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

Gambit

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Gambit‘s an odd one. The main plot – the hunt for Docholli – moves very slowly whilst the production design is somewhat on the tacky side. But since Robert Holmes’ script is packed with entertaining one-liners this isn’t really a problem.

If you like your B7 stories on the gritty side, then you’re out of luck. Aubrey Woods’ overpowering Krantor sets the tone. Woods is clearly having a great deal of fun – the banter between Krantor and Servalan being one of the episode highlights.

Blake, Jenna and Cally (the two girls glammed up to the nines) are involved in the main plot, but it’s Avon and Vila (attempting to break the bank at the casino) who get all the best scenes. The Avon/Vila subplot is so played for laughs that it feels more like a parody than proper B7 – the notion of Avon sneaking down to Freedom City (is he afraid of getting a ticking off from Blake?) and the way he persuades Orac to shrink himself (how handy and how odd it was never done again) are just two examples of this.

Oh, and the moment when he spits out his food after learning that Vila’s been tricked into playing the Klute at speed chess ….

With Holmes scripting, it’s possibly not surprising that the dialogue is a little different from the norm (Avon’s comment of “you dummy” doesn’t feel like something he would ever say).

There are also some prime examples of Holmes’ colourful command of the English language. Servalan’s thoughts on Krantor for one. “He is a despicable animal. When the Federation finally cleans out this cesspit, I shall have that vulpine degenerate eviscerated with a small and very blunt knife”.

Krantor’s counter-comments are equally as eye-opening (“one of these days, Toise, I am going to have Supreme Commander high-and-mighty Servalan ravaged until she does not know what month she’s in. I’ll have her screaming for death …”).

With an unforgettable turn from Sylvia Coleridge, an appearance from Bill Filer and Travis in a silly hat, Gambit is top class entertainment.

The Keeper

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If you’ve seen The Pirate Planet then you’ll know what to expect from Bruce Purchase’s Gola – except that the Captain had hidden depths, whilst there’s no such luck with Gola (who’s just all bluster). The Keeper is another example of Blake’s shaky leadership qualities – no sooner has he, Vila and Jenna teleported down to the surface of Goth than they’re overpowered with embarrassing ease.

Vila (obviously) becomes the King’s new fool whilst Jenna becomes the King’s new … well, you can probably guess. Sally Knyvette manages to mine a few comic moments from this fairly unpromising scenario. Meanwhile, Blake mooches about doing nothing much whilst Avon, aboard the Liberator, leaves the others on Goth to fend for themselves as he sets off to destroy Travis’ ship. One point, how did he know that the ship belonged to Travis?

If you like ripe overacting then you’ve come to the right place. In addition to Purchase there’s also Freda Jackson as Tara (she has a nice line in cackles). Servalan’s on/off relationship with Travis is now back on, since he’s once again at her side (Travis changing from being Servalan’s enemy to her ally multiple times since Trial has been decidedly odd). The way he cuts and runs some twenty minutes in does generate the episode’s only surprising moment though.

Fifty minutes of running on the spot, The Keeper ends up as something of an also-ran although with Derek Martinus onboard as director there’s some decent camerawork in evidence.

Star One

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Star One (rather like Terminal and Blake in fact) does indulge in a fair amount of running on the spot. Some of the scenes set on Star One (especially the hunt for Lurena) aren’t that interesting, but since the episode also features several of B7‘s most memorable moments the good outweighs the bad. Despite the fact that this is Blake’s last hurrah as a regular, Avon is still the one who gets all of the best lines. “As far as I am concerned you can destroy whatever you like. You can stir up a thousand revolutions, you can wade in blood up to your armpits. Oh, and you can lead the rabble to victory, whatever that might mean”.

His face-off with Travis (“Now talk or scream, Travis, the choice is yours”) is also rather good.

But at least Blake does have that brief chat with Cally, where the pair discuss the ethics of destroying Star One. It’s a fascinating scene – not least for the fact that Cally (next to Blake the most fanatical) was the only one to voice a tentative concern that killing millions of people might possibly be a bad thing.

Some of Star One’s functions are discussed in the opening few minutes. They seem rather benign (climate control) rather than oppressive and domineering. And the way the episode begins with Servalan effectively cast in the role of the goodie (discussing how to bring Star One under control in order to prevent further deaths) before crossing over to the Liberator (where Blake and the others are plotting to destroy it in order to generate chaos) shows how far the lines between good and evil have become blurred.

Servalan’s surprisingly a fairly minor character in this one, but the moment when she instigates a palace revolution is chillingly played by Jaqueline Pearce. “The President and those members of the Council who are unable to accept the realities of the situation are even now being arrested, as are those of our own people whose loyalties may be divided. At a time like this complete unity is an absolute essential”. The inference is that under military rule the Federation will become an even more oppressive force, although the aftermath of Star One rather negates this.

Travis’ death is a mercy killing (both for the character and the audience). A shame the effects shot of him tumbling to his doom isn’t terribly effective though.

And that cliffhanger ….

Blakes 40 – Blakes 7 40th Anniversary Rewatch: Series Two, Episodes Eight to Ten

Hostage

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Oh dear, this isn’t very good is it? Plus points, we get a brief smidgen of Kevin Stoney whilst Servalan placed under a little pressure is always good to see.

Continuity isn’t a strong point of this story. Servalan reacts with amazement when Joban tells her that Blake’s become a hero amongst the rank and file of the Federation, which flatly contracts previous stories where Blake’s growing reputation was becoming a problem.

I don’t know if it was ever seriously considered, but the possibility of Travis teaming up with Blake would have been very interesting. Having Travis as a new crewmember aboard the Liberator opens up all sorts of possibilities (which would have been more satisfying than the increasingly odd way his character was used – Voice From The Past, anyone?).

The crimos are pretty rubbish, as are the polystyrene rocks, whilst Travis seems stupider than usual (does he really not know who is weakest out of Blake, Avon and Vila?).

So not good, but there’s a few good one-liners scattered about and – as ever – great interaction between the regulars, so it’s not completely unwatchable.

Countdown

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The main drawback with a story which has a ticking countdown throughout is that things only really get exciting during the last few seconds. And so it proves here – even though we know that Avon and Del will save the day just in the nick of time, there’s still some decent tension wrung out as the clock ticks down to zero.

As for the rest of the episode, the development of Avon’s character (especially the revelation about his love for Anna and his uneasy relationship with her brother) is clearly the main point of interest. Darrow and Chadbon spar very effectively and it’s a pity that Del was never seen again (although given what we learn about Anna in Rumours of Death that’s possibly not too surprising).

Elsewhere, the characterisation of the remainder of the guest cast is pretty sketchy. Provine is a nasty piece of work and that’s about it – his only function in the plot being to give Blake another clue to the location to Star One (which is done in a highly unconvincing way). The locals are all pretty forgettable as well but I’ll give a bonus point out for the fact that there’s a female amongst their number (I’ll then deduct a point for the fact she’s such a wet lettuce).

Once again the girls are stuck by the teleport whilst the boys go down to play. This is becoming rather monotonous. Since it was already known that Sally Knyvette wouldn’t be returning for S3 (indeed she wouldn’t have done S2 had her contract not forced her to) it almost looks like all the writers had given up any interest in developing her character.

I do like the way that the Federation troops (supposed to be the best of the best) spend the opening few minutes doing nothing except running away as fast as they can from the advancing rebels!

Decent enough, but never a favourite.

Voice From The Past

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It may be mad as a box of frogs, but it’s impossible not to love Voice From The Past. I like the notion that Cally has badgered the others into doing exercises although it doesn’t seem to be agreeing with Blake, who is having the funniest of all funny turns.

Gareth Thomas goes right over the top and then back up again during the first fifteen minutes or so. It’s great stuff, as are Paul Darrow’s karate chops when Avon attempts to subdue a hysterical Blake!

Given Blake’s often arbitrary command style, it’s surprising that the others twig quite quickly that he’s not himself. Avon, as so often, is gifted most of the best lines (“Well, he’s certainly not normal, not even for Blake”).

Jenna, looking especially lovely today, is persuaded to share Blake’s nightmares (so she too gets the chance to register high on the hysteria scale). But once that moment of fun is over, the plot starts to fall apart somewhat.

It’s barely credible that Avon would leave Vila in sole charge of Blake. Equally hard to believe is the fact that a gullible Vila swallows Blake’s story that Avon and Cally are the guilty ones. Also, why are Avon, Cally and Jenna all sitting in a room with a door that Blake can lock? A touch careless of them ….

All of this messing with Blake’s mind ultimately does feel like filler, since when the main plot kicks in – Blake is invited to join a cabal of notable Federation types who plan to bring down the current administration – it seems clear that Blake would have been happy to join them without any manipulation.

What can you say about Shivan? Words fail me ….

Servalan’s tussle with Governor Le Grand tops the episode off in style. Servalan on the big screen is some sight.

Something of a messy episode, but it’s also great fun.

Blakes 40 – Blakes 7 40th Anniversary Rewatch: Series Two, Episodes Four to Seven

Horizon

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I love the opening ten minutes or so, which shows that tempers aboard the Liberator are getting rather frayed, with the result that everybody – especially Jenna – has become rather snippy. Well, everybody except poor Gan, who’s been exiled to the teleport bay for no good reason.

Horizon might be a fairly unsubtle colonial satire, but both Darien Angadi and William Squire are very watchable. Angadi’s Ro is a fascinating character – when he displays disinterest in the continuing deaths of his people at the mine (whom he refers to as primitives) is this an example of his Federation indoctrination or is he genuinely unfeeling about their fate?

Squire’s Kommissar oozes seductive villiany (a much better role than the Shadow in The Armageddon Factor – especially since this time he’s not hidden behind a mask).

The one part of the plot which doesn’t quite hang together is the revelation that Blake was intimately acquainted with one of Ro’s best friends. It’s far too much of a coincidence to be credible (unless Blake knew about Ro and Horizon all along and simply pretended to the others that he didn’t).

The scenes of Avon alone on the Liberator, debating whether to cut and run, are a highlight as is his explosive appearance on the planet, where he mows down a number of Federation troopers in his best Clint Eastwood style.

Not as bad as its reputation suggests, this is pretty decent fare.

Pressure Point

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Brian Croucher’s performance is considerably dialled down compared to Weapon. He still doesn’t quite convince, but a calmer Travis is a better Travis for me. It seems barely credible that Servalan would have hung about for eighteen days, waiting for Kasabi to turn up. She’s the Supreme Commander for goodness sake, who’s doing all the paperwork?

Jacqueline Pearce’s crocodile smile is on overdrive today – and she’s the recipient of some dramatic scenes with Jane Sherwin’s Kasabi. It’s always good to see Servalan slightly discomforted.

The main plot’s a bit of a run-around which doesn’t make a great deal of sense. If Central Control is only a shell, why does Servalan have so much trouble in getting the barriers deactivated? And since Travis has already snaffled the teleport bracelets from Blake and the others, he doesn’t actually need to follow them down – all he has to do is wait at the entrance, as eventually they’ll all have to come back up that way.

Blake’s cry (“We’ve done it! We’ve done it! We’ve done it! I’ve done it!”) and his subsequent collapse to the ground is a S2 highlight. That one of Blake’s merry gang dies in a totally pointless way seems apt – from start to finish this was a doomed exercise. For all of Blake’s optimism (his year of secret planning) his lack of foresight and tactical planning has been cruelly exposed.

Trial

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It’s hard to get too invested in the travails of Blake and Zil, so it’s lucky that the other plotline is rather stronger.

Travis gets his moment in the sun (explaining that his misdeeds are a direct result of his Federation training). Croucher starts to go way over the top here, whereas earlier in the episode – possibly because he didn’t have too many lines – he was somewhat more restrained.

Surprising that Servalan doesn’t feature more, but presumably there were political considerations precluding her appearance at court. Kevin Lloyd gives a nice performance as Trooper Parr – it’s always good when the Federation rank and file are given a voice.

Pretty watchable, but not a favourite.

Killer

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No surprise that Holmes quickly latched onto Avon and Vila as a team. Both are given plenty of good lines (such as Vila’s “When Avon holds out the hand of friendship, watch his other hand. That’s the one with the hammer”). This does mean that the others (especially Jenna and Cally) are somewhat sidelined though.

Ronald Lacey and Paul Daneman are both decent guest stars, Lacey as the untrustworthy “friend” of Avon and Daneman as a “good” Federation man. Given the way that Blake in the past has tended to regard the Federation as a single evil entity, it seems a little out of character for him to be so keen to warn the base about any possible danger from the mysterious vessel.

Some of the costumes are rather silly, but this is an occupational hazard with B7, especially during the second series.

Killer feels pretty trad – it’s almost as if Holmes was feeling his way at this point (crafting a story that wasn’t too dissimilar to what had gone before, but with a little extra twist). It’s his next one where he really starts to cut loose …

Blakes 40 – Blakes 7 40th Anniversary Rewatch: Series Two, Episodes One to Three

Redemption

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Redemption is a slightly odd way to kick off series two. Mainly because the first thirty minutes are Liberator bound, which gives it the feel of one of S1’s cheaper bottle stories (like Breakdown). Still, this does give us plenty of time to goggle at everybody’s new togs whilst the Liberator moves very slowly to a mysterious destination.

Avon – as usual – gets most of the best lines. His needling of Blake (“well now, you only had to ask”) is a delight. Sadly, the amount of time spent aboard the Liberator means that by the time we get to Space World there’s no time to explore it in any detail. Harriet Philpin and Sheila Ruskin look very nice but since the Altas are slaves to the machine they aren’t gifted distinct characters (so the creators of the Liberator remain just as much of a mystery at the end of the story as they were at the beginning).

There’s a nice bit of location filming, but Redemption doesn’t really amount to anything more than an amiable run-around.

Shadow

There’s a harder and more cynical edge to this story, which after a few fairly generic Terry Nation romps is more than welcome.

Blake’s desire to deal with the Terra Nostra, despite knowing exactly what they stand for, is a highly revealing character moment – clearly the ends justify the means for him. That Gan is the one who expresses the most vehement disapproval is a nice touch (this allows him to emerge as a character in his own right for once, but alas it’s too little and too late).

Blake is proved to be completely wrong, which demonstrates just what a flawed “hero” he is. Vila may be acting early on from self interest (he’s desperate to get to Space City) but his assessment of Blake – a pampered Alpha grade who wouldn’t last a minute amongst the underclass that Vila used to hang out with – seems spot on.

Avon delights in later telling Blake “I told you so”. And his ironic comment (“law makers, law breakers, let us fight them all. Why not?”) when learning of Blake’s next crazy scheme is a typically good Darrow moment.

Space City might be rather underpopulated (we have to rely on Vila’s vivid imagination to fill the gaps) and the subplot with Cally and Orac does seem rather bolted on to fill up an underunning script, but overall Shadow is a good-‘un and a favourite from S2.

Weapon

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Travis, after getting out of rehab, looks strangely different …

Brian Croucher doesn’t have a particularly auspicious debut (Travis here has all the subtlety of a bull in a china shop). Luckily, he would settle down a bit in later episodes.

The plot doesn’t make a lick of sense. If a perfect facsimile of Blake (or indeed two) can be whipped up, you’d think they’d be put to better use than what we see here. Clone Blake’s sole function is to inspect Coser’s wonderful weapon, IMIPAK, for a few minutes before Servalan arrives and takes it off him. Eh?

The earlier scenes with the Clone Master are fun though – all moody lighting, dry ice and Dudley going overboard on the organ ….

John Bennett does his best as Coser, despite the character’s funny clothes and the fact he’s only got one mood – very, very angry. Candace Glendenning also doesn’t have much of a part but is really rather lovely, so I’ll cut her some slack.

Scott Fredericks, despite his limited screentime, makes easily the best impression as the supremely confident puppeteer Carnell.

And what of our heroes? Well, they spend most of the episode on the Liberator, having a chat. Which sort of sums this one up, it’s mostly talk with little action.

Easily Chris Boucher’s least engaging story.

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 …..

Blakes 40 – Blakes 7 40th Anniversary Rewatch: Series One, Episodes Eight to Ten

Duel

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This is a good episode for Travis – especially since for once he doesn’t have to run around after Servalan. Although even this early on it’s easy to see just how limited a character he is (something which Greif had quickly picked up on – pondering just how credibility could be maintained if every time Travis and Blake met, Blake ended up winning). The answer, of course, is that it couldn’t – but we’ll leave that topic until series two ….

Although the duel part of the story was clearly designed to be the showpiece, I prefer the earlier dogfight in space scenes. With Dudley absent (although not, as long assumed, because of his feud with Camfield) the selection of discordant stock music helps to raise the tension nicely. A number of simple visual effects – slowing the camera down, coloured lights – are cheap but effective ways of showing the ships – post intervention by Sinofar and Giroc – stuck in space.

Given Camfield’s skill with a film camera, it’s maybe a little surprising that there’s not a great deal from the woodland scenes that’s terribly memorable. It’s also a shame that the climatic fight between Travis and Blake is a little rushed (and Travis’ grand plan to ensnare Blake – a spiky trap – looks a little feeble too).

Avon might be playing second fiddle today, but he still gets some very decent moments. His “nuts” speech (cut from the original compilation VHS) is one and I also love his brief smile and headshake when he realises that Blake won’t be able to kill Travis. The fact that Vila, Gan and Cally were all urging Blake on at this moment is another example of Avon’s self-imposed distance from the others.

Solid, but it’s possible that Douglas Camfield helped to cover a few cracks. With a more run-of-the-mill director it may have been rather more forgettable.

Project Avalon

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Although the plot is a bit thin, as so often with B7 the performances make up for it. Stephen Greif continues to impress, especially when he’s teamed up with Glynis Barber’s icy Mutoid. Barber doesn’t have anything much, dialogue-wise, to work with, which means she has to work extra hard to make an impression. A pity she didn’t return as a Mutoid, since she and Greif made a good double-act.

Less impressive is Julia Vidler’s Avalon. I’m not sure when she’s more wooden – during the scenes when she’s playing Avalon, or later when she’s Robot-Killer Avalon. True, her one big showdown scene with Travis is somewhat compromised by the fact she’s been reduced to her underwear and strapped to an operating table, but even had she been fully clothed I’ve a feeling her delivery would still have been as stilted as it is.

Wookey Hole, as ever, is a good-looking location and Stuart Fell falls very nicely. The late twist – Chevner (a slightly underused David Bailie) is moved into position for a few seconds as the baddy – doesn’t really work as it needed more of a build up or a tense hunt through the corridors to sell it. And the way that poor old Travis is humiliated again at the end seems to have been the point when Greif decided he wouldn’t have a long term future with the series.

Breakdown

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Breakdown is something of a bottle show (and a cheap one). Largely set onboard the Liberator, when they do reach their destination (XK-72) it’s nothing more than a few studio flats, populated by a couple of actors. The Federation ships are represented by reused footage, which makes it all the more surprising that they decided to splash out on some filming (the scenes in the medical wing could just have easily have been shot in the studio).

This sort of budget scrimping isn’t necessarily a problem though, since it enables the regulars to have more screentime than usual. But it’s ironic for a story where Gan is the plot motivator that he spends most of it either unconscious or dangerously feral. Poor Gan never got a decent crack of the whip.

He does have one standout scene though – the moment when he gleefully throttles Cally in the medical centre. His sudden switch, from the apparently recovered Gan to an implacable killer, is more than a little disturbing.

Gan’s fight with Blake in the first few minutes is also good – thanks to the hand-held camerawork. Although whenever Blake is thrown against the Liberator’s controls it’s impossible not to worry that they’ll break ….

Avon, as always, shines. His continuing distance from the others (markedly telling Blake that “you” rather than “we” are running out of time to save Gan) is thrown into sharp relief later on when he elects not to hide away on XK-72 but take his chances with Blake instead. Blake and Avon continue to clash entertainingly, this following exchange being one of my favourites –

AVON: Blake, in the unlikely event that we survive this ….
BLAKE: Yes?
AVON: I’m finished. Staying with you requires a degree of stupidity of which I no longer feel capable.
BLAKE: Now you’re just being modest.

Julian Glover adds a touch of class as Kayn. I love the face-off between Kayn and Blake where our hero threatens to destroy Kayn’s hands if he doesn’t operate on Gan.

Breakdown is a little slow but, as noted in some of the previous episode summaries, the interactions between the regulars always helps to shore up an average episode. A few points off for the chucklesome ending though – considering that XK-72 had just been blown to smithereens it hardly seemed the right time.

Blakes 40 – Blakes 7 40th Anniversary Rewatch: Series One, Episodes Five to Seven

The Web

The Web has a rather creepy opening – albeit somewhat negated by the sight of Saymon. Poor Richard Beale has a pretty thankless role to play during this story – but although visually Saymon is a bit of a disaster, Beale (always a very decent voice actor) impresses whenever we don’t see too much of the silly body in the tank (as above, close-ups are quite effective though).

Odd that Michael E. Briant chose to reveal Saymon so early on. Presumably he felt that it was best to get it out of the way ….

The first half of the story is Liberator bound. There’s a healthy dose of bickering and character conflict which, as always, is rather entertaining. Gan and Avon briefly team up (Avon is very sarcastic towards Gan) whilst Jenna seems to relish bringing Cally to her senses via a good hard slap! The controlled Cally’s gleeful smile as she advances on an unsuspecting Vila is another nice touch.

It feels slightly contrived that Cally’s only been onboard the Liberator for a short time before mystical legends from her past start calling to her. But on the plus side, it does raise the possibility (quickly negated, though) that Blake’s judgement was flawed when he asked her to join the crew. Having Cally as an unpredictable character for a few episodes could have been the spur for some decent character development – but it wasn’t to be.

The Decimas may, like Saymon, look rather silly, but elsewhere Miles Fothergill and Ania Marson (as the emotionless Novara and Geela) are both rather good. Even though Fothergill was masked when he appeared in Doctor Who, it’s easy to work out the Who role he played. Did he specialise in emotionless roles?

Odd and faintly disturbing, The Web has its moments although it’s never been a top tier S1 episode for me.

Seek-Locate-Destroy

Seek-Locate-Destroy opens with our first sight of the very silly-looking security robot. Complete with a fixed grin and flappy arms, it’s fair to say it was never going to rival the Daleks ….

Blake and Vila make for an interesting combination (a shame we didn’t see them team up more regularly). The first fifteen minutes are similar to the events seen in Time Squad – Blake and the others penetrate a Federation top security establishment with embarrassing ease – but at least there’s a wrinkle here (Cally is overpowered and left behind when the others teleport back).

Minus points for the others not realising at first that Cally was missing. It’s also a pity that Cally (presented to us only two episodes ago as a fanatical freedom fighter) now seems to have regressed somewhat – she really does fight like a girl (her tussle with a Federation trooper isn’t one of B7‘s greatest ever action scenes). But she partially redeems herself with some nice taunting of Travis at the end of the episode.

One moment which has stuck in my memory since the original transmission is when the Federation trooper removes his helmet to reveal …. a very ordinary looking man. Whether this was intentional or not, I don’t know, but it’s always resonated with me. With their helmets on, the troopers are faceless goons who can be mown down with impunity by Blake and the others. But when we can see their faces, they become people.

The introduction of Servalan and Travis helps to raise the stakes as now Blake has tangible opponents to fight against. Both Jacqueline Pearce and Stephen Greif make strong first impressions and they help to turn what would otherwise be a fairly straightforward run-around into something much more satisfying. Travis is a paper-thin character but Greif – right from his wonderfully camp, hands on hips, introduction – certainly catches the eye. Pearce’s silkily smooth delivery is equally as compelling. Over time both would become overused, but we’ll leave those debates for another time. One of my favourite S1 episodes.

Mission to Destiny

Mission to Destiny boasts an impressive guest cast of familiar faces. No stars names, but a good selection of decent actors – although it’s a slight shame that their characters are all very thinly drawn. Terry Nation ladles on the murder mystery cliches (the dying man writing a clue in his own blood) but as most of the crew are pretty unlikable it’s hard to be too concerned about whodunnit.

After sharing a few knowing looks in The Web (although Cally was under the influence back then) Avon and Cally team up for the first time. Avon’s in his element playing detective (“we all know that one of you is the murderer”) and he and Cally share some lovely moments together. The look he gives her when she blithely tells the crew that they should consider them to be hostages is one …

This exchange is another:

Cally: My people have a saying. A man who trusts can never be betrayed, only mistaken.

Avon: Life expectancy must be fairly short among your people.

It’s never been a favourite (the plot is rather loose) but there are worse episodes.