The Cost of the Cheeseboard
|Title:||The Cost of the Cheeseboard|
|Author(s):||June Bauer and Beth Friedman|
|Cover Artist(s):||Kathy Marshall|
|Size:||letter sized; 95 pages; approximately 80,000 words|
|Fandom:||Blake's 7 RPF/FPF|
|External Links:||online review|
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.|
From the 1995 flyer:
He came for . . .
the ice cream
and Gareth Thomas
He left with . . .
a bag of videotapes
an office temp
and a cat
And the Blake's Seven universe will never be the same again.
"This is Karen Breucher. I had a message to call you. If this is about the arrangements for the next Scorpio--"
"Not exactly." The businesslike voice sounded relieved. "I've got a person here who is most--insistent--that he needs to talk with someone from the convention. Hang on a minute and I'll transfer you."
There was a brief pause and a few more clicks. Then a new--and appallingly familiar--voice said, "Heather?"
"No, she's out of town. This is Karen Breucher." Karen swallowed hard. It can't be . . . it has to be-- "Is this Paul Darrow?"
The room wavered slightly. "Avon. Avon. Omigod. This isn't a joke, is it? Um, what are you doing in Schaumburg?"
Reactions and Reviews
'Other Side of the Coin' is gentle, pleasant and entertaining. It features several incidents where Paul Darrow uses some traits specific to him as an actor, and as Paul Darrow, specifically for the betterment of the crew, which pleased me, because I didn't want him just to be a dead weight. It also features lots of quite nice bits where Blake is nice to him - Blake lends him his shirt, Blake carries him, a sleepless Blake gets given the Avon!bear (we learn later that Vila gave it to him so that Blake could shout at it in place of Avon, but until then I spent about 3 pages going 'is he... going to sleep hugging it?')(There are also some adorable scenes of Blake going to sleep on the flight deck in a force field, so he won't be disturbed). Where Cheeseboard was all about the Avon-Michael Keating relationship, with some glances towards Gareth and/or Blake; this is clearly about the Blake-Darrow relationship - which I liked, because I like Blake and his relationship with Avon, and I was sad that there wasn't more of this in the original. There's also a nice bit where Jenna gets to do her job - and hangs out with Darrow, which was good - and also the setting for some of the Darrow being good at his job stuff that I talked about earlier.
But... the bottom line is that 'The Other Side of the Coin' is not nearly as good as the original. There's comparatively no conflict - Avon had conflict with most people he met at Scorpio, everything felt quite tense (and yet adorable), which makes for good drama. The Liberator crew are quite nice to Paul really - he gets shot, but he gets better. He also doesn't learn anything from his experiences, or help the others to learn anything about their relationships - and this was one of the best things about 'Cheeseboard'. That and the touching moments of friendship between Avon and Michael. This fic...just sort of rumbles along - although one is a mundane convention world and one is a high-tech spaceship... life is far more mundane on the Liberator than it is at Scorpio. Paul has a shower and eats rubbish food. He does drills. He goes to sleep. Things happen for not very much reason (I really like the Docholli's daughter idea, but once you go 'oh, I see what you did there', I'm not sure why she stays on the Liberator) and there isn't much emotional change or arc.
The other thing is that - we know from the original that Avon has a great time in our world and doesn't want to leave (spoilers, but whatever). That makes for quite a good plot. I feel a bit sad that Paul Darrow doesn't have a great time in Blake's world (this is all a bit part and parcel of the whole no relationships/no learnings deal) - I know people are trying to kill them and stuff, but surely it's pretty great to be in the future? Wouldn't it be exciting to actually do something for real, rather than just act it? And if we are going to do the Blake-Darrow relationship, there should have been (I thought) more bits where they actually hung out and talked, did things together/went on missions together, and Paul got him to admit that he missed and needed Avon. To be fair, it is sort of implied that he does the last one, but I didn't feel that it was earned when we got to Blake telling Avon over the communicator that Paul wasn't a good substitute for him. It was just sort of odd. And kind of mean to Paul.
Plus there's this slightly weird bit:
- "Sure you don't want to keep the other one [Darrow, rather than Avon]?" [Vila asked Blake]
- "Oh, Vila, I am quite sure of that." Vila looked at Blake questioningly. This was quite the longest conversation
- they : had ever had together since the London. "I would much prefer to live up past the expectation of someone who
- expects me to fail, than someone who is convinced that all I have to do is wave my hand the right way to succeed."
- "Yeah. Paul does expect us to be the good guys."
For a start I just don't like the idea that Blake and Vila haven't talked more than this in two years. Not ever? Also - it's a slightly sad representation of the Blake-Avon relationship, even though Paul earlier offered friendship as the reason Blake might want Avon back and Blake didn't exactly deny it. I do think this 'fear of not meeting expectations' thing could be an interesting avenue to pursue, though. Blake wrestling with the burden of someone else's belief in him, particularly at this point when the rest of his crew know how fallible he is. But it feels like it came out of nowhere here, and there's not really any follow up because the story ends pretty soon after that.
I also don't know why Darrow is telempathic - perhaps I was reading too quickly. And I still don't know why Blake has a beard! That, and the fact that Avon's taller than Paul Darrow, are the only things that are different about this universe. I think maybe they're supposed to give us the air of possibility, but Paul knows what Blake said word for word in 'Voice from the Past'. In a world where even dialogue is the same, how much scope for change do we really have?
This is all quite negative, and the fic doesn't really deserve that - it's very readable. But I was so impressed by how emotionally effective the first one was, and... nothing happens in this one at all really.
The art's still nice. I like that the checklist is back. I also like that there's quite a long author's note at the end - it's nice to know how and why things were written. Also - I am going to quote this bit for no reason other than that it tickled me.
- Jenna and Vila were in nightshirts like Avon's - not black, of course. Jenna's was deep blue, and Vila's a don't-take-notice-of-me grey. Interested in spite of himself, [Paul] noticed Blake's was in the earth colours he liked, a brown streaked with dull green. Paul was a little surprised, remembering an episode when Blake wore the clothes he'd been sleeping into the flight deck. The costumers thought it indicated his devotion to duty, to be ready to leap up at a moment's notice to take charge of the ship. (It also saved them from having to design futuristic pyjamas.) Paul thought it was more likely to indicate Blake was a slob, but that was neither here nor there. Anyway, here Blake apparently was, looking reasonably natty in a patriarchal sort of way - that was the combination of the beard and the robe, no doubt, but -- Beard?! Paul's line of thought veered off abruptly, and he stared doubtfully at Blake, unless it was Gareth.
- "You have a beard!"
- "Was this news worth getting out of bed for?" Blake said acidly.