Monday, 1 July 2013

B4 Horizon

EPISODE: B4 Horizon
BROADCAST: 30/01/1979
WRITTEN BY: Allan Prior
DIRECTOR: Jonathan Wright Miller
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: David Maloney
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 2

"Oh YOU are curious! I'm glad we have a worthwhile purpose!"

"I'm not expendable, I'm not stupid and I'm not going!"

The crew of the Liberator are suffering from delayed shock and exhaustion. After a near collision with a Federation freighter heading into the distant reaches of the galaxy for the planet Horizon, a planet visited by the Federation just once a year. Curious they pursue at a distance. As they approach the planet they are attacked by a defence system and only survive because of the ship's force wall. Blake & Jenna teleport to the planet where they find a mining operation before they are captured and interrogated by the planet's ruler Ro. Ro is being visited by his Federation tutor Komissar and reveals he is holding Blake. A worried Gan and a reluctant Vila teleport to the planet searching for the missing Blake & Jenna and they too are captured. Blake tries to sway Ro that the Federation have them enslaved for the ore, Monophasium 239, that the Federation are mining there using the planet's primitive population. Blake recalls to Ro meeting one of his friends, Poora, on the way to Cygnus Alpha. Blake, Jenna & Vila are put to work in the mine where Jenna meets Ro's wife Selma who has been imprisoned there. Avon tries to persuade Cally that they should run and leave but she teleports to the planet with information Orac has found on Horizon. When Cally looses contact with the ship Avon prepares to leave in the Liberator. Cally tells Ro that the Komissar killed his Father. The Komissar allows for Selma to be restored to Ro's side. Blake is brought out of the mine and tries to negotiate his life for the planet's freedom but is sent back to the mine. Avon intercepts a message from the Komissar to the Federation and that Federation Pursuit ships are on their way. He too teleports to the planet, but has Orac put him down where he won't be detected. Disabling the detector cameras as he moves he attacks the mine guards and frees Blake and his friends. Blake has Orac bring them all back to the ship. Selma is captured by the Federation trying to abscond. She is tortured by the Komissar. Blake returns to the palace and shoots the assistant Komissar. Ro rebels embraces his heritage and donning traditional dress slays the Komissar. He tells Blake he will resist the Federation as Blake teleports back to the Liberator. The Pursuit ships approach but are destroyed by Horizon's defence system.

In many ways this is a by the numbers episode: Blake turns up to a planet under Federation control and his actions free it. There's nothing really complicated going on (Shadow) there's no silly ideas (Weapon) and the costumes look a lot better that the last episode. We even get a "hang the gun on the wall" moment earlier on showing the defences the planet has which is then used later in the episode to save the Liberator which is a lot more satisfying than the ending of Shadow was. There's some reused model work, albeit with an effect laid over the top, of the London (from Space Fall) to show the Freighter approaching the planet but I can live with that: they're both Federation cargo ships. Whether that was a wise idea when Blake references the events of that episode is less clear especially when the person he mentions wasn't shown then!

Interestingly Avon, given the chance to run and be free with the Liberator and Orac his to do with what he will, doesn't take it. He goes down to the planet (the first time all of the human crew is off the ship) and rescues Blake in a very efficient manner. For all his dissmisiveness Avon needs his crew mates more than he says.

A first Blake's Seven script for Allan Prior here, who's got no previous Doctor Who experience but had written for Z-Cars and Softly Softly. He returns for 4 more episodes B8 Hostage, B12 The Keeper, C3 Volcano & D5 Animals making him the third most prolific Blake's 7 writer behind creator Terry Nation (19) and Script Editor Chris Boucher (9). His daughter is Maddy Prior of Steeleye Span who is believed to have inspired the X-Men character Madeline Pryor.

The Kommissar is played by William Squire who features in the Doctor Who story in progress when this episode was shown, The Armageddon Factor, as The Shadow. His assistant is Brian Miller who was in the Doctor Who story Snakedance as Dugdale and provided Dalek Voices for Resurrection of the Daleks & Remembrance of the Daleks. His wife was the actress Elizabeth Sladen who played Sarah Jane Smith. Souad Faress plays Selma and provides the voice of Usha Gupta in The Archers. Her husband Ro is played by Darien Angadi, a former Top of the Form contestant, who committed suicide just a few years later aged only 32.

The Blake's 7 fanclub take their name from the title of this episode.

Horizon was broadcast 3 days after Doctor Who episode 501 The Armageddon Factor Part Two, which was broadcast on 27/01/1979, and 4 days before episode 502 The Armageddon Factor Part Three, (the first episode of the serial to feature William Squire) which was broadcast on 03/02/1979.

Horizon was released on video on 02 July 1991 as part of Blake's 7 tape 9 with the following episode Pressure Point 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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