Saturday, 28 May 2011

Blake's 7: Mission to Destiny

Personally, I don’t care if their whole planet turns into a mushroom. I’m staying because I don’t like an unsolved mystery.”

A whodunnit in Blake’s 7 seems rather odd, especially at this early stage. But it works, oddly enough, and lets us have a closer look at Avon. He may be cynical and self-centred (although less so than he likes to present himself), but he’s also intelligent and intellectually curious.

We begin with a ship flying through space in a scene rather reminiscent of a low budget version of the previous year’s Star Wars, and we meet a bloke who is instantly done in. With lead piping, apparently.

In no time at all the Liberator turns up, and Blake, Avon and Cally (the only regulars who get significant screen time) start investigating the mystery. Everyone has been rendered asleep by tranquillising gas, the controls and the communicators have been sabotaged, and the murdered man managed to write “54124” in his own blood before he carked it. Our heroes get well stuck into the mystery, with Blake and Avon even finding themselves on film as they investigate the filters.

Early on we get a typical whodunit scene in which the suspects tell us their names and alibis, and we establish the two obligatory red herrings, Mandrian and Solheim. One of the suspects is played by John “K-9” Leeson, and there’s a missing person, Dortmunn (a very Terry Nation name, that), who apparently has escaped on the life raft. Except he hasn’t, as Cally and the rather pervy Solheim later find his body.

It seems this ship is from Destiny, a frontier world settled a mere century ago and which remains, for the moment at least, outside the Federation. On board is a McGuffin, vital for the future survival of the planet, but also made of priceless unobtainium, and the perfect motive for any greedy person to resort to murder. All the pieces are in place. It’s agreed that Blake will take the McGuffin to Destiny as quickly as they can, while Cally and Avon stay behind. It’s fun seeing how Paul Darrow plays his role here: people may have died but Avon is rather enjoying himself!

Cally sees loads and loads of potentially important stuff happening, much of it on film, while the discovery of Dortmunn’s body leads Avon to call everyone together and do his best Hercule Poirot impersonation. He’s definitely enjoying this.

The Liberator, meanwhile, is faced by a whopping big meteor storm (what, they’re weather phenomena?), and has to choose between going round, which will take ages, and going right through. Blake, of course, chooses the more laddish of the two options.

Avon gets a particularly cool bit of dialogue where he says he thinks Mandrian probably did it, with Sonheim next on the list, but that he’s going by instinct and so is therefore probably wrong. Now there’s a man who understands the tropes of the genre he temporarily finds himself in. Rather less cool is Jenna’s claim, on board the Liberator, that “We’re having to use a lot of power to maintain our speed and heading”. Er, I think you’ll find that in a vacuum you require exactly no power to do that.

Meanwhile, Mandrian is dead, with Sonheim so obviously guilty that he can’t possibly have done it. Avon now realises whodunnit, and assumes the role of the fictional famous Belgian for one final time: it was Sara what done it. She seems to hold all the cards, including the McGuffin, which is not on the Liberator after all. But Blake has realised this, and the Liberator races back to get back to the ship before Sara’s mates do. We end with a budget-friendly, off-screen bang.

I rather enjoyed that, but it will be good to get back to the usual skulduggery surrounding the Federation…

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