(Ben Steed) reviewed by Marian de Haan


Bad, improbable, ridiculous and making all regulars behave out of character. The idea of Avon being fascinated by an alien life form to the point of disregarding his own and Liberator's safety may be amusing, it is also totally inconceivable. Why would he cede command to Tarrant? Avon is renowned for not taking things on trust and at this point Tarrant hasn't done anything yet (that we see) to prove his skill as a pilot and tactician. And would Cally really be prepared to let Avon distract her from her battle duties at such a crucial time? Even if they both would be prepared to trust Tarrant's estimation of his own capacities, the fact remains that Dayna is still very inexperienced and Vila can't be trusted not to panic. Yet we are to believe that Liberator's two most experienced crewmembers are absconding to study a piece of rock while the ship is engaged in a space battle it might well lose?

Where does Cally's sudden lethargy spring from? First she follows Avon's lead in ignoring the battle, instead of pointing out to him in no uncertain terms that the investigation of the Sopron can wait? [She's usually well able to refuse Avon's wishes, The Keeper springs to mind.] Then she doesn't react at all when Tarrant hauls her away from Avon quite violently. Later she stands idly watching how Jarvik beats Dayna. Is she supposed to be doped? [It looks like Chris Boucher simply gave up trying to edit this story, and who can blame him?]

Servalan seems also out of character, bowing to Jarvik's brute force. But Jacqueline Pierce handles the part well, subtly conveying the impression that Servalan is playing with him, satisfying her curiosity for this mad but decorative specimen while already savouring the moment he'll feel the full force of her wrath, once she's tired of him. [And I bet that's not what the writer had in mind. :-)] (Judith: My theory, arrived at after much cogitation, is that Servalan likes strong men because it gives her a chance to escape from always having to be in command. She is powerful enough to be able to indulge in the fantasy of briefly giving up that power. However, and it's an important however, the strong man must not expect to have any control outside the bedroom. Jarvik's total lack of political ambition made him a suitable man for her.)

Jarvik is a nasty character, with his warped ideas about male dominance, yet he is shown as a hero. Outwitting Tarrant, winning every fight, ranting on about honour and 'real' men. He can even get away with manhandling Servalan. [Which makes one wonder what he'd have done if the Supreme Commander had been a man? "Sir, you're so muscular!" <smart salute> :-) "Stay there, Sir, until I say otherwise!" Makes the mind boggle.]

Even the President fears Tarrant - it's clear who is Ben Steed's favourite character. :-) Regrettably we are not informed how Tarrant came by his reputation. Naturally, being able to guess his every move in advance makes Jarvik even cleverer than Tarrant.

This story suffers from the initial concept of Tarrant being a veteran Space Captain and mercenary. How can we believe him having been a lieutenant on the Kairopan escort shuttle fifteen years previously - judging by his looks he must have been still at elementary school at that time. :-) Jarvik too, doesn't look old enough to have been a captain fifteen years ago. (Judith: they really paid in terms of continuity for casting an actor for Tarrant who was ten to fifteen years younger than the character the part had originally been written as.)

The 'back to nature' theme ["Tarzan good, machines bad" :-)] is also used in Ben Steed's two other B7 stories. [How anyone can have wanted to commission another story from him after this fiasco is beyond me.] It's a theme with which much can be done and it's a pity Steed uses it so simplistically, bringing it all down to a struggle between 'real' men and gullible women who rely on machines. [The fact that the President/Supreme Commander is played by a woman must have been a god-send for the writer.]

That ancient landing module sitting ready and waiting for them seems too much of a coincidence, not to mention it containing exactly the right spare parts for Avon to build his artificial Sopron. (Judith: what's even more amazing is that someone on this uninhabited planet built a hanger to protect it.) Still, this story does have some good elements. The Kairopan being used by the giant spiders for their cobwebs is an original idea, as is the Sopron. A pity they are wasted in such an awful plot.

Personal appreciation: **

I'm fond of space battles and here we have one of the fiercest but it totally fails to grip me. The fact that Avon and Cally don't seem bothered by it takes away all tension. The scene of them so cosily engaged in studying that Sopron while Liberator rocks from the Federation assault is so utterly silly that it always makes me laugh. How can we take that battle seriously when they so obviously don't?

Tarrant being in command of Liberator feels wrong, forcing Avon out of character. As to Jarvik, I don't mind the realistic portrayal of a violent male chauvinist who thinks his superior muscle power gives him the right to grab any women who happens to take his fancy. These types do exist, usually ending up in prison or a mental hospital. My objection to the Jarvik character is that his behaviour is shown as if it is the norm, conveying the message that this is how 'real' men should treat women. [Especially in the Servalan 'asking for more' scene, which seems to imply that women like being treated rough.]

I always get confused about the shuttle and transporter. The transporter, supposed to be unmanned, is overloaded, and they have to leave the labourers behind. But weren't they supposed to go in the shuttle? So which craft is overloaded?

This episode has virtually no memorable dialogue and hardly any humour. That rock exploding while they're all tense for the fight is amusing but who can imagine Avon carrying on with his investigations under those circumstances? The unique and unforgettable Brian the Spider is good for some sniggers although that wasn't intended in the script. :-)

The casual manner in which Avon turns up just in time to shoot those guards is great. But that doesn't make up for the fact that he should never have let it go this far. If he's supposed to be trying to prove that Tarrant isn't fit to lead them, he's doing it in a singularly stupid way. Avon's face when he realises Servalan has outwitted him when he thought he had outwitted her is a picture. But why did he leave the choosing of the planet to her?

S3 seems to have had the biggest budget for costumes, or maybe Travis's demise enabled them to save on some expensive leather outfits. Whatever, I like the variety of clothes we see them in. Dayna often gets the most colourful outfit, reflecting her youth and high spirits. Here she looks gaudy in blue. Tarrant's white and brown costume is less flamboyant than his usual Cavalier-style shirts and vests [and gets dirty quickly during his fight with Jarvik :-)]. Cally's yellow and dark red suit is not bad but rather unmemorable. The same goes for Vila's outfit, another variation on a judo suit. Seeing Avon in something resembling battle dress is unexpected, but its pockets seem quite suitable for holding pet rocks. [Well, how else can he have brought his Sopron with him to the planet? :-)] Servalan has a beautiful gown - the one bare shoulder seems to have become a pattern for S3. Jarvik, of course, has a costume worthy of a real man. [The padded shoulders always remind me of those inflatable devices children get round their upper arms when they're learning to swim.] Why does he change it before going down to the planet? Is his new, brown-and-white outfit meant to blend in better with Tarrant's white-and-brown? :-)


What did Tarrant do to gain Jarvik's admiration? And what makes not only Jarvik, but even Servalan think that just because Tarrant has joined Liberator's crew, the others would have put him in command? In all other episodes the only person who ever thinks Tarrant should be in command is Tarrant himself. Did he send a message to Space Command Headquarters [secretly while Avon wasn't around :-)] to advertise them of the fact that he'd taken over?

When did Jarvik last feel the warmth of the Earth's sun? As a construction worker on a space station he seems to have even less opportunity for that than as a Space Captain, which makes it a daft reason for resigning his command. But isn't he a real man, able to overpower Servalan's bodyguards so easily?

After Avon and Vila are teleported up with the Sopron, why does Dayna blame Vila for the delay while it's so clearly Avon's doing? Well, they make it up with a hug later on. :-)

During the battle, why doesn't Tarrant send Vila or Dayna to fetch Cally? Going himself and leaving command of the fight to Vila seems the height of stupidity. [Echoes of Blake holding a war counsel during that battle in Duel.] What happened to Liberator's crew in this episode? They seem to have been caught by a collective death wish.

Usually Liberator's slightest course correction causes her crew to fall over yet here the ship can roll over entirely without them losing their balance. (Judith: if the maneuver is anticipated, then the artificial gravity can compensate. It's usually getting hit by plasma bolts that makes people fall over.)

"Abandon the surplus labourers." Another example of Servalan's ruthlessness.

Why does Cally, who could sense the malignant presence on the derelict spacecraft in Killer, fail to sense the presence of those guards in the containers? And why did no-one think of inspecting the loot?

Jarvik makes a point of wanting not to waste the lives of pilots for his ruse, but he seems happy to risk the lives of the guards used as decoys (the ones who get shot by Avon). And surely the fact that they were aboard the allegedly unmanned transporter ought to have caused suspicion in Avon if not Tarrant? Not to mention Vila, who always expects the worst. And where on the overloaded transporter did Shad leave the Kairopan taken from those containers to make way for the troopers?

Why does Tarrant chose Cally to accompany him while on nearly every other occasion he seems to prefer Dayna? And why does Avon want to go alone? Surely there's safety in numbers - the rule of "While it's busy eating you I can get away," seems to apply here as much as later in Rescue. :-)

"Bring me their bracelets." But don't expect me to wait for your return before I obliterate the ground you're standing on. :-) It seems like Servalan has decided to deal with Jarvik. And her manipulation doesn't need any subtlety. "If you're man enough for me..." Indeed.

(Judith: why does the 'lunar module' take off with the landing legs still attached?)

What Could Have Been Done To Improve It

- Scrap it and write another story round the Sopron concept [the only thing worth keeping].

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