Servalan's Federation

By Jason Juneau

If anything exemplifys Servalan's approach to ruling, her deadpan command regarding the Auron leaders, "Take them out and shoot them", sums things up nicely. The ruthlessness and expediency shown in such episodes as "Children of Auron" I think display a fearful tyrant who sees things slipping out of control. As a result, she responds with heavier and heavier doses of repression and brutality, augmented by the occasional deception. One might even simply chalk up her eventual overthrow to a reaction against this level of tyranny, though I would suspect other forces at work.

Lets face it. Servalan did not have an easy time of running things. Her glorious reign as President begins with the destruction of 80% of the Federation fleet, thus removing a major prop to Federation control. Note that Servalan had to in effect buy her way off Chenga. She was in effect President of a ruined empire. Later in the next three episodes in which we see her, she is not behind a desk at Space Command HQ, but on one of her main ships directly overseeing things that would seem unworthy of a President. She is not only refusing to entrust important operations(usually seizing the Liberator) to subordinates, she stays with her fleet, it seems, most of the time. Moreover she faces rebellions on earth (Rumours of Death) and rebellions or mutinies in the outer worlds (Moloch). It would seem that Madame President had quite a mess to clean up, and the methods with which she ran her empire suggests that she saw things as such.

On her flight deck, except for the occasional guard, we usually only see Mutoids, usually at the ships controls, but also acting as a bodyguard, indicating a complete lack of trust in the rank and file. This comes across most dramaticaly in "Children of Auron", where we see that not only is Deral promoted in such a way as to keep the command divided, but that it also helps to make Ginka a more zealous, ruthless soldier. Moreover, both are ultimately expendable. While the execution of Ginka seems like an emotional response to apparent betrayal, Deral's seems soley for failure. Given that he was put into an untenable position to begin with, it would seem that Servalan demands quite a bit and goes through officers quickly.

This level of ruthlessness with her own is minor compared with others outside her control. Her destruction of two neutral planets, Obsidian and Auron, suggests not only that Servalan regards most people as expendable, but moreover that terror is the true method to empire building. While some suggest that these acts of terror were simply the result of Servalan's callousness, I regard them as very calculated acts of terror to scare any opposition to her rule. The Federation previously had acted in such a way (Time Squad, Countdown), using mass killings as a way of crushing opposition. The career of Travis is also indicative of this. Servalan's innovation was to use these methods against non-Federation peoples. This indicates that Servalan regards no law or any other limit to her authority. As she tells Deral in her usual deadpan fashion, "Changed circumstances have brought a new situation..."

Such a ruthlessness and drive suggests not only ambition, but also paranoia. She did afterall face two rebellions on earth, within days of each other (Rumours of Death). Perhaps her terror backfired and stiffened the resolve of those willing to oppose her. The fact that the agent Bartholomew aided the second revolt suggests disenchantment within the upper echelon of society. Perhaps the treatment metted out to officers like Deral caused some resentment. We've seen elements of this before (Trial, Seek-Locate-Destroy), where Servalan faces challenges from within the service. Shrinker had mentioned "revenge" as a motivation for the first rebellion in "Rumours of Death". Were the rebels genuine, like Blake, Foster or Kasabi, or were they just losers in a power struggle between Federation factions.

In spite of such difficulties, Madame President still manages to hold power until the end of Season three, where we see her seemingly marooned on the planet Terminal in her latest, and most successful plan to seize the Liberator. If there was a guiding thread to Servalan's rule, other than terror, capturing the Liberator was certainly it. This is established from the beginning of the season (Aftermath) and indeed had been part of her plans long before (Project Avalon). Not only did she want to take the ship, but also replicate it into a whole fleet (Terminal). We know the Federation lost 80% of its ships. We also know that some went rogue(Volcano, Children of Auron, Moloch), which suggests multiple factions competing for power. Given that Servalan did not have full possession of the remaining 20% and faced rivals for power, the idea of capturing the Liberator comes into bold relief.

Capturing the Liberator and replicating it would have given Servalan the qualitative edge with which to eliminate most if not all opposition. The fact that Blake was gone and so the Liberator was no longer attacking the Federation in a consistent manner, meant that Servalan had to go to it, thus explaining her constant scheming. Also, the coup of capturing such a famous ship and bringing some of Blake's old crew to trial might have given her a publicity boost as well. In the end, she failed to seize the Liberator and so her rule, while monstrous, was not invincible and seemingly quite falible. I truly think that the repeated failures at capturing the Liberator must have lowered morale and support, along with her brutality of course. People might support or at least suffer a dictatorship, provided it brings results and does not inconvience them too much. Servalan's rule could not promise or deliever that and so in the end she was overthrown.

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Last changed on 20th of October 2003