Monday, 8 July 2013

B5 Pressure Point

EPISODE: B5 Pressure Point
BROADCAST: 06/02/1979
WRITTEN BY: Terry Nation
DIRECTOR: George Spenton-Foster
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: David Maloney
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 2

"If we succeed, if we destroy control, the Federation will be at it's weakest. It will be more vulnerable than it has been for centuries. The revolt in the outer worlds will grow. Resistance movements on Earth will launch an all-out attack to destroy The Federation, they will need unifying; they will need a leader. You will be the natural choice."

Travis & Servalan lie in wait for Blake at an Underground Security Centre as the Liberator approaches Earth. Blake plans a raid into the Forbidden Zone to destroy their control computer. He has made contact with resistance leader Kasabi so he doesn't have to risk his crew on the raid. They volunteer to come with him anyway, including Avon who hopes to gain the Liberator when Blake is occupied running a full rebellion. Kasabi's group are massacred by Servalan who takes her prisoner. Travis finds a homing beacon about her person which he uses to summon Blake just as he has given up and is planning to leave. Blake & Gan teleport down into the ruins of a church. They find a survivor of Kasabi's group, her daughter Veron, hiding in the ruins. Avon is suspicious that Blake has not made contact with Kasabi. Avon & Villa teleport into the Forbidden Zone to analyse the defences and are teleported to Blake just before the systems activate. Blake's party are gassed by Veron who steals their teleport bracelets and seals them in an underground crypt. She delivers the bracelets to Travis as per ordered who tells her that her Mother has died in captivity. Gan forces the door allowing them to escape, evading Travis. Blake's party hide in the Forbidden Zone with Avon deactivating the defence system allowing them to get inside. They descend into the bunker with Vila opening the door to Control which they discover is an empty room. Travis corners them and explains that Control was moved off Earth 30 years ago. Servalan orders their release, having been captured by Jenna and Veron, who explains how she was forced to betray them. Travis throws a grenade at Blake bringing the roof down and trapping Gan who is killed. Veron remains on Earth to continue the Rebellion while Blake's party return to the Liberator and flee the solar system.

A bit of a game changer this one in more ways than one.

Yes it ups the anti by killing off one of the main characters. Reportedly writer and series creator Terry Nation, returning for his first episode since Redemption wasn't happy with Michael Keating's performance as Vila and wanted to kill him. Vila however was a popular character with viewers. Gan however... the character has had little to do all series. At one point actor David Jackson is alleged to have handed script editor Chris Boucher a note with the number 4 on it. "What's this mean?" asked Boucher. Jackson replied "That's the number of lines I have in this week's episode" Ironically he does actually get something to do this week behaving very protectively towards Veron. Misguidedly so as it turns out. But by killing Gan the series raises the stakes somewhat and gives it a "nobody is safe" feel that pervades for the rest of the run helped by a number of other disappearances and deaths along the way.

The idea of a Federation Central Control computer running everything, introduced here, drives the rest of the season. It's a stunning reveal that it's not where everyone says it is with Blake charging triumphantly into what turns out to be a completely empty room and then sinking to his knees. Blake's at his most fanatical in this story and he looks more broken by discovering Control is not where he thought than by the death of Gan.

Servalan is provided with some background here..... though the story differs depending on who you believe. We know for certain that Servalan was an officer cadet under Kasabi and turned her in for treason. Kasabi's version indicates that Servalan wasn't up to the grade and she got tuned in for listing Servalan as unfit for command .

Not 100% convinced by the quality of the location footage in this episode - it looks very washed out. But hurrah for a return of the security camera during it: it features in the title sequence and is the very first thing we see in the series proper.

Paul Darrow cannot run!

Some more idiocy from the main cast - just how long does it take them to realise their teleport bracelets are missing after they wake following the gas attack?

The various traps Blake's team have to penetrate to reach traps Control is more than slightly reminiscent of the getting into the Exillon city sequence in Death to the Daleks, and to a lesser extent the journey to the Dalek City in the Daleks. But it's a stable of the 40s Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers series Terry Nation was brought up on so....

Were you fooled by the different lighting on various levels in the complex? No, neither was I: it's the same set again and again bought home by seeing the ladder 3 times!

The ending, with Jenna turning up holding Servalan at gun point, was bit too much "In the nick of time" for me especially as it isn't remotely telegraphed in advance..... And how did she do it? Lock onto the teleport bracelets, beam down, capture Servalan, release Veron who has seen the error of her ways and then get Servalan down the ladder into the bunker in *THAT* dress which is completely different to what she was wearing in the rest of the episode ???????????? (What is that Lizard doing to her? No I don't want to know!)

But if you're summing this episode up in the end it comes down to being "the one where Gan dies". David Jackson continued to appear on televison for many years after he left the series. He died of a heart attack on July 25, 2005 aged 71, the first member of the regular Blake's 7 cast to die.

Rebel leader Kasabi is played by Jane Sherwin, the wide of former Doctor Who Producer/Script Editor Derrick Sherwin. Blake's 7 Producer David Maloney cast her in one of his stories, The War Games, as Lady Jennifer Buckingham. Playing her daughter Veron is Yolande Palfrey who'll later appear in Doctor Who: Trial of a Timelord 9-12 (Terror of the Vervoids) as Janet. One of the Mutoids, Sue Bishop was also in a Doctor Who playing a Sister in The Brain of Morbius while the actor playing the rebel Arle, Alan Halley has a Terry Nation's Survivors credit to his name as Henry in The Peacemaker.

Locations used in this story are mainly found near Abingdon: Church Farm, Abbey House (The Abandoned Church), Under Croft & the RAF base (control's defences) plus Hardwick House in nearby Pangbourne.

This episode of Blake's 7 was broadcast 3 days after Doctor Who episode 502 The Armageddon Factor Part Three, which was broadcast on 03/02/1979, and 4 days before episode 503 The Armageddon Factor Part Four, which was broadcast on 10/02/1979.

Video 02 July 1991

Pressure Point was released on video on 02 July 1991 as part of Blake's 7 tape 9 with the following episode Horizon alongside Tape 10 Trial & Killer. The Blake's 7 season 2 DVD containing this episode was released on 17 January 2005.

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