a pain in the arse, he wouldn't hesitate to kill someone if he felt it necessary, but that doesn't make him someone who enjoys inflicting pain. It's the fact that Avon is human underneath in spite of being such a bastard on the surface that makes him so popular with his legions of female fans.

For similar reasons, I disliked Barry's additions to Avon's back history. Adding in a casual ex-lover doesn't sit well with those of us who see him as only interested in deep, abiding relationships.

The other catch is that Avon's background (what we know of Earth from the first episode) is a very restrictive oppressive society and totally confined into huge domes. While a club called the 'purple nightingale' isn't totally impossible, it's probably true that most people on Earth had never seen a bird and would have no idea what a nightingale was.

One bad continuity clanger. In the episode 'Ultraworld', Avon and Cally's minds are transferred from their bodies into computer memory tubes and their bodies left as mindless zombies. Given this rather personal encounter with the separation of mind and body, it is positively amazing that Avon expects to find Vila's mind in Vila's body after Rostum transferred it to the robot. It also casts his destruction of 2 million robots in a rather different light.

A last comment that is not a criticism because I found it quite amusing. Dr Rostum reminds me of the Wizard of Oz!

Overall verdict? I'd put this on a par with the weaker 4th season episodes.

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Last changed on 17th of April 1999

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