Tuesday, 21 June 2011
Blake's 7: Redemption
“It felt personal. It always feels personal when someone tries to kill me.”
A new series, then. There’s not much difference to start with, what with the same theme titles and the prospect of a fourteenth episode in a row written by Terry Nation. But then we see Blake, Cally and Jenna- is it me, or do all of them have much bushier hair? And why is Blake dressed like a seventeenth century farm labourer?
Vila and Avon may not have noticeably bushier hair, but they are on film for some reason. But enough of fashion matters; we have some footage of the end of the last season to replay, although fortunately the recap is less clumsy than this time, and doesn’t feel the need to hold the viewer’s hand quite so firmly as we’re once again confronted with the horrifying concept of having to remember a couple of the main points from previous episodes.
Avon strings Blake for a bit before deigning to reveal his rather clever thoughts; he’s identified the starfield in the footage of the Liberator blowing up, and it’s the other side of the galaxy. All they need to do is avoid ever going there and they’ll be fine. This piece of cleverness is, of course, a blow for him in the ongoing contest between Blake and Avon for the role of alpha male. This seems to be ratcheted up a lot in this episode, as signalled early on by Avon: “Perhaps, in future, they won’t rely on you to provide all the answers.”
Suddenly the ship is attacked by two mysterious hostile vessels of unknown origin. The Liberator is pretty much helpless, and yet they recover from an almighty arse-whupping to discover they’re all alive and well, but without weapons, without Zen and heading somewhere at huge speed. Avon (he’s on fire today) suspects that they were deliberately weakened rather than killed, and the ship is being taken somewhere very specific.
We cut to a couple of rather cold young ladies inside a swanky space station. The décor inside the space station stands on the cusp of a new era; it shows some of the ineffable hallmarks of the 1980s BBC sci-fi set, as opposed to the 1970s BBC sci-fi set we’ve been used to. Dullness is beginning to be replaced with Light Entertainment spangliness. It’ll be interesting to see if this trend develops. Or not.
On board the Liberator it’s becoming clear that the ship is under the control of some outside force, while Blake and Avon continue their rather un-macho power struggle. Even Avon’s bravely saving Blake’s life (interesting that he never acts as cynically as he talks) is quickly used by Avon to verbally bitch-slap Blake.
Meanwhile, the earlier scenes of Cally doing some engineering work, with screwdrivers and everything, is rather undermined by the sight of Jenna handing out the tea. These late ‘70s gender roles, eh? It’s women’s lib gone mad.
Finally, some mysterious unseen baddies teleport aboard and capture the whole crew, one by one. We finally learn that these people are, as we’ve suspected, the people who built the Liberator. And, just when he’s needed, Orac is busy…
The aliens are rather unpleasant, rude and not afraid to dish out a little light torture at the slightest provocation. They’re escorted off the ship to some cells to await their imminent execution, while Blake is interrogated by “the System”, the all-powerful supercomputer that rules the three inhabited planets in this system. Avon, meanwhile, immediately begins to plan escape. He realises that, as Jenna points out, they apparently have no chance whatsoever, but he prefers to be defiant and die a good death. That’s interesting- behind the cold and sardonic exterior (a mask?), there is some passion.
Blake, in travelling to his interrogation, observes that this is a rather nasty, slavery-practising, totalitarian dictatorship of the most repressive kind imaginable, and we’ve already established that Blake is not particularly enthusiastic about such things. But, as he is interrogated, the System’s, er, systems start to go wrong, and it’s not long before sporadic mini-revolutions break out. How very appropriate to be watching this in 2011, with the Arab Spring still happening.
There’s an interesting glimpse into an old-fashioned world view of computers here, I think; this is still (just!) in an age before computers were seen as cool consumer goods and when they were still seen as potentially threatening to the freedom of the individual. It seems strangely modern in the light on contemporary talk about “The Singularity” and the excellent if typically and wonderfully all-over-the-place Adam Curtis documentary (All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace) from earlier this month.
The quickest revolution in all of history is carried out, er, quickly, in spite of the fact that there seem to be about three rebels. One of them dies saving Blake, of course, but collateral damage is by now an essential part of his lifestyle.
Avon’s still on fire, though- he spots that they’re in the exact part of space where the Liberator is doomed to blow up. The crew have all escaped, but it seems their fate is certain- until they see that they’re being pursued by a ship of the exact same design. Orac has been plotting all this time to make that ship explode, and explode it does, just as in the prediction. That was rather clever plotting. We end with a bit more Blake / Avon friction…
That was really rather good. Terry Nation can write quite well when he’s had a bit of time off.