Blake’s 7 series 3 episode 10 – Ultraworld

Can our heroes survive a confrontation with the three blue baldies of doom...?

The liberator trying hard to get away from the infantile script of Ultraworld

THE PLOTHaving picked up a signal on the Liberator detector screen, Avon wishes to take a closer look at what this ‘Lump Of Nothing’ is. It turns out to be a large, silver globe rotating slowly in space. Avon deduces that it is an artificial planet, but can’t raise any communication. While the others feel that there is danger (and Vila is too busy teaching Orac rubbish jokes), Avon wants to take a look, In the end, they agree to put the Liberator in orbit and observe. While they have yet to reach orbit pattern, Cally is overcome by the image of the planet.

Dayna interrupts more of Vila’s jokes, having discovered that Cally is missing and that the teleport has been tampered with. Avon gets a faint signal from what sounds like Cally’s voice (In reality, a recording from an unseen lifeform). Avon, Tarrant and Dayna decide to teleport down to rescue Cally, leaving Vila to teach Orac more riddles.

Avon, Tarrant and Dayna find themselves in the gloomy tunnels of the artificial planet. Passing a bright light, they encounter three blue aliens called the Ultra (Ian Barritt, Stephen Jenn, Peter Richards). The Ultra are in charge of Ultraworld, an advanced computer. Their function is to gather and accumulate information. They know about the Liberator crew, and show Cally on a screen – an Ultra says that she has undergone severe mental trauma and is in a sleep cell for recovery.

The Ultra agree to let the others see her. Avon speculates that they may be telling the truth, but Tarrant is sceptical. Avon contacts Vila and warns him to be on guard and prime the neutron blasters in event of emergency.

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In the meantime, Tarrant has returned to the control room. Examining a rack of tubes, he selects one and places it in a hole in the control console. The image of a menial called Relf (Keith Gough) appears. Relf’s thoughts and memories are in the tube, but cannot tell Tarrant where he is. Relf adds that while there are others like him, some have been absorbed into something called the Core. He is interrupted by the Ultra and hides.

The Ultra look at Cally on the screen, and say that her mental profile and personality spectrum are transferred to the memory store, and that she is ready for absorption. Tarrant trains his blaster on the Ultra, who tell him that he cannot resist the power of the Core. Luckily, Dayna sends in a motorised explosive that detonates in a puff of smoke, confusing the Ultra and allowing Tarrant and Dayna to escape.

Avon, in the meantime, has been overpowered by Relf, after warning Vila that their situation doesn’t look promising.

Tarrant and Dayna find the still life forms of three memory-wiped victims. Relf and two other menials enter to take one of the men to a conveyor room. The man is placed on the conveyor belt and fed into the Core, a huge organism in the middle of the room. Tarrant says that with every new victim, the Core expands and increases in brainpower.

The Ultra have placed Avon in a sleeping cell, and having overpowered him, decide to involve Tarrant and Dayna in an experiment. Tarrant and Dayna are forced into a storage room by the Ultra, who use a stick to cause explosions wherever they run to. In the storage room, they find Cally and prepare to find her memory tube. They contact Vila and tell him to get ready to teleport them up, but are overpowered by two menials. One of the Ultra demand that Tarrant and Dayna take part in The Bonding Ceremony for the Core’s databanks. The Ultra considers releasing their friends if they agree. Dayna agrees and starts to kiss Tarrant in front of a camera. However, Dayna uses a small explosive to escape, and the two run to find their friends.

The Ultra, in the meantime, attempt to lure Vila into joining them, but Orac takes Vila’s mind off the hypnosis by forcing him to recite riddles. The Liberator docks in a bay in Ultraworld.

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In the conveyor room, Cally is being prepared for absorption. Tarrant manages to knock out one of the menials, who falls onto a shelf of memory tubes, causing all menials to freeze. Tarrant and Dayna free Cally and find Avon. They are both placed in sleeping cells with their memories and personalities restored.

The Core, meanwhile, is having some sort of brainstorm, due to too much information. It starts to fall apart and split open. In the confusion, Avon and Tarrant get their weapons, and Tarrant shoots two of the Ultra. They join Cally and Dayna and reach the docked Liberator. They leave Ultraworld behind, as the remaining Ultra attempts to reverse the destruction. However, the Ultra is trapped by the power and starts to fall apart…

As Ultraworld explodes, Orac confirms that Vila played his part in distracting and confusing the energy waves emanating from the planet. Orac then projected the wave emissions back at the Core – self brain washing. Thanks to idiotic nonsense riddles, Avon concludes that a logical, rational intelligence is no match for Vila.

ANALYSISWhen I was five or six, I used to write Dr Who stories at school for English – sad little runt that I was. I’m kind of glad that they vanished into the ether, since they’d make me cringe 30 years later. I only mention this because I’m reviewing Ultraworld.

A superficial glance at the plot (ie: one that’s less meandering than my own interpretation) can be taken as: Avon and co teleport down to a glitterball planet where they meet three blue slapheads who store people’s memories and feed their bodies into a dodgy looking giant sack, while Vila saves the day by – telling riddles???

Of course, Ultraworld was written by a grown man. It’s just that the plot’s so ludicrous, it feels like it was written by someone much younger. The storyline is so simple, it feels like it should belong in LazyTown. There’s no real deep meaning to the episode, which turns out to be a simple runaround in the world of the dreaded Ultra.

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Ah, the Ultra. The Blue Meanies. Whatever you want to call them. A trio of blue baldies, who serve only to gather information for the Core, a ridiculous looking thing that looks like it took its cue from Erato from Dr Who’s Creature From The Pit. The Ultra have no name or individual identity, they just blunder about while repeating the key mantra (come on, sing it with me), “You cannot resist the power of the Core!” When I first saw Ultraworld on video, I thought they said: “You cannot resist the power of the Corrs”. The thought of the twee Irish warblers is probably more of a scarier proposition than what ended up on screen.

Back to the Ultra, they’re easy to tell apart. There’s the baldy who’s not really a baldy, in fact he’s only a demi-baldy with hair at the sides. The demi-baldy doesn’t really contribute much, he occasionally chips in with the odd snippet, but on the whole, seems embarrassed to be there. Still, wouldn’t you be?

Then there’s Psycho Baldy, played by the bloke that was zoned-out Secker from Dr Who‘s Nightmare Of Eden. Psycho Baldy is the thug of the group – in between amassing data, he probably thinks nothing of heading to the Ultraworld Menial pub to glug down untold quantities of beer and start fights. Look at the way in which he crushes Avon’s teleport bracelet, he looks like he’s going to sprout fangs.

Finally, we have Camp Baldy, whose occasionally high-pitched whine never fails to crack me up. “Has the BONDING ceremony begun yet?” is just one of the many unintentionally hilarious lines spoken by Camp Baldy, who nevertheless seems to be (Bald) Head Honcho of the three.

On the subject of the Bonding Ceremony and unintentional hilarity, this must be one of the silliest concepts in Blake’s 7. Apparently, the Ultra wish to observe a bit of nookie for ‘knowledge’ – in fact it makes them look like clueless pervs. Its hard to be romantic with cheesy lift muzak and a whopping great Big Brother camera watching you. Quite why the Ultra can’t nip out to the local dodgy adult DVD store to assimilate Bonding Ceremony knowledge I don’t know. Maybe they were too embarrassed.

All totally and utterly bizarre, but at least Tarrant and Dayna finally get some good material to work with. Tarrant is shown to be more of a proactive thinker rather than a hot-headed, arrogant thug, and this portrayal works well. Indeed, Steven Pacey and Josette Simon are excellent here, and furthermore manage to keep straight faces throughout the nonsense.

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The others get a raw deal though. Avon and especially Cally are sidelined for this story. Cally reacts in horror to what looks like the opening titles of Strictly Come Dancing – although I’d react in abject terror, too, at the thought of having to sit through that gaudy smugfest.

Poor old Vila though. Vila is now behaving like a 5-year-old, teaching Orac riddles and goofing about. This is possibly Vila’s lowpoint of the series, but feel sorry for poor Michael Keating (apparently this was his least favourite episode) having to endure this nonsense.

And yet. It’s strangely difficult to dislike Ultraworld. For all its faults, its still quite entertaining and easy to follow. It may not have the depth of Rumours Of Death or Sarcophagus, but Ultraworld still manages to entertain in its own B-movie way. Absolutely mad, but as I said, hard to dislike. You almost have to admire its cheek.

Check out our review of season 3 episode 9 here.

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