A bit of a mixed bag, but ultimately quite a good mixture...
The thing that surprised me about this episode was that it seemed to have two parts. On the one hand, we have the "will they make it in time?" aspect of the dash to the station. Then once they reach the station, the episode seems to switch focus, suddenly changing from action/adventure into more of a psycho-political drama.
I think I read somewhere that David Jackson was told this was going to be an episode about Gan. He must have been most disappointed when he saw it. It's actually an episode about Avon! But more on that later.
As far as Gan's situation is concerned, it's good to know that none of the Liberator team are proficient in brain surgery. There's a limit to what they can do. In fact, this episode brings home a major deficiency in Blake's crew: they have no qualified physician of any type. Bones or Dr Bashir would have had Gan patched up in no time.
The part about the anomaly wasn't bad. Zen's unexpected shut down and the subsequent panic on board was suitably gripping, particularly when Avon flips his top. That rather suggests the extreme gravity of the situation they are in. Considering it was all technobabble, it's amazing they managed to convey a sense of danger at all. But all is well in the end, as they cruise through the anomaly and out the other side. I did like Blake and Jenna's delight at having made it, btw.
Then the Liberator reaches the station and the episode changes. Instead of battling against time, a recalcitrant computer and a big red swirly thing, the Liberator crew are suddenly up against some new characters with agendas of their own. Kayn and Farron become the main antagonists, and confronting them requires a bit more subtlety than the anomaly did. Vila unexpectedly gets to play the heavy, though he gets plenty of help from Avon and Blake, who are perhaps more convincing in the role. Avon's attempt at jumping ship was also an interesting twist.
The ending was very, very nice. By this, I naturally mean the real end of the episode, not the S1999 Y2-type pointless tag scene. Kayn killing Farron and then the whole station being destroyed by a stray bolt was very good IMHO. Nice to see chance still plays a part in the life of future human beings.
All in all, an enjoyable episode which raises a few questions and didn't rush to answer them all. The questions being mostly a couple of character points...
Meanwhile, Vila suffers what appears to be a personality change in mid-episode. First he's having kittens about the space anomaly, then he sets out on a one-man guerilla mission to confront Kayn. I suppose the apparent inconsistency could be explained by one of the following:
Blake's determination to save Gan shows that he does care about individuals and not just The People in general. I also appreciated the way his patience with Avon seemed to have run out about mid-episode, particularly the remark about him not wanting to ask Avon to stay. One of his qualities as a leader is shown at the end of the episode, where he laughs with the crew at Gan's recovery. Considering that Avon chooses to glower in a corner at that point, I shudder to think how their fortunes will change when Blake is gone and Mr Charisma is in charge.
Of course, it's impossible to comment on this episode without mentioning Avon. The plot about Gan aside, Avon's interest in 'defecting' is one of the key focuses of the episode. He has threatened to leave the Liberator several times in the past, but this is the first time he comes close to putting that threat into action. The stress of rerouting the computer manually evidently went to his head. Interesting how he blames Blake for not turning back, whereas Avon was the one who insisted they go through the anomaly in the first place.
Although events -- Kayn's betrayal in particular -- conspired to scupper Avon's deal with Farron, it would be interesting to speculate whether Avon would have gone through with it if everything went smoothly. That would depend on whether one views the attempt as a sincere desire for a new life, or some posturing to prove a point to Blake. My personal theory is that Avon is a bit of a Prima Donna. Either way, he clearly does care enough about his colleagues to reject Farron's compromise proposal if it means abandoning the Liberator crew to their deaths. So much for his professed determination to be a loner.
On the guest character front, both Kayn and Renor need a good smack in the chops. The latter for his "hello, hello" comments to the Liberator's women, and the former for being an all around bad guy. At least Renor turned out to be human, displaying compassion with Gan's plight. Kayn was just as cold and calculating as a machine. A chillingly effective baddie.
I did quite like Farron, though. Not a nice person by any means, but his politician's view of any situation made him interesting. I particularly appreciated the way he rapidly came up with a contingency plan to keep Avon when he learned that the Feds were on their way. He's evidently one to seize any opportunity on offer; pity for his sake that he didn't realise Avon's true attachment to his Liberator colleagues. He possibly could have got himself a deal if he hadn't been so flippant about the Liberator's destruction.
Aside from that, Cally gets to ask Blake why he's so angry with Avon, and Jenna has an argument with Avon. Also, I'm glad to see no objection to women drivers in B7; in fact, piloting seems to be women's work on the Liberator, as both Cally and Jenna get their turn to pilot the ship. Gan's coma aside, the episode was more of an ensemble piece than previous ones seemed to be. Even Zen gets a character moment by unexpectedly switching off because it believes the Liberator is going to be destroyed.
Subtext: Nothing that sprang out at me this week, unless *any* kind of tif between Blake and Avon counts as subtext!
As for the spacial anomaly, did anyone else cry out, "Look! It's a big red swirly thing in space". Or are my boyfriend and I the only Red Dwarf fans here? <g>
I thought it a bit strange that they let Kayn and Renor into the sickbay and then left them to it on their own, until Vila decided to wander in with a weapon. For hunted rebels, they're awfully trusting of complete strangers they need desperate help from.
|BLAKE||Well, the tranquilizer pad should keep him quiet for a while.|
|CALLY||Two of them would flatten any one of us for about a hundred hours.|
|AVON||If he comes round, he'll flatten all of us for a good deal longer than that.|
|BLAKE||Suppose Zen gave us the necessary information and detailed instructions.|
|AVON||Oh, come on, Blake! This is not something you do by numbers, not even highly sophisticated ones. This is an area that has remained the exclusive province of specialists.|
|BLAKE||Yes, I know, I know.|
|AVON||There are quicker ways that you could kill him, but there are none more certain.|
|VILA||Funny, we're all standing here hoping there's something wrong with him. Something ordinary, a nice straightforward disease.|
|BLAKE||Any others with the necessary level of technology?|
|JENNA||Only Epinal. But the problem there is that they're considered potentially hostile.|
|BLAKE||To the Federation?|
|JENNA||To the species. They don't like humanoids in general, and in particular homo sapiens.|
|AVON||That puts their intelligence beyond doubt.|
[[This amused me on more than one count, as Epinal is actually a suburb of Paris!]]
|BLAKE||If the direct route to XK seventy two is fifty hours shorter than our nearest alternative then that can be the difference between life and death for Gan.|
|VILA||And for us.|
|JENNA||Realistically, it's his only chance.|
|AVON||I agree with Jenna.|
|AVON||I have never taken things on trust. I see no reason to make an exception in the case of a mysterious warning of danger.|
|JENNA||Neither do I.|
|BLAKE||Right, let's get to it.|
|VILA||Don't I get asked?|
|JENNA||Maybe Zen's got it wrong.|
|AVON||Zen hasn't got it at all.|
|JENNA||All right then, whoever programmed him.|
|AVON||One of these days I intend to find out who that is.|
|VILA||If you live that long.|
|CALLY||(V.O.) No change. Blake, what is the flight time across the zone?|
|VILA||That gives it plenty of time to leap out on us then.|
|JENNA||Must you keep on about it, Vila?|
|VILA||Sorry. Just nervous.|
|BLAKE||We're all nervous.|
|VILA||I thought it was only me.|
|BLAKE||Hmm. Well, presumably Zen will come back to us when we're out of danger.|
|VILA||Sounds like a good idea. Any chance of joining him?|
|VILA||I've just had a comforting thought. We may all be dead before we find out why this is a danger zone.|
|BLAKE||(V.O.)Have you done it, Avon?|
|AVON||I can talk or I can work, but I can't do both.|
|AVON||Blake, in the unlikely event that we survive this --|
|AVON||I'm finished. Staying with you requires a degree of stupidity of which I no longer feel capable.|
|BLAKE||No, you're just being modest.|
|AVON||(V.O.)We're coming in range of XK seventy two. Just had a message from the station administrator. Very polite, but it boils down to who are we and what do we want.|
|BLAKE||Tell him we're an experimental ship out of Earth on a proving flight. Then tell him what we'll need.|
|AVON||(V.O.)You think he'll believe that?|
|BLAKE||Convince him. Use your charm.|
|CALLY||Why are you angry with Avon?|
|CALLY||You sound as if you are.|
|BLAKE||He has a decision to make. If he wants to stay with us, it's got to be for his reasons.|
|CALLY||You'll do nothing to persuade him?|
|BLAKE||Nothing at all.|
|BLAKE||Where were you when we needed you? (to Avon) What did they say?|
|AVON||They've invited the commander to go across. I've got a voice fix ... "Commander."|
|AVON||Why do you stay with Blake?|
|VILA||I like him.|
|AVON||That isn't a good enough reason.|
|VILA||It is for me. That and the fact I've got nowhere else to go.|
|AVON||(smiles) All right. Put me across.|
|KAYN||Just a minute. This is interesting. What rank do you hold?|
|BLAKE||I'm a civilian.|
|BLAKE||We tend to be in the majority, even in the Federation.|
|RENOR||Hello, hello, hello!|
|VILA||Ah. Jenna, this is Professor Kayn's assistant, his name is -|
|RENOR||Renor. And I had a feeling this was going to be a good day.|
|JENNA||Yes, well, don't let your feelings run away with you.|
|RENOR||Oh, a sense of humour, too. I love girls with a sense of humour.|
|JENNA||Yes, I can see where that would be an advantage.|
|RENOR||I'm going to operate myself.|
|KAYN||You'll kill him.|
|RENOR||Well, at least I'll have tried! You call yourself a doctor? (Vila enters, handgun pointed at the doctors)|
|VILA||No, he calls himself a genius.|
|VILA||All right, genius, time's up.|
|KAYN||I wondered how long it would take you.|
|VILA||Well, you can stop wondering and start operating.|
|KAYN||Why didn't Blake come himself?|
|VILA||Blake doesn't know anything about it. I thought it was better that way. He's got a conscience. He might not be prepared to kill you.|
|KAYN||And you are?|
|AVON||If he isn't, I am.|
[[Vila and Avon team up as Blake's minders]]
|BLAKE||How soon can you complete?|
|BLAKE||Do it in twenty.|
|KAYN||Or you'll kill me.|
|BLAKE||Oh, no, no, no. In twenty-five minutes I'm returning you to your station. If you haven't completed your work --|
|KAYN||Your threats don't bother me in the least, you know.|
|BLAKE||-- I shall destroy your hands. [[Blake demonstrates that he doesn't need two minders: he can intimidate with the best of them]]|
|AVON||Say goodbye to one bolt hole.|
|BLAKE||That's not funny, Avon.|
|AVON||It wasn't meant to be.|
|BLAKE||How do you feel?|
|GAN||I feel as if someone has been poking around inside my head-- with a foot.|
|VILA||We had to kick your brain a couple of times to get it started.|
|GAN||Only twice? They didn't remove the limiter.|
|CALLY||It was not possible.|
|VILA||They've modified it, though. Your ears glow in the dark now.|
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