Blakes 7 – Spacefall

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Blake and the rest of the prisoners have started their eight-month journey to the prison planet Cygnus Alpha on the ship London.  Blake doesn’t waste any time in attempting to work out a way to take control of the ship – but he’ll need the co-operation of Avon (Paul Darrow).  Whilst Blake and the others plot, they have to contend with the sadistic second-in-command Raiker (Leslie Scofield) who places little value on any of their lives.  After an aborted attempt to hijack the ship, the appearance of a highly advanced and apparently abandoned spaceship seems to offer an escape route ……

One of the interesting things about watching Spacefall for the first time is pondering who will survive to join Blake on his crusade.  Since Vila and Jenna were introduced in the previous episode, it’s a fair bet that they’ll make the cut.  And from his opening appearance it’s quite clear that Avon is going to be a significant character.  He’s an expert in his field – computers – and is easily able to explain to Blake how the security doors operate.  “It’s simple enough. All authorised personnel have their palm prints filed in the computer. The blue sensor plate reads the print. If it conforms, the computer opens the door.”

Later Blake asks him if he could open all the doors on the ship.  Avon, who we’ll soon discover is never one to suffer from false modesty, tells him that “I could open every door, blind all the scanners, knock out the security overrides, and control the computer. Control the computer and you control the ship.”

Even this early on there’s a nice bite to the scenes between Thomas and Darrow.  Avon’s highly dismissive of the small group of people that Blake has been able to recruit – Vila, Jenna, Gan (David Jackson) and Nova (Tom Kelly).  “You’ve got an army of five, Blake. Five and HIM!”  The “him” is Vila – even the short time that Avon and Vila have spent together seems to have been enough for Avon to have formed a healthy loathing of him!  Although it’s true this is rather negated later on when he realises just how talented Vila is at opening any kind of locked door or security system.

So what of the other two potential recruits to Blakes 7 – Gan and Nova?  It’s quite a while into the episode before we hear Gan speak, until then it’s quite possible to imagine he’s just another non-speaking extra (like the majority of the prisoners).  Nova seems quite a personable chap, but he doesn’t last very long.  He suffers a rather grim fate – trapped in the ship’s infrastructure during a meteorite attack, he’s suffocated by the sealing foam triggered to repair the breaches to the ships hull.

Thanks to Avon’s efforts, Blake is able to take control of the ship – but can he keep control?  Glyn Owen gives a wonderfully weary performance as the London‘s commander, Leylan.  He’s a fair man who doesn’t want any trouble, unlike his subordinate Raiker who’s happy to kill off the prisoners at thirty second intervals until Blake, Jenna and Avon give themselves up.

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Blake, of course, sees no alternative but to surrender – whilst Avon naturally takes the opposite view and later makes this point very forcefully to Blake.  “What a fiasco. You could take over the ship, you said, if I did my bit. Well, I did my bit, and what happened? Your troops bumble around looking for someone to surrender to, and when they’ve succeeded, you follow suit.”

Before they surrender, Blake, Avon and Jenna discuss what they’ll do if they manage to escape. Blake tells them he wants to return to Earth and explains why.

BLAKE:  They butchered my family, my friends. They murdered my past and gave me tranquilized dreams.
JENNA:  At least you’re still alive.
BLAKE:  No! Not until free men can think and speak. Not until power is back with the honest man.
AVON:  Have you ever met an honest man?
JENNA:  [Glances at Blake] Perhaps.
AVON:  Listen to me. Wealth is the only reality. And the only way to obtain wealth is to take it away from somebody else. Wake up, Blake! You may not be tranquilized any longer, but you’re still dreaming.
JENNA:  Maybe some dreams are worth having.
AVON:  You don’t really believe that.
JENNA: No, but I’d like to.

Blake wants to fight and nothing will stop him.  Avon lacks Blake’s idealism and simply wants a quiet life, once he’s stolen enough money to live comfortably.  Jenna doesn’t share Blake’s views, but there’s something in what he says which strikes a chord in her.

After Blake and his friends are recaptured, it does seem like they’ve blown their only chance.  But all this changes when a fantastically advanced spaceship drifts alongside the London.  The first appearance of the Liberator in space (complete with Dudley Simpson’s fanfare) is an impressive moment.  And the first scene on the Liberator‘s flight deck is another moment of wonder – especially after the bleak, utilitarian decor of the London.

After only one of the ship’s crew sent over to explore the strange ship comes back (and he appears to be quite mad) it’s decided by Raiker and Leylan to send Blake, Avon and Jenna over to explore.  Yes, it’s probably not the wisest move to send the three of them over to the ship unsupervised.

How were Blake, Avon and Jenna able to survive the ship’s defences which killed the others?  Blake was the only one of the three who was able to realise that the images created were an illusion – maybe his recent traumas and the retention of his suppressed memories had something to do with it?

Whatever the reason, they were able to survive and take control of the ship.  And with a ship like that they could go anywhere in the Universe – but Blake wants to head to Cygnus Alpha.  He plans to free the other prisoners – once he’s done that he’ll have a full crew and can really start fighting back.

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