Thursday, 20 February 2014

Everybody Loves Irving written by Miles Richardson and directed by Gary Russell

What's it about: Bernice and Braxiatel have never quite seen eye-to-eye… but now he wants to make amends. He’s taking her on a leisure drive across Legion’s deadly surface to an Ikerian settlement not far from Legion City. Their mission: shopping. The Ikerians are renowned traders, dealing in everything from the finest art to cut-price battlecruisers. They’re willing to do a good deal too. After all, they know Irving Braxiatel of old… and better than this Brax knows himself. Everywhere they go and everyone they deal with, Braxiatel’s reputation precedes him. He has good friends and even better enemies… but one thing’s for certain. Everybody loves Irving.

Archaeological Adventuress: If you have been missing the chemistry and repartee between Lisa Bowerman and Miles Richardson then sit back and enjoy the ride because for the most part Everybody Loves Irving is the equivalent of one of those US sitcoms with the two characters in one set bouncing witty dialogue back and forth. It is nice to see Bernice get a little down time after her hectic exploits of late and Bowerman sounds as though she is having a blast relaxing into Richardson's quirky script. Bernice is suspicious of Brax wanting to take her shopping, especially when she barely has two coins to rub together. They haven't sat down and discussed the subject of hr salary and as far as Bernice is concerned real archaeology doesn't come cheap. She wont sit by whilst Brax makes negotiations with a sexist Ikerian who considers Bernice to be his 'pet'. Her dad always used to say if you come up against anything intractable then give it a good thump. Irving has brought Benny to his newly purchased base of operations because she has a habit of sniffing out trouble. She makes some token objections to being treated like a skiv but I think she rather likes the idea of working with Irving again. Either that or she wants to keep a good eye on him, starting with his base.

Mysterious Girl: Ruth considers Bernice her best friend and is grateful that she looked her on the road to Legion. She feels affection towards Peter too and tries to reach out to him, trying to see the situation from his skewered point of view.

Dog Boy: Brax found Peter when he had given up home and gave him a life on Legion. He has stood by him and Antonio ever since, looked out for him. Ruth tries to explain that everything that Bernice has done since she met her on Atlantis was with the aim of finding her way back to her son. Irving found Peter in a slave pit on Bastion, where he had to fight in the arena and learn to take care of himself.

Super Villain: Clearly Richardson has been waiting for the day that his character regained dominance in Bernice's life considering he put pen to paper and wrote the most Brax heavy script in an age. And why not? He's a fantastic character that has been surprising and thrilling me for the past fifteen years of my life. After behaving so abominably to Benny and manipulating her life in so many appalling ways I never thought we would see the day when we could relax into a comedy atmosphere with the two characters again. Russell and Handcock have created the perfect way of giving the character a second chance, wiping the slate clean and starting all over again. It would appear that Braxiatel is comfortable financially no matter what guise or period of his life we visit him in. He's an extremely resourceful man. There are a lot of Braxiatel's about and this version of him only understands the half of it (what hope do the rest of us have then?). He knows there is a purpose to having so many iterations of himself at large and that one of Braxiatel's is privy to the master plan and he is working towards finding the answers. He's just hoping that it wont lead towards anything that he is going to regret. Gallot had dealings with another Brax, the one that Benny spent ten years with and nearly screwed up her life for good. The one who murdered Benny's husband. Wherever this version of Irving goes he is learning more and more about Benny's one and he likes the sound of him less and less. Is this a ploy? Is this Benny's Brax play a long con? I guess we will just have to wait and find out. There are certainly hints that the old, devilish Brax has been to the silo before. When Irving talks about home and Bernice asks where he means by that he gets cagey and insists that some things are private.

Great Ideas: Draconian brandy is the finest in the galaxy but they don't drink a lot of it themselves so that leaves pretty for the rest of us. The perfect cure to a hangover is Tolken eyeballs in brown spittle sauce. Yes, you've guessed it...we're back in Bernice Summerfield The Sitcom territory. When it was played for a laughed in The Worst Thing in the World I never for one moment that it would become something a reality all these years down the line. I have to admit it does make a decent contrast to the other two stories in the Legion box set though, as different from the race against time drama that Vesuvius Falling was to the psychological horror that Shades of Gray so terrifyingly explored. Legion might be strange in that it fails to have any kind of running theme or arc plots, featuring three such disparate pieces but it does go to prove that in this new dawn for the character that diversity is still the key. The Ikerians will quite gladly trade with anybody regardless of your race or preferences. The Ikerians are prolific breeders, hence them having to construct a protective dome on Legion and their high population means they have a large workforce. They are humanoid but somewhat vertically challenged. Brax is the market for a crater to create a little bolthole in, one with a fully functioning rocket silo and a ship. Bernice sings 'The Sky's No Limit' jingle from the Epoch storyline so it looks like the ties to that set haven't quite been severed yet. What ever happened to the Epoch? Who is it that tried to murder Bernice in the bath? Or was it simply an accident?

Musical Cues: A shame that they don't release the soundtracks to the audios anymore because the Legion box set features some excellent music courtesy of Daniel Brett. He is working his ass off to make the insubstantial material in Everybody Loves Irving as enjoyable as possible. Check out the sequence where the plumbers arrive and reveal who they are to see what I mean. It's not a great gag but you'll be halfway convinced that it was because the music is so damn fun.

Isn't it Odd: Richardson creates a sense of urgency with the two unknown visitors to Legion rushing towards to Irving's new base of operations...only for them to turn out to be space plumbers there to make sure that the hot water is running. Did I miss something? Was this supposed to be an operatic gag that left me heaving on the floor because it falls way short of the mark. It's worth a smirk, if anything but not the substantial build up it is afforded. Although I did like the jokes about not having the parts and 'you wont even know we're here.'  What the hell is going on with Peter and his imaginary boyfriend that nobody else can see? I couldn't work out if it was supposed to be dramatic or's just pretty weird.

Standout Scene: Nothing could have prepared me for the moment when Bernice asked for the music to be a little funkier and 'Adventure is my Game' started piping out of the speakers. I thought we had long forgotten that abomination and to see it return only to have the piss ripped out of it...well I was cracking up.

Result: Perhaps they should have included a laughter track. Everybody Loves Irving is pure sitcom Benny and very hard to take seriously. Everything is a comically exaggerated; the midget salesmen, the banter between Bernice and Braxiatel and the fact that they share a bed, Peter's imaginary lover, the Al Capone-style businessman to the plumbers that are presented as the new big bad. It's a strange place to leave the Legion box set, far more concerned with setting up a bolt hole for Brax and his new companions to settle into than pulling together any narrative threads that have been started in this box set. Having three stories doesn't really give the writers the opportunity to tell a larger story unless you are going to tell one long serial and so instead the choice was made to tell three completely diverse standalone tales. Everybody Loves Irving is far more interested in asking questions rather than answering them, whetting peoples appetites for Missing Persons. There isn't really a narrative to speak of, not a great deal seems to happen throughout and I was left waiting for a punchline that never came. The real saving grace was the chemistry between Bowerman and Richardson which is a continuing delight. It does feel a bit of a waste of an hour given the juicy threads that have been left dangling. I would rather invest my time in the continuing domestic drama between Peter and Benny or the mystery surrounding Ruth, Jack and Irving than wasting my time listening the to sitcom exploits of space plumbers. Given there is only eight more stories from this creative team left to be told it seems strange to waste any of the valuable spots in the schedule on something quite this vacuous. An odd release, one that defies justification and climaxes the Legion set (which has otherwise been dense and thrilling) on a strangely unfulfilling note: 5/10

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