You know, a few weeks ago, I would have sworn I had seen no more than two or three episodes of Blake's 7 in my life. It turns out Ed made me watch more of UK Gold's late evening/early morning reruns than I had realised. Yes, I've seen this one once before too...
Blake had better watch out -- there's finally a worthy adversary after him. And no, I don't mean that twerp Travis!
When the BBC first started their run of B7, someone on alt.fan.blakes-7 advised us all that things improved dramatically after the sixth episode. I can see that. All the elements of the series have fallen into place now, and there was a definite improvement in pace after last week.
I gather some time has passed since last week's episode. The Liberator crew seem more comfortable with each other -- as comfortable as they can be with Mr Charming in their midst, at least. We also get our first glimpse of the other side since the days of the London. It's interesting to see how effective Blake and his crew are; they've gone from being nobodies on an alien vessel to being enough of a threat to warrant official interest.
The new glimpses of the Federation make it seem a very human place... in every possible sense. The politicians and their need for secrecy, the internal power struggles between Earth and its outer dependencies, the pressure of public opinion even in the face of a tightly-controled government machine -- this is the universe humans build for themselves. It is evil, but not Evil. There is a human face under its mask of totalitarianism. This latter point beautifully demonstrated by the scene where Cally's guard relaxes and takes his mask off, revealing the face of an ordinary, rather sympathetic-looking bloke.
There were some nice moments in the construction of some of the scenes. Vila's disappearing act at the beginning of the episode, and his sudden appearance behind Blake were beautiful touches. The transition from Travis's retelling of his meeting with Blake to Blake's retelling of the same was nicely done as well. Good to see the Liberator crew relaxing a bit too.
It seemed a bit odd that such a small crew wouldn't notice that only four of them teleported back up instead of five. But the scene where they realise Cally is missing had some nice drama to it, particularly with everyone arguing against Blake's desire to go back for her.
There were a couple of not-so-satisfying moments all the same. Servalan's conversation with the politicians dragged on a bit, and I felt that the scene between Blake and Jenna regarding Cally's disappearance fell flat. Not that Jenna consoling Blake was a bad idea, and both actors were doing their best; but the conversation just didn't make enough sense. Too much disjointed mumbo-jumbo about guilt and shame, IMHO.
Upon second viewing, it seemed obvious to me that the Liberator's first pass was to drop off Blake. But I remember that it came as a surprise when I watched it first, so it's not a major problem. The voice-over at the end was corny to the fullest, but on the whole, I thought this was a good episode. I'm looking forward to more like this.
Given the potential of the lovely actress who plays her, it's a pity Servalan is such a walking stereotype. Funny how powerful women written by male authors always seem to be glamorous and sexually voracious. I suppose that with female sexuality being the ultimate threat to traditional male authority, it seems "natural" for any woman with power to use sexual attraction as an additional weapon. It's annoying, and something that TV shows are just beginning to break away from (sort of). Still, as a sort of forerunner for Alexis Carrington, Servalan should be entertaining to watch. Some of her intonations while she was talking to Bercol and Rontane reminded me a bit of Margaret Thatcher (whereupon I got a vision of Blake being pursued by Thatcher: poor fellow wouldn't stand a chance -- and *she* wouldn't waste time flirting with him). Still, I think Servalan could be a very interesting character, given the right writing.
If Servalan is a walking stereotype, then Travis is doing a sprint right behind her. Mr Cruel-With-A-Grudge. Ho-hum. I wish Cally and Blake had just shot him and let Servalan come after them instead.
Vila didn't get much to do last week (except get clobbered), but he got some good scenes today. Though there were a lot of references to his cowardice -- all coming from Vila himself -- it was good to see him participate in the action. His facility with doors is evidently well established, and for all his obvious desire to be somewhere else, he did make himself useful by distracting those guards, for instance. OTOH, I thought it was interesting that he chose to run after the guard who raised the alarm, rather than shoot him with the weapon he was carrying. Vila might be a convicted criminal, but he doesn't have the killer instinct (yet?).
On the whole, I'm starting to like Vila a lot. There were a couple of moments in this episode which also made me think Vila could turn out to be a good foil for Avon. There's an interesting contrast between Vila's cheerful good nature and Avon's sarcastic gloom. I hope this is something that will be explored in future episodes.
Are we sure Blake isn't a Star Trek captain in disguise? He seems to share not only their tendency to be distracted by the wonders of space, but equally their desire to be the first to rush into any dangerous situation. Still, this is easily explained in B7, since it's obvious that Blake would get no brownie points for teleporting *someone else* into the action.
Was that cardboard robot really necessary? I half expected it to cry out "exterminate, exterminate" -- and yes, I know how ironic that would be. ;)
Later, Avon asks for a "basic descrambler" and is handed a pair of earphones. Talking about funny props: the device the technician Prell uses (applied to his jaw) is something I saw demonstrated on a snippet from Tomorrow's World in the 60s or 70s. The device was supposed to pick up vibrations from the speaker's jawbone and then transmit them as audio signals to the other end. No points for guessing why it never caught on.
Those pictures of Blake that Travis was viewing were weird. They looked like ads for some avant-garde play. I wonder if they came from Gareth Thomas's portfolio.
"Just *shoot* him!" exclaimed my boyfriend when Blake and Cally got Travis strapped in that chair. But no, we're back in that frustrating TV show business of the Hero and his Arch-Enemy never actually getting around to killing each other despite numerous opportunities. Let me guess, now... this is the only time it happens in B7, right? <sigh> No, I didn't think so.
|JENNA||[into comm] Hold on, just checking. [to Vila] Are you ready?|
|VILA||Tell him I've just worked out a completely new strategy. It's called running away.|
|BLAKE||There it is. That must be the way in. Can you open those gates or are
we going to have to climb them?|
[[Not good dialogue, but my boyfriend's reaction was "why don't they just crawl under them?"]]
|VILA||There isn't a lock I can't open -- if I'm scared enough.|
|BLAKE [calls softly] Oy.|
[[Nice to know the Rebellion is led by true blue Brits :) ]]
|AVON||It had better be right. A fraction out and you could put us down in the middle of the security barracks.|
|JENNA||Don't tempt me.|
|JENNA||[lays device on control panel] So you got it.|
|BLAKE||It was close though.|
|AVON||Too close. Another few seconds we'd have all been blown up.|
|VILA||Well, it wasn't my fault.|
|AVON||Well, whose fault was it? I thought you were supposed to guard the corridor.|
|VILA||You were supposed to disconnect that thing, not rely on Gan to tear it loose with his teeth.|
|JENNA||All right, all right, now calm down.|
[[Nice to know Our Heroes are all friends :) ]]
|VOICE||Space commander Travis's ship has just docked.|
|SERVALAN||Have him report to me immediately. [pause] No, have him wait outside until I send for him.|
|VILA||I knew she wasn't dead.|
|AVON||No, you didn't.|
|VILA||No, I didn't. I'm going to tell Gan. [exits]|
|VILA||Welcome back. We thought you'd decided to stay.|
|BLAKE||Bit close that time, Jenna.|
|VILA||Anyway, we're glad you are safe, aren't we? [Looks over at Avon who is standing silently.] Aren't we?|
|AVON||Yes, I'm glad you're all right.|
BTW, white was definitely *the* colour for Seventies sci-fi, wasn't it? Just recall various sets for sci-fi ranging from 2001 to Star Trek: The Motion Picture, through Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica and, of course, Space:1999, and you have a clear trend emerging. Servalan's office is another illustration of this.
Comments and discussion welcome!
"Anyway, we're glad you are safe, aren't we? Aren't we?"
"Yes... I'm glad you're all right." -- Vila and Avon in "Seek-Locate-Destroy"
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