Monday, 30 September 2013

C4 Dawn of the Gods

EPISODE: C4 Dawn of the Gods
BROADCAST: 28/01/1980
WRITTEN BY: James Follett
DIRECTOR: Desmond McCarthy
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: David Maloney
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 3

"One day, Avon, I may have to kill you"

The Liberator is on course for Auron when it deviates off course and set on a course for the uncharted sector 12. They are dragged into a black hole which Orac is fascinated by due to the absence of X-Ray emissions and seizes control of the ship to satisfy his curiosity. an injured Cally is telepathically contacted by the legendary Auron being the Thraan, who reputedly gave the Auron their gift of telepathy. Vila is sent outside in a spacesuit to make repairs but discovers a gravitational pull and a solid surface. Cally hears a telepathic call again. Villa finds debris and then sees a light before loosing contact. Tarrant goes outside to fetch Villa and they discover a breathable atmosphere. They analyse some of the debris and discover it's part of a spaceprobe but is missing the mineral herculanium which the Liberator's hull is also made of. The crew go outside where they encounter The Caliph, an eccentrically dressed man working for the Thraan. He tells them that they are on the artificial planet Krandor and imprisons them so he can take their ship for his master. Cally tells the others of the legend of the Thraan's return to Auron before she is taken to meet him. They are put to work under the technician Groff while the Caliph has Orac sought and salvage team sent to dismantle the Liberator. Orac engages the ship's defences and kills the intruders. Cally rejects the Thraan and attacks him, deactivating the mechanism that has stopped the Liberator crew using their guns. They flee to the ship and escape. Zen detects that the Thraan has escaped.

An episode that starts with the crew playing Galactic Monopoly with Orac suggests that the writer maybe hasn't quite got the hang of what he's writing for. What follows after that is deathly slow in places, decidedly odd in others but right the way through doesn't feel quite right. It's not helped by Tarrant distinctly taking charge very much relegating Avon to the background making me think this episode was written for Blake (and Jenna) then the names got changed. There's no reference to the missing crew members and no explanation why they're suddenly going to Cally's home planet of Auron .... though IIRC they do eventually get there in 3 episodes time: shades of Blake declaring his intention to go to Earth in Redemption and getting there 3 episodes later.

I think there's a workable story involving the Thraan there as a legend behind Cally's people but as it stands here the moment when they arrive on Krandor it turns into a retread of the aforementioned Redemption with black clad guards and slave gangs. The Thraan is set up as a returning villain with Tarrant even noting "I think we've made ourselves another enemy" but this isn't ever followed up on.

Yes the resuscitation capsule does look like a poly tunnel from a garden. And I think that's the view screen from Doctor Who: Day of the Daleks in Krandor's control room.

Oh so Orac *CAN* operate the Liberator's internal defences now? Shame he didn't do it in the last two episodes when there were Federation troops aboard! You're feeling the lack of a Federation presence in this episode too. It's the first episode since.... Redemption I think where there's no Federation personnel appearing, and only the fourth overall (add The web and Mission to Destiny onto that list). Somehow without the show's recurring villains it turns into a sub par Star Trek knock off.

Second duff episode on the bounce. I'm afraid this is matching my recall of the vast majority of season 3 from the first (and in the most part only) time I watched it when the videos came out. How long is it till Rumours of Death?

Marcus Powell who plays the Thraan was The Web as a Decima. Another episode with an Auron legend in it IIRC. Terry Scully, Groff, was Fewsham in Doctor Who: Seeds of Death and Vic Scully in Survivors.

Dawn of the Gods was released on video on Blake's tape 15 on 7th January 1992 paired with the previous episode Volcano and alongside tape 16 The Harvest of Kairos & City at the Edge of the World. Blake's 7 season 3 was released on DVD on 20th June 2005.

Monday, 23 September 2013

C3 Volcano

EPISODE: C3 Volcano
BROADCAST: 21/01/1980
WRITTEN BY: Allan Prior
DIRECTOR: Desmond McCarthy
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: David Maloney
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 3

"I don't trust anybody except myself, it's why I'm still alive."

Tarrant and Dayna teleport to the planet Obsidian, home to a massive Volcano, seeking some people that Dayna's father knew and to investigate a rumour Blake was there. Dayna & Tarrant are captured and taken to see Hewer the leader of the pacifist colony there, who was at the Federation science academy with Dayna's Father. Servalan has been alerted to the Liberator's presence and sends Federation troops to take the ship. Tarrant asks to use Obsidian as a base. When Tarrant & Dayna don't make contact Avon teleports down after them and immediately looses contact. Servalan and her troops arrive on the Planet's surface and are met by one of the Obsidian colonists Mylus who provides Servalan with a message. She has him and his companion killed. Avon finds the bodies and regains contact with the Liberator reporting he suspects a Federation presence there. Servalan returns to the Federation troopers. Avon sights the troops and returns to the Liberator. Tarrant & Dayna are escorted out the base and captured. Cally receives a message asking for teleport: Vila activates the system bringing 4 Federation troopers aboard. Zen detects 8 Federation cruisers attacking and Avon begins destroying their ships. Cally attempts to contact Avon telepathically. Avon is bemused that the remaining cruisers are approaching but not firing when he is taken prisoner. The Troopers bring Orac to the bridge. Avon has Zen open fire on the ship and attacks the troopers. He is injured and the survivors teleport to the surface with Cally & Orac. Servalan leaves the scene of the battle. Tarrant and Dayna are being held inside the base by Hewer's son Bershar but Hewar finds them and confronts his son for forsaking his pacifistic vow.Hewer has him killed and releases Tarrant & Dayna. Hewer reveals they are dying, the planet contaminated by radioactive fallout. He prepares to set off a nuclear device hidden in the core of the planet to destroy it. Avon sends Tarrant & Dayna after Cally & Orac and gives them one hour. The Federation trooper commander uses Orac to compute a safe approach to the planet for Servalan's fleet. Cally tips Dayna & Tarrant off telepathically to the troopers position. They kill the troopers and retrieve Cally and Orac. They return to the Liberator before Hewer detonates the device destroying the base.

Just dreadful in so many ways. It's obvious from early on that someone on Obsidian isn't towing the party line and since there's only really two of them with speaking roles the field is a little narrow. The rest of them are hard to tell apart and at one point I thought the son had been killed on the surface and we were heading for something with robot duplicates but no...... The Federation Troopers in this episode are missing the green perspex ring/visor round the top of their helmets and it's just symbolic of the whole episode: something's missing and just not right.

I'm led to wonder if it was a good idea to have Federation Troopers wandering round the Liberator for the second episode running? It does rather invite comparison with the previous episode which was so much better. I've had trouble with writer Allan Prior's previous episodes so I feel it's appropriate to apportion some blame to him though d├ębut director Desmond McCarthy probably aught to take some responsibility too. He does win points for reusing some of the BBC's volcano footage used in Doctor Who: Inferno.

Michael Gough appears in this episode where he's absolutely wasted in the roll of Hower. He had one Doctor Who to his name as the time as the Celestial Toymaker in the story of the same name and would return in Arc of Infinity as Hedin. Federation Officer Mori is played by Ben Howard who was Hinks in The Green Death.

Volcano was released on video on Blake's tape 15 on 7th January 1992 paired with the next episode Dawn of the Gods and alongside tape 16 The Harvest of Kairos & City at the Edge of the World. Blake's 7 season 3 was released on DVD on 20th June 2005.

Monday, 16 September 2013

C2 Powerplay

EPISODE: C2 Powerplay
BROADCAST: 14/01/1980
WRITTEN BY: Terry Nation
DIRECTOR: David Maloney
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: David Maloney
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 3

"Summary execution is the usual punishment for boarding a Federation Ship without authority. what are you doing on MY ship?"

The Federation officer is joined by troops and are interrogated by the Federation officer, Captain Del Tarrant, and a troop of soldiers led by Section Leader Klegg. They are unable to take the Liberator off of computer control and are looking for the crew to take control of the ship. Zen refuses to recognise Dayna's voice pattern but before Avon can speak he is attacked & knocked out by Tarrant. They are locked in a cabin as Zen receives a transmission from Vila requesting help. Vila is found by Lom, a native of the planet he is on, who diagnoses a broken arm and take him back to their camp to avoid the hunters. Avon & Dayna escape their sealed room discovering their guard had been stabbed in the back. They shelter under the deck plates and use the tunnels to travel to the flight deck. A recovering Cally is on a hospital ship travelling to a planet to pick up another survivor of the battle before returning to their home planet Chenga. The other survivor turns out to be Servalan. Lom explains to Vila that his people are hunted by people from the north who receive a bounty for capturing them. They are found and attacked. Avon and Dayna's exit is discovered when Dayna fails to seal it properly. Another Federation trooper is discovered dead under the inspection hatch. Avon launches a life capsule to simulate their escape and call off the search. Tarrant reassures Klegg that they have the Liberator but Klegg argues that maybe the Liberator, going where it wants under it's own control, has them. Vila is found by two young women who promise to take him to safety. Cally tried to contact Villa telepathically but as he winces in pain Cally cries out and is recognised by Servalan who is being ignored by the ship's captain who she has requested to see. Avon wonders if there's someone else on the ship working against the Federation officers and leaves Dayna in the room they were locked in as he goes to see Zen, but on the way sights a Federation trooper carrying a money purse. Tarrant discovers the Liberator is heading for Chenga. Zen reports to Avon that Blake was en route to the planet Epheron. Jenna's been injured in a life capsule malfunction, but is recovering on a cargo carrier bound for the planet Morpheniel, and advises her situation needs no priority treatment. There's been no contact from Cally but the Liberator is en route to Chenga to retrieve Villa. Cally is found by Klegg and his men. The women explain how the inhabitants of their planet have split into high technology users and primitives. They reassure Vila that the captive primitives make a valuable contribution to their society. Avon is captured by a Federation trooper who turns him over to Tarrant. Tarrant has discovered Avon's true identity. Avon tries to incriminate the trooper in the murder of the other Federation troopers but in the struggle that follows he is shot by Tarrant, who then admits he killed the troopers and turns a gun over to Avon. Vila is taken to the Hi Tech's city where he is reunited with the newly arrived Cally and they are taken together to Health Reception. Servalan is still trying to speak with a senior official. Tarrant is overheard explaining to Avon that he is a mercenary and smuggler. He was picked up by a Federation Ship, stole the uniform and found Klegg's men aboard the Liberator when he arrived. He knocked Avon out to prevent Zen from identifying him and explains that Klegg and his men are the Federation's Death Squad. Klegg's remaining men hold Dayna in the teleport section as Cally attempts to contact the Liberator. Servalan bids Vila and Cally goodbye as she's about to be transported back to Earth. She explains that Chenga is known as "The Slaughter House" an Organ Bank for spare part surgery. Vila and Cally have been drugged in preparation for surgery. Avon surrenders to Klegg who tells Avon to reprogram the computer to obey him in return for being teleported to the nearest habitable planet. Avon turns Tarrant over to them to buy time as Cally & Vila are anaesthetised. Avon, Tarrant & Cally attack and kill Klegg and his troopers before taking control of the ship and teleporting Vila & Cally back to the ship as they are about to be killed. Avon has Zen encode Dayna & Tarrant's voice prints with orders to obey them too and welcomes them to the ship.

Awww, cracking episode. Any episode you can watch and enjoy despite being sure of the major revelations within is a good one!

Of course I never approached this episode 100% cold because I'd already seen series 4 (twice!) a number of years before buying the video that it came on so I knew who Tarrant was and that rather colours your opinion of it somewhat. I'd like to find a complete newcomer to the series to show it to them to see what they think and how the revelation that Tarrant isn't a Federation Officer goes down. Despite briefly putting in an appearance at the end of the previous episode this is his real introduction and he puts up a decent show here despite sharing all his screen time with either Paul Darrow or guest star Michael Sheard (Section Leader Klegg) whose appearance is altered by sporting stubble, not a usual look for him.

Avon's need to speak with Zen could have been circumnavigated if he'd hung on to Orac. You don't see him after Avon & Dayna's return to the ship so it's a reasonable assumption he was left in the teleport bay. The only reason I can think of that he isn't retrieved is prolonging this element of the plot. However if Klegg & Tarrant had known about Orac and his capabilities that then would have given them a way to gain access to Zen and thus control of the ship without Avon.

The using the service tunnels to get closer the flight deck scenes remind me an awful lot of the sequence in Star Wars where Han Solo and Luke Skywalker hide from the Stormtroopers searching the Millennium Falcon for them. It's a small thing, but it really took me out of the episode although it was partially redeemed by the catches for the floor plate being left up giving away their presence.

The coincidences involved in the B Plots are huge: Cally happens to be on the ship that picks up Servalan (who already had crashed on the same planet Avon did - that model shot of the medical ship landing didn't look a lot like Saren: I'd have super imposed the spaceship onto a location shot of the beach) which in turn happens to be heading for the planet Villa's on where they will be rescued moments before they're killed. Having said that there's a nice reward for viewers paying attention: The ship's destination planet is given as Chenga before Vila learns the name of the planet he's on. So if you've listened carefully you know Cally and Servalan are coming. The revelation about what they're up to on Chenga is carefully hidden, but sinisterly hinted at by saying "They're making an important contribution to our society" The idea of an Organ Bank harvested from live donors is very sinister. It crops up again in a Judge Dredd story Shanty Town 3 years later so I wonder if John Wagner and Alan Grant were watching? The idea of a high tech society exploiting a primitive one is also present in the Doctor Who story the Savages.

Against Vila, Cally and Servalan all ending up in the same place you have to wonder how all the Liberator escape pods ended up on different planets? Surely if they were all ejected at once they'd all end up on the same closest habitable planet?

Those hole laden discs on the walls in the base on Chenga look very familiar: I'm pretty sure they're used as set elements in Destiny of the Daleks....

.... but not half as familiar as the name Tarrant is! Terry Nation's obsession with the name reaches it's final form. There's a Taron in Planet of the Daleks, a Jill Tarrant in Death to the Daleks and a Dev Tarrant in the first episode of Blake's 7 The Way Back! He's rather fond of the name! Playing Tarrant is actor Steven Pacey who, unlike the other new main cast member Josette Simon, has some prior TV form to Blake's 7 including an appearance in the Sweeney. His appearance in The Big Four, one of the last Poirot stories to be filmed, should be broadcast sometime soon!

Eyes down for a full house on the guest cats: The great Michael Sheard is Section Leader Klegg He'd been in the Doctor Who stories The Ark as Rhos, The Mind of Evil as Dr. Roland Summers, Pyramids of Mars as Laurence Scarman & Invisible Enemy as Supervisor Lowe by the time this episode was filmed and would return in Castrovalva as Mergrave & Remembrance of the Daleks as the Headmaster. By this point he'd recorded his scenes as Admiral Ozzel for the as yet unreleased The Empire Strikes Back but his main starring role as Mr Bronson in Grange Hill was still 5 years in his future. John Hollis, Lom, also has Doctor Who (The Mutants: Professor Sondergaard) and The Empire Strikes Back (Lobot) on his CV while his fellow primitive Mall is played by Michael Crane who has two Doctor Who credits: as the King's Champion Blor in The Monster of Peladon: Part One and as an extra in Genesis of the Daleks: Part One. The two hi techs also have form: Zee is Primi Townsend who was in Doctor Who Pirate Planet as Mula while Julia Vidler, Barr, was in Blake's 7 episode A9 Project Avalon as Avalon. Helen Blatch, the Chenga Receptionist had one Doctor Who to her name at the time: she was the Matrix Voice in The Deadly Assassin but would later return as Fabian in The Twin Dilemma. Hidden in the extras are Doctor Who stunt coordinator and occasional actor Max Faulkner and regular Doctor who and Blake's 7 bit parter Pat Gorman who gets to show his face to the camera just before he's killed here!

The surface of Chenga is provided by How Stean Gorge in Yorkshire. I'm wondering where the structure used to show the exterior of the "hospital" complex was.

This is the second episode of Blake's 7 directed by series producer David Maloney. He'd directed two previous Terry Nation scripts for Doctor Who: Planet of the Daleks and Genesis of the Daleks. He does a top job here on a fabulous episode.

This episode of Blake's 7 was broadcast 2 days after Doctor Who episode 525 The Horns of Nimon Part Four, which was broadcast on 12/01/1980, and 5 days before the planned broadcast of episode 526 Shada Part One, which would have been broadcast on 19th January 1980 but was uncompleted due to a strike at the BBC in late 1979. I'm wondering how much said strike affected the production of this season of Blake's 7......

Powerplay was repeated on 08/06/81. It was released on video in the mid eighties as part of The Aftermath along with the previous episode Aftermath and future episode Sarcophagus. The Aftermath was not released in the UK appearing only in Australia. However when the three previous UK Blake's 7 compilation were budget re-released on video for £10 on the 5th March 1990 they were joined by the slightly retitled Aftermath. An episodic release followed on 5th November 1991 on Blake's 7 tape 14 along with the following episode Powerplay and alongside Tape 13: The Keeper and Star One. Blake's 7 season 3 was released on DVD on 20th June 2005.

Monday, 9 September 2013

C1 Aftermath

EPISODE: C1 Aftermath
BROADCAST: 07/01/1980
WRITTEN BY: Terry Nation
DIRECTOR: Vere Lorrimer
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: David Maloney
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 3

"So Blake's rabble finally get freedom of choice: he won after all"

The Liberator flees from the alien counterattack in the aftermath of the battle at Star One which destroyed the Federation base there. The Liberator has been severely damaged forcing the crew to flee the ships in life capsule. The battle is witnessed by primitives on the planet Saren who see it as fulfilment of prophecy. Jenna leaves with an injured Blake while an unconscious Avon is placed in a capsule with Orac. Two Federation troops crash on Saren noting losses of 80% of their fleet. They are found and killed by the warlike natives. Avon crashes on Saren too and is also attacked by it saved by a girl named Dayna who was brought to the planet by her Father as a child. She takes him to safety but he insists on returning to the life capsule for Orac. retrieving it from some natives that were trying to steal it. Servalan has also crashed on Saran and is alone. She finds Avon and holds him at gunpoint, but he's saved by the return of Dayna and the approach of natives causes all three to retreat to the undersea base where Dayna lives with her Father, the former Federation weapons designer Hal Mellanby. Avon tells Hal he was with Blake and Hal admits he has a Federation bounty of 3 million credits on his head. Hal's adopted daughter Lauren is frightened when the Saren locals attack the main hatch. Dayna, Lauren and Hal go to the surface and drive off the attackers. Avon uses Orac to contact Zen on the Liberator. Zen has received instructions from Blake and Jenna is on a hospital ship. No communication has been received from Villa & Cally. Avon orders Zen to move to his location and collect him. Zen also confirms a vehicle approaching the Liberator and Avon orders Zen to let it dock before Zen is cut off in a burst of static. Servalan proposes an alliance with Avon, telling him Star One has been destroyed, but Avon rejects both her offer and romantic advances. Dayna and Hal return to the base but Lauren remains outside to check the entry lock. Avon tells Hal of the Federation's fall and tells him he could leave. Lauren is captured by the Sarens. Servalan attempts to abscond from the base but is caught by Hal while she is trying to steal Orac. She kills Hal and leaves with Orac. Avon gives Dayna a teleport bracelet and they pursue Servalan to rescue Orac and avenge her Father's death. They discover Lauren's body strung up on the beach. Servalan is captured by the Sarens but rescued by Avon who needs Orac's location. Servalan demands to be taken with them. They return to the entry lock and dig up the hidden Orac who reports that the Liberator is nearing them. Servalan attacks Dayna but the Sarens attack in the struggle. Orac teleports Avon and Dayna to the Liberator while Servalan shelters from the Sarens in the base. Avon & Dayna are held at gunpoint in the teleport bay by a Federation officer who claims the Liberator is his ship.

This episode feels like Terry Nation's got a checklist of things to do: write out Jenna & Blake without them appearing, introduce one of their replacements, give the new lead character an episode to himself..... oh and resolve the cliffhanger from the end of the last episode/season. In many ways the resolution is a bit of a cop out: the battle is over before the episode starts thus avoiding a big (expensive) effects laden spaceships fighting sequence. A lot of what we do see at the start is actually reused footage: I can spot the Nova Queen from the crash at the start of Star One. In fact this sequence at the start of the episode is probably the first bit of Blake's 7 I ever saw, shown as a clip on a children's program. Launching all the crew off in lifepods ticks the boxes for points 1 & 3 on the list above - it also gives Vila & Cally most of the episode off too and sets up retrieving them as a plot for next week - and puts Avon into a position where he can encounter the new character Dayna as well. Having Servalan crash land on the same planet as Avon is stretching credibility a bit: Star One was meant to be in the middle of nowhere last episode yet this episode 3 sets of combatants (the aforementioned Avon & Servalan plus a pair of quickly dispatched Federation officers) end up on the same beach! Avon's right, staying at home at Space Command would have been a safer move for Servalan but you can see her point about putting in an appearance after the battle was all but over. (remind you of any of today's politicians) They've encountered each other a few times before (Project Avalon, Orac and Pressure Point) but only very briefly. Here they get extended screen time together and they're fabulous together. The scene where Servalan tries to seduce (literally) Avon with an offer of power is great as is his response that he'd be dead in a week! Servalan gets to wear lavender this week. OK it's borrowed clothes so it's not exactly her choice but it's only the second time (Red in Gambit) that she's worn anything other than white. Although the white dress she had on at the start of the episode was spotless for someone who'd been in a space battle and crashed into a sand dune!

Hal's adopted daughter Lauren: what purpose does she serve to the plot? She hardly says or does anything before meeting her fate and that in itself is hardly necessary as we've seen a strung up Saren at the start of the episodes. Dayna meanwhile is given a motive to go with Avon to get revenge on Servalan for the killing of her Father: she gets a decent introductory episode but keep in mind she's spent most of her life on Saren because this minor point will become significant later.

Yes the Sarens are another more primitive humanoid civilisation: see Deliverance and The Keeper. And several later episodes. Yes we have a disabled scientist living in an Underground base: see Dalek Invasion of Earth and Genesis of the Daleks.

So... we've got finding Blake, Jenna, Vila and Cally left to do. Yes we know Blake and Jenna are gone but .... If you wanted any more proof that Blake's gone look at the opening titles: they're different now removing the sequence of Blake's torture and his face that's been there since episode 1. Putting a Federation officer onto the ship at the end automatically provides a decent cliffhanger to get people back next week.

Newcomer Dayna is played by Josette Simon. Blake's 7 was her first TV job. Her father Hal is played by Cy Grant. An actor, writer, musician and poet the Guyanese born Grant was one of the first Afro Caribbeans to be regularly seen on UK television when he performed during the 50s. I've just read his wikipedia entry and that's some life he led! Almost makes me ashamed that the only thing I knew him for was voicing Lieutenant Green in Captain Scarlet! Three of the cast have Doctor Who form: Alan Lake, Saren leader Chel, was in Underworld as Herrick (though he's probably best known for being Diana Dors 3rd Husband). One of the crashed and ill fated Federation Troopers is Richard Franklin who was UNIT Captain Mike Yates (Dirty stinking Traitor) from 1971 to 1974 while the other Michael Melia is the future The Visitation Terileptil leader and Eastenders Queen Vic Landlord Eddy Royle

The Saren beach location is found near Bamburgh Castle, in Northumberland.

This episode of Blake's 7 was broadcast 2 days after Doctor Who episode 524 The Horns of Nimon Part Three, which was broadcast on 05/01/1980, and 5 days before episode 525 The Horns of Nimon Part Four, which was broadcast on 12/01/1980.

Aftermath was repeated on 01/06/81. It was released on video in the mid eighties as part of The Aftermath along with the following episode Powerplay and future episode Sarcophagus. The choice of episodes is a little perplexing since none of the episodes in Season 2 leading up to and including Star One were ever released on Video. Sarcophagus' inclusion is an entire different level of perplexing as we'll cover when we get there but for my money a better third episode would have been Rumours of Death or Terminal. The Aftermath was not released in the UK - I can remember seeing it listed as an import from Australia in an advert in Celestial Toyroom the Doctor Who fanzine. However when the three previous UK Blake's 7 compilation were budget re-released on video for £10 on the 5th March 1990 they were joined by the slightly retitled Aftermath. I bought The Beginning and Orac on the day of release and returned the very next day for Aftermath. An episodic release followed on 5th November 1991 on Blake's 7 tape 14 along with the following episode Powerplay and alongside Tape 13: The Keeper and Star One. Blake's 7 season 3 was released on DVD on 20th June 2005..... Putting the DVD on now has annoyed me as there's footage from the last episode of the season running behind the menu screen of disc 1! A Blake 7 Series 3 - Limited Collector's Edition DVD also exists containing a replica of the Corgi Liberator mounted in a plastic dome on the cover.

Monday, 2 September 2013

B13 Star One

EPISODE: B13 Star One
BROADCAST: 03/04/1979
WRITTEN BY: Chris Boucher
DIRECTOR: David Maloney
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: David Maloney
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 2

"As far as I'm concerned you can destroy whatever you like. You can stir up a thousand revolutions. You can wade in blood up to your armpits. Oh, and you can lead the rabble to victory -- whatever that may mean. Just so long as there's an end to it. When Star One is gone, it is finished, Blake. And I want it finished! I want it over and done with, I want to be free!"

All over the Federation accidents start happening & weather control fails as Star One's control breaks down. Servalan refuses to believe the evidence placed in front of her. The Liberator is approaching Star One's coordinates on the edge of the galaxy and Blake plans to destroy it. All the crew have doubts except for Avon who wants the Liberator when the attack is over and Blake has won. Servalan uses the situation to have the Federation Council taken into custody staging a coup. She locks down Space Command, forcing her staff to begin a search for clues to it's location.On Star One Technician Lurena becomes suspicious of her colleagues who turn on her forcing her to flee as they hunt her down. Avon locates a planet orbiting a dying white dwarf: they deduce that is the location of Star One. Lurena is found by one of her colleagues but when she shoots him the body begins to change. Avon discovers that Star One's location is at the nearest point in the galaxy to the Andromeda Galaxy and on the most likely route between the two. Beyond Star One lies a massive minefield grid which Blake wonders is to keep mankind in or something else out? Lurena finds a room in the complex filled with the bodies of Star One's crew. Cally locates an entrance to an underground complex. Avon, Cally and Blake teleport to the surface. Blake & Cally are captured as they enter the base but a suspicious Avon, telepathically alerted by Cally, escapes. Jenna detects a ship making a surface landing on Star One. Blake & Cally are taken to see chief scientist Stot who mistakes him for their ally Travis. Avon finds the real Travis on the surface. Orac analyses the minefield controlled from Star One. Left alone Blake and Cally start laying charges. Avon & Travis enter the base but when Avon finds Lurena Travis escapes. She shows Avon the crews bodies and tells them copies are walking around alive. One attacks Avon and he shoots it turning it into a green alien corpse. Stot explains to Blake how they have duplicated both the bodies and brain patterns of the crew. Travis enters the room and shoots Blake. Avon & Lurena find Cally. The alien technician prepares the mechanism to deactivate the defence zone. Jenna has Orac send a message to space command warning them of the incoming invasion fleet. Zen detects the defence zone deactivating. The wounded Blake shoots Travis, his guards attempt to kill Blake but Avon shoots them and then Travis, causing him to plummet over a balcony to his death. Avon and Cally begin removing the charges to preserve what's left of the defence grid. Servalan scrambled the Federation Fleet in response to Orac's message. Blake sends Lurena to remove a charge he hid but she is found by the alien invaders. Cally throws the charges out onto the surface of Star One where they explode. The crew teleport back to the Liberator where the wounded Blake is placed in the medical unit. Avon, faced with relief from the Federation fleet being hours away, elects to keep the Liberator at Star One and defend against the oncoming alien fleet.

And so after many episodes bouncing back and forth between various people who *might* know where Star One is (see last episode) we finally get there ...... only to find that some Aliens from Andromeda have beaten us to it! Now they've been there a while, certainly long enough to murder all the crew and take their place, which makes me think they weren't relying on Travis' information to find it so why didn't they just tell him to meet them there? Why has he spent the last few episodes mucking around trying to find it's location? And how did it take Travis so long to get there from Goth if he left before the Liberator? Yes I suppose you could argue the Liberator is faster....

But once we get there the episode cracks on nicely thanks in part to making the wise choice of giving Avon lots of lines and screen time. Paul Darrow, once again clothed in his shiny silver Surface Gear, is fab throughout this episode. Blake's absent for most of the second half after having been shot by Travis so Avon's effectively running the show and does a pretty good job of it: disposing of Travis, dealing with the charges and taking the decision to stay and fight leading to Blake's 7 second great end of season cliffhanger as Avon orders he Liberator to open fire.

OK so if the Andromeda aliens want the minefield deactivated so they can get into our galaxy how come they are already there? Orac's analysis indicates there's been some sort of prior contact with them which they theorise was a scout ship. I think there's been an Andromedan presence in our Galaxy for sometime. If I was joining the dots together - and there are quite a few of them laid out in the series - I'd say that there's been an Andromedan colony in The Darkling Zone near Earth (Killer) and they're responsible for the plague weapon in the same episode. Further I'd even point the finger at them being the other party in the Space Battle the London witnesses in Space Fall that results in Deep Space Vehicle 2 being abandoned and encountering the prison ship. They're the only other real major force we see in the series. The plague is an attempt to attack the humans deliberately and at the same time they've somehow made contact with Travis (how? There's no indication he's working with anyone else or anything other than a loyal, albeit scapegoated, Federation officer before this episode) which has led to them finding Star One.

The Andromedans must be terminally stupid if they fall for Blake's "She's my mother" line when introducing Cally. Surely "she's my Bodyguard would be more sensible?"

Of course it may not have originally been Andromedans in this episode: Rumours persist that Terry Nation was very keen to have his original creations the Daleks in Blake's 7: here would have been an ideal point to involve them. It's notable that Terry Nation doesn't write this episode after having kicked off the Star One plot thread: script editor Chris Boucher does. Couple that with the presence of producer David Maloney behind the camera for the first time this series and there a hint of some behind the scenes last minute difficulties here.
There's a few familiar elements in this episode: the slow space model sequence at the start and radio exchange reminds me a lot of Chris Boucher's later work Star Cops. I'm sure the Star One sets incorporate the computer banks from UFO..... And I think that the round rooms are a redress of similar sets for the bar and casino from Gambit while Old Lightmoor Colliery in Cinderford, Gloucestershire provides the location for the surface of Star One. Yes Avon's silver jacket is back - why haven't the others bothered putting extra gear on to go down to the surface? It's as if Avon presciently knew he'd be spending longer outside ;-) I don't recall their being a blood splatter from the effect of the Liberator's guns before.... but then again it is the first time Avon's shot an Andromedan. We never get to see their native form just a steaming pile of green goo after death.

If you're watching along at home and haven't seen beyond this point then look away NOW!
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This is the last episode of Blake's 7 for THREE of the main cast. Obviously Brian Croucher has gone, with Travis being shot by Avon and then plummeting to his death! Sorry Brian I much preferred Stephen Greif in the role! The other two departures are less obvious from a narrative point of view: both Sally Knyvette (Jenna) and Gareth Thomas (Blake) declined to return for season 3. Come back next week to see how the story writes the characters out. You'll need to wait till the very end of the series to discover their eventual fates and even then there's room for ambiguity. Yes even for Blake! Neither has a particularly great last episode as a regular: Jenna's stuck on the ship while Blake is effectively removed from the action just after half way through when Travis shoots him. Jenna's last line "they can't all come through that gap at once" is particularly lacklustre but Blake's " For what it is worth, I have always trusted you. Right from the very beginning" to Avon is a bit special. Would you trust Avon?

Sally Knyvette went on to appear in Emmerdale Farm where she played Kate Hughes/Sugden who was married to Joe Sugden a character played by former Doctor Who companion Frazer Hines. Gareth Thomas meanwhile returned to the Theatre, and in particular the RSC. He appeared in many further television productions over the years, including two return guest spots, and probably has had the most successful career post Blake's 7 of any of the cast.

I can see one obvious name on the cast list: Gareth Armstrong plays Parton, one of the Star One technicians and he was in Doctor Who Masque of Mandragora as Giuliano. Servalan's aide Durkim was played by John Bown who was in Doomwatch as Commander Neil Stafford in 12 episodes. And from my youth we have Michael Mayard playing Leeth (another Star one technician) who was a presenter on the 1979 series of You and Me and was Frederick Crossfield in the 1985 series of No 73!

(with thanks to http://www.hermit.org/blakes7/Episodes/scripts/ for helping me figure out which character was which!)

Most of the uncredited extras have some Doctor Who form but unfairly uncredited is Michael Spice, the voice of the Nova Queen Pilot at the start of the episode. He worked on two Doctor Who stories: Brain of Morbius as the Voice of Morbius & Talons of Weng-Chiang as Magnus Greel.

Series 2 wanders around all over the place. After Orac it doesn't really get going till Pressure point a few episodes later kill Gan and introduces the idea that there's a central control computer for the Federation..... at which point we get bogged down in a long off again on again plot to find Star One and bounced from person to person who might know where it is. A nice idea, but poorly executed. Thankfully the final resolution shown here is rather good! Best episodes? Star One, Countdown, Pressure Point and Redemption. Still can't decide if Gambit is genius or madness!

Star One was released on video on 05 November 1991 as part of Blake's 7 tape 13 with the previous episode The Keeper and alongside Tape 14 Aftermath & Powerplay. The Blake's 7 season 2 DVD containing this episode was released on 17 January 2005.