Story: One of the best. Strong in characterisation of the regulars as well as London's command trio. [Granted, the guards are a bit incompetent, but elite troops are never wasted on guarding prisoners.] The only mildly unsatisfactory part is that unexplained space fight the London stumbles upon. I'd have preferred them to find Liberator mysteriously drifting (like the Mary Celeste) and be spared the improbability of alien ships fighting out a battle in the middle of Federation territory. [But in that case the writer would have had to find another way for Nova to die. :-)] This episode is strong in unexplained details, such as what Avon is reading and what Jenna whispers to Raiker. I'd also like to know what crime Nova is guilty of, he seems too fresh and innocent for a criminal or even a dissident. In contrast Gan is introduced as a tough character. No mention yet of the limiter and he seems chillingly capable of killing that guard while smiling [prelude to Breakdown]. We see Vila at his most inadequate (dropping that gun). And we get the first appearance of Avon...
Personal appreciation: ***** There I was, freshly from watching The Way Back, strongly identifying with Blake, and suddenly this dark, mysterious, ambiguous, not-handsome-at-all-yet-strangely-attractive character popped up. :-) Immediately my attention and allegiance shifted. The interaction between Blake and Avon, one of the strengths of the Series IMO, is given a good start here. Who is trying to manipulate whom? Seems to me that Avon knows what Blake is planning, has decided already to go along, and is simply playing hard to get. Typically, he doesn't deny Blake's allusion to his plans to alter the ship's logbook, thus presenting himself as more ruthless than he is. It sets the tone for the rest of the series - and <shameful grin> he's doing it so well that it took me a long time to catch on. I appreciate Jenna standing up to Raiker, the defiant way in which she takes that blow. [It is a pleasant change from letting the Heroine use her charms to wind the Baddie round her finger.] Avon seeking solitude is a nice detail. The fight scene between him and that computer technician is not bad; there's only one unconvincing bit when Avon seems to wait for the guard to hit him. A pity the best part - where Avon, nearly choked, is slapping the technician's ears - is edited out on the video release. [I only got to watch it recently when the BBC repeat showed the uncut version and it's vividly realistic.]
Observations: The prisoners seem rather tame for the ruthless criminals they're supposed to be. All right, that's due to the suppressants, but then why aren't Our Heroes affected as well? And why set a guard to watch them when you've got cameras doing the job? Does Vila really not know how those door locks work? [Of course, revealing his skills may bring him into dangerous situations. :-)] That sealing gel must be handy stuff, but doesn't it provide a problem when they need access to those cables in the filled up part of that maintenance shaft? And how are they going to get it out again after repairing the outer hull? Imagine some hapless crewmember hacking away the stuff and coming upon poor Nova's remains... :-) Does Blake ever wonder what happened to Nova? And when he demands that the prisoners be disembarked on the nearest habitable planet, shouldn't it occur to him that the inhabitants of that planet might not be happy about a bunch of criminals being unloaded upon their soil? And wouldn't it have been more practical to dump the ship's crew (plus those prisoners unwilling to join his fight) and keep the London? [He could not foresee he would get hold of the fastest ship in space. :-)] "An army of five and HIM!" Yes, Avon does include himself here. Shouldn't he have said: 'An army of four and HIM, and me as freelance technical assistant.'? And when confronted with Raiker's ultimatum he protests, then obeys Blake's command. The pattern gets nicely established here. :-) It's remarkable how alike Avon and the London's computer technician are in stature, haircut, clothes and fighting skills - initially I found it hard to see who's who. Jenna is a pilot, yet Avon's the one who recognises the life rocket launch control. The first time his all round technical expertise crops up. [A reminder how, in the time of production, computers were still largely unknown and their technicians regarded as omnipotent. Clearly the writer/producer/set-builders had not the slightest idea how to present computers. This never puts me off, though. We can't begin to imagine what computers will look like a thousand years from now and for me their guess is as good as anyone else's.] In that hallucination scene Avon makes a nice dive over the couch. [Paul Darrow did all his stunts himself.] Apparently Avon cares a lot about his brother. This could be the explanation about his protectiveness towards Blake: he reminds him of his brother (another 'not very bright idealist'?). :-) Raiker's shot does not make much impact on Blake. Federation weapons seem to have an automatic setting that changes the charge from lethal to tickling whenever they're aimed at Our Heroes! [Gives us some hope for the last episode, doesn't it?] :-)
What Could Have Been Done To Improve It: - Have Liberator just drift in Space. [Better a wholly unexplained mystery than one half explained like that space battle.] - Give an explanation why our heroes are not influenced by the suppressant drugs that keep the rest of the prisoners docile. - Make Blake demand that the London's captain sends someone to check on Nova.
Footnote from Judith. I always assumed that Blake and his co-conspiritors had phases when they avoided eating and drinking so that they could make plans with a clear mind. It's established in the first episode that this works.
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