Monday, 22 July 2013

B7 Killer

EPISODE: B7 Killer
BROADCAST: 20/02/1979
WRITTEN BY: Robert Holmes
DIRECTOR: Vere Lorrimer
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: David Maloney
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 2

"Blake takes risks to help other people. Sometimes people he doesn't even know. One day that great big bleeding heart of his will get us all killed."

Avon and Vila teleport down to the planet Fosferon where Q base is located on as The Liberator detects an old Earth ship approaching and Cally detects a malignant presence aboard. Avon and Vila enter a base through some outlet pipes. Blake has Orac try to obtain information on the spacecraft. Avon has come to see his old friend Tynus: Avon needs a crystal from him to break a new Federation code. The Liberator attempts to warn the base that their salvage vessel is approaching a ship that may be inhabited. Tynus agrees to start a fire to allow Avon to steal what he needs. Orac discovers a ship of that description went missing. Blake teleports down to where the recovery ship is landing he tells the chief scientist Dr. Bellfriar of how the ship had disappeared. A body is brought out the ship and an autopsy is carried out. They trace the body's identity via an ID disc to the crew manifest. The corpse suddenly comes to life an attacks the Doctor killing him before collapsing again. The technicians who tried to rescue the Doctor are taken ill and die.The infection spreads rapidly throughout the sickbay. Tynus sets off his explosive charge allowing Avon & Vila a chance to try to steal the crystal they need. Vila finds evidence that Tynus has warned the Federation that the Liberator is there. Blake has a theory the ship was used as a weapon with a virus planted aboard. He returns to the Liberator to use Orac for some calculations into an antidote for the virus. Tynus holds Avon at Gunpoint but is distracted by Vila and electrocuted. Avon & Vila return to the ship with the crystal they need. Dr Bellfriar transmits information on the virus to Blake before he too is overcome by it. Blake puts a plague warning out on Fosferon.

My goodness! A space plague episode and Terry Nation *ISN'T* writing it. Instead it's a big welcome to long standing Doctor Who writer Robert Holmes who had by this point written (deep breath) The Krotons, the Space Pirates, Spearhead from Space, Terror of the Autons, Carnival of Monsters, The Time Warrior, The Ark in Space, Pyramids of Mars, Deadly Assassin, Talons of Weng Chiang, The Sunmakers, The Ribos Operation and The Power of Kroll. He'd just completed a 3 1/2 years stint as series script editor when Blake's 7 started and Chris Boucher tells that Holmes was offered the Blake's 7 script editor's job before he was. It should be pointed out that Holmes had already script edited 3 Terry Nation stories: Death to the Daleks (uncredited), Genesis of the Daleks and the Android Invasion. You get the feeling that Holmes should have been a good fit as a script editor for Blake's 7.... He has a reputation for using pairs of characters in his Who scripts and repeats it here with Avon & Vila - in fact three of his four Blake's 7 scripts centre round these two. I think it's the first time that it's been just them paired together in the show though there have been other occasions where they've been on missions with others. But out of the crew it's been these two characters that have really stood out so it's great to finally see them getting time together. And FINALLY Avon's in black studded leather a look that's probably most closely associated with the character. It's a shame that some of the other costumes are so awful especially the apron like protective gear and the Michelin Man space suits!

The Avon and Vila section of the plot - get in, convince Avon's "friend" to help them steal something, get out. Yes you can tell it's going to go wrong and the friend will betray them .... It would almost have been nice for it to have played out differently! At least they have the decency to make it obvious early on!

Meanwhile the deserted ship/space plague is so Terry Nation it's untrue, especially when it turns out that the plague is a weapon sent by whoever lurks within "The Darkling Zone". It almost seems like this bit of the story is setting up a running plot point but I don't think it is ever referred to again. I suppose they could be whoever are fighting the Liberator before it's found in Space Fall or possibly an advance guard for the aliens we'll see in Star One. Or even Terry Nation's metal friends from Doctor Who that he wanted to cross over into Blake's 7. We shall never know! The make up on their victim is superb though!

Lots of familiar stuff in this episode: there's the UFO Control panels in the control room on Foforen and reused model shots of the London landing and the Liberator at the end - look very closely and you can see a very small model of the London alongside suggesting it's taken from Space Fall. And yes it's another power station location: it's the Oldbury on Severn location used in Time Squad.

Playing Dr. Bellfriar is Paul Daneman who was Bilbo Baggins in the 1968 BBC Radio dramatisation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. Ronald Lacey is Tynus, a couple of years before his Raiders of the Lost Ark and Firefox appearances. His daughter is the actress Rebecca Lacey. Colin Higgins who plays Tak was the "Fake Wedge" in Star Wars that sits next to Luke on the briefing and says "that's impossible, even for a computer". Michael Gaunt, Bax, has several appearances to his name: he was in Breakdown (uncredited) as XK72 Personnel/Pursuit Ship Leader, Sand (also uncredited) as the Base Computer and Games as the Game Computer on Orbiter. There are some "interesting" entries on his acting CV where you'll get to see more of him than you do in this series! Finally the doomed pathologist Wiler is played by Morris Barry. He directed three Doctor Who stories: The Moonbase, The Tomb of the Cybermen and The Dominators. This is his first recorded TV acting job but he would later appear in The Creature from the Pit as Tollund as well as the David Maloney produced Day of the Triffids.

This episode of Blake's 7 was broadcast 3 days after Doctor Who episode 504 The Armageddon Factor Part Five, which was broadcast on 17/02/1979, and 4 days before episode 505 The Armageddon Factor Part Six, which was broadcast on 24/02/1979.

Video 02 July 1991

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

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