Blakes 40 – Blakes 7 40th Anniversary Rewatch: Series One, Episodes Eleven to Thirteen

Bounty

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Terry Nation’s draft of Bounty was one of his shortest (running to around 25 minutes) which meant that it had to be considerably bulked out. This probably explains why the story proceeds at such a leisurely pace (it takes Blake fifteen minutes to reach Sarkoff – in another episode he might have teleported to him straight away).

But the early part of the episode has some nice film work, which is a small recompense. The Federation guards – remarkably inept – are good for a chuckle as well.

T.P. McKenna is a class act. As soon as he appears the story moves up several gears (he’s perfect as a defeated, tortured politician, surrounded by trinkets of a vanished age) and it’s fair to say that without him Bounty would be much weaker. Carinthia West is really rather lovely, so that’s another good reason why I can’t dislike this one too much.

The other plotline – the Liberator’s been captured by space pirates! – is less involving. If you see a mysterious vessel floating in space, for goodness sake leave it alone ….

But no, they can’t do this. Gan pops over for a look and reports back that everything’s fine. Except, of course, it’s painfully obvious from the tone of his voice that something’s badly wrong. That nobody – not even Avon – picked up on this is difficult to credit.

Blake and the others returning to an apparently deserted Liberator is nicely done, but things wobble downhill after that. Gareth Thomas’ funny faces following his gassing by the Amagons is memorable in one way though.

From the later part of the story, it’s – yet again – the interactions between the regulars which provides the best moments. For example, Gan and Cally declaring how they’d like to revenge themselves against the Amagons (“companions for our death”) which causes Vila to mutter that the conversation’s suddenly turned rather morbid.

Pretty average, but perfectly watchable.

Deliverance

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Deliverance is quite dull. From our first sight of the primitives on Cephlon, it’s plain they’re not going to be great conversationalists (it’s poor Jenna’s fate to be mauled by them). At least it gets her off the Liberator, but it’s not really much of a storyline.

Avon, naturally, has a better time of it (although it doesn’t quite ring true that he’d be so keen to teleport down to Cephlon in order to lead the rescue party). His interaction with Meegat (a nice performance from Suzan Farmer) is easily the highlight of the episode – the feeling of ambivalence at being cast in the role of “Lord Avon” for example.

For once, Travis is isolated from the main storyline. His contribution is quite small but both Greif and Pearce play off each other very well, as they always do. During their scenes there’s some unusual incidentals playing – it doesn’t appear to be in the style of Dudley’s usual score, so presumably Servalan likes a bit of ambient music when she’s working.

Fair to say that Servalan’s plan doesn’t make a lick of sense. Given that Maryatt was a not unimportant figure, he seems to have been sacrificed for no good reason. Why didn’t Servalan detain or kill Ensor Jr after he’d offered her Orac? That way she could have simply waited for Ensor Sr to die and then stroll in and pick up Orac.

That’s pretty much her plan anyway, so there was no reason to faff around with bombs, etc. Also, it’s a tad convenient that Blake and the others just happen to stumble across Ensor Jr’s distressed ship.

Probably my least favourite S1 episode, this one’s sadly a bit of a chore.

Orac

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An air of lassitude and despair permeates this episode. And that’s just the script ….

It’s pretty clear by now that Terry Nation was running on empty, since he falls back on some old favourites (radiation sickness!). But it’s a plot thread that doesn’t really work – not only is it hard to believe that the Liberator is out of radiation drugs in the first place, it’s also pretty obvious that Ensor will have a supply, hence the tension generated by this story point (will Avon and the others live or die?) isn’t very effective.

It’s interesting that Servalan shows fear when groped by the Phibian (incredibly silly though the scene is). Seeing her out of her comfort zone is one of the memorable parts of the episode. When Servalan asked Travis what it was and Stephen Greif deadpans “some kind of lizard” you do get the sense that Greif was counting down the days before he’d be free of the series. A pity that he wasn’t able to get his teeth into the meaty Travis stories of S2, like Trial, but he would also have had to trawl through some rubbish too (Hostage) so you can’t blame him for jumping ship.

Travis’ series arc concludes with a bit of whimper here. The fact that Greif wasn’t available for the studio session didn’t help (nor did his flat-footed stand in) but even had he been present I doubt it would have been that much more effective.

Derek Farr’s good, but the plot of Orac is little more than Blake paying a visit to an elderly man. Amazing they managed to spin it out to fifty minutes really.

At this point it’s clear that the series needs a varied mix of writers. Luckily series two was just around the corner …..

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