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Novelisation/commentary of 'Pressure Point'

By David Dixon
It is a bright spring day in the English countryside. Who would ever know that we are looking at the killing fields just outside the Federations notorious Forbidden Zone and Control, an area filled with trees and singing birds, yet an area where you can be presumably shot on sight (well I suppose the 'whirring' sound that is reminiscent of a tortured mother bird indicates danger for picnicking scouts.) Even breathing the air outside warrants a charge of a category nine crime as Blake frighteningly told his liberators in 'The Way Back'. Come to think of it shouldn't all of the outdoors be called 'The Forbidden Zone' if the first 'Blake's Seven' episode is to be believed?

Two particularly brave and/or foolish rebels wander tentatively through the serene death trap. 'This is it. The Forbidden Zone', the leader Arle says nervously. ' Let's get back.', the follower Berg responds hyper nervously. I smell cannon fodder. Berg, perhaps sensibly, wants to get back to their leader, someone called Kasabi, and report that they have reached a notice saying 'Forbidden Zone', while, naturally enough, Arle wants to venture just a little farther, gain perhaps a little more of a pat on the back. Come into my web said the spider etcetera.............

The 'Spider' and an added 'snake' for good measure are quickly revealed inside a country house, which is actually a foreboding security station. It's Servalan and the 'new' Travis, fresh from his last humiliating defeat in 'Weapon', looking like his eye patch has just been re-glued on again for this latest gloat at the two hapless flies on the view-screen.

I like this new Travis in ways I could never like the old smooth, sophisticated, almost gentlemanly Travis, whose Coyote to Blake's Road Runner had fallen off the cliff once too often. This new Travis is unpolished, unstable and desperate, all of the qualities you'd expect from a man who'd been disfigured and disgraced in front of his mistress Servalan with insane succession. This one could go right over the edge. He paces, with his trusty icy mutoids blank faced and passive, like a cross between dispassionate vampire bats and bizzaro Datas from 'Next Generation'. ' Intruders in coordinate seventeen.' mutoid one offers. Travis turns to Servalan and concludes 'Good. Kasabi's men, they must be. My intelligence reports were correct. Do you doubt me now, Supreme Commander?' Of course we know that Travis has spoken words to this effect to his Supreme Commander countless times before and there is always room for doubt.

The Supreme Commander of the Terran Federation appears to have just frocked up for an intergalactic cocktail party, adorned in luminescent white from head to toe, including suave white sombrero. 'They are Outsiders. There is nothing to indicate they are Kasabi's men.' 'They are. Scouting ahead of the main party,' Travis replies, possibly alerted by the intruders military greens or maybe even some other more intimate source? Servalan becomes impatient with Travis, the man that had Blake in his sights on too many occasions and let him and the Galaxy's mightiest ship slip away, leaving the cool, collected, glamorous woman of the moment looking more than a little red faced.

'I have waited for eighteen days' she says more than impatiently, perhaps wishing for an alternative to the Coyote, such as Carnell the puppeteer, or even a grunt with a head for strategy like Jarvik, her future beau from the lower decks. Meanwhile, the emotionally disturbed Travis is in tune with his psycho intuition: 'It won't be much longer now. It's started, I can feel it!' 'Oh, Travis!' Servalan retorts, remembering walking through the lizard tunnel in high heels to snatch ORAC for nothing. The reason for the twinkle in Travis's good eye is suddenly revealed '-I know Blake is coming here!'

We should have known. An eighteen day wait and Travis all in a lather? Almost as an aside, Travis indicates that the two brave scouts on the view screen are 'dead already'

On the outskirts of the forbidden zone, the trees still sway in the breeze and the birds still chirp. Arle is obviously not impressed by warnings of danger his glorious leader Kasabi has instilled the two scouts with. 'Doesn't look like much' he asserts, flying closer into the web. He wants to be the first to gain more insight into 'Control', a large computer installation according to the idiot's guide to computer installations. Berg's vila-esque protests about the site being the most heavily protected site in the Federation and his general mouse like timidness do not wash with Arle, who even declares his leader as being 'wrong'. They scamper further inside, Arle declaring 'oh come on Berg, you're not old enough to have lost your nerve yet!', just before both men lose their nerves, their heads, arms and legs, in an explosion that starts off as superglue sticking their feet to the ground, a spark, a flame and a God almighty BANG! Leaving nothing but fried flies on a green grass web.

The Liberator flight deck, the hotbed of disagreement, ideological clashes, screaming matches, threats and death is where our next scene takes place, with the crew lounging back as physically casually as ever, yet with trouble only one utterance away. This time two words do it. The words 'Earth' and 'teleport'. Blake's bombshell is dropped to the dismay of Gan, vila and Jenna: 'In three hours we'll be in teleport range of Earth'

Jenna immediately disagrees 'Blake, are you crazy? We can't afford to take risks like that!', followed by vila and Gan reacting in shock as they had been lied to again [their reactions are well founded; even in the outer reaches of deep space a flotilla can pop up at a moments notice, and here they are waltzing into the heart of the Federation, veering past countless check points, barriers, force fields, fleets and bases-a little explanation as to how even this advanced ship can accomplish this would be handy]

The expression of restrained euphoria on Cally's face is reminiscent of 'Weapon' where Blake and his little rebel from Auron had discussed the plans free from the doubting eyes of all, including Jenna who is arguably in love with her leader.

Cally quickly shows her allegiance (and probable prior knowledge of the plan): 'We must take this risk', followed by Blake at last enlightening the others 'All right, I didn't expect you to welcome the idea. That's why I misled you just a little'. Avon soon enters the debate, revealing his ever-superior awareness (and style) as only he can. He has known all along, and casually says so 'I never really believed your long-range reconnaissance story. Earth has been on your mind for a long time Blake. Too long to sit outside the planetary system and look'.

Blake is momentarily surprised but not thrown from his objective, explaining that the Liberators great legend that has earned them accolades from rebel and rabble the galaxy over has effectively been a nipping at the Federations heals (I would have thought the acquisition of ORAC to be a little more of a blow than that but still.....). The heart of the Federation is Earth and that's where he wants them to strike. This is where he has seen two large scale massacres of his comrades, experienced mind conditioning, renouncing said comrades in public forum, been portrayed as a child molester and left what resistance groups there are on the planet alone to fend for themselves. Pretty strong motives, and personal ones at that.

Blake displays his alpha grade knowledge of history to the presumably uneducated ears of at the majority of his crew by explaining the two hundred year existence of Central Control on Earth and that it represents the bulk of the Federations power:'Smashing that would be the biggest single step toward the destruction of their power. I don't think they would ever recover from it.' Here is one man who has made up his mind, and presumably decided to do everything in his power to convince the computer genius, Avon, to co-operate, due to the very nature of the installation and the complicated process of sabotaging of it. All of Liberators 'human' crew from Alpha to Delta now display some knowledge of Control, with Gan saying the Federation have never attempted to hide the whereabouts of the complex and Avon adding they have even 'advertised' it, as a symbol of Federation power. [Cally certainly throws her loyalty fairly quickly and without question to Blake doesn't she? She has known about his plan before any of the others (she surmises that Blake may decide to go for Control two episodes ago), yet she knows far less about the target, it's history and previous attempts to attack it than even vila! I suppose a rousing speech from Blake in private was enough to whip this early rebel Cally into action, a real illustration of her early character, a fervour that arguably waters down later]

While it is established that vast armies, rocket launches and rebel attacks have failed at making a dint on Control, Blake still thinks he alone is capable of it: 'For the past year now, I've been collecting all the information I could find. With Orac's help, I now know more about Control than anyone outside the senior echelon of the Federation. I think I can destroy it.' Here he fails to acknowledge the spirit of teamwork that the freedom-fighting unit on-board Liberator has become over the many trials and tortures already suffered by the crew. Avon reacts with a slow sarcastic clap, which is typically Avon, yet is also a reaction that someone far less arrogant than Avon might have demonstrated in a similar situation (after all, every crew memberhas saved Blake's life at least once and significantly contributed to his resistance against the Federation).

Avon's attempt to raise Blake's ire is once again without a reaction from the glorious leader, as he continues unaffected 'I'm not going to minimise the danger. It's a high-risk operation. That is why I'm not going to ask any of you to come with me'

'You really think you can do it without us' Gan asks, practically tripping over himself to slip on his teleport bracelet there and then. The answer in Blake's mind is of course 'I don't think so...especially without Avon', yet his fanaticism is escalating here and of course he will do it with or without his temperamental computer genius. Then Blake mentions that he has contacted a 'resistance leader', andthe Kasabi scouting party disaster and of course the small matter of Travis and Servalan mentioning Blake's name and waiting for him practically on the doorstep of Control sends our T.Vs red alert signal sounding as the scene ends.

We now see Kasabi in military greens as a battle hardened matriarchal rebel leader, reminiscent of Avalon and a polar opposite of another strong female leader, Servalan. A pity such strength could not fit between the egos of Blake and Avon aboard Liberator. Avon in particular I think would probably come to blows with this old bird if he had to live all over her. She speaks to a waif like girl about meeting up with Blake at the 'rendezvous point', and her army advances, all on the cosy view-screen of the Supreme Commander and her lap dog, everything going to plan, with no sign of Carnell the puppeteer! Someone has been doing their research. Perhaps becoming a little less aesthetically pleasing and rougher around the edges has made this Travis less of a coyote with not an Acme product in sight! (we'll have to wait and see).

Servalan is cool yet clearly very pleased: 'Kasabi. At last.' 'Worth an eighteen-day wait, Supreme Commander?' Travis responds self satisfactorily. Servalan ventures into the back story of Kasabi, once an academy instructor, part of Federation society who taught 'treason' (read: freedom). She was reported by none other than cadet Servalan herself, who has since rued the day the 'fools' at Federation security allowed Kasabi to escape and become a crawling-through-the-leaves, Earthbound nuisance to the Federation. 'Kasabi is mine ' Servalan asserts, giving us the impression that this is her Blake, the one that got away, the one that possibly made her life quite unpleasant back in cadet school during those treason classes. A look of vengeful empathy passes between Travis and his Supreme Commander, possibly one of the finer moments of recognition the two ever share.

Back on Liberator, an unseen conference has taken place, presumably with Cally and Gan nudging Jenna a little and vila a lot into agreeing to follow Blake in this extremely risky venture. The man Blake needs the most is not seen as the sequence begins.

Jenna expresses the crews major concern that death is not in their logbook: 'None of us is prepared to commit suicide. We don't intend to die making some heroic gesture.', followed by vila, 'We want your word that if the mission looks impossible, then we'll pull out.' And finally Cally, whose suicidal lone Auron warrior-isms from 'Time Squad' seem to be dissipating somewhat 'We need a chance of survival.' [This is however not at odds with her previous fervour towards the mission, considering she must have at least known there was a small army led by Kasabi on the ground thus ensuring 'an even chance' as Blake himself puts it.] Blake agrees that the mission will be aborted on these conditions and the crew believe him (do we?). And this leaves Avon where?

Blake goes and sits by Avon. He tells the computer genius he needs to use about their crews' decision to help him. Avon smiles, 'I thought they would. Not very bright, but loyal.' After a little cat and mousing, frustrating Blake no end, Avon agrees, stating the obvious 'Frankly, I don't see how you can do it without me. Your strongest enemies are going tobe the defence computers. I am the only one qualified to tackle them.' This is the same egocentric Avon we saw in 'Space Fall', 'Mission To Destiny' and 'Time Squad' to name but a few, toying with Blake, singing out his talents, but ultimately following him just as the others do, albeit for far more complex, some argue self serving reasons.

Indeed when prodded about his reasons for falling in line with the rest, Avon indeed cites selfish reasons, explaining that if the Federation become weak, then Blake is the 'logical choice' to run as leader of the resistance on Earth and/or the Outer planets and 'With you running the campaign on Earth, somebody has to take charge of all this.' As Blake laughs at the thought of handing over the Liberator so prematurely, Avon possibly has visions of Jenna, Cally and Gan joining a more organised resistance away from Liberator. And vila either being coaxed to leave, become Avon's little puppy dog on board with mutual greed as their bond, or perhaps even vila being called for in the homicidal manner he eventually has to endure in 'Orbit'!

This sequence concludes with Zen miraculously guiding the most wanted ship in the galaxy to within visual range of planet Earth. Avon built his detector shield in the next episode, not at this point. The blinds are firmly up and Liberator is visible to all and sundry..

Servalan, still draped in her grotesque grandeur of white adornment, is still observing Kasabi and her band of merry commandos, this time in person with mutoids flanking the group. She orders their surrender and when they bumble about in terror without a hint of rebellious zeal they are massacred. A sorry lot indeed but not deserved of mutoid execution. 'The Way Back', 'Space Fall' and 'Project Avalon' have taught us that this is Federation peace negotiation. 'Get the child' Servalan orders her mindless vampire before gloating over the motionless body of her Blake, Kasabi.

Servalan practically purrs as she hovers over the unconscious body of her ex-teacher Kasabi, slumped on a particularly uncomfortable Federation chair in the security station (where is this station by the way? In the Zone, out of the zone? It looks like a house the famous five would want to eat a jolly good picnic not with the vampires and maniacs etc. Travis and his Supreme Commander bicker about the trigger happy nature of the latter and her vampires saying she might have ruined everything, but Servalan states quite passionately that her and Kasabi have 'unfinished business'. To this, the black hole calls the kettle black by saying 'This is no time for personal vendettas, Supreme Commander', as he drools waiting for Blake to arrive.

And now the true horror of 'our' Servalan begins to emerge. She politely addresses her prisoner 'Are you feeling better?' and when there is a slight pause, 'Oh, don't waste time, Kasabi. You have so little of it left.', gloating all the while. 'Time spent with you was always wasted, Servalan.' Aaaah, not one to be intimidated by impending painful death---even Avalon looked so young and terrified in her horizontal helplessness when captive, being the hardened interplanetary rebel rouser she supposedly was. Yet here, we sense that Kasabi knows Servalan better than the average captive. After she expresses disgust at the murder of her people and feigns ignorance of Blake's whereabouts or even his very existence, she even manages to physically push Servalan to the floor!

'Have you forgotten that I knew you as a cadet? You were a credit to your background: spoilt, idle, vicious!' and then to Travis: 'My confidential assessment listed her as unfit for command. But I forgot how well-connected she was.' Servalan looks every bit the disgraced student that strikes me as being the reason she has this very personal score to settle with Kasabi: past humiliation, given absolute Hell by an instructor at such polar opposites with her ideologically, and a tough woman too. Not in line with the lackies that have showered her with what she wanted to hear throughout the rest of her life. Not even Blake or Avon (yet) have spat directly into her psyche in this superior fashion. A little meaningless power play with Travis follows, with the latter trying to extract information on Blake out of an unwilling participant, while Servalan is still apparently in shock. Kasabi bolts for the door and is restrained by mutoids. Her spirit may be flying free but her body isn't going anywhere.

Back on Liberator vila and Avon are already expressing doubt as to continue the mission, having failed to intercept a coded signal from the rebels currentlygetting their blood sucked dry by mutoids, with Blake and particularly Gan arguing that they should wait another hour. This is typical of Gan, who could be a distant relative of Del Tarrant's if he possessed the cavalier elegance as well as the unwavering bravery. Finally they agree to wait the hour out.

Inside the security station, a clearly drug affected Kasabi is slumped back in her seat with Travis becoming increasingly frustrated as the tough old bird resists the foolproof Federation truth inducer, even managing the obligatory 'spit in the face of evil', disappointingly not a grand lingering grot that cannot be delicately wiped off by Travis, dignity more or less intact. ' She's stronger than she looks. She's still resisting the drug' he says to Servalan, ' Double the dose.' She responds, ignoring Travis's concerns that this amount might kill her, the latter's concern presumably coming from a concern not for the life of Kasabi, but for the retrieval of the information on Blake (remember Travis is the man who gloatingly turned a young man into a chemical cabbage in 'Project Avalon'; I thought this to be a good example drawn from the multitude of monstrous deeds he has committed due to it being more of a personalised atrocity). Servalan is sure she willtalk first before dying, then turns to address her nemesis woman to woman: ' Very soon now, you are going to die. Do you understand me?' ' Always understood you. You're vicious, greedy, sick.' Kasabi replies, perhaps reciting the original character profile written for her by Mr Nation himself.

The two interrogators soon discover the homing beacon they had retrieved along with their unco-operative guest and discuss the importance of extracting the exact right sequence from Kasabi herself, lest Blake get thewrong impression and flee the safe outskirts of Earth into flotilla ridden space. Travis gently prods the now drug addled zombie for the code and the sequence it is to be transmitted and finally gets it. After all as Avalon herself said the Federation technology can make people tell the truth every time, and also it can re-program a mind as strong as Blake's after all.....

Confusing is Travis attempting to stop Servalan from giving Kasabi her fatal overdose of the nasty truth drug. As already said he was overjoyed to test his space virus on an innocent man in 'Project Avalon' as well as murder en-masse all of the rebels and the informer who had helped him in the same episode, not forgetting the notorious massacre of civilians that had occurred on the planetAuros, and his brutal treatment of Blake's comrades. Yet here he seems concerned about Kasabi. Could he admire her strength? Or perhaps it is anon-military scenario and not blurred into the Blake quest, so his humanity attempts to peak through, as it doeswhen he expresses some regret over surgeon Marriot's death in 'Deliverance'? It's a grey area. As is Kasabi's skin as she begins to stiffen from the drug. ' Servalan. I'm sorry.' She mumbles, ' Sorry?' Servalan responds, genuinely surprised. ' I should have tried. In the beginning, I should have tried to help you.' Kasabi punctuates this verbal bashing by her own death. Bravo! Avon and Blake never got a chance to memorably disturb Servalan at the moment of their death. It's better to live on your feet than to die on your knees as they say.

Back on Liberator, just as the hour of waiting for the signal elapses, it is delivered by the expert claws of a mutoid presumably, and Blake asks to be put down, not at the rendezvous point, but a mile away, so he can scout around.

'What's the matter, Blake? Don't you trust your friends?' Avon taunts, or warns.

Blake stares blank faced at him and replies 'Of course. I trust them the same way I trust you.'. Now is this more in line with Blake in 'Star One' who says 'For what it's worth Avon, I've always trusted you, from the very beginning', or his comment in 'Horizon': 'Avon might run'. You be the judge. The line has always intrigued me, especially as distrust leads to disaster for Blake by the end of the series!

Blake is teleported down to a wooded area, and Gan is very soon put down beside him after the all clear is given. Robin Hood and Little John in Sherwood forest? Blake orders the commencement of 'the second countdown' and soon wanders into a Church with Gan, who immediately asks what 'this place' is.

'A Church' Blake responds, beginning another Alpha Grade history lesson, ' 'Place of religious assembly. The Federation had them all destroyed at the beginning of the New Calendar.' This, coupled with Blake's knowledge of American Indians and early space travel actually make him quite the history expert compared with fellow alpha Grade citizen Servalan, whose appalling lack of evolution is seen in 'Terminal' where she believes humans are evolving into apes and not theother way around. Blake's casual reference to the Federations systematic destruction of Christianity cites yet another major despicable act by the regime, which is so widespread and repressive I remember it chilling me to the bone when I first saw it.

Blake finds fresh blood, and they very quickly discover the waif like girl who had earlier spoken to Kasabi lying helplessly in a lower section of the building. Immediately the girl screams 'No!' drawing a gun, as Blake and Gan draw theirs, yet the girl has very little fight in her as she collapses to the floor once more. Blake and Gan identify her as probably one of Kasabi's people and discover a wound, which Gan treats gently with one of Liberators wonder pads (I had forgotten that Gan was the crews medical man before Cally took over later-another unsung quality often overlooked by those that write off Gan as a Lenny from 'Mice and Men' in their character evaluations).

I think the following conversation is best reproduced verbatim as it typifies Blake so vividly. It involves his report of the situation to the crew, bearing in mind there is clearly trouble well and truly a-brewin' in the rendezvous department.

Cally on Liberator: 'Come in, Blake.'

Blake's voice: 'Liberator, we're at the rendezvous point. Everything's all right.'

Avon: 'You have made contact with Kasabi?'

Blake: ' Not directly.'

Avon: ' Then everything is not all right.'

Blake: ' It will be. I'll get back to you.' (cuts communication).

This is so typical of many, many conversations between Blake the 'crusader' and Avon the cynic. The reality is more to Avon's summing up: Everything is not all right.

A wounded little girl is the only representation of the resistance movement Blake has rendezvoused with. A neat omission of fact on Blake's part.

Avon proceeds to vocalise his doubts further to the rest of the crew, pointing out quite rightly that no contact with Kasabi has occurred (and of course we all know that she is serving as a footstool for Servalan at this very moment). He concludes by stating ' I have a feeling that we are not being careful enough.'

I echo Avon's earlier slow hand clap.

Back in the Church, Gan is showing his Mother Theresa side again, cradling the child we now find out is actually Kasabi's daughter Veron, offering her some medicine and reassuring her. He has missed his calling. The big guy would have made a great galactic medico if only he wasn't so easily distracted. 'Where is your mother?' Blake asks, concerned. 'She's...she's dead' Veron replies. ' We were ambushed, we didn't have a chance. My mother was hit, everyone else was killed. I, I started to run but they came after me, so I hid.' She begins sobbing and buries her head in Blake's shoulder. Blake calms her down, and is genuinely concerned, although his questioning certainly follows his sympathy with minimum delay. He presses for detail. 'They searched the area. One of them came right up to where I was hiding. I was so frightened. They searched for a long time and then I, I stayed hidden for awhile, and then I came here as we planned. I gave the signal'. Anything less than an even chance? Pull out time me thinks. No back-up army, rebel leader dead AND the Federation aware of an attack.

Blake seems to now be re-writing the criteria of an even chance: 'We still have the element of surprise. Even more so now with Kasabi's force wiped out, security aren't going to expect another assault so soon'. Gan counters ' You're guessing, Blake, guessing and hoping!' ' It is a calculated risk. Remember, we've got one foolproof factor: the teleport. Even if they do attack, we can still get out. We will have failed, but at least we'll be alive'. Since when has their teleport been foolproof? Every episode is an illustration of what can go wrong with those bloody bracelets! Gan is less than impressed, but Blake has decided to continue as planned without a group vote.

He orders Avon and vila to come down to Earth as it were, asking Avon to run through their itinerary of heroism first: ' We teleport directly into the Forbidden Zone, we make an analysis of the defence systems, and then we teleport directly to your location'

'No more than five minutes in the zone. Get out sooner if you sense something's wrong.'

Avon has his own internal alarm system bleeping away : ' I've already got that feeling, Blake. What about Kasabi?' Blake answers Avon's concerns typically: 'Cally, if you don't get their signal, transfer them after five minutes anyway' vila's internal alarm is as always bleeping louder than anyone's and he has to get reassurance from Avon, who is still in the dark himself. ' He didn't answer your question' vila correctly points out. Avon responds 'He will', to reassure himself more than to put at ease his 'little man' comrade with the fear in his eyes. ' I don't want to go' vila pleads. ' You surprise me' Avon answers, ready for another token whine that never fails to amuse him.

' I don't feel well. I'm going to be a big handicap'

' I'm used to that'

Here, vila is deferring to Avon as a leader who is more on his wavelength(ie: sceptical) yet has the necessary courage to push him onwards as well. I always thought Avon and vila were more in tune as shipmates than Blake and vila, who never quite stick in this unique comedic and/or 'criminal' fashion. Jenna stops rolling her eyes long enough to wish Avon luck before teleporting the talented pair of thieves down to the surface.

They appear just outside the incredible exploding field in which we saw the two dopey scouts scatter themselves over a wide area in scene one. The security camera swerves to pick them up. Avon gestures to a blockhouse entry, ' THAT will be the only access point. We have to get into there before we can try for the main vault. But before that, we have to cross the zone.' He points out that the two of them will have been spotted by Federation security devices at this early point-if this isn't chilling enough, their stroll through the Forbidden Zone ends after two tentative steps, when Avon stops vila frying in the daisies by halting him and revealing the wires of death below the grass. He recognises it, being the all 'round Alpha computer genius that he is: ' High intensity radiation grid. The rays from these could burn you up in seconds' . While vila recoils from the prospect of becoming a white-hot coat hanger, Avon displays 'Spock'-like curiosity: ' It has to be activated somehow. Let's find out. Walk anywhere here, and you set the whole thing into operation' He cuts the cable, and it regenerates almost immediately. ' Total self-repair in eight seconds. How far would yousay it is to that blockhouse?' ' Fifty yards, maybe more. Are you sure we're safe here?' vila answers, as smoke and flames begin to build up near the wires to answer his question in an instant. Lucky for them, they are safely teleported from the area before it is disintegrated by a series of explosions.

They reappear inside the Church in what is the only display of 'site to site' teleporting in the entire series I think. I always wondered why they didn't utilise this snazzy element of the technology more often! Inside the Church, Avon and vila materialise, and Veron screams, with Doc Gan attending her concerns and coming to her aid post haste. After a brief comforting spiel, where Veron is filled in about the teleport technology by none other than Gan, the crew gets down to business. Avon and vila give their assessments of their chances of entering Control as ' It is not going to be easy. There is a way' and ' Not a chance, it's absolutely impossible' respectively. No prizes for guessing whose opinion Blake would choose to lean towards: the one that leads him gloriously to the Control computers, naturally, and it wouldn't matter if it was Avon, vila or a nearby arachnid that offered that possibility tactically. Avon wastes no time in honing in on the obvious. ' Where are Kasabi and her people?' he asks suddenly. Blake finally briefs him. ' They were wiped out in an ambush. This is Kasabi's daughter. Veron was the only survivor'. Avon offers his gentlemanly condolences and quickly turns to Blake. ' I knew you were lying!' Blake remains stony faced and certain, ' Yes, well unless you can come up with some good reasons why not, we're going ahead as planned'

vila gives him one: ' Certain death - would you accept that as a good reason?' Avon answers vila for Blake ' From somebody else, maybe' ' All right, but if we all get killed, don't say I didn't warn you!' vila replies. Aside from the recognition of Blake's manipulation and determination to continue now the chances of succeeding have dropped off the register, it goes unsaid that the team are still willing to follow Blake into a potential death-trap. Perhaps Avon's curiosity at overcoming a mechanised defence system have tweaked, and of course vila can whinge all he likes but will still inevitably follow, as will Gan, minus the cowardice.

They begin to plan out their journey across the field of explosions into the bunker. ' One thing is in our favour, there do not seem to be any security forces within the zone' Avon begins, pointing at a map. ' They don't need them. The defence system is totally automated. It is more efficient than any brigade of troops' . They decide to teleport across the field of flames directly to the blockhouse entrance, hoping that the security camera will be on a five-minute break no doubt. Gan's ears prick up, seeing Veron visibly upset and heading for the door. ' You all right, Veron?' 'Do you mind if I go up for some air? I still feel a bit faint' ' Well, don't go too far. You mustn't take any chances' Gan the father figure speaks. Meanwhile, Blake and company appear to be oblivious to anything except victory over Control. ' Why don't we teleport right down to the control computer chamber?' vila asks. ' Too deep. Teleport won't necessarily reliably transmit through that level of density. Anyway, we need an exact locater fix' Blake answers, signalling a weak point in his previous claims that the teleport is their saviour, their ultimate advantage. As they continue to speculate whether or not they can teleport directly to the blockhouse, or whether vila can actually get this presumably well protected door lock to surrender, Gan notices there is a projectile being thrown into the Church by person(s) unknown: 'Down!' he screams, before the four of them succumb to a cylinder emitting a quick acting gas, lulling them into immediate unconsciousness. Veron enters and removes their teleport bracelets, leaving them as prisoners on this Godforsaken planet called Earth. Goodbye, major teleport advantage.

Inside the security station, Servalan is still riding the back of Travis, with the lizards of Ensor's caves obviously at the forefront of her nightmares to this very day. ' Capturing the girl was the only luck you've had so far' she advises. So why has Kasabi's faithful rebel daughter become so loyal to the killers of her mother? ' That single event has given me total control of the situation' Travis counters, sure that he has the upper hand, after so many Wile E Coyote stumbles in the past. Servalan teases him about gambling everything on Veron's co-operation. ' That was no gamble. She will do precisely as she was instructed. She has no choice.'. This begs the question, why didn't the frog masked Fed troops simply storm the Church after Blake et al were rendered unconscious? Maybe Travis has another fate worse than a simple capture planned for our heroes. 'You've gambled everything on her cooperation' Servalan correctly points out, although she may have compounded the problem by killing the traitor's mother. Finally Servalan indicates the crumpled heap that was once the remarkable woman Kasabi, 'Get rid of that' she orders her mutoid servants, as if she is talking about a sack of debris.

Inside the church, Blake is the first to climb to his feet. 'Sono gas' he says, as the others regain their composure. Vila asks who threw it in, and Blake seems certain 'Veron. It had to be'. Fatherly Gan doubts it was her, and practical Avon doesn't want to hold a summit on probable causes while their lives are on the line. Even Blake finally agrees that they are in danger and must retreat, but the door is barred, refusing to budge even after Gan attempts to tank-ram it into submission. Blake turns to summon Cally by speaking to his naked wrist, finally realising that they have been stolen and that this must now be far, far less than an uneven chance, yet they now have no option to pull out.

The security station sees Veron standing earnestly next to a victorious Travis, who holds the teleport bracelets. 'With no teleport to snatch them away, they're mine' to accentuate his point, he tosses the bracelets away. Two tactical mishaps are glaringly obvious at this point. Strap the bracelets onto four highly trained crack Fed troopers, even Travis himself, and create some background interference of some kind, then have a male voice scream 'teleport!' or 'bring us up!'-Worth a try surely? Secondly, the Church in which our heroes are trapped could be stormed by mutoids, who could either shoot Blake and the others on sight, or have them brought to Servalan in the same manner Kasabi was earlier, gaining access to the Liberator that way and of course interrogating and killing the rebels swiftly and efficiently.

The 'suspension of disbelief' side of me says that Travis and Servalan want to subject Blake and his crew to some unknown massive humiliation first, before taking up the sensible option(s) just detailed.

Servalan addresses the child of her nemesis Kasabi: 'They believed your story'

'It wasn't difficult. It was close to the truth. The only lies were that I escaped the ambush, and that my mother was dead' Veron replies dispassionately. This kid is in for one Hell of a shock when the business end of Servalan the snake reveals her real hand. After Veron confirms that she has the freedom fighters well and truly bolted in, Travis turns to her, still high on the fact he has Blake cornered without his bracelet, 'Good. You did well. You can be proud of yourself' 'I disgust myself. I betrayed four men, men who represent the only cause worth fighting for. That's what I did. And now I want my side of the bargain!'

Servalan displays false shock: 'Bargain? Travis, did you make a bargain with this traitress?' Veron only wants the comforting arms of her mother and is stupid enough to have put her faith in the two greatest monsters the Federation has to offer in order to be reunited with Kasabi and ludicrously allowed to walk off into the sunset as mother and daughter. Travis is quick to shatter Veron's delusion: 'Don't concern yourself with your mother. She died one hour ago' he karate chops the distraught girl into unconsciousness and exits the station to execute all matters Blake, while you can practically see the scales on Servalan's reptilian form, as she gloats over her prize 'Kasabi's daughter' she finally says, grinning. Truly a chilling and despondent 'Blake's Seven' moment.

Gan is bludgeoning the Church door repeatedly, and finally allows it to budge slightly, before it is rammed open. He apologises for being 'a bit out of condition', but the important thing is that the group is free to roam across the wastelands of Earth now, albeit earthbound without wings.

Meanwhile on board the Liberator, Cally and Jenna are finally clued into something being a little wrong with their ideal attack on Control, unable to raise Blake and the others. Presumably, Servalanor some Federation scientist or computer genius would be picking up these repeated hails from Liberator, yet I get the distinct impression the bracelets are lying on the floor of the Security station with Servalan too absorbed in her ideas of turning Veron into a prized mutoid to even think of the bracelets. Given the ease in which Servalan herself was able to massacre the Kasabi army, and the very poor track record Travis has of overpowering Blake ('Seek Locate', 'Duel','Project Avalon', 'Orac', 'Weapon', I would have thought that the supreme commander herself and her most trusted, proven force would have gone to fetch Blake and perhaps blast him into four corners of the church, but no.

S Sure enough, Travis and only two mutoids burst in through the Church door to find that their prey has fled. One mutoid proposes summoning 'security' which would presumably be a pack of frog-masked trigger-happy troopers. Travis shows his hand, and this is to be expected. A larger, more thorough operation of capture has nottaken place because Travis wants to take Blake himself, something he says as he prevents mutoid one from widening the hunting party. Travis ponders. 'Hum. There's still a way. We have to think like Blake. Think how he would act in a situation like this. Now where is the most dangerous place he could go? The last place we would think of searching for him? The Forbidden Zone, he'd go into the Forbidden Zone. That's what he came for, and that's where he'll go. Come on!' The three hunters leave the Church, as the coyote has reckoned upon getting inside the mind of the roadrunner yet again, with his Acme (tm) mutoids close at hand.

Blake, Avon, Gan and Vila have reached explosion central near the blockhouse, and have presumably been picked up by the security station surveillance camera as well. Avon explains the wire that glues all trespassers to the grass then sprinkles their atoms across the field, pointing out that there is an eight-second delay if the wire is cut.

Even Blake declares the security 'unbeatable' yet Avon provides hope: 'If I can fire at ground level, the beam radiation should be great enough to cut a narrow channel through the sensor mesh. That would give you eight seconds to get from here to the blockhouse. The mesh would start its repair cycle instantly. Take one step off the channel and you're dead. I know it's a slim chance, but it's the best I can come up with' Blake's fervour flares up one more. 'let's do it!' Does anyone get the impression that Avon and Blake are the right and left arm of the same fanatic. Their reasons may be different, but it is clearly a do or die situation now, spurred on by the two Alpha Grade rebels. 'How's your sprinting?' Avon asks. 'I think I'm about to find out' Blake answers, adding dry humour to this dire moment. Avon takes aim and fires. 'Go!' he shouts, as Blake does his best to beat the bomb. 'Faster, Blake!' Avon screams, and finally Blake almost hugs the blockhouse door, avoiding fiery death by milliseconds. Not one to rest on his laurels he barks out an order: 'You next, Vila. You can get started on the door!'

Vila reacts without the last minute whinge for a change, 'I think I'm about to set anew galactic record!' as Vila sets off he is clearly making a slower go of it than Blake had, and suddenly Gan joins him, lumbering behind. 'Gan!' Blake shouts, truly expecting a 'kaboom!' followed by Vila and Gan disintegrating. 'Come on, Come on!' Blake yells, as the seconds tickover, the tension building. Finally they both reach the blockhouse, and Avon fires one more, launching himself across the field. He doesn't get far before he suddenly trips and the wires are seen closing together before he can even get to his feet. Blake raises his weapon and prepares to fire at the wires close to where Avon is trapped. Vila objects 'No! You'll hit him!' Blake must take the chance. 'Let go!' he screams to Vila who has his leader's arm. Blake shakes it free, quickly takes aim, and fires. 'Avon, run for your life!' and Avon is back in the race. 'Come on, come on' Blake mutters as the wires almost close. Finally Avon literally leaps into the arms of Gan and breathes a very grateful 'Thank you'.

No time for congratulations or 'aren't we lucky to be in one piece', it's onto phase two. Blake presses Vila into opening the blockhouse door, and the artful dodger locksmith gives his prognosis that this lock is 'a hard one' before more positively stating that it will be a 'thirty second' job.

Travis's aesthetically disturbing head appears on a view-screen before Servalan in the security station. 'Supreme Commander, I don't know how he did it, but Blake has penetrated the Control complex. I want to go in after him. I'll need the zone deactivated.' Servalan looks alarmed. 'I don't have the authority to order that' But Travis can smell the kill and knows he has Blake cornered. This generally gives him that extra grunt to bully Servalan a bit, and she also knows that Blake's head on a stick has that almighty allure. Travis barks at his Supreme Commander:'Then get the authority. I'm so close now. The only way out is the way Blake went in. I can shut him off. I want that authority.' Servalan asks her bullyboy to stand by and request permission to speak to the High Council 'Priority rating one'.

Blake and his galactic sprinting champs climb carefully down a ladder against a wall lit in red, then travel through some red-lit corridors. They see a door down the next corridor. As far as any of them know, thirty well-armed frogmen could spring out at any moment, they could be gassed, disintegrated or crushed. A very brave exercise. Naturally enough, Avon spots the next security mechanism as they wander onwards. He blocks Blake who is about to walk into a ghastly death. 'Hold it. More security' to illustrate his point, Avon tosses one of Vila's mysterious objects onto the pathway directly in front of them and it explodes. 'Sprinting's one thing, but I think flying's beyond me' Vila remarks.

Now this may be an obscure reference point, but does anyone remember the John Pertwee 'Doctor Who' adventure 'Death to the Daleks' in which the Doctor and a scaly reptilian side-kick of his named Belial enter an ancient citadel? The security is very similar. The path in front of them is electrified and a tic tac toe hop skip and jump approach is required by the doctor and his slimy companion. Here, the death trap is the same, yet a convenient set of bars from which to climb across the mine-field are there to be utilised. Blake wastes no time and does just that, jumping onto one bar and edging his way along. He has made his way to the fifth rung of this horizontal ladder when he asks Avon if he is safe yet. The tossing of another object and the subsequent explosion tends to tell him no. Finally he has swung his way to safety, as a final object is thrown which simply bounce across the floor. Blake drops, then immediately requests Vila, as there is another lock to open. 'Times like this, I wish I'd gone straight.' Vila winces, as Gan boosts him up onto the monkey bars of death.

Servalan flickers on the image of Travis once more on the view-screen. 'I've staked a great deal on this, Travis, but I've achieved what you wanted. The zone will be deactivated in precisely fifteen seconds' 'That's all the time I will need'

'Both our heads are on the block now, Travis. This must not fail'. Servalan beaks contact with him and turns to greet someone we cannot see, with some surprise: 'Who are you?' she enquires.

Back in the red corridor of uncertain death, Vila has joined Blake and is working on the second lock, and Avon passes along the pipes safely. Gan begins to cross, then one of the pipes snaps under the big guys tonnage. 'Gan!' Blake exclaims, but before long Gan has caught himself and swung to safety. Just another near fry. They descend down a ladder then travel through some blue-lit corridors up to a blue door with the Federation symbol on it. One thing is for certain, this aint Captain Picard's ready room. Looks like the entrance to Control to me. Meanwhile Travis and the two tireless mutoid partners in crime enforcement dash through the corridors making quick time on our heroes. At the entrance doorway to Control Vila expresses some uncertainty that he can open this last lock. Blake has a look akin to a little kid on Christmas day on his face, a kid who would gladly bite his way through the yule tide sack to get what he wants. Blake gives a rousing 'you can open the door' speech as only he knows how: 'You've got to! Behind this door is the key to it all: Control. That computer is the most vital part of Federation power. We're the thickness of this door away from destroying them.'

Blake's frustration is catching. Vila can't open the door. 'That should do it. Come on, open, open' he whines, still not giving in when it fails to open. He turns to Blake 'I'll have to try another way. It means starting all over again' Blake responds, still caught up in the moment 'Take all the time you want' He grabs Vila by the shirt 'You CAN do it!' finally Vila cracks it and Gan thrusts it open. Blake wastes no time in bolting into an expanse that contains, a floor, a ceiling and some walls. Blake has no time to study the strange sparseness of Federations great Control, baking in his victory in the center of the room: 'We've done it! We've done it! We've done it! I've done it!' before the ever practical Avon cuts Blake some slack in the reality and even the compassion stakes, 'Blake! There's nothing here', Blake sinks to his knees and turns to Avon beginning to lose his religion, so to speak.

Avon grabs Blake's arms like an old comrade and whispers, 'Nothing.'

The familiar subtle-as-a-laser-cannon sound of Travis laughing is heard, and the full realisation that this has been one gigantic Federation set-up, sinks into Blake's mind, devouring the glory and the prospects of victory for all in seconds. 'Travis' he snarls despondently, and the word would most probably echo through his vocal chords and dreams forever. Travis appears, and continues to pummel the reality home: 'You believed it, Blake, like all the other fools before you. Destroy Control and you destroy the Federation. No.'

Blake grabs the comforting arm of comrade Avon, 'It WAS here. Everybody knows it was here.' Travis, lapping up his capture of Blake and the spiritual dissolution of his dreams continues, 'Of course. We've never concealed it. On the contrary, we've broadcast the fact. We used it as a challenge to our enemies, we invited them to attack Control.' This information corresponds with the initial discussion on Liberator flight deck, with the crew knowing all about the location and it's history. An advertisment for a decoy.

Blake asks where Control was moved to and gets no answers he needs, gradually soaking in the fact that that the 'I've done it!' declaration of a second ago now means an ungraceful show trial and/or a quick death , with his fanaticism achieving nothing. 'Even I don't know where it was moved. But it's safe and secure and will remain so while those who seek to destroy us believe it's here. You see, it's the great illusion, Blake. You give substance and credibility to an empty room, and the real thing becomes undetectable, virtually invisible. Now take their weapons!' as they are raised to their feet, without bracelets or weapons, Travis has real reasons to be smug 'I've waited a long time for this moment, Blake, and it was worth it. Move out.'

Yet there is another surprise in store. The space countess herself, Supreme Commander Servalan, appears through the door: 'Release your prisoners, Travis' she says enigmatically. She orders the mutoids to put down their weapons to the aggressive denials of Travis. Finally we see why such a radical change in attitude is in effect. Both Jenna and Veron emerge into sight behind the white snake in the doorway. Both point weapons at the extravagant white lounge dress mercilessly. The girls to the rescue! Suddenly the defeat in the white room seems a little better to the taste. Jenna bravely recounts her exploits in finding and liberating the little rebel lost: 'When we lost contact, I came looking for you. I happened to come across this one. I thought she might come in useful. I also found somebody else. She told me what had happened. Travis threatened to kill her mother unless she betrayed you.' 'Then he killed her anyway' Veron adds with a snarl that could power a pursuit ship.

Mexican stand off time. Crushed dreams, betrayals, dead matriarchal mothers and leaders have to be put on hold while the business of who the Hell is going to get out of the empty room alive is explored. 'The moment you pull that trigger they will be dead' Travis correctly points out, meaning our tired male captives. 'That's right, but so would your Supreme Commander' Jenna counters. 'And so would you' Veron concludes. Stalemate anyone?

Would there ever be any doubt that Servalans life could be used as a bargaining chip in this game of stalemate? 'Release them.' She orders, and after spotting the reluctance of Travis to loosen his hold on Blake, the man who has served to humiliate him from way before 'The Way Back', through one and a half seasons of being subjected to his prosthetic hand being blasted in 'Seek Locate Destroy' and 'Orac'; of being told 'you don't matter enough to kill' in 'Seek, Locate' and by being humiliatingly spared in 'Duel'. Not forgetting all of those times when he was berated and made a fool of by Servalan and Space Command for not killing Blake due to Travis' belief that the higher powers desired to get the prized Liberator over the corpse of his nemesis. Yes, Servalan must be more assertive to unstick Travis' prey from his sites 'Do it!' she orders in a salvo of pure anger. 'Your move I think Travis' Blake says almost grinning. After all how many times has this charade been played out. Travis gestures angrily to his mutoids who lower their weapons.

'Take their weapons' Blake orders, and his followers go through the well-worn drill of re-arming themselves, not killing the two most evil souls I the galaxy and exiting the empty room. 'Get after them!' Travis shrieks, before being slapped across his face by his Supreme Commander. 'You hesitated. My life was at risk, and you hesitated' she takes another end-of-her-tether swipe at Travis, yet Travis catches her hand to show he isn't completely his mistresses whipping boy.

Blake and his crew rush back through the de-activated Forbidden Zone, running from a nemesis they conveniently forgot to kill again. 'Jenna have you got the teleport bracelets?' Blake stops sudenly to ask. 'Yes' she replies. 'Too risky to use them here. Let's get nearer the surface'. Meanwhile Travis brandishes a desperate grenade, the last bastion of the desperate whose senses have dashed away with his prey. Servalan grabs his arm. 'You fool, it's too powerful. You'll bring the roof in.' Travis is sick of restraint and sanity, and throws it with zeal.

Blake and the others feel the full force of the explosion. Some of them clear it and continue moving through a descending door, while Gan braces it open to allow their escape. Blake stops for Gan who is being overwhelmed by falling debris and masonry not to mention the door. 'Now come on, Gan, hurry, come on, come on.......' He is cut off as a tremendous down-pouring of rubble and metal traps the big guys leg and knocks Blake himself briefly unconscious. Jenna calls from atop of a white ladder near to the surface. As she alerts the others, Blake wakes only to have Gan give one last heroic gasp: 'Blake! Go! I'm not worth dying for!' even more rooftop death comes hurdling down crashing onto Olag Gan, who dies in Blake's arms, with Blake lowering his body gently to the floor. Soon he gives up his quick vigil and runs with the others. 'Where's Gan?' Vila asks, concerned. Gan always took care of Vila from Cygnus Alpha onwards. 'Gan's dead' Blake says dryly.

Deep inside the underground complex where a couple of white sleeved supreme commander arms and legs lying about would be a comfort at this point, a mutoid states the inevitable. 'It's completely blocked. There's no way through'

'Brilliant!' a more than annoyed and soiled white clad Servalan yells.

'They'll dig us out eventually' Travis offers sheepishly almost.

'oh yes, they'll dig us out eventually. And I'll bury you!'

Near the blockhouse Blake gestures to Veron, obviously embracing the fact that this pour little girl was an unknowing pawn in the Federation plan. 'You're welcome to come with us'

'I have a debt to pay'

'So have we' Blake says all too bitterly.

'Mine must be paid here on Earth' she concludes. Maybe she can join with Sula and her rabble during 'Rumours of Death' later?

Blake orders Cally to bring them up and they vanish. Veron can only manage a thin smile.

On the Flight deck of the Liberator, Blake feels a storm brewing in his head.

'Standard by ten zen. Get us out of the solar system!'

Zen immpassionately counters: 'The instruction is imprecise'

'Just Do it!' Blake snaps back, before gazing at Gan's empty chair.

The Liberator team are no longer the road runner. They are falable, they are far from perfect and I look forward to their rationalisation of missions to come, not to mention Blake's guilt, and Avon's 'I told you so'.

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David Dixon

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