Monday, 14 October 2013

C6 City at the Edge of the World

EPISODE: C6 City at the Edge of the World
BROADCAST: 11/02/1980
WRITTEN BY: Chris Boucher
DIRECTOR: Vere Lorrimer
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: David Maloney
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 3

"He's irritating but useful: We can easily replace a pilot but a talented thief is rare"

Tarrant forces Vila to teleport down to the planet Kezam to help the inhabitants in return for the crystals they need to power the Liberator's Main Blasters. When Cally teleports down to collect the crystals Avon's suspicions about the people they're dealing with prove correct when it turns out to be booby trapped. Vila is taken to a place the locals call the City on the Edge of the World. He is captured by space pirate Bayban the Butcher who wants a door in the city opened behind which the planet's leader says lies "This world and the next". Bayban believes that it houses a vast treasure store. Avon & Cally teleport to the planet to rescue Vila. Vila suspects that the local leader Norl may be using Bayban to get the door open. Avon & Cally encounter the Pirates and track them. Villa penetrates the force field door and steps inside with the pirate Kerril but it reseals behind them. Avon & Cally find three pirates and force them to tell them where Vila is. Vila & Kerril are teleported to a room containing two ancient bodies. A recording speaks to them explaining the fall of the civilisation and how they developed teleportation, which has brought them to a Starship bound for a planet to colonise. They are trapped with their air running out. All four remaining human members of the Liberator's crew teleport to the city and attack the pirates. Vila deduces the ship has landed and they are breathing fresh air. Avon & Cally capture Bayban while Vila & Kerril escape onto the surface where Vila finds a supply of the crystals the Liberator needs. The city unexpectedly starts to get darker as Vila returns and Bayban escapes. Norl tells the Liberator crew that his people are summoned to the city and, grateful to Vila for opening the door, they leave for the new world. Kerril wants to accompany them and encourages Vila to go with her. Bayban returns to kill Kerril and she flees to the other planet. Bayban turns his laser cannon on the forcefield door as Vila teleports back to the Liberator and the reflected blast kills him. A dejected Vila returns to the ship and gives them the crystals they need.

In case you're not sure: this is the Vila episode. He gets the vast majority of the story to himself, gets a lady friend and shows off his skills as a thief. Is it really a Blake's 7 episode? Well my friend Karl said:

I quite enjoy City on the Edge of the World. It falls into that category of "episodes that have nothing to do with the shows themes" but manages to be quite entertaining nevertheless.
and he's hit the nail on the head.

Unlike the last episode's farce with collecting Avon's rock there's a reason for the Liberator being there: They need crystals for the weapons system and Bayban claims to have them in trade for Vila's services which makes sense (and indeed possible explains what Avon & Vila were doing searching for crystals last week)

Tarrent's bullying of Vila to force him to cooperate is particularly unpleasant and it's good to see Avon standing up to him and looking after Vila. Avon's been in the background too much recently: you could almost argue he's been distracted by something. If you've seen the rest of the series you'll know that Avon has two things on his mind (Rumours of Death & Terminal) and making this clear would explain his disinterest in much that's happened as well as explaining how Tarrant can get away with acting like he owns the place even though he's a complete idiot as shown here. There's a sense that Tarrant having mucked it up again rouses Avon from whatever he's doing to a point where he's gone "right let's show him how it's done properly"

I do have a theory as to why Avon's kept Tarrant around and let him do what he wants for a few episodes: Avon needs a pilot. Sure Avon can get Zen to move the ship from A to B but for anything more complicated, especially "interacting" with Federation Pursuit Ships that's beyond Avon's abilities at this moment in time. There's a distinct hint he gets better as the series goes on but at this moment in time Avon needs Tarrant there. What Tarrant needs is putting in his place and that doesn't really happen on screen.

But it is Vila's episode and his interaction with Bayban the Butcher and Kerril is what the show is about and it's fab to watch as Vila goes about reasoning how the locks work demonstrating his craft. The "getting past multiple doors", especially connected with finding ancient bodies and a recording waiting at the end, remind me a lot of the "getting past the traps" sequences in Doctor Who's Death to the Daleks and Hand of Fear.

Chris Boucher even remembers that Dayna designs weapons in this episode with her passing Cally a concealed gun and bringing a heat seeking weapon down to the planet with her!

Bayban is a fabulously over the top,almost pantomime, villain played by future Doctor Who Colin Baker. Years later Paul Darrow would guest star in one of Colin Baker's Doctor Who stories Timelash and, like Colin here, turn in an incredibly over the top performance! One of his henchmen, Sherm, is played by John J. Carney who was in the Doctor Who story The Time Warrior as Bloodaxe while the other Kerril is played by Carol Hawkins who was in a number of the later Carry On films. And if you don't recognise who's playing Norl (and the recorded voice) by his voice the SHAME ON YOU! It's Valentine Dyall, known to Radio audiences as The Man In Black but recently seen by sci fi fans in Doctor Who: The Armageddon Factor as The Black Guardian (he'd return in Mawdryn Undead, Terminus & Enlightenment in 1983) as well as voicing Gargaval in the second series of Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy on the radio (checks dates) and Deep Thought in the 1981 television adaptation of the first series.

The door Bayban is trying to open is set in our favourite Triangle wallpanels. Bayban's black studded gloves will get used again - keep an eye out for them.

I'm suspecting the title of this episode - City on the Edge of the World - owes something to the similarly named Star Trek episode City on the Edge of Forever even if the plots are dissimilar.

City at the Edge of the World was repeated on 15/06/81 as part of the partial repeat run of Series 3. After the first two episodes the next three, all of which I had problems with, were skipped over till this one. City at the Edge of the World was realeased on video on Blake's tape 16 on 7th January 1992 paired with the previous episode The Harvest of Kairos and alongside tape 15 Volcano & Dawn of the Gods. Blake's 7 season 3 was released on DVD on 20th June 2005.

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