Monday, 19 August 2013

B11 Gambit

EPISODE: B11 Gambit
BROADCAST: 20/03/1979
WRITTEN BY: Robert Holmes
DIRECTOR: George Spenton-Foster
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: David Maloney
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 2

"And do all your ex-patients try to kill you?"

In a bar in Freedom City Travis is acting as a bodyguard for Docholli the surgeon Blake is seeking. Blake teleport teleports to Freedom city with Jenna & Cally. Servalan is also at Freedom City seeking Docholli & Travis - she consults with the local ruler & casino owner Krantor and they strike a deal for 8 million credits for them both. Krantor discovers that Docholli is working under the alias Klein and decides to capture him for the information he possesses. Avon & Vila decide to use Orac to swindle the Casino. They use the theory of molecular reduction to shrink Orac so it can be taken with them. Travis is captured by Krantor's men. In the casino the Klute is challenged at speed chess, but the Klute wins electrocuting his opponent as Vila & Avon watch proceedings. Servalan as a grenade planted in Travis' robotic arm and dismisses him. Blake witnesses a bar owner being roughed up by one of Krantor's thugs Cevedic who is searching for "Klein" Cally deduces Klein is in the back of the bar. Avon & Vila's successful run on the roulette wheel is detected. Jenna & Cally stage a fihght allowing Blake to gain access to the Bar's back room where he finds Klein's abandoned surgical kit. Servalan wants Krantor to get the knowlege of Star One's location so she can have him killed and clean up Freedom City. Travis seeks Docholli to have his arm fixed, but he is being monitored by Krantor who also discovers his location. Travis kills Krantor's men seeking Docholli. Blake finds them and demands the location of Star One but Docholli doesn't know where it is. Vila is corerced into playing the Klute at speedchess. Docholli tells how he erased the memories of the technicians who worked to build Star One. He faked the operation on the last victim. Orac advises Vila wha moves to make and he defeats the Klute allowing Avon & Blake too escape with their winnings. Docholli tells Blake the last man to remember Star One's location is a man named Lurgen. They faked the operation and he is hiding on a planet Goth where the brain print is now being held by a tribal chief on a necklace. Blake returns to the Liberator where Avon & Vila insist they have been waiting for him all along.

What on Earth was that?????? A lawless frontier colony, where anything goes, yes I can get that. But one where they're all dressed up in ancient Earth costumes?????? It's worth pointing out that this episode occupies the same spot in the season that Bounty did last season and that too featured someone with an ancient Earth obsession. The basic idea is just so mental, so insane, that it just doesn't belong in the same series as the rest of what we've seen. And hiding in the middle of this is the cyber surgeon Blake is seeking now conveniently being guarded by Travis. EH???? How did Travis work out Blake wanted this man? And why has it suddenly become expedient for Servalan to have him eliminated? Has there been an episode between the last one and this one that we missed out???? Or did Chris Boucher just forget to have the line about Blake hunting Docholli dropped into a scene that Travis was present in in the last episode????

Another lawless frontier world where you can get away with anything sounds a lot like Space City in Shadow and the script compounds this by drawing attention to the fact. Yes swindling the casino is the obvious thing Avon & Vila (teamed for the second time in a Robert Holmes script) would do if they could.... but doing it with an Orac they can suddenly miniturise ?

It's mad. Barking absoloutely mad. I can't decide if Holmes' script is genius or he's just completely lost the plot!

Right the way through there's little touches which suddenly make you think eh????? Cally showing a huge bit of leg to tuck Docholli's picture into her boot because the designer's not given her pockets. Servalan who we're now used to wearing odd outfits, but always in white, suddenly has red on (it doesn't suit her at all). And as for what Kandor and his staff are wearing..... The Foppish Prince Regent stuff is bad enough but putting a 70 year old woman in the outfit from Cabaret????? I feel we need to name the guilty here: Costume Designer Barbara Kidd who'd worked onnthe show since Trial and has contributed to both old and new Doctor Who. Since it's someone with some experience we have to assume that the costumes are a specific instruction from on high! If they're meant to be there in the middle of some odd festival fair enough, and indeed Krantor makes a brief reference to Mardi Gras without justifying it, but they just seem to be wearing odd costumes for no reason!

The cast, a larger than average one, features a whole load of familiar Doctor Who names. Docholli is played by Denis Carey who would go onto play Professor Chronotis in Shada, the Keeper in The Keeper of Traken and the old man Borad in Timelash. Aubrey Woods, Krantor, was in Day of the Daleks as The Controller (come to think of it he had odd eye make up there too) Sylvia Coleridge, the Croupier in the Casino, was in the Seeds of Doom: Amelia Ducat while Paul Grist, Cevedic, was in Claws of Axos as Bill Filer. Deep Roy, The Klute, Had been in Doctor Who: Talons of Weng Chiang as Mister Sin but also appeared in Blake's 7 Searies 1 episode 5 The Web as a Decima and would return in series 3 episdoe 11 Moloch as Moloch. At the time of this episode's broadcast John Leeson, playing Krantor's assistant Toise, has just completed his first stint as K9 in Doctor Who from the Invisible Enemy to Armagedddon Factor. He'd previously been in Blake's 7 episode A7 Mission to Destiny as Pasco. Another Blake's 7 returnee in this episode is Michael Halsey, as Zee one of Docholli's former patients seeking revenge. He was Blake's defence attourney Tel Varon in the first episode The Way Back (odd that an actor from that episode should show up the episode after a character from that episode returns! As we noted then he emigrated to the USA where he had a successful career playing Brits including two Airwolf episodes:Peter MacGregor Moore in Echoes from the Past and Dunkirk in HX-1. Finally the actress who played Chenie, Nicolette Roeg had been previously used by director George Spenton Foster in Terry Nation's Survivors as Blossom in The Peacemaker.

Those Chess Graphics date the episode a bit! I'd have them updated if ever the opportunity to do a CGI version of the show arose!

One little bit of dialogue sprang out at me: Chennie mentions a planet hopper - we'll see one of those a little later in episodes from Rescue on onwards!

No still can't make my mind up if this episode is madness or genius!

Gambit was released on video on 3rd September 1991 as part of Blake's 7 tape 12 with Voice from the Past and alongside tape 11 which contained Hostage & Countdown. The Blake's 7 season 2 DVD containing this episode was released on 17 January 2005.

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