I know a lot of people revere Chris Boucher, but I don't. He's a good writer but I never thought much of Boucher because of his arrogance. I then had my impression confirmed in The Cult of Blake's 7 when he blamed everything on others and trotted out a nasty comment about Gareth Thomas. I already knew he was the one responsible for writing Jenna and Cally's roles down because he thought Sally and Jan were pushy in asking for more, but I hadn't realised what he'd done to Vila.
However when I was watching Shadow this week and puzzling over why Vila was so out of character, I realised that it was due to the writer.
All through season 1--and Redemption--Terry Nation depicted Vila as a clever, witty, and capable thief who is actually very brave despite his protests of cowardice. Then we get to Shadow and suddenly he's a useless idiot with a drink problem. Even if Boucher took Avon's insults as fact rather than opinion, that still doesn't explain where the drinking suddenly came from.
So Vila is useless and stupid in Shadow, what about other episodes; is there a pattern? I only looked at Boucher and Nation episodes because most of the other writers followed Boucher's lead though Robert Holmes wrote an adult and intelligent Vila who could talk to Avon as an equal, espeically in Killer.
Shadow by Chris Boucher - Vila behaves stupidly and almost suicidally and gets blind drunk in a very dangerous place. Nothing he does is useful. Sadly, to many people, this is the Vila they despise (and so would I if that was all we had ever got).
Weapon by Chris Boucher - Vila is stupid, annoying, and does sod all.
Pressure Point by Terry Nation - yay, our Vila is back! He isn't keen on going on the mission, but when he does, he's clever, witty, and invaluable, and his comments aren't stupid. Why the hell do people think Terry Nation is a bad writer? He created a wonderful universe and crew, and my favourite character.
Trial by Chris Boucher - back to a Vila who is so stupid, he's the unwitting (and witless) butt of the joke in the tinkly bit at the end. His only function is to ask dumb questions and simplify what Avon says so that the very young viewer might know what's going on.
Countdown by Terry Nation - oh, look, Vila gets to open a safe! He's useful! Funny, that. And guess what--he doesn't have a drink. I bet Boucher added the two bits where he's stupid.
Star One by Chris Boucher - once again Vila is so stupid, people have to tell him to shut up. However this is better than the average Boucher ep: Vila actually gets to put up the radiation flare shield and clear the neutron blasters for firing. And he gets a lot more lines than usual. Not too bad for Boucher.
Aftermath by Terry Nation - no Vila. [is sad]
Powerplay by Terry Nation - Vila is taken in (in more ways than one) by pretty girls, but his little act to Lom and Mall is funny. And Cally is glad to see him; I don't think anyone is ever glad to see Vila in any Boucher episode that isn't City.
City at the Edge of the World by Chris Boucher - the one that Michael Keating demanded because he said his daughter thought Vila was stupid. Given her age at the time (around 3 or 5?) I think it was Keating's own opinion. This is a great ep in which Vila is clever, resourceful, and brave. It's Nation's Vila back again. Pity Boucher couldn't keep it up.
Rumours of Death by Chris Boucher - Vila stuffs up the teleport and gives Avon a drink. Sigh.
Death-Watch by Chris Boucher - Vila suggests the crew takes a break, and this time is allowed to go to the party but there isn't one. Boucher seems to see Vila as an overgrown boy with few adult characteristics.
Terminal by Terry Nation - Vila is back! He is not just intelligent and sensible, he actually takes charge when the automatic repair systems can't handle the eating of the Liberator. He also saves Orac which was a mistake, but he does so cleverly.
Season 4 has no Terry Nation scripts. Suffice it to say that there are only two episodes in which we see Vila do anything useful or clever: Games by Bill Lyons, and Gold by Colin Davis. (Honourable mentions go to Stardrive for Vila's spaceship knowledge and Headhunter because he opens a lock.) By this time Boucher's view of Vila as an immature, useless drunkard with no skills has truly taken hold.
What the hell did he have against Vila or Michael Keating?