Being an avid fan of Blake's Seven requires the 'suspension of disbelief' process to be fully ingrained, primarily concerning the visuals and special effects, but less often, the plot devices and character continuity. I can quite happily sit back and watch the two dimensional drawing of Liberator hurdling into a cardboard background, believing it is a real ship in deep space, or even accept the fire breathing trolley that is the security robot in 'Time Squad' and 'Project Avalon' as a danger to our heroes. However, when it comes to plot and character inconsistencies, that are not marred by budgetary constraints, I have to stop and say 'what the....?'
Having said that, this episode has many redeeming features that make it enjoyable, if not classic. I find the beginning of the episode intriguing in that it mirrors many of the early Avon/Blake interactions: here we have Avon secretly changing course (and plans) without consulting the others, believing his reasons to be 'sound' but not believing his ship to be a democracy (how many times did Avon complain bitterly about this side of Blake's nature?).
The Tarrant/Avon exchange again mirrors the confrontation of old, ie: Why don't you tell us what you're doing? Because I don't want to! Tarrant's comment 'we're just meant to sit by quietly and let you do it, whatever it is.....' could have come from Avon himself in series one or two. Marian's review notes that Avon 'rushes blindly to Blake's aid under circumstances where even Tarrant would stop and think'. Again, this is closer to Blake's characterisation ('Seek, Locate Destroy', 'Breakdown', 'Hostage') than the typical viewer perception of Avon. Terry Nation, it seems, is not only surmising that Avon would lay down literally everything to help Blake, but infact he has taken on many of Blake's traits as well. This assumption by the writer is at odds with the Avon we are presented with in series three. In actual fact he resembles more of a rebel leader closer to that of Blake in season four!
Without getting too caught up in season three narrative, it is surprising that Avon is so obsessed with getting to Blake, to the point that he ignores potential (ultimately real) danger to Liberator, and fails to ascertain the very plausible risk of a Federation trap, compared to his motivations and actions in the previous episodes in this series, in which he is concerned with self preservation, escape from the clutches of aliens, revenge, scientific curiosity and the occasional foray into finding a stronghold ('Volcano'). As soon as Terry Nation picks up his pen, and an ending to the series is required (barring the BBCs as yet unforseen commissioning of S4), we suddenly see Avon crusading ahead, ready to rescue his leader Blake, whom he had all but forgotten, and actually barely mentioned in the previous eleven adventures!
Another astonishing part of this episode is Avon's violent behaviour, pulling a gun on Tarrant, followed by Cally's intuitive comment that Avon had meant to kill him, and Avon's direct threat to kill anyone that follows him down to Terminal. Of course one can argue that he is only trying to protect the rest of the crew from probable danger. Or that this is Avon's version of Blake's commandeering of Liberator systems and desertion of the ship in 'Trial', albeit with his more violent manner, but this is heavy handed by his standards (unless you count his actions in 'Blake' or 'Orbit' I suppose!).
Of course, as in every other episode in Blake's Seven, the rest of the crew join the fun. In this case Tarrant and Dayna teleport down to investigate and provide back-up, whether Avon likes it or not. Meanwhile, Avon is being guided to Blake's whereabouts by an Orson Welles voice inside a metallic soccer ball: ('It's been nice talking to you' Avon wryly comments), and being watched by mysterious humanoid figures. I particularly enjoyed this part, because it was not instantly identifiable as a Federation group, simply a mysterious situation that was captivating Avon. On board Liberator, Avon's carelessness has resulted in the corrosive material literally rotting the mighty ship inch by inch. The level of suspense builds nicely here, with the successful B7 double emergency on the ground and on the ship simultaneously.
I think Villa's contribution to the narrative is consistent in 'Terminal' with development he has undergone throughout series two and three. Consider Villa in 'Space Fall' compared to the same 'little man' in 'City At the Edge of the World', or his 'unsung heroism' in 'Ultraworld' and his viciousness in 'Rumours of Death'. During the unfolding emergency on Liberator with the space gunk obliterating all systems, Villa works well with Dayna, keeping a clear head and coming up with practical solutions and ideas. Perhaps Terry Nation paid a little more attention to observing Villa throughout S3 than he did with Avon.
At the beginning of this review I mentioned 'suspension of disbelief'. I can take trolley robots, I can take Decimas, I can even take Moloch in a Davros-esque kind of way. However, the 'Links' have to be the biggest letdown of the entire Blake's Seven series in terms of ludicrous looking aliens, next to the tacky giant insect in 'Harvest of Kairos'. Why on Earth would they bother with these men-in-suits who make Roddy McDowell in the 70s 'Apes' series look like an incredibly believable simian? This ruined the suspense that had been building up rather nicely, with the descending stairwell, the relentless pump/thump of Terminal, and the slime oozing from Liberators ceiling. I suppose I can't blame Terry Nation for that though.
Possibly the moment of greatest impact on first viewing of this episode was when Avon activates the view-screen and we see Blake's emotionless face appear, the first time we have seen it since 'Star One'. Avon, or at least Terry Nation's Avon, is visibly, audibly delighted and excited that his comrade is back: 'So he is alive...Blake is alive' with a measure of enthused emotion in his voice not heard for some time. As he leaves the room, he is struck and falls unconscious. Blake may be alive, but these mystery aliens have an agenda that Avon had not bargained for in his fervour.
What strikes me as fascinating is that the ensuing conversation that Avon has with the Blake simulation is probably exactly what a conversation between the two would be like, and should have been like in S4s 'Blake'. It is right on the mark when Avon says 'there were times when your simple-minded certainties might have been refreshing', as one gets the impression that much of the time Liberator is simply floating in space during S3 (not that this is a bad thing, it would have indeed been boring to sustain a relentless campaign against the Federation after the first two seasons of just that). Here, Avon is clearly very glad to see Blake, and the obligatory chat about the limitless wealth seems like an aside, with Avon primarily wanting to conduct the impossible 'lightening raid' and get Blake home where he belongs. Peculiar, considering he was hardly searching frantically beforehand, although other writers were positioning Avon in various emotional/moral standpoints in those episodes, playing down his reliance on his original leader.
I admit, on first viewing, for the first and perhaps last time in Blake's Seven history, I was surprised to see Servalan behind the whole deception (silly me I hear you say). Although inconsistencies were rife in other aspects of the episode, I actually believed that an alien race was behind it all, given the unusual setting, costuming, language, technology etc. (not a gas masked trooper in sight!).
Servalan manages to get Avon to reveal his intention NOT to get his crew mates killed on this dangerous excursion, to which she says 'how very noble of you'. Another shining example of character inconsistency, or too many writers presenting their 'take' on Avon. He only defends Villa in 'City At the Edge of the World' because 'a good thief is hard to find', he almost kills Tarrant in this very episode, as he almost does in 'Sarcophagus', he abandons a comprehensive search for Blake and Jenna in S3 (remember how easy it is for him to locate Blake in 'Blake' via Orac).....not to mention Avon using Tarrant as cannon fodder twice in S4 ('Orbit' and 'Stardrive') and his attempt to lure Vila to his death in 'Orbit' also.
Avon's nobility is better illustrated when he orders Villa to take the Liberator out of orbit, thereby trading his own freedom and that of Blake for the 'noble' victory of depriving the Federation of a fleet of Liberators. And the characterisation of a man who is devastated by news that he was talking to a drug induced electronic dream rather than his leader, and that Blake truly is dead, is again noble, heroic, tragic. Definitely not the consistent image of Avon presented to us in Blake's Seven, but Terry Nation's Avon, yes.
After displaying her appalling knowledge of evolution regarding the links and the evolutionary 'speedup' on Terminal, or Terry Nation providing us with a useless aside to ponder over for a millisecond, we see Servalan retain her prize in a great ironic moment, with the tyrant so fixated with her victory that she fails to notice she is seated in the middle of a fungi ridden corpse-ship. Villa again displays his 'City at the Edge of the World' cunning by saving Orac, and everybody loses, with the Liberator scattering across space and Avon and the others trapped on a barren, doomed planet without prized leader Blake. Cally's farewell from the series is as unremarkable as Jenna (and later Servalan), and we finally see the first of many ironic Avon smiles in the face of adversity.
I think this episode suffers primary due to the fact that Nation is writing for Avon as he alone perceives the character to be, ignoring the cavalcade of other writers who have superimposed their own views and development of Avon before 'Terminal'. The character developed, or rather oscilated throughout series three, from scientist and reluctant participant (Kairos) to second in command (City) to man bent on revenge (Rumours) to an almost symbiotic hero (Sarcophagus). I would disagree with Marian in the sense that I think Terry Nation knew how to write Avon as a primary charscter and a hero, yet he always placed that character within the framework of his original concept of 'Blake's Seven'-part of the original crew.
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