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.

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