(Bill Lyons) reviewed by Marian de Haan


Entertaining although the plot gets muddier along the way. The end seems rushed and not worked out properly, leaving the viewer wondering whether Belkov gets away with his crystals - if there were any - or perishes in the explosion. Avon's "somewhat simplistic theory" sounds like pure technobabble that only works because of Paul Darrow's talent for speaking his lines so convincingly.

The games playing bit in the orbiter is the weakest part of the story. The idea to use games for opening the doors isn't bad, but the execution here leaves something to desire. The games all end too quickly to build up any real tension. Especially the flight simulator fails to convince, Tarrant seems to establish orbit very easily despite its supposed difficulty. (Judith: Well, he was supposed to be one of the FSA's finest.)

[Before teleporting to the orbiter, Avon must have been working on his replica Orac, because said replica can be seen on Scorpio while they have the real Orac with them in the orbiter - a nice pointer to Orbit. :-)]

Some of the characterisations in this episode are a bit off. Vila has suddenly become very tough - compare his reaction to the sight of the bloodied dagger in Cygnus Alpha with the way he here takes that Mecronian knife from the corpse's back. Apparently he can now stand the sight of blood. Him shooting that guard so callously must be his most ruthless moment in the entire Series. This would have been a nice piece of character development if it had been continued in the following episodes. [Just think of Orbit - we could have had Vila getting the gun and hunting Avon. :-)] But there are shades of the old Vila when he inadvertedly betrays their position.

Avon too, is a real bastard here. This is the only occasion in the Series where he resorts to blackmail. Him not wanting to play the game to Belkov's rules is in character. And he's back to letting the others take the risks. Soolin is at her most practical ("Why not get it first...") and Dayna gets the chance to do some rescuing. Tarrant seems to have developed a conscience in not wanting the Federation to get their hands on the Feldon, but leaving the wounded Gerren behind goes against his usual Stick-by-your-companions attitude. His not wanting to believe that Avon has abandoned them shows his changed opinion of Avon since S3.

This is the second story in a row where Servalan's presence doesn't feel forced and good use is made of her alias as Commissioner Sleer. Belkov is a delightful villain, double-crossing everyone he comes across, including Tarrant who walks obligingly into his trap. The introduction of another super computer could have been tedious, but works out well here - Gambit with its wonderful sneaky personality seems more than a match for Orac.

Personal appreciation: ***

A fast pace and lots of action always appeal to me, as do scheming villains able to outwit their adversaries, but the plot leaves too much unexplained for a satisfactory ending. This feeling of dissatisfaction is increased by Vila's booty not being real. [I know in S4 everything they undertake results in failure, but that is as unrealistic as the Heroes winning every game. :-)]

I like how the crew gangs up on Avon for going behind their backs in his dealings with Gerren. Servalan is at her best, it's a joy to see her and Belkov trying to out-bluff each other. Gambit is cute and it's pure fun to see Vila using all his persuasion skills in order to be allowed to take a circuit.

It's always satisfying to have Vila do some rescuing. And even Dayna gets a chance to save her companions. She does take her time, though. Wants to make them sweat a bit? :-) Avon and Soolin work well together, their scenes (here and in Gold and Warlord) seem to have a special flavour, like the best moments of Avon and Cally (e.g. Voice, City).

Servalan's dress looks like it's made of a sack dyed black with feathers glued onto it. One of her most unbecoming garments. Belkov's jacket sits well on his bulky figure, making him look regal. A pity his garb couldn't have been more colourful.


Gerren's companions seem to have a death wish. After the first gets killed, why is the second prepared to risk the same fate? A sensible man would have bolted at that point.

"That was a damn fool thing to do!" sounds like a filmquote.

As no introductions are made, how does Belkov know who of them is Avon? He must have studied the Wanted-posters real hard. :-)

Why does Tarrant choose Vila as back up, rather than Dayna, who must be counted as more reliable?

"They're after blood." "Tell them you've already given," sounds like an anachronism to me. By that time effective artificial blood must have been developed. Once they'd stopped using donors, the concept of "giving blood" would have been forgotten quickly. (Judith: given the way mutiods are viewed with such distate, it seems likely that the Federation don't have synthetic blood easily available.)

Going by that monks' chant, the Mecronian religion must have its roots in the Vatican. :-)

"... A fairly average day." This is the Vila we know and love. :-)

The best pilot in the galaxy seems rather cowed by the prospect of having to fly the flight simulator. :-) (Judith: simulators are always worse than the real thing, as they add in lots of nice things to go wrong...)

What Could Have Been Done To Improve It

- Either cut down the earlier scenes to make more time for the games at the end, or leave those games out.

- Better characterisation for Vila and Tarrant.

- A better explanation of what is happening at the end.

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