Monday, 27 January 2014

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.


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.


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?


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.


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!


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!


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!


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.