Sunday, 19 June 2011

Blake's 7: Deliverance

“You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?”

The first few minutes actually look very impressive. There’s a small spaceship flying through the void, and we can actually see its two occupants through the front window. We then cut to a wheeled space station, on board which is, er, a BBC Micro. But never mind that, because the camera then draws back to reveal Servalan, who is watching the ship. For some reason it’s important.

This little ship is heading for an unknown destination, but meanwhile is passing a “primitive” planet called Cephlon. You immediately realise that this is the only reason this would have been mentioned was if the ship was about to crash and, surely enough, it does.

The crew of the Liberator, by an amazing coincidence, are watching all this too. They watch two lifeboats ejecting from the ship and resolve to teleport down and find them. It’s dangerous down there, with comedy Stone Age stereotypes posing a grave threat to everyone’s dignity.

The landing party is led, not by Blake, but by Avon, along with Jenna, Gan and Vila. And it’s interesting that, notwithstanding the mild personality clashes we’ve seen with pretty much everyone, no one questions that Avon is the de facto deputy to Blake. He’s competent, intelligent and pragmatic.

One of the two men is dead, but the other, played by some bloke off Eastenders, is alive. It’s time for them all to return to the Liberator, and we get a quick glance of Cally, next to the teleporter, listening to some groovy sounds in her rather cool shades in a way which is so quintessentially late Seventies.

At this point we’re re-acquainted with what’s becoming one of the standard tropes of Blake’s 7: the female crew member not returning with everyone else when teleporting back to the ship. Blake is clearly very worried about Jenna in a way which implies he has feelings for her which are almost certainly not reciprocated. Meanwhile, we discover that the dead man, Terry Nation style, was a “Space Surgeon”. Ha!

The survivor starts bibbling about energy cells, his dying father and the need to get to Aristo, a planet which makes me think of that Blackadder episode set during the French Revolution. The Federation was to pay 100 credits for something called “Orac”, says the survivor, in a hilarious display of overacting. He then produces a gun and hijacks the ship. They are to head to Aristo immediately, to cure his sick father, leaving the rest of the crew on Cephlon. Ah yes, another standard trope of Blake’s 7: the Liberator forced to go out of teleporter range when members of the crew are still on the planet.

There’s a great scene between Servalan and Travis which consists basically of Servalan showing how ruthless and badass she is, and making it clear to Travis that he’s her bitch. She explains that “Orac” is the creation of a scientist called Ensor, father of that bloke off Eastenders. A deal was made; 100 million credits for Orac, but also an agreement to send a surgeon, Maryatt, to cure Ensor. But Servalan has made some slight amendments to this. As soon as she knows where Aristo is, she blows the ship up and resolves to go there herself and seize Orac, without paying the 100 credits. Even nastier is that she intends to have Maryatt posted as a deserter, meaning that his family will be sold into slavery on one of the frontier worlds. Now that’s ruthless.

Meanwhile, Avon and co are having a spot of bother with some cavemen caricatures and a door. But as soon as they’re inside they meet Meegat, who is pretty, smiley and very friendly indeed, especially with “Lord” Avon. Being Avon, though, he insists on remaining a bit of a miserable git on general principles.

Interestingly, is seems Meegat (and presumable some unseen other people) have a prophecy about all this that turns out to be right, so prophecy works; it’s possible to predict the future. It’s a shame more isn’t made of this. But the prophecy comes to pass: a stock footage rocket is launched, meaning cells sufficient to re-spawn an entire race will reach their destination in just five short centuries’ time. Whoopee. If Avon’s leadership credentials weren’t already established, he successfully leads a rescue of Jenna, leaving you with the distinct impression that he’s make a much better leader than Blake, and would be a lot more loyal than he pretends to be. He’s intelligent, level-headed and heroic in spite of himself. What more do you want?

There’s another interesting Gan moment as they re-enter Meegat’s cave thingy. “You know, Vila,” he says, “For a minute out there I was actually quite beginning to enjoy myself.” Again we have this mix of thuggery and low self-esteem.

By now, Ensor’s son has died and the Liberator is back. They still have the energy cells, so it’s off to Aristo, Ensor and Orac…

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