Friday, 11 March 2011

The Bellotron Incident written by Mike Tucker and directed by Gary Russell

What’s it about: Two aggressive alien races. A war that has raged for centuries. A planet that orbits through no mans land. The Rutan/Sontaran conflict has started to endanger the Terran trade routes, but when the Captain of the battle cruiser Rites of Passage finds an energy signature of artificial origin on the primitive planet of Bellotron he is duty bound to call in the assistance of a qualified academic. Confronted by savage predators, fiendish traps and the unexpected involvement of an opportunist thief, an unwilling Benny finds herself caught up in a conflict where neither side plays by the rules and no one is quite what they seem...

Archaeological Adventuress: ‘I need somebody with a cool head, someone who can follow orders and someone with tact…’ After all the (much needed) introspection of series three (looking back at the five stories she goes shopping, fights with her men, gets pissed with Iris, struggles to get home and loses herself in a mirror!) it is great to have Bernice back as an expert in archaeology going about her business. Bernice can spot a fake entrance to a tomb with effortless ease. Matriarchal society, so if they are seen she’s the trader and Ryan is the slave. She’s been in more dangerous situations than she cares to remember and she can handle herself. She hates being treated like some delicate university lecturer.

Brilliant Bev: Bernice heads the series, Braxiatel plots from the sidelines, Adrian joins, Jason returns and Peter is born and now with Bev turning up the regular cast has finally reached fruition. Whilst all the other additions pleased me, Bev’s return excites me because this is the cast of Life During Wartime/Death and the Daleks, the cast that sees us through the Draconian/Mim war, the cast that works together to bring down the might of Braxiatel. This is where a good series gets great. Happily admits that she is thief! Bev is locked up but escapes with ease! She waits until everybody has done all the hard work and then nicks the artefacts much to Bernice’s chargin! Always finds stories easier to tell with a full glass. Nice that she and Benny discuss the Doctor.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I keep telling you, I’m here to steal things!’

Great Ideas: Bellotron is on an elliptical orbit that takes it on both sides of the lines into the Sontaran/Rutan Empires. They can’t send down a military team without an expert who can protect the indigenous artefacts. Is the first time a story has been narrated as a fireside horror story? Two highly aggressive alien war fleets, one with the ability to clone almost infinite numbers of themselves and the other with shape shifting abilities. What they could find in the ruins of Bellotron could give them a basis of their entire civilisation. Two packs of wild dogs surrounding their party.

Audio Landscape: A lovely, wintry opening with wolfs baying and a snowy, fire lit fire crackling, that brilliant Rutan purring, spaceship systems beeping, freezing wind, robotic footsteps, ricocheting blaster, growling Rutan voice, shuttle descending,

Musical Cues:

Isn’t it Odd: The first half an hour is slothenly beyond words of the kind that we haven’t seen since The Skymines of Karthos. Such a waste of the Rutans, they are touted as the big villain of this story but don’t turn up until two thirds through the story! Or do they… Even Bev doesn’t show up until the conclusion! Why doesn’t Mike Tucker flaunt his assets? I find it astonishing that any story set during the Sontaran/Rutan conflict would not actually feature the more popular of the two races! If it’s a right issue why even bring them up? I find it especially odd that Tucker chose to write in the Rutan because they have a creepy sound effect rather than for storytelling purposes! A bomb to contaminate Sontaran space with a mutagenic virus…ho hum. There’s nothing new to learn here about either species. The twist that Bernice hasn’t even been in this story so making the whole event utterly pointless is so embarrassing that director Gary Russell tries to skip over it as quickly and quietly as possible.

Standout Scene: When you realise Bernice has left with a Rutan rather than Bev the story finally throws up something worth listening to!

Result: The dullest slice of Bernice action since season two and what a surprise, its one of the season two writers in the driving seat! This could have been a fine introduction to Bev Tarrant, a brilliant meeting of minds to tackle the horrific and bloody Sontaran and Rutan conflict. However Mike Tucker chooses to write out Bernice, Bev and the Sontarans and basically tell a story of a bunch of Rutans trying to outwit each other. Its not Natural History of Fear style cleverness, it’s a bog standard run-around that pretends to be something more in the last few minutes and actually winds up proving it was about nothing. Production values are good and the performances reasonable but the material is so conventional nobody really gets the chance to excel: 4/10

Buy this from Big Finish here:

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