Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Blake's 7: Time Squad

“I plan to live forever. Or die trying.”

So, we’re now at an interesting point in the series. The crew of the Liberator are now off into the universe, and we can start to find out more about the show. Is it going to focus entirely on the struggle against the Federation? What sci-fi tropes are going to be allowed in this series? Are there aliens, for example? And is there any more evidence of Gan being a sex offender?

Certainly this episode starts like the last one, with a rather naff painted starfield. But now our newly assembled crew are united, sort of. They can fly the ship together. But Avon remains semi-detached, and in his constant alpha male sparring with Blake he remains the most interesting character by far. Gan, on the other hand, is bizarrely uber-loyal to Blake.

Blake, dangerously charismatic as usual, sends them all off to orbit Saurian Major, an essential communications hub for the Federation, to blow some stuff up. Avon points out that his insistence that decisions are made democratically isn’t quite what’s happening.

But there’s a distress call; a small capsule, which Blake and Jenna go to explore together. Not that there’s much to explore. Zen is behaving oddly; is it something to do with the capsule? We know very little about “him” yet. Gan seems to think he has some sort of “limiter”. Hmm.

The crew are dormant; Blake and Jenna seem to believe this is a “cryogenic capsule”, presumably from one of the early space flights “centuries ago”. This is in accordance with what we heard last episode about roughly how far we are into the future, although it’s odd that Blake and Jenna would be able to manipulate this technology so easily if the technological gulf is so vast. I’m getting hints about their relationship, too. Jenna seems to have liked Blake earlier, given her body language and behaviour towards him in earlier episode, but seems to have concluded by now that he’s a bit too intense and, well, weird to be potential boyfriend material.

The air’s running out, and the teleport has shorted. Zen really doesn’t want the capsule on board. Still, Avon gets to manoeuvre it into the hold, thereby both saving Blake and Jenna and managing to look cool at the same time. His reaction to the capsule is interesting, too- he posits that it might be from a “technically backward culture”- aliens? We don’t know yet whether there are supposed to be aliens in this fictional universe. All sorts of rules and limits have to be established.

Blake seems to think it’s ok to re-animate three people while he, Vila and Avon bugger off down to the planet’s surface for a quick spot of terrorist sabotage. Er, OK then. And it seems there’s such a thing as “neutral space” as opposed to Federation territory.

So, Blake’s plan is to hang around being blatantly obvious and hope to be contacted by any passing rebels? Er, OK. He must be really charismatic. Meanwhile, there’s an interesting scene where possible sex attacker Gan and Jenna (who, in case you haven’t noticed, is a woman) are alone together. He’s staying with Blake because “I have to. I want to stay alive, and to do that I need people I can rely on. I can’t be on my own.” This is interestingly ambiguous. His crime, apparently, was to kill a security guard because “he killed my woman”. Is this the whole truth? Is it true at all? Interestingly, after saying this, he has a headache. What induces this?

Never mind that, though; the sleeping beardies are awake, and the directing suddenly goes a bit slasher movie. Only a bit, though. This might be the same year as Halloween but it’s still a late 1970s spaceship corridor with masking tape on the walls.

Gan’s limiter means he can’t kill, apparently. This is a bit awkward, seeing as Jenna rather needs him to drop exactly that to shoot her attacker. Is that all that it limits? Did it give him that headache earlier? Was it because he started having sexually violent thoughts about Jenna and it reacted?

Meanwhile, Blake, on Saurian Major, a planet bathed in permanent red light, encounters Cally, a telepath, and an alien (so there are aliens) from the planet Auronar. Everyone’s acceptance of her, and her involvement with resistance against the Federation, implies that aliens are not entirely unknown, and that at least some of them have some sort of political existence within the Federation. And her alien status has enabled her to rather conveniently be the sole survivor of a rather nasty bout of chemical warfare, thus cutting down on cast members required. Handy, that.

While Jenna and Gan are in a spot of bother with their rather ungrateful guests, Blake and co have reached the Federation communications thingy. The Federation are clearly great fans of 1960s industrial architecture. Few things have dated this episode (aside from Jenna’s hair) more than the use of this location footage to represent an alien planet.

We learn that Vila’s very good at opening doors, Avon’s still good with computers, and things are about to go boom. Gan just manages to teleport them all away at the last possible moment, which is good news for Jenna as Blake proceeds to do the same for her.

Cally joining the ship’s crew gives rise to some resistance from Jenna; it seems aliens aren’t entirely accepted within what is clearly an overwhelmingly human society. But with the addition of Cally and, er, Zen, our gang can indeed now be described as Blake’s seven. That’ll be permanent, right?

Good stuff, although drags a little in places and doesn’t quite maintain the high quality of the previous three eps.

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