Friday, 15 July 2011

The Heart’s Desire written by David Bailey & Neil Corry and directed by Gary Russell

Archaeological Adventuress: Bernice has a scowl that could dent cement. I guess the one good thing that comes out of the creation of Topsy Turve is that it highlights what a confident and intelligent protagonist that Bernice is in comparison. Unfortunately she doesn’t really get the chance to prove it in this dismal story. When Bernice says she’s not had much experience with crazed mobs I was wondering if the writer actually knew about the character at all…she meets one every other week! I could have kissed Benny when she said that this has gone far enough and recognises that every that has happened so far has been ridiculously unconvincing! She is bright for an empheral and Hardy was allowed to choose anyone is time and space and he chose her.

Great Ideas: The is a previously unheard of pulsar that is heading towards the Braxiatel Collection and has the strength to brush it aside in an instant. Bernice suggests that a murderous mob is after them because they have seen Topsy Turve’s show.

Audio Landscape: Rain sluicing, being rammed by hover car, crashing into flaming wreckage, ray guns, a bank alarm bell, a chanting mob, birdsong, the hooting zephalumps (that sound an awful lot like elephants), squeaking birds, seals, deerkats throwing themselves against the glass, the Enlightenment crystal tinkling,

Isn’t it Odd:
· Oh dear the opening scene that consists of Conrad Westmaas doing a silly voice and Gary Russell in yet another cameo and it doesn’t not inspire much confidence. Following that up with Lucy Beresford adopting a truly nauseating accent as Topsy Turve and this is not the most auspicious start for a new season – especially coming after the superb Masquerade of Death at the end of series four.
· Its such a messy approach to telling the story, you have too much happening at once without any time to get to know the characters and so two assassination attempts and a bank robbery in quick succession just feels like stuff happening rather than a story unfolding. It doesn’t help that the director seems to have nodded off and the sound effects threaten to swamp the dialogue. I’m sure it is supposed to feel fun and irreverent and pacy but after the intelligent pieces last year it feels like a massive, sloppy step backwards.
· I’m going to stress once again that Lucy Beresford’s chosen accent is easily the most irritatingly amateurish squeaky noise I have ever heard but I should also say as a performance in its own right it is overstressed, embarrassing and unconvincing. There are dogs out there whose ears bleed profusely every time I put this story on because the pitch of Topsy’s accent is so painful. Whether this was the actor or the director’s choice it was a really bad move and it makes this slapdash story feel even more as though nobody it is even trying to take it seriously. As soon as Topsy joins in the fun (if you can call it that) every time they are in danger she screams continuously at the same shrill tone (plus has lines like ‘I am a dead babe!’). At least Bernice tells her that if she doesn’t stop screaming her brain will melt but naturally she has some dreadful riposte (‘It is not my fault that I am highly strung, it is my parents!’ Oh please.). Everything that this woman talks about is empty and twee – she’s terrified of zephalumps (at least their hysterical trumpeting drowns out her screams for a second) and she had a cute ickle wickle parakeet when she was younger (until it was in a hover car accident). When it was revealed that this world was a fiction I was relived because I could never buy into a character like Ms Turve…but then they go and spoil it buy saying all the people are real! Seriously?
· ‘Fryons and zygers and sea bears!’ ‘Oh my!’ Please tell me that this story wasn’t written just to accommodate that line. What is it with all these irritating play on animal names? Lampsters? Zerbils? Deerkats? Is this supposed to be clever writing?
· Unfortunately having the Eternals calling the world that was created unsubtle and cheap does not excuse the fact that we have had to spend the best part of an hour in it. As writers you can’t inflict torture on your audience and then go ‘hahaha we knew it was shite but that was rather the point!’ because whichever you look at it, its still shite.
· Imagine, just imagine for a second that the writers realised that the premise of Bernice wishing for a normal life was the best thing they had to offer and based this entire story around that premise. They could have wrong footed us by putting her in an obscenely domestic setting from the outset and showed that lie slowly falling to pieces as the Eternals try and bring her back to reality. Instead we get a ten-minute sequence at the end of the tale when everything has been spelt out. How dull. And surely there was something more interesting within this ‘perfect lifestyle’ concept then Benny doing washing up and baking buns and having a visitor from the neighbour? The script always seems to go for the lowest possible level of intellect – Topsy is killed (which should be a moment to celebrate but its done so cack handedly I don’t know why they bothered) and Jason turns up (played by Conrad Westmaas) and tells Benny that Peter isn’t important and to leave him alone. I don’t get any of this…this could have been a chance to search Benny’s soul and see what sort of a life she really wants but instead its just…rubbish. About as close to character examination that we get is ‘I have to get back to that other place or the buns will burn!’
· Or alternatively this could have played out as something truly epic with two Gods having fun in a game juggling planets and solar systems and costing lives as they spar against each other. That way Bernice taking away their powers and making them mortal might feel like an appropriate punishment. Since all they do is create a terribly unconvincing world their eventual fate feels really unfair.
· And what on Earth is the ‘Merry Christmas Bernice Summerfield’ for at the end? Was this story supposed to be Christmas themed? Have I missed something?

Result: As irritating as lice that’s started nesting in your pubes because there is a fantastic premise at the heart of this story but it is squandered on terrible writing, abysmal direction and sloppy performances. Its one of those stories that is so badly directed that it either assaults you with a lot of incomprehensible noise to suggest action or chooses to make your eardrums melt with various screeching sounds (here you have elephants or at least their alien equivalent which sound just like elephants, birds, deerkats and of course Topsy Turve’s hideous screams). There isn’t a single moment of this that feels genuinely atmospheric or pretends to be dramatically satisfying, even after it is revealed that it was never supposed to be. It’s a parody of Benny’s adventures taken to the nth degree but Russell forgets that that was done last year with the Grel Escape and with all the wit and charm that is missing here. That’s three for three for David Bailey, three abysmal stories that show just how low the range can sink in the wrong hands but at least this is the last time he gets to write a script and that is something to be thankful for. It bothers me to see a character like Bernice wasted in a story this bad because she deserves better. It genuinely feels like whoever is behind this series has given up: 1/10

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