Sunday, 5 June 2011

Blake's 7: Breakdown

“I’m finished. Staying with you requires a degree of stupidity of which I no longer feel capable.”

These obviously painted starscapes that we keep seeing at the beginnings of most episodes are starting to feel normal by now, but they really date the programme for me. I’m also starting to realise just how brown Blake’s 7 looks.

Gan’s the centre of attention this episode, even though David Jackson spends most of it just lying down and doing nothing. It’s also another interesting opportunity to look at the theories put forth in Liberation, that Gan was a sex offender. Certainly, his sudden violence against Jenna at the start would be consistent with this, but he’s just as violent towards everyone else.

Clearly something’s wrong with his limiter, and the scenes in the sickbay are so tense that for some reason they’re on film. Everyone knows that Gan is in serious trouble, something has gone badly wrong with his limiter, and that he urgently needs a neurosurgeon. Blake states at this point that “The limiter is supposed to cut in when stress drives him to the point where he might kill”, which doesn’t sound too consistent with the sex offender theory.

It seems the nearest neurosurgeon is to be found at a space laboratory called XK-72, which had been noted by Avon as a possible bolthole if life aboard the Liberator was to become too dangerous. (Like it isn’t as dangerous as it could possibly be anyway…). Apparently this laboratory specialises in weaponry and that old Terry Nation favourite, “space medicine.” There’s just one problem; Zen insists that the quickest route crosses a “prohibited space zone”. He won’t say what the danger is, but he refuses to fly through it and flies off into a sulk until the end of the episode. It becomes clear that something out there is affecting the Liberator…

In the sickbay there’s an interesting scene in which Gan calmly persuades Cally to release hi, and promptly goes on a rampage. This manipulative behaviour is most interesting; Kayn later refers to Gan as a “psychopath”. He hasn’t been seen behaving like this before- it this part of his personality, like the violence, normally inhibited by his limiter?

The ship is heading into a “gravitational vortex”, which would presumably be a black hole. Can it really be plausible that this wouldn’t be known about? It seems to lie in-between fairly important and well-used areas of space, after all. At least someone would have noticed all the ships which mysteriously disappeared.

Blake eventually decides the best thing to do it to head, at full speed, right for the centre. Er, ok. I’m sure this is scientifically rigorous. Anyway, for some reason they manage to survive. I think perhaps we should not think too hard about this. After all, Terry Nation clearly didn’t.

More interesting is what looks like a complete breakdown in relations between Blake and Avon (one of the reasons for the title?) as Avon, dismayed by Blake’s increasing recklessness, says that he can no longer stay. There’s a real frostiness between the two of them for the rest of the episode.

The Liberator finally reaches XK-72, which appears to have a population of just three. We have the officious but decent Farren, the brilliant but obnoxious Professor Kayn, played rather brilliantly by Julian Glover, and Kayn’s underling. Kayn agrees to perform the operation, mainly to annoy Farren, but seems to have a worryingly high regard for the Federation. It’s not long before he realises who Blake and co actually are, and promptly tips off the nearest Federation base.

Avon, meanwhile, looks as though he’s going to stay behind on XK-72; he spills the beans to Farren, and offers him the secret of teleportation in return for being allowed to stay. It looks as though it’s going to happen…

Kayn really is a bit of a git. He deliberately delays the start of his operation on Gan so the Federation have time to get there. News of this reaches XK-72, but it looks as though Avon is still going to stay; he’s been guaranteed that the Federation won’t be told. He just needs to return and collect a few things…

The crew of the Liberator end up forcing Kayn to perform his operation at gunpoint, with Blake threatening to destroy his hands if he refuses to co-operate. We finish with the now-traditional altercation with Federation pursuit ships. XK-72 ends up destroyed by a bolt from one of the pursuit ships, yet more collateral damage from Blake’s actions. Avon won’t be going anywhere. But surely something has now changed between him and Blake? It’ll be interesting to see whether this is followed up.

I had to raise an eyebrow at the line where Blake takes over the navigational duties with the words “I’ll handle this, Jenna- you can help Gan.” The Liberator is not exactly a feminist paradise, then. We finish with a Hanna Barbera cartoon-style forced laugh, with Gan safely back to his usual lobotomised self.

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