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.

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