Monday, 10 July 2017

The Omega Factor: Double Vision and Some Conclusions

I have only been to Edinburgh once, and my main memory of it was the amount of stone used in its construction. In comparison to the more recent towns and cities down here in the Midlands, which use more brick, the stone gives a very different feel, and I remember finding it quite oppressive. That said, I was surprised at how much I liked the street scenes in this episode - they give a wonderful impression of quirk individuality and hidden parts of the city, as well as the feel of the 1970s. I particularly like the effective use of the Edinburgh dungeon as one the scenes.
In this episode many of the previously-raised themes are elaborated and the loose ends begin to come together. Once again the preoccupations of the age are brought out and given an airing: drugs ( in this case peyote), religion (in this case vodou), foreigners who may or may not be sinister, and let's face it the tacist attitudes come out think and fast. In addition to the possibly sinister foreigner we have 'no African leaves the witch doctor far behind'. You can't both study ancient techniques of mind altering and also look down your nose at other cultures.
Pain. That's another major preoccupation of this one. Crane starts to see his deceased wife and think that someone is trying to make him go off his head. His pain at Hamish's murder of his girlfriend is also palpable. The scenes of pain alternate very effectively with scenes of normal domesticity.
The absolute high point of this episode has to be the disco, for all sorts of reasons. I love the music which sounds as if it is being played through a duvet. I love the 1970s decor of the disco. I love the way a disco is simulated with a dozen actors (if that) - obviously one of 1970s Scotland's throbbing night spots.
I paused in the middle of the episode while writing this post, and I have decided I am going to write my conclusions about The Omega Factor here rather than post about the final episode. There is a reason for this apart from my innate inability to concentrate on any project for long - the things I would have to say about the final episode would of necessity present spoilers for anyone who hasn't seen the series.
What I will say about the ending is that it does at least provide a sense of immeidate closure and a better sense of who is on what side. It does leave the way clear for the second series which never happened, and it does make the sheer extent of the conspiracy absolutely terrifying. I am actually rather impressed by the way The Omega Factor ties up the various threads it had established through the series, with a conclusion which isn't over-simplistic and allows for an adult understanding of mixed motives and never being sure.
So given that I'm impressed with the way the ending ties it up, I would have to say that my verdict on The Omega Factor is that it is quality television. It manages to cover much of the same ground as The X-Files twenty years later, and it is interesting to see how the material is covered in an earlier age of television. The Omega Factor is also something of a relief from much of the television of the 1970s - I can tend to find it either overly lightweight or overly sombre, as fits the age. The Omega Factor is a relative heavyweight - you could discuss the episodes after each broadcast and what a discussion you could have.
My one criticism about the plot is that it can be difficult to follow because of the slightly different style of the different writers. Obviously, mysteriousness is the main business of this sort of TV programme, but situations and people are introduced rather randomly so that it can be difficult to get an overview until you get to the end. I do think this is merely a function of the episodes being written by different people at once without reference to previous writers.
The Omega Files excels in several things. One is that it is a Scotland-set programme which isn't self-consciously Scottish, a trap it would have been easy to fall into. It also excels in a genuine sense of mystery, fear, and intrigue. It gives the viewer a genuine sense of not knowing who to trust, and I think in retrospect an advantage is that it only saw one series so that it didn't go on too long and become predictable.
It will be apparent that The Omega Factor is getting quite high praise from yours truly. My two pieces of advice about it would be to watch the whole series through if you are having difficulties understanding it, and also if you have managed not to see The X-Files, I would suggest watching this first, to give an idea of what the parapsychology world was like twenty years before.

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