Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Blake's 7: The Web

“We gave them life. We have the right to take it from them.”

What an odd episode. It feels strange, after a four episode arc, to go into a standalone story with hardly any Federation involvement and lots of alien weirdness. In fact, this has a lot more in common with Terry Nation’s Doctor Who stuff than anything we’ve seen so far.

We begin on the surface of an alien world which just happens to look like the South-East of England. There are webs and a rather cheap looking bouncy castle. Inside the bouncy castle is some stuff, including two plastic chairs and a bloke putting his head through a piece of cardboard with a little embryo-like body drawn on it. Scary. Not for the last time this episode, I’m reminded of Nation’s rubbish Doctor Who story The Keys of Marinus.

Meanwhile, the Liberator is being controlled by forces unknown. More worryingly, so is Cally. Also worryingly, Jenna is still expressing doubts about having an “alien” on board. Refreshingly, though, it’s night, and most people are asleep. That’s something which notoriously never happens on television spaceships, so well done to Terry Nation for that at least.

Still, a bomb? Very Terry Nation, that is. It’s an interesting scene, though; Avon saves Blake’s life, probably, by instinctively grabbing him. He insists it was just reflexes and he’s as surprised as Blake is, but Blake replies “I’m not surprised.” Blake is seemingly quite convinced that Avon is basically trustworthy and not as amoral as he seems. This certainly makes a nice contrast to Avon’s later comment to Gan that “There will come a time when [Blake] won’t be making the decisions.”

The Liberator is drawn to an uncharted system (for the first time it’s confirmed that they exist within Federation space). By now we’re a good way through the running time; I believe Trekkies refer to this sort of thing as a bottle episode. But then some aliens possess Jenna, announcing that the ship cannot escape. The crew are to follow a beacon signal and land. Cally then, conveniently, proves her worth with some much needed exposition. (She’ll be developing a personality next, just you watch.) Apparently there’s an old legend on Auronar of something called “The Lost”. Ooh.

Blake finally makes it to the alien planet. It looks every bit as embarrassing as the opening scene, except that there are blokes wearing some arse-clenchingly embarrassing rubber suits. They seem to be laying siege to the bouncy castle, inside which there is a laboratory. Yet again, I’m reminded of a particularly dull episode of The Keys of Marinus.

Blake is welcomed by a rather odd couple, a brother and sister. They explain that they are genetic engineers, the webbing in space is one of their experiments which has got out of control, and that they are able to release the Liberator if Blake will replace their dwindling power supply. How convenient that a ship should pass by just as they’re about to run out of power. What are the chances of that, eh?

There’s a snag though. The unconvincing rubber suits are called Decimas, and they are a genetic experiment, intended to be slaves, who have had the effrontery to show independent thought. Our rather cold scientist couple intend to destroy them all once their power is restored, yet Blake can see a group of them mourning their dead friend, who got nastily done in by one of the scientists a few minutes earlier. Now, I don’t want to be accused of reading things into things here, but don’t you think there might be a slight subtext here about the ethics of genetic experimentation? Just throwing that one out there.

Blake is appalled, of course. He soon discovers that the scientists are also artificially engineered slaves controlled by the bloke with his head through a bit of cardboard. Mr Cardboard Body is a gestalt entity comprised of six separate scientists, all of dubious morals, and they are indeed who Cally says they are. Avon, who has now turned up, is not quite as bothered by this as Blake is. Still, it’s interesting to hear Blake refer to Avon to the two scientists as “my friend”.

The ending is a bit disappointing; a group of Decimas just get through the door after it’s carelessly left open. They then proceed to ransack the place while Blake and Avon bugger off back to the Liberator, where they manage to evade some Federation pursuit ships. They then carry on with what they were doing before they were so rudely interrupted.

That one was a bit rubbish, really.

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