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.

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