WRITTEN BY: Ben Steed
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."
"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.