Hostage was something of a troubled production. Duncan Lamont had been cast as Ushton but he died after completing the location filming, necessitating a remount with John Aberini stepping into the part.
The episode opens brightly enough though, with the Liberator coming under attack from a mass of Federation ships. The unnamed Federation commander (played by Andrew Robertson) seems close to destroying the Liberator, but Blake and the others just manage to sneak away.
The all-out attack does contradict the likes of Project Avalon, which saw Servalan insistent that the Liberator had to be captured, not destroyed. But if her objectives have now changed it does beg the question as to why she hasn’t ordered attacks of this magnitude before, as it’s clear they stand a good chance of succeeding.
Servalan is seen to be under some pressure in this episode. It was hinted in Trial that the enquiry into the continuing inability of the Federation to catch Blake could be damaging for her and the visit of Councillor Joban (Kevin Stoney) restates this. He’s only onscreen for a few minutes but it’s a pleasure to watch Stoney at work, especially since Hostage tends to be blessed with fairly indifferent performances from the guest stars. John Aberini was a fine actor, but his part was rather limited.
There’s another lapse in continuity during the following exchange between Servalan and Joban –
JOBAN: Some members of the council are concerned. Many of our citizens now know of Blake’s activities, and those of the renegade Travis.
SERVALAN: But there have been no public spacecasts on either Travis or Blake.
JOBAN: People talk, Servalan. There’s no way of stopping them.
SERVALAN: This is a major breach of security. The punishment is total. Who are these people who have been talking? I want their names, councillor.
JOBAN: All sorts of citizens from Alphas to labour grades know of Blake’s defiance of the Federation. They talk of him as a sort of hero, many of them.
SERVALAN: What rubbish.
JOBAN: His men impede progress and more importantly order. Order, order Servalan. It is all that matters.
It seems strange that Servalan should react with surprise to the news that Blake has become something of a hero, since she’s commented on this fact several times before. Only a minor point, but it does appear that Chris Boucher’s attention was elsewhere when this script was written.
Following the attack on the Liberator, Blake is surprised to receive a message from Travis. He’s on the planet Exbar and he is holding Blake’s cousin Inga (Judy Buxton) hostage. He asks Blake to come to Exbar to talk and maybe join forces – if he doesn’t, the girl will die.
Five of the last six stories of series two feature Travis and that’s at least two too many. Hostage is one of the episodes when it would have been nice to take a break from Travis’ painfully obvious villainy (and Brian Croucher’s not at his best in this one anyway) but it wasn’t to be.
The notion that Travis might be interested in teaming up with Blake was a fascinating one which I’m sorry wasn’t developed. With them now both renegades it would have made sense – plus it would have provided the later stories with a great deal of dramatic tension. But Travis (as might be expected) wasn’t really interested in an alliance – he merely wanted to steal the Liberator.
What happened to his Muto crew from the end of the last episode is never made clear, instead he’s recruited a number of crimos (criminal psychopaths). They’re hardly the most threatening bunch – despite the odd half-hearted attempt to show how truly evil they are (slapping the unfortunate Inga, for example).
Also present on Exbar is Ushton, Blake’s uncle. It’s revealed early on that he’s working with Travis (who’s agreed not to hurt Inga if he co-operates). His betrayal of Blake is rather pointless as Blake was coming to meet Travis anyway. John Aberini does his best, but Ushton isn’t much of a part and his mild betrayal is later forgotten when he and the others battle with Travis and the crimos.
Forty four minutes into the episode, Blake, Avon and Ushton send a number of the most painfully obvious polystyrene rocks ever seen on film down a slope to frighten away Travis and the crimos. It’s a moment that never fails to amuse – not least for the crimo who runs away with his hands high in the air. The scene where they throw a crimo down a cliff (so obviously a dummy) is comedy gold as well.
Yet another odd lack of continuity occurs when Travis asks Ushton which of the three members of the Liberator crew he holds prisoner (Blake, Avon, Vila) is the weakest. Travis has been pursuing them all for some considerable time, can we really believe he didn’t know the strengths and weaknesses of all of them?
The final scene is nice though, with Jenna very huffy towards Blake. This always seems to happen whenever he meets or talks to an attractive woman, clearly her unrequited love remains unrequited.
But all in all this is a somewhat forgettable episode. The brief meeting between Servalan and Travis at the end is possibly the most significant moment. He asks if they’re still enemies and she replies that “officially, yes. Unofficially, you lead me to Blake whenever you can. If you help me get him I’ll see you officially listed as dead. There’s no one as free as a dead man.”
Although his next appearance (in Voice from the Past) shows him working closely with Servalan, which is a far cry from how matters were left here. Maybe that’s another case of slightly inconsistent script-editing.