(Chris Boucher) reviewed by Marian de Haan


Utterly improbable and hanging together from coincidences. Apparently Chris Boucher had used up all his good ideas for the preceding episode and was scratching the barrel for this one. Clones that grow in hours, (Judith: No worse than 'Time Squad' where the growth rate of the brood units on board the alien capsule was said to be that fast. Servalan's clones in 'Children of Auron' are pretty quick too. I don't like the idea any more than Marian, but at least the series was internally consistent on this point.) that ridiculous clonemaster Fen, the ultimate weapon, a psycho-strategist able to predict a person's every move, Blake choosing that particular base for his intended attack - it all needs an awful lot of suspension of disbelief! The mad scientist destroyed by his own creation is a well-worn theme, satisfying though it may be. :-) The new Travis is the last straw. Despite his working class accent and thuggish stance Brian Croucher never manages to be half as menacing as Stephen Grief.

Are there any good things? Yes, crew interaction is as strong as ever, with a nice bit of continuity in Avon first ridiculing someone else's suggestion and then supporting it [Bounty springs to mind.]. He excels in put-downs and superior smiles here.

The casual mentioning of the proximity mines at the beginning is a nice trick, ensuring that when Liberator hits one at the end of the episode we've all forgotten about them. As mad scientists go, Coser is believable; him being underestimated provides a credible motive. Rashel trying to cope with his mood changes is done well, although her alternating between cringing and asserting herself feels a bit forced at times.

This episode's end is the most unsatisfactory of the whole Series. The confrontation between Blake's landing party and Servalan is done so clumsily it's totally unconvincing. Our heroes get a good chance to shoot Servalan before she can press that button, yet they keep standing like intimidated schoolboys waiting to be rebuked by their headmaster. (Judith: I have to agree with you. Couldn't the director have worked it a bit better?) At least Avon is prepared to take the risk, but gives in to Blake as usual.

The problem with super weapons that are not supposed to pop up in the next episode is that they either have to be destroyed or kept in safeguard for ever more. Boucher opted for the last solution, with the clone and Rashel as guardians. Apart from the clone and Rashel setting up camp on that planet being a much too romantic ending for B7, their future looks bleak. One can expect Servalan making getting hold of the weapon her priority, and she can send out more troops to the planet than the guardians will be able to mark. And we know how utterly expendable she considers her troopers to be.

Personal appreciation: *

This episode contains my three pet hates: clones, super weapons and mad scientists. On top of that we have a manipulating charmer with an overrated opinion of himself. On seeing it the first time the horror of Blake apparently being killed by Travis was strong, but the 'Oh-it-was-only-a-clone' left me feeling cheated. [Not because Blake isn't dead :-), but because of the cheap ploy.] And then at the end there is the shock of seeing Blake lose. [Yes, I know it's something one has to get used to, but this is the first time and it hurts!] Him taking his losses and running away is out of character, he never accepted defeat before.

The recasting of Travis is a disaster. Are we to suppose that he's undergone radical plastic surgery as well as mind treatment? Even his eye colour has changed, as has his accent. What did the producers think? That no viewer would be able to look beyond the eye patch? :-) Seems to indicate a strong disregard for the audience.]

Brian Croucher's debut was not helped by the fact that he didn't get on with the director. I wonder how much of the blame for the failure of this episode must be accredited to the static and uninspired directing. Granted, this way we do get a lot of wonderful close ups of our heroes, so maybe one should not complain. :-) Still, the entrances of clonemaster Fen, accompanied by that angel choir, are utterly painful to watch. [I kept hoping she would trip and fall, just to relieve the boredom. :-)]

The only things to enjoy are the flight deck scenes, and they are excellent. Frankly, they're the only scenes I watch, fasting forward through the rest and stopping the tape at the point where they decide to teleport to the planet. [Which at least spares me the sight of Avon's red leather. His capacity for digging up awful costumes is amazing. :-)] It took an effort to sit through the whole episode several times for this review.

Avon looks good in that plain black sweater but whoever gave him that frogman's suit ought to have been shot. [Originally it had spikes on the collar but the director cut those off, deserving our eternal thanks.] This is the episode of the ridiculous collars. Are they supposed to be a mirror of the wearer's mind? Coser's reflecting his empty vanity with all those fake jewels; clonemaster Fen's as straight as her bearing; Rashel's transparent but with hard edges; Servalan's curving in every direction... I strongly suspect the costume designers of having regarded B7 as a test case to see what they could get away with.


Does Avon's assuming Jenna to know Blake's whereabouts indicate a special ('recreational') relationship between her and Blake? :-)

"Virtually alone then." His nastiest smile of the whole Series.

"Auron may be different..." Is it my imagination, or is Avon as a rule treating Cally more mildly than the others? :-) [The exception being Children of Auron.]

Poor Vila, trying to be nice to Cally and being snubbed for his troubles.

There's one nice scene of Blake's followers grouping round him on the couches (except for Gan who's fetching Orac) and the dissident Avon alone at his position. With this director it seems doubtful, though, whether he put any thought into it other than a way to get them all in shot (always a problem with Liberator's spacious flight deck).

The clonemasters may copy life but not create new. Who invented their rules and who is expected to oversee them keeping to them? The whole clonemasters idea seems as silly as illogical. Are they must be clairvoyant to provide the clone with an exact copy of the outfit Blake is wearing at that precise moment.

Isn't it fortunate for Travis that Blake, Gan and Avon all stop long enough at the right place for him to get a good aim at them?

"Coser is too good a pilot..." So where did this Beta class technician learn to fly a spacecraft?

Carnell describes himself as an official psycho-strategist but what exactly is his position? His negotiating a fee from Servalan suggests a freelancer, something that seems highly unlikely within the over-organised Federation.

Servalan happily sacrifices her guards. Well, the poor chaps are expendable. :-)

A range of a million miles sounds very impressive, but in space it could mean less far than the next planet. [I never can visualise that kind of distances. :-(]

"Let's kill the bait and get out of here!" Imagine them doing just that before Servalan gets the chance to tell them about Imipak. [And then trying to figure out how the weapon works. Avon: "Now let's see what happens when I press this button..." :-)]

"Let me do that." The clone is as patronising as the real Blake. Makes you wonder how long Rashel will be prepared to suffer him. :-)

What could Have Been Done To Improve It:

- Swap Travis for another Baddie. (One of Servalan's decorative staff officers would have done fine. The disgustingly smug Carnell could have qualified, it would have been fun to see him falling out of grace, being brought to Trial and ultimately teaming up with the Andromedans.)

- Leave out the clone and let Carnell sweet-talk Coser into handing over Imipak. (Judith: and deprive an entire generation of fanfic writers of one of the most useful characters around? The clone is a godsend for Blake fans.)

- At the end, let our heroes overpower Servalan [omitting to kill her, of course :-)] and take possession of Imipak, following by Blake destroying the weapon and Avon finding a way to disable the trigger.

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