(Ben Steed) reviewed by Marian de Haan


Silly with all that sexist macho talk, but for the rest fast paced and entertaining. In Ben Steed's world there are no good women. Pella, the leader of the Seska is a ruthless woman who will stop at nothing to reach her aim. [Shades of Servalan there.] It's not clear whether the writer intended her telling Avon that the Hommiks kill their new-born daughters as a lie to gain his sympathy or whether he really wants us to believe in a society that can act so much against common sense. [For one thing, this practice would have left the tribe with a drastic shortage of women, as there are not enough Seska left for them to abduct. Moreover, if Pella tells the truth, then where are the girls that the Seska are supposed to have rescued? One assumes that those children are made into Seska, but the youngest we see is Kate, who's twenty at least. (And Nina mentions remembering her being born, not being found, so she must come from the procreation chamber.) Are we to believe that the Seska failed to find all the baby girls left to die for the last twenty years?] (Judith: the Seska found them and then they were captured by Hommiks when they were older?)

Pella using her mental force to make Avon release the crossbow trigger is a vile deed whether it's done out of revenge or to prevent Cato from speaking. She's even more callous in killing her only remaining soul mate, apparently for no purpose - here the writer opted for the easiest way to provide Avon with the needed crystal and get rid of a personage that couldn't be used in later episodes. Another bit of lazy writing is the Hommiks leaving for new pastures to conveniently get them out of the way for the rest of the Season. Why would they want to leave their comfortably heated and lighted homes? After having set up such a male dominated society, the writer spoils it by having Nina, a woman, being the one to lead them to a new home. But none of Ben Steed's B7 scripts is renowned for logic. (Judith: odd how feelings differ. Nina taking command of the Hommiks was one of the episode's redeeming features for me - I liked her as a character and it suggested they weren't such macho idiots as they were portrayed.) Marian: "I agree with Judith but I don't for one moment believe that Ben Steed meant it that way, hence my observation about him spoiling his own concept (*for himself*, I should have added)."

The story is full of contradictions. Nina is presented as betraying her former sisters by actively helping the Hommiks to subdue the remaining Seska and deprive them of their power. Yet she comes over as strong, sensible and resourceful [but maybe this is due to the director, Mary Ridge]. Nina seems to be staying with Gunn Sar of her own free will. And she regards herself as his wife, not his slave. Gunn Sar seems to treat her much better in private than in the company of strangers. Did he try to beat her in the hope that Avon would interfere and provide him with a reason for challenging him? :-)

That humiliating kiss Avon gives Pella seems gratingly out of character. The man's in a hurry, so why waste time on kissing a beaten enemy, risking capture in the process? (Judith: there's shades of the way he kisses Servalan in 'Deathwatch' - maybe he has a thing about powerful women?) Avon's waffling about men being stronger than women sounds strange from the mouth of someone who can't have been blind to Cally and Jenna's combat skills, *and* who witnessed Dayna bare-handedly breaking Clegg's neck in Powerplay. [Maybe he's just winding Pella up, instinctively selecting the subject that will annoy her most. :-) Not a clever move, as she takes revenge for that humiliating kiss by making him kill Cato - the only male voice of reason among the Hommiks. After that it's all out war between them.]

Dayna challenging Gunn Sar is in character, but this being a Ben Steed script, she isn't allowed to win on her own merit. Like in Harvest of Kairos (also a Ben Steed script), Avon gives in swiftly when Dayna's life is threatened. Vila is in character throughout, and has his share of memorable moments - with Pella, that timer, the teleport and Soolin, who takes his measure very quick. Orac is as unhelpful as ever and one must admire Tarrant for not kicking him :-) Avon shows great confidence in the teleport - he could have let Tarrant go first. Didn't he trust Tarrant to be able to shoot a woman?

One of B7's charms being that it can go beyond the black-and-white certainties of most TV series, it's a pity that the writer didn't try to bring more depth into the Seska and Hommik societies. Even more to regret is that Soolin is left out of the action until the last scene. Also worth noticing that this is the first time we see a computer keyboard in the Series, although the writer has found an alternative use for it.

Personal Appreciation: ***

For the most part I can ignore the sexist crap and enjoy the action. Blustering Gunn Sar is very amusing. His embroidery is a nice touch, but maybe in his society that is the common pastime for men. [In the remote part of the Netherlands my mother comes from knitting was done exclusively by the men up until the 1890s.]

I love Avon's automatic reaction in preventing Gunn Sar from beating his wife, it's so in contradiction to his philosophy of seldom commenting on other people's ethics. Poor Vila's taste for Pella takes a plunge when she uses her "force" on him. This whole episode is full of brief amusing moments, such as the 25/26 controversy, the "a glove" exchange and Gunn Sar forgetting his speech. And I like the new teleport effect - like the new weapons, it feels more "real".

The fight scenes are well done. Gunn Sar isn't above cheating when he nudges his crony to knock Avon down. [And Avon deserves it for standing gloating without covering his back.] Nice to see Avon *can* still use his brain, in figuring out the location of the secret room. Pella and Nina are as clever as he is, since they find that room too, or did he leave the door open? Or did Nina already know about that room? (Judith: I think she knew - she came from a technological society.)

I can find fault with Avon's sexist waffling, but not with him killing Pella. He's acting as much in self-defence here as when killing Anna in Rumours of Death. Pella's indignation about him shooting her seems rich when she's just tried to shoot him. It's not his fault that she's a lousy shot. :-)

To me this episode stands out not so much for the sexist silliness, but for the distinction of having the worst piece of technobabble from the Series. I mean that 'tele-ergotron' - even the name sounds silly. [And now someone's going to tell me it really means something. :-)] (Judith: well, of course. 'tele' - at a distance as in television or telephone allowing seeing or hearing at a distance. 'erg' is a unit of work deriving from the Greek 'ergon' which, unsurprisingly, means 'work'. A tele-ergotron thus allows 'work at a distance' which is exactly what it does.)


Where did the crew get those new teleport bracelets? Where does Soolin hide?

"You have a fetching way with women." Quite, but judging by that kiss, Avon's own manners leave something to be desired. :-)

"The daughters are left to die." Surely not all? Even the most thick Hommik must be able to grasp the long term consequences of that? And would Nina really want to stick with a man who forces women to kill their daughters? Nina doesn't seem to be kept imprisoned, so why didn't she and the other captured women escape at the first opportunity and return to the Seska? [Or weren't they welcome anymore, once they'd been "soiled"?] (Judith: I agree. I suspect only 'excess' daughters were allowed to die.)

Why does Nina agree to operate on the captured Seska? Is she reasoning that if she doesn't do it, one of the men will - and make a mess of it? Or is she genuinely convinced that the Seska have no future and will be better off as Hommik wives?

How did the chronicle disks end up in Dorian's base? Was that base once part of the Seska dwelling? Where exactly do the Seska live? (Judith: He'd traded with the Seska for a long time. Maybe he traded copies from them?)

Where do the primitive Hommiks get the operation equipment and disposable gloves? Does Nina organise an expedition to nick them from the Seska when they run out? :-)

For someone famed for his survival instinct, Avon is not very alert to what happens behind his back, and for that deserves to be knocked down. [And doesn't he swoon prettily? :-)]

"The black woman must win!" How many women are fighting with Gunn Sar.

Where did Pella hide her gun? Where did she get the gun? And how does she know how to pilot Scorpio?

"I sell my skill!" What payment does Soolin expect? Avon doesn't try to outdraw her - clever man! :-)

What Could Have Been Done To Improve It:

- Leave out the sexist talk and that kiss.

- Let Dayna beat Gunn Sar without the Seska help.

- Give Soolin something to do.

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