Soldiers of Love
Part Fourteen - Blood Ties

Starring: Nicholas Courtney, Jacqueline Pearce, Gareth Thomas and Anna Karen
RRP: 9.99
Available now

Inside Arran's factory on Xoolian Major, Cilla, Madame Deephole, Gamak, Jake, Snyder, Turnidus, Yztabub and Zalia wonder how to deal with the Retsab threat. Meanwhile, on board the
Nick of Time, Caelys, Cindy, Frag, Major Grondlepuss, Hywel and Violet are held hostage by Dr Proctor - half octopus, half human, all lesbian...

How do you end the sprawling saga that is Soldiers of Love, which was originally intended as a ten-episode series but eventually grew into a fourteen-part one, a saga that deals with up to fifteen diverse characters at a time? The answer, in Mark J Thompson's view, would appear to be: end it several times over.

Tracks 5-7 all seem to bring the story to a conclusion, only for the familiar theme music to grind to a halt with the sound of a stylus skidding across the surface of a vinyl record (funny how that archetypal joke still works in this digital age). After each of these "endings", members of the cast complain that the resolution is either too neat or too untidy. Blake's 7 fans will appreciate Jacqueline Pearce's comment: "You name me one quality British science-fiction series that ended with an unresolved cliffhanger." (Actually, I can think of one more: Sapphire and Steel.)

Meanwhile, Doctor Who fans can listen out for some familiar lines from a couple of the show's better-known episode endings.

The characters begin to become self-aware even before the various counterfeit conclusions have commenced - as early as track 2, when Dr Proctor (Niall Stuchfield) agrees to divulge her own origins and those of Chickenskin, "but only for the sake of narrative completion." Personally, I don't much care for the way in which the actors step outside of their characters, but I suppose there's no real reason to consider this development any sillier than, say, the presence of a six-foot sentient spider, a giant chicken or a half-octopus/half-human lesbian played by a man!

But is the conclusion satisfactory? Well, I don't want to give too much away, but after several phoney happy and sad endings, one finds oneself appreciating the fact that, whichever type of ending Mark J Thompson had settled upon, there would probably have been a regretful element of "if only" about it: "if only it had been happier" or "if only it hadn't been so tidy and convenient". At least this way, the listener gets a taste of some of those "if only"s.

Thank you, MJTV, it's been one hell of a trip!

Richard McGinlay