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.