Monday, 30 December 2013

D4 Stardrive

EPISODE: D4 Stardrive
BROADCAST: 19/10/1981
WRITTEN BY: James Follett
DIRECTOR: David Sullivan Proudfoot
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: Vere Lorrimer
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 4

"I'm very sorry about this but that was the backup system"


Scorpio is flying close to an asteroid using it as cover to enter the Altern system when it strikes the Asteroid damaging the ship. Avon & Tarrant go into the drive chamber, protected by a force wall, to make repairs but while they are there three Federation ships approach Scorpio before suddenly exploding. Orac analyses the recording and detects the Federation have re-established their ship building program and lost their main stardrive designer. Viewed slowly a spacecraft is found travelling at standard by 12. Vila recognises the ship as belonging to the Space Rats, a group obsessed with weapons and speed. They assume Dr Plaxton is being held by the Space Rats developing faster stardrives for him so they decide to visit the Space Rats on the planet Casper and steal an example of her work. Dayna & Vila teleport to the planet but are swiftly captured. While the Space Rats are distracted by Dayna & Vila, Scorpio lands and Avon, Tarrant & Soolin infiltrate the base. They free their friends and Doctor Plaxton taking her latest Stardrive with them. As Scorpio leaves the planet it is again approached by Federation Pursuit ships and has no chance of outrunning them. Doctor Plaxton enters the drive chamber and begins wiring in the drive system in. As she makes the final connection Avon activates the system killing her.

I'm really quite fond of Stardrive. I know I probably shouldn't be but I am. It starts with an Asteroid and in 1981 Asteroids could do no wrong having heavily featured in Empire Strikes Back which I suspect provides some considerable inspiration for parts of this episode. Yes the plan to get into and out of the Altern system is barkingly mad but it might have gone OK if the guidance system hadn't gone at a crucial moment (Things 8 year old Phil learnt from this episode: what Murphy's Law was).


Then Vila, who's been on top form so far this season, plays drunk and comes up with a solution to their problem that will get home.... You know I loved that effect where Avon & Tarrant regenerate the hull plate when I was younger... now I look at it and think that'd work if only they didn't include the panel lines on the regenerated section!


Hurrah Federation Pursuit ships! Not seen those for a while.... I think Harvest of Kairos was their only appearance last year. The argument is, and picked up here, that the Federation fleet was decimated at Star One and has only just started to recover. Once they get mysteriously destroyed it's back to base (hurrah, Scorpio enters the hanger at a slower speed than in Rescue) for Orac to cryptically hint and leave the crew to do the hard work instead of just telling them what's happening.

Then off we traipse to Casper for Avon to steal the Stardrive. Sticking Vila & Dayna in to get caught, while he Tarrant & Soolin sneak in round the back, is a bit naughty though! There's a fab sequence where Dayna & Tarrant speak to Avon and they expect him to be on the flightdeck but he's traipsing over the sand dunes (apparently a quarry near Dunstable in Bedforshire). It's amusing that an earlier part of the episode involves Avon & Tarrant regenerating a wall yet later on they're dissolving one as part of their heist!

The Space Rats, a kind of galactic Hell's Angels seem a good concept, however the implementation is a bit off! Liz's instant reaction to seeing the Space Rats was "oh that's very silly!". Look at that hair, how do they get it under their helmets? And it must go under the helmets: Vila & Dayna get captured by a Space Rat inside - Rat has hair, they get marched outside for plot purposes so Avon can see them - Rat has helmet on, they get brought before Atlan - Rat has hair! Conclusion: it's the same space rat and yet not a hair is out of place in the second shot! The real reason he's wearing the helmet in the exterior shot is the same reason Dr Plaxton's got a cloak, she wears it earlier in the episode when she goes to see Atlan and then again with the hood up during the escape: it's to save on the expense of hiring the actor for the location shoot when a cheap extra will suffice! The Space Rats choice of ground vehicles - the little buggys and trikes immediately made me think Space 1999 and Day of the Daleks!

Some more fab effects work here, especially Scorpio and the Asteroid and Scorpio sitting on Casper's surface.

What happens to Doctor Plaxton's assistant Napier? He just disappears mid episode!

Soolin watch: This week she gets to find the ship on the video and gets grabbed by Altan to use as a hostage. Still nothing major while Dayna's played big roles in all four episodes so far and been sent out on both missions. There again Dayna's known Avon a while and likely to take his use of her & Vila a bit better. And keeping newcomer Soolin with Avon allows her to ask questions and Avon to do some explaining.

Then there's the episode end which is wonderful stuff. Being pursued from Casper by the Federation, Avon powers up the Stardrive just as Plaxton makes the final connection frying her when she does. The flowing starfield and crew hammered back in their seats gives you a clear impression of the power of what they've just stolen. But it's the closing lines that live on with you:

Dayna: What about Doctor Plaxton?
Avon: Who?
Superb stuff. She was only ever a means to an end for him. He wanted the Stardrive and wasn't remotely interested in her after he'd got it!


Doctor Plaxton is played by Barbara Shelley who's got a whole load of horror films on her CV plus would appear as Sorasta in Doctor Who: Planet of Fire. Damien Thomas play Atlan. He'd later appear with Soolin actress Glynis Barber in Dempsey and Makepeace as Tony in the episode Guardian Angel as well as appearing as Michael Samuels in House of Cards. Leonard Kavanagh, Napier, was in the first Sweeney film as the Pathologist and Jonathan Creek: Mother Redcap as Judge Forrest Sweetland.

Stardrive was included in the Blake's 7 novelization Scorpio Attack written by Trevor Hoyle along with Rescue & Traitor. Stardrive was repeated on 25/06/1983. It was released on video on 7th July 1992 as part of Blake's 7 tape 22 where it was paired with the next episode Animals and alongside Tape 21 Power & Traitor. Blake's 7 season 4 was released on DVD on 24th April 2006.

Monday, 23 December 2013

D3 Traitor

EPISODE: D3 Traitor
BROADCAST: 12/10/1981
WRITTEN BY: Robert Holmes
DIRECTOR: David Sullivan Proudfoot
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: Vere Lorrimer
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 4

"Blake would have been proud of you, you know?"
"I know. But then he never was very bright!"

On the planet Helotrix Colonel Quute interrogates a surprisingly docile prisoner Igen who he releases to return to his resistance group led by Major Hunda. Orac tells Avon of Helotrix's reintegration to the Federation furthering their quick rebuilding. He decides to visit Helotrix to discover how the Federation are conquering planets again so quickly. Quute has missiles launched at Igen's position believing he's taken out Hunda's resistance cell. Quute dines with his superior general who tell him to check that the cell has been wiped out. The general is due to meet the president elect of Helotrix, a native loyal to the Federation. Vila worries that Scorpio won't be able to outrun any Federation ships if they're attacked. Avon is using Orac to calculate a way to give Scorpio a speed boost and Orac has used his powers to pass the problem to specialist computers. Hunda decides to infiltrate the city by swimming in under the reactors to scout where they should attack and leaves the rebels in the hands of Sgt Hask. The General explains to the presidential candidate Practar that about the techniques commissioner Sleer's people have been using. Tarrant & Dayna teleport down to the planet but an audio malfunction prevents Scorpio from speaking to them. Practar keeps a picture of Servalan in his quarters who was reported killed when the high council regained power. Hunda meets Dayna & Tarrant and hides them while the Federation search for unadapted natives. Hask's group is attacked by adapted natives but wipes them out. Avon confirms the teleport's audio works and they try contacting Tarrant & Dayna, who are being shown how the Federation's new drug weapon works. Practar received a visitor who kills him and destroys the portrait in his room. Hunda, Dayna & Tarrant meet with Leitz who tells Hunda his unit is the only still functional and Hunda tells him how he got into the city and intends mining the terminal. Leitz suggests they bring a force in through the old monorail terminals. Leitz tells them what little he know about the Federation's new drug Pylene 50. Orac's use of the terminal on Helotrix is detected by an operator who reports it to the General and Colonel Quute. Leitz reports to Sleer of Practar's death and Sleer assumes charge of the investigation. Leitz tells the General he met with Hunda and two off worlders on Sleer's instructions. The monorail information is a trap and all the general has to do is blow the tunnel up. Leitz says he sent the offworlders to the laboratory and expects they are dead now. Tarrant & Dayna meet Forbus, the crippled and scarred inventor of Pylene 50. He intends to kill himself taking Sleer with him. She has poisoned him and keeps him alive by supplying him the antidote on a daily basis. He hopes to get Leitz too who he views nearly as bad as Sleer. Tarrant & Dayna guess Hunda too is walking into a trap. Forbus supplies them with a drug and a formula to resist Pylene 50. Slave detects a surface launch from Helotrix searching for them. Tarrant communicates with the ship but refuses to teleport up. Avon deduces that Orac's research transmission was detected and brings the ship down to cloud level under the search pattern. Tarrant & Dayna find Hunda and warn him of the ambush and Leitz's betrayal. Hunda's forces attack but are ambushed by Sleer who Dayna & Tarrant recognise as Servalan. Quute and the General are killed in the attack. Tarrant & Dayna are teleported back to the ship and Scorpio leaves for it's base on Xenon. Tarrant & Dayna tell Avon that Servalan is alive. She visits Forbus and tells him she is cutting his drug supply off for another 3 days. He tries to attack her and she shoots him. Leitz volunteers to act as a witness. Leitz says he worked out she killed Practar and that he wants the presidency. He tries to seduce her and becomes the 26th person that Servalan has killed to conceal her survival. Avon decides to believe Tarrant & Dayna's account and says he needs to kill Servalan himself.

I think this episode is more important for what it represents than what you see on screen.

Yes the Federation has got a new wonder drug pacification weapon but that's really just an extension of what we see in the very first episode for controlling the populace of Earth. Using it as a theme here does help the episode a lot though as it's a very back to basics approach by the Federation.


Yes it sees the return of Servalan, posing as a Commissioner Sleer, but as soon as the possility arose of the series coming back it was likely she'd return: The last shot of her in Terminal was in the Liberator's teleportr bay, you couldn't have made it more obvious that she was going to survive.


Provision *had* been made for Servalan not returning though: Jacqueline Pearce had fallen ill and been hospitalised following series 3 and it was unclear if she would be available. A new female villain for the series, Commissioner Sleer, was created but when Pearce confirmed she would be available Sleer became Servalan's cover identity. I'm not sure how well it would work: Servalan's a very recognisable figure. She's killed 27 people so far to protect her identity and that's in a pretty short space of time. Terminal, Rescue & Power all follow in quick succession and although Traitor doesn't directly follow on from Rescue it doesn't seem like too long has elapsed

But for me this episode represents a shift in the series themes back to what it had been in the first series and a distinct shift in Avon's thinking and role. During season three of the show the major theme has been the Federation trying to get their hands on the Liberator. Throw in some traps to that effect, accidentally stumbling into situations and a major case of personal vendetta and that sums series three up. There's nothing in the way of resisting and attempting to overthrow the damaged post Star One Federation. Indeed in Rumours of Death Avon's personal quest can be said to have hindered a rebellion against Servalan as a person, if not the Federation as an organisation, and helped preserve Servalan's life. Avon's been a background character for large periods of time in this consumed by his two personal quests. It's only since the start of this series that he's looked solidly in control which is a bit odd. You'd have though his falling for the trap in Terminal might of caused certain members of the crew, notably Tarrant to rebel against him, but they now seem to be following him more readily. In fact Tarrant seems to have had a change of attitude and is much more the team man under Avon's leadership now. I wonder how much his brother's death and then his own near miss on Terminal saved only by Vila, possibly at the cost of Cally's life, have affected him? Having found a ship, a base, a replacement crew member and obtained a teleport the first thing we see Avon do is take an interest in the Federation's activities and when he discovers Helotrix is back in their hands he investigates. For the first time Avon has assumed Blake's role as a resistance leader. You can see this fitting in the first season of the show, what happens here is exactly what Blake would have done. Then finding out that Servalan is alive that makes it personal for Avon. The Loss of the Liberator, it's systems and Cally could almost have been justified by them getting Servalan. Her survival changes that for him.

As well as the themes of the episode something else is present here that's missing from a lot of season 3: a sense that the episode is part of something bigger, an ongoing narrative. It was there in seasons 1 and 2 but absent for season 3. Vila mentions them getting a base (a link to Rescue & Power), Tarrant's worrying about the Teleport (link to it being new in Power) and Vila & Soolin are wanting to be able to run faster than the Federation ships which looks towards the next episode Stardrive. Servalan's seeming death in Terminal is mentioned, although how the Federation believe she "died" killed in a rear guard action on Gedden as part of a revolution that restored the High Council to power and purged the Old Guard. I wonder if this revolution actually happened, and if it happened *before* Terminal which might account for the non standard uniformed personnel she's using there.

There's lots of really nice stuff in this episode: It's good to see it being remembered how Orac actually functions, by communicating with other computers, and using this in the plot as the means by which Scorpio is detected. Two of the revolutionaries are academics (commonly amongst the first to be rounded up in an oppressive society). Dayna worries about whether the colour of her skin will make her stand out on Helotrix but is reassured by Avon that the Helots are pretty representative being Earth descendant.


Quute and the General are a decent double act, very Colonial British officers. The Double Act/Pairing is a trademark of writer Robert Holmes who uses it in several of his Doctor Who scripts. His previous two Blake's 7's have missed the mark a bit but here he gets it spot on. As well as the two officers he also gets to write Vila & Avon together again: they're paired in both his previous scripts but here are on the flightdeck with Orac, Slave and Soolin. I'd have been tempted to send Soolin down to the planet to give her something to do but I suppose she gets a few lines of dialogue with Avon & Vila this way.

I noticed that Helotrix is Magnotrix Terminal 406 in this script. Knowing Holmes' fondness for little jokes embedded in the script my mind immediately thought of the A406 in North London a road that's always on the travel news if you live in the capital.


About the only thing I found concerning in this episode was Forbus, yet another entry in the "disabled mad scientist" canon. It's a bit of a stereotype by this point and the way he's presented here, wired into his life support system, does rather say Davros in a big way.

Some fab locations are used in this story with the water logged scenes being recorded at Binnegar Heath Sandpit in Dorset, the location for Zondar in the Blake's 7 episode Shadow and Skaro in Doctor Who's Destiny of the Daleks.

Many of the cast have form in something you'll have seen: Malcolm Stoddard, Leitz, has a CV a mile long including a stretch of 5 episodes in By The Sword Divided. Nick Brimble, the General, was DC Gerry Burtonshaw in The Sweeney and Little John in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. Christopher Neame, Colonel Quute, was Skagra in the unaired Doctor Who story Shada before emigrating to the USA and appearing in many productions there. David Quilter, The Tracer (who I assuming is the technician in the Federation control room0 turns up in new Doctor Who as Greeves in The Unicorn and the Wasp. Amongst the rebels Robert Morris, Major Hunda, was in the Hammer version of Quatermass and the Pit as Jerry Watson. George Lee, Igen, has two Doctor Who's to his name as Corporal Forbes in Spearhead from Space and a Farmworker in The Time Monster while Neil Dickson, Avandir, has lots of US voice and video game work to his name.

This episode is the first work for Director David Sullivan Proudfoot who returns for 2ish stories following this one!

Traitor was included in the Blake's 7 novelization Scorpio Attack written by Trevor Hoyle along with Rescue & Stardrive. Traitor was repeated on 18/06/1983. It was released on video on 07th July 1992 as part of Blake's 7 tape 21 where it was paired with the previous episode Rescue and alongside Tape 22 Stardrive & Animals. Blake's 7 season 4 was released on DVD on 24th April 2006.

Monday, 16 December 2013

D2 Power

BROADCAST: 05/10/1981
DIRECTOR: Mary Ridge
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: Vere Lorrimer
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 4

"You must be very clever."
"That's what I keep telling everyone. They even believed me in CF One."
"CF One?"
"A sort of academy, when I was a boy. They chose me as technical advisor for the escape."
"Escape? From an academy?"
"Perhaps academy was the wrong word."

Vila is still struggling to open the door to Scorpio's launch silo. On the surface of Xenon Avon is pursued by the locals. Avon asks Orac to use the incomplete teleport to bring him home. Orac refuses due to the risk of failure but is overheard by Dayna. Orac provides them with Avon's last known position and they find Avon's damaged communications bracelet. Avon is taken away unconscious by the locals but is observed by three women. Avon taken to their leader, Gunn Sar, chief of the Hommicks. Avon tells him he is seeking Dynamon crystals but Gunn Sar insults him saying he looks and smells like a man so what does he want with dynamon. Villa is visited by one of the women, Pella of the Seska, who says she entered through a secondary hatch. She heals an injury to his hand with some ointment and is interested in the door. Avon ends up challenging Gunn Sar. Pella explains to Villa that there are two groups on the planet: the Hommicks and the Seska. She explains to Vila that there's a switch on the other side of the door that Dorian needs to reset every 48 hours or it will set off a Nuclear Compression charge. Pella tells Villa they rely on Dorian for their food but Vila tells her that Dorian is dead. Dayna & Tarrant return but they don't see the recently departed Pella leave and cast doubt on Vila's account. Avon fights Gunn Sar, requesting a glove for his weapon while Gunn Sar takes a sword. Avon retrieves a helio fusion rod from one of the blocks surrounding the battle area, explaining it powers the Hommick's underground base, and uses it to overcome Gunn Sar but one of his tribe knocks Avon out. Avon is flung in a cell. Dayna discovers the secondary hatch was locked and that Pela could not have entered or left that way. Vila, worried by the charge, returns to work on the door. Tarrant & Dayna find the Seska on a scanner. Orac tells them the only way the Seska could have entered the base was teleportation but wouldn't have been able to use their system which lacks the focusing crystal. One of the Seska, Kate, is shot and wounded and the other two are captured. Pella is flung in a cell with Avon while she awaits the Hommick's surgeons. She wakes Avon. Orac tells Tarrant that the charge is due to go off in 3 hours and 24 minutes but even if they do the switch & door has a secondary booby trap. Pella tells Avon that the Hommicks operate on them to remove what makes them Seska. She says the Hommicks have reverted to primitivism. The door to their cell is mysteriously open and the guard lying on the floor having been hit by a rock. Tarrant, Dayna and Villa discover the history records of the Seska. The Seska's gene stocks were wiped out 20 years ago by a nuclic burster but the recording gives a reference for Hommicks base. Pella discovers her friend has been operated on by Gunn Sar's wife Nina, a former Seska. Nina has removed Pella's friend's neck band. Pella goes to take it but Avon wants it. She uses her mind to repel him but he overcomes he and steals the band and the crystal. He kisses her and leaves her on the floor. Nine tells Gun-Sar the prisoners have escaped and alerts the guards. Tarrant, Dayna & Villa find the Hommick HQ and are observed by the Kate. Avon finds the computer room in the base manned by Gunn Sar's second in command Cato who tells them their civilisation was destroyed by a war. The computer centre has been maintained in secret. Avon's bow goes off in his hand killing Cato. Avon deduces Pella killed Cato via telepathy before she knocks him out and takes the neck band. Tarrant, Vila & Dayna are brought before Gunn Sar and Dayna challenges him. Nina is found by Kate as the bells ring to announce the challenge. Nina finds the dead Cato and unconscious Avon. Kate observes the fight and is joined by Nina. They use their powers to influence the fight and when Gunn Sar is thrown against a helio fusion box his neck is broken. Nina decides the Hommicks will leave where they have been living. With 16 minutes to go Tarrant, Vila & Dayna return to Xenon base and interrogate Orac. Orac tells them the Seska can use telekinesis which was how Pella entered and left the base through a locked door. They use a focusing crystal to enable their powers. The Seska enter and agree to deactivate the booby trap when Vila opens the door. Avon returns to the base and Orac tells him he has accomplished his task but Avon will need to perform adjustments. Tarrant discovers Avon had Orac lie to them and gave them the wrong code name for detonator. Avon returns telling them that Pella intends to take Scorpio and has been influencing Dorian's development of a teleporter into a device to enable her to turn the safety wheel behind the door. She holds Dayna at gunpoint demanding Avon open the door which he does. Kate tries to stop her and is shot as the door closes behind them and the trap is reset. Pella starts Scorpio's launch sequence. Avon takes a crystal from Kate's neck band which Orac instructs him to place into the teleport system. They pick up Slave, responding to Pella now Orac has reprogrammed him to respond to anyone on the flightdeck. Avon teleports to Scorpio and kills Pella taking control of the ship. Orac teleports Dayna & Tarrant to the ship but before Vila can teleport up he is joined by Soolin who asks to join them.

Writer Ben Steed has had two previous goes at Blake's 7 episodes: The Harvest of Kairos and Moloch. Both feature some pretty shabby treatment and attitudes towards women. So it's no surprise to find a battle of the sexes going on in his third episode. The question is is this episode as bad in it's attitudes as the previous ones? On the one hand the Hommicks treat their women appallingly, the Seska do eventually loose and on two occasions Avon overcomes Pella. Against that we have the Hommick's leader Gunn Sar being beaten in physical combat by Dayna, with some help from the Seska Pella & Kate, and Gunn Sar's wife Nina seemingly taking control of the tribe following his death.


It's unclear how long the Hommicks and the Seska have been at war for: The Hommick civilisation collapsed 200 years ago in a war but it's not clear that the Seska were responsible. Oddly enough 200 years ago was around the time Dorian arrived on Xenon. Since then the Seska had been operating as a high tech society until twenty years ago when they were attacked by the Hommicks and their gene stock was destroyed. Had the Seska been running a cloning system similar to the Auron and does that account for their tendency towards telepathy and other abilities? Since that point the surviving Seska, unable to reproduce by themselves, have been retrieving abandoned Hommick female children. The Seska have been relying on Dorian for food and in return helping Dorian develop his teleport system.....

(is Dorian actually living in the remains of the Seska base? Would explain what he's doing with the records of their civilisation. Yes that slightly confuses the timeline for the previous episode and Dorian's claim to have built the base himself)

....except Pella's been steering Dorian in a different direction and the device he's actually constructed is intended to enhance her telekinesis to the point where she can get into the silo to take Scorpio..... you can see why Dorian had the security measures put in place now!

Of course all that goes out the window when Avon kills Dorian. You wonder how much Avon & Orac know about the security measures behind the door. My guess is everything, but most especially how little time they have till the booby trap on the two day timer goes off, and the reason that Teleport has risen so quickly up Avon's to do list is that that's how he intends getting round the problem of the door. So Orac, having analysed the machinery, sends Avon off to find Dynamon crystals.....

(the 48 hour timer needing a reset by Dorian every 2 days dates this episode quite quickly after the last one meaning that Terminal, Rescue and Power all happen in very quick succession.

But what happens when Dorian is away in space? Does he have to call in every two days to reset the trap or Soolin gets blasted to pieces? Or does he not activate it?)

... at which point we have to wonder if Chris Boucher remembered anything about the first series episode Cygnus Alpha and how the teleport works because the one here seems to behave totally differently to the Aquitar based systems that Earth were developing and Blake & Co found on the Liberator. Those required the Aquitar to be in contact with the wearer while this seems to need the crystal embedded in the system itself.


Avon, and Orac, are using bracelets earlier in the episode but they seem to be just communicators rather than part of the system. Indeed Avon isn't wearing one at all when he's teleported up to Scorpio right at the end. You could argue that maybe he didn't need one as he was being teleported from one teleport platform to another. We'll later see Scorpio's system operating independently and *then* they'll be bracelets involved but I assume they're being used as communicators and for locator fixing rather than an integral part of the teleport system. I'm guessing that Scorpio's system is eventually powered by the crystal in Pella's neckband and that these crystals are the Dynamon that Avon's searching for at the episode's start.....

..... which just leaves the question what did Dorian want with a teleport in the first place? Was he getting tired of climbing up and down those stairs to the cave?

And speaking of Dorian.... his lady love Soolin spends all bar the last few minutes of the episode absent. Having snuck away at the end of the last episode she's briefly mentioned at the start and only turns up at the end (like Slave)


To introduce a new character and then do nothing with them in the next episode is just criminal and doesn't help to establish them at all. The only reason I can think of for keeping Soolin separate is that having associated with Dorian she knows about his dealings with the Seska. Removing her from the picture removes her as a source of information about both them and the security door's workings.

Vila's scene with Pela at the start is good stuff, revealing that he's been a criminal since he was a juvenile talking about being the technical advisor for the escape at CF1. I venture the CF in CF1 stands for Correctional Facility.

Teleport issues and the treatment of Soolin aside, I like this episode a lot. It's easily the best and most palatable of Ben Steed's three Blake's 7 tales. It roles along nicely, all four of the main cast featured seem to have the right voice and Avon is busy being Avon: getting on with things and leaving the others to it!

Dicken Ashworth, Gunn Sar, would later appear in the Doctor Who story Timelash as Sezom alongside Blake's 7 lead actor Paul Darrow. He has also had roles in Brookside, Coronation Street and Emmerdale. He was Bardolph in sci fi fantasy favourite Krull and the voice of Mr Mulch in Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Juliet Hammond-Hill, playing Pella, was then known for her role as Natalie Chantrens in Secret Army which she reprised later in 1981 in the first episode of it's sequel Kessler which also featured Alison Glennie as Ingrid Dorf who here is playing her fellow Seska Kate. Paul Ridley, Cato, has an appearance in the second episode of The Tripods as a Black Guard Officer.

Bet you can't guess where they filmed the surface of Xenon? Yes it Betchworth Quarry near Reigate. Again. Fifth appearance after being used previously in Time Squad, Deliverance, Hostage & Moloch.

Power is missing from the novel Scorpio Attack which adapts episode 1, 3 & 4 of this series. Power was repeated on 11/06/1983 - I'd missed the first 15/20 minutes on original transmission so this was the first time that I saw them. It was released on video on 07th July 1992 as part of Blake's 7 tape 21 where it was paired with the following episode Traitor and alongside Tape 22 Stardrive & Animals. Blake's 7 season 4 was released on DVD on 24th April 2006.

Monday, 9 December 2013

D1 Rescue

EPISODE: D1 Rescue
BROADCAST: 28/09/1981
WRITTEN BY: Chris Boucher
DIRECTOR: Mary Ridge
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: Vere Lorrimer
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 4

"You know what they say no good deed goes unpunished"

Stranded on Terminal Avon & Dayna discover the spacecraft Servalan left for them has been booby trapped with explosives. Rushing back to the base, fearing it too has been booby trapped, Dayna is attacked by a vicious plant but saved by Avon. Vila gets an injured Tarrant out but Cally is trapped inside and killed in a second explosion. The spaceship Scorpio, bearing salvager Dorian and his computer Slave, nears Terminal seeking the Liberator when it detects the residual of the explosion which destroyed the Liberator. Avon retrieves a damaged Orac from the base and confirms Cally is death. The next morning the part are separated when Tarrant collapses and Avon is forced to go back for him. Dayna & Vila are attacked by another plant but saved by Dorian. Avon holds him at gunpoint and forces him to take them to his ship. Vila & Avon are intrigued by what looks like a teleport system. Quakes rock the ship and Slave predicts a volcanic eruption. Dorian is knocked out by another quake forcing Avon & Tarrant to take the ship up manually without computer assistance, Slave only acknowledging his master's voice pattern. Scorpio locks itself into a pre-programmed course home. Dayna discovers a locker, which Vila opens, containing a number of advanced guns while Avon examines the unsuccessful teleport system. Tarrant deduces they're heading for the planet Xenon. Avon is worried as to how Dorian has developed the guns, computer and teleport. On Xenon Dorian's associate Soolin hails the ship. Avon rouses Dorian and he starts the landing sequence. Scorpio lands in a cliff top hanger bay and descends into an underground silo. They leave the ship, Vila bringing with him the one Federation gun they had on Terminal, but the security door to the silo seals behind them and Dorian tells them it won't open unless he wants it to. Soolin prepares drinks for her, Dorian's and 5 guests. A tiring Dorian introduces them to Soolin and offers them drinks. Tarrant notices the extra glass as if they were expecting another guest, if Cally had survived. Dorian retires to rest instructing Soolin to show them to their quarters. An ageing and frail Dorian descends a spiral staircase to a cavern under the base where he tells something that he has brought Avon's group. The thing tells Dorian it must be soon and both writhe in agony. The next morning Vila is struggling to open the Silo door which he decrees to be impossible and seeks out the wine. Dorian has repaired Orac and tries to interrogate him about the teleport. When Avon tells him Orac was designed by Ensor Dorian admits he met him. Avon deduces he must have been very young at the time, and Dorian confirms he built the base, modified Slave and created the guns. Searching for another way into the silo Dayna and Tarrant descend a spiral staircase and find themselves at a dead-end. Tarrant begins climbing back up as Dayna examines the room and triggers a secret panel and she descends into the cave beneath. She hears the creature but discovers her gun won't fire. The hatch closes on her so that When Tarrant returns for her he discovers her gone and an empty room. Dorian hopes that Avon will help him work on the teleport system. Dorian admits he has worked on the teleport for 30 years He tells Avon that Soolin has replaced their gun cartridges and holds him at gunpoint. A hiding Vila observes their exchange. Dorian tells him beneath the base is a room containing minerals that he has been studying for 200 years. What is within has stopped him ageing and kept him healthy. Soolin overhears too and asks him what's in the room. Dorian tells Avon that Soolin has killed the people responsible for the death of her family, but reveals her gun has been sabotaged too. Both are forced to the staircase. A fortified Villa, clutching the Federation gun, follows at a distance. Forced into the cave Avon, Tarrant and Soolin find a distraught terrified Dayna. He intends to use them all to form a gestalt to replace the creature in the cave, the latest in a long line that has replaced his original partner which came with him to the cave. The creature psychically attacks them but Vila passes Avon the gun. He kills the creature, freeing them causing Dorian to age rapidly,die, decay and turn to dust. While the others watch the creature turn into the body of a young man Soolin steals away into the base.....

Terry Nation, acting under instructions that the show was over, did an excellent job at taking the series to bits at the end of the last episode. He destroys their super fast ship/base, with it's computer and teleport systems, maroons the crew on a desolate planet and seemingly kills off the show's villain. Good, Chris Boucher's then got a list of things to do in the first few episodes of the series to put the show back together. But first let's attend to the behind the scenes departure of Jan Chappell by killing Cally off screen. Apparently Cally is two lines of dialogue "Vila" and her final "Blake!" were specially recorded by the actress but she receives no credit here. Note how the explosion also takes out Orac! Useful that as we'll see. (I'm forced to wonder how Vila got Tarrant out of the base: that ladder shaft is very long and isn't that wide as we saw last episode!) Of course the booby traps are so believable because that's exactly what Servalan would have done. And the over the top nature, enough explosives to cause some quakes and a Volcano, is typical of Servalan too. Her trap was well baited with cheese but it's intended execution was final.

Or would have been if Dorian hadn't showed up looking for Avon's gang. There's no doubt he specifically wants Avon and co but I'm wondering how he knows where they are. Has he been tracking them? It's obvious quite quickly there's something odd about him and once Avon start poking into the amount of technology he has personally worked on it becomes obvious what it is! So by the end of the episode Avon & co have obtained from Dorian a base, a spaceship (albeit one sealed behind a locked door that only he could open), a non working teleport system and a computer (that'll only respond to Dorian's voice). Here's where damaging Orac is so important: without Orac they're forced to go where the ship's programmed to. Now they have Orac functional reprogramming Slave to respond to them should be an easy job.... if only the ship wasn't stuck behind that door! Oh well, one for Vila to work on next episode

Dorian's story is lifted wholesale from Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. Keeping the name the same is a rather huge clue! Except that instead of a painting in the attic, he's got a Sea Devil in the cellar! Yup, the creature in the cave, the latest apparently in a long line of substitutes for Dorian, is a Sea Devil costume recycled from Doctor Who! Like in the book when the creature is killed Dorian ages and dies while the creature returns to it's original form (Strictly Come Dancing judge Bruno Tonioli! It's true - see here for a photo of him reunited with his costume!) The only difference here is that Dorian's not responsible for his own death: in the original he slashes the painting, here Avon uses the gun brought from Terminal and retained by Vila. (One of the ageing Dorian's is Harry Van Engel who was a Kaled Scientist in several episodes of Doctor Who's Genesis of the Daleks.)

There's some really good continuity between this episode and the last: the same heartbeat backing noise on Terminal, the same costumes are used as is the same location, though I pity Josette Simon out in the snow on Pyrton Hill in that costume! At least the others get to wrap up warm. The electronic binoculars Avon uses were used by Servalan's staff in the last episode so it's logical to assume they've searched the base which was how they found the gun as well.

Almost without exception the model work on this episode is superb, even the long shot of Scorpio on the ground filmed on location, a type of shot that frequently goes wrong!


The only slight nit picking I'd do is that Scorpio seems to fly into it's hanger bay a bit fast and that the platform it sits on in the silo rotates round 270 degrees: yes it shows the ship off nicely but functionally a 90 degree turn the other would be easier. In fact the Scorpio landing/hanger sequence is probably the best bit of model work ever done by the BBC!


The volcanic eruption on Terminal is stock footage, and probably from the same film used in Volcano and the Doctor Who stories Enemy of the World & Inferno. The Slave prop is the work of the firm Imagineering who designed props for many 1980s Doctor Who stories including the revamped Cybermen costumes for Earthshock.


The new ship Scorpio would seem to take a lot of it's inspiration from Star Wars. It's shaped a lot like an Imperial Star Destroyer - both are basically wedge shaped - but feels more like the Millennium Falcon being a freighter and with Tarrant's struggle - "lift you scruffy bag of bolts lift" to get it off Terminal reminding me of Han Solo struggling with his ship. Tarrant describes Scorpio as a "mark II wander class planet hopper". Planet Hoppers were mentioned in Gambit.

As well as the ship we're introduced to new character Soolin, played by young actress Glynis Barber. We learn she can use a gun, was taught to by a man who killed her family and she killed all of those responsible. And that's it. Nothing else. And that's virtually the way it stays until we get a little more background to her in the last episode. She sneaks away at the end of this episode and is absent for most of the next which maybe isn't a great move in developing a new character. Of all the characters in Blake's 7 she's probably the poorest served in terms of background and development. We'll be keeping an eye on what exactly she does during the episodes she's in as there's very little there that shapes who she is!

The show's title sequence and logo have also had a revamp last year, now showing a point of view shot of a starship launching overlaid with a readout display and a 4 point star/target logo replacing the Federation badge used previously. There's a new end sequence too featuring a revamped version of the music.


For your pleasure and enjoyment we present this YouTube video based on the season 4 title sequence.

Rescue was the first episode of Blake's 7 I ever saw..... except I didn't make it quite to the end. I was so terrified by what was in the cellar I bailed out before the resolution. I was just 8 at the time! I've got a feeling I missed Rescue during it's repeat run so it's possible that the first time I saw it right through was on the video release! It wasn't enough to put me off coming back the next week though....

Rescue was novelised by Trevor Hoyle as part of the novel Scorpio Attack along with Traitor and Stardrive, the 3rd & 4th episodes of the season. I always wondered why Power wasn't included. My local library had a copy of Scorpio Attack, never having had any of the other books, and that copy now sits on my bookshelf thanks to a stock clearance sale. Rescue, the first episode of Season 4, was repeated on Saturday 04/06/1983. It was released on video on 2nd June 1992 as part of Blake's 7 tape 20 along with Terminal, the last episode of Season 3, and alongside Tape 29 containing Moloch & Death-Watch. Blake's 7 season 4 was released on DVD on 24th April 2006.

Monday, 2 December 2013

C13 Terminal

EPISODE: C13 Terminal
BROADCAST: 31/03/1980
WRITTEN BY: Terry Nation
DIRECTOR: Mary Ridge
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: David Maloney
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 3

"One last thing. I don't need any of you. I needed the Liberator to bring me here so I had no choice but to bring you along, but this is as far as you go. I don't want you with me, I don't want you following me. Understand this: anyone who does follow me, I'll kill them."

The Liberator is proceeding to a rendezvous set by Avon who has driven the rest of the crew from the flight deck. At the rendezvous point Zen receives more instructions which he confirms is genuine but is unable to trace the origin. Avon acknowledges the message and programs the ship for a new destination. The Liberator passes through a cloud of minute fluid particles en route and experiences turbulance which damages the hull sensors. Zen detects small particles of matter adhering to the hull. At the directed coordinates Zen receives another signal. They find the ovoid artificial planet Terminal is their destination. Avon acknowledges the message and replies that he will cooperate as the particles start to damage the hull. Avon advises the crew to leave if he missed one half hourly transmission, but refuses to tell them what they are doing here. He has preset Zen to leave in 12 hours and left a message with Zen explaining what he has done before to be released when the ship leaves. He teleports to the surface of Terminal, but a short time later Tarrant & Cally follow him. Avon is observes by two humanoids on the surface. Avon arrives at a pre arranged point and collects a directional unit. Tarrant & Cally hide from the humanoids and follow them. Liberator's hull is now covered in the particles which have started to seep through the walls. On the flight deck Vila finds a high discharge from the energy banks and the ship is exceeding it's regenerative capacity. Zen reports the auto repair circuits are working at maximum capacity and that damage exceeds rectification capability but is unable to report on the damage due to the hull sensor malfunctions. Dayna orders him to investigate and Zen glitches, taking his speech off line. Dayna and Vila notice the physical damage to the ship. Avon reaches the entrance to an underground bunker and climbs down a long ladder. The humanoids retrieve the tracker but are attacked by Links, the local primitive life form. Avon observe a medic, and finds a Liberator teleport bracelet. The computer system tells Avon that Blake is alive and on a life support machine. Avon is shot and tranquillised by a two humans one of which says "Let it begin" as the Liberator continues to decay. Vila brings the damaged Zen back on-line and orders the auto repair systems closed down so Zen can find a solution to the problems. They can't use Orac because Avon took the key. Avon is being wheeled on a trolley as Cally & Tarrant, who have been attacked by Links and driven them off, break in to the entrance using a key taken from the humanoids body. Avon is linked to advanced machinery When he wakes he is lying on a bed elsewhere in the complex unbound. He explores further and finds a bearded Blake attached to a life support machine. Blake wakes and tells Avon he took his time finding him. Blake has discovered something that will make them rich and invincible. He refuses to leave because he is dependant on the life support machine and cannot move. A timer for treatment goes off and Avon is forced to leave and hide. He is found and knocked out, waking on the treatment table as his guards say "It is completed" and is brought round lying in corridor. He is taken to the command centre on the base where he meets Servalan who has lured him there. She tells him Blake is alive and on the road to recovery. Avon tells her he has already seen Blake. She offers him Blake's freedom for the Liberator. Avon & Cally find the equipment Avon was linked to. Dayna reports to Tarrant the problems the Liberator is experiencing. Zen reports that in a fixed orbit the ship will remain viable for some hours but attempting to move will result in disintegration. Zen concentrates on maintaining the teleport facilities and reports "I have failed you". Avon accepts Servalan's offer. She leaves him Blake's treatment needs saying he will be ready to move in 3 months. She also leaves him a ship. She intends to duplicate the Liberator. Avon tells Vila to take the Liberator out of there and is knocked out by Servalan. Her troops capture Cally & Tarrant who get Dayna to teleport down. Their bracelets are taken. Servalan admits her ship is damaged and reveals to Avon that Blake is dead, having died on the planet Gevron over a year ago: Avon saw a drug induced and electronic illusion. She and her troops teleport to the Liberator and she bids Avon goodbye. She goes straight to the flight deck ordering a guard to put Vila down on Terminal but he deceives the guard and takes Orac with him. Avon admits Servalan has won. Servalan orders a course to planet Earth and Maximum Power to the main drive. Explosions occur all over the bridge and she flees to the teleport room. Avon, Vila, Cally, Tarrant & Dayna watch as the Liberator breaks up.

Tarrant "Let's see if we can't find a way off this planet, there's a lot to do"

Has Avon, one of the galaxy's biggest fraudsters, been the victim of an almighty con by Servalan? All the evidence would suggest yes the lure of recovering the missing Blake and something that would make him fabulously wealthy has proved to much and his fallen for Servalan's well baited trap hook, line and sinker. And yet.... that smile at the end from Avon. That's always unnerved me somewhat. There's just the lurking possibility in the back of my mind that somehow he's twigged it and got one over on Servalan which in turn implies he deliberately had the Liberator damaged to catch her - he was, after all, the one that ordered the Liberator to pass through the particle cloud and it's only this decision that keeps the ship out of her hands. Or it could be that he's just pleased that despite everything, despite getting it oh so wrong, they've survived and she hasn't...... Or could it be, beaten and humiliated, that Avon's sanity has finally taken a dive off the deep end?

The crew's survival has been at a cost though: Gone is the Liberator, their home and transport for these last three seasons and with it their riches, the teleport system and Zen. They only retain Orac, silent in this episode but a potential lifeline for them, by some last minute slight of hand and blustering from Vila! The Liberator's destruction, with it's gradual failure and decay is hard to watch but the final explosive destruction of the flight deck, complete with rising floor panel, is a great scene. First time Blake's 7 director Mary Ridge obviously liked it so much that she uses it again on the last of the five episodes she directs in the fourth season. Oddly enough her first (and only) Doctor Who story a few years later was the similarly named Terminus!

This is all big stuff to doing away with and the reason why is that this was intended to be the last episode of Blake's 7. This was it, the end, ending with them all marooned on an artificial planet but alive. By the time the episode broadcast the production office had closed. The Head of BBC Television, Bill Cotton, was watching Terminal at home and was so impressed that h e phoned BBC Presentation telling them to make an announcement during the end credits that the series would return.... which came as something of a shock to the cast and crew! This resulted in a delay in the production of the fourth season which didn't appear on UK screens till the autumn of 1981 and a change of producer: David Maloney, who produced the first 3 seasons, was now working on The BBC production of Day of the Triffids

This is the last Blake's 7 episode written by the show's creator Terry Nation who was around this time moving to America to start writing for American TV. This is his last work as a writer for the BBC and UK television. It's also the last on-screen appearance for Cally as actress Jan Chappell departs the show between series. It's also the last appearance of the title sequence that made it's debut in Aftermath and the logo the series has had ever since The Way Back.

At the heart of the episode, and Servalan's plot, is the return of Blake. I think you can be pretty sure the Blake here is an illusion but later events cast doubt on Servalan's testimony that Blake's been dead over a year, which in turn dates the events of Star One/Aftermath/Powerplay over a year in the past. The section which is illusionary is between Avon's two appearances lying attached to the machine which means his finding of a Liberator teleport bracelet lies outside of the illusion and was real. Servalan's had plenty of chances to obtain one: it could be the one Servalan was wearing when she left the Liberator in the Harvest of Kairos or the one Deral was wearing when the Liberator returned him in Children of Auron or the one stolen from Vila in Moloch. There's three there that have gone walkabout near her this season alone. The scenes with Blake have an extra unreal quality due to being interiors recorded on film and thus stick out from the video shot interiors surrounding them. Gareth Thomas was, as this episode was being made, performing in a theatre in Oxford. The short scene with him in, with Avon the only other character present, was recorded at Pyrton Village Hall near to Oxford and the Pyrton Hill location used for the exterior filming. It was on exterior location sequence that Deep Roy (The Web/Gambit/Moloch) uncredited playing a Link here was injured breaking a collar bone. All the Terminal sequences are given an extra layer by the addition of the heartbeat sound effect in the background. Atmospheric, but never explained!

How did Servalan intend to duplicate the Liberator? The obvious inference is she's going to use the replicator technology we saw in Moloch. It's one of a number of little things going on in the background of season 3 that if played upon could have tightened the season up. If you'd moved Moloch much earlier in the season, making it clear that the Federation now had the replication technology that would give a far better reason for Servalan wanting the Liberator and the numerous episodes where she puts troops on board and nearly gets her hands on it. There's lots of other edges that need filing off as well and background themes need bringing to the surface. An early episode Dawn of the Gods suggests they're on their way to Auron but when they do go there in Children of Auron Cally is clear that she doesn't want to return home. That position should have been emphasises in the earlier episode and more importantly those two episodes shouldn't have flat out contradicted each other as to the origin of the Auron telepathy. Making it clear earlier that the Liberator's weapons were damaged at Star One and they're searching for crystals to repair them would have made Avon & Vila's little mineralogical trip at the start of Harvest of Kairos make sense and not made the need for co-operation with Baladan in City on the Edge of the World such a surprise. Servalan's desire for offspring in Children of Auron comes from nowhere, a little bit of sign posting there wouldn't go amiss. But most importantly explaining why Avon is so distracted, especially during the early part of the series where newcomer Tarrant is taking charge. Looking back he's got two things on his mind: he's looking for Blake, not mentioned between episode 3 and 13, and he's following up Anna's death which appears from almost nowhere in Rumours of Death. Yes it's flagged briefly the episode before but that's the first time it's mentioned for some while. Stuff like this is going on in the background of series one and to a lesser extent series two and needs to be brought into view here.

From a viewers point of view the Federation don't seem particularly harmed by the events of Star One. We haven't got lots of planets trying to throw off the shackles of their Federation masters weakened by the conflict. When series 3 has been good - Aftermath, Powerplay, Rumours of Death, Terminal - it's been fabulous. Beyond that City on the Edge of the World and Children of Auron were OK but the other SEVEN episodes, the majority of the season were dire! Name and shame: Volcano, Dawn of the Gods, The Harvest of Kairos, Sarcophagus, Ultraworld, Moloch & Death-Watch.

Aggggh! the infernal Galactic Monopoly, from the start of Dawn of the Gods, is back in this episode. Thankfully it seems to have gone up with the Liberator!.

Of the guest cast only David Healy, the voice of the directional sphere, is really known to us having contributed voices on many Gerry Anderson projects including Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, Joe 90 and The Secret Service, as well as appearing in UFO, The Troubleshooters, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), and Space Precinct. Knowing that Deep Roy had been a Link I checked who the others were: Stuart Fell & Gareth Milne both with Doctor Who stunt and occasional credited acting work to their names. I also spot that one of the guards is Nicholas Frankau who was Flying Officer Carstairs in Allo Allo!

Terminal was the last episode of Blake's Seven I saw: I'd seen series four on original transmission (and repeat), the episodes on the video compilations in 1990 and then watched the series as it was released on video. From herein in 8 year old Philip enters the picture watching Blake's 7 on TV at home at night. And because I'd already seen series four the statement that Avon makes in this episode about him & Blake always stood out for me:

"death is something he and I have faced together on a number of occasions I always thought his death and mine might be linked in some way"
Spooky premonition, especially considering the series wasn't intending to come back!

Terminal, the last episode of series 3, was repeated on 20/7/81 or 21/07/81 depending which BBC television region you were in as the last episode in a partial repeat run of series 3 which included Aftermath, Powerplay, City at the Edge of the World, Rumours of Death, Sarcophagus, Ultraworld Death-Watch & Terminal. Volcano, Dawn of the Gods, The Harvest of Kairos, Children of Auron & Moloch were not included in this repeat run. Terminal was released on video on 2nd June 1992 as part of Blake's 7 tape 20 along with Rescue, the first episode of Season 4. So on the same tape I got the last episode I needed to see and the first episode I'd ever seen. They were sold alongside alongside Tape 29 containing Moloch & Death-Watch. Blake's 7 season 3 was released on DVD on 20th June 2005.