Saturday, 25 June 2011

Blake's 7: Weapon

“And the other mistake I made was not getting an advance on my fee…”

So, after fourteen straight scripts by Terry Nation we get at least two in a row from Chris Boucher. Can he possibly beat the record of his illustrious predecessor? We shall have to wait and see.

After some stock rocket footage, we see two fugitives scrabbling about in a quarry. One of them, Coser, is dressed rather oddly and played by John Bennett, and the other, Rashel is a slave, freed by him after his escape. She starts out very much in this role, but it’s nice how she becomes gradually more assertive as the story continues.

We then get a rather dreamlike sequence in which Travis apparently kills Blake. Except… it’s not Travis. Yes, I know that the character is subtly different, rather emasculated, and scripted far more for comic effect than we’ve seen before, but Brian Croucher is rubbish, isn’t he? It’ll be interesting to see whether my opinion shifts over time, but right now he seems rather one-dimensional, shouty and camp, far from the genuine menace exuded by Stephen Grief.

That was just a clone, of course; the real Blake is aboard the Liberator where he’s arguing, as he often does these days, over a particularly suicidal plan of his, or rather Cally’s (she has fanatical tendencies too, of course), to attack the Federation’s Weapons Developmental Base, an absurdly high profile target.

The relationship between Servalan and Travis is evolving in interesting ways, beyond being much shoutier; it’s clear that Travis has lost all of his menace and is basically her gimp. I suspect she keeps him around at least partly because she enjoys her power over him. This script certainly brings out the best in Jacqueline Pearce, who is fantastic here. We get some exposition, too; the “clonemasters” apparently have a monopoly on cloning, and the whole subject of cloning is generally treated as something exotic, which is not quite so much the case in these post-Dolly the Sheep days.

Orac informs Blake that his plan just isn’t a goer, as security around the Weapons Development Base is currently sky high; a bloke called Coser has escaped, with a brilliant new weapon he’s invented, called “IMIPAK”. It’s all exposition at the moment, aboard the Liberator as well as on the Clonemasters’ planet. We even learn that Blake is 34, just like me.

It’s not long before the plot gets going, though, as we see Coser and Rashel take refuge in a building. Interestingly, for the second Chris Boucher script in a row we have a heavy emphasis on social class, with Rashel being a slave and Coser being the sort of “B grade” technician who isn’t supposed to be clever enough to invent something like IMIPAK. It seems the Federation operates quite a rigid caste system.

We’re introduced to Carnell, played by the excellent Scott Fredericks, a psychostrategist or “puppeteer”, a kind of uber-smug version of Hari Seldon from Isaac Asimov’s splendid Foundation novels. He’s also, of course, one of the main characters in Magic Bullet’s excellent Kaldor City audios. And yes, I know I keep going on about them! He’s great here; flirting outrageously with Servalan and showing what a massive genius he is by casually thrashing the best chess computers of his time. He really must be a genius, considering Garry Kasparov’s –performances against a computer which would presumably be far less advanced. But he lets slip that he may have made a mistake- he assumes Coser is alone. And when he later charms an underling to let him see a report, he remarks that this has “saved his life”.

We switch to an industrial location, so often seen in Blake’s 7, for the denouement. The clone tricks Coser into handing over IMIPAK to Servalan, and it seems that it consists of a gun, with which you can shoot someone to “mark” them, and then press a button to blow them up. Coser makes it sound all good and everything, what with the power one would hold over someone who’s been marked, but why not cut the crap and just shoot them? We get a rather ridiculous scene in which Blake, Avon and Gan, having teleported down, all stand still long enough to be “marked” by Travis. Why doesn’t he just shoot them?

Servalan gives them all a chance to run, for plausible and rather clever reasons; after she blows them up it will be assumed that they have IMIPAK, whereas in fact Servalan does. I love the way she has her own agenda, rather than just acting on behalf of the Federation. She’s a deliciously ambitious woman.

Fittingly, it’s Rashel who saves the day, in a pleasingly assertive manner, and ends up alone on a planet of her own with a clone of Blake as her own sexual plaything. Fittingly, this episode sees her evolve from the lowest origins possible to being the most important person in this episode. And Carnell gets away before Servalan can kill him, but not before recording a message to Servalan telling her that she’s “undoubtedly the sexiest officer I have ever known”. She can’t resist a smile.

Not quite up to last week’s standards, but this is another good ‘un.

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