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Volcano: do stupid plots really matter?
Spaceship Dispatcher
Travisina, you posted this elsewhere but I felt the points raised were worthy of separate discussion...

Travisina wrote:

Re: Volcano -
I agree about the dialogue, and that Michael Gough is a good actor. I also have a soft spot for the location, as it's one we visited on a location trip many years ago. I can more or less forgive the dodgy-looking robot. The stock footage of volcanoes burbling away is pleasing.

What I don't like about the ep is its contradictory premise - "I'm such a pacifist that I'm going to kill my own son and then destroy the entire planet." Huh? Maybe the rest of the population would have preferred subjugation to death - where there's life there's hope of rebellion, etc - what gives him the right to take that decision without some sort of referendum? So although this ep isn't actually offensive (cf Moloch), I do find it rather stupid.

While I'm in agreement that the basic premise here is pretty stupid, or at least illogical, I'm not however convinced that it takes anything away from the story. Hower is unbalanced and a dictator, so why should we accept anything he says about pacifist principles? Just because he's got a smooth line in rhetoric, that doesn't make him sincere. His activities seem to amount to a totalitarian state even worse than the Federation, and backed up by the threat of weapons of mass destruction. The fact that his personal power trip overrides any concerns for the lives of others cannot come as a surprise, nor does the fact that he's willing to discard their lives to exercise the only remaining outlet of his authority; pressing the button. Many real life dictators have claimed to be working towards benevolent goals as a front for appalling atrocities, and there are also many cases of those psychologically unbalanced taking others down with them as they exercise their power over life and death. Hower's attitudes and behaviours are not without precedence. So does the fact that events on Obsidian are futile and illogical make them, and by extension the episode, any less dramatically sound?
Edited by Spaceship Dispatcher on 17 April 2015 18:44:30
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
JustBrad
For me, three things make a good story. Here they are in order of importance:

Characters
Dialog
Plot
Production Values

Four! Four things make a good story.... / Spanish Inquisition.

If you don't have characters I can care about, empathize with, and identify with, then the best plot in the world will leave me flat. If you have strong characters and dialog, then I can enjoy the story and overlook a weak plot, though I reserve the right to complain about it.
Edited by JustBrad on 17 April 2015 18:23:15
 
Travisina
JustBrad wrote:

For me, three things make a good story. Here they are in order of importance:

Characters
Dialog
Plot
Production Values

Four! Four things make a good story.... / Spanish Inquisition.

If you don't have characters I can care about, empathize with, and identify with, then the best plot in the world will leave me flat. If you have strong characters and dialog, then I can enjoy the story and overlook a weak plot, though I reserve the right to complain about it.


I definitely agree with the first three - and in that order. The plot should arise out of the characters - their personalities, the decisions they take, the motivations that drive their actions (Rumours of Death), rather than characters being made to follow a plot (Animals). One of the great strengths of Game of Thrones is the way it's driven by the characters - all of whom are gloriously flawed and human.

As for the fourth - production values - that doesn't usually make it on to my list. Have you seen 'I Claudius'? Ancient Rome done in a studio with little more than a polystyrene column and a pot plant for scenery, but WOW - what a compelling story, what gripping acting! If a story's good, as far as I'm concerned it can have wobbly walls or a bare stage - but no amount of CGI whizz-bangery can compensate for a weak script.

Getting back to the original subject - thanks SD for starting this thread! I'm interested in your analysis of Volcano in general and Hower in particular. I just saw it as a mish-mash-mushy episode, one that didn't make a lot of sense. In overall story arc terms, I find also it odd that the first 'proper' ep features the two newbies - I feel that there's a story arc beat missing between the 'welcome to the Liberator' end of Powerplay and Tarrant & Dayna going off on a solo mission. If I were writing it, I'd have at least had an initial scene on the Liberator to establish the new crew dynamics. Then after everyone's safely back on Libby at the end, there should have been some signing off on the search for Blake (ie they're not going to bother any more). In fact, Big Finish took that idea and ran with it rather well in Incentive.

You asked:
So does the fact that events on Obsidian are futile and illogical make them, and by extension the episode, any less dramatically sound?

Actually yes, to me it does. Michael Gough is a good actor, but I just didn't buy into the character's actions and ultimately that's what kills the drama for me.
Twitter: @TravisinaB7
Tumblr: tumblr
There's no point being grown up if you can't be childish sometimes
 
trevor travis
B7 has a dystopian view of the future, and we quickly learn:
1. Not to take things at face value
2. That there are a lot of slightly unhinged people in positions of power.

Therefore, despite claiming to be a pacifist, it comes of no surprise to me to find Hower is a completely loony.

The only things that jars is the dialogue at the end when it's claimed somehow he "won". Instead they should be commenting on how so-called pacifists turn out to be the worst of the lot.

But "Volcano" does have much to commend about it. IMO one of the better Allan Prior scripts for B7 ("Horizon" is easily the best).
 
Travisina
trevor travis wrote:

IMO one of the better Allan Prior scripts for B7 ("Horizon" is easily the best).

I agree about Horizon, and The Keeper is pretty good, too. But oh dear, Hostage, Volcano and Animals...?
Twitter: @TravisinaB7
Tumblr: tumblr
There's no point being grown up if you can't be childish sometimes
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
Travisina wrote:

In overall story arc terms, I find also it odd that the first 'proper' ep features the two newbies - I feel that there's a story arc beat missing between the 'welcome to the Liberator' end of Powerplay and Tarrant & Dayna going off on a solo mission. If I were writing it, I'd have at least had an initial scene on the Liberator to establish the new crew dynamics. Then after everyone's safely back on Libby at the end, there should have been some signing off on the search for Blake (ie they're not going to bother any more).

True enough, but the scope for telling untold stories is one of the things we like best about the show and is something we take full advantage of with fanfic writing; as you say, it's allowed Big Finish opportunities that other series with tighter story arcs might not. To hold such against the original show feels to me like cursing the goose that lays your golden eggs for not being a chicken. Grin
Edited by Spaceship Dispatcher on 18 April 2015 14:09:34
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
trevor travis wrote:

The only things that jars is the dialogue at the end when it's claimed somehow he "won". Instead they should be commenting on how so-called pacifists turn out to be the worst of the lot...

Cally's comment was really odd! How exactly did the Pyroans win? Apologies if I spelt that wrong. But they've all just been enslaved for years by a ruthless dictator and promptly massacred by him when he turns out to be a homicidal maniac with an atom bomb! Like Vila says, if that's winning they can keep it!
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
trevor travis
Travisina wrote:
Getting back to the original subject - thanks SD for starting this thread! I'm interested in your analysis of Volcano in general and Hower in particular. I just saw it as a mish-mash-mushy episode, one that didn't make a lot of sense. In overall story arc terms, I find also it odd that the first 'proper' ep features the two newbies - I feel that there's a story arc beat missing between the 'welcome to the Liberator' end of Powerplay and Tarrant & Dayna going off on a solo mission. If I were writing it, I'd have at least had an initial scene on the Liberator to establish the new crew dynamics. Then after everyone's safely back on Libby at the end, there should have been some signing off on the search for Blake (ie they're not going to bother any more). In fact, Big Finish took that idea and ran with it rather well in Incentive.


But there isn't an arc in Colin.

I can enjoy one-off stories such as "City At The Edge Of The World", "Sarcophagus" and "Death-Watch" without the need of having to tie them to a story arc (although "Sacrophagus" does, in a way, complete of trio of episodes centred around Cally and Avon).

So why does "Volcano" need to be tied to one? IMO it doesn't.
Edited by trevor travis on 18 April 2015 14:06:01
 
Anniew
I think Volcano explores the ideas raised in series 1 and 2 about what to do when you face the subjugation of your freedom by totalitarian regime. It's not explained well but it's I believe a sincere attempt. Hower and his people have presumably, like Hal Melanby, fled the Federation to set up home on Obsidian, Hower losing faith in the regime before Mellanby. There is no evidence he is a dictator, just a leader and he must have been on Earth with Hal originally to work with him. They have voluntarily chosen a planet with an active Volcano that they can trigger if there is a risk of the Federation colonising them with the freedom to pursue an alternative life style ( AKA The Village). Like Blake they are willing to die for their beliefs .The problem is what happens with those who have not chosen this way of life, (in this case Hower's son)? The parallel with the seven is that only Blake and Cally chose rebellion, yet, the others, like Hower's son, would presumably have been sacrificed if they betrayed the cause and are expected to risk their lives for it if they wish to stay on board in safety. The son doesn't just disagree with his father he betrays him and all the other Ist generation Pyroans to The Federation. I imagine there would be reprisals from Blake if Avon betrayed them to the Feds which might well involve execution. I find the idea of conditioning pacifism abhorrent (ends justify the means) but it is similar to Blakes thinking ( Star One) and, if you think about it, it could be argued that even today we are all conditioned to accept war as normal and although we don't use electric shocks we did use imprisonment for conscientious objectors in the last war. The conditioning doesn't leave the Pyroans zombiefied like Pylene 50 -they are described as highly creative. Inevitably because these complex ideas are shoe horned into an hour which also has to be adventurous, they are not explained, expanded or debated and the whole set up has a cultish feel. I think however, it's a perfectly reasonable idea, that some people would have opted out from the Federation in this way. Perfectly reasonably that the fanatical Cally would think they won because they sacrifice their lives for their beliefs, and Avon to assume they lost for the same reason. It's an interesting one to think about.
Just because I can't sing doesn't mean I won't.
 
Travisina
trevor travis wrote:

But there isn't an arc in Colin.

I can enjoy one-off stories such as "City At The Edge Of The World", "Sarcophagus" and "Death-Watch" without the need of having to tie them to a story arc (although "Sacrophagus" does, in a way, complete of trio of episodes centred around Cally and Avon).

So why does "Volcano" need to be tied to one? IMO it doesn't.

There's a bit of an arc at the beginning and end of the series - 'Aftermath' follows directly on from 'Star One', 'Powerplay' follows directly on from that. 'Volcano' then kind of follows that in as much as they're still talking about looking for Blake. The rest of the series is arc-less until we get to 'Terminal' (back to the search for Blake). And I don't mind its arc-less-ness, on the contrary - my fave eps in this season are the standalone ones - 'City', 'Rumours', 'Sarcophagus', 'Death-Watch'. But because Volcano is the 'Cygnus Alpha' of Season C - the third part of the series set-up - I just felt it needed something more to relate it to 'Powerplay' and establish the new crew dynamics.

Soddit, maybe I'll write it myself Wink
Twitter: @TravisinaB7
Tumblr: tumblr
There's no point being grown up if you can't be childish sometimes
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
Anniew wrote:

There is no evidence he is a dictator, just a leader...

...The problem is what happens with those who have not chosen this way of life, (in this case Hower's son)?

...I find the idea of conditioning pacifism abhorrent (ends justify the means) but it is similar to Blakes thinking ( Star One)...

imo you answered your own question. Comparing him with Blake falls short as an argument in favour of his sanity or consideration for others' lives or wishes.

Like Blake they are willing to die for their beliefs...

They? Where does this 'they' come in?

The conditioning doesn't leave the Pyroans zombiefied like Pylene 50 -they are described as highly creative...

Well, the main on screen evidence we have for ordinary Pyroans are the two complete zombies who meet Servalan and stand staring into space while waiting to be shot...
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
JustBrad
Travisina wrote:


As for the fourth - production values - that doesn't usually make it on to my list. Have you seen 'I Claudius'? Ancient Rome done in a studio with little more than a polystyrene column and a pot plant for scenery, but WOW - what a compelling story, what gripping acting! If a story's good, as far as I'm concerned it can have wobbly walls or a bare stage - but no amount of CGI whizz-bangery can compensate for a weak script..


Yes, I, Claudius is an all time fave. I get your point on production values and that's why it comes fourth on the list.
However, to me production values do not just mean lavish sets with thousands of extras and great special effects (none of which I, Claudius has); but it also means good direction, camera work, lighting, and editing, all of which are excellent in I, Claudius.

To me it also means good cinematography (as Hitchcock put it, telling the story though the medium of film - or video as the case may be); interaction between characters is seen as well as heard, group shots feature movement and show the reactions of characters who are not speaking, as opposed to a series of 'talking heads' where everyone gets a close up and you don't see any interaction, even though the actors are two feet apart. The opening scene in I, Claudius is a fine example of visual, as well as audible, storytelling.
 
Anniew
SD I obviously haven't made my point clearly. I am not arguing FOR Hower's solution, merely pointing out that there are problems in trying to free yourself from totalitarian regimes and it often results in extreme solutions among societies or groups that do. And this is a thought provoking idea that forces us to examine the actions of our Heros as much as the guest characters.

As for the 'they', Hower doesn't claim I have decided, he says we, ( could be the royal we but I have always concluded that he's speaking as leader not dictator of a group. "We warned, We would. It's a truth we live by. " ) It's Bershar that labels him. Dictator - I've always thought, ( maybe wrongly) that he was accusing his father for not acting against the policy the founding fathers ( so to speak) of Obsidian had agreed on.

I agree the Pyroans we see do look Zombified, but I bet their macrame work is pretty impressive!
Just because I can't sing doesn't mean I won't.
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
Anniew wrote:

As for the 'they', Hower doesn't claim I have decided, he says we, ( could be the royal we but I have always concluded that he's speaking as leader not dictator of a group. "We warned, We would. It's a truth we live by. " )

The problem here is in accepting anything Hower says as honest when, as far as I see things, he doesn't otherwise come across as a character we can trust. It's not necessarily a royal we, but he could still be lying about the alleged support of his people being voluntary. As someone who seems to practice eugenics and casual murder (if he shoots his own son without a trial, what chance would we speculate the rest of the population has) to get his pacifist society, why would either we or the regular characters believe his unsubstantiated claims? Besides, if Obsidian really is in isolation then his pacifism is mere subjugation with the alternative being aggression against him alone; that imo is an important point, that the policy of pacifism's only logical purpose is to prevent uprising against Hower.
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
Travisina
Spaceship Dispatcher wrote:

As someone who seems to practice eugenics and casual murder (if he shoots his own son without a trial, what chance would we speculate the rest of the population has) to get his pacifist society...


That's what I can't get my head around. In what universe can eugenics and murder be considered pacifist? It just makes no sense. It's not pacifism, it's dictatorial totalitarianism of the worst kind - "Do as I say or I'll kill you!". It's like that Monty Python fairy tale:

...'Happy Valley' was ruled over by a wise old king called Otto. And all his subjects flourished and were happy, and there were no discontents or grumblers, because wise King Otto had had them all put to death...
Twitter: @TravisinaB7
Tumblr: tumblr
There's no point being grown up if you can't be childish sometimes
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
In what universe can eugenics and murder be considered pacifist? It just makes no sense.

I'm in agreement that it's a contradiction, but nothing Hower says is supported by anything else that we see or hear; that gives us a story about a contradictory character, not a contradictory plot. The only thing he says that's backed up by the narrative is that he's got a bomb and is willing to kill everyone.
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
Travisina
Spaceship Dispatcher wrote:

In what universe can eugenics and murder be considered pacifist? It just makes no sense.

I'm in agreement that it's a contradiction, but nothing Hower says is supported by anything else that we see or hear; that gives us a story about a contradictory character, not a contradictory plot. The only thing he says that's backed up by the narrative is that he's got a bomb and is willing to kill everyone.

You know what, I think we might be in agreement on this. It might just be down to a question of semantics. Next time we rewatch Volcano I'll try to view it as a drama about a contradictory person, rather than as a muddled, contradictory script. Watch this space...
Twitter: @TravisinaB7
Tumblr: tumblr
There's no point being grown up if you can't be childish sometimes
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
@ Travisina

Happy
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
Anniew
SD Travisina. So you both see Hower as a crazed cult leader? That's likely I agree. But my only problem with this is that Hal Melanby ( a reasonable man) must have spoken positively about Hower or why would Dayna recommend approaching him? It's the Mellanby endorsement that licences us to believe him to be telling the truth.

Though I suppose Hower could be a native Pyroan who fled Earth to go back home when his belief in technological progress failed and then rose to power in his own society, his personality changed by despair.

I would guess on a planet where they are all dying anyway, killing his son doesn't have the resonance it might have and that to Hower, by giving into the animal, Bershar becomes an animal, rather than a ' soul' - and he would therefore see it as slaughter of a rogue animal rather than killing a man without a trial. It has chilling parallels with modern societies under extreme pressures or tyranny or belief systems and with the inevitable conclusion of extremist views.
Just because I can't sing doesn't mean I won't.
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
Considering that he allowed his daughter to get involved in a relationship with creepy Justin, Hal Mellanby's judgement of character is not exactly beyond question either.
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
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