Blake's 7: An Episode by Episode Re-Evaluation

Perpetual Man

Tim James
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Season 2 Episode 8 Hostage by Allan Prior

Hostage is another disconnected episode, which stands on its own, even though there are a few ongoing plot references.

Blake is informed by his uncle that his cousin has been taken prisoner and needs help freeing her. It is quite obviously a trap, but one Blake is prepared to walk into because… well it’s family – and there are not too subtle hints that he might have feelings for his cousin.

The trap has been set by Travis, who is using Psycho troops (yup for real), and he manages to trap Blake, Avon and Vila, the last of which is tortured into getting one of the Psycho’s onboard the Liberator, where he is outwitted by Cally and Jenna.

Blake’s Uncle has been blackmailed into helping Travis but changes sides at the most opportune moment.

And Travis is beaten once again.

The only real progression is when he is confronted by Servalan, who gives him her blessing to continue hunting Blake – a mission that if he succeeds she will reward him by being declared dead. In doing so she delivers one of the best quotes of the show: “After all, there is no-one as free as a dead man.”

Other than this there is very little to say about the episode. It is what it is, does not serve to move anything forward. Even Travis’ deal at the end is irrelevant – it’s pretty certain he would keep going after Blake anyway.

None of the character’s progress any further, in fact Avon seems to be becoming more of the hero, rushing in to help Blake rather than running off with the ship.

Very much a filler episode, and perhaps slightly disturbing when you consider Blake’s relationship with his kissing cousin. Or maybe not. (I did like that the family members called him Roj, not Blake though!)
 

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Episode 1: The Way Back

The opening episode does not view like televisual space opera, instead it feels like a political crime drama. There are strong overtones of Orwell in the running of the Administration and Blake, at least at this stage makes a likeable and engaging hero.

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Remarkably the episode stands up to the passage of time quite well (not in all ways), probably because it is Earth based and there is very little need for exotic locales and special effects. It is very much a character piece but you can see the low budget throughout. The corridors and rooms looks sterile and flimsy, the door to the outer world looks lightweight and not much of a barrier.

There is one moment where they use a chroma key background which sits badly, especially by modern green screen methods and the model work looks quaint but inferior to Star Trek – a show that was made over ten years earlier.....
The BBC did this series on a miniscule budget compared to what American shows such as the original/classic Trek enjoyed, so I think they did well considering. When I first saw this episode, I thought 'oh, it's going to be a 1984 type thing' ... then when I found out it was actually rebels-in-space, my interest raised considerably. But seeing it in more mature years, I find the interactions between the corrupt politicos interesting and also note how modern the theme is - Blake is discredited second-time round by being fitted up as a paedophile - children are taken into a clinic and given false memories that he molested them. Quite daring for the day I think, and not something you would've come across in American TV SF of the period.
 

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Episode 2: Space Fall

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While Gan seems pleasant, but there is a violence hidden in him. It has often been said that Gan had a limiter implanted in his brain to stop his violent tendencies, but it does not seem to be the case here - to me it looks like something that was done to him later. I'll try and bring it up when I watch episode 4.

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The most important part of the episode is the introduction of the Liberator, the starship that will become central to the ongoing series. Taken in itself it is still a unique and beautiful design. Knowing that it was going to be a regular feature has allowed a lot more effort to go into it and it shows. The same is true of the interior, giving us the best sets so far in the show. Yes they are still wobbly, but they look good comparatively.

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View attachment 23565
There's an episode where Gan's limiter breaks down and then we are told more about it. If memory serves, someone murdered "his woman" and he killed them so it was fitted by the Feds. (Unless that's fan mythology - there used to be quite a few fanfic stories about Gan's limiter and what happened, in the old printed fanzines.)

You can see a picture of Martin Bowers putting some finishing touches on to one of the models of the Liberator - they had models in different sizes, depending on how they were filming her. One of my favourite spaceships, beautiful I agree. So I was broken hearted at the end of series 3 ....
Martin Bowers model world. The same page also shows the teleport bracelets he designed.
 

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Episode 4: Time Squad

After three superb opening episodes the show hits its first weak one. That is not to say that it is without strengths just comparatively speaking it does not meet the high mark set by the previous three.

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- We get to see Blake's first major attack. It's not implicit but he destroys a vast complex, complete with all the troopers stationed there. It probably means that there were plenty civilian casualties as well.
Important chiefly for Cally's introduction, I agree. Fanfic explored this ruthless side of Blake quite thoroughly. Lots of psychological analysis.
 

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Episode 6: Seek-Locate-Destroy

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An important episode as in introduces two key players, Travis and more importantly Servalan. Jacqueline Pearce glides across the screen, elegant, seductive and quite threatening.

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I much preferred this early Servalan whose innocent looks, dressed in white, contrasted so nicely with her thoroughly evil temperament. Later, she becomes far too hammy for my liking.
 

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BM - very interesting indeed, I can probably work out who too.

Jo - Yeah, City is a great episode, it's towards the end of season 3 so a while to go yet.
Unless I get a lot of spare time it's still going to be a few more weeks until we hit Orac, final episode of first season. There is always a little debate about whether Orac is the last of the original 7, or the 8th member necessitating Gan's death. It depends whether you count Zen as a crew-member or not....

Blake, Avon, Vila Jenna, Cally, Gan & Zen
My recollection is that in B7 fandom, Zen was always counted.
 

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Episode 7: Mission to Destiny

The Liberator investigates an apparently stricken ship and the crew find themselves in a murder. As Blake takes the valuable cargo in an attempt to get it to the planet Destiny as a favour to the crew, Avon is left behind to try and repair the ship – and solve a murder, the problem is more bodies begin to appear…

This starts off as what looks like a weaker episode. ...
I still like it, mainly because of Avon as detective and all the sneaking around and finding corpses. It's a bit Agatha Cristie in space.

Also, it shows a real piece of Blake's ruthlessness at the end, with his placing the bomb. Blake is actually a nasty piece of work, folks ....;)
 

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Episode 8: Duel

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One of my all time favourites this, maybe because of the strong female roles.

Also the 'clinch' between Avon and Blake is one of the pieces of 'evidence' that set the ball rolling on the slash fiction line of fanfiction.:whistle:
 

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Episode 9: Project Avalon

This is one of those episodes that I remember in two different ways. The first is that it was boring, especially back in the day. The second it was also the centre piece of the second Blake’s 7 novel released.

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Yes, here we get to see that there are other people/planets rebelling and that Blake's people are part of a network of freedom fighters.
 

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Episode 13: Orac

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We learn in this episode that all computers have something called a Tarion Cell, created by Ensor. Orac is able to tap into these cells which effectively means the machine is able to draw on all data and knowledge from any computer (so all computers) containing the cell.

...
Great episode, one of my favourites despite the lizards.

I think they are tarial cells?
 

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A Reflection on Season One.

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Other settings are mostly practical, using a lot of location work. This sort of works and may be considered a little more realistic than constructed sets, if a bit dated. It is though, a clever use of the things at hand rather than wasting money on new things. Running round power plants and other industrial complexes gives Blake’s 7 a unique feel, setting it apart even from its contemporary Doctor Who.
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The characterisations are good, as are the performances. Much to my surprise Avon comes out on top, his self-serving comments, air of superiority and general intelligence work well. In comparison Blake is rather bland. We are told that he is a great leader, that he will fight the Federation tooth and nail, but we don’t actually get to feel it. He should be able to go toe to toe with Avon and does not.

,.....
To be fair, some Pertwee Dr Who used these kinds of locations, for example, Inferno which is set in a powerplant or similar.

Avon made the show, pure and simple. He's the reason for the devoted fan following that it eventually attracted, both here and in the States, and the huge outpouring of fanfic a lot of which revolves around Avon's tortured soul, his doomed relationships with women, his love/hate relationship with Blake, his sometimes brotherly relationship with Vila, and the 'slash' fiction slant on all that.

Some fanfic came up with reasons for Blake's lack of effectiveness. After all, the guy has been brainwashed twice, doped up to the eyes with drugs and tortured big time......
 

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Season 2 Episode 1 Redemption

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When Blake, Avon and Jenna first wandered onto the Liberator in Spacefall it spoke an alien language and the translator circuits took a while to absorb the language, yet here the people of the System all speak perfect ‘English.’

There were some attempts in fanfic to resolve the anomalies. When Blake and co first board Liberator she has been abandoned in the middle of a space battle. There are huge rooms of gold, jewels, fancy costumes etc aboard. None of this stuff seems to square with the System and its slaves. So some writers imagined that Liberator had been captured when away from the system and used by space pirates before Blake etc encounter her. Said pirates had installed the 'security system' in Zen.

Because yes there is a real mismatch between what has been shown before of Liberator's fittings and the drab mindless System.
 

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Season 2 Episode 2 Shadow (by Chris Boucher)

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Blake disagrees and overrules all protests, basically following the principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and believing he can use the Terra Nostra as much as they can use him. It is a disaster. Not only does Blake rapidly learn that the Terra Nostra are totally in it for themselves and will not deal with him in the slightest, but Vila decides to disobey orders and go on a drinking spree, while something very strange is happening to Orac.

There is a satisfying payoff, when the crew destroys the supplies of Shadow, an even bigger boon when they realise that the Terra Nostra is Federation controlled anyway.
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A great episode which introduces a lot of moral ambiguity, points up Blake's unscrupulous might is right side (a lot of B7 fandom used to find Blake pretty obnoxious because of episodes like this) and develops the characters a lot more.
 

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Season 2 Episode 3 Weapon by Chris Boucher

The third episode of the season is an odd one, not necessarily a bad one, but odd. It is the second in a row to be written by Chris Boucher and again has multiple plot threads that serve to keep things interesting but… well I’ll get to it.

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If Servalan has to trick Coser into telling her what Imipak does, how can she have made the plan before hand?

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And tongue firmly in cheek it seems as though Travis has regenerated. Gone is Stephen Grief, replaced by Brian Croucher. It is a mistake right across the board. Despite a change in costume, Travis now comes across as a cockney two dimensional thug. Not only has the change not done the character favours but the change in costume does not suit and the eye-patch has been changed to a small plastic cover. The old one covered a large part of his face and seemed to go under the hair, a real grim wound that showed why Travis hated Blake. The new look is simply to clinical..
I loved the idea of this episode - wanted my own Imipak ;)
Hmm, if she didn't know what it did ... but could she not have heard that there was this master weapon that would make the owner invincible, just not the details? I think that's how I viewed it at the time. Then the idea that she had pushed him into running worked well, and that her Puppetmaster - because I'm sure this is the episode where she has the guy who can work out all the variables - only failed to predict how everything would turn out because the technician took the slave girl Rashel with him - she was the random factor who messed up all the predictions. Otherwise Servalan would've got Imipak and would've been invincible.

The loss of Stephen Grief was keenly felt by one and all. He had a menace and you could believe in him as a sociopath who would stop at nothing to get what he wanted, whereas the replacement Travis was just a thug, as you say.
 

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Season 2 Episode 4 Pressure Point by Terry Nation

Pressure Point has to be one of the most important episodes of Blake’s 7’s run, and it is certainly the best of Season 2 so far, if not the entire series to date.

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Superb episode. And when the big spoiler is revealed, it makes total sense.
 

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Season 2 Episode 5 Trial by Chris Boucher

Another superb episode this one, because of the dynamics among the crew after the death, how it is all much more real to them. And Blake's monomania is developing nicely.
 

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Season 2 Episode 8 Hostage by Allan Prior

Hostage is another disconnected episode, which stands on its own, even though there are a few ongoing plot references.
I was never keen on this episode myself. Pretty forgettable.
 

Perpetual Man

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Phew, finally caught up. Meant to say what a sterling job you are doing Tim.
Thank you very much!

And thanks for taking an interest in the thread.

I've really enjoyed your comments on all the episodes, and has introduced me to a side of the show I did not really think about, the fan-fiction. I really like the idea of discrepancies and gaps being filled in.

I'm hoping to find the time to watch an episode or two this weekend. It seems time is at a premium again at the moment!
 

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Season 2 Episode 9 Countdown by Terry Nation

I really enjoyed this episode. Apart from being a good romp from Terry Nation, it also saw two major storylines picked up/introduced which would continue to be important throughout the season and beyond.

The story itself followed an intensified revolution on the planet Albian, where the locals have hired a mercenary to help overthrow the Federation presence on the planet. The population has been kept cowed by the threat of a weapon of mass destruction that will be detonated if the rebel. Hoping it is a lie or that the officers will not carry out the threat has led them to action. Unfortunately, they are wrong. The commander, Provane is a nasty piece of work and more than ready to carry out the threat.

As Blake is after Provane himself, the whole thing revolves around a rather well executed, mutli-faceted story, with Provane trying to escape the planet, Blake trying to find and capture him while there is the ongoing countdown as Avon tries to disarm the weapon.

Obviously there is more to it than that, it is those things that really make the episode.

The first is that Blake actually starts ‘doing’ again. It shows a direct continuation of Pressure Point and that he has not given up on finding Control. He has extrapolated that although Command on Earth might have been an empty room, but the control centre of the Federation must exist. In searching for it he has discovered that there is one Federation Officer who might know the location of it, a man named Provane.

Although the episode is quite a lot of trying to work out who Provane is, whether he is dead or alive, backed by the man himself trying to escape, when combined with the Avon subplot it works perfectly, and of course the ongoing arc is pushed forward with the revelation that there is another command, now called Star One.

The other major point of interest is the introduction of Del Grant. The mercenary does seem to have a moral centre, doing the right things even if he has been paid for it, but it is his past with Avon that really steals the episode, giving a lot more insight into the character. We learn that Avon once was involved with a woman, someone he loved a lot, called Anna Grant, Del’s sister.

She was killed during some insurgency somewhere and Del blames Avon enough that he has sworn to kill him.

Thus we have the set up with the two men, isolated trying to disarm the doomsday device, while ‘arguing’ about the past and how each man sees it differently. The end sees the two men coming to an accord. Grant believes that Avon did not abandon Anna to her death, that circumstances worked against him.

It is important because suddenly the cold, selfish Avon is humanised. The fact that he cared for someone and mourns her loss goes someway to explaining his demeanour. That there was absolutely nothing he could do to save her seems to make it more tragic.

There is the first detailed account we have had of his relationship, although he has mentioned that there was something in the past.

We can only assume that after he recovered from the uprising he began his life of computer embezzlement that eventually led to him being caught.

We also got to see Vila at his best. Obviously scared and acting the coward and smart mouthed, he still manages to act the hero on occasion which nicely rounds out the character.

As a simple observation, I think that Provane would have made a much better antagonist for Blake than Travis, especially the recast model.
 

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