Monday, 25 March 2013

A3 Cygnus Alpha

EPISODE: A3 Cygnus Alpha

BROADCAST: 16/01/1978
WRITTEN BY: Terry Nation
DIRECTOR: Vere Lorimer
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: David Maloney
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 1

"Your species requires a visual reference point. THIS is your reference point!"

The London lands it's cargo of prisoners on Cygnus Alpha which is being run as a cult by former prisoners led by Vargas. Blake, Avon and Jenna gain access to the hand weapons on their new ship, experiment with the control systems and then make the acquaintance of the ship's computer Zen which sets a course for the Federation prison planet Cygnus Alpha. The three humans find a system they believe is a teleport, and a number of bracelets to enable use of the system and communication. Blake tests the system to get to Cygnus Alpha but is attacked by one of the residents and only just rescued in time by Avon. He returns with enough bracelets to rescue the other prisoners from the London. He finds the prisoners but they tell him they are suffering from an atmosphere bound disease and need treating with a drug that requires medication from the priests for the rest of their lives so cannot leave. Blake is captured and tries to negotiate with the Vargas for the drugs but he refuses demanding Blake turn his ship over. Having found vast wealth on the ship Avon wishes to leave but Jenna persuades him to wait one more hour. The prisoners, threatened with sacrifice, try to persuade Blake to cooperate with Vargas but he rouses them into fighting back. They attack during the sacrifice regaining the teleport bracelets taken from Blake but a number of prisoners are killed. Gan & Villa escape while Blake attempts to retrieve his gun. Vargas corners him and is teleported to the ship which then brings Blake, Gan and Villa up. Vargas demands to be taken back to Cygnus Alpha and claims the drug isn't necessary. Blake teleports him into the vacuum of space. Zen announces that the ship, now termed the Liberator has been scanned by Federation Pursuit ships allowing Blake and his crew to make their escape.

After two fantastic episodes this one is back of a fag packet stuff from Tel. Bunch of crazy priests on a planet controlling the drug supply necessary for the people on it to live? But there's a catch they don't need the drug? Poor, and I'm certain I've seen this idea somewhere before. (the idea of Prisoner running a wild prison planet I have: Cygnus Alpha is similar to Desperus in Doctor Who: The Dalek Masterplan...... author Terry Nation) Thankfully they've got Lord Brian of Blessed in to play the lead villain here and he gives it his truly barking all. He's made the metamorphosis from Brian Blessed the actor - See Randall & Hopkirk the Ghost who save the Bank at Monte Christo and Space 1999: Death's other dominion for the restrained Blessed - into Brian Blessed the Force of Nature but his performance here builds from initially quite restrained to giving it the full Prince Vultan - still two years in the future - by the end of the episode!

Avon's quite happy to leave Blake behind even going to the point of disassembling some of the teleport system while he's on the planet. It's only Jenna's insistence they stay that saves Blake.

The sixth member of our regular cast debuts here: playing Zen is Peter Tuddenham. By this point Tuddenham had done some voice work for Doctor Who (Ark in Space and Masque of Mandragora) and since there's little other voice work on his cv I'm guessing this gave him the Blake's 7 job. Also on debut for Blake's 7 is director Vere Lorrimer, the only Director in this first year not to work on Doctor Who previously. He'll helm a further 11 episodes over the next 3 years plus another uncredited before becoming producer in year 4. He replaces Lennie Mayne, an experienced Who Director who was killed in a boating accident before filming began.

We've already mentioned Brian Blessed, as Vargas, but his Doctor Who credit as King Yrcanos in Trial of a Timelord is someway in the future. Pamela Salem, Kara, has already been in Doctor Who as one of the many voices of Xoanon in The Face of Evil as well as Toos in The Robots of Death (both written by Script editor Chris Boucher. She's got another DW appearance Professor Rachel Jensen in Remembrance of the Daleks. Robert Russell, a guard in DW: The Power of the Daleks and The Caber in Terror of the Zygons plays Laran here. Glyn Owen (Leylan) & Norman Tipton (Artix) return from the previous episode but Peter Childs (Arco) David Ryall (Selman) are new to this episode..... none of the prisoners, bar the regular cast, are in more than one episode and it might have been nice to develop a few more of them in episodes 1 & 2 before killing them all off here! Childs has a Doctor Who in his future playing Jack Ward in Mark of the Rani but found fame playing DC/DS Rycott in Minder before dying of leukaemia in 1989 at the age of 50. David Ryall meanwhile has roles in The Singing Detective and both Play the King & Final Cut (as Sir Bruce Bullerby) to his name.

We're at Springwell Quarry for the Cygnus Alpha surface sequence, used by Doctor Who in the Three Doctors.

This episode of Blake's 7 was broadcast 2 days after Doctor Who episode 471 Underworld Part Two, which was broadcast on 14/01/1978, and 5 days before episode 472 Underworld Part Three, which was broadcast on 21/01/1978

The Way Back, Space Fall, Cygnus Alpha & Time Squad were adapted into book form by Trevor Hoyle. The Beginning, a compilation of the first four episodes of the series first released in 1985 for £25 and then again at a more affordable price of £10 on the 5th March 1990. Cygnus Alpha finds itself cut down to about 35 minutes for this release, but a full episodic release followed on Monday 7th Jan 1991 paired with the following episode Time Squad as Tape 2 and alongside the other episodes from the first 8 all paired off Tape 1 The Way Back/Space Fall, Tape 3 The Web/Seek-Locate-Destroy & Tape 4 Mission to Destiny/Duel with a DVD release for the whole of season 1 following on 01/03/2004.

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