Monday, 21 October 2013

C7 Children of Auron

EPISODE: C7 Children of Auron
BROADCAST: 18/02/1980
WRITTEN BY: Roger Parkes
DIRECTOR: Andrew Morgan
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: David Maloney
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 3

"Democracy. You're outvoted, Avon. Three to two."
"Four to one. I like to stay with the winners whenever possible."

The Liberator is en route to Earth so Avon can eliminate Shrinker the torturer who killed his girlfriend Anna Grant. Servalan rescues a pilot from Auron and then, after giving him refreshment and repairing his ship, releases him. Cally explains to Tarrant & Dayna how she left her isolationist world to become a resistance fighter on Saurian Major. The pilot arrives on Auron dead and from a plague Servalan has infected him with. Cally senses the mass death from the plague occurring on Auron. Auron prepares to evacuate it's genetic stock which is being looked after Cally's twin Zelda who is summoning her sister. The Liberator diverts to assists, against Avon's wishes. Servalan wants to use the Auron genetic replication technology so she can reproduce but has planned to seize the Liberator in the process. The Liberator brings one of the ailing Auron aboard for analysis. Avon, Cally & Tarrant are taken prisoner by Federation troops in the auron control centre while Servalan has her genetic print taken by the Auron gene scientists. Orac succesfully treats the Auron brought aboard the Liberator. Servalan demands that Vila surrenders the Liberator to her unaware Dayna is aboard. When Servalan sends an officer aboard Dayna takes him prisoner. Vila threatens to destroy Servalan's ship but Servalan tells him the only cure to the disease thgey are now infected with is aboard. Zelda's colleague Franton distracts the guards allowing Avon, Tarrant & Cally to escape and they take shelter in the replication plant with Zelda and Servalan's developing embryos. Dayna teleports to the Replication plant bringing enough bracelets for the crew but Zelda remains behind to tned the Embryoes. Servalan is decieved by one of her officers, Ginka, into believing the embryos have fertilised using on of her other officers gene stocks and opens fire on the Replication plant destroying it and killing Zelda. Servalan senses the embyoes death and realising she has been decieved she kills Ginka before Avon returns their hostage before laying a course in for the planet Karn to deliver the two surviving Auron and the gene stock to a potential colony.

Very close to being very good. Just not quite there.

The main thrust of the plot is fab: Servalan infects an entire planet with a pathogen just so you she can reproduce, selling it as another attempt to take the Liberator (Federation troops on the ship count: 4 out of 7 this series) The planet that's supplying the technology to enable her to reproduce through cloning is Auron, where Cally is from, and a byproduct of the cloning process is what gives the younger members of the Auron their telepathic ability: otherwise they're just normal humans. (There's a neat throwaway line about the destruction of the Clonemasters to cover why Servalan isn't using the technique we saw in Weapon to produce Clones of her)

Hang on a second, the telepathy is a result of the cloning process? Just a few episodes previously Cally was recounting the legend of the Thraan who was supposedly responsible for giving the Auron their telepathy. Oi, Boucher: do your job properly and make the series internally consistant!

Cally's reluctant to return to her home: her people are isolationists. I think this might clash a little with the explanation given in Time Squad, which gets referanced here but hey to. Hang on wasn't the Liberator purposefully going to Auron at the start of Dawn of the Gods ? Hmmmmm. In this episode we're en route to Earth so Avon can kill the torturer Shrinker who killed his girlfriend Anna Grant: a direct link to the next episode and back to Countdown, where Avon met Anna's brother. And Servalan's entire plot may even have been inspired by a previous episode, Killer, where a colony is wiped out by a plague.

The point the episode goes off the rails a bit is it's handling of Ginka, one of Servalan's crew. It's obvious he's a nasty piece of work who enjoys his job a bit too much from the word go so it's not really a surprise to find out halfway through that he wants his captain's job and hates him, even if it does suddenly leap to the forefront. However for a plot point that's absoloutely crucial in the end, motivating Ginka's lies to Servalan causing her to destroy the reproduction unit, it's introduced late and might have worked better as a slow drip drip drip throughout the episode.

Ginka seems to handle the line about technician Franton being the original Franton's daugher very very badly. You think what's the point of labouring that tiny detail? I can only conclude that somewhere down the line it was relevent that she didn't have telepathy and that then's got lost in later versions of the script.

It's not the only point the script feels odd in the episode Avon's insistance that they don't get involved with personal matter is completely undermined by him having stated just minutes earlier that they're on their way to Earth to kill someone as an act of revenge. But Vila not destroying Servalan's ship because the only cure for the disease is on board? He's got an Auron that Orac has just cured standing next to him at the time! There again if anyone is going to make a mistake and fall for that it's going to be Vila.

Servalan has never struck me as the motherly type so I'm wondering where this sudden desire for children and prolonging her legacy has come from..... close call with Death following Star One? Her romantic encounter with Jarvik in Harvest of Kairos? A bit of both perhaps? Yes the public reason for this operation is to seize the Liberator but the real reason is the desire to produce children. That's why she's gone to Auron in the first place and why she's having the Auron sent to to her ship for cure in protective suits in small numbers: they need the suits to get unnoticed to the replication plant. Presumably that's why they got Franton sent over first - did the episode also loose something about them brainwashing her to ensure co-operation with Servalan's scheme?

So Avon & Co hole up in the Replication Unit. Servalan won't destroy it cos her embryos inside. So to get her to destroy it Ginka convinces her that his commander Deral has substituted his genetic material and she destroys the replication plant. Fine so far. But first watch through I wondered how did Servalan know that the embryos were hers afterwards Her line "I felt them die" feels a bit too emotional for her? The answer is the embryos have the telepathic gift from the Auron cloning process - she's in contact with them when they die. I'd seen it claimed that Servalan's experiences here are the reason she wears black for the rest of the series, in mourning for her lost children. Decent theory except *this* is the episode she starts wearing black in after having dressed near exclusivley in white before. Ok then so why is she crying before launching the attack then? It's because she believes she's been decieved by Derral, she must kill Avon and the only was to do it is to throw away her chance at reproducing. Though I'd have thought given that it's Servalan we're dealing with a fit of anger leading to her launching the attack would be the most likely response *and*then* emotional shift to the shock at what she's done.

Zelda's death in the rocket attack annoyed me: it's a bit too Adric. Any character charging off to die pointlessly is silly!

My biggest problem with the episode though is the ending. I do not like Americain style end the episodes with everyone laughing endings one bit. But using one here is a gigantic mis-step: We've just witnessed Servalan commit genocide during the episode and we end with the Liberator crew laughing. Wrong. Very very very wrong. Leaves a very bad taste in the mouth after what was otherwise a really good episode.

(an extra thought thought occurs to me on the ending: is everyone else on Auron dead? Could the Liberator have helped any remaining survivors giving them Orac's cure)

Things we've seen before: look it's another circular room, this time serving as the Auron control room. I'm so used to seeing rooms with straight walls that everytime I see a round room it jumps out at me..... but it might also be that I thinks that this is the same set as the bar in Gambit and the control room in Star One redressed. The helmets worn by the Federation troopers are missing their visors again (Volcano). Oh and one of the Federation Troopers is apparently 'Aitch making his only appearance of the season.

Ginka is played by Ric Young Who would later appear as Kao Kan in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. The actor that played Deral, his commander, is Rio Fanning who was in Doctor Who - The Horror of Fang Rock as Harker. CA One, the Auron Controller, is Ronald Leigh-Hunt who's got two Whos to his name The Seeds of Death as Commander Radnor & Revenge of the Cybermen as Commander Stevenson. The infected Auron Pilot Four Zero that brings the disease to the planet is Michael Troughton, the son of Patrick who's recently written a very good biography of his father. Cally's twin Zelda is played by Jan Chappell in addition to her usual role as Cally. She's not the only member of the cast to play two roles: Gareth Thomas doubles up as a Blake clone in Weapon and Stephen Pacey plays Tarrant's brother Deeta in Ultraworld. Jan Chappel's got another dual credit in Sarcophagus but if I'm remembering right that one's a bit odd and it's dubious to if she's Cally or not. Of course Peter Tuddenham voices two roles nearly every week!

This is writer Roger Parkes second Blake's 7 episode after Voice From The Past, but director Andrew Morgan's only episode for this series. He'd later direct the Doctor Who stories Time & The Rani and Rememberance of the Daleks. Morgan uses Leeds Polytechnic (now Leeds Metropolitan University) Civil Engineering Dept as the location for the cloning plant and Thruscross Reservoir for the exterior chase sequence where the size of structure add to what we're seeing.

Incredibly Children of Auron wasn't repeated during the June/July 81 repeat run of Blake's 7 series 3. In my opinion it's the best episode of the series they left out and substantially worse episodes were included! Children of Auron was released on video on 07the April 1992 on tape 17 paired with the following episode Rumours of Death and alongside tape 18 Sarcophagus & Ultraworld. Tape 17 was also available as an exclusive from Woolworths stores containing a bonus interview with Paul Darrow. Blake's 7 season 3 was released on DVD on 20the June 2005.

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