Monday, 3 March 2014

D13 Blake

EPISODE: D13 Blake
BROADCAST: 21/12/1981
WRITTEN BY: Chris Boucher
DIRECTOR: Mary Ridge
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: Vere Lorrimer
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 4

"Have you betrayed us? Have you betrayed *ME*?"

Scorpio launches from Xenon base and as they leave the base is rocked by explosions destroying it completely. Avon has been unwilling to take the risk that Zukon, or one of his conspiartors told Servalan the base's location.

See the events of Warlord.

I said at the time this was a big mistake. Xenon had one thing going for it: Nobody knew where it was. Once people know, it's compromised. As it was the damage it suffered from Zukon's bombs in Warlord and would have used a lot of work to repair it.

We've seen Scorpio landing a few times but I think this is the only showing of the full launch sequence from Silo, elevated up through to the Hanger Bay and out

Vila is in favour of running away to safety but Avon has other plans
"In the end, winning is the only safety."
He believes the Rebel Alliance is workable still, all it needs is the right figurehead.
"He is strongly identified with rebels, you see. And very popular with rabbles. They will follow him and he will fight to the last drop of their blood.

Idealism is a wonderful thing, all you need is someone rational to put it to proper use."

Avon explains that Orac has tracked who they need to a planet called Gauda Prime which shocks Soolin as no self respecting idealist would be found there. Tarrant asks Avon who he's talking about and Villa realises that Avon has finally found Blake.
Blake was last seen in the final episode of the second season, Star One, where he was shot. In the first episode of the third season, Aftermath, he was reported injured and the crew was fdorced to eject from the Liberator in individual life pods. Blake and Jenna were never seen again. Servalan lured Avon to Terminal by falsifying messages from Blake and even went to the trouble of producing an illusionary version of the rebel leader but later told Avon that Blake had died on the planet Gevron over a year ago.
04_13_01 Blake

Blake sits at a camp fire in a wood roasting meat on an open fire as he is approached by a young armed woman. He entices her into the open by offering to share the food with her. He's wary of her Federation Issue gun and asks where she got it from. She asks him if she looks like a "One of theirs" and Blake replies that he can't really tell anymore.

Returning as Blake is actor Gareth Thomas. He had certain stipulations for appearing in this episode which we'll come to later....

vlcsnap-2014-01-08-12h00m16s157

The Girl, Arlen, is played by an actress named Sasha Mitchell. She'd later play a recurring role in the Ruth Rendell Mysteries. Oddly there's a male actor of the same name in America!

The Gauda Prime exteriors are filmed in Bourne Woods, Farnham, Surrey the location used for the opening sequences in Gladiator and many other productions.

Arlen may be carrying a Federation Gun, but so is Blake. He has one, minus it's stock, tucked into his belt.

His words that he can't really tell who's Federation and who's not have a somewhat prophetic element in them...

Avon explains that he's sure Servalan lied to them on Terminal and Vila reminds him that their visit there seeking Blake cost Cally her life. He admits he has known Blake is there for sometime and would have left him there if the plan with Zukon had worked. Arlen leaves Blake her gun as payment for the food. She is attacked by bounty hunters: She kills two of them and Blake slays the third. She said she thought they were four and he admits he is the fourth and takes her prisoner.
Almost all the extras/supporting artists in this episode have some prior connection to the programme. One of the bounty hunters Arlen kills is Steve Kelly who was in Deliverance as a Scavenger, Gambit as a Customer/Gambler, The Keeper as a Goth Guard and Power as a Hommik Warrior (all uncredited) as well as a Sea Devil (in The Sea Devils) and an Ogron (in Frontier in Space) in Doctor Who. The other is Steve Whyment who was in Stardrive as a Space Rat, Warlord as a Federation Trooper and has a couple of uncredited roles in Doctor Who). The third, who Blake kills and we later discover is called Tando is played by Barry Summerford. He was in the very first episode of Blake's 7, The Way Back, as a Federation Trooper making him one of only four actors to be in the first and the last episodes of the series. Two of them are obvious: Gareth Thomas as Blake and Michael Keating as Vila. The other less so because Paul Darrow, Avon, doesn't appear in the first episode! We'll highlight this actor's identity later. Summerford was also in Pressure Point & Voice from the Past as Rebels, Gambit as a Customer/Gambler, Volcano as a Federation Commando and Dawn of the Gods as a Monster. He's also got plenty of uncredited Doctor Who to his name.
Orac tells Scorpio's crew that Blake is working as a Bounty Hunter, which shocks them as they see it as being out of character. Tarrant worries that he may seek to claim the bounty on their heads. Soolin says she was born on Gauda Prime to a farming family. When valuable minerals were found Gauda Prime was declared an Open Planet and the rule of law was suspended and her parents were killed. Gauda Prime has made application to reinstate law. Gauda Prime is employing bounty hunters to clear out the undesirable elements.
We know from Rescue that Soolin's parents were murdered and she killed those responsible. Now we find out where she's from and some more of the circumstances behind what happened. And that represents all we know about Soolin. 13 episodes and that's it.
Slave attempts to interupt Orac but is overiden so he sounds the alarms on Scorpio telling them they are in orbit round Gauda Prime but are under attack.
Some fabulous banter between both of Peter Tuddenham's computer roles here!
On Gauda Prime the girl is injured and making slow progress to her captor's flyer when she collapses Blake tells her to get up. She insists he use her name, Arlen, and he tells her that his is Roj Blake.
BIG mistake Blake.....
Scorpio is being attacked by a number of ships and looses control as it enters the atmosphere.
The ships are unidentified here but aren't the standard Federation Pursuit Ship. We'll learn what they are a little later.

Oddly they look a lot like the "Federation Interceptor" toy marketed by Blue Box Toys in 1978 under the Blake's 7 logo!

There's an odd sequence here where Avon's words don't seem to match his mouth movement as he orders them to powerdive the atmosphere.

Vila, Soolin and Dayna teleport to the surface.
Women and cowards first!
But with Slave unable to take over the flight controls Tarrant must remain at his station to control the ship as Avon teleports to the planet with Orac.

04_13_03 Avon Teleporting
Avon's goodbye to Tarrant actually feels like he means it and doesn't expect to see him again.

Things Phil learnt from watching this episode as an 8 year old: Orac can operate the teleport. I'd not seen anything before season 4 so hadn't seen him operate the system on the Liberator. What I'd forgotton is that he had operates the teleport on Xenon base in Power this season!

04_13_04 Avon On Ground

We see those on the surface throwing themselves at the ground. How on earth did Villa get in front of Soolin & Dayna? They strike me as being far fitter than he is! The answer may lie in Tarrent's statement to Slave that he's going to turn the ship. Vila's lagging behind and then suddenly they all reverse the direction they're running in to avoid the ship.

"The ground is very close sir!"

Scorpio ploughs into the ground with it's flight deck ripped to pieces.

04_13_05 Crash
Top, top model sequence of Scorpio ploughing into the forrest & ground. Tarrant's chair & console slipping all over the flightdeck however......

Now is a good point to mention that this episode is directed by Mary Ridge who also helmed Rescue, Power, Animals & Headhunter this season. She also directed Terminal last series so was in charge of the destructions of both Liberator and Scorpio. Bear that in mind as one of Scorpio's floor panels rises up and Tarrant slips down it: there's an identical seuence in Terminal.

04_13_06 Floor vlcsnap-2013-12-02-16h05m53s166

At the end of the crash sequence Scorpio tips over. It's a little difficult to see why, there must be a massive dip in the ground just closer to us than where we can see.

Avon asks Orac where the nearest settlement is and how does he get to it. Blake delivers Arlen into captivity. While counting gems he talks with Deva who is worried that Blake killed another bounty hunter. He selects Blake more targets to pursue but is interrupted by Klyn who informs them of the crash of a ship that tried to run the blockade: Blake decides to investigate. Deva tells Blake he has been temporarily appointed a law enforcement officer. Deva tells him that time is getting short because the Federation official is due shortly and they can't afford mistakes. Arlen tells Deva she has information on the man who brought her in. Klyn tells Blake she can detect a distress beacon.
The entire exchange between Blake & Deva deserves watching a few times. It appears Blake's counting what he's been paid and that Deva is concerned that they finish rounding up the undesirables before that. Later events suggest otherwise.

04_13_07 Deva

Playing Deva is the great David Collings who was Silver in Saphire & Steel. He'd already been in Doctor Who twice as Vorus in Revenge of the Cybermen and Poul in the Chris Boucher written The Robots of Death and would return as Mawdryn in the Mawdryn Undead.

We'll come to who's playing Klyn later!

04_13_08 Klyn
The distress signal is being transmitted by Orac who is attempting to summon help on Avon's orders. Villa, Dayna and Soolin shelter in an abandoned house but when a flyer passes overhead Dayna & Soolin prevent Vila from attracting it's attention.
It's unclear who is operating the flyer but what follows after makes it seem that there's a good chance that it's Blake. Things could have been so much different if Vila had been allowed to signal it!
04_13_09 Tarrent

A barely concious Tarrant lies in the wreckage of Scorpio as Slave explains a flying vehilce is approaching before he is forced to shut down due to damage and a lack of power.

Just as in Zen's final moments he referred to himself as I for the first time, in Slave's he uses Tarrant's name instead of calling him Master like he has referred to the male members of the crew all season.

04_13_10 Slave

I was upset that Slave died as a kid :-( I like to think he's still intact out in the wreck and that some day he'll be salvaged by someone.

Laser bolts penetrate the wreckage and Tarrant is ordered to shelter by Blake who has been hiding in the wreckage. Blake shoots the ship down.
Blake's obviously been there some while. It's later made clear he's heard Slave's report.

Bear in mind that Blake has never met Tarrant before: neither is sure of the other's identity.

The other ship may also have been the one Vila heard.

Dayna, Soolin & Vila have lit a fire, which attracts attention from Bounty Hunters, but they are saved by Avon.
"The fire was stupid. Putting Vila on guard was suicidal. What's the matter, is staying alive too complicated for you?"

The two bounty hunters here are played by Max Mundy & Michael Bauer both of whom appear again later in the episode....

Orac tells them that the Bounty Hunters were investigating their distress signal. Avon tells them they have been walking in the wrong direction and that they can use the bounty hunters flyer. He refuses to answer their questions about Tarrant.

04_13_11 Blake Tarrent

Blake explains to Tarrant that the people who attacked them were gun runners he was dealing with who he thinks were going to cheat him for the jewels.

So the jewels, which we saw earlier, were Blake's payment for guns from the gunrunners.....

Blake's playing with a damaged Scorpio teleport bracelet in this scene!

In the morning Avon, Vila, Dayna and Soolin walk to the flyer owned by the bounty hunters Avon killed when Orac reports that another flyer has just taken off. Avon says that will act as their guide. Blake & Tarrant head to Blake's base via an evasive pattern pursued by the flyer containing Avon and the others. Blake that he tells Tarrant he was taught the evasive pattern by a smuggler named Jenna who was killed when she was attacked by the ships blockading the planet and hit the self destruct button.
Blake's dropping of Jenna's name is an obvious trick to see if Tarrant recognises it: the logic being if he's soent any time with Avon then Avon will have mentioned her. This is the first on screen mention of Jenna since C2 Powerplay.

As an 8 year old who'd only seen season 4 I knew the crew of the Liberator had been different in the past but I had no idea who Blake, Jenna or Cally were. I only discovered when I read a copy of the Blake's 7 Program Guide by Trevor Hoyle.

Do we believe Blake's story? We know that Jenna wasn't in the same location as Blake the last time we heard of her so it's nice to think they found each other. On the other hand the though of her dying at the hands of the Gauda Prime blockade isn't a particularly nice one. Blake may have been making it up but that's a very strong emotional response when he tells of her death so I think we have to assume what he's saying is true. Jenna was there and now she's dead.

Orac tells Avon that Blake is approaching his base and about to enter an underground Silo. He tells Avon that he can both follow and open the silo doors.
"Sooner or later we're going to drop into one of these holes in the ground and never come out"

"Sooner or later, everyone does that, Vila"

And *THAT* is the last we see or hear of Orac, sat on Soolin's lap in the back of the flyer. He's not present in the scenes that followed so we must assume that Avon left him there or concealed him as they enter the base....

Peter Tuddenham who played Orac has few television acting roles to his name after Blake's 7 but does return to Doctor Who as The Brain voice in the last two episodes of the 1987 story The Time of the Rani. He died on 9th July 2007, ahed 88.

When Tarrant & Blake arrive at Blake's base, Klyn notes increased traffic from transports and flyers in the area and speculates that the Federation Observer may have finally arrived. Blake takes Tarrant to Deva. Blake draws Tarrant's gun on him, telling Deva that his captive's name is Tarrant, which he heard his flight computer say while he was unconcious.
Note he prevents Deva from putting Tarrant into the law enforcement computer system.
Blake tells Deva that Tarrant has several associates with high prices on their heads, one of whom is particularly valuable. Tarrant tells Blake that the others are dead but Blake was aware of the other flyer tracking them and had deduced Orac was aboard. He says if it was Avon then they shouldn't have long to wait. Klyn reports the flyer has landed in the Silo. Blake asks for a security guard to go and meet them and is assigned Arlen.
"What on earth happened to you?"

"Oh, most of it wasn't on Earth. Not what happened to me."

Tarrant rushes them and escapes into the complex. Arlen wants to kill him but Blake says that when Tarrant knows as much as she does now then he'll join them and that he passed the test. Deva complains that Blake keeps playing stupid games with those he tries to recruit and should be more careful or he'll get someone killed. Blake says he needs to test every recruit himself. Deva complains that he set up systems for that, broke their security codes on their central computer, got them access to official channels, information, ebverything they could possibly need and Blake doesn't need to be involved. Blake syas he finds it diffcult to trust and asks Blake to indulge him.
And that's the first time Deva uses Blake's name. It's been Bounty Hunter up until this point. This is where we're sure that Blake's bounty hunter bit is just a routine. So the question now is what are they up to?
Deva says he has no choice: he says he promised he'd follow Blake and will until the Federation is destroyed. He asks Blake where that leaves him if Blake is killed. Blake replies with a base, the beginnings of an army. All of which is useless without Blake to lead them protests Deva. Blake tells him to relax because nobody is indispensible.
Answer: exactly what Blake is always up to. Fighting the Federation. Deep down he hasn't changed at all. I remind you of Avon's words from the start of the episode:

"He is strongly identified with rebels, you see. And very popular with rabbles. They will follow him and he will fight to the last drop of their blood.

Tarrant finds the control room and Klyn but is attacked by one of the technicians. As they struggle the alarm sounds and Avon, Vila, Dayna & Soolin enter. The guard is slain by Soolin and Avon kills Klyn as she tries to raise an alarm.
vlcsnap-2014-01-08-12h01m18s14

Klyn is played by actress Janet Lees Price, the wife of Paul Darrow who plays Avon. He's just shot his own wife!

Did Klyn sound the alert or .....

On the basis that the technician leaps at Tarrant I'd guess he's Terry Forrestal who works as the stunt arranger on Traitor, Stardrive, Assasin, Warlord & Blake.

Blake enters, with Arlen, and confronts his old friend Avon but Tarrant tells Avon that Blake has betrayed them. Avon finds it hard to believe this of his old friend
04_13_12 Betrayed Me

"Stand still! Have you betrayed us? Have you betrayed *me*?"

Blake tells Avon that he set all this up and was waiting for Avon, but as Blake moves towards him Avon shoots him three times.

04_13_13 Shoots

Blake collapses at Avon's feet, blood pouring from his chest and says his friend's name as he dies.

A truely shocking moment as Avon guns down his former colleague. The look on Avon's face says he can't believe he's doing it. Once, by mistake, as an instinctive reaction I could get in a high pressure situation especially as Avon's issued a warning to stay still. But three times????

Gareth Thomas agreed to appear as Blake *ONLY* if they killed him off making absoloutely sure he could not return. To that extent his costume was loaded with bags of stage blood desined to burst when he was shot leading to the shocking effect seen here.

Arlen holds them all at gunpoint. Deva rushes in telling Blake that they've been found before realising that Blake is dead.
.... so it's likely that the alarm heard during the last scene was sounded by Deva in response to whoever has found them.....
Arlen shoots Deva and reveals she is a Federatrion Officer forcing them to throw their guns to the floor. She tells them Blake had said to her that he could no longer tell who was Federation and who wasn't. He was right: he couldn't.
Avon retains his gun standing motionless in the middle of the floor with Blake at his feet.
Vila aproaches Arlen attempting to distract her but as Dayna tries to reach her gun she is shot and falls to the floor. Vila disarms Arlen but is then shot by Federation Troopers who enter the control room.
.... and the other cause of the alarm is revealed: it sounds when the Federation troopers enter the base.
In the fight that follows Soolin is also gunned down. Tarrant shoots the trooper who shot her before being gunned down too leaving Avon standing over the bloody body of his former colleague......

04_13_14 Surrounded

Avon is surrounded by Federation troopers as the alarm cuts out.

Outnumbered and outgunned Avon raises his gun and smiles.......

04_13_15 Smile

And as the end titles run silently there's an exchange of gunfire......

- = - = - = - = - = - =- = - = - =- = - = - = -
How do you comment on one of THE classic moments in British television? Blake's been absent a while so while his death is a huge shock we've not been living with him every week. Seeing Dayna, Vila, Soolin & Tarrant gunned down is about as shocking as you can get. And then, that ending, with Avon surrounded and smiling.... and the shots over the credits where it's not 100% clear who's shooting when. And because you can't see Avon die *his* fate remains slightly ambiguous. Does he die or not?

Blake's 7 has specialised in superb end of season cliffhangers: The first had the Liberator being destroyed, the second had Avon opening fire against an alien fleet that impossibly outnumbers him and the third, expecting it to be the last episode, destroys the Liberator and maroons the crew on Terminal. Being aware the series was probably going to end they needed to produce something that was a definitive ending so killing everyone off was an obvious choice.

Oddly the ending to the series was prophecised in a way by Avon's line in Terminal:

"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 someway"

and yet....

You don't see Avon die. Even the gunshots over the end credits give hope:

One shot - Avon
Four shots - Federation blasters
One shot - ????
More shots - Federation blasters

There is that question that maybe, just maybe, he somehow survives. And beyond that we don't actually see blood when Deva, Klyn (even though she's shot with Avon's gun), Dayna, Vila, Soolin & Tarrant die. There's always the possibility that the Federation troops are shooting to stun and our heroes are going to wake up captured and in a cell. IIRC that's the basis of the start for Tony Attwood's sequel novel Afterlife.

And even beyond that there's the possibility that Blake is alive. No, stop laughing at the back there. Yes Avon has almost certainly killed Blake here but don't forget that there's more than one Blake running around: there's the clone we saw in Weapon. What if this Blake that died is the clone and the real one is still out there somewhere, roaming the galaxy with Jenna and plotting to bring down the Federation?

And even if Blake's dead, the Scorpio crew's dead, Avon's dead there's still TWO survivors from the series. There's Orac, absent from the final scene, presumably left in the flyer. The other is Servalan, absent in the final episode and last seen disposing of Zukan. It's oh so tempting to think that she is the Federation Official come to assess Gauda Prime's application to return to lawful status and that Blake *KNOWS* this and is trying to kill her.

So how do the Federation find Blake? I think they too have somehow had some suspicion he's on Gauda Prime. Arlen is inserted onto the planet with a faked criminal record to try to trap Blake and infiltrate the organistaion. She does just that and signals her success which is why the Federation troops all show up suddenly at the end. And the Federation Troops are a veritable who's who of central casting and Blake's 7 regular supporting artists: I counted 11 troopers at the end including Harry 'Aitch Fielder (previously Space Fall & Cygnus Alpha as a Armed Crewman, Deliverance as a Scavenger, and Weapon, Trial, Voice from the Past, Children of Auron, Games & Warlord as Federation Troopers), Pat Gorman (previously Deliverance as a Scavenger, Gambit as the Trantinian planet hopper Captain, Powerplay as a Death Squad Trooper, Power as a Hommik Warrior, Traitor as a Helot and Voice from the Past, The Harvest of Kairos, Rumours of Death and Games as Federation Troopers), Graham Cole (Gerren's Associate in Games, various Cybermen & other extras in Doctor Who and PC Stamp in the Bill), James Muir (Seek-Locate-Destroy as a Federation Trooper, Orac as a Phibian, Pressure Point as a Rebel, Dawn of the Gods as a Monster, Rescue as a Link, Traitor as a Helot & Assassin as a Pirate Guard as well as The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy as a Vl'Hurg Leader & plenty of uncredited roles in Doctor Who), Max Mundy & Michael Bauer (who are also the Bounty Hunters at the Cabin), Douglas Rose (a Federation Trooper in Seek - Locate - Destroy and uncredited Doctor Who roles), Tony Star (a Gammorean Guard in Return of the Jedi and is possibly the same as the Dalek Operator Tony Starr), Cy Town (also a Rebel Technician and Dalek Operator & other uncredited roles in Doctor Who) and Jeff Wayne (regular Doctor Who extra).

But of special note is the one time Dalek Operator and regular Doctor Who extra Mike Mungarven. He has is one of a small group of actors to appear in original and new Doctor Who thanks to an appearance as a passerby in The Christmas Invasion. In this episode he plays both a Rebel Technician/Federation Trooper but has also been, working backwards, a Helot in Traitor, a Customer/Gambler in Gambit, a Alta Guard in Redemption and a Prisoner in Space Fall & The Way Back. So that makes him one of only four actors (see above: the others are Gareth Thomas, Michael Keating and the aforementioned Steve Whyment) to be in both the first and last episodes of Blake's 7!

That's 11 names matching my count in the final scene but IMDB list two more Federation Troopers: Peter Benfield (his sole IMDB credit) and Peter Gates-Fleming.

I love season 4. Yes it's the first one that I saw so that may colour my view somewhat but I still loved it today. Four episodes spent establishing the new status quo and then a series of schemes which go wrong in some way one after another all the time pushing Avon closer to the edge leading to the climax seen here. My one real criticsim is that Soolin is chronically underused especially in the earlier episodes which should have been spent setting her up. Dayna gets a major role in the first five episodes this season: there's several points where Soolin and the show would have been better served giving her the spotlight rather than the more established character. But I could watch those opening 4 episodes and Gold, Orbit & Blake again and again, they're fabulous stuff.

Interestingly Avon & Servalan meet just ONCE in series 4: Gold. Yes she's bidding at the Slave auction in Assasin but doesn't get to meet him. In that encounter at the end of Gold Avon discovers that he's actually risked his life to make her rich. That's too much for him. And when Xenon base goes up shortly after that's he snaps and thinks "that's it, I've had enough, let's find Blake and let him get on with it".

Season 3 was to me a bit of mess plotwise. It also fails in there's very little actual resisting the Federation going on and on this point at least Season 4 has it beat hands down. Yes it's going Tango Ultra every time but it's not always their fault. But the repeated going wrong is increasingly pushing at Avon's sanity to the point where the curly haired idiot says something stupid and he shoots Blake in response. And the seeds of this are planted in three: the only woman he's loved turns out to be a Federation agent. The Liberator is destroyed. Cally, who he may be close to, dies. The only thing that's holding it together for him after Terminal is that great cost brought them Servalan's death. And then she turns up alive and well in Traitor and that's it over the edge of the cliff of madness as the schemes get more and more insane. It's this resistance/failure/Avon's sanity that is the narative backbone to Season 4, something else that Season 3 lacks.

Following the end of the series Gareth Thomas (Blake) continued to appear regularly on both stage and screen. Paul Darrow (Avon) was instantly recognised by Doctor Who fans when he appeared in Timelash in 1985 alongside Colin Baker. Some have insinuated that Darrow's performance in that story may be revenger for Baker's scenary chewing in Blake's season 3 City on the Edge of the World. Both Thomas & Darrow appear in the shortlived Sky 1 series the Strangerers. Glynis Barber (Soolin) had a succesaful career in the 80s appearing in the BBCs adaptation of Jane and then Dempsey & Makepeace where she met her husband Michael Brandon. Her TV appearances were sporadic from then on , including a cameo in Red Dwarf's Stasis Leak as the woman with fur (I never knew it was her) until she took two soap jobs in the 2000s first in Emerdale and then in Eastenders which also features Michael Keating (Vila) in a recurring role as the vicar (I've managed to find at least one episode with both of them in!). Steven Pacey while not having any recognisable roles to his name seems to have been consistantly busy since Blake's 7 finished. Peter Tuddenham made a return to Doctor Who and voice work in 1987's Time & the Rani and kept acting up until 1995. He died in 2007, the second member of the Blake's 7 cast to pass away after David Jackson (Gan). But probably the most successful member of the cast is Josette Simon who's CV boasts a large number of high profile roles, including one in Cry Freedom, and now has a CBE for acting to her name.

One week following this episode's broadcast on BBC1 the Doctor Who spin off K-9 & company was shown on BBC2. A week after that the 20th season of Doctor Who started with Castrovalva parts 1 & 2.

Blake was repeated on Saturday 27/08/1983 which was the last UK Terrestial showing of Blake's 7 until The Way Back was repeated on 12/02/2000 ! It was released on Video as part of Blake's 7 tape 26 on 5th January 1993 where it was paired with the penultimate episode Warlord alongside the previous two episodes Gold & Orbit on Tape 25. Blake's 7 season 4 was released on DVD on 24th April 2006. The version of Blake on the DVD is unique in having it's location footage reinstated from the original film prints which are now owned by Steve Roberts of the Doctor Who Restoration Team.

Monday, 24 February 2014

D12 Warlord

EPISODE: D12 Warlord
BROADCAST: 14/12/1981
WRITTEN BY: Simon Masters
DIRECTOR: Viktors Ritelis
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: Vere Lorrimer
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 4

"Avon's idea of diplomacy is to break your legs then say "Lean on me"."

04_12_0

Avon has formed an alliance between five world to produce between them the antidote to Pylene 50. The alliance is cemented with the arrival of Zukon of Betafal who is supplying raw material and equipment which is being installed in Zenon base. With the equipment is Zeeona, Zukon's daughter, who has travelled to Xenon without her Father's knowledge in the hope of seeing Tarrant again whom she met when he & Avon toured his facilities. During the night Zukon makes alterations to his equipment placing it near the air vents in the loading bay and instructing his assistant Finn to lay charges in the base. Finn tells Zukon the Zeeona has been seen on Zenon and an outraged Zukon demands Avon transport her back to Betafal when Scorpio leaves the next morning to collect the crop that will be synthesised into the Pylene 50 antidote. Soolin accompanies Avon, but distracts Avon and returns Zeeona to Xenon by teleport. Zukon and Finn leave Xenon but a short time later Orac detects an explosive charge in the teleport bay. The charge goes off bringing the roof down dealing Tarrant, Dayna, Vila *& Zeeona in the control room with a damaged airlock. The equipment Zukon has bought releases a radioactive airborne virus into the air systems forcing them to shut the life support down. Zukon meets with Servalan who plants a bomb on his ship. Avon & Soolin are ambushed on Betafal but escape when Soolin pretends to be Zeeona and frees Avon. Finn finds the bomb and Zukon opens the airlock on him just as the bomb explodes damaging the ship. He implores Avon to rescue him, enticing him with the knowledge of how to get clean air to the survivors but Avon comes up with the solution himself by reversing the air system. Tarrant, Dayna, Vila & Zeeona are rescued by teleport from Xenon. Zeeona returns in a protective suit to the loading bay to reverse the machinery producing the poison. When she fails to report in Tarrant & Dayna teleport down to find that she was successful in her work but lies dead have removed the glove on her suit.

Pylene 50 was introduced back in the third episode of the season Traitor. In the sixth, Animals, Avon tried to find a scientist to help him synthesise the antidote that Tarrant & Dayna obtained from it's creator Forbus in Traitor. All through the series there's references to Commissioner Sleer's pacification program. And now, at the end of the series, it comes together as Avon attempts to band together several rival independent groups to fight the Federation and produce the antidote. A grand scheme indeed.... so you know it's going to go wrong and go wrong it does big time. I'd like to attribute some of the blame to Tarrant for falling for the wrong girl. He has considerable form in this area this season Piri (Cancer) in Assassin and Servalan in Sand so keeping Tarrant away from any women who may be important or dangerous should be near the top of Avon's priority list by now. But if anything Tarrant's misjudgement in matters of the heart saves Avon by keeping him off the base when the bombs go off. No if anyone's to blame for this it's Avon himself. Xenon has one thing going for it and one thing only: NOBODY knows they are there. To suddenly invite a load of strangers who are at it each other's throats in was just asking for trouble and so it proves.

I can remember watching this as a kid and being really really worried for Orac who gets damaged crushed by a beam. Points for first time writer Simon Masters for the Terry Nation emulation here. We've also got got bombs, viruses and radiation so that's nearly a full house on your Terry Nation Bingo card!

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So..... Did Zeeona kill herself by accident or deliberately? The evidence would suggest the second: accidentally removing her glove when the work's done seems unlikely to me. On the subject of clothes why on earth are Avon & Soolin changing into identical outfits for the trip to Betafal? Never seen the reason for this and they do seem to be a uniform of some description. Thankfully it's goodbye to the awful Scorpio spacesuits previously seen in Headhunter and Orbit with this episode!

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It's also goodbye to Jacqueline Pearce as Servalan. Her appearance in this episode is brief but in typical fashion ends very very badly for her allies. Pearce would return to science fiction as Chessene in Doctor Who: The Two Doctors and appear as Miss Pendragon in the first of Russel T Davies two children's serials Century Falls.

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Some of the rest of the cast's form is interesting to say the least! Roy Boyd, Zukan, was Driscoll in Doctor Who: Hand of Fear, and later appears in Dempsey and Makepeace with Glynis Barber as the Depot Sergeant in Extreme Prejudice. Bobbie Brown, Zeeona, was a character called Hedonia in Flash Gordon. The interweb seems to indicate this was one of Ming's hand maidens clad in green. Dean Harris, Finn, has a Sweeney appearance to his name as Jimmy Wands in Thou shall not Kill. He's also the father of twins with former Doctor Who companion Katy Manning. Onto the delegates: I recognised Rick James, Chalsa, straight away proving that his performance as Cotton in Doctor Who: The Mutants wasn't a one off. Also instantly recognisable is Charles Auginsas Lod famous for playing Queeg on Red Dwarf a show he also worked as Choreographer on (along with many other things). Simon Merrick, Boorva, was in the original Tomorrow People as a Police Inspector in The Blue and the Green: The Swarming Season & Cuckoo in the Nest. And, even masked, I could tell that Federation soldier on the right in the clips at the beginning was 'Aitch.

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Warlord is our final visit to Betchworth Quarry near Reigate now serving as the Betafal surface. It's Blake's 7's most frequently used location appearing in Time Squad as the Saurian Major surface, Deliverance as the Cephlon surface, Hostage as the Exbar surface, Moloch as the Sardos surface and Power as Xenon's surface. The escalator massacre at the start was filmed at The Friary Shopping Centre in Guildford.

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Warlord was repeated on 20/08/1983. It was released on Video as part of Blake's 7 tape 26 on 5th January 1993 where it was paired with the final episode Blake alongside the previous two episodes Gold & Orbit on Tape 25. Blake's 7 season 4 was released on DVD on 24th April 2006.

Monday, 17 February 2014

D11 Orbit

EPISODE: D11 Orbit
BROADCAST: 07/12/1981
WRITTEN BY: Robert Holmes
DIRECTOR: Brian Lighthill
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: Vere Lorrimer
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 4

"Vila weighs 73 kilos"

Avon is summoned to the planet Malodar by renegade Federation scientist Egorian, who lives there with his aged assistant Pinder. Egorian proposes a trade: the weapon he has built, the tachyon funnel, for Orac. Avon agrees and return to Scorpio with Vila in a shuttle to fetch Orac. Tarrant does some research on Egorian, worried by rumours he recalled linking Egorian's disappearance 10 years ago with Servalan and discovers that Pinder is only 28. Egorian has another guest: Servalan, for whom he is obtaining Orac and giving the funnel in return for a share in power. Avon & Vila return by shuttle and demonstrate Orac to Egorian. He is pleased with the results and explains that Pinder was aged by Hoffel radiation as a result of the Neutron star material used in the construction of the funnel. After the shuttle launches Egorian discovers the Orac he has been left with is a dupe, remotely controlled by the real thing in the shuttle. However he has sabotaged the shuttle preventing it from obtaining escape velocity. Avon & Vila strip the shuttle of any spare material, including the funnel, and jettison it but Orac informs them they still need to loose another 70 kilos. As Vila leaves the control room to search for something to jettison Orac informs Avon that Vila weighs 73 kilos. Vila hides in the ship as his old friend stalks him, intent on jettisoning him to ensure his own survival. In the process Avon finds an incredibly heavy block of plastic which he deduces is embedded with the neutron star material. Once jettisoned the shuttle quickly achieves escape velocity before the fuel runs out. An enraged Servalan leaves Egorian and Pinder marooned on the planet. Pinder, distraught that Egorian was planning to abandon him to go with Servalan, exposes them both to Hoffel radiation killing them. Avon and Vila safely return to Scorpio with Vila now completely distrusting Avon.

Oh you've got to love that, it was fabulous. Bob Holmes nails it in his final Blake's 7 writing assignment. Top guest star hamming it up dreadfully wonderful interplay between the cast and a truly frightening last few minutes where you genuinely fear for Vila's safety.

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This is he third of Bob Holmes' four Blake's 7 scripts to pair Avon with Vila following Killer & Gambit. In a way they're also together in Traitor, but they've got Soolin and the computers for company there while Tarrant and Dayna do the hard work on the planet. Vila and Avon are the two great survivors, the only remaining members of Blake's original grouping and to see Avon turn on his friend like this .... disturbing. Yet also very in character: In Avon's world, Avon comes every time, and perhaps indicative of where Avon's been going mentally. He's discovered the one woman he ever really loved was a Federation agent all along, he's lost the Liberator and Cally, Servalan's somehow survived and although they established themselves again OK on Xenon and with Scorpio recently things haven't been going right at all. Headhunter, Games, Sand, Gold and now Orbit all feature attempts to get their hands on something/someone that go wrong. He's on very shaky ground and it's about to get worse as well.

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If you've watched any of Bob Holmes' Doctor who stories you'll know he wasn't adverse to "borrowing" from other sources to make a story work and very much wrote by Mac Hulke's maxim of "All you need to work in television is an original idea. It doesn't necessarily have to be your original idea...." In this case one of the central concepts of the story, a spaceship too heavy to make orbit, would appear to be lifted from The Cold Equations by Tom Godwin, which itself has several antecedents......

If you're a fan of Robert Holmes then Telos Publishing have recently released Robert Holmes: A Life In Words, a biography of the man based around his writings.

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Egorian is a thoroughly nasty piece of work...., the tales of bodies being found after his disappearance are disturbing and his description of Pinder as "a gauche adolescent" "my golden-haired stripling" and "Just a callow youth" leave you in no doubt which direction his interests lie making Vila's suggestion to take one of the girls to interest him seem somewhat amusing in retrospect. Did Avon already know that about Egorian? Possibly which may be why he takes Vila with him. After all he keeps Soolin close to Keiller in the previous episode seemingly to charm him.

Second time this year we've had an effect where people are killed by being aged to death, and we're not done with it yet!

So Avon just happens to have a spare fake Orac to hand? Not as unlikely as it seems. People have been after Orac before, only a few weeks ago Belkov wanted it. Orac's been damaged before so Avon's had some practice poking around in the workings so I can see him thinking yes I could duplicate Ensor's work. An abortive attempt fitted with a remote control enabling the real Orac to operate the fake and you're ready to con the next person who shows up wanting Orac in exchange for something to good to be true/their lives!

Main guest star John Savident, as Egrorian, was already well known when this episode aired. He'd already been in episode B6 Trial as Samor and would later (briefly) appear in Doctor Who as The Squire in The Visitation. Nowadays he's most famous for playing butcher Fred Elliot in Coronation Street.

Gone are the obvious CSO marks on the model shots this week so director Brian Lighthill has learnt something from his experiences last week. Gone too is the costume Paul Darrow as Avon wore in Assassin, Games, Sand and Gold replaced by the far superior version he wore in the first episodes of the season.

Orbit was repeated on 13/08/1983. It was released on Video as part of Blake's 7 tape 25 on 5th January 1993 where it was paired with the previous episode Gold while the final two episodes Warlord & Blake were presented on Tape 26 released the same day. Blake's 7 season 4 was released on DVD on 24th April 2006.

Monday, 10 February 2014

D10 Gold

EPISODE: D10 Gold
BROADCAST: 30/11/1981
WRITTEN BY: Colin Davis
DIRECTOR: Brian Lighthill
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: Vere Lorrimer
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 4

"Yes, they're clear all right. Aren't they, Avon. We've just risked our lives, for nothing."
"Not for nothing, Tarrant. We risked our lives to make Servalan rich!"

Avon is contacted by his "old friend" Keiller who has a plan to steal the gold that the Space Princess, the starship he works on is due to be carrying. There's just one snag the gold has been processed on the planet of it's origin, Zerok, to turn it into a worthless black metal. When they attempt to raid the processing complex, to obtain the code used to process the gold, Avon & Soolin are feared killed but have been force to hide and return to the ship with the required information. Avon discovers Keiller used to serve a Federation President and is intrigued which one. Keiller's plan is put into action with the security system diverted while Avon & Keiller steal the gold and Dayna, posing as a passenger, being infected with a virus so she requires returning to to Zerok. Scorpio answers the Space Princess' mayday and dock to take Dayna, lying on a gurney containing the stolen gold, aboard. However the break in is discovered and Avon is trapped in the disconnecting transfer tube between the two ships only to be saved by the Teleport. Avon makes the Rendezvous with Keiller's buyer for the gold, who is willing to pay them 10 billion for it and the processing code. The exchange is made but Avon forces the buyer to reveal herself, Servalan, and abandons Keiller to her whom she kills. Once back on the ship Orac tells them that Zerok has seceded to the Federation: Servalan has the means to process the gold and make a profit and what's more the Zerok currency they've been paid in is now worthless.

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Ah a top notch caper episode enlivened by some fab model work and a top turn by the late great Roy Kinnear as Keiller. Entertaining if not especially challenging or thought provoking.

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Loved the sequences of Scorpio docking with the superb Space Princess model, it's just a shame when I see it now I can see HUGE CSO masks on the screen whenever they appear. I've got memories of watching the repeat of this episode on a black & white TV set at my Grandmother's house in Cornwall one holiday! In fact, before m'learned colleagues at Roobarb's DVD Forum dug up the repeat dates for me this was the only episode I was reasonably sure I knew when it was broadcast because my brother had managed to fall of a slide in Helston and break his arm on his 8th birthday. The problem I had was I recall him getting a Return of the Jedi Gammorean Guard figure that day, which dated it to 1983 or after, and I couldn't think of why it took the BBC a year and a half to repeat S4. But they did!

When I blogged Doctor Who episode 564 Four to Doomsday Part One I mentioned how the big black spheres, with camera lenses sticking out of them, scared me as a child. There's one here in this episode!

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Fab exchange between Avon & Servalan at the end, the first and only time they actually get to meet this series! And yes, it's all a big con and Avon's just made Servalan very very rich.

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Soolin gets a lot to do for the second time inn three episodes. It's a bit Vila light this episode, as many recent ones have been, but his big moment comes next week.

Anthony Brown, playing the Doctor, is a Former ITN news reporter and father of BBC news reporter Ben Brown Norman Hartley, the Pilot has two Doctor Who's to his name: The Time Meddler as Ulf and The Invasion as Sergeant Peters. He also appeared in Dempsey and Makepeace (with Soolin's Glynis Barber) as Dan in Silver Dollar.

This is the first of two Blake's 7 episodes for Director Brian Lighthill but the only one for writer Colin Davis. I think he's done enough to be afforded a return if the series had have come back for a fifth series.

Poole Refuse Disposal Centre, now gone, was the ZVP gold processing plant while a nearby quarry provided the Beta 2 surface.

This episode of Blake's 7 was broadcast on BBC1 the same night as the Five Faces of Doctor Who repeat of Logopolis episode 1 was shown on BBC2. The whole of Logopolis was repeated on BBC2 during the week following.

Gold was repeated on 06/08/1983. It was released on Video as part of Blake's 7 tape 25 on 5th January 1993 where it was paired with the following episode Orbit while the final two episodes Warlord & Blake were presented on Tape 26 released the same day. Blake's 7 season 4 was released on DVD on 24th April 2006.

Monday, 3 February 2014

D9 Sand

EPISODE: D9 Sand
BROADCAST: 23/11/1981
WRITTEN BY: Tanith Lee
DIRECTOR: Vivienne Cozens
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: Vere Lorrimer
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 4

"Oh, Tarrant. I'm just the girl next door."
"If you were the girl next door, I'd move."
"Where would you move, Tarrant?"
"Next door?"

On the planet Vern the Federation outpost was suffering from a plague when they made their last transmission 5 years ago. Servalan, in her guise as Comissioner Sleer, has obtained the recordings and is going to the planet accompanied by investigator Reeve. As they approach the planet their ship's systems go wild and they crash. Avon has intercepted transmissions from the Federation and has decided if there is something of value on Vern then he wants it. Soon after landing Servalan's ship is partially buried in sand. Slave is affected by the planet on approach and starts to loose control of Scorpio. One of Servalan's crew is killed while they journey to the base. Tarrant & Dayna teleport to Vern. Reeve recognises "Sleer" as being Servalan. Spotting movement Reeve shoots and wounds Dayna who returns to Scorpio, bringing some sand with her on her boots. Tarrant is found by Reeve as he sneaks into the base but Tarrant kills him as Servalan finds him. Scorpio is increasingly affected by in flight disturbances which Avon thinks is being caused by the ship irritating the atmosphere. Servalan and Tarrant shelter in the base. They find the body of Kellor, the base's chief scientist as the building is covered by a sand drift. Over a meal Servalan explains how she used the teleport to escape from the Liberator and how the presidency was stolen from her. Tarrant comes up with a theory as to how Vern's ecology works believing the sand is alive and using the last surviving pair of humans as breeding stock. Servalan explains Kellor was her lover and she came to Vern to find out what happened to him. Dayna realises the Sand on the liberator has moved round villa. When Vila spills his drink on it it disolves. Tarrant comes to the same conclusion having seen Servalan's tears strike the floor but she pulls his gun on him. Avon brings Scorpio further into Vern's atmosphere creating a rainstorm that attacks the Sand. Tarrant blasts the windows in the base letting the water in to neutralise the sand in the base. Servalan sets out to return to her ship as Tarrant is teleported back to Scorpio. Tarrant admits to the others he shared an encounter with Servalan on the planet to the disgust of the rest of the crew. Avon notes that Vern is capable of regenerating the sand and that Servalan may not make it off Vern alive.

aka "The one where Tarrant and Servalan get it on"

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Far far better than Tanith Lee's previous attempt at a Blake's 7 story Sarcophagus. This time you can understand what's going on from the word go. Servalan's on a plant trying to obtain something but the sand is hostile to any visitors and the planet interferes with computers. If Servalan wants something, Avon wants it even if it's just to stop her having it so they visit the same planet. Dayna get's shot which gets the sand onto Scorpio increasing the planet's control over the ship while Tarrant & Servalan are trapped together during which the unspeakable deed is done. Avon works out what's going on and neutralises the sand. Pretty simple really. The idea that the planet is keeping the last surviving pair of humans alive as breeding stock is quite frightening. There's little details in there that are nice to, in particular that the message that Orac and the computers on the base are relaying sounds like it's Kellor's last diary entry to Servalan. We get references to Sarcophagus, Deatch Watch and Terminal too. It works for me. A little slow moving at times maybe but a decent episode.

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In fact the only things I really had a problem with were the longer shots of people on the planet's surface that were filmed instead of video recorded: these really stood out badly from the rest of the video footage.

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Oooh, full house on the guest cast this week, we've seen all 5 of them somewhere before! Stephen Yardley, Reeve, has two Doctor Whos to his name as Sevrin in Genesis of the Daleks and Arak in Vengeance on Varos before becoming known as Ken Masters in Howard's Way Daniel Hill, the pilot Chasgo, should have been Chris Parsons in the unproduced Doctor Who story Shada but later featured in BBC Sitcoms No Place Like Home and Waiting For God. Jonathan David, Keller, will later appear as Stratton in Doctor Who: Attack of the Cybermen. Peter Craze, Servalan's assistant, was in Blake's 7 episode A6 Seek-Locate-Destroy as Prell. He was in three Doctor Who stories: as Dako in the Space Museum, Du Pont in the War Games & Costa in Nightmare of Eden and is the brother of Michael Craze who played 60s companion Ben Jackson. Michael Gaunt, the Computer voice, has one credited Blake's 7 role as Dr Bax in Killer and teo uncredited ones in Breakdown as XK72 Personnel/Pursuit Ship Leader and the previous story Games as the Game Computer on Orbiter. Beyond Blake's 7 his CV includes some "interesting" work.

This episode of Blake's 7 was broadcast on BBC1 the same night as the Five Faces of Doctor Who repeat of Three Doctors episode 1 was shown on BBC2. The whole of Three Doctors was repeated on BBC2 during the week following.

Sand was repeated on 30/07/1983. Sand was released on video as the second episode on Blake's 7 tape 24 on 1st September 1992. It was paired with the previous episode Games and alongside Tape 23 Headhunter/Assasin. Blake's 7 season 4 was released on DVD on 24th April 2006.

Monday, 27 January 2014

D8 Games

EPISODE: D8 Games
BROADCAST: 16/11/1981
WRITTEN BY: Bill Lyons
DIRECTOR: Vivienne Cozens
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: Vere Lorrimer
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 4

"As well as being a respected geologist and an expert on mining techniques he's also greedy, avaricious and a crook."
"Does he have any faults?

When Avon's ally Academician Geeren fails in his task of penetrating an orbiting space station Scorpio sets course for Mecron II to steal a consignment of Feldon crystals. The official in charge of Mecron II Belkov has been visited by Servalan and contacts Scorpio wanting to be taken off planet in return for half of his haul of Feldon crystals. Villa, Tarrant, Dayna & Geeren teleport to Mecron but Scorpio shifts it's orbit so it is hidden by the orbiter. Servalan tries to obtain from Belkov his crystals and he offers her Avon and his colleagues. Vila breaks into the mine complex and waits outside while Tarrant, Dayna & Gerrren go in. Orac determines Belkov's computer has been modified to play games. Gerren, Tarrant & Dayna find Belkov and he proposes stealing a Federation ship and escaping. He dupes Servalan and her troops into visiting a site sacred to the locals on the pretext Tarrant & Dayna are hiding there. Avon asks Vila to steal a circuit from Belkov's computer.

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Belkov traps Tarrant, Dayna & Gerren in the launch area under the spaceships. Belkov tells computer Gambit he has to leave and orders it's self destruct after his departure. Vila persuades Gambit to let him have the circuit and release Tarrant, Dayna & Gerren. Gerren is believed killed in the escape while the other three teleport to Scorpio. Gerren is captured by Servalan and he tells her the Felden crystals are on the orbiter. Avon, Vila, Tarrant & Soolin take Orac to the orbiter and are forced to play the games in it's defences. Soolin is forced to outshoot herself, while Tarrant has to fly a flight simulator and Vila tricks a fingerprint sensing system. As they start the final game the orbiter moves out of orbit powered by it's panels covered in Feldon crystals. Avon is required to compute the next star in a sequence which he discovers is a black hole. He realises the Orbiter is a con and a trap and teleports them all back to Scorpio. Gambit locks Belkov's cruiser on a course for the black hole. Scorpio escapes from the black hole by firing on the Feldon crystals covering the station .

Oh and that was all going so well and they threw it away at the end. I can't stand stories which involve beating a selection of traps to win. To be fair this happening was choreographed in advance at the start of the episode. And oh look each of the traps just happens to be just the things for each of the members of out plucky team. GRRRRRRR and if that wasn't bad enough the end is a rushed spew of techno babble where it's not clear what's going on. A mess.

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Which is a shame cos everything up to there was great with Belkov trying con everyone in sight. There is a question to just where his Feldon Crystals were: did he use all of them to coat the Orbiter?

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Belkov is played by Stratford Johns is best known to television viewers for many years playing Detective Inspector Charlie Barlow in Z-Cars, while Doctor Who fans will know him as Monarch in Four to Doomsday, first Peter Davison story filmed. By an odd coincidence David Neal, who plays Gerren here, will appear in the last Peter Davison story as the President in Caves of Androzani! One of Gerren's associates, presumably one of the two shot at the start is Graham Cole (later a Federation trooper in Blake, various Cybermen & other extras in Doctor Who and PC Stamp in the Bill) and lurking in the background, inside a Federation Trooper costume for the first time this year is our old mate Aitch.

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The location for the surface of Mecron 2 is Winspit Quarry in Dorset, which had previously been used in Doctor Who for The Underwater Menace and my favourite story Destiny of the Daleks. It was so obviously the same place that even Liz recognised bits of it. There again I have made her watch Destiny a few times..... Oddly shortly after I watched this Channel 4 showed a World's Weirdest Weather program and I instantly picked Winspit Quarry out as being used as a location there too!

Writer Bill Lyons seems to have spent most of his career writing for soaps, though I can see some of Stratford Johns' Z-Cars on his CV. In his previous guise he was an actor who appeared in Doctor Who: The Enemy of the World episode 3 as a guard. Vivienne Cozens directs this the first of two episodes. Her name pops up as a director of the Hoobs one of Jonathan's favourites when he was younger!

This episode of Blake's 7 was broadcast on BBC1 the same night as the Five Faces of Doctor Who repeat of Carnival of Monsters episode 1 was shown on BBC2. The whole of Carnival of Monsters was repeated on BBC2 during the week following.

Games was repeated on 23/07/1983. Games was released on video as the first episode on Blake's 7 tape 24 on 1st September 1992. It was paired with the next episode Sand and alongside Tape 23 Headhunter/Assassin. Blake's 7 season 4 was released on DVD on 24th April 2006.

Monday, 20 January 2014

D7 Assassin

EPISODE: D7 Assassin
BROADCAST: 09/11/1981
WRITTEN BY: Rod Beacham
DIRECTOR: David Sullivan Proudfoot & Vere Lorrimer (uncredited)
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: Vere Lorrimer
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 4

"You can imagine how much it pains me to use the word 'infallible'."
"Oh, come on. No-one's infallible."
"Alright, then, he's not infallible. It's just that up till now he's never failed!"

Vila intercepts a coded messages from Servalan "Utiliser to Cancer, Domo the ninth, five subjects" Soolin recognises Domo as being a planet which is home to Slave traders while the believe the ninth is a date. Avon recalls Cancer is an assassin and points out there are five of them. Orac suggests going to Domo and trying to trap Cancer. Avon & Vila teleport to the planet where Avon allows himself to be captured by the slave traders, but looses his teleport bracelet, and Vila returns to the ship. Avon is flung into a cell with an old man Nebrox who offers to retrieve his bracelet in return for Avon taking Nebrox with him. Nebrox tells him of a strange black ship that had recently visited the planet. Servalan tried to buy Avon at the slave auction, but Nebrox stages a disturbance begging for his life and obtains Avon's bracelet. Avon frees the slaves as a distraction. Dayna teleports down with a spare gun and an extra bracelet. She just fails to kill Servalan and they teleport with Nebrox back to Scorpio. They find the black ship adorned with a crab motif. Avon & Tarrant teleport over and find a dummy in the control room. They are held at gunpoint by a man wearing a black uniform with a crab motif. His female slave makes a break for it allowing Avon & Tarrant to overcome him. The female slave, Piri, says she was bought for him as a slave by Servalan to celebrate his success. Soolin, Vila & Nebrox teleport to the ship. Avon decides to keep him alive to trap Servalan. Avon, Tarrant & Soolin stay on the ship with Nebrox & Piri, who tells Tarrant she is a dancer. She goes to rest but Nebrox goes to seek her out. He goes to check on the prisoner for her but finds him gone then is killed. Piri rushes to the bridge in hysterics bringing Avon & Soolin to the body. The man stalks the ship as Avon & the others stay in the bridge. They discover the ships flight systems have failed and then life support is shut down giving them two hours to live. They split up to search the ship for Cancer. Avon is knocked out. Soolin is attacked by a venomous spider but escapes having figured out what has happened. Avon wakes up to find himself bound to a table with the corpse of the man next to him. Piri admits she has killed him and that she is Cancer. The man was an actor Servalan had purchased for her from the slave auction. She contacts Servalan and lets her know she is holding Avon. She shows Avon the spider which transforms into the Crab broach Piri had been wearing. She transforms it back to a spider and leaves it on his chest. Tarrant & Soolin enter, holding Cancer at gunpoint. Soolin flicks the spider off Avon onto Cancer who it kills. They summon Scorpio to retrieve them as Servalan makes towards Cancer's stricken ship. She destroys the ship believing she has killed Avon & Tarrant.

Like Headhunter before it a bit of a harmless run-aroud. Servalan baits a trap, Avon & co walk right into it thinking they've got the better of her and haven't. Lots of Avon, while possibly not his best episode, Tarrant being stupid and falling for the slave girl and Soolin sitting down to figure the problem out. It's her biggest contribution to a story so far but it's nothing none of the other characters could have done. The broach that turns into a spider is quite fun but why a spider? Surely it would have made more sense for it to be a deadly crab? I won't even go into how it works!

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Oh dear this is the first episode with the new costumes. None of them are as good as the previous versions with Dayna's Purple and Gold number being particularly bad.

I think this is the first time that Servalan has just tried to kill Avon & co. She's wanted Blake to stop his rebellion, and wanted the Liberator for it's power but this is the first time she's tried to just kill them! And at the end of the episode she believes them dead. That won't last long!

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By far the most recognisable face in this to sci fi fans is Richard Hurndall playing Nebrox. His performance here is what is rumoured to have won him the role as William Hartnell's replacement as The First Doctor in The Five Doctors but he's got a long CV stretching out over many years. Verlis, the woman running the slave auction who Servalan talks to, is played by Betty Marsden who's got two Carry ons (Camping & Regardless) to her name. Adam Blackwood, Tok one of the bidders at the auction, was Balzar in Trial of a Timelord 1-4 (Mysterious Planet) and Cyril 'Barmy' Fotheringay Phipps in Jeeves & Wooster. In addition Rod Beacham, who wrote this episode of Blake's 7 had in his previous career as an actor appeared as Corporal Lane in the Doctor who story The Web of Fear! Oddly enough the writer of the next story also has a Doctor Who acting credit in the previous tale Enemy of the World!

The Domo sequences were filmed in a Sandpit near Bovingdon Camp in Dorset. I could swear someone's wearing the Omega's costume from the Three Doctors during the auction sequence!

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This episode of Blake's 7 uses a lot of circular wipes to cut between scenes which is an odd technique and isn't used elsewhere in the episodes (though is in the Star Wars films) I'd suggest this is the work of Producer Vere Lorrimer who stepped in when allocated director David Sulivan Proudfoot was taken ill.

This episode of Blake's 7 was broadcast on BBC1 the same night as the Five Faces of Doctor Who repeat of The Krotons episode 1 was shown on BBC2. The whole of The Krotons was repeated on BBC2 during the week following.

Assassin was repeated on 16/07/1983. Assassin was released on video as the second episode on Blake's 7 tape 23 on 1st September 1992. It was paired with the previous episode Headhunter and alongside Tape 24 Games/Sand. Blake's 7 season 4 was released on DVD on 24th April 2006.

Monday, 13 January 2014

D6 Headhunter

EPISODE: D6 Headhunter
BROADCAST: 02/11/1981
WRITTEN BY: Roger Parkes
DIRECTOR: Mary Ridge
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: Vere Lorrimer
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 4

"Tarrant, what have you got up there apart from yourself, a half-wit and a corpse?"

Vila & Tarrant are on Scorpio en route to the planet Pharos to fetch the Cybernetecist Muller, who was trained by Orac's creator Ensor, while Avon hosts his wife Vena on Xenon. Tarrant teleports direct to Muller's laboratory where he finds Muller and the body of the man he said came for him. He returns with Muller and a box Muller was working on. Muller commands him to send it back and they struggle but Muller collapses when Vila hits him with a tool. Thinking him dead they put him in Scorpio's medicapsule. On Pharos one of the technician's finds Muller's headless body. Vila tries to open Muller's box but Scorpio is rocked by a power surge in the drive unit. He tries again under Avon's instructions and the same effects are felt. Believing Slave responsible they take him off-line for the rest of the journey home. Orac is worried by the cause of Scorpio's problems and suggests quarantining the ship in orbit. Once in orbit they bring Slave back on-line but the life support systems begin to fail. Orac insists they must be left there to protect the base from malign systems influence but Avon refuses. Dayna and Soolin teleport up in survival suits and bring Vila & Tarrant back. While Avon & Vena prepare to teleport to Scorpio something teleports to the base. Orac predicts that everyone will die. Avon & Vena find all systems restored and the resuscitation capsule empty. Orac request Soolin render him inoperative, and hide him until after they have destroyed the intruder. Dayna is attacked and only woken by Avon's call for teleport to the base. They are joined by a recovered Tarrant & Vila. Vena finds her husband and is pleased to see him alive but he kills her. Tarrant attacks him but "Muller" destroys his and Avon's guns. Avon deduces "Muller" can influence electronic circuits Avon & Vila take the box to seek Orac & Soolin while Tarrant & Dayna attempt to distract Muller. Avon leaves Vila in the medical unit to open the box but Soolin finds him. She tells Avon Orac is hiding as Vila opens the box. Dayna & Tarrant attack "Muller" with explosives trapping him under rubble but his now headless corpse rises from the floor demanding to know "Where is Orac?". Inside the box is a head containing immobiliser circuits designed to act as a robot's conscience. The robot that has used Muller's head corners them in the medical unit and demands Orac so he can unite with him. They trap the robot in the medical room and flee outside. Avon devises a trap using an existing hydro plant and Orac as bait so they can attach the head. Avon wires a metal bridge near the hydro plant to the generators within. Soolin brings Orac from the base but he starts to feel the robot's control demanding that he be handed over. An activated but controlled Orac lures the robot over the bridge as Tarrant feeds the power through damaging the android. Avon attaches the head with difficulty but is thrown some distance away. Dayna mines the bridge and destroys the robot and the circuit influencer in contains much to Avon's disgust.

A fairly harmless run around episode. Loved it as a kid but now it's a bit something of nothing. Yes it fits in with Avon's plan to recruit experts to help them, it's not his fault Muller was working on something that went out of control just as Avon & co turn up for him!

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Lordy lord those survival suits are rubbish! And speaking of costumes this is the last appearance of the clothes the main cast have been wearing since episode 1 of this series. In previous years the characters have had different clothes for each episode but now, following Doctor Who's example, everyone has worn the same thing every episode. Next episode will change the costumes.... and not for the better in my opinion. I suspect one member of the cast wasn't too happy with theirs as they revert to their early season costume within a few episodes!

Still at least the action is shared round in this episode and Soolin gets something to do hiding Orac.

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Guest cast: John Westbrook, Muller, was Treebeard in the animated Lord of the Rings film. Lynda Bellingham, Vena, is a well known TV face (including as the OXO Mum) but sci fi fans know her as The Inquisitor in Doctor Who Trial of a Timelord. Nick Joseph, the Android, was an Animal in the previous Blake's 7 episode Animals.

The Xenon locations in this episode were filmed on Box Hill in Surrey.

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This episode of Blake's 7 was broadcast on BBC1 the same night as the Five Faces of Doctor Who started on BBC2 with a repeat of An Unearthly Child episode 1, being shown for the first time since 1963. All 4 episodes of An Unearthly Child was repeated on BBC2 during the week following.

Headhunter was repeated on 09/07/1983. Headhunter was released on video as the first episode on Blake's 7 tape 23 on 1st September 1992. It was paired with the following episode Assassin and alongside Tape 24 Games/Sand. Blake's 7 season 4 was released on DVD on 24th April 2006.

Monday, 6 January 2014

D5 Animals

EPISODE: D5 Animals
BROADCAST: 26/10/1981
WRITTEN BY: Allan Prior
DIRECTOR: Mary Ridge
SCRIPT EDITOR: Chris Boucher
PRODUCER: Vere Lorrimer
DVD: Blake's 7 - Series 4

"Why do I get all the dirty jobs?"

Tarrant has used Scorpio to deliver Dayna to Bucol 2 so she can visit one of her old tutors Justin to recruit him to their cause. Scorpio is driven away by Federation pursuit ships and damaged needing to return to Xenon base for repairs. Dayna is ambushed by a number of furry horned beasts but saved by Justin who brings her into his base. He instructs the beast's leader Og to return to his quarters for food and rest. He has been training the animals to work for him using brain implants and genetic restructuring. Dayna is appalled and wonders why he is doing what he is. She tries to communicate with Scorpio but gets no response. Dayna tells Justin they want him to help synthesise the drug they need to resist Pylene 50 but he refuses unless she agrees to stay with him. Servalan's staff give her the report of Scorpio's escape at Time Distort 12 and she sets course for Bucol 2 where it was sighted. Justin tells Dayna he was the head of Federation Research team there. He stayed to finish the work, to create a species that could enter an area of heavy radioactivity of shock troops. He justifies his work in that he's creating a creature that could help recovery work in radioactive zones. On Xenon work is nearing completion on Scorpio. Servalan, in her guise as Commissioner Sleer, orders Federation intelligence member Bor to track down someone who knows what is going on on Bucol 2. He tracks down the blind Ardus and has him sent to Servalan. He refuses to tells her what he knows, but she threatens her family. Ardus recognises her voice as Servalan and divulges what he knows about the genetic work on Bucol 2 before she has him killed and lands on the planet. Dayna goes outside to try to persuade Og to come in for his final adaptations, but he attacks her knocking her over a ledge where she is found by Federation troopers. A repaired Scorpio sets out for Bucol 2 to rescue Dayna. Justin finds Dayna's gun and realises she is missing as Servalan interrogates her. Servalan forces Dayna to go to Justin with a message guaranteeing his safety and work if she can use the animals as she sees fit. When she refuses Servalan starts to brainwash her to hate Justin. Justin returns to his base and in a drunken rage smashes some of his equipment. Dayna is commanded to enter the lab and then admit Servalan. Servalan captures Justin and promises to restore Dayna is he obeys her and gives Servalan his work and the animals. She sends her troops to capture Og as Avon, Soolin and Tarrant teleport down to Bercol 2 and follow the sounds of Og's screams. They find Justin's deserted and wrecked lab and Dayna's abandoned gun. Justin refuses to co-operate until Dayna is restored. While she is worked on Avon tried to contact Dayna but Justin communicates their location to him. Once Dayna is restored Justin starts to co-operate but Avon attacks. Justin is killed helping Dayna escape and Og is shot by Federation guards.

Oh Dear, Allan Prior alert! You'll recall I've not been enamoured with some of his previous episodes (Horizon, Hostage, The Keeper & Volcano) I can't remember being unduly distressed by them but even so....

The background to the episode is a simple one: Avon wants the assistance of a Geneticist to help them replicate a drug. He's been stuck on a backwater planet continuing to carry out some very dodgy experiments started by the Federation war effort which he, now a pacifist, is convinced can be used for peaceful purposes. Servalan finds out about this and decides otherwise.

Actually there's some more good stuff in there: the reason Avon wants him is to help replicate the formula for resisting Pylene 50. Nice link back to the third episode of the series there. Avon's got a distinct plan to: get experts that might help them. Shame he didn't think of that before he electrocuted Doctor Plaxton.

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Against that we have a decidedly dodgy relationship between Justin and Dayna. Apparently he was brought in by her Father to tutor Dayna. Ok.... let's ignore how isolated the Mellanbys were and how Hal managed to obtain tutors and get them to and from Saren! But in terms of a teacher/pupil relationship we're into abusing a position of trust/authority already! But he's been on Bucol 2 since 6 years before the fall of the Federation at Star One. That was the point we met Dayna. If we assume she's the same age as the actress who plays her then she was 20 then so you role 6 years back off that and .... oh dear. I'm wondering if they'd really thought this one through properly! Justin now being a licentious drunk doesn't help my view of him at all. She's obviously got reservations about him early on in the episode so her all out over the top grief at Justin's Death is, I'd like to think, Servalan reversing her "I hate Justin" conditioning just a bit too much.

Remember me pointing out how Doctor Plaxton had an extra playing her on location so they didn't have to spring for the cost of paying the named actress to appear other than in the studio. The same is true here except that this time they've constructed little bits of woodland in the studio. It's blindingly obvious twice: Dayna goes over the ledge on location in woodlands near Horley then Justin finds her gun in the studio and again as Dayna throws herself towards the ground on location then falls on his body in the studio.

Soolin watch: no she hardly does anything this week again! Instead Dayna gets teleported down to the planet and a major role for the third week in a row. Soolin shows up right at the end but given the issues with Dayna's age above I wonder if this might have worked better with Soolin instead of Dayna and given her character some more depth & background?

IMDB credits Peter Byrne, chief guest star as Justin, as appearing in 424 episodes of Dixon of Dock Green as Andy Crawford who rose through the ranks from Pc through to DI! He also had a regular role as Derek in several series of Bread.

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By far the most recognisable member of the rest of the cast is the great Kevin Stoney briefly playing Ardus. It's a waste he's gone so quickly! He appeared in different roles in three Doctor Who stories: Mavic Chen in the Dalek Masterplan, Tobias Vaughan in The Invasion and Tyrum in Revenge of the Cybermen as well as appearing as Councillor Joban in Blake's 7 episode B8 Hostage. There's two more Doctor Who appearances in the credited cast: Servalan's starship captain is played by William Lindsay who was Zargo in State of Decay while Max Harvey, who appears here as Borr, would later take the part of Cardinal Zorac in Arc of Infinity.

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Oooooh, there's some fun to be had with the actors playing the more minor characters too! Jill Goldston, a Mutoid (those women with Servalan are Mutoids?) was in Doctor Who The Masque of Mandragora as a Masquer and State of Decay (again) as a Peasant , both uncredited. One of the Animals, Nick Joseph, will be back in the next episode of Blake's 7 but would end up with three Doctor Whos to his name: The Leisure Hive as Hardin's Aide, Terminus (directed by Mary Ridge) as a Lazar and Mark of the Rani as a Luddite. Ralph Morse has a CV that makes me think why haven't I heard of you before! One of the skiers in the Spy Who Loved Me, the crook in the series 4 Sweeney Title sequence, an astronaut in Moonraker, Stormtrooper/Imperial Comms Officer/Rebel Soldier in Empire Strikes Back, an Aborian in Flash Gordon, a soldier in Superman II, a Foster in Doctor who: Keeper of Traken and a Stormtrooper in Return of the Jedi. That's just confining myself to the things I own on his CV!.

Those naughty boys who wrote Maximum Power deliberately left Animals out of their episode guide. I was starting to think they'd booby trapped my DVD copy of this episode: Disc 2 of series 4 had a glue like smear on the back of it when I got it out the case. You know the sort of thing, like what holds freebies to the front of magazines? I cleaned it off and it played OK for Stardrive but kept stalling during Animals!

Animals was repeated on 02/07/1983. Animals was released on video on 7th July 1992 as part of Blake's 7 tape 22 where it was paired with the previous episode Stardrive and alongside Tape 21 Power & Traitor. Blake's 7 season 4 was released on DVD on 24th April 2006.