review by Ariana

"Blake's 7" does "Arena"... ho-hum.

I might forgive an episode for being silly, but I won't forgive it for being boring. By that reckoning, this is the worst episode so far by a long shot. I've seen the premise as Star Trek TOS's "Arena" and Space:1999's "The Rules of Luton", and it's always the same story: adversaries forced to fight it out with pointed sticks by super-powerful beings who want a good show. Our Hero gets the bad guy into a position of weakness, but then mercifully spares him. The super-powerful beings relent and release everyone.

On the whole, "Duel" is about even with "The Rules of Luton". And considering the latter episode features super-beings who were actually still photographs of various conifers, that's a measure of how dreary "Duel" is. The episode is slow-moving, with -- paradoxically -- way too many special effects. FX fellow had evidently just got himself a new video editor and was trying out all the solarisation effects. Way too much of people clutching their heads in psychedelic colour and cringingly awful slow motion.

I did like the idea of the Liberator being in such a bad situation, and the way Blake planned to resolve it by playing chicken. Add to that a couple of good scenes with the crew on the flight deck and you'll be pleased to know that I wasn't completely immune to the episode's qualities. But there weren't enough good points to make up for being bored stiff during a good half hour of the episode.

Character stuff:

What character stuff? Well, no, to be fair, Avon and Vila got some good lines. In fact, Avon got some lines that had Ed and me clutching each other with laughter. Though admittedly we were laughing at the episode rather than the lines per se. See the dialogue section for further details.

Still, the scene with Blake and Jenna in the tree was nice. Despite my opinion of the overall quality of the episode, it still highlighted the quality of Gareth Thomas's acting. Blake came across as beautifully calm and composed, the voice of sweet reason compared to Travis. Not that I have any complaints about Stephen Greif either. There were some moments where his expression and the tone of his voice made me wonder if Travis did have emotions after all. But on the whole, the character seems to be continuing his quest to be the perfect stereotypical baddie.

I rather liked the blood-thirsty old lady Giroc, though Isla Blair's character didn't get to do much more than pose and get solarised. Aside from that, Gan actually gets some utterly forgettable lines, and um, was Cally in this episode? Just joking, nice to know she's on a par with Avon when it comes to Blake planning his football -- er, battle strategy.

On the Subject-That-Not-Everyone-Wants-To-Hear-About, I have to say that this episode has at least one scene that must have fuelled a few stories. I'm sure those who look for that sort of thing will know what I'm talking about.

Nitpicks and Preposterous Props:

"How to defend yourself against a man armed with a banana?" "Sir, what if he has a pointed stick?" Judging by the pointiness of the stick Blake handed to Jenna, Travis might as well come at them with a banana (for those of you familiar with Monty Python).

Our reaction when Blake materialised in the forest was "Oh, look, they teleported him to England". A few moments later, Travis was unravelling a rope from the bottom of a tree, and Ed said, "Oh look, there's the famous English rope-bush". Well, it made us laugh at the time. I'm afraid to say we were giving the whole episode the MST treatment. Mike, Servo and Crow would have had a field day (now *there's* an idea for a parody ;).

I must admit that Blake's drawings on the viewscreen were worth a chuckle or two as well. I half-expected him to start drawing arrows and devise a strategy to score a goal.

The studio set for the alien planet was suitably creepy, IMHO. It was also pretty cold, judging by Isla Blair's costume.

I see Vila gets his lace-up sneakers straight from the late 1970s. :)

Dialogue Gems:

BLAKE[Laughs] I get the distinct feeling I offended Zen's professional pride then.
AVONIt's just a machine, Blake.
VILAAnd he should know.
GANWell Avon is the expert.
VILAThat's not what I meant.
AVONNo, he was calling me a machine, but since he undoubtedly defines himself as a human being, I shall choose to accept that as more of a compliment than anything else.

AVONIf any of our control systems are damaged by the impact, we will be helpless.
BLAKEWe're not exactly in a commanding position now.
BLAKEHave you got any better ideas? [Violent impact. As Blake and Avon reel back, Avon clutches Blake protectively]
AVONAs a matter of fact, no I haven't.
BLAKEDoes that mean you agree?
AVONDo I have a choice?
AVONThen I agree. [Lets go of Blake]

TRAVISYou do realize that any hostile act against me will be regarded as a hostile act against the Federation. [Giroc laughs.] Have you any idea of the risk you're running? [Giroc laughs harder.]
BLAKEThey don't seem very impressed, Travis. [Laughs] Why don't you try stamping your foot?

VILAHave you thought of another plan?
AVONYes. I'm going to get some sleep.
VILAHow can you sleep with all this happening?
AVONWith all what happening? Blake is sitting up in a tree, Travis is sitting up in another tree. Unless they're planning to throw nuts at one another, I don't see much of a fight developing before it gets light.

[[This is the bit that had us roaring with laughter. We thought it was an apt summary of the plot so far.]]

[[Same scene]]

GANYou're never involved, are you Avon? You ever cared for anyone?
VILAExcept yourself?
AVONI have never understood why it should be necessary to become irrational in order to prove that you care, or, indeed, why it should be necessary to prove it at all. [Exits]
VILAWas that an insult or did I miss something?
CALLYYou missed something.


Comments and discussion welcome!


"With all what happening? Blake is sitting up in a tree, Travis is sitting up in another tree."

-- Avon summing up the plot of "Duel"

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