Sunday, 29 September 2013

Blake’s 7 Season Three



Aftermath written by Terry Nation and directed by Vere Lorrimer

What’s it about: As described, we return to the series after the battle with the alien fleet has played out…

Anti-Hero: ‘All those worlds could be yours, Avon , they’re there for the taking. You and I could build and Empire greater and more powerful than the Federation ever was, or ever could have been. At this point we could take history and shape it in our own image…’ Paul Darrow officially claims the show that he had all but possessed in the previous season anyway, perhaps contributing to Gareth Thomas’ decision to leave. Avon has always been a more interesting character than Blake because of his skewered morality and selfish values and now the show is truly on a fascinating trajectory with him taking the reins and commanding the Liberator. Avon has had enough excitement for a while, right now a little borderm wouldn’t come amiss. Watch and baulk at Avon’s sheer disinterest when he is attacked by a Sarran native, kicking the crap out of his attacker and dusting his hands down like it was just a spot of light exercise. I don’t know if even James Bond could feign that much indifference to a dangerous situation. How fortunate that Avon happens to fall into the hands of a beautiful woman who just happens to be the daughter of an anti-Federation weapons expert. He gains manpower and artillery in one swoop and even gets a snog for his troubles.  Servalan always thought that Avon was the one who had conquered emotion and replaced it with logic and so she sees a perfect opportunity to bait him when he appears ruffled. When she spells out the similarities between them it is hard to fault her argument; they are both ambitious, ruthless, they both want power and wont let something as daft as a conscience get in the way of achieving it. Infinitely corruptible, apparently. I guess now he is in charge we are about to find out just how much he can be trusted.

Maximum Power!: I would argue that Servalan is now the other lead character on this show since she would go on to appear in practically every episode of the show from this point and prove to be the best thing about most of them. I love her admission that the battle was almost over when she made a personal appearance at the front, which is always a wise move from a political position. Whereas Servalan and Avon barely met before Aftermath, now their relationship exists on a whole new (and dangerously sexy) level. Like Travis before her she has been taken as far as she can go as a villain on the rise and the only natural development of her character is to shove her down in the dirt and see how she copes. Rather well as it goes, but it will be a fascinating experiment to watch her trying to survive in a universe where the Federation has been weakened by warfare. Servalan has achieved her greatest desire, to become President but it came that the cost of the Federation. Now she wants control of the Liberator, the most powerful ship in existence to help keep control of the wreckage. She plants her seed of desire in Aftermath when she offers Avon a partnership and Boucher ensures that that kernel yields fruit in the season three finale where she finally achieves her aim. For about five minutes.

Warrior Babe: I’ll try not to let Josette Simon’s rejection of the show that made her a household name colour my opinion of her character because I actually find Dayna a refreshingly different addition to the cast. She’s so vastly dissimilar from Jenna that a comparison never has to be made. But that wont stop me. Sexier and given more to do, Sally Knyvette probably would have spat blood if she saw the sort of material that her replacement was given. After tending to his wounds, the first thing that Dayna indulges in is a kiss with Avon just to douse her curiosity. She likes ancient weapons like spears, bows and knives because they demand more skill than convention weapons, making the conflict more dangerous and thus more pleasurable. Simon looks gorgeous darting across the English equivalent of Miami beach; slender legs, weapon clutched, barely dressed. Dayna’s father wants her to experience other worlds and cultures so it is damn fortunate that somebody has dropped into their laps that can make that all possible. With her father and ‘sister’ dead, Dayna has no reason to stay behind. It looks like Blake’s 7 is following in Doctor Who’s footsteps of introducing characters by massacring their family members. Perhaps that is the easiest way to get us to sympathise with them whilst creating a strong dramatic situation.  She makes a promise to kill Servalan, sooner or later, a promise the series can’t quite deliver on.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Well I hope she’s not totally insane. Under these circumstances that could be a little bit embarrassing.’
‘Our meeting is the most unlikely happening I can imagine, therefore we meet.’
‘Not too young for you?’ ‘Oh I don’t think so. I find unsophisticated clothes quite amusing’ – the catty interplay between Servalan and Dayna is most amusing.
‘Blake’s rabble finally get freedom of choice. He won after all’ – that rather changes the emphasis of the series, now the match his been lit and the fire rages through the Federation, the planets that were once controlled by the administration now have their autonomy. We no longer have to worry about freeing them, but perhaps unifying them.
‘You don’t win wars by running away and hiding.’
‘You got what you wanted Servalan. Don’t expect admiration as well.’

The Good: The dramatic opening of various stylish model shots makes it appear that we are picking up the story precisely where Star One left off (which is what I had hoped) and can only invite disappointment when that is not the case. To give Nation some credit he does the best job that he possibly can considering Gareth Thomas and Sally Knyvette have both abandoned ship and he has to try and explain their off screen departure between seasons. Although ‘Jenna’s gone with Blake’ as though they have only just parted company lacks conviction, I would have had that happened some time back and opened with their ship launching an attack on the alien armada. Clearly some time has passed since the fighting broke out (and if you want to discover an interpretation of what happened in the intervening time you could no better than to check out Big Finish’s Warship, but be warned everybody sounds a little more gravelly since three decades passed between filming Star One and recording this audio story). Talk about opening with a bang, within moments Star One is destroyed and the aliens have launched a destructive counter attack on the Federation and Space City is caught in the crossfire. With exciting model work, destructive physical effects and stylish location work, it feels as though Blake’s 7 has suddenly had an injection of budget that the show craved for its first two seasons. I’ve seen a dreadful number of ‘launch the escape pod’ model shots that have bombed in cheap British SF but Aftermath shows you how it can be economically and effectively (it would soon be trumped by Doctor Who’s Earthshock but hey ho). Richard Franklin makes a far more convincing Federation trooper than he ever did a military man in Doctor Who, especially when all that is required of him is to run away from bellowing natives at a mincing gait (obviously he has learnt his camp sprint from Travis). Watching Mike Yates turned Federation trooper romping around on the beach groaning with another man whilst being attacked by a screaming barbarian seems right somehow. Relaying the statistics of the battle through two troopers is an effective low budget method, revealing that 80% of the Federation fleet was completely wiped out and they only won because there were more of them than there were of the aliens. I like how this show doesn’t shy away from the consequences of what it sets up, and the result of this victory would be examined in greater detail as the season progresses. Chaos across the system, no central control and every man for himself. Even the set design has stepped up a notch with Hal’s underwater base precisely the sort of modish location that Blake’s 7 should be promoting every week. I especially love the atmospheric lighting effect that makes it feel as if we are plunged beneath the ocean.

The Bad: A re-formatted series brings with it a spanking new title sequence and it is not a shift in the shows favour. Gone is the Orwellian menace of the shows original title sequence and it is replaced by a game of Space Invaders between the Liberator and Federation pursuit ships. If Space Invaders happened to be put together by a seven year class amateurishly assembling an art project. Like The Keeper, the show once again indulges in the deployment of grunting barbarian savages. They are the butt if this episodes joke until Lauren is seen tied up and left to starve. News that Jenna is alive and safe on a hospital ship is an appropriately forgettable curtain call for a misrepresented character – she should have gone out in an off screen blaze of glory. There is mention of her again in Blake but by that stage it’s ‘Jenna who now?’ Cy Grant isn’t the most naturalistic of performers in a science fiction setting. He speaks the dialogue he is given haltingly, as though he doesn’t believe a word of it. The ancient weaponry is far more impressive than the vacuum formed gun that Dayna sports later in the episode.

Fashion Statement: Suddenly everybody has become very horny on Blake’s 7; Avon flirting away with both Dayna and Servalan and indulging in a kiss with both of them. Who knew that there was a beating heart sending blood downwards in that steel plated chest of his? ‘I’m not very keen on water sports, even at the best of times’ he admits, bashfully. Hal sports the geekiest sunglasses ever witnessed on television. Dayna’s naked silhouette is cast onto a screen as she changes her clothes. Has Terry Nation been asked to sex the show up or was he just incredibly horny when he wrote this? When Servalan offers Avon an Empire to rule he looks long and hard into her eyes as though he is about to give a damn good fuck but instead grabs her neck and tosses her aside. Something for every crowd there. Steven Pacey makes a last minute appearance and I must apologise in advance, he’s the actor I fancy more than practically any other in the entire spread of television from it’s conception to date. I’ll probably be as horny as Nation by the end of the season.

Moment To Watch Out For: Servalan is so wicked she refuses to simply murder Mellanby; first she robs him of his artifical sight so he crawls about in her presence and then she finishes him off. Dayna has a really good reason to want to catch up with her father’s killer.

Result: Sexier and more stylish than anything that came before, Blake’s 7 kicks off its third season with a mission statement to jettison the realism and seize the entertainment jugular. On those terms it is great fun to watch and it picks up from the events of Star One about as well as can be expected given the near impossible task that faced Terry Nation (two regulars missing, no budget of battle scenes). Dayna is an intriguing new addition to the series and instantly more impressive than Jenna ever was (she’s given more to do in Aftermath than Knyvette’s character was handed throughout season two). Josette Simon might have cut all ties with Blake’s 7 but looking at her debut there is nothing for her to be ashamed of, she takes hold of a role that could have been a disaster and injects some sophistication into it. Perhaps it was Ultraworld and Animals that did it. The Federation has been seriously crippled by the battle with the alien fleet and it will be fascinating to see what becomes of the series now the worlds under the previous management have their autonomy. It also gives Servalan a riveting new direction, trying to pick up the pieces of the administration that she was so desperate to control.  Cally and Vila barely appear but Paul Darrow seizes the opportunity to take charge and delivers one memorable moment after another, proving that he was always the one to watch. The production values have taken a massive step up as well with the best looking location work to date and some gorgeous set design. When it comes to the dialogue, I detect a firmer presence by Chris Boucher because it is far more memorable than the functional interplay that Nation usually scribbles. Aftermath isn’t the most intelligent piece of writing that this series presented but it is glorious entertainment, and I lapped it up: 8/10

Powerplay written by Terry Nation and directed by David Maloney

What’s it about: Avon has to fight to get the Liberator back and save the crew on Chenga…

Anti-Hero: ‘This is my ship…’ Avon thinks very quickly on his feet, refusing to give anything away to his captors aboard the Liberator and conjuring up a cover story out of nowhere. He’s going to be alright without Blake, methinks. With Blake gone, Avon can see an opportunity to control the most powerful ship in the galaxy. So naturally something nasty has to be waiting for him when he and Dayna teleport aboard. Powerplay proves to be an economic drama where the fate of the Liberator is decided, either it falls into Federation hands and is used to rebuilt their power base or Avon takes command and all bets are off as far as the resistance movement against them are concerned. He understands the lack of imagination of the military mind and set ups the oldest trick in the book, deploying a life capsule to convince them that he and Dayna are attempting to escape. Dayna asks why he is always so serious and the simple answer is that it has kept him alive, but he says nothing. Rather than hot footing it out of there at the first opportunity, Avon asks Zen to give him a full update on all the former crew of the Liberator. Either he prefers strength in numbers or he really does care about their fate.

Maximum Power!: As predictable as day following night, Servalan turns up like a bad smell (ooh mixed metaphor) just when Cally was starting to feel safe. She’s in a situation that she is not accustomed to, being treated like a third class citizen. As soon as she was slighted I feared for the entire crew of the Chengan ship.

Resistance Agent: Wrong footing the audience, as ever, Tarrant is introduced as a potential new foe for Avon. A Federation officer by all accounts, and one who is part of the small number of troops that has been lucky enough to escape the battle against the aliens unscathed. Tarrant instantly reasons who Avon really is and keeps his tongue for his own purposes. Avon offers a rare moment of congratulations for his astuteness. He’s one of those Nation characters that is very black and white, but played by Pacey with such conviction and charm he manages to subvert the material and become a compelling character regardless. It’s nice that the latest regular is treated as something of a red herring throughout his introductory story, not giving the audience a clue that he would be joining the Liberator until the closing minutes. He’s something of a resistance mercenary, getting involved in other peoples wars (like the battle between the Federation and the aliens) and making a nuisance of himself. He trained as a Federation space Captain so he knows how to play the part…that might come in very handy in the future.

Warrior Babe: Rather gorgeously, Dayna apologises to Avon for letting him down for not killing the two Federation officers that nearly finished them for good. She’s confident in her abilities, that’s for sure. She’s still great with her fists and even Avon declares her quite promising. Maybe he’s going soft as he gets older.

Petty Thief: Suddenly the decision on Maloney and Boucher’s part to try and convince Terry Nation to kill Gan and keep Vila alive makes very good sense. The second that we finally catch up with him reminds the audience instantly of why he is a firm favourite, making the best of a terrible situation (crash landing on a nearby planet in a shuttle pod in the aftermath of the battle) and pretending he is one of a much larger platoon to hopefully keep any predators away. The way he so seriously mocks a conversation between two Federation officers whilst a spear edges ever closer to his head is, frankly, hilarious. How like Vila to be rescued by a pack of beautiful women who lure him away to have their wicked way with him. It would seem that the production team now think of him primarily as a comedic character but coming in an episode that can be a little too grave for its own good that is no bad thing. How he will fare in an already amusing installment is yet to be determined. For a while I thought Vila was playing and was actually much more astute than he was letting on. Instead he really is as naïve as he appears, allowing a pretty face to drop his defences and walk like a lamb to the slaughter.

Empath: I have to be honest, I didn’t greet Cally’s appearance with the same enthusiasm as I did Vila’s (but then she always has been a bit frosty and humourless so it is hard to get too excited about her at the best of times) and it struck me that the series seemed to be doing very well without her (as it would in season four).

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Two of our men were murdered!’ ‘Oh better than I thought, I wish I could say I was sorry.’
‘She will die slowly and very noisily’ ‘Don’t count on it.’

The Good: I’ve seen Michael Sheard play a prolific number of roles in Doctor Who (Doctor, concerned brother, security officer, quaint medic, headmaster) but I would never have pegged him as a hardened criminal. Which is my problem ultimately because he’s very good at it, much more convincing than I would have given him credit for. His character is a bit one-note, he’s just there to get in the way and accuse Avon and Dayna of sabotage/identity fraud/whatever comes to Nation’s mind to complicate the situation but Sheard could unearth nuances in the shallowest of caricatures. I know it is facetious for me to keep mentioning how many faces I recognise from Doctor Who (although I would argue that it is more documented series) but there is an added layer of joy to Blake’s 7 if you are coming to it after having watched and absorbed so much classic Who to spot so many familiar faces. To have Lawrence Scarman, Mula and Sonderguard all turn up in the same episode gives me a giddy thrill that only a Who fanboy could experience. The location work that poses as the planet Chenga is glorious, a far cry from the usual gravel pits and power plants.

The Bad: A shame that so soon after The Keeper and Aftermath we should be confronted with another race of tribal warriors. I’m starting to wonder if the Federation has deliberately held back the intelligence and civilisation of their collective worlds so as to not offer any kind of resistance to them. I know, I know, I should just accept that the conventional practice of the time was to shoot on a mixture of video and film but it doesn’t explain why David Maloney, a man of no small directorial talent, would succumb to the same aesthetic as so many other Blake’s 7 directors. Some scenes aboard the Liberator look expensive and realistic and others look flat and pantomimic. There doesn’t seem to be a reason for the shots filmed at Ealing either since they aren’t particularly technically challenging moments. Jenna is mentioned again and it feels as though we are being reminded about her character because she is going to show up at some point – given Blake’s 7’s previous form that is certainly a possibility. A shame that they couldn’t have lived up to his promise and given her one final episode to wrap up her storyline. A shame that the storyline down on Chenga has to be a typically simplistic Nation affair with a community split into two factions, the simpletons and the brainiacs. Robert Holmes’ Mysterious Planet would play with the same ideas to much better effect, much better interplay and dialogue. A pair of dodgy performances from Michael Crane and Helen Blatch threaten to spoil an otherwise solid guest cast.

Fashion Statement: It is one of those irrational attractions that I cannot explain but I am deeply in love with Tarrant (or should that be Stephen Pacey). Whilst I might except that where quality of episodes is concerned, season two might have season three beat (although I am willing to question that theory as I continue my marathon), I much prefer the latter simply for Tarrant’s presence. Rough, strong jawed, curly haired and with a chip on his shoulder that isn’t being removed in a hurry, I get all wibbly whenever he is on screen. I shall just have to try and control myself. If you like an older man, Sheard is a bewhiskered bit of rough in Aftermath whose gun is never face from his face. I like the costume continuity between the last episode and this one. Not Avon and Dayna, they have to be wearing the same outfits considering we pick up from where we left off in Aftermath, but Servalan who is still decked out in Dayna’s unsophisticated finery.

Moment To Watch Out For: For me it was the final scene that promises an exciting new line up for the series. If I’m brutal it is a much more exciting line up than the one that kick started the previous season.

Result: Following Nation’s pattern in season one to follow a large scale affair with a much more intimate, claustrophobic one, Powerplay is more of a mixed bag than Aftermath because it has to provide a storyline for each of the regulars as they are brought back together. One thing that is instantly obvious is how the dialogue is suddenly much more functional and less memorable (‘Unofficially, the staff call this the slaughterhouse…’) with Nation preferring to fill his macho action fests with brawny discourse rather than the witty quips that we have become accustomed to. It instantly adds a more immediate, serious tone but makes the show far less entertaining as a result. Avon’s adventures on the Liberator are a little too linear and simple, only yielding results when Tarrant’s role becomes clear. Cally and Vila are both on the planet Chenga in equally mundane subplot albeit one that is buoyed with enjoyable humour and the other featuring Servalan as their redeeming features. Holding the whole thing together is David Maloney’s rock solid direction, which admittedly is a step down from his work on Star One but that was a much more exciting script to bring to life but still pretty darn good. Dayna doesn’t get an awful lot to do but she is still rather impressive and Steven Pacey’s Tarrant is a very exciting new member of the crew that I am looking forward to getting to know better. It’s not wholly satisfying but it’s far from a disaster either, Powerplay moves the story forwards in a fairly entertaining manner without ever threatening to become a Blake’s 7 classic: 7/10

Volcano written by Allan Prior and directed by Desmond McCarthy

What’s it about: The crew are looking for a base of operations…

Anti-Hero: Proven time and again that Avon is a rare wit, it seems a crying shame to reduce him to an action hero running about with a gun in silence. Especially when the show has introduced Tarrant for precisely that purpose. He suggests he needs his wits about him but there are no great examples of this in Prior’s humourless script.

Maximum Power!: As soon as the Battle Fleet Commander started giving Servalan lip I was certain that his fate was sealed. Whilst she might need him for the time being, this perfidious snake doesn’t forget a single slight and always delivers a killing blow on anybody who dares. When Servalan asks if Vila is in command of the Liberator her tone suggests that their merry band must be desperate indeed if that is the genuine state of affairs.

Resistance Agent: Tarrant doesn’t trust anybody except himself and that is why he is still alive. Well, you couldn’t count on Avon palling up with anybody trustworthy, could you?

Warrior Babe: Because her father was so well known in the arms of the galaxy, it has opened up some new storytelling possibilities to contact people he knew and enlist their help in their cause. Dayna is more of a diplomat, smoothing over Tarrant’s more aggressive methods of diplomacy and promising that it they are not wanted on Obsidian that they will move on in peace.

Petty Thief: He’s drunk, again.

Empath: If I thought Allan Prior was a strong enough screenwriter I would has commented that Orac’s insult that manning the teleport was above him and more suited to somebody of menial status such as Cally as a comment on Jenna’s misuse in season two. But he probably just thought the line sounded good.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Sometimes ones friends can be more of a liability than ones enemies.’
‘There isn’t a volcano alive that would dare to swallow Avon.’

The Good: You have to give Desmond McCarthy (a new name to the series) some credit for expertly marrying stock footage of a live, frothing volcano and location footage shot with Josette Simon and Steven Pacey on a smoky hillock. If you go with it you will genuinely believe that they are standing atop an active volcano. Doctor Who would go on to pull off a similar trick in Planet of Fire. Blake’s 7 is still attracting big name guest stars, perhaps because of the series’ success. Michael Gough was never afraid of turning up in every genre series going as well as some very good movies and his subtle, nuanced performances are almost always a delight (his excitable pencil waving turn in Doctor Who’s Arc of Infinity is a rare misstep for the actor). In the wake of a story such as Robots of Death and it’s art deco, genuinely chilling robot creations there really was no excuse for The Day the Earth Stood Still rejects like the one sported in Volcano. It’s nice to see the series trying to push the story on and not just rest on it’s laurels, Tarrant and Dayna are visiting Obsidian in order to find a base for planetary base to serve the crew as a stronghold. Thanks to Servalan’s interference it is not something that transpires in this episode but Boucher doesn’t forget to deliver on his promise and it serves as a major shift in the series in season four. Kudos for the shot of the Federation officer being shot into the heart of the volcano and being boiled alive. It’s a surprisingly nasty and inventive death for a show that often goes for a standard gunshot wound.

The Bad: In a society that is so reliant on technology, would a scientist come to the conclusion that technological development has reached its limits? The idea of assaulting your people with daily psychological propaganda and electric shock therapy is hardly the best argument for suggesting that animalistic tendencies have been bred out – surely that is something that is being forced rather than something that is occurring naturally? No violence or war perhaps, but also no imagination or autonomy either. Is pacifism a worthy existence if it turns you into a mindless automaton? We’re starting to reach a stage now where the excuses to include Servalan in every episode are wearing a bit thin. It cannot be mere co-incidence that wherever the Liberator is heading, that just happens to be the latest acquisition/stronghold/place that the Federation wants wiped of the map. I think they should have dropped all the pretence and just had Servalan enjoy her own running subplot independent of those of Avon and the crew (I’m sure the audience would have been delighted to see her regardless of whether her storyline marries with that of our heroes). Having Servalan arrive on Obsidian and have her Commander murder the first people they encounter lacks the subtlety I have come to expect from this show. If Prior was going for the same kind of effect that Nation achieved in The Way Back with his shock massacre then he should have put a little more thought into building the situation up. It feels like Blake’s 7 is being written by somebody who has never watched the show before, not somebody who has already delivered several scripts. For a moment I thought the attack might be a second wave of the aliens that has left the Federation in near enough in ruins. What a shame that that wasn’t the case because it would have been a whole lot more exciting than what we got here. The Mutoids were introduced in the first season as a fascinating, if slightly ghastly concept but since their conception they have remained relatively unexplored and now they are little more than functionaries pushing buttons. A shame because there is a tragic story to be told from the point of view of a genetically engineered vampire slave. Hower is so committed to his ideals that he is willing to murder his own son for showing animalistic tendencies? Not making a great case for pacifism there, Mr Prior. Especially since I found myself agreeing with everything his son was saying, regardless of his affiliation with Servalan.

Moment To Watch Out For: Hower would rather destroy everything they have worked to achieve rather than fight Servalan? I am have friend who is a lifelong pacifist (he’s 72) and to listen to him talking he makes a very beguiling case against fighting under any circumstances. However after watching Volcano I’m starting to wonder that if the situation was extreme enough it would leave you with no other option than to take your life or suffer abominably. And that just doesn’t compute in my head. I’m not sure what Prior was trying to say about the subject in his episode apart from the fact that it twists your mind so much that it makes you behave appallingly.

Result: Like most Allan Prior scripts, Volcano is functional and watchable but never inspiring or aspiring to anything great. So often his episodes feel like the stop gap ones, the ones that US television shows slip into a season to pad it out and reach the 26 installment requirement. The trouble is Blake’s 7 only produced 13 episodes a year and to have a handful that are unnecessary means that you losing a large percentage of your running time to something superfluous. Prior seems to think that if he slips in a battle sequence in each episode he pens it automatically makes it an exciting story but I much prefer to find my stimulation in the breadth of the storytelling and on that level he has written a fatally flawed script with concepts that make relatively little sense (even Michael Gough cannot make them sound plausible) and he does absolutely nothing with them. None of the regulars are well served and it takes the work of some slackness to fail to give Avon any moments to standout. Much of this feels recycled from last seasons Hostage but I would argue that that was a better thought through episode and had Brian Croucher’s appalling turn as Travis to keep me entertained. An interesting attempt to set up a permanent base, a nice performance by Michael Gough and some lovely cocky moments from Orac aside and you can skip this one entirely and not have missed anything: 4/10

Dawn of the Gods written by James Follett and directed by Desmond McCarthy

What’s it about: Plunging into a black hole, the Liberator crew are about to come face to face with a genuine Auronite myth…

Anti-Hero:I look upon self interest as my great strength.’ It’s the first time I have noticed real tension between Avon and Tarrant (beyond that of their first meeting) and it seems to be the latters problem with the former that is causing it.

Resistance Agent: It feels like James Follett has not been kept apprised of this series or its characters because all of a sudden everybody is at each other throats as though somebody decided that there wasn’t enough tension amongst the crew anymore. He’s in a generally bad mood this week, picking fights with everybody on the Liberator and not giving a damn about anyone’s feelings as he does so. Why would Tarrant prevent Avon from trying to save himself from being destroyed by the black hole and insist that they all go together? That makes him a bit of a bastard, surely? He informs their leader that one day he may have to kill him to which Avon replies that it has already been tried.

Warrior Babe: She’ll back Tarrant when he is making good sense (like questioning Cally about her crimes on Auron) and will stick up for people when she thinks he has gone too far. Perhaps Dayna is the diplomat of the crew?

Petty Thief: For once, Vila is used for a gag that doesn’t consist of him clutching a bottle and that is actually very funny. There is nothing that would ever convince him to wear a spacesuit and head outside the ship whilst it is being embraced by a black hole…can you imagine what he is decked out in in the next scene?

Empath: Once one of Nation’s star characters, Cally, fell out of favour during the second season with only the occasionally spotlight on her. She’s at her most interesting when her telepathic abilities are highlighted (the last time she was given this much development was in Shadow) and Dawn of the Gods proves that she can be more easily manipulated because of her powers. We learn more about the history of Auron, or at least the myths that surround the planet. The dawn of the Gods heralded seven beings that discovered the planet Auron and on it they left the first man and woman. On the planet, the name is a symbol of evil and darkness. Cally has some gumption to pull aside a curtain and hold a gun on one of her Gods. Not everybody would be so strong of character.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Why don’t I ever win?’ ‘Being a born loser might have something to do with it.’

The Good: Interesting to see the crew of the Liberator kicking back and playing a board game…hang on, a board game? We’ve already seen space age chess but now Monopoly has been transferred to the future (and yet a pencil is out of the ordinary) and it would appear that the writers have an extremely limited imagination when it comes to inventing something original for this crew to indulge in. Although  Orac’s little paddy when the game is suddenly interrupted and he was onto a winner is sublime. I knew the day would come when a choice had to be made between the information given by Zen and Orac. I like the idea of Orac working for his own means and getting the crew into trouble to satisfy his own curiosity. He was introduced as a potential trouble maker with a personality of his own but has been very much been used as something of a spanner ever since, there to bang in a screw to the narrative of whatever episode needs him. Let’s have him behave in an unknowable fashion in the future, it makes him dangerous. The Liberator being swallowed by a black hole plays out in a dramatic fashion, with the director choosing some trippy effects and a slow motion technique to suggest the strain on the crew. Cally’s spiritual experience is very nicely realised, highlighting the character deliriously lying on a rug in a pitch black room with hypnotic screens purring at her.

The Bad: The opening ten minutes of Dawn of the Gods feels like a purified episode of Star Trek Voyager, a string of technobabble and very little excitement. I wouldn’t mind so much (some of the most memorable moments of the first season were amongst the crew on the Liberator as they were getting accustomed to the ship and each other) but the characterisation is weak (Tarrant is in a bad mood for no particular reason) and the dialogue lacks this shows acid touch. It would come much, much later but there is an episode of Voyager were the ship is trapped inside curved space and they are effectively shooting at themselves in their bid to escape. This sort of thing is far more suited to Gene Roddenberry’s universe (which often exchanged drama for science) than Terry Nation’s one (where the reverse is true). I started to lose all sense of what was happening after the crew stepped out into the black hole planet and were attacked by a giant version of the sort of deranged monstrosity that takes place in robot wars. It’s either high camp, or divine comedy. Terry Scully is far too accomplished an actor to be wasted on such a minor role, although he does his best with the material he is given. The episode automatically raises a notch in quality every time he is on screen. When we were confronted with the Auronite God and it turned out to be a diminutive with a God complex I was unhappily reminded of The Web from season one. It’s becoming the norm on this show that the Liberator will arrive in a perfectly functioning environment and by the time that they leave it is in absolute chaos. They’re less like terrorists, more like anarchists. A giant red lever to set off a chain reaction of explosions, it doesn’t get more melodramatic than that.

Fashion Statement: I would say that the general fashion on this show has improved tenfold in season three. Avon’s functional but stylish roll neck, Dayna happens to look beautiful in whatever the designers put her in (but this weeks turquoise number is gorgeous) and even Cally and Vila are wearing sensible enough civvies. Which leaves Tarrant (sigh…) wearing a ridiculously floaty green shirt that its trying a little too hard to make him look like the dream action hero (or Mr Darcy in space).

Musical Cues: None of Dudley’s music has made an impact so this year. Weird considering this was the first season when he wasn’t scoring Doctor Who and he had the time to really bring Blake’s 7 to life musically. Maybe JNT’s decision took the wind out of his sails.

Moment To Watch Out For: This crew really is a heartless lot. When it looks like Vila has died, nobody sheds a tear or even betrays a flicker of emotion. It’s all hands to the pumps to try and escape the situation. Realistic, but not very satisfying.

Result: ‘He who controls gravity, controls everything…’ More like an episode of Star Trek where the crew have to try and figure a way out of a spatial phenomenon than a gripping slice of Blake’s 7 with all its affiliated drama, Dawn of the Gods is a curious piece that never quite comes together but cannot be said to be not trying. It feels like an installment of a very different show with no Federation, no Servalan and relatively little personality on board the Liberator and one which takes the laws of science and tries to turn them against the regulars. You’ve even got Cally doing the Counsellor Troi bit and suggesting there is something all powerful and evil outside the ship before the Betazed was a gleam in her creators eye. With it’s allusions to Auron mythology, it feels as though Dawn of the Gods is attempting to be a more important piece than it actually turns out to be. It might have been a more rewarding piece had we heard the story of the Gods much earlier and this episode came along to explain it away. The first half of the episode feels unique in its ambitions but the latter half quickly becomes standard Blake’s 7 of the most banal kind, an oppressed civilisation snuck away inside a black hole under the rule of a not-so benevolent being. The only difference between this and any one of the similar situations in seasons one and two is that you don’t have Blake spilling his bleeding heart all over the place. A truly bizarre piece that feels out of place in the new, more action packed, season three and one that remains anomalous aside from some tasty directional choices: 5/10

The Harvest of Kairos written by Ben Steed and directed by Gerald Blake


What’s it about: Servalan thinks she has finally found the right man to help her capture the Liberator. Yes, you heard me, she needs a bloke to do her dirty work.

Anti-Hero: Avon hasn’t been used as comic relief for an age and he wonderfully interrupts a tense moment with his explosive experiments and apologises in the driest fashion imaginable. There is a moment of spark between Avon and Cally when he tries to snap her out of a Kairopan induced fugue. Even Tarrant questions whether this is the right time to be indulging in this sort of thing.


Maximum Power!: Servalan enjoys making her subordinates fear her, she makes Dastor repeat the whispered mutiny of the slave workers despite the fact that it will probably get the worker killed. Watch as she struts around Jarvik and tries to make him eat his own words, bantering with double edged wordplay that suggests he is about to feel the back of her hand. Clearly she likes the idea of getting down in the dirt with a bit of rough because the most menial of workers stands firm and makes aggressive moves towards her…and she enjoys it. That’s what makes her such a rewarding character, she’s so unpredictable. Jacqueline Pearce is madly over the top in this scene, flinging her arms wide as if she is about to reunited with her long lost son. If anybody is going to get away with that sort of thing, it is Pearce (and William Shatner, both are madly enjoyable when they let themselves go). Jarvik makes the assertion that Servalan has surrounded herself with machines (which includes the Mutoids who are merely emotionless functionaries) so that she doesn’t have to feel anything anymore (except perhaps her insane lust for power). It is a momentous moment when Servalan steps onto the Liberator to claim her prize but in true, unappreciative style she merely declares that teleporting is not a disagreeable way to travel. Occasionally she has a gift for the understatement. For once her instincts have deserted her and she abandons the Liberator when the computers tell her there is a threat to her life, despite Jarvik’s correct objections that it is a ruse.


Resistance Agent: Suddenly Tarrant is a tactical genius who Servalan fears above all others and with a reputation that rivals even Blake’s at its height. To be fair this could have been the case all along but it does seem odd that we are only just hearing about it now. As a result Tarrant is in the hot seat barking out tactical orders like the Liberator was built specifically for him. Once he has become entangled in a space fight to the death with Jarvik Tarrant really starts enjoying himself, to the point where he is kissing the air excitedly when he manages to outmanoeuvre him. Tarrant’s real skill – his ability to bluff in a situation where they have no genuine means of attack – comes into play in the climax. All that strutting and intensity has to come in useful at some point.

Warrior Babe: One of the most predictable things about Blake’s 7 is that the male characters will receive far more attention than the female ones (especially if your names are Blake, Avon or Tarrant) and Dayna seems to be slipping into the same groove as Cally and Jenna of having a handful of lines but not taking an active role in the episodes. In a story that defines the roles of men and women, Dayna could have been a spanner in the works but alas it was not to be. Within one scene she is portrayed as a victim twice (at the hands of both the giant insect and Jarvik) so I guess Dayna’s role is defined by her gender after all. She does get to kick Jarvik’s butt (for quite a while it seems since we cut away from her tackling him and then later cut back to the scene where she is still tossing him around like a rag doll) but it feels more like a token gesture at this point. And even then he eventually gets the upper hand.


Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I understand that this ship is the most powerful in the galaxy and that you are the most astute space warfare commander…or so you tell us often enough.’
‘This happens to be the most sophisticated life form that has ever been my good fortune to come across. Present company not excepted.’

The Good: It already feels as though Dawn of the Gods never happened with the electrifying rivalry between the crew of the Liberator and Servalan back in play from the opening of this episode. Jarvik is an insanely overdone character, Rambo in space with little or no subtlety and the sort of man who grabs hold of the President of the Federation and snogs her before knocking out two guards and stealing their guns. Under any other circumstances it would be unwatchable but Andrew Burt is having a blast with the role and goes some way to making the muscle head plausible. Mind you with dialogue like ‘woman, you’re beautiful’ he is fighting a losing battle. It took me half the episode to try and figure out where I had seen him before and it wasn’t until I looked him online that I realised it was Valguard from Terminus, a role that is about as far from this and you can get. In the most outrageously sexist of plot devices, Servalan needs Jarvik because he is a geezer and only a real man can understand the tactical mind of somebody like Tarrant. He gets hilarious lines like ‘when was the last time you felt the warmth of the Earth’s sun on your naked back?’ which are impossible to dislike when they are delivered with such earnestness. Servalan thinks nothing of abandoning the excess labourers to their fate, condemning honest workers to the unfortunate state of scavengers with nothing to fight over. They wont last two weeks. Given the limited budget of a science fiction series made by the BBC, Gerald Blake has a fair stab at making the space battle sequences as dynamic and expensive looking as possible. It proves that there was a good chance that the battle with the Federation and the aliens could have been realised with some careful editing and multi camera shooting of the effects to give the battle scenes a sense of something epic. I’m reminded of another show that is to repeat the events of a Blake’s 7 episode that are mimicked. This time it is Voyager (the episode Basics Part I, a rare moment in the sun for the Star Trek spin of) and the moment when Seska finally takes the ship and shoves the crew down on the nearest habitable planet – which is precisely what Servalan does with some glee to the crew of the Liberator in The Harvest of Kairos. Jarvik is a dirty fighter, pretending to be gentlemanly and taking advantage of Tarrant’s distraction…but then I wouldn’t expect a champion of Servalan’s to behave any differently. The conclusion is actually rather well thought out (and beautifully delivered by an intelligently characterised Avon) with Servalan fooled by the Kairopan illusion of her own making. 


The Bad: The sad truth is that they probably poured a great deal of money into making the giant Kairos bug look as good as possible and that is the end result of their labours. Whilst the actors try and look terrified, it is clear that this mechanised beast wouldn’t be able to catch up with them is they ambled away at a gentle trot. What a shame that Jarvik had to die because he was such a fun character. I can almost see a whole new series that would have been born with Jarvik in the role of Blake for the first two series. It might have been less sophisticated but by golly it would have been more fun. Jarvik’s Seven has a ring to it, don’t you think?

Fashion Statement: Servalan looks as though she about to attend a cocktail party which usually means that she is all business. ‘There is the question of that degrading and primitive act that I was subjected to in the control room. I should like you to do it again.’ There’s nothing Servalan likes more than a bit of rough that answers back to her. Jarvik wears a boiler suit to show that he is a menial worker but to prove how butch he is he unzips it as far as is considered acceptable on the BBC at the hour this was screen (almost as far as his waist) and shows off his beefcake chest and stomach. Once Jarvik manages to subdue Dayna he straddles her in a most uncompromising position. Goodness knows what would have happened had the overstuffed hoover bag not ambled into view.

Moment To Watch Out For: The moment when this episode goes beyond sexism into something so outrageously chauvinistic that I just had to roll with it rather than object. Servalan is physically dragged over Jarvik’s shoulders when she objects to his plans and dumped on a sofa, her neck gripped as she is told to sit there and shut up. Under any other circumstances this would be offensive but given that it is Servalan who is being mistreated so callously (and is probably moist at the mere thought of it, let along experiencing it) instead I was just howling with laughter. Jacqueline Pearce looks to be having a whale of a time. After the way he has manhandled her in such a way you just have to hope that Jarvik succeeds in bringing down the Liberator (the sad truth being that we know that he wont) because there will be no forgiveness for such indignities otherwise.

Result: ‘If you’re to be man enough for me, to be co-ruler with Servalan, you must meet Tarrant face to face…man to man.’ There’s nothing nuanced or sophisticated about The Harvest of Kairos but by jiminy it is a lot of fun to watch. Aside from Aftermath there seems to have been a distinct lack of punch this season to date and that has been rectified and then some with this gloriously OTT adventure. Jarvik is the type of character that gives masculinity a bad name and teamed up with Servalan at her campest you have a supremely watchable pair of baddies attempting to take down the Liberator. Even better, they succeed and the scenes of Servalan parading about the ship and tossing the crew off at the nearest planet are a delight. Just when you think it can’t get any more nonsensical a crappy monster springs into view making excitable munch munch munch sounds. The script has been through the entertainment grinder and there are some genuinely great lines (mostly Avon’s, although Servalan has a great line in biting put downs in this one too) and some truly awful ones (this time solely belonging to Jarvik but they are so ma-cho that I couldn’t help but giggle at most of them anyway). This is a pacy script and mostly well realised by Gerald Blake (whose work on Doctor Who – The Abominable Snowmen and The Invasion of Time – can hardly said to have been the most dynamic material every produced) who proves that it is sometimes a case of being in the right place at the right time. Check out the lighting for this episode too, it is exceptional throughout. In many ways this is just as implausible as Dawn of the Gods but it ties in with the central premise of the series and remembers to provide a glorious time whilst it is straining our credulity to bursting point. This one is always a joy to watch: 8/10


City at the Edge of the World written by Chris Boucher and directed by Vere Lorrimer

What’s it about: Vila gets to play hero…

Anti-Hero: Avon finds Vila irritating but useful and he wont have him bullied by Tarrant. You can easily replace a pilot but a talented thief is rare. How nice to see Avon stand up for one of the longest serving members of the crew, even it is for selfish purposes. His grenade conceit (‘It must have been a dud, sorry about that’) made me howl.

Resistance Agent: Steven Pacey could push me around like he does Michael Keating in the first scene until he is blue in the face. Not unusual is our Tarrant, far more unique.

Petty Thief: ‘I always did have a weakness for nice legs.’ Proof that Terry Nation’s wasn’t always spot on, Michael Keating has been a terrible scene stealer for some time now and it is easy to see why the audience were so bewitched with him at the time. Everybody loves the underdog, especially when he is played with as much good humour and charm as Keating. It is long past time Vila had an episode devoted to him (even Gan did, although he didn’t get to do anything but gurn like a deranged child) and how fortunate he was to have it penned by Chris Boucher who makes it his mission to give him something more substantial and nuanced to do than usual. Immediately the focus is on Vila, how Tarrant tries to bully him into acting against his self interest and how he fights for his opinion because he has been with the Liberator since Blake. There have always been people in his life telling him what to do. The chemistry between Vila and Kerril is instantaneous, aided by some witty, quick fire dialogue. Keating’s interaction with Colin Baker is a joy to behold because Vila gets to marginalize Bayban whilst at the same time being openly terrified of him. Once he gets the door open, he gets to play the dashing lead, arm around the pretty girl and protecting her from danger. It’s not a role that Vila was born to play naturally but he rises to the occasion this time. Sweetly, Kerril thinks that she and Vila are going to start a new life for themselves on Homeworld but he is thinking materialistically and wants to get back with the booty as soon as possible. There is a palpable sense of community (I would never go as far as to say family with this bunch) when Vila is reunited with the crew of the Liberator.

Empath: ‘How about the woman who killed Bayban?’ You have to give Cally some credit, when she gets the opportunity she can kick the butt of any man and takes all her frustrations out on Bayban once he has been distracted. Boucher isn’t above letting Cally kill and she shoots down Sherm without compunction.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I gave them my word!’ ‘I didn’t give them mine.’
‘Do you want me to threaten you?’ ‘ Could you? I haven’t had a good laugh in ages’ ‘Sensible, you could die laughing.’
‘It’s an honour, sir’ ‘The honour’s all mine’ ‘That’s what I meant.’
‘She called me Babe…’
‘I don’t believe in suicide, it stunts your growth.’
‘That’s the trouble with celebrities, they never remember the little people.’
‘How would you like me to let some fresh air into that rancid little brain of yours?’
‘Vila we thought we’d lost you!’ ‘But every silver lining has a cloud.’
‘I think I’ve just made the biggest mistake of my life’ ‘In the light of your previous record, that seems unlikely.’

The Good: Check out the dialogue in the first scene, it is the first Chris Boucher script of the season and suddenly every line in the script is dripping with style. When the show manages to shift away from the bog standard quarries and concrete nightmares, the location work could be very strong (the beach scenes in Aftermath are terrific). There is a real feeling of space around the chilly hillocks of Kezarn. The city at the edge of the world itself, seen as foreboding ruins at the top of a crest, is rather impressive. The sets inside match the location work, like a maze of giant tunnels for Vila to get lost in. In recent years I have hardly made it a secret that Colin Baker (thanks mostly to the work of Big Finish) has become my favourite actor to play the Doctor and the thought of one of big seven classic Doctors turning up in Blake’s 7 delights me. Especially so, given Baker’s stratospheric performance as Bayban the Butcher, a man of so little subtlety he makes the Jarvik (‘woman, you’re beautiful’) look nuanced in comparison. Baker was born to play bad guys because he has a natural air of the theatre about his performances (even his Doctor had an acidic edge to him on television) and he embraces the role of Bayban with absolute conviction. Even if the rest of this episode had been awful (which it isn’t but think Brian Blessed in Cygnus Alpha), it would have been well worth a look just for Baker’s spectacularly nasty and violent turn as this space thug. It’s an exaggerated, mannered performance but it always feels real somehow. The difference between Bayban (‘the Berserker’) and Blake is that he wanted to be on the Federation’s most wanted list and finds it galling that he should wind up second. For once, Valentine Dyall isn’t playing the villain and he gives a pleasingly sensitive performance. Often in the background of scenes and not saying a word, your eyes are still drawn to him. You can get a bit of a complex playing comic sidekicks to the starring villains but John J. Carney does it so well (Bloodaxe in Doctor Who’s The Time Warrior was similarly glorious). Some BBC lighting engineers were worth their weight in gold as City at the Edge of the World proves – check out the foreboding and yet almost fairytale moonlit caress as Vila and Kerril progress through the maze on the other side of the door. One small step for man, Vila and Kerril move from the planet Kezarn to a spaceship 3000 miles away in the blink of an eye. A ship that was to bring the populace to a new planet where they can begin again. Barbarism will fall upon the populace of Kezarn and all that will remain is a race memory of the advanced species hey once were. Once in every 35,000 generations they will gather at the city at the edge of the world and one will be found to enter the vault and they will find peace only if that individual returns. This is an episode that is juggling some massive concepts confidently and cleanly, and all this information is relayed in a well written sequence that has Vila talking on behalf of the audience and criticizing/mocking the backstory. Showing that a difference in tone can make all the difference, whilst City at the Edge of the World flaunts some pretty sexist characterisation (Kerril goes from hardened mercenary to screaming floozy with nice legs that distract Vila from getting on with the work) it because nobody ever patronizes her (least of all Vila) that she remains brave and resourceful. It doesn’t feel half as glaring as the outrageous sexual politics of The Harvest of Kairos. Bayban deserved a spectacular ending and the angry way he straddles the gun and blows himself sky high surely counts as one of the most memorable deaths in the series. It is a damn good model explosion too.

The Bad: As soon as Cally teleports down she  finds no reception party and wonders how Tarrant managed to negotiate with them at all. She’s only been there for ten seconds! Put Paul Darrow and Colin Baker in a room together and get them at each others throats and the roof is blown off thanks to the scene stealing theatrics. Check out their similarly delightful bantering in Doctor Who’s Timelash (one of the few pleasures from that much derided story).

Fashion Statement: Underneath all that bluster, there is even something homoerotic about Bayban and how he treats Vila’s (feeding him as he threatens him) that makes him fascinating to watch. And especially in the way he dresses, all black leather and studs he looks like an outer space version of one of the Village People.

Moment To Watch Out For: He lives the life of a criminal thief because he can and others can’t, it’s what makes him unique. He had the chance to head of with Kerril and build a life for himself but instead chooses to continue this yoyo existence with his cohorts on the ship. By the end of the series he might just live to regret that decision. And he might not.

Result: Michael Keating’s finest hour on the show (although his work in season four’s Orbit almost eclipses it), City on the Edge of World delivers on the promise of spectacular entertainment that Aftermath promise for season three. Vila gets so much to do in Boucher’s sparkling script that it almost seems a shame that he would never get quite this much wealth of incident again. We get to see why he is considered such a valuable thief, how he can charm his way in with any company, enjoy his own personal romance with Kerril and finally stand up to the bullies that have always threatened him. It’s easy to like Vila when he is this well written, just as it is easy to like an episode for the same reason. Colin Baker bursts onto Blake’s 7 with unforgettable results and I couldn’t take my eyes off him in his meglomaniacal turn as Bayban the Butcher. Production values are particularly strong this week and there was no moment where I felt I was watching a cheap old bit of BBC SF nonsense because it mostly relied on decent sets and lighting. By Blake’s 7’s standards this is overly sentimental but considering the series’ promotion of gung ho drama that is quite a refreshing shift in tone. You wouldn’t want every episode to be this fairytale but as a one off it stands out as something quite unique. Hugely entertaining, after a period where I thought the show might have lost its way without Blake season three has really started to find its feet: 9/10

Children of Auron written by Roger Parkes and directed by Andrew Morgan

What’s it about: Cally returns home…

Anti-Hero: Setting up the next episode, Avon plots a course for Earth to follow up on news of Anna Grant. Watch Paul Darrow as Avon is held captive by Servalan’s guards. He looks so bored, obviously not used to a script sidelining him quite this much. As soon as he’s able to trot about with a gun he’s suddenly awake more than ever.

Maximum Power!: No need to slot an establishing shot of the heroes, Servalan is a regular in this series now and can kick start any episode. Even though she has already reached the apotheosis of her climb to power, Servalan is still indulging in a little Machiavellian plotting on the side to keep the talent fresh. She could have stormed Auron and forced them to produce her children, she certainly has enough firepower behind her. Instead she chooses to sneak her progeny into existence by instigating a scheme that allows her to express her benevolence when she is the person who is responsible in the first place. She loves a bit of theatre, offering poisoned water (and to Patrick Troughton’s son – unthinkable!) and offering safe wishes to the unsuspecting Auronite pilot. How interesting to see another side to Servalan, one where she isn’t just a power hungry vamp but a living, breathing woman with maternal needs of her own. Mind you she’s back on her kick of trying to seize the Liberator. One of these days she might actually succeed. As the story progresses her tactics get more and more violent until she is a victim of her own needs, having to protect the cloning plant because her children are being brought into the world there. Only this woman would pollute an entire world and then ask something of them whilst trying to pretend she to help them out. What a monster. 

Petty Thief: Vila likes to stay with the winners as much as possible. It is a shame that more work isn’t done with Servalan and Vila because I am willing to bet that it would be hugely entertaining. Their brief exchange in Children of Auron where she offers him the Earth (and he looks mightily tempted to sell out his friends) is delightful.

Empath: Cally wanted to get involved in the affairs of others but the majority on Auron were insistent on a policy of strict neutrality (she’s a bit like the Doctor in that respect). She stands up for those who refused to ignore the problems that were going on in the wider galaxy, stating that not everybody on her planet is gutless. There’s a great moment when Cally states that she has never gone home because she is in exile, and not because she has affection for Avon (it’s so pointed it silences the room). Children of Auron was the chance for Jan Chappell to really show us what she is made of by playing the dual roles of twins Cally and Zelda but the net result is that her turn as the grounded sibling is flat and disappointing. The writing doesn’t help, making the character far too docile and forgettable, but Chappell doesn’t try and inject any oomph into her either. Which is odd because suddenly Cally herself is more dynamic than ever, perhaps that is in contrast but I think it has more to do with the focus the character is given and the hardened version that Chappell chooses to play. Zelda’s choice to commit suicide to try and save Servalan’s children is a tragic ac of self sacrifice since we know that she is doomed regardless. It will leave psychological scars for Cally to deal with as the season continues to develop.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘The trouble with the people of Auron is that they all suffer from a superiority complex’ ‘You should get on well there, then.’
‘You really believe that revenge should rate a higher priority than mercy?’
‘Disarming, isn’t she?’
‘Birth by proxy.’

The Good: We’ve heard a great deal about Auron in the past two and a half seasons and it is great to finally visit and see what all the fuss is all about. Avon considers the populace gutless; but whether that is due to pacifism of neutrality he cannot quite decide. I’ve read reviews where people have complained about the drab look of Auron but I think they got the aesthetic just right. This is supposed to be a crass, superior, middle class planet so the functional grey buildings, characterless fashions and stock office sets suit it down to the ground. There should be a reason why people like Cally wanted to get away. This is the planet that the ‘B’ arc in Hitchhikers Guide would have loved to have touched down upon. How nasty is the virus that Servalan infects the pilot with? As he veers towards Auron he can be seen with bloody welts bursting from his face, pus dribbling from his mouth. Servalan has decided that the neutrality that Auron once enjoyed is no longer politically expedient, the war having left the galaxy in an unstable state and the Federation needs as many allies and resources as possible. It was quite hard hitting for the time to be discussing unnatural progeny and genetic manipulation of foetuses, to the point where I could imagine certain sectors finding the discussion quite distasteful in a science fiction setting. All credit to Roger Parkes for driving ahead with the notion anyway. Thanks to the destruction of the clone masters during the war, replication of offspring is exclusive to Auron and the motive behind Servalan’s visit. It is typical of Blake’s 7 to inject a little more interest into what could be stock characters and the understated contention between Deral and Ginka adds a great deal to their scenes. Ric Young gives a delicious, toadying performance that made me wish that Ginka could have survived the piece and continued on as a thorn in Servalan’s side. I love the visual hook of this character constantly walking up and talking directly into the camera up close, it is very memorable. The war has had some small mention since Aftermath but its consequences have been largely ignored until now and it is nice to discover something of the chemical warfare they deployed to attack the Federation. How enterprising of Servalan to bottle and file away the poison for her own perfidious use later down the line. With a whole planet to save, Servalan insists on them being treated in batches of six in medical suits. That kind of delayed operation would leave millions dead. You can tell it is a model but I rather like the effort that Andrew Morgan has gone to to show the centre being destroyed. You get a sense of the scale of the destruction and what it means to the people of Auron. The mixture of physical effects, model work and some nicely shot location footage gives a real impression that Servalan’s vicious fist has punched right through this planet.  I was mightily impressed by some of the simpler effects work in this story; Servalan’s children are produced as mini foetuses that look real and the psychedelic paint box effect that disposes of Ginka looks really nasty. The sad truth of the matter is that all this sacrifice and murder was for nothing, and Auron’s children will return. Perhaps all bosses should have those destructor buttons installed so they can dispose of any slackers.

The Bad: Considering the laborious set up to divert the pilot and poison him, the epidemic on Auron is expeditious. One minute they are fine, the next they are dropping like flies. It’s needed to push the plot along so I’ll let it go. One of the complaints of any long running show is why the villains never dispose of the heroes when they have the chance. Here, Servalan has Avon, Cally and Tarrant surrounded by several well armed and burly guards. Why she didn’t just give the order to have them executed and prevent their interference in future plans baffles me. Instead she chooses to murder the dreary Auronites. The last scene is dreadful after such an accomplished script, a tasteless joke following a massacre and miscarriage.

Musical Cues: After not making any kind of impression in the first six episodes of the season (it really was starting to feel as though Simpson had given up after losing the Doctor Who gig), Dudley Simpson has suddenly woken from his slumber and provides a dramatic and bombastic score for Children of Auron. Particularly impressive is the excitement he generates around the instigation of Servalan’s overwrought scheme to lure the Liberator to Auron. I love his fingers up the spine phrase for the sequences involving Servalan’s pregnancy, suggesting that it is an abhorrence of nature.

Moment To Watch Out For: I knew that temper of hers would get her into trouble one of these days. Tricked by her sycophantic lackey into thinking her offspring were never given the chance at life, Servalan orders the destruction of the cloning plant and inadvertently kills her only chance of having children. It’s a startling moment as she suffers a psychic miscarriage, her violence and damage leading her down a path of maternal agony. Jacqueline Pearce has never been better, finally given something really meaty and emotional to play. ‘You lied. You lied to me. They were mine. I felt them die…’

Result: ‘The price of mercy…’ Very satisfying, this is exactly the sort of direction Blake’s 7 should be heading in its third year. Cally is given some meaty development as she returns home to a planet that rejected her, Servalan gets to plot and scheme at the same time experience some maternal heartache proving that she isn’t just a one-note villainess, the plot twists and turns, the dialogue is quick and sharp and we finally get to visit Auron and it is just as dreary as I imagined it might be. It is so much better than Roger Parkes’ last effort it entirely justifies Boucher and Nation’s faith in a second script from the man who delivered Voice from the Past last year. It’s a terrifically structured script with lots going on and one that moves from kidnap to hostage scenario to medical experiments gone wrong to massacre with ease of confidence. Andrew Morgan (who helmed the superlative Doctor Who tale Remembrance of the Daleks) has total control over events and ensures that the actors are given centre stage at all the right moments (he also helmed Time and the Rani but we wont hold that against him given its entertainment value). Jacqueline Pearce shines in this, and at this point in Blake’s 7 career she is every bit as important as any one of the other regulars (in some cases, more so). The events of this story would go on to influence future episodes (especially for Servalan and Cally) and I’m pleased that they threw the appropriate amount of resources to one of the lynchpins of the series: 9/10

Rumours of Death written by Chris Boucher and directed by Fiona Cumming

What’s it about: Returning to Earth to avenge the death of his love, Avon gets entangled in a rebel plot to seize the planet…

Anti Hero: Some might argue but I feel that Paul Darrow gives his finest performance in Rumours of Death, a story which gives him much variety of material to play and he does an astonishing job. It says something about Avon’s nerve and sense of justice that he walked through interrogation after interrogation in order to reach the right Federation security officer. Five days of hell to catch up with the man who killed the love of his life. Darrow plays this initial scene beautifully, as if all hope has been lost, when this was part of his plan all along. When Avon says that finding Shrinker cost him enough, I’m not sure if he is talking about what he has just endure or the loss of Anna Grant. Avon genuinely trusted Anna and that was his downfall, and goes someway towards explaining his lack of faith in people now. He still doesn’t know at this point whether she sold him out or not…but the doubt is there. Something went wrong and he is the sort of man to explore all the possibilities. I love Avon’s cold solution to the problem of what to do with Shrinker. He leaves him to rot underground with no hope of escape, no more than he deserved (‘That’s your way out. It’s a better chance than you gave any of your victims’). Before the details are spelt out to him, it is clear that Avon is already piecing together the inconsistencies of Anna’s conversations with him and questioning the veracity of their relationship. She was the only woman he ever truly cared for, no wonder he’s so paranoid these days. He’s on the path of paranoia now that would lead him to the dramatic events at the conclusion of the fourth season. When Anna tells him that she loved him with her dying breath it is impossible not to believe her, after all she did let him go. Avon has always been a surprising character but when he chooses to release Servalan rather than murdering her I was left slack jawed.

Maximum Power!: ‘Have you finally lost your nerve? Have you murdered your way to the wall of an underground room?’ ‘It’s an old wall Avon, it waits. I hope you don’t die before you reach it.’ Servalan’s own people consider her to be a tasteless megalomaniac but they are all too frightened of her to do anything about it. Her palace is described as a grotesque anachronism just like Servalan and that she spent what it would cost to build two cities to reconstruct her location of power and luxury. We get the opportunity to see the sort of dinner party that Servalan would hold and it is as deluxe and pompous as you can imagine (exquisitely brought to life by the director I might add). Rather than cowl before her captors, Servalan stands tall and declares ‘I take it these creatures belong to you.’  They don’t make female antagonists like this anymore. The joy of Avon and cohorts finally taking the fight to Servalan only to find they have been beaten to it and that she is chained to wall of the cellar of her monstrously overblown seat of power is absolutely delicious. After her star turn in Auron, Pearce is once again a revelation. A far cry from the camp, power mad vixen of previous years, Servalan is seen at her weakest and gentlest. Bravo for taking such a vile character and daring to show her humanity. You think that after being treated in such an abusive fashion that Servalan might have learnt a lesson or two but as soon as she is free she is stroking Avon’s face seductively with a gun and talking about murder. Some people never learn.

Resistance Agent: He’s a beefcake, that’s all. When I watch him in action, I honestly couldn’t care less what is going on elsewhere.

Warrior Babe:  Given what she did to her father, Dayna finds the idea of Avon blowing the top of Servalan’s head off most amusing.

Petty Thief: Boucher even makes Vila’s alcoholism amusing: ‘I only drink to be sociable.’

Empath: There was a new emphasis in Children of Auron, as though Avon and Cally were the central characters on the show and everybody else just orbits around them. Her biting comment that she wasn’t hanging around because of Avon spoke wonders and she makes that point again in Rumours of Death, asking whether she is just following his orders. It feels as if he needs her permission somehow, that she means enough to him that he feels morally bound to run his ideas through her. Paul Darrow and Jan Chappell play these scenes as though there is a great deal of subtext going on, almost as if there has been an affair between Avon and Cally that we aren’t even privy to. This would all come to fruition in the next story, Sarcophagus.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘He’s an animal, Cally’ ‘Yes and it’s contagious, isn’t it?’
‘Some days are better than others, sir. They say that where I come from’ ‘Loudly I imagine on the day that you left.’
‘They want you to resign.’
‘We’ve talked about it and discovered that we care what happens to you’ ‘Within reason, of course’ ‘We’re as surprised about it as you are’ ‘Not to mention embarrassed.’
‘Go to Hell, Avon’ ‘Probably.’
‘At least that was honest…’
‘I was only ever Anna Grant with you…’
‘I’m going to send your friends a corpse.’

The Good: Immediately arresting and out of the ordinary, we open on a pan across a desolate prison cell and focus on a barefoot Avon scrunched in a ball listening to the screams of a prisoner down the hall. It’s stark and depressing and not at all the sort of tone we are used in the gleefully entertaining season three. John Bryans as Shrinker is indistinguishable from the daft comedy role he played in Doctor Who (Torvin, one of the hairy primitives in Creature from the Pit) and showing off Boucher’s incredible gift for characterisation the grubby little man goes from intimidating Federation torturer to frightening prisoner in the space of minutes. He’s over confident in his work where he gets to bully and cajole with Federation muscle to back him up but when all that protection is stripped away and his life is in danger he is just as frightened as the rest of us. He’s pathetic. As script editor, Boucher slipped a mention that the Liberator was heading for Earth in Children of Auron and with the clever deception of Shrinker discovering the homing beacon he economically reveals how Avon planned to escape as soon as he caught up with the monster. I understand that Shrinker is a piece of garbage but how Avon, Tarrant and Dayna treat him says a lot about Blake’s 7 and how it is different from any other show. It’s the only show I know where the leads can be seen intimidating a man with the thought of his imminent death to the point where he is a blubbing, hysterical wreck and still manage to justifiably call themselves the heroes. Like Auron, there is a sudden focus on the post-war political landscape except this time it is even more fascinating as we focus on the events that are transpiring on the Earth. Only twice before have we set foot on Terra Firma and they were both dramatic and tragic episodes (The Way Back & Pressure Point). Rumours of Death completes the trilogy and certainly doesn’t disappoint. Dayna makes the point that the rebellion had the perfect opportunity post-war to take over and bring the Federation to its knees and she cannot understand why the oppressive administration are still in charge. Boucher loves giving what in any other show would be forgettable, menial characters a personality and backstory, adding an extra layer of depth to the situation. He managed it brilliantly in Trial with the two guards that were previous soldiers of Travis and he does it again with the bored and cynical security agents in Rumours of Death. They observe the action and comment wryly before being dragged, bloodily, into the action at the halfway mark. After we have spent some time getting to know these characters it is something of a blow to see them shot down so casually. Cumming’s POV shots that allow us to see through the eyes of Avon are about as intimate as we are ever going to get with the character. But are we seeing memories, his idealised version of these events, or is this exactly how this conversation played out. How great for Blake’s 7 to take hold of a dangling narrative thread (the fate of Anna Grant from Countdown) set up in the second season and to use to it to explore both the political situation and develop the shows central character. This could be one of the most intelligent and surprising science fiction shows on occasion. We finally get to see some action from the rebels, doing their bit to liberate the Earth regardless of Blake or Avon’s presence. The mystery of Bartholomew is well hidden enough behind the guise of gender, in a time when hired assassins weren’t usually revealed to be women. Shrinker is such a coward, he saw what way the wind was blowing and turned to the rebels and when the swing was back in the administrations favour he returned to the employ of his former masters.  If it wasn’t for the futuristic blasters, the attack on the house would look and feel like a gritty terror attack from any contemporary show of the time. In Boucher’s hands Orac is so much more than just a information kiosk with an attitude problem but a fully serving character in his own right (I love the exchange: ‘You know Orac’s main drawback?’ ‘He’s too useful to destroy’ ‘Irritating, isn’t it?’). Lorna Helibron deserves discussion for her fascinating turn as Sula, a difficult part to play because she undergoes several transitions but she pulls them all off with great aplomb. There’s a mesmerising argument between Sula and Hob that shows the difference between the strategist and the military mind, one who can see the value of keeping Servalan alive because there is still much won to be done and the other who is convinced that they are already victorious and wants her paraded in front of the men and executed. Watch the sequence where Avon, Cally, Tarrant and Dayna incapacitate a selection of guards in silence, they work so well together as a unit it makes me think ‘Blake/Jenna/Gan who?’

The Bad: A shame that one performance (David Gilles) should spoil an otherwise stellar cast.

Moment To Watch Out For: The look of terror on Anna’s face when she realises that Avon has caught up with her is very telling before putting on the performance of being overwhelmed at being reunited with her ex lover. She didn’t need to reach for her gun, it is clear from that one look that she is Bartholomew, that she was charged with watching him and that she is going to pay for that betrayal.

Result: If it wasn’t for two of the finales being as good as they are this would easily be my favourite episode of Blake’s 7. This show can veer from being very good to toe curlingly awful but it is rare that everything comes together quite this delectably. Fiona Cumming is the standout director that Blake’s 7 has been waiting for since its conception (although Douglas Camfield and Derek Martinus both had a good stab at taking this award) and she approaches the show not as a cheap bit of SF but as a gripping character drama to rival any of the contemporary dramas that were airing at the time. There is a grit and naturalism to the events of this episode that really set it apart from the rest of the series, a you-are-there feeling of important events unfolding before your eyes. You’ll learn everything you need to know about the closed book that is Avon before this episode is out but that isn’t enough. You’ll see Servalan dragged from the seat of her power and chained to a wall in total ignominy but that isn’t enough. You’ll experience the aftermath of the war with the aliens and how the rebels on Earth are exploiting the situation to ruthlessly take control and even that isn’t enough. The interplay between the regulars is never better than it is here and the dialogue in general is of such a high standard that I pity whoever has to follow this. How fantastic that they managed to pull out all the stops for Rumours of Death, possibly the most important episode of the series. A stunning script, with stunning direction and stunning performances. Watch it now: 10/10

Sarcophagus written by Tanith Lee and directed by Fiona Cumming

What’s it about: An alien entity stalks the Liberator and brings some powerful feelings to light…

The Dance of Anti-Hero & Empath: The relationship between Avon and Cally has deepened to a much greater extent this season and there is genuine concern on his part when he visits her in her quarters and asks how she is doing. They give each other subtle looks and there is a tactile nature between them, I think under different circumstances they could have made a go of it. He has sorted out all of his previous issues over Anna Grant and she has lost her homeworld and sister, they are both ready to move on. It is the perfect time for them to fall into each others arms and find some comfort. When they return to the Liberator, Cally questions his motives and whilst he strictly denies taking her along to keep an eye on her the truth is written all over his face. When Tarrant lunges at Avon with insults, he stands there and takes it, realising that the young need to let off steam every now and again. How cruel that an artefact that can tap into her telepath centres should breeze by just as she is emotionally vulnerable after the death of her sister and loss of her homeworld. Or perhaps that was what attracted it, her mind bleeding emotional waste into the universe that the probe was attracted to and followed back to the source. When it comes down to a choice between playing pet for the entity or death, Avon chooses the latter and there is nothing it can do to stop him from making that decision. He’s always cool as a cucumber but sometimes he is just cool. Cally has loyalties to someone other than her own people after all and she fights the entity to give Avon a chance to defeat her. But he cannot resist one snog whilst she is cloaked so irresistibly in Cally’s form. Avon was always there as the black cloaked monster that was going to bring the entity down, the snake in the grass. The look that Cally and Avon share in the last scene speaks volumes, I’m just not sure what the content is. I rather like it that way. A shame that Chappell is about to depart the series, this is a fresh development that should have played out for longer.

Resistance Agent: The tension that has been simmering between Avon and Tarrant blows in Sarcophagus with the newest addition to the crew finally making his feelings perfectly clear. He thinks Avon is jealous of his speed and sharpness, his youth. He’s impetuous and rude, telling his mentor (which is what Avon is whether he wants to admit it or not) that if it wasn’t for Blake he would be a complete failiure, rotting on Cygnus Alpha after failing to pull off his one chance at success.

Petty Thief: His experience with aliens hasn’t exactly been warming, but then his experience with humans has hardly been glowing either. I wonder what you have to go through to become quite this cynical. 

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Regret is part of being alive, but keep it a small part.’
‘I think you’re now inside a live bomb…’
‘What the hell was going on over here? Afternoon tea?’
‘Shut up, Tarrant’ ‘Did you say something to me?’ ‘I said shut up, Tarrant. I apologise for not realising you are deaf.’
‘And tomorrow everything will look different?’ ‘If it does you can assume you’re on the wrong ship.’
‘I didn’t hear any terms. Just something about pets.’

The Good: Again Fiona Cumming is on form and coupled with the equally talented Tanith Lee they produce a mystifying opening sequence without dialogue, storytelling being told entirely through gestures, actions and dance. Cally is represented through grace and elegance, Vila as the comical jester, Dayna as a finely strung instrument, Tarrant through his strength and violence and finally Avon as a black cloaked nasty. If you are the sort who prefers the nuts and bolts action of this show (let’s say the Terry Nation of it) then this kind of sequence of visual metaphors might not appeal to you but I think this is precisely the sort of experimentation that a show has to play about with in order to endure. It’s over seven minutes before we reach the Liberator and any characters utter a word – who said that Joss Whedon was the first to try and explore mute storytelling in genre television?  Is this the first time we have ever been privy to the sleeping quarters on the Liberator? They are somehow both functional and rather stylish (it’s all down to the seductive lighting). The way to make a set look effortlessly atmospheric without spending a fortune is to strewn it with cobwebs and dust and suggest great age which Cumming does here to great effect. A tomb in space is an electrifying concept, exactly the sort of anti-Star Trek flotsam that I would expect in Blake’s 7. The race against time to get Avon and Vila off the ready-to-explode ship works a treat, a moment of jeopardy that was desperately needed now we are a third into the episode. Cumming seems to find simple ways of making effects that would trounce other directors work – the spinning tea tray should be horribly embarrassing to watch but it looks utterly authentic, like chaos itself is breaking out. Thanks to Peter Tuddenham’s performance, the artefacts’ effect on both Orac and Zen is frightening. Contact with the alien spirit is a clever device for allowing the regulars to air their true feelings, raw emotions that are often bottled up because they are forced to work together in dangerous situations. A disembodied spirit feeding off the ship and Cally, attempting to enslave them all…that’s an intoxicating concept that would send the chills up the staunchest of space travellers. To the alien, death is an interim state. But to where I wonder? It takes 35 minutes for the alien entity to make her presence known and her motives (to enslave the crew and have them as her ‘intelligent menials’). That’s how much trust this writer has in the audience, to make them wait until the episode is almost over to explain what on Auron is going on. That’s treating your audience with a degree of intelligence. The ring is the real source of power, psychic ability brought about by advanced technology.

Musical Cues: See, now I’m starting to wonder whether it was the material rather than Dudley Simpson himself because this psychedelic entry in Blake’s 7’s canon affords him the chance to deliver something really out there and different. By far Simpson’s most interesting score for the series, and his most memorable.

Moment To Watch Out For: Jan Chappell gets the chance to truly stretch her wings as she portrays the seductive, ominous alien spirit that haunts the crew of the Liberator.

Result: This is Blake’s 7’s Warriors’ Gate, except even weirder. Kudos to this series for trying something completely different and throwing something quite bewildering and sophisticated at its unsuspecting audience. Sarcophagus is not only a terrific possession story and piece of writing packed with nuances, it is also a very well written performance piece that brings all the resentments between the crew to the surface and goes some way to resolving them. On it’s most basic level this is a ghost story being played out in a confined space but it is much more sophisticated than that, Tanith taking the horror genre and transporting it into the future and exploring the wealth of creation that that affords her. Since the majority of this story is set on board the Liberator, Fiona Cumming brings all the talent at her disposal to make Sarcophagus as visually interesting as possible and the lighting in particular is striking, bringing an atmosphere all of its own. It has only recently occurred to me but we have moved into a period of the season (from City on the Edge of the World onwards) where the kind of episodes that are being told could only work if Blake (and Jenna, but she was hardly of importance) had been removed from the series. It is of no co-incidence that this is where season three has started delivering one knockout after another. Even if you aren’t enamoured by the hallucinatory imagery, the development of the regulars and the performances of the core cast should impress. Sarcophagus is the fourth extremely good episode of Blake’s 7 in a row, probably the best sequential run of shows in the series until the final five: 9/10


Ultraworld written by Trevor Hoyle and directed by Vere Lorrimer

What’s it about: A trip to a man made planet to perform before a giant brain…

Resistance Agent: Considering he is supposed to be a tactical genius, a rogue fighter and a bit of a risk taker, Tarrant is more cautious than an old woman surrounded by a gangful of youths at the beginning of this episode.

Warrior Babe: Dayna, as usual, makes the most sense, telling Avon that they can’t possibly plan for something that they have no knowledge of. Josette Simon’s contribution to season three has been undeniable and yet I’m not certain that she has been given much more than Sally Knyvette was during her stint. No, that’s not true, she has at least been included at every possible moment when the ensemble is in action, which is more than Jenna ever was (often left of the ship to mind the teleport). Simon is a superior contributor, an accomplished actress and I don’t think there has been a single line that she has uttered that hasn’t felt authentic. I just wish she had another episode other than Ultraworld to highlight her character, it is a camp old bit of tosh when what she deserves is a good, strong character drama (like Rumours of Death) and preferably something that deals with her issues with Servalan and the death of her father. It’s not even that Ultraworld is about Dayna especially but she is given far more to do here than in any other episode since Aftermath. With dialogue like ‘I’m too young to be absorbed’ she is hardly being given the same opportunities as Paul Darrow (Rumours), Steven Pacey (Death Watch), Jan Chappell (Sarcophagus) and Michael Keating (City at the Edge of the World) this season. Watch Dayna as she stands in the corridor terrified that she is about to be discovered, shaking and breathing heavily. Simon is giving this material much more conviction than it deserves.

Petty Thief: Vila being convinced not to do something is usually a good indication that it should be done.

Empath: I’m not sure if it was wise to have two episodes where Cally’s telepathic abilities are affected back to back. She’s starting to become something of a liability to the crew.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘You really believe in taking risks, don’t you?’ ‘Calculated ones’ ‘Calculated on what, your fingers?’
‘Ignore him, that’s what passes for wit on our ship.’

The Good: Opening on a number of splendid space effects and a spooky Dudley Simpson score, Ultraworld looks as though it might be about to deliver the sixth good episode in a row. Apparently Servalan’s Empire is expanding at such a rate that any planet they come across could be a part of her territory. What would latterly become known as a Dyson Sphere, a man-made planet hanging in space is an awe inspiring concept to be playing around with. There was an episode of TNG where Data tried to learn about humour from the holodeck that spiralled into a drearily unfunny piece packed full of terrible gags. Blake’s 7 shows how this sort of material can be made to work with Vila trying t teach the reluctant Orac how to tell jokes. I think the difference is that it is quite against Orac’s will that makes it rather amusing. Once Orac has gotten into the swing of humour he cannot shut up about, wittily tearing apart every joke for its comical juxtaposition of words (much to Vila’s chargin).

The Bad: I was running with the considerable science fiction concepts that Ultraworld was promoting with some aplomb (a planet with consciousness) until the identical, blue faced aliens turned up and it became clear that this was going to dive bomb into a love letter to the worst excesses of an Original Trek episode. Soon the faceless aliens are trying to subdue the crew and spouting melodramatic lines like ‘You cannot resist the power of the Core!’ which turns out to be a colossal, palpitating cerebrum that is looking for it’s own hardcore pornography industry. No, I’m serious. Feeding a planet should be a genuinely frightening prospect but it seems to involve faceless individuals being wheeled around on trolleys and strapped onto gurneys and being slid along into the path of a big brain. How the producers thought this kind of madness was a possibility on Blake’s 7’s meagre budget is a mystery. The shots of the brain splitting and oozing with goo are disgusting, looking alarmingly like an emission from a sexual orifice of alien origin. Suddenly we are in terrible b movie territory and the episode cannot claw its way back to anything resembling sanity. The shots of the Liberator trying to escape its bonds look exactly like what it is, a badly painted model being twisted out of a toy vice. There is no attempt made to make this look authentic.

Moment To Watch Out For: This is probably the episode where Josette Simon decided to grab hold of her pay check for the next year and then run and forget all about her experiences on Blake’s 7. Dayna convinces Tarrant to make love to him with the seductive line ‘I can’t be all that repulsive’ to a camera that is lapping up their activities. Suddenly we have slipped into some kind of weird outer space pornography, the aliens watching on the scanner with hungry anticipation. It’s decidedly uncomfortable and slightly hilarious. ‘Has the bonding ceremony begun?’

Result: Nuclear plasmic absorption, cellular regeneration, sentient worlds, man-made planets…Ultraworld sports a number of gargantuan science fiction concepts and looks set to be this series’ first real stab at hard SF. Unfortunately before the climax of Ultraworld we have descended into the campest version of the genre, aping original Star Trek with bizarre, kinky aliens that want to force the crew to make love to each other and serve a giant pulsating brain. Yes, it’s the Blake’s 7 version of The Invisible Enemy except it lacks the pace or the insane amounts of imagination. After a run of very nicely realised episodes the watchword for Ultraworld seems to be ‘adequate.’ There is nothing particularly wrong with the sets, lighting or effects in this weeks installment but there is nothing that stands out as exceptional either. There’s a general pacelessness to events and Ultraworld haemorrhages interest as it continues, flaunting ideas that could have led to a much more exciting story but failing to take advantage of them. Ultimately all the crew do is shoot down the Ultras and leave and so I cannot see what the point of this episode was except to manipulate the crew into pornographic situations to satisfy the lusts of the teenage portion of the audience. That, for me, isn’t motive enough. Not quite the weakest of the year, but pretty close: 3/10


Moloch written by Ben Steed and directed by Vere Lorrimer

What’s it about: A troll doll and his magical shield…

Anti-Hero:Obligation?’ Avon repeats the word as though he doesn’t know the meaning of it or that he certainly wouldn’t apply it to his activities. He quite bluntly states that Tarrant is not as important as the Liberator. There’s a story to be written about Avon taking on the intelligence of a sentient computer (that’s what he is most of the time) but Moloch isn’t it.

Maximum Power!: ‘I’ve come a long way section leader and it wasn’t out of concern for your peccadilloes.’ Servalan deserves a little better treatment than this, tied to a rock in the middle of nowhere and left to rot. What should feel like the end of the road for the character, the place where she was always going to end up if she kept scheming and murdering her way up the ladder is spoilt by the fact that it is barely dramaticised in any way and Chris Boucher already pulled this off as well as it was ever going to be in Rumours of Death. It’s all a bit embarrassing really, like they have run out of things to do with a character that has already reached her apotheosis this year.

Resistance Agent: Tarrant is always precipitous and it is rather impossible not to notice. I’d still give him one, though, especially when decked out in a Federation troopers outfit. He at least admits that Vila is far cleverer than he is, his non-compliance way of apologising to him for treating him so roughly.

Petty Thief: In a moment of rare bravery, Vila gets angry with Tarrant and tells him to stop shoving him around. It is so unexpected that his persecutor is quite taken aback. That’s the one moment of decency that Ben Steed offers the character in an episode that otherwise wastes him in an inebriated state once again. City on the Edge of Forever has shown how much Vila can sparkle given the appropriate material and every time he is wasted post that episode feels like terrible squandering of a potentially awesome lead.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘What would Servalan want with a penal colony?’ ‘Who knows? Perhaps she wants to compare notes with some other genocidal maniacs? Or take a refresher course in basic brutality?’

The Good: Avon is taking the fight to Servalan, or at least he is pursuing her to see what point of interest she could possibly have this far out in the outer rim. Extra points for Vila’s stuntman roll on the command deck when the Liberator almost collides with Sardos. The idea of a machine that can give the people of Sardos everything they want at the touch of a button is intoxicating, no wonder regular functionaries like the Section Leader suddenly have a hard on for power.

The Bad: Sometimes this show really surprises me by pulling something spectacular out of the bag visually and other times it really disappoints by going for the easy option. The surface of Sardos is presented as a painted backdrop, and I’m not talking about the sort of gorgeous matte paintings that Star Trek use but a flat, undetailed childrens drawing with no attempt to make it look like a thriving community. Given that this is a show that has proven it can kick start episodes with dynamic action there is no excuse for the tedious ten-minute sequence at the beginning of Moloch where we witness in laborious detail the Liberator’s arrival at Sardos. Get on with already. Lorrimer attempts to make the shots from Moloch’s point of view a little unusual but the squeaky voice and disorienting POV shots leak any tension that might have been possible. Bizarrely, Vila and Tarrant seem to teleport into the outer space equivalent of ‘below decks’ where a bunch of inebriants are singing shanties and off their faces. Suddenly this series feels like it isn’t taking itself seriously anymore, which I would usually applaud except this isn’t a better alternative option. Naturally Vila is right at home amongst this lot, the lazy writers answer to the character rather than giving him challenging material. The Section Leader is no kind of threat to Servalan and performed and written this inconsequentially it would have been an insult to her character had this insignificance taken her down. Dayvd Harries didn’t have much luck with fantasy shows in the seventies, what with Doctor Who’s The Armageddon Factor and Blake’s 7’s Moloch. Mind you I wouldn’t say he does himself many favours, he plays up both parts in a way that it is impossible to take either of them seriously. Another actor would have underplayed the comedy and might have salvaged something. Like Rumours of Death, the core idea at the heart of this adventure isn’t revealed until around forty minutes in but this time it isn’t one that is worth waiting for. It is bizarre how all the corridor wandering and comic excesses drop away and suddenly we are indulging in a science lecture with Avon and Dayna. It feels like a scene from a particularly lecturing Star Trek episode has been crowbarred into this load of nonsense. Oh, and considering this is written by Ben Steed (the who brought sexual politics to Blake’s 7 with all the subtlety of letting off high explosives to bring up possible treasures from an archaeological dig in The Harvest of Kairos), the women of this tale handled abominably. Treating as slaves, people to be dominated or back up once the men have done all the hard work, Steed really was doing his bit to send women’s rights back a few decades. Notice how I have nothing to say about the female regulars in Moloch, that is because they are given very little to do. When the Moloch creature is revealed its realisation matches the high quality of the rest of this piece. That’s all I’m going to say. Except that with the vocal talents of Deep Roy I’m not sure why it can’t even manage to say ‘the Liberator is mine!’ without it sounding like he has a mouthful of chips and gravy. The Moloch doll on the floor of the teleport…dear oh dear. I’m surprised they didn’t try and market it. The climax sees Cally asking how the Sardonians will get on without Moloch and Avon brushes that all under the carpet with a casual explanation – this planet is so insignificant we don’t even have to see how it all pans out or afford anybody a ending. Perhaps Steed figured quite correctly that nobody would give a damn.

Musical Cues: Love Dudley’s hypnotic lull when Servalan’s ship vanishes behind the forcefield.

Moment To Watch Out For: Doran wandering the corridors exclaiming ‘it’s my pal!’ is just bizarre, like we have stumbled into a Goodies sketch of Blake’s 7 that concentrates on a mentally unstable extra that wants to get in on the action.

Result: Like one of those Impossipuzzles; nonsensical, mind-numbing and not worth assembling when you look at all the constituent elements. Or at least I can only assume that is what Ben Steed thought because he lumps them together with no thought at all. With only 52 episodes under its belt, Blake’s 7 doesn’t have the time to waste on inebriated pap like Moloch, an episode that is almost entirely without merit or interest. I’m not sure even Ben Steed knew what kind of story he was trying to tell here because the events play out without any drive or momentum and very little coherence. Tarrant is left to wander around a wilderness, Vila hangs out with some fellow drunks, Avon and the others spend most of the episode arguing or indulging in science lectures and not even Servalan can provoke any curiosity, sitting by and watching the events unfold without a care in the world even when she is chained up.  It feels like a bunch of Blake’s 7 clichés thrown together by a man who has never seen the show before and thinks this is what the audience expects. Coming off the back of a terrific run of episodes (Ultraworld excluded) it only serves to highlight the paucity of the script and the inefficiency of the production even more. There’s no insight into the characters, no development of the overall story and no imagination on display. There’s even a massacre at the climax that makes no impact whatsoever. Televisual tripe, I would rather watch Ultraworld because at least it had the naff factor. This is just turgid: 2/10

 Death-Watch written by Chris Boucher and directed by Gerald Blake

 What’s it about: Tarrant’s brother is about to walk into a fight to the death…

Anti-Hero: Servalan doesn’t think of Avon as an enemy, she thinks on him as a future friend. When Farscape allowed Scorpius to join the crew of Moya I thought it was madness, a way of belittling the character beyond salvation and yet somehow it worked. It added another layer of tension to the show. I’m starting to have dreams of a fourth series where the Liberator wasn’t destroyed in Terminal, where Servalan didn’t suffer an ignominious defeat and take on a ridiculous guise and where for some delicious reason that hasn’t popped into my head yet she joined the crew and proved to be a poisonous thorn in their side. Oh, the possibilities… Watch the way Avon stares at his hand in confusion as Max shakes it at the climax. He is so unaccustomed to people welcoming their help, let alone thanking them for it that he is bemused by the whole exchange. Nice.

Maximum Power!: ‘I fear scrupulous fairness is one of my small, personal obsessions…’ Whilst Tarrant makes a good case for why Servalan should be offered the exalted position of neutral arbiter, the irony of such a back stabbing vixen being placed in such a honourable role is not lost on me.

Resistance Agent & Brother: Here’s a chance for Steve Pacey to stretch his wings and prove that he was an excellent choice for the show, playing both Tarrant and his identical brother. Putting aside what two versions of Tarrant does to my fantasy life, it is an accomplished performance by Pacey who is afforded far more impressive material than Jane Chappell was with Cally and her sister Zelda in Children of Auron. Paradoxically, Deeta has a more violent profession than his brother and yet he is the more gentle of the two as well. His trigger finger is always ready but at the same time he’s thoughtful and sedate and accepts his lot in life. In many ways he might have been the more interesting character to have had on the Liberator but that description rather aptly spells out Avon too and you couldn’t have two such similar characters heading up a series. Besides, it is Tarrant’s aggression and impulsiveness that makes him so attractive. Deeta will shoot down a female assassin but at least he sounds apologetic about it. Tarrant talks very honourably about the Death-Watch he clearly doesn’t suspected that his nearest and dearest is about to be announced as one of the participants. Deeta is a realist; when Max inquires about an interview, he understands that it is material for his obituary. Anger, sadness and fear run through his head before the match but he is not prepared to share those feelings with anybody until he steps into the arena. Deeta is prepared to see his brother but only after the fight. Pain and sweat pour from Tarrant’s face as he has to witness up close and personal the moment of his brothers death. He is quick to react, to avenge his brother once foul play has been revealed.

Warrior Babe: ‘I want you to imagine how my father felt…’ Thanks to an ill timed remark from Vila, we are treated to a reminder that Dayna hasn’t forgotten about Servalan’s murder of her father and that one day she will punish her for it. Dayna is a natural fighter so she can serve as an instinctive judge of the competition. Being told she can stop her but not kill Servalan must feel like the most impossible of tasks (Avon must realise this which is why he doubles checks that she is able to go through with it). When she does threaten her with a gun, it is a great moment. Behind the scenes, Dayna is working on new weapons for the crew of the Liberator. 

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘How can you enjoy yourself staying here?’ ‘Maybe it’s got something to do with the fact that you wont be.’
‘Have a little patience, Vila’ ‘What for? All that ever gets you is older!’
‘It’s a release that we all share, a catharsis. We all fight the war but only one man actually dies.’
‘So that’s the ultimate excitement. Murder without guilt. Death without loss’ – sometimes Boucher’s dialogue borders on the genius.

The Good: Check out that opening effects shot of Deeta standing before an expansive starscape which rolls on past him. Effortlessly achieved and it looks fantastic. Perhaps Gerald Blake learnt his lesson after Kairos. The split level set is rather nice as well, compact enough to squeeze a camera in the corner and establish it all in one angle and yet lavish enough to suggest the style that a Death Watch participant would be accustomed to. I’m starting to sound like a broken record but the presence of Chris Boucher is immediately recognised, compared to the last two scripts this has more surprises and intelligence packed into it’s first five minutes than they managed in their entire running time. I love the detail that has been injected into the Death Watch competition, competitors becoming valid targets as soon as they are announced. Planets that play out war through a broadcasted fight to the death between two people, avoiding the need to send entire armies at each others throats. Whilst barbaric in its own terms (this is a death match after all), it does save an awful lot of lives. The populace get to experience the fight through the implants, but only their chosen representative has to put themselves in any risk. Very tidy, and yet very cold as well as a computer decides the trends that escalate to warfare. A war that is plotted in advance with only the death match as the determining factor, the losing side surrendering two thirds of their fleet and three of their planets. I always enjoy it when it takes a little while to reach the regulars, it reminds me that this is a functioning universe that goes on without them when they head off to their next adventure. Is this the only Blake’s 7 episode that is built around the idea that the crew needs a good holiday to chill out and avoid any mistakes? They choose the Death-Watch for logical reasons, as long as they obey the rules they are legally protected by both planets from the Federation. Bringing all of the regulars together (along with drinks and snacks, natch) to discuss a blood sport is a fascinating exercise since they al, have very different opinions on the subject. It appeals to the fighter in Tarrant whereas Cally thinks it is distasteful and ineffective, Vila enjoys the style and celebrity driven of the event where Dayna finds televised combat a watered down version of the arts that she has been taught. Boucher’s Orac continues to shine. Rather wonderfully, the overblown and cold opening speech of the Death-Watch competition is a mockery of Shatner’s voiceover during the titles of Original Star Trek. Another look behind the scenes at the sort of bitch interplay that we don’t usually get to witness (like the security monitors in Rumours of Death), I love the inclusion of David Sibley’s bitchy commentator. Stewart Bevan proves markedly different in a positive way from the role I am more used to seeing him play, Professor Jones in The Green Death. Max is a smooth talker, even more than you would expect a diplomat to be. I had him erroneously marked as an assassin from the start but that just goes to show how Boucher has gotten me thinking about what is going on. The silent pan across the stunned faces of the crew when Deeta is revealed shows a certain skill with actors on Gerald Blake’s part. An interesting ploy to keep the audience waiting as long as possible for the action, leaving us as hungry for the action and as active a participant in the viewing as the populace of the two systems. There is half an hours worth of build up to the fight so it needed to be good in order to avoid disappointment. Fortunately it is probably the most accomplished action sequence the show attempts to pull off, filmed in and around a highly atmospheric and decaying warehouse. The anachronistic use of ancient weapons is a lovely touch and adds a touch more grit to the combat scenes (those gunshots reverberate around those echoey walls dramatically). I’m not usually a fan of slow motion stunts (they can be a little too melodramatic) but since this is the killing blow everybody has been lusting after it seems appropriate that we get to experience it and the audiences reaction simultaneously.

The Bad: Shame about Paul Mark-Elliot’s middle class accent because Boucher gives Vinni (a real macho name that) some pleasingly pointed lines (‘I’m here to kill you’). It’s hard to sound like a bruiser when your enunciation suggests that you’ll follow that up with afternoon tea. I should have known he was an automaton.

Fashion Statement: The only man who is ever going to be enough for Servalan is Avon (and possibly Jarvik on the days that he’s off rousing the rebels). Look at the contentment coursing through her body when he kisses her and holds her tight, just after threatening her of course. I’m not sure about the combat suits that Deeta and Vinni fight in, it looks more like they are about to roasted in an oven for a couple of hours.

Musical Cues: Some bombast from Dudley as the fight begins and he breaks out the drums.

Moment To Watch Out For: The astonishing moment when we look through the eyes of Deeta Tarrant as Vinni approaches and fires. The audience is effectively shot dead.

Result: A complex and engaging last minute replacement script from Chris Boucher, Death-Watch is one of the seasons highlights and the script editors favourite of his contributions. The fact that it is so different from any other episode is a major strength in it’s favour and it is lovely to see the crew of the Liberator kick back for one week and enjoy themselves…until domestic tragedies get in the way. I take back anything I might have said about Gerald Blake in the past, Death-Watch is a highly accomplished piece of direction on his part but I can’t help but notice that it is more a piece of theatre than the action packed adventures that he was asked to bring to life in the Doctor Who universe. I’m not the worlds biggest sports fan (living up to the cliché of both gay men and sci/fi fans I really don’t follow any) but Chris Boucher has found a way of studying the genre intelligently by bringing to life the astounding concept of the Death-Watch, a way of an entire population going to war with only one man taking the risk. The scenario is plotted and packed with detail and the episode unfolds in an unexpected manner, climaxing in the shocking death of one character and the dramatic reaction of another. It allows Dayna to finally catch up with Servalan and Avon to play the role of benefactor, both of which are memorable Blake’s 7 moments. A perfectly formed piece with plenty to savour, Death-Watch wipes away the mistakes of the past two episodes and paves the way for the season finale: 9/10


Terminal written by Terry Nation and directed by Mary Ridge

What’s it about: Why is Avon behaving so mysteriously?

A Good Man: The brief for season three was almost impossible, especially given the title of the show. To continue a series that was specifically designed to follow the adventures of Roj Blake without him would have seemed hopeless at the tail end of the last season but with the efforts of Nation, Boucher and Maloney (not to mention Darrow, Chappell, Keating, Pacey and Simon) they soon divert the show on a hugely entertaining course where before long you’re thinking ‘Blake who?’ The new ensemble proved to be far more engaging and full of character variety than the old regime with Dayna and Tarrant proving far more interesting and dynamic than Jenna and Gan (and far easier on the eye too). They have managed to achieve the unfeasible, to produce thirteen episodes where Blake’s name was barely mentioned. We’ve reached the stage now at episode thirteen where he has been sufficiently forgotten that his name and presence is suddenly something to be excited about. A character that we had relaxed into the presence of for the two previous seasons is suddenly a riveting notion again. The reunion between Blake and Avon isn’t the valiant moment that you might think but rather a quiet moment of reflection between two (as much as they wouldn’t care to admit it) friends. That chemistry between Thomas and Darrow is still there but the emphasis is far more on the latter. It’s his show now.

Anti-Hero: Standing on the flight deck alone and concerned, Avon is behaving very strangely indeed. He considers the rest of the crew in his debt and he doesn’t need to offer them any explanations if he wants to divert them off course for his own, clandestine, reasons. Just as he finally breaks and begins to take Tarrant into his confidence, Zen interrupts and he descends back into brown study. Suddenly the crew are having to work doubly hard to try and understand him and his motives, attempting to piece together his communications and course changes to unveil the mystery of his actions. Whatever his objective is it has to be personal, he is willing to hold a gun on Tarrant if he gets in his way. Dayna admits that the entire crew of the Liberator wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for Avon, a plaudit that he doesn’t exactly seem proud of. He doesn’t like the idea of leaving his loose ends untidy so he has recorded a finale message to the crew if he doesn’t make it back from Terminal (‘…it’s very detailed, the only thing missing is the end’). Death is something that Avon always thought that he and Blake would be linked through one day. Who would have thought that sentiment could drive Avon so…or is it logic that drives him to order the Liberator away and leave him and Blake to their fate?

Maximum Power!: We finally get to hear Servalan’s most famous of lines. If the search for Blake was a trap then it had to be one on the part of Servalan. She’s the only one who could be so precise, meticulous and full of flair. There’s a very relaxed chemistry between Avon and his nemesis these days, I’m never certain if they are going to try and kill each other or tear each others clothes off. That’s what makes their scenes together so delicious. Rather than simply killing Avon, Servalan leaves him on Terminal whilst she heads off with the Liberator. I don’t think she can bear the thought of their endless dance being over once and for all or drop the notion that one day she will allow him to invade her in the most intimate way.

Resistance Agent: For once Tarrant knows he has pushed Avon too far. Even he admits that they have survived because they have worked as a team after having been through an awful lot together.

Warrior Babe: At the moment when Chappell is wrestled to the ground by a man in a monkey suit you are witnessing the moment when the actress subconsciously decided that if there ever were to be a fourth series (which at the point where they were filming, there wasn’t), then she wasn’t going to be involved.

Empath: You have to believe Cally when she says that wouldn’t cheat even if she could. She’s still pretty square, even in the guise of the much tougher, more interesting season three version of the character.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Or if you want one of your own cold, rational explanations…we can’t afford to lose you’ – Blake’s 7 gets sentimental in its own inimitable way.
‘He’s dying…Zen is dying.’
‘Let’s see if we can’t find a way off this planet…’

The Good: Nation still enjoys naming planets according to the scripts conditions, I see. It only struck me during Terminal as we are about to lose the character that the writers of Blake’s 7 have avoided the pitfall of trying to give Zen a personality or write the one episode where he is personified in some way. That’s why they have Orac, the sentient machine with an attitude problem. Zen has lived up to his name for the entirety of the three series and has been all the more alien and unknowable for it. Only in his final line of dialogue (‘I have failed you…’) does he belie the fact that he is a cold and logical computer and it is all the more touching for it. Eleven minutes in and it is clear that something has snagged on the Liberator and is eating away at the hull. You can’t say that Servalan’s downfall hasn’t been set up long in advance. Excellent, ominous use of sound effects on Terminal; a heartbeat that reverberates around the landscape and gives the suggestion that the planet is alive. It’s cold and windy, utterly inhospitable as only Blake’s 7 location manages to be – ‘If this is an example of a man-made planet they ought to get back to the drawing board and start again.’ The futuristic compass that Avon stumbles across is actually rather nifty. The virus that tears through the Liberator is relentless and unyielding, scarring the walls and forcing the ship to ooze with pustulous growths. It manages to be both ridiculous (a ship that’s physically dying) and tragic; this has been our home for the past three seasons and it is terrifying to watch it decompose at such a rapid rate. Before we even know what has hit us the ship is beyond repair and of no further use. Zen’s plaintive response when Vila tries to get him to outthink the virus that is eating through him (‘Confirrmmm…’) is heartbreaking because it is clear that it is already too late. I’m pleased to see the appropriate amount of money has been thrown at what was to be the last Blake’s 7 episode with some nifty and atmospherically lit sets for the underground base on Terminal. For a half an hour build up of mystery, the reveal had to be something a bit special and the disclosure that Avon is on the trail of Blake himself is one that made me tingle all over. Blake for the Liberator, that’s an intriguing proposal on Servalan’s part but one where I think that she gets all the benefits. Who would have thought we would ever see the day where sentiment motivates Avon more than survival? How can we get so attached to what is little more than a giant control screen of flashing lights? Somehow Zen’s lingering death is one of the most shattering things that the show has forced us to endure. That’s some clever writing (and Michael Keating sells the moment beautifully). Servalan wants the Liberator as a pattern for a fleet and one with which she could secure the Federation’s future and wipe the humiliation of the battle with the aliens and their depleted forces off the face of the galaxy. Is Servalan lying? Is Blake truly dead or is she dissembling simply to punish Avon for his disobedience? Only time will tell… Vila grabbing Orac before he goes means that clearly Nation and Boucher were hedging their bets just in case by some miracle a fourth season was commissioned. There is an automatic get out clause of their situation on Terminal. The destruction of the flight deck is the most impressively realised set piece of the year and Kostos being flung into oblivion by a tearing, ascending segment of flooring is masterfully handled (the only physical effect that is more dramatic is when the same trick is pulled in Blake and that is only because we care more about Tarrant).

The Bad: Nice to see that the Taran Wood Beast found employment post Doctor Who. I did wonder where his career was going to go after that. For such a smart woman, Servalan fails to notice that the Liberator has been involved in the messiest pizza fight on record. You could accuse the fact if she had never stepped foot on the ship before but she was on board earlier in the season. Unless she is under the impression that it is a living thing and this represents puberty.

Fashion Statement: I can’t help but notice that I have hardly discussed the fashions on offer this season which must mean that I have either adjusted to the space age couture the show flaunts or things have become a little more subdued and easy on the eye. Servalan is always the exception, I am almost always thrilled to see what design monstrosity she is going to parading on in next. Avon’s decked out in black leather again and it might be his finest example yet and Tarrant looks resplendent in red wine fabric and studs. Given it would have been her final story, Servalan looks appropriate glammed up for the occasion. First she steals the Liberator and then she’s off to a glitzy party.

Musical Cues: When the Liberator is dashed by alien forces, Simpson scores the usual grandiloquent cues with a hallucinatory wobble.

Moment To Watch Out For: Having proven her worth to the series on countless occasions, the climax of Terminal isn’t about the crew of the Liberator at all but rather Servalan’s ascension to power for a few blissful minutes followed by her humiliating defeat. Finally she gets her paws on the Liberator (‘Maximum Power!’) and it has been ravaged by a space plagued that has reduced it to a damaged shell beyond repair and ready for detonation. Shots of Servalan dashing through the ship to reach an escape pod, looking for all the world like a drunk millionaires leaving a cocktail party, might just be some of the most sublime seconds of television ever filmed.

Result: ‘You wanted to believe that Blake was still alive…’ The original Blake’s 7 series finale before a continuity announcer afforded the series the luxury of a fourth season, Terminal is by far Terry Nation’s mot accomplished script for the series since The Way Back (with possibly Duel and Pressure Point vying for the same spot) and a worthy imaginary climax for the series. He’s focusing as much on character as he is on mystery and excitement (I sense Boucher’s hand in that) and it is one of those rare episodes that starts out well and just gets better and better and better until the finale leaves you breathless and wanting more. The first half an hour is a slow burn mystery but one that is so ominous it leaves you with no doubt that the answers will be powerful and life changing for the crew. It is fantastic to be able to catch up with Blake (or do we?) and Avon’s affection for his former rival is startlingly handled and beautifully played by Paul Darrow. My one concern about Terminal would be that whilst they all get nice moments of reflection, the remaining regulars aren’t given a great deal to do. Blake would prove to be a much more satisfying conclusion for Tarrant, Dayna and Vila. The return of the Taran Wood Beast aside, Mary Ridge’s direction is once again impressive (for years I imagined her a talentless hack thanks to Doctor Who’s Terminus but I guess it genuinely was a victim of time constraints) and I’m pleased to see she is back in the fourth series to helm four episodes. Terminal is the only series finale (most only get one - trust Blake’s 7, the show that likes to be different, to have two) that features Servalan so in many ways it is the definitive one. I would still say that the actual finale is the finer example, and certainly the more shocking of the two. However, Servalan’s ultimate humiliation (to achieve everything she has ever wanted…for five minutes) is well worth waiting for. This is a terrific close to a season that seems to have been comprised of either knockouts of total failures but the best episodes have been better than ever so it has been a more than satisfying ride: 9/10


2 comments:

Richard S. said...

Excellent work covering the whole series! Any chance for Season 4?

(By the way, do you think that all the interplay between Avon and Servalan, especially about them never seeming to be able to kill each other, could be the result of their having made some sort of offscreen deal back in "Aftermath"?)

Martin Hudecek said...

I can't wait for the verdict on Season 4 - which for me has both some of the very best and very worst stories. Paul Darrow is amazingly watchable as Avon too.