Four More Blake’s 7 Episodes

Breakdown – The one about Gan’s limiter breaking down (hence the title). The first half is a bit silly, with David Jackson doing manic grunting and throwing the rest of them around while yet another dangerous sector of space must be crossed; the second half is really rather good, with the two tensions of 1) is the surgery going to work and 2) is Avon going to defect from the crew. Julian Glover is brilliant as nasty genius surgeon Kayn, and Avon is at his most sinister, with the Avon/Blake relationship at its worst. Also we have the comic relief of Kayn’s sexist assistant: "I love girls with a sense of humour" – to which Jenna replies, "Yes, I can see where that would be an advantage." But I must say this isn;t the one I would show someone to get them into the series.

Bounty – A drastically overpadded story. This is the one where for no apparent reason they are rescuing an ex-President and the Liberator, again for no apparent reason, gets temporarily captured (offscreen) by bounty-hunters who are old friends of Jenna’s. There is one good line – Avon reflecting to fellow captive Blake that "None of us showed conspicuous intelligence on this occasion." Vila gets some nice moments, and it seems that Jenna has a past and a personality as well. But this could have been a decent story at half the length.

Deliverance – This is much more like it. Here the two stories are 1) Avon finds himself the subject of a prophecy saving a lost race, also subject to the worship of the charming Meegat; and 2) Ensor junior hijacks the Liberator in an attempt to save his father, as the result of an unusually evil plot by Servalan which even has Travis blinking. Avon, having been a potential turncoat two episodes previously, is now forced to discover some nobility of character by circumstances, and duly does so (Vila to Avon: "Counting yourself, that makes two people who think you’re wonderful". Poor Cally continues her descent into uselessness, being mere canon-fodder for Ensor junior’s hostage-taking. Jenna, captured by savages, does rather better.

Orac – The season ends with one of its strongest stories. With Deliverance, It’s the first properly linked pair of stories since the very start of the season; all the crew who went down-planet last week falling ill with radiation sickness this week. It depends on a rather odd distribution of medicines (Ensor doesn’t have what he needs, but does have what the Liberator folks need) but once you swallow that it’s tense and well-paced. I was mildly puzzled by the way in which Servalan and Travis didn’t quite seem in phase once we switched to the studio scenes, and it turns out that Stephen Greif was injured and couldn’t do them; in which case I think they handled it well.

Did anyone else think that Derek Farr as Ensor was very much channelling William Hartnell’s Doctor? More on this below.

The final cliff-hanger – Orac’s prediction that the Liberator would be destroyed – kept us all guessing for a year; was that the prediction on the screen, or was that what had actually happened?

My conclusion after all of this is that anyone who wants to appreciate Terry Nation’s work in Blake’s 7 also needs to see his early Doctor Who serial, The Keys of Marinus. The six 25-minute episodes are essentuially five distinct stories, the last being a two-parter, in which the regulars are sent to different environments for the adventure of the week. Several of them – the murder mystery, the chilly environment, the bottled brains – have fairly direct parallels in B7, but I’m more struck by the underlying concept of subjecting your team to different stresses and seeing what it brings out of them – Nation wasn’t actually terribly good at this, but the thought was there. One thing he manages in B7 which he didn’t do so often in Who was humour. Well, we’ll see if the new Survivors is any cop.

One thought on “Four More Blake’s 7 Episodes

  1. I was always fairly sure the stress must be on the first syllable to let the verse scan properly:

    The world is grey, the mountains old,
    The forge’s fire is ashen-cold;
    No harp is wrung, no hammer falls:
    The darkness dwells in Durin’s halls;
    The shadow lies upon his tomb
    In Moria, in Khazad-dûm.

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