Monday, 27 May 2013

A12 Deliverance

EPISODE: A12 Deliverance
BROADCAST: 20/03/1978
WRITTEN BY: Terry Nation
DIRECTOR: Michael E. Briant
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: David Maloney
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 1

" Including yourself, that's two people who think you're wonderful."

At Space Command Servalan remotely observes a spacemaster ship approaching the planet Cephelon 6 days from it's destination, a planet devastated by war who's inhabitants have reverted to primitives. The ship shifts trajectory before an explosion causes it to crash. The Liberator witnesses the explosion and they go to help the survivors who have launched life capsules. Avon, Jenna, Vila & Gan teleport to the surface. Jenna & Gan discover an entrance to an underground bunker and locate a life capsule containing a dead body. Avon and Vila find the other with a badly injured survivor. Avon has them all teleported to the Liberator, where the survivor is taken to the surgical unit, but Jenna is missing. Avon, Villa and Gan return to look for her, finding her necklace lying on the ground. They split up to search faster. Identification on the dead body reveals him to have AA security clearance while the survivor has power cells on him and, fly demands to be taken to his dying father on Aristo and to tell him that the Federation will pay 100,000,000 for Orac. He holds Cally at gunpoint and demands Blake take him to Aristo leaving the others behind. Servalan speaks with Travis who wants his command back so he can catch Blake. She tells him that Orac is a device created by the scientist Ensor. She supplied Ensor's son with the surgeon Marriot, who operated on Travis, to go with him to operate on his father. She arranged the explosion on the younger Ensor's ship to ensure the elder Ensor's death so she can steal Orac without paying for it. Avon, Villa & Gan are attacked on the planet and flee. They are admitted to the Underground Bunker which is sealed behind them where they meet Meegat a young woman who falls adoringly at Avon's feet saying she has been waiting for him The Younger Ensor begins to weaken on the Liberator's flight deck. Meegat directs Avon to the scavenger's camp. She tells how there are less than a hundred of her people, and maybe twice as many scavengers but both races are dying. She brings them to a control room and explains how they are the fulfilment of a prophecy. Gan finds a window to a rocket silo which Avon and Gan conjecture contain brood units. Meegat's people don't know how to launch the rocket. Avon, Vila & Gan reactivate the control room bringing the systems online and prepare to launch the rocket. Ensor sets a deadman's switch on his weapon which he is holding on Cally. Avon gets Meegat to direct them to the Scavenger's camp which they infiltrate rescuing Jenna and return to the Bunker. Ensor collapses allowing Cally to escape and with his dying breath urges Blake to take the power cells to his Father. They return to Cephelon as Avon launches the rocket ensuring Meegat's people will survive elsewhere in the galaxy. The Liberator lays in a course for Aristo.

Ah you gotta love this one. Avon being worshiped as the saviour of a civilisation while Vila and Gan heckle him. Superb. Avon's chosen the occasion to debut his new surface gear a reflective silver jacket setting him apart from the rest of the crew. Back comes the pod from Time Squad repainted in white, along with some new escape capsules that we'll see again later, and back comes the idea of growing a race from genetic cells though to be fair they actually reference Time Squad here. We've got a planet devastating war, high radiation and mutations on the planet - Tel's raiding his back catalogue again borrowing from the Daleks and Genesis of the Daleks. He's also quite fond of rockets in silos with countdowns running - see Genesis of the Daleks and Android Invasion. And Travis actually gets to show he likes another human being with his reaction to Servalan effectively sacrificing the surgeon who put him back together and punishing his family. This is also the first time we get to see Servalan as a corrupt character rather than just an evil Federation overlord.

Unfortunately this is the second episode on the trot where those on the surface get left behind while the Liberator has to move away - if they weren't being held at gunpoint you'd claim it was Blake & Cally getting revenge. There is the element of the two plot strands being shot gun married together but the events on the planet have an impact as the story of Ensor and the mysterious Orac is continued next episode. The Primitives on the planet look like they're being led by 'Aitch and sure enough they are and he remembers the day out filming this one all too well even if he gets the location wrong slightly - they're nearby in Reigate in Betchworth Quarry again. Making his Blake's 7 debut in this episode as one of the Scavengers is noted Doctor Who extra Pat Gorman. He'll go on to appear in Voice from the Past as a Federation Trooper, Gambit as the Trantinian planet hopper Captain, Powerplay as a Death Squad Trooper, The Harvest of Kairos as a Federation Trooper, Rumours of Death as a Federation Trooper, Power as a Hommik Warrior, Traitor as a Helot, Games as a Federation Trooper and Blake as a Federation Trooper. In fact the scavengers in this episode are a veritable Who's Who of 70s and 80s background artists: In addition to Harry Fielder & Pat Gorman the following all have Who form: John Hogan, Billy Horrigan, Steve Ismay, Steve Kelly, Ian Munro, William Perrie (better known as half of Dobbin Rentaghost's Pantomime Donkey), Joe Santo, Derek Suthern, Reg Woods (a Krarg with H in Shada) and Ron Tarr! Chris Webb & Terence Plummer both assisted The Sweeney with their enquiries while Terry Richards has a prominent appearance as a show off swordsman in Raiders of the Lost Ark!

Blatant bit of time wasting in the middle of Jenna's capture by the cavemen - she escapes and is immediately recaptured! It's only function is to remind us she's still there!

Cally's glasses and music are a bit cringeworthy in a trying to be futuristic but now horribly dated type way. The ending of the episode needs a little work though with Jenna saying "standard by 6" as the titles crash in over the top of it. That needs cutting with the episode ending on Blake's course order. It's a sloppy way for one of the more fun Blake's 7 episodes to end especially as it's the last episode that Michael E. Briant. Come to think of it one of his Doctor Who's - Revenge of the Cybermen - involves a rocket with a countdown too. He makes one last attempt at reusing a member of his Doctor Who cast with Tony Caunter appearing as the younger Ensor. Briant used him as Morgan in Colony in Space but he was also in The Crusade as Thatcher and Enlightenment as Jackson before finding fame as Roy Evans in East Enders.

Of course the main thrust of this episode, which continues in the next is the mysterious Orac. I came to this story for the first time knowing what Orac was because I'd seen later episodes. In fact that why I bought the re-release of the 80s compilation tape when it was reissued for £10 on the 5th March 1990. It was one of four tapes reissued that day alongside The Beginning, Duel & Aftermath. Beginning and Orac were instant purchases with Aftermath following the next day and Duel the following weekend. An episodic version followed on Tape 6 paired with Bounty and was released alongside Tape 5 Project Avalon/Breakdown on 5th March 1991. It was part of a DVD release of the whole of Blake's 7 season 1 on 1st March 2004. The episode also appears, albeit in a cut down form (so I'm told) in the second Blake's 7 book, Project Avalon, along with Seek Locate Destroy, Duel, Project Avalon & the next episode Orac. Deliverance was the first episode of Blake's 7 to repeated on 27/12/78 as part of a compilation with the following episode Orac in the run up to the start of the second season. The episodic version was repeated on 06/05/2000 as part of a repeat of series 1.

Monday, 20 May 2013

A11 Bounty

EPISODE: A11 Bounty

BROADCAST: 13/03/1978
WRITTEN BY: Terry Nation
DIRECTOR: Pennant Roberts
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: David Maloney
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 1

"None of us showed conspicuous intelligence on this occasion."

Blake and Cally are on a mission to free the imprisoned former President Sarkoff of the planet Lindor when the Liberator intercepts a distress call from cruiser Star Queen. Gan teleports over but when he communicates with the ship Zen tells Vila that the voice is not Gan but not in time to prevent Avon & Jenna teleporting something back to the Liberator. Blake infiltrates Sarkoff's prison castle and tries to persuade the ex president to come with him and return to his planet Lindor to unite his people. Blake claims that the elections that deposed him were rigged. Blake tries to contact the liberator to have them teleported but there is no response. Blake forces Sarkoff to accompany them by threatening his collection of 20th century memorabilia and he leaves along with his bodyguard Tyce. Blake still can't raise the liberator but they are teleported back to a seemingly empty ship. Zen cannot locate the crew for Blake he finds Jenna claiming the others are dead before someone attacks him with a gas gun. He is locked up with Avon, Villa, Cally and Gan. Avon tells Blake Jenna has changed sides to work with her old friend Tarvin and his people the Amagon who is holding Tyce and Sarkoff prisoner. He has set course to rendezvous with Federation ships. To give them the crew and ship for a 13 million credits Jenna attempts to bribe Tarvin with liberators wealth. She evades er guards. Villa frees Blake from his restraint and he finds Jenna. Tyce holds Tarvin at gunpoint but is overcome, but Sarkoff grabs her gun and shoots him while he is distracted by Blake. Blake returns Sarkoff and his daughter Tyce to Lindor.

Sometimes you wonder where to start.... Terry Nation's obviously got another pair of plots that won't quite stretch to a full episode so once again he merges them. They roughly split the episode in two down the middle with little overlap between them. The problems start with the detail behind the first one being barking mad. Imprisoned in a castle? With his collection of Earth memorabilia and a vintage car????? nuts. The only function Sarkoff's odd habits serve is to give Blake a lever to force him to co-operate. The sequences set on the planet aren't helped by Cally suddenly deciding to go all individualistic and don a leopard fur jacket instead of the normal hooded top! * About the only thing I really like about this element of the plot is Blake's revelation that they're acting on information gained from federation computers using a stolen cypher machine, which we saw them steal in Seek Locate Destroy.

* an explanation for this can be found if you look behind the scenes: this is the first episode of Blake's 7 featuring a trip planetside since Barbara Lane finished her stint as Blake's 7's original costume designer and was replaced by Rupert Jarvis. He'll change Avon's jacket as well next episode but will return to Cally's original one for the final episode of the season!

Then we have Tarvin and the Amagons.... One of Jenna's old friends and a bunch of his mates taking over the ship would be an OK plot thread. But when the invaders are Indian actors dressed up to look like and acting like racially stereotypical Arabs it doesn't feel quite right. I'd like to be charitable and think this is an attempt to show how different cultures become mixed together overtime but I've watched other 70s TV series and seen how interchangeably non white actors are used without any respect to their actual origins. This half of the episode troubles me greatly.

And then, right at the end of the episode, from nowhere Tyce is suddenly Sarkoff's daughter! What? That just comes from left field and needs a lot more hinting at earlier in the episode.

T. P. McKenna plays Sarkoff. He's familiar to Doctor Who fans as Captain Cook in The Greatest Show in the Galaxy but has a lengthy stage and screen career. His daughter Tyce is played by Carinthia West. No wikipedia page, and only a short IMDB entry but a quick google search reveals she's has an interesting life associating with the Rolling Stones, as a photographer and an occasional actress. Marc Zuber, Tarvin has got two Space 1999 credits to his name a Main Mission Operative in Black Sun and a Security Lieutenant in Brian the Brain while Mark York, Federation trooper Cheney , was in an earlier Anderson series UFO as the Skydiver 3 Engineer in The Psychobombs. Derrick Branche the Amagon guard, had a recurring role as the nurse Gupte in Only When I Laugh and appeared in Father Ted as Father Jose Fernandez in The Passion of Saint Tibulus.

Waterloo Tower, Quex Park, Birchington, Kent is the location for the prison holding Sarkoff.

This episode of Blake's 7 was broadcast 2 days after Doctor Who episode 479 The Invasion of Time Part Six, which was broadcast on 11/03/1978, and was the last episode in Doctor Who's 15th season.

Missing from the compilation videos this episode was first released on Tape 6 paired with Deliverance and alongside Tape 5 Project Avalon/Breakdown on 5th March 1991. Bounty was repeated on 29/04/2000. A DVD release of the whole of Blake's 7 season one followed on 1st March 2004.

Monday, 13 May 2013

A10 Breakdown

EPISODE: A10 Breakdown

BROADCAST: 06/03/1978
WRITTEN BY: Terry Nation
DIRECTOR: Vere Lorrimer
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: David Maloney
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 1

" I'm finished. Staying with you requires a degree of stupidity of which I no longer feel capable"

Gan is afflicted by headaches and becomes violent attacking first Jenna then Blake before he is overcome by the rest of the crew and tranquillised. They restrain him in the sickbay and discover that his limiter has malfunctioned and needs repair. They locate a neuro surgeon at the XK-72 space lab but it means crossing a region of space designated dangerous and Zen shuts the computer systems down. Avon attempts to restore the computers in flight but they suffer problems. Gan breaks free in the sickbay and goes on a rampage as the Liberator nears a gravitational vortex and is caught by it. Gan attacks Avon and tries to damage the computer systems but is knocked unconscious as the ship's thrust activates. On Blake's orders Jenna flies the ship through the centre of the vortex and out the other side. They arrive at the XK-72 station and Blake teleports over and fetches Professor Kayn to the objections of the station manager Farren. Avon goes to the station to see Farren while Kayn's assistant Renor teleports to the Liberator. Avon offers Farren the secret of teleportation in exchange for being allowed to stay. Kayn discovers who Blake is and delays Gan's operation contacting the nearest Federation base who send pursuit ships. Farren tells Avon who returns to the Liberator to warn Blake. Vila holds Kayn at gunpoint forcing him to operate. Kayn warns them that the ship cannot be moved while he is operating and Blake gives him a time ultimatum to complete the operation before the pursuit ships arrives. The operation is completed and Kayn & Renor are returned to XK-72 where Kayn argues with Farren. The pursuit ships open fire on the Liberator but a plasma bolt goes wide destroying the station.

AKA The one where Gan's limiter finally goes wrong.

Yeah they've been telegraphing this one for a while with Gan making comments to himself about "I wonder if my limiter's malfunctioning" notably when he saw Sinofar & Giroc in Duel. The problem is these comments, on screen at least, are mainly to himself but Blake seems to know here. So to fix the limiter they need a neuro surgeon so they need to get to a neuro surgeon .....

More accurately this should be described as "the two ideas that Tel couldn't make stretch to a full episode so he put them together". Gan being unwell is then, bar one mad rampage which is telegraphed by the sickbay scenes being on film, put on the back burner while the Liberator plots a course through a dangerous region of space that Zen refuses to take them through. This then means we don't get to the space station until well over the half way mark ..... which then means that you've wasted half the episode before lead guest artist Julian Glover even gets to appear which is criminal. You get the feeling there may have been more in the station plot they could have used because everything feels very rushed from this point onwards.....

The station crew come out as quite well developed in this time though: Farren's a rulebook jobsworth, Renor's a lecherous so and so who's looking to use the words "Top Totty" at every possible opportunity and while Kayn is the gifted neurosurgeon he's also obsessed with the idea of order and dislikes the chaos Blake is bringing to the point where he'll put Gan's life at risk and violate the station's neutrality by summoning the Federation. This then leads to the cowardly Villa grabbing a gun and threatening Kayn to save his friend's life and the selfish & self centred Avon, who's intending to do a runner, coming back to the Liberator to warn Blake. In fact all through the episode there's a streak in Avon coming through that maybe he does want to protect his shipmates and possibly cares about them after all: when negotiating with Farren he stipulates that Blake and the Liberator must be allowed to leave as well as delivering the warning about the approaching pursuit ships.

I really don't know.... structurally it's a bit of a mess looking like a cut & shut job on two different ideas and Renor is truly cringeworthy. But opposite that there's some decent character work, especially from Julian Glover. The look on his face at the end when he realises he's lost control and used his precious surgeon's hands to murder Farren is great.... the final word on the quality of the episode may have to go to the ending with the crew of the Liberator standing around laughing together like some awful 70s/80s US series. UGH!

Both of my favourite recurring set elements are in this episode! Yay! Liberator's computer room seems to stock every computer element ever used in UFO while Farren's office has the triangle/hexagonal wall panels from the Mutants. The long straight lines on the panels are vertical here again.

The guest cast is dominated with the all too brief appearance of Julian Glover as Kayn. His CV was long by this stage (and included King Richard in DW: The Crusade as well as a Space 1999 role) but he was about to enter a stunning run of form that would include Count Scarloni/Scaroth in DW: City of Death, General Veers in Empire Strikes Back and the villain Kristatos in For Your Eyes only. He's married to Isla Blair who was Sinofar in A8 Duel. Christian Roberts, who was Kayn's assistant Renor has Doctor Who form too in Web Planet 4 Crater of Needles, 5 Invasion & 6 The Centre as the Optera Hetra and The Chase 2: The Death of Time as Malsan while Ian Thompson who is Farren was in UFO – The Long Sleep as Tim Redman.

This episode of Blake's 7 was broadcast 2 days after Doctor Who episode 478 The Invasion of Time Part Five, which was broadcast on 04/03/1978, and 5 days before episode 479 The Invasion of Time Part Six, which was broadcast on 11/03/1978.

Missing from the compilation videos this episode was first released paired with Project Avalon as Tape 5 and alongside Tape 6 Bounty/Deliverance on 5th March 1991. Breakdown was repeated on 22/04/2000. A DVD release of the whole of Blake's 7 season one followed on 1st March 2004.

Thursday, 9 May 2013


I must thank m'learned coleagues at Roobarb's Forum for coming up with some information that I really aught to have obtained before I started writing about Blake's 7. Namely, the Terrestial Repeat Broadcast Dates!

None of the episodes we've covered so far were repeated until a complete Season 1 repeat was conducted by BBC2 in 2000. So.....

A1 The Way Back was repeated on 12/02/2000
A2 Space Fall was repeated on 19/02/2000
A3 Cygnus Alpha was repeated on 04/03/2000
A4 Time Squad was repeated on 11/03/2000
A5 The Web was repeated on 18/03/2000
A6 Seek-Locate-Destroy was repeated on 25/03/2000
A7 Mission to Destiny was repeated on 01/04/2000
A8 Duel was repeated on 08/04/2000
A9 Project Avalon was repeated on 15/04/2000

Of course the episodes may well have been repeated by both UK Gold and, possibly, Super Channel before then!

Monday, 6 May 2013

A9 Project Avalon

EPISODE: A9 Project Avalon

BROADCAST: 27/02/1978
WRITTEN BY: Terry Nation
DIRECTOR: Michael E. Briant
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: David Maloney
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 1

"Another idealist, poor but honest. I shall look forward to our meeting with eager anticipation."

Blake is travelling to an icy planet to collect the resistance leader Avalon. She has been betrayed by one of her group and captured by Travis. Blake arrives to find her resistance group massacred with just one survivor Chevner. Avalon is taken to a Federation facility where Travis and Servalan intend to use her to capture the Liberator. Servalan brings Travis a new airborne bacteria which he tests on a captive killing him instantly and neutralising itself in 23 seconds. Blake breaks into the facility to rescue Avalon, but the Liberator is driven away by Federation pursuit ships returning in the nick of time to rescue Blake, his party and the freed Avalon. Blake realises the Federation troops let them escape and demonstrates that the weapons the troopers were wearing had been doctored. They deduce it's a setup to gain the Liberator and suspicion falls on Chevner. The ship is searched, while Avalon visits Gan on the bridge blaming Chevner. Cally is found unconscious by Jenna who is advanced on by a hideously scarred Chevner who collapses dead. Avalon pulls a vial of bacteria from her tunic but is fought and restrained by the others. Avon reveals that Avalon is an android. Avon reprograms the android and they return to the planet. Blake confronts Travis & Servalan and demands Avalon, threatening to crush the vial of bacteria. He leaves the bacteria with the Android with instructions to crush it on certain triggers before teleporting to the Liberator. Travis manages to catch the vial as the android drops it. Servalan blames Travis and orders an enquiry relieving him of command.

I've always liked Project Avalon since I first saw it on the Duel compilation tape. It makes sense and works somehow. Travis' plan isn't barking mad, even if it does contain several old Terry Nation tropes the Android duplicate assassin (The Chase, Android Invasion) and his particular favourite the virus (Dalek Invasion of Earth, Planet of the Daleks, Death to the Daleks, Genesis of the Daleks & Android Invasion in Doctor Who as well as forming the basic premise of Survivors). And don't forget that the whole story is dependant on another resistance group being betrayed (Dev Tarrant in The Way Back). But the justification - killing Blake to gain the Liberator's technology - is disturbingly prescient. Even some of the little details are good: they explain why Chevner is killed, because me may have worked out the android is the real Avalon, but equally Cally, who is also attacked, is a target because her telepathy may have allowed her to detect the android. Almost everyone gets something to do this episode, even Gan, and both villains are in it. It's probably the best episode in series one.

Couple of returning props: Avalon is wired into the machine used to brain wash Blake in the first episode and the security robot from Seek-Locate-Destroy is back.

Travis has changed his lead female Mutoid since the last episode - he was threatening to have her court martialled - and the new one is played by a young Glynis Barber. More of her later. The other Mutoid in Dual, Christopher Smart, is back in another non speaking role. Julia Vidler plays Avalon and will be back in episode C2 Powerplay as Barr. Her CV on imdb has 9 entries and two of them are Blake's 7! Michael Briant had used her before on Angels..... whereas David Bailie, Chevner, had been Dask in the Briant directed DW: Robots of Death and John Rolfe, Terloc, was Fell in DW: The Green Death (director Michael Briant!) as well as a Captain in The War Machines and Sam in the Moonbase and Fell in The Green Death and John Baker (the scientist) had been a Time Lord in DW Colony in Space 1 (Honestly Briant's more guilty than Camfield of reusing people) as well as appearing in Planet of the Spiders: Part One as an Audience member/Mediator and The Visitation: Part One as Ralph. And I'm pretty sure that's Stuart Fell who's struck by Travis in the tunnels.....

.... which were filmed in Wookey Hole the location for the 1975 DW story Revenge of the Cybermen (Go on, guess who directed it!) while the entrance was filmed in the nearby Milton Quarry.

This episode of Blake's 7 was broadcast 2 days after Doctor Who episode 477 The Invasion of Time Part Four, which was broadcast on 25/02/1978, and 5 days before episode 478 The Invasion of Time Part Five, which was broadcast on 04/03/1978.

Project Avalon gave it's name to the second Blake's 7 book which also features adaptations of the earlier episodes Seek Locate Destroy & Duel, and the later episodes, Deliverance & Orac. All these later appear on video compilations with Project Avalon being the third episode on the Duel tape with Locate Destroy & Duel. This was originally released for £25 in the mid eighties before being re-released for £10 on 5th March 1990 alongside the other three compilations. An episodic version formed part of the second of full episode releases on Monday 5th March 1991 paired with Breakdown as Tape 5 and alongside Tape 6 Bounty/Deliverance. A DVD release of the whole of Blake's 7 season one followed on 01/03/2004.