Tarot Guards! Tarot the Diamond Man!
Sometimes (as with Catweazle) the effort was excellent in its own right but didn't have the legs to become a long-running serial; sometimes (as with Timeslip) a brave idea floundered under the weight of a small budget; and sometimes, as with The Tomorrow People, everything about the show was utter tosh* from start to finish. And on at least one occasion, a decent concept, backed up with good scripts and an intriguing setting, was blown out of the water by the sheer poverty of the acting.
Not that Ace of Wands looks all that promising as you slip the DVD into the player and sit back . For one, it gets off on entirely the wrong foot with the worst title song ever. Against a backdrop of folk psych images, some Rod, Jane and Freddy wannabe burbles out a toe-curling shitty hippy ditty which includes such lyrical gems as "Jet white dove/Snow black snake". Snow black snake, eh? Really? Are you sure about that? Well OK, if you're certain...
Moving swiftly and mercifully on, though, it's reassuring to see that "The Meddlers", the first story in series 3** was written by the mighty P J Hammond, the creator of Sapphire and Steel and writer of one of the very few non-rubbish episodes of Torchwood last year. So, some thoughts...
1. The two lead actors are absolutely dreadful - two of the worst actors I've ever seen in a popular show. In their defence they both seem to have gone onto have better careers than the vast majority of Who companions, so possibly their mannered and stilted performances were the result of directorial fiat but regardless of cause watching them here is a painful experience.
2. This particular story has a fantastic set-up and scenario, largely thrown away by bad acting. The band led by Spoon, the duplicitous prophet of doom, and the almost Report on Probability A-style man in the tower block are all brilliant and, even if the actual realisation is a bit shoddy, the plot makes sense and everything ties together nicely in the end.
3. If you'd stuck McCallum and Lumley in this, it'd be a really good episode of Sapphire and Steel.
Actually that last point does kind of force me to conclude that this is better than I gave it credit for at the time (though it's also faitr to wonder if Hammond had ever read the Campion novel Tiger in the Smoke, which features a very similar creepy band/dodgy lock up) ^. As I say, replace Mackenzie and Markham with McCallum and Lumley and you have something which wouldn't be embarrassed in the highest fantasy company. And if it's that good, then maybe it's not possible for bad acting to blow it out of the water completely.
Hmm, maybe it's time to give the Diamond Man a second chance to shine^^?
* There's a reason Naoko Mori is called Tosh on Torchwood, you know. Originally she was going to be called Crap but Chris Chibnall thought that sounded more German than Japanese.
** the first two series having been lost in the same great television purge of the seventies which destroyed nearly all of Magpie***
*** Oddly, you can download a pretty good dvd cover for the lost first episode, in spite of the fact that it's missing. Someone has gone to a lot of trouble for an essentially useless item.
^ I started writing this about four months but then stopped - this post is the result of remembering about it and then scraping the Drafts barrel on blogger
^^ Really - the crap I write at times :-)