Sunday 30 June 2024

Blake's 7: Series Four

Right. It's the end. Here we go...


1. Rescue
By Chris Boucher

So here we are again, another series having ended with a massive change to the status quo. After a death-or-glory war threatened to destroy the Federation, Series Three never quite figured out what to do next. Now Series Four finds the Liberator destroyed. Where do we go now? And can we hitch a lift?

Rescue picks up almost immediately with Avon and Dayna investigating the ship Servalan left behind. As you might have guessed, it’s booby trapped. Meanwhile the others are still escaping the underground laboratories of Terminal - hang on, if Avon and Dayna are out then what’s the hold up? - only a little too slowly. The place explodes and Cally is killed.

You’re probably imagining something exciting there. Lol, no. We hear a voice, there is a bang, and in a subsequent scene Avon confirms her death. That’s it. No send off for Jan Chappell, and no one even mourns. Look, Cally was at best a character with potential that was never fully realised - what’s the point of a psychic who can’t read minds? But she had some genuinely strong episodes last series and she was at least more interesting than Jenna, so it’s a shame to toss her away just as offhandedly. Presumably they couldn’t get the actor back so they were stuck - again. And obviously the fourth series came as a surprise to everyone, and they were a hair’s breadth from ending on Terminal, so why would all the actors be available? But knowing all that doesn’t suddenly make this satisfying.

Anyway, wouldn’t you know it, a ship arrives. And this one works. The cheery pilot (Dorian) is looking for salvage, but Avon and co are more interested in commandeering his vessel, which coincidentally has a teleport facility and lots of guns, so it would do nicely. (What a stroke of luck!) This whole sequence of events is a bit jarring. Dorian’s nice enough and he might even help them. He actually saves a few of their lives on the planet. So why all the shouting and gun-pointing? As the planet breaks up (sure, why not) the fancifully-named Scorpio departs. It’s preprogrammed to go to Dorian’s home world, which for some reason sets them all on edge. I guess they’re having a bad day?

When they arrive, Dorian and his partner Soolin are reasonable hosts, although they respond in kind to having guns pointed at them. But it seems like they might reach some kind of arrangement. To be honest, the episode starts treading water here. (Apart from some really good model work when Scorpio lands. Gerry Anderson would approve!) And then Chris Boucher remembers he’s Chris Boucher, and it all gets a bit weird.

Dorian has an evil plan, you see. He’s got this secret lair underground with a strange monster lurking in it, and when he goes down there he suddenly becomes really old. (Only not every time, for some reason.) And this Dorian guy, yeah, catchy name that, it turns out this Dorian looks younger than he is. Eh? Do-ri-an? Nudge nudge? And eventually he tries to turn Avon, Tarrant, Dayna and even Soolin into a gestalt (see, monster) that will age instead of him, and absorb his... sins, I guess.

Well, it’s very original, isn’t it? Where does he get his ideas from?

It’s not like there’s anything wrong with doing a spin on Dorian Gray, but it would help if it didn’t seem completely out of left field. There’s just bugger all in the first half of the episode to tell us Dorian is anything other than a cheeky salvage guy. Why has he gone to all this trouble to round up this specific group of people? Why do I have so much trouble buying that Soolin wouldn’t have noticed anything strange going on here? And why does the episode grind to a halt the second they (easily) dispatch Dorian, pausing only for a shit joke from Vila? The whole thing feels uncomfortably like Chris Boucher wrote the crew away from Terminal and then, job done, made up the rest as he went along, hurriedly rewriting the salvage guy so he meant to pick them up all along. A horror pastiche fills the minutes as well as anything else I suppose, but this is a particularly cheap and silly one. (The monster is literally a Doctor Who Sea Devil, painted black.)

A sloppy crew reshuffle, a new ship only marginally less convenient than the Liberator, and a random B-plot from the horror bargain bin. It’s not much of a mission statement, is it? Also, you can keep the more-professional-yet-somehow-more-boring starting credits, thank you very much. And the laughable lounge music remix of the end credits. What were they thinking?

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! “Mummy, daddy, why are you crying? And where’s Cally?”

WHO’S WHO: Does the Sea Devil count?

BLAKE’S... 5. Bye, Cally.

2. Power
By Ben Steed

Shit a brick, it’s Ben Steed again. What are the odds that he’ll make it a full 50 minutes without writing women as subservient to men? He might as well be trolling us at this point, because his latest includes a literal battle of the sexes. CAN YOU GUESS WHO WINS.

Still trapped on Dorian’s planet, our heroes are frustratingly stuck on the other side of a door to their new spaceship. The door is rigged to set off a nuclear explosive within 48 hours unless it’s unlocked properly - and the person with the combination died in the last episode. Meanwhile, Avon has taken a stroll on the planet to get some crystals (he’s always after crystals or rocks - dude missed his calling as a mineralogist), and he runs into a tribe of Saxon-type men, because god forbid anyone living on another planet ever look like they live on another planet. To be fair though, it’s later established that they were an advanced society who reset to barbarism after of a war. (This is such a well-worn Doctor Who trope that I barely noticed the story doesn’t actually do anything with it.)

Somehow a conflict has arisen between two tribes that are, wait for it, men vs women. And the women are dying out. The female “Seskas” at least have telekinesis on their side, mainly thanks to Dorian whose illustrious back story continues to be rewritten and embellished by the minute. The leader of the male “Hommiks” is suitably unpleasant, but he also gets some fun dialogue (when he fails to remember some traditional fighting talk) and is apparently in love with his wife - no, really, they get on and everything, he just pretends to knock her about. She refuses to be a Seska and is sad when a fight to the death ends his life. Meanwhile another Seska, Pella, wants the Scorpio for herself. She has a few run-ins with Avon, who at one point reminds her that men are always stronger than women (which he concedes isn’t exactly fair) and in the end, successfully kills her in a duel. Like Doctor Who at the end of an inevitable massacre, he muses that battles of the sexes never end well.

Charitable hat on: for all that this one goes on and on about sex (so to speak), and it does so even more than Ben Steed’s other episodes, it is probably the least offensive about it. Avon’s “Men Are Better” line can fuck off to infinity, of course, it doesn’t really suit that cold but ultimately quite objective character, but elsewhere the story doesn’t actively demoralise women. The leader of the Hommiks is more actually-a-nice-guy than rapist-you-can’t-help-but-like. The episode doesn’t approve of the fighting either.

But, but, but - why the fighting in the first place? Yes, the leader of the Hommiks and his wife Nina were apparently happy, but it’s a fair assumption that isn’t the same deal the rest of the Seskas were looking at. These are barbarians. Is Avon’s point, in the end, that we shouldn’t fight or that women shouldn’t fight?

It would be great, wouldn’t it, if after several episodes of snarling misogyny Ben Steed turned out to be trying, albeit cack-handedly, to demonise this stuff. But he’s the one that keeps going back to it, in a series that otherwise includes women in its main cast, including one as the ruler of the galaxy. Sorry, but I’ll need more evidence than this to think he’s finally in therapy. Besides, if you endlessly write the same misogynist conflict, the law of averages may eventually make it look like you meant well.

After all that stuff with the two tribes, whatever that meant, and a showdown with Pella, Avon finally has the Scorpio. (Or is it just “Scorpio”? That sounds worse, so probably yeah.) It has a fancy teleporter, which looks better than the last one, and the computer is less pompous than Zen. (Avon seems happy about this, but Orac is the insufferable one and he’s still around.) I’ve no idea what Avon or the rest of them want to achieve using the Scorpio, but then why change the habit of a lifetime? All I can hope for are some decent episodes.

Just before the ghastly end credits (I’ll try to stop mentioning it but jesus, it sounds like a game show now), Soolin pops up from wherever she was hiding to join the crew. I suppose it would have been too much to hope for Mr Definitely A Secret Feminist to actually do something to establish her character. Imagine my surprise that in the world of Ben Steed, this apparently formidable lady gunslinger spends the whole thing in a cupboard.

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! The usual clumsy fight choreography means the fights-to-the-death wouldn’t upset a toddler. A man gets randomly show in the chest with a crossbow, I guess.

WHO’S WHO: Dicken Ashworth, high mucky-muck of the Hommicks, would meet Paul Darrow again in a worse place than a fight to the death: he was in Timelash. Also you can spot Pat Gorman here under a fake beard and wig.

BLAKE’S... 7 again, with Soolin and Slave.

3. Traitor
By Robert Holmes

Why, it’s Robert Hoooolmes! Who better to help Blake’s 7 settle (once again) into a new normal. The gang have a spaceship (it’s definitely just “Scorpio”, no “the”), so now what?

Avon notices that the Federation seems to be making great strides at the old conquering lark, and investigates the planet Helotrix. A rebel force is being slowly whittled away by a group of obsequious, evilly-dressed guys who calmly eat dinner and play chess (ooh, clever) whilst having them dispatched. They’re good at “altering” people, aka brainwashing. We spend a fair bit of time with this lot and the rebels. Some of it’s quite pleasant - the casual dinner banter of villains, the for once very impressive “alien” location - but sorry to say, it gets dull fast. The rebels talk about rebel stuff. The baddies plan baddie stuff. What’s new? Why should we specifically care about this conflict, or these people?

Add to this, the plot seems to rumble along quite happily without the Liberator. (Oops, force of habit. But on that subject, isn’t Scorpio cramped and boring to look at?) Avon and co. evade some spaceships we don’t see. Tarrant and Dayna go to the surface to give the rebels a hand. They meet, among others, a terminally ill guy who plans to blow up his mysterious boss at the first opportunity. More or less interesting I guess, but again it doesn’t need the regulars in order to happen, so um. Good luck with that mate?

Turns out his boss is Servalan, who isn’t dead and oh who even cares how she got out of that one? After learning about the Federation’s use of drugs to conquer planets (I missed how that works, possibly dozed off) and getting a sample of an antidote, our heroes bugger off to fight Servalan another day. Fin.

So. This new normal. It’s quite a lot like the old one, isn’t it? Only this time we forget to give the gang anything to do that isn’t already happening without them. There’s scarcely any trademark Robert Holmes wit, besides Avon firing a broadside at Blake’s belief in people. It’s just a boring bunch of stuff with some ideas just sitting there. All a bit shit so far, isn’t it?

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! Nah, they’re fine.

WHO’S WHO: Slimy but civilised Christopher Neame was in that unfinished story we can’t stop finishing, Shada. George Lee had minor roles in two Pertwee stories. David Quilter was in New Who - The Unicorn & The Wasp, as a butler - if that counts?

4. Stardrive
By Jim Follett

Four episodes in, it’s dawning on Avon that his new ship isn’t quite as good as the old one. 

Scorpio needs fuel. In order to sneak past some Federation patrols to a fuel source Avon tries hitching a ride on an asteroid. I think it’s a a neat idea (The Empire Strikes Back used it) but everyone yells at him that it’s a terrible idea actually, and then they damage the ship in the attempt. Whoops.

Temporarily crippled, Scorpio is almost blown up by some Federation raiders, except a mysterious something shoots them first. After wasting their time asking Orac what it was (he insists they figure it out for themselves - chuck him in a bin already), they realise it was an incredibly fast ship with an engine they could make use of. The only trouble is, it’s being flown by Space Rats: thrill junkies with punk hairdos who inexplicably strike terror into everyone they meet. (Is it the hair?) Avon sets a course for the planet where these engines are tested, hoping to steal parts.

That’s pretty much it for plot. The Space Rats don’t make loads of sense as test pilots - yes they’re good at flying fast ships, but as everyone keeps saying, they are also “psychopaths”. (Not sure I agree with that, but they’re obviously dangerous.) The hair is pretty impressive. So much that it’s a bit surprising that their leader Atlan needs to be so over the top - he’s achieved that just by going to hair and makeup!

Dr Plaxton is the brains behind the engines and has an uneasy working relationship with them. When Avon and co storm the place, which involves a very poorly directed scene where Atlan uses Soolin to escape and for some reason no one shoots him, Plaxton agrees to go with them. More fool her: after plugging in the new drive Avon deliberately activates it while she’s still inside. Turns out she was aiming the word “psychopath” in the wrong direction.

It’s one of those episodes where all I can do is summarise the plot. Is any of it interesting? Not massively: there’s a bit where Dayna tries to pretend she and Vila know Dr Plaxton to avoid getting killed, and this confusingly works even though Plaxton’s adamant she doesn’t know them. There’s a sort of car chase in (need you ask) a quarry, which looks all right. Avon’s total disregard for killing Plaxton moments after she helped them of her own volition is probably interesting, what with it being indistinguishable from something Servalan would do. I hate it, though. I’m all for making these characters anti-heroes - it is Blake’s 7 after all - but this is just a random bit of darkness and not a good look.

Um. Overall it’s fine I guess. It’s an episode where they need a new engine and then they get it. Terribly exciting.

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! Avon’s cruelty at the end is a bit brisk, innit.

WHO’S WHO: Dr Plaxton was in Planet Of Fire. A couple of the Space Rats have had minor Who roles.

5. Animals
By Allan Prior


Look, I know they weren’t expecting to make a fourth series, so there’s bound to be a bit of filler until they can figure out where the story’s going. But can’t they at least make some decent episodes in the meantime? The best thing you can say about Animals is that it’s hardly the first Blake’s 7 episode where the goodies and the baddies all want something, and nobody gets it. In that way it’s... sort of?... classic Blake’s 7? But there’s no longer a “war is hell” feeling to underpin that. At this point in the series they can’t be bothered to show a society ruled by the Federation, ergo what’s being fought for, so Servalan and co. just look like random heavies whom Avon and co. randomly hate. (That’s why Avon’s recent callousness over Dr Plaxton’s death seemed so awful: if it’s not for anything, then your anti-heroes are just some other pricks.) Even in being similar to previous episodes, Animals epitomises the show’s current lack of definition.

Okay, plot time: Dayna goes to visit a scientist and ex-teacher in the hopes that his expertise will somehow be useful to the fight against the Federation. His work revolves around animals - they get the title into the script so often, there must be a bet on - which in practical terms means extras dressed like grunting, Nordic Gruffaloes. The aim is to make them immune to radiation, which will help rebuild stuff destroyed in the war. Problem being the scientist, Justin, has mutilated them for it to work. Despite killing several of them on sight, Dayna is understandably upset.

Well, at first. It’s immediately made clear that Justin - many years her senior - has a thing for Dayna, and she - despite having never mentioned him? - more or less reciprocates. The whole teacher-pupil thing is creepy and misjudged as hell, and Dayna’s affections go from “I am disgusted that he would do this to these animals” to “I love him” with unconvincing speed. I can more or less fathom Justin feeling like his ship’s come in, after all he lives on a planet with a bunch of cavemen and then Dayna shows up. But the relationship, even before you get into how inappropriate is the age gap, doesn’t convince.

And... it’s the cornerstone of the episode. Servalan (still sticking with the alias “Sleer” and wanting people dead if they recognise her, even though she has Servalan’s job and does Servalan things and looks like Servalan and everything) wants the radiation-proof animals, so she comes and kidnaps Dayna. Skipping right over the whole “you killed my father” business, which should by rights make any Dayna-Servalan scenes sparkle - oh well! - she brainwashes Dayna to “hate” Justin. This somehow translates into making her follow specific commands and betray him. Kidnapping them both then goes wrong when Avon and co. arrive and attack, and Justin is killed. The episode ends with Dayna - who 40 minutes ago was “disgusted” by his animal experimentation - cradling his corpse and woodenly mooing his name. As is typical, Avon orders a quick teleport because lol he don’t care and then that’s that. I felt nothing. I mean, well, a bit annoyed?

It’s just stupid. Adjacent to all this, Scorpio has been damaged (despite the super fast engine a woman died to activate last week - oh well!) so Avon, Vila and co. spend the episode repairing it. All of this is just irrelevant business: nothing to do with the plot. We also spend time with Servalan, trying to wheedle information on the animal experiments whilst preserving her anonymity which, I dunno, maybe you could try a different haircut or something? But it’s all filler since, once again, they’re all going home empty handed. Even Ogg, the hilariously unimaginatively named animal/caveman, dies anyway.

So. It’s shit, again. I’m getting a bit bored of this now.

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! The whole business with Justin feels like an information film on inappropriate relations.

WHO’S WHO? Kevin Stoney in the house! Playing a different character to his last B7 episode - which is a bit odd as the plot goes to some lengths to avoid him seeing Servalan. William Lindsay was one of the vampires in State Of Decay. Max Harvey was in Arc Of Infinity.

6. Headhunter
By Roger Parkes

I’ve previously moaned that if this show isn’t going to have a point, it might as well put out some decent episodes. Headhunter is... sort of one of those? Self contained and of little use to the series as a whole, at least it’s fairly fun. Also a bit ridiculous.

Avon and co. are hoping to recruit Muller, a genius (yes, another one) in the field of robotics. All seems to go well, give or take knocking someone out at their lab, except there’s a mysterious box he really doesn’t want brought aboard. Tarrant insists on bringing it anyway. There is an altercation over this and Muller is apparently killed by Vila. They freeze his body on the off chance and take the box home, but going near it seems to cause problems onboard Scorpio, such as Slave getting uppity (er, perhaps I should rephrase that). Soon the ship is adrift and Avon (back at base) must intercede.

Well, it turns out that’s not Muller after all, it’s the robot Muller’s been working on. (And Vila hasn’t killed it.) Without the inhibitor built for it by Muller it will just go around controlling other machines and killing people. It really wants to combine with Orac, who is surprisingly keen to avoid killing all humans; he demands he be switched off and hidden. A run-away-from-the-killer-robot movie ensues.

This one’s all atmosphere, which helps as there’s nothing much for the characters to do. There’s Orac backing the good guys for a change, though not before a few infected moments where he pleads with them to hail their new robot masters. Soolin almost makes herself useful by carrying Orac around; at this point in the show Glynis Barber is a very likeable presence but I’ve yet to see the benefit of her character. Paul Darrow has some dramatic stares and flourishes; he almost selling a ridiculous spacesuit with sheer hammy presence. There’s some all right banter with Vila. And at the end, contrary to previous episode endings where Avon coldly dismisses someone not getting what they want or dying, he’s denied the killer robot he wanted because his gang blow it up. Serves him right.

The other thing going for Headhunter is the main idea. That box contains the robot’s inhibitor... and its head. As for the one on its neck when Tarrant picked it up, thinking it was Muller? Yeah, that was Muller’s. (The real guy is decapitated back at the base.) I’ve no idea how this works, but it’s such a grotesque image that it turns what might have been a simple rampaging robot into a bizarre identity crisis. It gives you something to think about, even if that thing is “yuck”.

It’s creepy. It’s silly. It passed an hour, I suppose.

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! The headless robot looks a bit silly in some shots, and we don’t see Miller’s decapitated corpse, but the implication is there and it’s horrible.

WHO’S WHO? Lynda Bellingham plays Muller’s soon to be disappointed partner; she was the Inquisitor in Trial Of A Time Lord.

7. Assassin
By Rod Beacham

It’s another self-contained bit of business this week, with a plot that seems creakily obvious for one reason and then turns out to be thumpingly obvious for another. I... guess that’s sort of clever?

Servalan has put a hit out on our heroes: the mysterious assassin Cancer is coming for them. (That’s not a metaphor, it’s literally a person.) What to do? Avon suggests they go on the offensive and head to his last known location. Naturally this is a dismal quarry. (Do they even use different ones any more?) Avon ends up a slave, and befriends a kindly old man who says he saw the assassin’s ship take off recently. He then begs Avon to take him away.

I bet you think you’ve got the plot sussed now, don’t you? Well anyway, Nebrox and Avon make it out of there and they follow Cancer’s trail to his spaceship, which is patiently waiting for them. The assassin and a random slave woman named Piri are aboard. They quickly capture the man, and Tarrant befriends the kindly woman who begs him to take her away.

Credit where it’s due, the episode presents us with two unbelievably suspicious randomers who might be the killer. Neither of them really makes sense as anything else, which helps keep us in suspense, albeit by shortchanging both of them as characters. It then just becomes a waiting game until one of them shows their hand. Depressingly this doesn’t take long, when sommmmeone kills Nebrox.

At this point Avon, Tarrant and Soolin (still aboard Cancer’s ship for some reason) still think that bloke they captured is the killer, and now he’s loose on the ship. Tarrant is totally enamoured with the dippy, simpering Piri, because reasons, which means a lot of Steven Pacey doing his silly big-boy-voice. We also get some embarrassing commentary on female stereotypes when Soolin slaps the hysterical woman and Tarrant insists she’s “jealous”. (?) At this point you’re praying Piri’s the killer just so all that “I’m just a poor stupid girl” stuff can go in the bin where it belongs.

Avon makes the point that splitting up in a stranger’s ship would be just what they wanted, but for some reason they do it anyway. And before you know it we’re in the final act: Avon is tied to a slab and Piri has gone from unconvincingly half-witted girl to unconvincingly smug, but convincingly irritating killer. (It is not, all things considered, one for Caroline Holdaway’s demo reel.) She mocks him for being taken in by her which, well, yeah, it is rather out of character now that you mention it. When the hell was Avon ever swayed by a blubbering girl? Or a kindly old man, for that matter. He’s a total bastard! Three episodes ago he joked when a female scientist died after he turned the engines on too soon. The whole episode is a bit, really?!, as far as Avon is concerned.

Naturally Avon and co. get out of it, and Cancer’s apt choice of weapon - a poisonous artificial crab-that-is-really-more-of-a-spider, which is exactly as cumbersome and silly as it sounds - ends up killing her. We may at least be spared Servalan for an episode or two, seeing as she thinks they all died when her men blew up Cancer’s ship. The director spares us the terrible confusion of seeing how they got out of it without her noticing.

It’s cookie cutter stuff, and it could take place at any point in the series. (Apart from a bit where Dayna nearly kills Servalan because of their shared history. Naturally she ballses it up and then sulks about it.) Assassin does manage to wrong foot the viewer by playing an obvious trick twice. And on the plus side, someone has given the editors a tool for fades and wipes, which they overuse with heroic aplomb. Really though, this is dross.

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! A fake crab explodes at the end.

WHO’S WHO? Suspiciously helpful old person Richard Hurndall doubled for William Hartnell in The Five Doctors. Also Adam Blackwood is in this - I didn’t spot him - later known for being one of a number of rather odd subterranean goose-fanatics in The Trial Of A Timelord.

8. Games
By Bill Lyons

In Games, Avon and co. set their sights on some feldon crystals - a hugely powerful resource used by the Federation. Their aim is probably to inconvenience the Federation in some way, which makes a nice change from aimlessly farting around from quarry to quarry. The man controlling the supply is Belkov, and he is well aware of how much power he wields. Over the course of the episode he plays Avon and - of course, sigh - Servalan for chumps as he tries to get away from the now barren planet with his life. (Yes, the planet is a quarry.)

Stratford Johns plays Belkov, and it’s a great performance. Most of his scenes are with his computer, Gambit, who as the title suggests is largely built to play games. By the end of the episode a believable and complicated relationship exists between him and his computer. They’re the best scenes, surprisingly warm and funny.

As for the rest of it? Well, three guesses whether Avon gets his hands on any crystals. Ditto Servalan. But Vila has lots of fun moments, as the plot leans towards theft. Soolin gets to do something useful (win a “game” where you have to outshoot a mirror image of yourself) as does Tarrant (pilot a fancy flight simulator), but that’s all for nothing as there aren’t any crystals. Or maybe there are. The episode ends in a welter of technobabble about negatives, positives and black holes as Belkov’s ship is destroyed. Probably.

It’s definitely an entertaining episode, and I can count those on one hand at the moment. A fantastic guest performance here, and some okay ideas. Yay. As for the rest of it, prepare yourself for yet another quarry and another nil-nil draw.

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! Some Federation guards get killed by rather odd triangle knives. You see a bit of blood and everything!

WHO’S WHO? David Neal played the President in The Caves Of Androzani. Stratford Johns was a big frog in Four To Doomsday.

9. Sand
By Tanith Lee

The last episode by Tanith Lee involved dream sequences, possession and formless psychic monsters, so you’d be forgiven for expecting Sand to be a weird one. And it is, but perhaps not for the same reasons.

Servalan (oh, I’m surprised to see her here!) is off to investigate a planet for some reason. It went quiet five years ago; we can assume it has something of value to the Federation. Avon gets wind that a Federation ship is on its way to a place (incredibly he does not assume Servalan is aboard) and, on the off chance there’ll be something good there, he suggests they go as well. We’re scraping the barrel a bit now, aren’t we, for any sort of mission with these guys. Is this their life: hack Federation radio chatter and try to get dibs on any loot? Are they freedom fighters, pirates, or just terminally bored?

Anyway, the planet - not a quarry, but such cheap sets you’ll wish it was - is home to a lot of green sand. Servalan and a few men go looking for survivors, but something quickly kills them, or drives them mad. Tarrant teleports down with Dayna, who gets wounded and sent back up. Soon it’s just him and Servalan in an empty base. All around them there is stormy weather and shifting sands. (It’s at this point I thought “How can there be a storm if there are no clouds,” because there’s just a cheap backdrop of stars, fnar fnar. But the episode actually acknowledges this later on: those aren’t actually storms.)

We get a bit of character development for Servalan here, as she reveals she came here to check on an old lover. Also she’s been killing anyone who knows she’s Servalan, which seems like a waste of effort to me. (She was the President of the Federation. I think there might have been pictures.) Tarrant doesn’t grow much here - it seems there’s nothing to learn - but he does display a sudden Doctor Who-ish knack for solving mysteries. He figures out the sand has been killing people (don’t get smug, people-who-read-episode-titles), it uses the bodies as a well-preserved food source, and it always leaves a man and a woman alive to make more food supplies. I.e., all right you and you, get shagging.

I think it would be fair to say this is a bit of a reach, no? But Avon, more consistently a smarty pants, figures this out as well, so I guess it must be true. Whether because Tarrant is moved by Servalan’s tears, or whether he is certain the sand will kill him if he doesn’t get his end away right now, they pretty clearly do the deed. And look, this whole thing just raises questions, doesn’t it? How much does sand know about human mating? Could you both just wriggle about for a few minutes, say “that was sure some top sex work there, compadre” and be left in peace?

By this point Avon has also figured out / guessed and miraculously been correct that rain will kill the sand, and piloting Scorpio in a certain way will generate some. So, too late to prevent some Tarrant-Servalan boot knocking, he puts a brief stop to the sand’s saucy machinations, scoops up Tarrant and they’re off to their next tenuously Federation-aimed botherance.

In some ways all this isn’t as weird as the “Cally psychic possession” episode, but then again, the life cycle of an alien sand that basically exists to enable the plot of a sci-fi porno is not weirdness to be sniffed at. For good measure though, Soolin (of all characters!) randomly brings up the earlier episode, ‘cos guess who wrote that.

Academically interesting (if unlikely) plot bits, a good performance from Jacqueline Pearce, and an unfortunate pairing with Tarrant and his hair/teeth/lack of interesting qualities. Memorably weird counts for something at this point.

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! Sexxxx. (Off screen.)

WHO’S WHO? Stephen Yardley was a Muto in Genesis Of The Daleks, and an avid TV watcher in Vengeance On Varos. Daniel Hill was in Shada, but no one would see it until it came out on video a decade later. Peter Craze was Michael Craze - Ben’s brother, and in several stories. Jonathan David was in Attack Of The Cybermen.

10. Gold
By Colin Davis

Good one, good one, sound the good episode klaxon!

In Gold, Avon sets his sights on a caper that might actually work. A space cruise ship is transporting molecularly altered gold along with its passengers. With the help of his old friend Keiller (Roy Kinnear out of Willy Wonka) they will stop it being altered at the start of its journey, then steal it on the cruise ship. (All of which probably blah-blah-something-hurt-the-Federation-somehow.) Apart from an odd bit in the middle where Avon and Soolin fake their deaths to allay suspicion, it goes swimmingly - although they have to alter the plan on the hoof when they can’t turn the gold into back its regular state after all, so now they’ll have to steal it, then sell it.

Soon we’re on the cruise ship with Tarrant and Dayna posing as guests, Avon and Keiller doing the actual stealing. The heist bit is surprisingly tense, even down to the low-key music. Like all good heists it nearly all goes wrong at the end, and there’s a genuinely exciting moment where Avon is about to get blasted into space unless Vila teleports him in time.

It’s weird - I can’t fault any of this. The heist plot is very neatly worked out; the cruise ship is draped in enough muzak that we buy a few small sets as the whole thing; Roy Kinnear enlivens every scene, though we can’t help assuming he’ll try to betray them, since everybody does. You reach a point with the episode where you think, what can go wrong now?

By a strange coincidence this is also the point where you think Why Hasn’t Servalan Shown Up Yet, and sure enough these two are linked. To everyone but Avon’s UTTER SHOCK (for some reason) she is indeed the buyer they are going to meet. But she pays up - flirting outrageously with Avon, probably feeling embarrassed about her trip to Tarrant Land - and the crew get away with the money. Only for it to turn out that thanks to bad timing, their money is worthless and Servalan has come out on top. Tarrant puts this to Avon and he just laughs, presumably at Servalan’s gall.

It’s definitely annoying to once again have the crew attempt something that turns out to be a waste of time, and it’s a waste of words to go on about how none of them would have done all this if they knew Servalan was involved - she’s in it every week, Sherlocks, getting in each other’s business is all any of you do. But for once these are just niggles: Gold is a clever episode and it goes off almost without a hitch. Happy day!

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! Keiller shoots an unarmed doctor who was quite nice.

WHO’S WHO? Norman Hartley (in here somewhere) was a Viking in The Time Meddler and a UNIT soldier in The Invasion.

11. Orbit
By Robert Holmes

This week, an old acquaintance of Avon’s has a proposition for him, but it turns out he’s working for Servalan and our heroes leave empty handed. Golly, where have I heard that before? Could it be... the previous episode? 

And yet, Orbit isn’t anything like Gold. In place of a cash heist we have a death ray being offered up in exchange for Orac. Instead of Roy Kinnear’s cheery blimp we have Corrie’s John Savident as Egrorian, an obsequious scientist, and because it’s a Robert Holmes script he’s part of a bickering double act, with his unfortunate 28-year-old servant Pinder having aged 50 years by accident. The two are tragic and very funny to behold.

Avon is no fool - I mean it’s about time he started remembering the plots week to week - so he finds a clever way to fake handing over Orac. Then it’s just a matter of escaping, but the small moon shuttle they’re using has been tampered with, and Egrorian is just waiting for them to crash so he can scoop up Orac and the death ray. It becomes a race against time to shift enough weight to break orbit and, unfortunately for Vila, it does occur to Avon that one less human body would do it. The moment where he weighs it up and then decides is a wordless triumph for Paul Darrow.

That sequence is probably everyone’s favourite bit, horrible as it is. Avon’s eerie “please come and help me” entreaties to a hiding, already crying Vila; it’ll be difficult to forget. It’s surprising to be reminded that these characters have enough grey areas for this to be plausible. At the last moment Avon thinks of something else and they both survive, but Vila has every reason never to be in a room with him again.

Series D doesn’t have a lot going for it but guest casting is a real strength: John Savident is fabulous here, particularly with Robert Holmes writing it. We don’t get much character development any more, but one scene with Avon and Vila does wonders. Yes, it’s getting ridiculously tedious having Servalan turn up every week, even more so never letting Avon achieve anything (he has to jettison the death ray), but apart from that Orbit handles its ingredients about as brilliantly as it could do.

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! Poor Pinder realises his friend isn’t looking out for him and irradiates the place, ageing them both to death.

WHO’S WHO? John Savident was in a previous Blake’s 7 episode (Trial, different character) but would also pop in Doctor Who as a Tudor who is promptly shot with lasers. (The Visitation.)

12. Warlord

By Simon Masters

Damn it. For a minute there it looks like Warlord will be the shot in the arm this series needs, but it’s not to be.

Avon has gathered a bunch of (you guessed it) warlords to form an alliance against the Federation. The plan is to counteract the drug they use to control people. (Hey, remember when there were actual people in this?) And heck, what a great idea! Why didn’t he think of it sooner? The worst of the new recruits, Zukan, is running late but then he too pledges his support. (There is now a little voice at the back of your head expressing caution and oh, I don’t know what to tell you.)

Without Zukan’s knowledge his daughter Zeeona is helping to unload the anti-drugs. She has a history with Tarrant, however, and when Zukan finds out she’s there he orders her sent home. For whatever reason, Soolin discretely sends her back to the base so the audience can get some more of that Tarrant love stuff they’ve all been craving. (Right? Someone out there must have the hots for this willowy, plummy-voiced tit, or why do they keep going back to this?) Apart from this little Romeo and Juliet-themed snag, it’s all power to the alliance against the Federation, yes? Guys, are we doing this?

I mean you know what’s coming, don’t you? What happened the last two episodes in a row? What happened two episodes before that? Zukan (please no) is working with (do we have to) (last chance) (oh come on) goddamn mother effing Servalan, BECAUSE OF COURSE HE IS. It’s genuinely baffling how she gets anything done whilst killing off Avon and chums occupies so much of her time, but that’s not as baffling as Avon and co failing to expect the unexpected in high heels and a fancy dress in every episode. Scooby Doo has more chance of encountering a legit ghost than they do of avoiding her for a single week.

Anyway. (For fuck’s sake.) Zukan has laid a trap to kill off our heroes, with a separate one waiting on his homeworld for Avon and (he thinks) Zeeona (but actually it’s Soolin). The trap is sprung, Xenon Base is heavily damaged and running out of air, and Orac is seemingly destroyed, but I doubt that somehow. Zeeona tries to tell Zukan she’s still there, but it’s too late and he can’t bring himself to believe it. Servalan doesn’t care either way and has Zukan killed. (There’s a nifty bit where he and his lieutenant find her bomb; he asks the guy to disconnect it, then closes the airlock and fires man and bomb into space. What a bastard! But his ship gets ruined anyway.)

Back at base, things are looking up air supply wise but Zeeona must neutralise an airborne contaminant she knows Zukan is responsible for. She succeeds but dies in the attempt. Tarrant finds her and woe is the viewer, presumably. Except who the hell was Zeeona anyway, and who’s watching Blake’s 7 in the hopes of that foppish git getting his end away again?

Much like the mooted (but now presumably moot) Alliance, Servalan attacking their actual base seems like progress for what we can laughingly call the ongoing story. It’s not clear if they have to abandon it now - did Zukan tell her where it was? - but I’ve been wondering for a while why she didn’t try that. Nevertheless, they’re still pulling this Uneasy Ally Betrays Them To Servalan shit yet again, and any gains made by finally remembering that the point of the show was to crush the Federation are reduced by shrinking the stakes to just one evil cow and a gang of overly trusting jerks who so far have lucked out and not died. So we’re one step forward, two steps back, all for a Romeo and Juliet bit that wouldn’t impress a hard up Mills & Boon fan. But hey, maybe the finale will rescue it. Please?

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! Zukan executing his lieutenant is pretty grim.

WHO’S WHO? Roy Boyd (Zukon) was in The Hand Of Fear. Rick James - somewhat infamously - was in The Mutants.

13. Blake
By Chris Boucher

Well then.

It’s a peculiar sensation, knowing roughly what’s going to happen but not knowing any specifics. It’s almost 40 years since this was transmitted, so I know Blake dies. I know it looks like he’s betrayed them. I know it’s probably the end for everybody. In a way, it’s like the episode knows I know that stuff, and dangles the possible death of every character in front of us throughout. But people must have known this was the final end, so this may have been true to an extent. We know all bets are off.

Abandoning Xenon base just in case the Federation got its location in the last episode, Avon plays his last card: get Blake to be a figurehead once more, and unite people against the Federation. Only trouble is, Blake was last seen on Gauda Prime, a deadly, lawless dump. And before they can land they’re attacked. Scorpio crashes. Everyone but Tarrant gets away; he’s wounded, Slave is broken beyond repair. The rest of them search for Blake. The man himself is a bounty hunter these days, looking the worse for wear. He seems to have abandoned his moral compass, although he also seems moved when he mentions that Jenna died evading capture.

Gauda Prime is a forest, not a quarry - truly, it must be a special occasion. The location footage is beautiful, and Scorpio’s crash is about as well done as you could hope from this budget in 1981. But the real kicker is What The Hell Is Going On With Blake. We know he’s been brainwashed before, maybe something like that happened again? He’s certainly no friend to his latest bounty, a woman named Arlen, who he shoots in the leg.

Tarrant survives the crash and soon runs into Blake, though neither of them shares their name at first. He’s brought back to the base where he realises he’s the bounty. (It’s tempting to wonder what else he thought was going on there.) Blake regales his boss with the high reward for Tarrant and his friends, and Tarrant flees. But then we find out it was all an act, and Blake was “testing” him, as he does all new recruits. He’s still the same guy after all, fighting the Federation. He’s just added mind games. Arlen, is seems, was won over in the end.

You know that TV trope where characters just don’t talk to each other in plain English, they make assumptions, and that’s how you get more plot? Get ready for a massive dose of that. Avon’s gang reunite - after he pointedly didn’t tell them whether Tarrant survived, himself believing he’d died - and Tarrant breaks what he thinks is the news about Blake. Avon asks if it’s true and I guess Blake isn’t clear enough, so he shoots him. A lot. And bloodily. Arlen reveals she was a Federation plant all along, but then she’s killed; Federation guards arrive and zap everyone but Avon. It ends in an infamous standoff, with weapons fire over the credits. Fin.

It’s hard to imagine a more memorable last scene for this show, and for a series that routinely ends its episodes on crap “now everyone laughs” bits, that’s a godsend. Admittedly it could have been executed better: everyone but Blake gets shot by invisible rounds, so they all just flail about in slow motion. (Apparently this was to make it easier to bring people back in a potential Series 5, but come on, that would feel like a cheat.)

What does all this say about the characters? Blake fought the good fight, but he badly miscalculated what might happen if his “tests” went wrong. Arrogant to the last. Avon should have just listened, but he seemed a little too trigger-happy when given the slightest excuse to off Blake at last. Perhaps their rivalry triumphed over his brain after all. As horrible as the whole thing is, it rings true.

The rebellion in all likelihood dies right here because of these flawed men and this failed bit of communication. And thrillingly, Servalan wasn’t even there, as if she finally decided she had better things to do. The whole thing is like a tragic shift in perspective, where we realise how prone to error and hopeless the fight ultimately was. It’s incredible television, but they should have called it Bleak.

TL;DR: Way to go, Tarrant.

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! Blake’s death. Blood and guts galore!

WHO’S WHO? Blake’s boss is David Collings, also seen in The Robots Of Death.

BLAKE’S... 1. Orac is the last man standing, unless you think Avon makes it.

Blake's 7: Series Three

“...FIRE!” Against all odds, Series Two proved a tough act to follow. And, well, Series Three never quite figures out what to do next. Prepare for major and abrupt cast changes and some of the very best (and absolute worst) episodes so far, as they give it a damn good try anyway...

1. Aftermath
by Terry Nation

All change!

We join the battle of Star One already in progress and, oh dear. Say hello to some familiar model shots (that don’t even  match the alien ships we saw last time), all desperately cut together to look a bit more exciting but not, alas, any more expensive. All is not well on the Liberator: destruction seems possible so Vila, Avon and Cally head for the escape pods. Blake and Jenna don’t want to abandon ship but eventually they do the same - entirely off-screen. 

Amazingly this is Jenna’s exit from the show. (We’ll see Blake again. Rather infamously.) And can I just say - ouch? I never really liked Jenna, but that’s largely down to her having nothing to do. Sally Knyvette was mostly required to moon at Blake. Wikipedia says she “often maintains her opinions stubbornly” which, whoa, unforgettable stuff, huh. She at least deserved a heroic death.

Anyway, Avon quickly fills the heroic gap at the centre of the episode, as he crashes on a planet with a nice seaside (ooh!), populated, need you ask, by Viking knock-offs. He is saved from execution by Dayna, a forthright young woman with a bow and arrow who obviously will improve the female representation on the Liberator. Strangely Servalan is also here - explained as showing up to claim victory then oops, getting shot down - but it’s worth it for the power play through the rest of the episode as she tries to make inroads with Avon. Darrow and Pearce sparkle in a way you just wouldn’t get with Blake or (hahaha) Travis. They are just as likely to snog as shoot each other. Interesting. With the Federation apparently in tatters thanks to Star One blowing up, most bets are off, so who knows. (It’s almost a pity Blake has unceremoniously sodded off now, but then again this is what he wanted and his character’s not really built to navigate the weirdness of no-more-Federation.)

The bulk of the episode is a waiting game while the Liberator repairs itself (I forgot it did that) and Servalan bides her time to either dupe Avon or steal Orac / the Liberator. By the end of it, Dayna has good reason to want Servalan dead, Vila and Cally are still AWOL, and some random bloke who I know joins the cast shows up at the end to point a gun at Avon. But hey, the Liberator’s fine now.

Technically not a lot happens apart from taking a breather after the big fight. But the character interplay is great, and the whole thing feels like opening the windows in a stuffy room. I’m here for it. Jenna was robbed though.

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! A nice young woman gets killed offscreen and strung out on planks.

WHO’S WHO: Mike Yates is in this briefly, then he gets murdered. I hope he got a nice hotel stay out of it. His mate Michael Melia once played a Tereleptil. Alan Lake, head of the who-cares Vikings, was in Underworld.

BLAKE’S... 5, now that Blake and Jenna have gone.

2. Powerplay
By Terry Nation

Now that we’ve dropped the No More Blake bomb it’s time to get the rest of the band back together. Powerplay does this as busily as possible, but it’s a still a bit of a nothing episode when you stand back from it. Albeit a fun one.

Much to Avon’s chagrin, the Liberator is held by Federation Death Troopers, apparently led by a man named Tarrant. Avon and Dayna must get back control, but someone is murdering the troopers so they might as well just wait? Vila is wounded on a lush but primitive planet and is soon picked up by 1) primitives, then 2) apparently friendly women who feed him and take him to a nice hospital. The local primitives have nothing good to say about these ladies, but maybe they just don’t know better?

Cally has been picked up by a hospital ship which also picks up (wouldn’t you know it) Servalan. Pointed awkwardness ensues. Cally then ends up at the same place as (wouldn’t you know it) Vila, and it soon transpires they need to get away fast or lose their organs. Avon finds out the murderer on his ship is Tarrant, who’s secretly one of the... er... good guys, I guess? And before long the Troopers are gone, Vila and Cally are back, and Dayna and Tarrant get Liberator friendship bracelets. Servalan is technically powerless but she still has big plans. Servalan gonna Servalan.

We’re still settling into the scrappy post-big-space-fight world, what with displaced Federation heavies, Servalan sharing a room with Cally and no unified enemy. (The series has already included so many “neutral” worlds that the planet of the organ-pinchers is neither here nor there. EDIT: And we get another neutral one next week!) That messy sense of “now what?” adds something exciting to what is otherwise just a bunch of bits. However, Tarrant is an interesting addition, in that he’s more bloodthirsty than Blake. When you add Dayna, whose first impulse is always to knock people off, there seems a definite movement towards the anti and away from the hero.

As for the regulars, Avon’s long-held plan to win the Liberator isn’t going away just because of some lousy Death Troopers, and his determination here is pretty cool. He shares some fabulously grim lines with Dayna when they find a Trooper knifed to death: “That’s a difficult way to commit suicide.” “Maybe he was cleaning it and it went off.” Otherwise Vila lives it up very briefly and adds his usual comic flavour - in some ways his character is as limited as Jenna, but it’s a fun limit. Cally tries to use her telepathy with predictably pointless results. (What good is sending Vila a message if he can’t reply? Then again she seems to “hear” Vila’s discomfort, so maybe they’ve just decided she’s proper psychic now. They might as well. EDIT: No, next week it’s one-way again. Who knows.)

By the end we have a full complement on the Liberator again. Getting there was a lot of fun, but the real proof is seeing the new stuff in action. For that, next week.

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! Some literal back-stabbing but it’s Pat Gorman, it’s an occupational hazard. We just miss some organ removals.

WHO’S WHO: How long have you got? Michael Sheard, here uncharacteristically violent as a Death Trooper, guest starred pretty much through Who’s entire run. (Mainly Remembrance Of The Daleks and Pyramids Of Mars.) Fellow Trooper Max Faulkner was a UNIT troop / android in The Android Invasion. Bald alien John Hollis was in a Pertwee story (The Mutants), better known as Lobot in The Empire Strikes Back. His large mate Michael Crane played a large chap in The Monster Of Peladon. Primi Townsend (one of the lovely organ-gatherers) was in The Pirate Planet. Helen Blatch, the receptionist at the organ place, was in The Deadly Assassin and The Twin Dilemma. Pat Gorman shows up again!

BLAKE’S... 7! With the newbies joining (and remember the computers are included) it’s Avon, Tarrant, Dayna, Cally, Vila, Zen and Orac.

3. Volcano
By Allan Prior

It looks like the show has settled into its new normal. And, well, it’s quite a bit like the old one.

Tarrant and Dayna have only been here five minutes and they’re already going on missions! Dayna has some friends on the planet Obsidian who might join the cause. (Also Blake may have been spotted here. Don’t get excited, Gareth Thomas left. Why tease the audience?) However it turns out the people are total pacifists, so they’re of no help to a violent rebellion. I’m not sure why Dayna didn’t know this, as it’s not a new thing.

The Federation and, need you ask, Servalan are also buzzing around the planet, hoping to snatch the Liberator. They nearly do it as well, which is an unfortunate piece of repetition as well as being embarrassing for them. Can we go at least one episode without someone battering Avon’s crew and taking their stuff? It’s also getting a bit dull going back to “everybody wants the Liberator” as a plot device. And as for Servalan’s now weekly contributions, let’s just say she works better as an occasional treat. Like going out for dessert, if the dessert immediately tried to murder you.

While we’re discussing Servalan then: if you’re going to fragment the Federation, why act like you haven’t done that? She’s still got her servants and space fleets, and she seems to be auditioning replacements for Travis. (Ben Howard plays Mori, a much more subdued sort of heavy. But he ends up falling in a volcano. Back to the drawing board!) She does eventually figure out that with Blake out of the picture she can focus on other things for a bit - which is probably giving Blake too much credit - but at this point I doubt that’ll amount to anything new. Give me grey areas! Test existing loyalties! If you insist on making her a regular, at least stop doing the same stuff.

Anyway, the people on Obsidian have an uncanny habit of repelling the Federation and everyone else. Why is that? It turns out this is because they’re all living above a nuclear bomb which they’ll detonate, killing themselves, if people won’t leave them alone. (I’ll let you guess what happens at the end.) That and an active volcano makes Obsidian a pretty strange thing to fight over. You just wouldn’t go there. Keep it, lads. To make it even less appetising, the inhabitants are all dying of radiation poisoning, presumably because of the bomb. (They are weirdly reluctant to clarify this.) To make it even strangerthe people, led by Michael Gough, are so obsessed with pacifism that they electro shock their citizens to enforce it. Yikes.

Unfortunately for all the effort Allan Prior makes here, the episode isn’t really about these guys or examining said practises. At one point Mega Pacifist Gough gets sick of his son opting for rebellion and kills him. So, pacifism shmacifism? Don’t bother thinking about it as it’s nearly time for the inevitable bomb. Ideas are just sitting here in a heap. (Remember when they thought Blake was here? Anyone?) What’s the point of any of this, if Obsidian doesn’t also have some amazing advantage that you’d want to possess? This crummy planet, the dying people with their problematic ways, the big red suicide button all amounts to zilch.

So, they go to a place, it’s pointless. Servalan tries to steal the Liberator, nearly does it, then doesn’t. Oh, and Cally uses her telepathy again - hilariously no one warned Dayna and Tarrant about it. But no one else does anything noteworthy. The newbies more or less fill the roles Blake and Jenna would have had.

It’s all very disappointing. How are we in a rut already? Dear oh dear oh dear.

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! Some bloodless shooty deaths, and a not-great CSO fall into a volcano. You’ll cope.

WHO’S WHO: Michael Gough was Anneke Wills’s (less than stellar) husband, and also played The Celestial Toymaker and a dodgy Time Lord in Arc Of Infinity. Ben Howard played another heavy in The Green Death.

4. Dawn Of The Gods
By James Follett

Hey, a new writer! I wonder what bountiful rewards this will - ah no, it’s shit.

For about 15 minutes it looks like Dawn Of The Gods is going to be entirely set on the Liberator. By the end, it might as well have been. The ship is... going off course, or something? Cue lots of talking until they figure out 1) they’re heading into a black hole and 2) it’s Orac’s fault for wanting to study some interesting space phenomena and didn’t tell anyone. Someone must go outside for some reason and Vila draws the short straw; lucky for him (moments away from falling to his doom) they’re actually in some kind of cave which looks uncannily like a black, featureless sound stage. He still manages to get attacked and almost killed by an angry bumper car. Sure, why not.

Mercifully it turns out there are people here, one of whom is communicating with Cally telepathically. He is the Tharn, a figure from her childhood legends whose backstory she relates at questionable length and who sounds suspiciously like Omega from Doctor Who. (Angry big shot who taught powerful aliens everything they know is stuck in an antimatter universe, you haven’t heard the last of me etc etc.) When we meet him he looks suspiciously like one of the aliens from Colony In Space, also Doctor Who. (Big whoop alien turns out to be tiny but is massive of noggin.) At the end of the episode when the Liberator escapes the Tharn gets out as well, which um... can’t imagine anyone watching was desperate to see him again, but okay?

Forgive me for skipping to the end of the plot, but there’s not much else going on. Tarrant and Avon are kidnapped by the Tharn’s lackeys, who want to slice up the Liberator for scrap and make use of Orac. (The snag with the latter is that they don’t know who or what Orac is, and even with a magic truth stick they somehow fail to determine that he is a computer.) The lackeys offer the main point of interest here, not least because one of them is dressed like a magician in a top hat, the other like a croupier/accountant. Black set, random costumes, lengthy bits on the Liberator... seriously, who blew this week’s budget? One of them is at least interesting, in that he’s trapped here and longs to get back to his family. At the end when he has the opportunity to do just that, he stays. Why? Is blowing it up really more important than getting out? (Blake and co head off to give his regards to his family, which will take some doing without a name or address.)

Tarrant and Avon don’t exactly bond. To the extent that we know him, Tarrant is a man of action; take him away from people he can kill and he’s just a skinnier, posher Blake. Avon just looks bored. Dayna has the same fish-out-of-water problem as Tarrant. It should be a good one for Cally, what with her telepathic stalker, but she spends most of their conversations lying on a big rug. (Oh, there’s the budget. That rug guy saw you coming.) She eventually gets the better of the Tharn (and frees the Liberator) by asking him nicely to switch off his defences, which he then does. See why I’m not excited for a rematch?

Vila gets the best line when he wakes up after a crash and has double vision: “I’m in hell, and it’s full of Avons.” But otherwise this is a total dud. At best, it’s a meta experiment in what it would be like to get stuck in a black hole: no passage of time and nothing happening. Bravo.

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! Your kids will not sit through this.

WHO’S WHO: Terry Scully, the inexplicable accountant, was in The Seeds Of Death. Marcus Powell - the Tharn - was a slave in Destiny Of The Daleks.

5. The Harvest Of Kairos
By Ben Steed

Wow, we’re on quite the streak at the moment. This is terrible.

I just don’t get it. Remember the end of Series Two, with Avon in charge and the Federation crumbling against an alien threat and the old conflicts no longer seeming important - everything at stake? What the hell happened to all of that?

Five episodes into the next series and there’s no Federation (except for the bits of the Federation we still see almost every week), Servalan’s still the bad guy (except all she ever bloody wants is the Liberator) and despite banging on for two years about wanting the Liberator when Blake was done with it, Avon seems to have quietly passed control of it over to Tarrant. As for what the crew of the Liberator are up to nowadays, answers on a postcard. Last week it was board games and a trip to a black hole. This week they take up piracy. Can a quiet night in be far off?

The Harvest Of Kairos is by another new writer, and after last week’s debacle and now this shit-astrophe I’m wondering if those are really a good idea. Ben Steed for some reason goes all in on Tarrant: Tarrant is the famed leader of the Liberator, oh yes, it’s Tarrant Servalan must contend with. And this is based on what, exactly? She has no on screen history with him. He didn’t noticeably exist half a dozen episodes ago, and has done cock all since. My only thought here is that they (or Ben Steed) felt they had to literally replace Gareth Thomas, but seeing as they’d been inadvertently building up Avon to do exactly that, and you only need to watch the end of Series 2 to see it in action... well, they’re off their heads. Tarrant is going nowhere as a character so far, whereas Paul Darrow has consistently been the most watchable thing in the show. A dim chicken could tell you which one is the lead. Avon, though, spends this episode either standing on the sidelines or nattering on about intelligent rocks. They can’t even make a thing about how he’s playing second fiddle since there’s no working relationship or even antagonism between him and Tarrant, besides one line suggesting the other guy is getting a little full of himself. The two characters just boringly co-exist.

Impressively though, the Has The Writer Even Seen This Show Award for bad characterisation doesn’tgo to either of the Liberator’s would-be captains: it’s Servalan. Her now tedious obsession with the Liberator would be bad enough, especially since the last time we saw her she said she had time to go off and do something else since Blake was no longer around. On hearing that an underling talked smack about her behind her back, she calls him up to have a look at him, and he forces a snog on her... and she likes it, spending the rest of the episode either in googly-eyed thrall of him or terrified of his swaggering machismo. What the remote fuck? This is Servalan, yes? Famously the biggest and baddest and-yes-okay-sexiest force in the Federation? I’m amazed Jacqueline Pearce made it through the episode without wandering off set in bewilderment.

As for said dazzling example of manliness, Jarvik ostensibly seems like another have-a-go Travis, except he somehow ends up calling the shots. This might not seem too surprising given that he for-real-this-time captures the Liberator, though in the first of numerous howlingly bad directing choices, we don’t see that bit. (Other dodgy moments include some confusing continuity and Jarvik’s hilarious death, when a gunshot meant for Dayna hits him by seemingly-impossible accident.) He overpowers seemingly all of Tarrant’s gang - which we should probably call them at least for this episode, as they cower helplessly at a safe distance. Has two years of fighting the Federation taught them nothing? They can’t defeat one large but not particularly muscular bloke wearing (for no apparent reason) one of Blake’s outfits? They need Tarrant-whoever-that-is to do all their fighting for them? Absolutely no one walks away from this episode a stronger character.

Anyway, in the end Avon uses one his magic rocks (I bet you thought that wasn’t going anywhere!) to trick Servalan into abandoning the Liberator, putting yet another nail in her reputation. Cheers everyone, good work. Here’s hoping she finds another hobby at last.

Anything to recommend? Well, there’s a random moon lander type thing that the gang uses to get back to the Liberator. That looks pretty good. There’s a fairly complex-looking giant insect monster that, despite their obvious efforts, looks like a bloke with a bad case of worms. That’s hilarious. And there’s a bit where Avon observes, not without reason, that his new favourite rock is smarter than any of the people he knows. But this technically innocuous episode still manages to make the Liberator’s crew look like complete idiots, Servalan a misogynist parody and the show an aimless mess. Utter, utter bollocks.

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! The whole episode is harmful.

WHO’S WHO: Andrew Burt (Jarvik) was in Terminus. Frank Gatliff, one of those Federation people who totally don’t exist any more, was in The Monster Of Peladon. Andrew Gardner, here capturing the Liberator entirely offscreen, was in The Macra Terror.

6. City At The Edge Of The World
By Chris Boucher

Good episode, good episode! I can hardly believe it. We should have a parade.

Still, it gets off to a fairly annoying start, with Tarrant throwing his entirely unearned weight around by ordering Vila to go on a mission. Again I’m wondering who the hell this guy thinks he is. Is he supposed to be charming because he’s really plummy? Vila crumbles and goes down to a planet where his temporary services, in theory, will earn the Liberator some crystals they need. Naturally it’s a trap and, in theory, they were never going to get Vila back. 

There follows a lovely scene where Avon makes it very clear who’s in charge and that if Tarrant keeps acting like a spoilt birthday boy, he’s dead meat. It’s almost worth having Tarrant act like this if it means underlining the good stuff about Avon. Hopefully he’ll properly take command soon; even Dayna thinks the twatty newcomer needs putting in his place.

Meanwhile, Vila has been conscripted to break into a vault. A gang of criminals are responsible, and not the Boring Feudal Society In Space Of The Week locals after all. The gang is led by Bayban the Butcher and bloody hell, it’s Colin Baker! And bloody hell, he’s great! Not exactly a shy type when playing Doctor Who, he’s a well oiled scenery-chewing machine as the bad guy here, armed with lots of sharp dialogue. The script is quite witty in general, which makes it all the better that it’s a Vila-heavy episode.

And that’s probably the best bit. Vila’s been in the show from the start, and while his snarky comments are funny, they’re usually all he ever gets to do. In this one he doesn’t seem too fazed by his kidnap, being more interested in applying his skills to the vault. He considers the designer to be his opponent, who he also admires, and takes loads of pride in the whole thing. It’s refreshing to stop and make light of what a character is actually good at, especially one as underdeveloped as Vila.

He also noticeably strikes up a romance with one of Bayban’s crew, Kerril. There’s a definite whiff of contrivance here to move it along: Vila and Kerril eventually get through the door and find themselves in a spaceship with limited air, and decide not unreasonably to sleep together. (When Vila later notices they still have air, Kerril observes that they’ll have to die “of exhaustion” instead of suffocation!) From there - the ship having landed - they find a world and consider living on it. Yes, all of this is very sudden and rushed, and Kerril certainly trades in some of her badassery the moment she inexplicably changes out of the threatening leather into a dress. But Michael Keating and Carol Hawkins manage some real chemistry, and Boucher’s script puts them on a similar page. I buy it.

There’s not a lot else going on. Avon and co must rescue Vila (with a rightly shamed Tarrant in tow), but they get some decent lines en route. Dayna also shows off a remote control bomb on wheels, which suggests untapped talents. Eventually it turns out the people here were always intended to reach another world via this spaceship, and the only thing in the vault was a teleport pad. Boucher overthinks this a bit, because welcome to Boucher: the ship is designed to accept and then kill people smart enough to get into the vault if the ship hasn’t landed yet. Why bother? And the planet they reach is, apart from having the crystals the Liberator needs, a complete dump that looks like a cheap recreation of the moon. The handful of people would be better off where they are. But hey, it’s sort of a cool idea, particularly the vault door not being a real door at all, but a forcefield.

Like many obsessive baddies, Bayban goes back for what must be untold riches and ends up destroying himself. Pity, I’d welcome another episode with Colin. Vila loses Kerril, but she gets to go and live on “Vilaworld” (as they dub it during their brief honeymoon). Avon gets his crystals.

A slightly too complicated (but still satisfying) plot, a great villain of the week, and good material for the whole crew, especially one who’s been lacking it. City At The Edge Of The World doesn’t do much for the overall malaise of Series Three, but bloody hell, I’ll take it.

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! For a criminal of such infamy, Bayban doesn’t do anything too violent.

WHO’S WHO: Colin! And Valentine Dyall, aka the Black Guardian, who inevitably uses his booming voice for the recording on the spaceship. He’s also one of the aliens.

7. Children Of Auron
By Roger Parkes

Mixed feelings about this one. There are some hugely dramatic moments in it, but good grief, do we REALLY need to see Servalan go after the Liberator again? This relentless and tedious obsession makes the galaxy, and the show’s whole remit seem roughly the size of two spaceships. Get a life, Servalan.

To be fair, she has another motive in this one: she wants to clone herself. (Probably reasoning that half a dozen Servalans might hold onto the Liberator for more than ten minutes.) To this end she tracks down the planet Auron, famed for its cloning powers, and infects an incoming pilot with an alien plague. This promptly infects the entire planet - take that, Covid! Servalan’s ship arrives to offer miraculous (but limited) aid, and the clones are her price. It’s a decent scheme, but I’m surprised she bothered with the subterfuge. She’s mean enough to just demand the clones and withhold any help until she gets them.

Meanwhile one of the clone scientists is Cally’s twin Zelda, who summons her help. (This cuts off a weirdly specific plot where Avon wants to go to Earth and take revenge for Anna Grant, the girl we found out about in Series Two. Why do that all of a sudden? Oh well, maybe next week.) The Liberator arrives and weirdly doesn’t notice Servalan’s ship. Zen and/or Orac must be slacking, but to make up for it they easily (off-screen) come up with a cure for the plague. That’s one of those throwaway bits that makes me wonder if Orac could be put to grander use than the show’s random attack missions.

What follows is a fairly action-y runaround where Servalan wants to baggsey the Liberator, almost dies it (again), takes hostages, loses them, and ends up firing on the planet hoping to kill the crew once and for all. She’s convinced by a guard to blow up the cloning chamber and her progeny, after he tells her another guard swapped out the DNA for his own. (He’s lying to spite the other guy, who passed him over for promotion.) When the place blows, she feels the death of the foetuses - I guess they were born psychic? - and promptly kills both guards on the spot. It’s a genuinely horrifying moment. I almost hope it informs her character going forward, but it probably won’t.

Speaking of psychic links, more or less the same thing happens to Cally after Zelda refuses to teleport up, so she can stabilise the clone babies. (Admirable but stupid, given the whole reason they’re evacuating is that Servalan is destroying the place.) Cally feels Zelda’s death, and it’s a chilling moment for the character we know, but the episode doesn’t do anything to establish Zelda, who seems a bit one-note. It also doesn’t back-fill Cally as a character all that much. We learn a few facts, but it’s not like City At The Edge Of The World where the story was tailored to Vila. Cally has a psychic conversation for once, but other than that and Zelda’s death, it’s business as usual.

After all that horror, the episode ends with that old TV traditions of ending on a joke to defuse the tension. This would be horribly inappropriate even if it wasn’t badly done, but the thing Avon says to trigger it isn’t especially funny. It’s an amazingly bad ending.

On the whole, it left me a bit cold. I suspect it’s one of those episodes people hold up solely for a few good bits.

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! Plague boils and psychic deaths are pretty nasty indeed.

WHO’S WHO: The doomed pilot is Michael son-of-Patrick Troughton, absolutely wasted here. Head of Auron, Ronald Leigh-Hunt was in The Seeds Of Death and Revenge Of The Cybermen. Servalan’s right-hand-man-of-the-week Rio Fanning was in Horror Of Fang Rock.

8. Rumours Of Death
By Chris Boucher

It’s all kicking off here! We start partway through the action, a trick that has enhanced a fair few Doctor Who stories: Avon has been captured and is visited by Shrinker, the man who tortured Anna Grant to death. Only, it’s a trap! Tarrant and Dayna arrive and now Shrinker is theirs. Avon plans to exact information, then revenge.

Meanwhile on Earth, revolution is proceeding independently of the Liberator.  Sula, a high-ranking official in the Federation, turns on her husband and leads some rebels in official garb to hunt for Servalan. Soon Avon has Shrinker alone, and he’s adamant he never met Anna Grant. Avon gets the name of someone responsible - Bartholomew - and leaves Shrinker to starve to death or shoot himself in a cave. Well, no one ever accused Avon of being sentimental.

By now the viewer will have noticed (thanks to flashbacks) that Sula and Anna are the same. I slightly wish they hadn’t done that, as it does suggest where the plot is going. But anyway, Sula/Anna captures Servalan. Seriously, these guys are running rings around Blake and co. They could teach this stuff.

Avon confronts Servalan demanding to know who Bartholomew is, and soon finds out: it was Anna all along, using Avon to keep her political aims a secret. (I think? I’m a little hazy to be honest.) Inevitably, he shoots her. He escapes a presumably broken man.

Heavy, isn’t it? And not just for Avon: Servalan has a pretty rough time of it, somehow bonding with Avon during their well written and intense scenes in the cellar. He lets her go and she tries to kill him anyway, but you sense they enjoy circling each other too much to ever go through with it.

It’s one of Chris Boucher’s best scripts, really highlighting the grey areas of this world. There are two Federation men observing a lot of the action, bickering like a Robert Holmes double act, and after we grow to like them they’re shot. The rebels dress like Federation men. Sula/Anna, ostensibly a bigger hero than Blake, betrayed her lover, then her Federation husband, then Avon again. Avon and co inadvertently leave Servalan back in charge, despite the rebellion being in the black for once. Even Shrinker has a history of swapping sides. This kind of stuff is what makes the show interesting, and I wish there was more of it.

It’s satisfying to pick up on a thread established in the last series; character development for Avon is always a gift and Paul Darrow is predictably great with it. There’s not a lot else to say really. It’s strong stuff. Poor Avon.

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! Servalan’s bruised and bartered face at the end is pretty grim.

WHO’S WHO: David Haig, looking fluffy and cherubic here, is best known for The Thin Blue Line and The Thick Of It. He was also in The Leisure Hive. Avon’s nemesis, John Bryans, was in The Creature From The Pit. Donald Douglas was in The Sontaran Experiment. Philip Bloomfield was in The Keeper Of Traken.

9. Sarcophagus
By Tanith Lee

Female writer alert! And Sarcophagus is a fittingly memorable one.

In the first place, it’s bloody weird. We begin with a long-ish, dream sequence-ish funeral procession where aliens in a room use various psi-powers...ish... stuff. Look, there’s a scene, okay. Moving on, the Liberator finds another ship in space and it’s calling to Cally. She’s still reeling from the loss of her home world and, unspoken though it is here, her sister. Avon - who went through his own loss with Anna - seems closer to her now. An investigative mission is cut short when the ship threatens to explode, and Cally only just pulls Avon and Vila out in time, having salvaged a piece of equipment first. The object is inevitably a source of trouble; Cally soon finds herself in a coma and a spectre that looks like her haunts and attacks the crew.

Much of this cuts between the crew as normal and them dressed in mourners’ robes back on the alien ship. At one point there’s a musical interlude where Dayna sings a song - though she’s off screen at the time so it’s hard to know if it’s diegetic. Much of what happens in Sarcophagus is possibly not real. Rather than being infuriating, this is spooky, particularly as the Liberator malfunctions and the always steadfast Zen starts talking funny. It’s amazing how much atmosphere you can get from just dimming the lights.

It all comes down to Avon and not-Cally, a being the drains life force and takes things over, but hasn’t reckoned on its link with Cally. The being can’t bring itself to kill Avon; shippers can no doubt fill in the blanks. He goes in for a kiss in order to prise off a ring Cally took from the ship, which is its source of power. Later, after the broken creature fades away rather sadly, Avon and Cally share some significant looks. Paul Darrow and Jan Chappell are incredible here. Pretty much off their backs, it’s beginning to feel like Series Three is actually going somewhere.

There are moments when it threatens to get too weird or silly, but Sarcophagus keeps it in check. Besides, Blake’s 7 should be allowed a little inexplicability now and again, and certainly some unspoken character building. And we get some that’s spoken, as they finally stop arsing about and canonise the idea that Cally is a full psychic... now and again. Also, more importantly, Avon and Tarrant finally discuss the elephant in the room, which is who really runs the ship. I wonder if Tarrant knows that nobody watching the show has any doubts.

Great stuff, anyway. Come again Tanith Lee.

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! There are some mouldy skeleton.

WHO’S WHO: Val Clover, one of the weird alien mourners at the start, was in Full Circle.

10. Ultraworld
By Trevor Hoyle

Meh. Just some space shit innit.

After really enjoying City At The Edge Of The World and Sarcophagus, it seems hypocritical to complain that an episode is self-contained and has nothing to do with story arcs. And yet that’s a problem with Ultraworld: it’s just a sci-fi-of-the-week, with no relevance to anything else. You could easily skip it. As to what those other episodes had that this one doesn’t, that’s easy: they serviced the characters. Ultraworld is just a Star Trek-ish thing that happens to the Liberator. (And anyway, the story arcs are mainly dead in the water at this point. Blake’s 7 might as well BE Star Trek.)

So anyway, they find an artificial planet. It has some kind of effect on Cally. (Really? This again, so soon?) She teleports over, probably under duress. The rest of the gang except Vila go to rescue her, only to find a planet-sized computer obsessed with gathering knowledge. (This, too, feels like a repeat of the last episode, but it’s a much more literal take on alien-thing-that-absorbs-people.)

There’s no conflict here beyond the obvious. The blue-skinned “Ultras” want to drain the smartest people and use the rest for manual labour. (Tarrant, hilariously, is in the latter category.) They obfuscate this at first, but then start draining Avon in earnest. Dayna and Tarrant must put a stop to it. But at one point, the Ultras want to record these two having sex because they don’t have that process in their records. (What, not anywhere?!) This scene is noteworthy for seeming even more bizarre than anything in Sarcophagus. Whatever floats your boat, guys.

At least Vila enjoys himself: he’s busy teaching Orac riddles, jokes and rhymes, which ultimately confuses Ultraworld enough to get them out of there. Cally meanwhile spends the episode mostly asleep. Tarrant seems a little less of a dick after confronting Avon last week; I’m not sure if that’s the end of that as far as the leadership contest goes.

And I’m out of things to say. Ultraworld is an episode that exists. I doubt you’ll hate it. You don’t need to find out.

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! There’s a big gloopy brain spitting green stuff everywhere, but kids are gross.

WHO’S WHO: Stephen Jenn was in Nightmare Of Eden. Hugh Cecil popped up in The Dalek Masterplan, The War Machines and The Silurians. Tex Fuller did stunts in The Masque Of Mandragora. Ridgewell Hawkes was in Warriors Of The Deep. Reg Woods was in State Of Decay.

11. Moloch
By Ben Steed

All right: who watched The Harvest Of Kairos and said, yes that’s good, let’s have that writer back? Sure enough, Moloch includes great ugly gobs of misogyny. But it’s mostly just boring and pointless as an episode, not actively offensive. Hooray I suppose.

The Liberator is chasing Servalan. I’ve no idea why, since the last time we saw her they’d inadvertently put her back in power. Her ship disappears, having found a planet that is completely shielded from view. (They go on about this at length but ultimately it doesn’t matter.) They go in after her, but to do this Vila and Tarrant must first sneak about a Federation troop carrier. (Again, it seems like a big deal but they never quite explain why. TL;DR, everybody goes to the planet. Just get on with it.) Aboard the carrier Vila makes a friend, Doran, who in all probability is a serial rapist and murderer. The cheeky chappy!

The planet is seemingly staffed by women - uh oh - and run by a computer named Moloch. Some thoroughly unpleasant Federation men have made themselves at home here and summoned Servalan. The planet houses a machine for perfectly replicating matter, which would be awesome enough on its own, but their specific plan is to duplicate the knowledge of a great pilot and copy Servalan’s flagship with that installed so anyone can fly it. Who cares, quite frankly; I wasn’t aware that Servalan’s ship was the best thing in space. (That’s the Liberator, surely?) It’s marginally more interesting that Servalan’s forces are in the minority, and the thoroughly grubby Section Leader Grose wants to take over. Series Three has  seriously phoned in the difference between Federation-at-full-strength and Federation-in-tatters, so it’s nice to make something of that for once. I could have done without Servalan being chained up “for the men” as punishment - and she’s the second woman in the episode to be “given to the men” - but by all accounts, she doesn’t actually get raped, so er, I guess all is forgiven?

As for the misogyny, the instant takeover of what on the face of it is a planet run by women speaks for itself, as does that gleeful punishment of women by men. You might well argue that these are bad people and we’re not supposed to see this behaviour and think, this is good and I approve - villains gonna villain, after all, shouldn’t they be reprehensible? But it’s interesting that these examples of villaindom keep occurring to this writer. And don’t forget Doran, who takes Vila for a go on the chained-up Servalan, so he must be terrible, right? Except he’s essentially painted as a good guy by the end, and Vila’s sad when he dies. Amazingly, this could all be worse: in Ben Steed’s last opus, Servalan likedbeing treated like garbage by men. I’m sure there are some who will argue that her consistent annoyance here, and a bit where she kills a potential rapist with a rock, is progress. We’ll be giving her the vote next.

Back to the episode: after Vila chooses sportingly not to have his way with her, he lets Servalan go and they briefly work together. Then she escapes, largely off screen - odd choice, and it’s interesting that she doesn’t try to seize the matter replicator first, but I can’t blame her for sodding off. And here’s where things get... well, interesting is the wrong word. Moloch, it turns out, is an evolutionary experiment: a replicated being that’s 2 million years further along than a human. Needless to say he’s hideous and he wants to possess the Liberator. (Oh whatever, most people do.) But he dies the instant he teleports out of his computer chair, and that’s that. Fascinating. Grose and co seem to have been dealt with and, apart from Avon cleverly using it to restock some teleport bracelets, no one is ultimately bothered about the replicators. Great. The Liberator departs, but not before finding Servalan in hot pursuit. Will she attempt, for the five thousandth time, to steal the Liberator? Oh what excitement awaits.

It’s a nothingy runaround with added unpleasantness. Please stop asking this guy back.

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! Rape threats top the bill, but there’s a seriously freaky body in a tank.

WHO’S WHO: Doran is Davyd Harries, who was in The Armageddon Factor. Moloch is Deep Roy, aka Mr Sin in The Talons Of Weng-Chiang. Stuart Fell, perennial Who stuntman, is one of the guards.

12. Death-Watch
By Chris Boucher

Hunger Games, anyone? Chris Boucher’s got his ideas hat on this week, and rattles off a dystopian sci-fi scenario that will sound familiar now.

Somewhat breaking continuity with the last episode, where the crew were once again on the run from Servalan, this one finds Vila suggesting they all have a nice rest. He suggests - for some reason - a nearby region that has just declared war. The “restful” bit is that spectators are encouraged, and are afforded neutral status; the “war” is really two combatants who fight to the death, and have their experiences relayed to everyone watching via a mind link. It’s a funny form of entertainment, but then it’s a solid satire. (The only bit I don’t get is that Vila’s “rest” ends up being strictly within the confines of the Liberator’s flight deck. Not exactly shore leave, is it?)

One of the combatants is Tarrant’s brother. (Wouldn’t you know it, they’re identical twins. Bit Children-Of-Auron, isn’t it?) And the “neutral arbiter” of the fight is Servalan. This might seem a strange use of her time until Avon et al figure out she’s planning to somehow violate the rules, thus triggering a real war and using the resulting chaos to claw back some power. This is a nicely subtle use of the ongoing “Servalan/the Federation ain’t what it used to be” idea, and it’s just as subtle that Avon’s “resistance” is to make sure no one kicks off in the first place and the fight goes as planned, leaving her with nothing. It’s all a bit more Cold War than we’re used to in Blake’s 7, but at least it’s a kind of rebellion against a kind of Federation, and isn’t yet another attempt of Servalan’s to steal you-know-what. This time last series events were actually building to something, so I’ll take any rebellion plot I can get.

Not-Tarrant is a little too nice to shoot his opponent in the back, and not long after that he’s killed. Tarrant feels his death by mind link. (That’s another bit of Children Of Auron. You’re slacking, Chris!) Orac figures out Servalan’s wheeze: the opponent was an android, so there was no way not-Tarrant could have won. (Apart from shooting him in the back. D’oh!) Once that is discovered, it’s war! So the gang swoop in, Tarrant demands a rematch and wins. (Even though he, too, is uncharacteristically squeamish about shooting him in the back.) Vaporising the android leaves Servalan with nothing. And unlike something like Doctor Who, where the whole Hunger Games business would surely come under scrutiny or be dismantled, Avon and Tarrant leave them to it at the end.

The whole thing’s very neatly put together, even if it does all feel a bit like small potatoes. The satirical stuff works like gangbusters, particularly a bit where the fight newscaster bitches off-screen at his director. The direction is frequently excellent, particularly some snazzy camera angles during the face off with not-Tarrant. And the cast seem to be enjoying themselves; I wasn’t bowled over by Stephen Pacey’s other Tarrant, but actual Tarrant seems more defined by all this. Avon and Servalan share a scene where flirtation and a kiss seem to come naturally at this point. It’s a strange little relationship they’re having.

Chris Boucher has become the go-to guy for Blake’s 7, and Death-Watch is another good one. At this point I think my issues are more with this series as a whole. What exactly are we building up to? Find out next week...

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! Not-Tarrant’s POV death is pretty grim.

WHO’S WHO: Not-Tarrant’s friend Max is Stewart Bevan, who was Jo Grant’s husband. The newscaster, David Sibley, was in The Pirate Planet.

13. Terminal
By Terry Nation

Well, Series Three did go somewhere.

Avon is behaving strangely, following a mysterious signal and refusing to answer any questions. The Liberator’s course takes it through some random space goo and then to the artificial planet Terminal. (Not to be confused with the artificial planet Ultraworld.) He transports down there alone, and promises to kill anyone who follows him. Naturally, Tarrant and Cally follow at a distance.

Avon finds, as well as some aggressive and aggressively shit-looking gorilla monsters, an underground medical facility that has been working on (wait for it) Blake. It’s Blake’s signal he’s been following, and uncharacteristically for this series (wait for it) Blake is bloody there as well! Paralysed by awake, he has some good news to share with Avon, but it’ll have to wait. The sinister medical orderlies get hold of Avon, who from our perspective seems to be cutting between his visit to Blake and unconsciousness in a lab. Something’s amiss here.

And just as you’re starting to think we’ve got away with it, yes, Servalan is here. Of course she bloody is. And it was a trap. Of course it bloody was. She has brought Avon here under false pretences so she can take the Liberator. Of course she bloody has.

Avon, despite the seemingly reasonable offer of Blake in return, orders the Liberator to go, knowing it’ll mean both their deaths. But there’s no need, as they have no intention of leaving orbit and actually go along with Servalan’s request, making sure to take Orac before they close up the shop. She has one final twist of the knife: Blake isn’t here, he’s dead, and Avon’s meeting was an illusion. (Of course it bloody etc.) And off she goes triumphant.

Well, not quite. The random space goo from earlier has been eating into the Liberator’s hull. It’s more than the ship’s spooky regenerative powers can handle, so Servalan has actually inherited a broken ship. When she tries to break orbit - having somehow failed to spot all the gloop and rot everywhere - the Liberator explodes. Servalan is last seen possibly teleporting out of there; of course etc etc.

There’s much about all this that is just plain obvious, and yet it works as a kind of inevitable tragedy. The whole sentence of events pivots on Avon acting out of heroism: he wants to rescue Blake (not discounting Blake’s plan to get rich, of course), and he wants to protect the crew from any potential trap by telling them nothing. It’s presumably this foolhardiness that makes him blind to risks like the random space goo, and ends up costing them the Liberator. But the joke’s on Servalan too, as her hell-bent fixation has resulted in a dead ship and a lot of wasted effort. (Naturally it is hopeless to think it’ll cost her life as well.) Avon and Servalan make more compelling nemeses than when Blake was in the equation, and their shared misfortunes seem apt here. Avon, at least, smiles at the end.

What does it all mean for Blake’s 7? A new ship, probably, and a change of tack for Servalan. She really will have to get a life now. I hope the latest shake up puts the next series on a stronger path; Series Three has had tremendous high points but, overall, it’s been a lot of wiffwaff. 

Terminal is a strong closer, and if not particularly big on fresh ideas - such as the gorilla people being hyper-evolved humans, which directly repeats and contradicts a recent episode - it at least puts them in a satisfying character context. Paul Darrow does wonders as the steadily more broken Avon, whose faith is then redeemed at the end. And Michael Keating gets maximum pathos out of Zen’s breakdown; acting your heart out against a giant babbling LED light is nothing to sniff at. Series Three, if nothing else, made the most of the Liberator.

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! One of Servalan’s lackeys gets sucked into space.

WHO’S WHO: Just Stuart Fell, from the looks of it!

BLAKE’S... 6. Alas, Zen.

Blake's 7: Series Two


I didn't mean to leave it 3-and-a-bit years before reviewing the rest of Blake's 7 – Series One is here – and to make matters worse, I watched and reviewed them all at the time! But my laptop crapped out when trying to get screenshots for Series 2/B, 3/C, 4/D (see how I accommodate The Letter People), and I didn't want to post more reviews bare-bones.

But I'll be posting a bunch of Doctor Who book reviews soon, so it's now or never! Maybe I'll go back in and add in more screenshots later.



Change is coming, slowly but surely. In Series Two (or B), Blake’s 7 puts some work into what kind of show it wants to be. What are the crew of the Liberator for? What, in an ongoing TV show, are the stakes? The writing staff begins to vary. The cast as well – sometimes with dramatic effect. Now and again the series plays with tone, suggesting that a world mostly comprised of bad (or morally grey) guys needn’t be straight laced. Some of the show’s bad habits persist, but the highs are higher. And away we go...

1. Redemption
by Terry Nation

If you were wondering who built the Liberator and why it was just lying about for Blake to find, you are... sort of in luck?

An attack by unidentified ships leads to the Liberator suddenly refusing to cooperate. (And Zen cooperating... slightly less than usual.) There’s nothing they can do to avoid being captured by – it turns out - the people who built the Liberator. They want it back. And they’re roughly as pleasant as the Federation.

This is long overdue. It’s always been criminally convenient that this ship was just sitting there, and they missed a trick making it so easy to control. An episode where the ship starts rejecting the new crew like a dodgy skin graft would have made more sense in the first series, but it’s still creepy and alarming watching doors shut on them, computers refusing to help, controls moving by themselves. What did they expect? It’s not their ship, they’re just squatters.

Once we meet the people who built the Liberator (sorry, it’s all I can think to call them) and are taken aboard their space station it becomes a pretty standard quest to escape again. They never really go into the specifics of why this ship was there, but we do find out a little about... the people who built the Liberator (god damn it) i.e. they are controlled by computers and they have slaves. One of the slaves helps them make a run for it, and (partly thanks to Orac making it harder to control the Liberator) the station is heavily damaged, while the Liberator escapes. I’m assuming we just won’t hear from... those people who did that thing... again.

The episode is at its strongest with the creepy malfunctions. It’s exciting to see the-people-who-did-you-know-what take over the Liberator so easily - like the introduction of Travis, it’s a raising of the stakes - but we don’t find out anything that’s likely to be an ongoing concern for the series, so it’s pretty much all action from there. An impressively large (and suspiciously familiar) gasworks doubles for the space station; several explosions boom rather impressively in all that space!

There’s little for the characters to do, though there are moments where the tension between Blake and Avon is escalated, particularly at the end when Blake decides to head back to Earth. The most memorable thing about the cast is that they have inexplicable and mostly horrible new outfits. Blake has massive sleeves, Gan and Cally are nearly falling over their coats, Avon looks like he’s into S&M now. Gan, at least, has finally figured out how to rough people up without getting a limiter-hernia.

Oh, and there’s Orac. At the start we find Blake obsessing over Orac’s prediction that the Liberator will be destroyed. Orac says it’s immutable. Blake and Avon have some interesting discussions about fate and determinism, but Orac refuses to give them more details as it might throw off the prediction. (Huh? Why is it so important that the prediction happens? Maybe it’s part of Orac’s personality/ego, and he needs to be right?) Anywho, at the end of the episode another Liberator-style ship pursues them and that one blows up. So it was a prediction about an unrelated ship all along. Ergo, a copout. Was Orac keeping shtum because he knew he’d need to be the one to blow it up, and if he told them anything more it might work against them? Or was he just trolling them? Because for all the good it did, he might as well not have said anything.

It’s an interesting start to Series 2, or just about: some good ideas and a bit of atmosphere. And on reflection this plot works well as a second series premiere, as it’s a clearing of the decks: no need to keep wondering who made the ship, so let’s move on to new things. Just maybe don’t scrutinise it.

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! Blake is tasered in the throat by one of his own weapons, and later he and a slave attack two people in the same way - possibly killing them? We also see a smear of blood on a wall, though to be fair it is a bit too purple to convince.

WHO’S WHO: Slave Roy Evans did a few Whos but is mostly recognisable as Bert, the friendly but doomed coal miner in The Green Death. Computerised villains Harriet Philbin and Shiela Ruskin have both appeared, one as a Thal in Genesis Of The Daleks, the other as Nyssa’s stepmother in The Keeper Of Traken.

2. Shadow
By Chris Boucher

New writer, new writer! Thank god.

It’s not that Terry Nation is a bad writer. He started this series off with a bang and those were the best episodes yet, but he can be very workmanlike. Given enough episodes it’s clear he has a pretty limited imagination for sci-fi, yet ironically the grim dystopia that was the basis for Blake’s 7 has slipped away in favour of weekly SF runarounds. Chris Boucher, also late of the Doctor Who parish, joins the ranks here and things immediately get more interesting.

Blake wants some help against the Federation, and has in mind the Terra Nostra: as the name suggests, space gangsters. We see one operating against a couple of “dream heads” - people addicted to the drug Shadow. Largo is mocking and cruel to the two of them, but they turn the tables. As they go to plan their escape, we glimpse the Liberator through a window. Soon a meeting is arranged, although having met Largo it’s hard to believe that’ll pan out.

The direction and dialogue is all just a bit fizzier. The scene with Largo has a certain quickness and cruelty; the introduction of the Liberator is wittily done; Gan challenges Blake on getting into bed with real gangsters and then Blake questions whether they can be choosy, suddenly seeming less of a goodie-two-shoes Robin Hood; Jenna has witty repartee with Avon and it doesn’t seem out of place; Avon, at all turns, remains caustic and intelligent; Cally actually finds a use for her telepathy, using it to get Blake out of a tight spot with Largo. The only one worse for wear here is Vila, whose sudden desperation to go on a space bender leaves Orac hidden away and the ship potentially endangered. Has he really gone that long without a hard drink and an easy lay? What a liability. To say nothing of Orac who, it seems, has his own dangerous agenda. (What is it with supercomputers?!)

Blake agrees to take the two Shadow addicts with him and, when it turns out the Terra Nostra aren’t amenable (shocker), he decides to go right to the heart of Shadow production and use it as leverage. Again, he’s questioned about the morality of doing this. It’s great to have Blake’s 7 if not outright doing bad things, at least having conversations about them.

While all this is going on, something’s wrong with Cally. When she went looking for Orac she was trapped in a mental prison by him. Chris Boucher clearly finds her telepathy interesting which, well, it’s about time someone did, and these scenes are almost pleasantly baffling. Orac, psychic? What?

Arriving at the Shadow homeworld - the drug being derived from vaguely telepathic “discs” that move about on its surface - Blake, Avon and Jenna teleport to the surface (all in Luke Skywalker cosplay because um?) looking to create havoc. I’m still not exactly sure what the plan was, but while this happens Cally seems to break free of Orac and gets to the surface. The Shadow discs have been helping her; some kind of psychic life form has infiltrated Orac, and together they stop it, narrowly avoiding the crash of the Liberator along the way. Unaware of this, Blake and co. find evidence that the Terra Nostra are working with the Federation. (You can’t trust anyone these days.) Plan thoroughly ruined, he lets one of the addicts (his sister having been killed by the Orac-creature) destroy the Shadow discs, harming the Terra Nostra and the Federation. Cally is keeping one disc as a form of psychic support - which makes it all the more unpleasant that Blake had the rest destroyed. (Morally grey, or just an oversight?)

I mean, well. There’s a lot going on, isn’t there? This story is perhaps the most densely packed of the series so far, chucking out ideas all the time. They don’t entirely work, in all fairness: there’s no dramatic way to explain what’s happening to Cally so she just has to info-dump it at the end, and it still sounds like bollocks. (Worse, the Cally plot feels incidental to the main one about the Terra Nostra.) Having the ship refuse to cooperate is creepy, but we literally had that last week, so it’s less effective. And the two addicts don’t really contribute to the story beyond showing us what Shadow does - and one of them isn’t even on it!

But having a new writer makes a huge difference to the tone, and it feels like we’re once again getting a grasp on what this crew does and what it’s all for. There’s room for improvement, but it’s still a welcome kick up the arse.

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! One of the addicts is electrocuted (I think?), and the Cally mind-prison sequences are freaky.

WHO’S WHO: Addict Adrienne Burgess appeared in The Sun Makers, alongside Michael Keating, and prolific movie actor Vernon Dobtcheff was in Troughton’s swan song, The War Games. He’s a suitably menacing Federation figure here, carrying out a vid-conference while feeding his (space?) spider.

3. Weapon
By Chris Boucher

Hmm. It’s only been two episodes but I’m noticing a pattern with Chris Boucher: he’s got lots of ideas and isn’t great at organising them.

In Weapon a man (Coser) escapes from a Federation weapons facility with IMIPAK, something Servalan wants to get her hands on. (And before you say it, no, it’s not another smug supercomputer.) Blake and co. hear about the breakout and also want to find out what’s so great about IMIPAK - though by a strange coincidence, Coser wants Blake to have it anyway. He spends the rest of the episode waiting to get in touch with the Liberator, hanging around with a rescued slave and apparently going mad, carping and complaining the whole time. This is when he isn’t extolling the virtues of IMIPAK, and saying IMIPAK so many times you’d think some townspeople were going to appear and sing their version of the Monorail song. It’s a strange choice to have this new character just sit there, sucking up minutes of the episode and being a pain before inevitably dying. All he needs to do story-wise is hand the thing over to someone and preferably explain what it is. (I’ll keep it a mystery for now. Ooh, IMIPAK!)

Before setting off to get some IMIPAK goodness, Servalan and Travis visit a cloning facility to get a copy of Blake. As you do. Travis murders it but luckily enough they made two. The clones - including Blake 3.0 - obsessively treasure life so it’s a bit odd that they let that go, or that they made some clones for these obviously homicidal people at all? The whole sequence is a bit odd, with the clone... boss?... giving us her life story (she is also a clone) and telling Travis that this futuristic room they’re in is actually a vegetable (?!), while an excited choir booms in the background. Totally normal scene this.

And speaking of weird clones, they’ve recast Travis. There’s no nice way to say this: he’s not as good. Gone is the calculated rage of Stephen Greif, replaced with Brian Croucher strutting about shouting at everyone, including Servalan. It’s like unironically doing the thing Travis was meant to be a parody of - the ridiculous baddie who’s obviously evil at first glance. You could argue this characterisation better suits Travis’s success rate - he’s been a total loser so far, so what’s he so confident about? - but he’s a lot less interesting to watch, and his chemistry with Servalan has instantly gone from “two predators circling” to “why doesn’t she just kill him?” (To be fair, she tries.) He even looks sillier, with glossier hair and a more B-movie eyepatch. It borders on parody.

Anyway: once again we have an episode where two parties go to collect a thing, only this time Servalan has the advantage. Sending her Blake clone on ahead to get Coser’s trust, she soon has IMIPAK. Surprise! It’s a laser gun. Only, when you point it at someone, they are now “marked” and can be killed by remote control (sold separately) at any time, and from up to a million miles away. All of which soundspretty cool but... isn’t it just a laser gun with a pause button? Why bother? If you’re already pointing a gun at someone are you likely to get the urge to go on holiday?

TL;DR, Travis marks Blake, Avon and Gan. (Servalan marks Travis. I don’t remotely blame her.) For once, the Federation has won, and Servalan sends Blake and co. on their way, practically guffawing in their faces. Except the Blake clone doesn’t like all this killing, and the slave from earlier isn’t fond of it either, so they steal IMIPAK, mark Servalan for death and tell her to get lost. So nobody wins, which is quite novel. But it all feels like a strangely paced runaround.

(And if you like strange: Servalan gets her plan idea from Carnell, an underling/smug genius, whose life will be over once the plan has failed. When she returns to exact revenge he has left an answer message for her. Capping off multiple scenes of outrageous flirting, he ends the episode by observing “You are undoubtedly the sexiest officer I have ever known.” I mean he’s probably not wrong, but WTF?)

The scenes with Coser just sit there. Servalan and Carnell flirting is amusing enough, but it’s just random colour since he then runs away. The clone stuff gives the plot a handy way out, but as far as Servalan goes it seems like a lot of bother for nothing. Travis sucks now, so that traditional highlight is out. The episode isn’t really about the Liberator so they’re all rather surplus, but you can at least depend on Avon to deliver some funny lines and stoke a bit of mutiny: he’s annoyed at Blake for coming up with an attack plan that might endanger them all, and he assumes Jenna always knows where Blake is, because well... wink. If you’re bored there’s always the costume department, which seems to randomly reset every week, this week landing on “funny collars.” (When we first see Avon he’s wearing an understated black turtleneck, but then he goes to the planet and yep, theeere it is: a lumpy red leather jumpsuit.)

I’m not sure if it’s the wacky production, the faintly tipsy story or both, but this one didn’t work for me at all. Sorry Chris: honeymoon’s over.

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! Nothing much. Travis kills “Blake” but he just falls over. Coser uses IMIPAK to kill an alien but it’s literally just a big claw. When Servalan uses it on him and a random guard, we don’t see anything.

WHO’S WHO: Coser is John Bennett, who previously played a corrupt army general and, controversially, a Chinese villain. Crazed flirter Carnell (Scott Fredericks) was in two Whos. Brian Croucher was in The Robots Of Death, which has some odd links to Blake’s 7, not least that Chris Boucher wrote it.

4. Horizon
By Allan Prior

I haven’t seen anything else by Allan Prior, and according to IMDB he’ll go on to write a few more of these. I have mixed feelings.

Horizon is weird right from the off. Is there a particular reason it opens with shots of Jenna and Vila over the stars? We go inside the Liberator to find the crew grousing (mostly Vila) about how tired they are from the constant stress. They immediately start wondering about places they can go to relax (so what, you can’t park the Liberator and put your feet up?) and, spying a Federation freighter heading for an unknown planet, they for some reason pin all their hopes on its destination. Maybe it’s a lovely holiday world? Out here in the middle of nowhere, being visited by a Federation ship? I mean, it could happen.

Sure enough, it’s a shithole. On arrival Blake sees slave labourers mining something for the Federation. Then he and Jenna are tranquillised. They soon meet the planet’s ruler, Ro, who works (so he believes) in partnership with the Federation. Blake tries to convince him they are bad news. This really shouldn’t be hard, as they have sent his fiancĂ© to work in the mine.

First Gan and Vila, then Cally go down to the surface to check on their silent comrades; all are immediately tranquillised on arrival. I’m with Avon on this, only an idiot follows up their colleague’s sudden radio silence by just marching into the same situation. It’s the level of intelligence you expect from henchmen going around a corner and all getting bonked on the head. If Horizon had been a full-blown Federation outpost this would be the series finale, ten minutes in.

On the plus side, by now two distinct good bits have come out of the episode. Ro is having a (heavily signposted) crisis of conscience. Will he break with the Federation and save Blake? (And his nuptials?) Much of the episode consists of Ro looking down at Blake and his crew strapped to tables, and it’s all pretty thankless, but Darien Angandi imbues the part with believable optimism in the Federation’s intentions, and a quiet grappling with his instincts as a ruler. (Even his body language is interesting; see the crumpled way he sits.) When he makes his choice, inevitable or not, he sells it. The writing isn’t bad either, with the Federation making constant chides at his people’s “savagery” and Ro quietly insisting that they have their own culture that is worth preserving. It’s not a subtle takedown of British imperialism, but it’s affecting.

The other good bit? Well, it’s Avon, isn’t it. At first he resists going down to the planet (why should he go? They have absolutely no stake in it), then he has no intention of meeting the same fate as his crew, and then he tells Cally as bluntly as possible that they should just bugger off and leave the rest of them to it. When Cally saunters into the trap anyway, he seriously considers taking the Liberator. A moment like this has been a long time coming. He didn’t ask to fight the Federation in the first place. Why notlead a quiet life, one step ahead of the Federation and everyone else? Maybe it’s the thought of being bored, but of course he goes back for them, easily outfoxing the tranquillisers and breaking the rest of them free. It’s a shame he isn’t paid. He needs a raise.

The trouble with the episode is, er, the rest of it. “Vila has a tummy ache from too much stress” isn’t a great starting point (all he ever does is moan anyway), and it’s downright stupid of everyone except Avon to blunder into danger like this, not to mention randomly assuming this planet will be a safe haven. Are they a crack team or not? That’s two weeks in a row they’ve needed either random luck or Avon to save them at the last minute. And speaking of luck, we nearly get some action at the end but then the Liberator is saved from three attack ships by “it turns out the planet had a defence shield.” Woo, exciting.

The majority of the episode consists of Ro hanging around his planet, which means either a pokey jungle set or a dodgy cave set. With his obvious character arc, good acting or otherwise, it’s just a bit boring hanging around here. Even Ro getting his mojo back doesn’t massively help; I don’t care how confident he is, good luck fighting off a now angered Federation armed only with blowpipes.

It’s boring with good bits. Come on guys, we deposed Terry for this.

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! Unless they’re scared of blowpipes, you’re fine.

WHO’S WHO: Federation officer Brian Miller has popped up in New and Old Who, but more memorably was married to Elizabeth Sladen. William Squire cropped up opposite Tom Baker.

5. Pressure Point
By Terry Nation

Don’t panic: this isn’t “writes it every week” Terry Nation. Pressure Point seems a lot more focused than I’ve come to expect from the show’s often exhausted creator.

Still, the story seems a bit familiar. Once again Blake and co. unwittingly play into the Federation’s hands, this time looking to destroy their central computer on Earth. We occasionally cut to Servalan and Travis awaiting Blake’s imminent arrival; they even know about the rebel leader he intends to meet (Kasabi), having kidnapped her and her daughter, and killed her supporters. Blake really needs better intel.

I think what stops this feeling like a repeat of episodes like Mission To Avalon (we meant for you to take that) or Weapon (we got there first) is the sheer, almost manic determination of Blake. Even knowing as a viewer that this is a trap, it still feels utterly vital that he tries. When Blake finally reaches the computer room and the episode reveals the truth as grandly as possible - it is a huge, empty room - Blake’s momentary euphoria seems justified. Just before reality bites he stops saying “We’ve done it” and says “I’ve done it,” shedding his apparent modesty from earlier when he denied he was a leader that everyone would get behind. It’s a spectacular, horrible moment. This should have been it. He’s had a series and a half now of failing to strike at the heart of the Federation. He needed a win. 

He sort of gets one, in that Jenna - in an uncharacteristic moment of triumph - gets a gun on Servalan and arranges Blake’s escape. But even that comes at a pretty high cost. (Spoilers coming, for the fraction of you out there who might possibly read this having not seen it.)

Pressure Point feels tense and exciting even before the shock ending (final warning), but there’s some nice character stuff simmering along beside it. Avon, having truly thrown his lot in last week, seems surprised that anyone would even question his going along with the plan. He tells Blake openly that should they succeed, Blake will end up leading the fight on Earth and he’ll probably do so in space. (Which is a long-winded way of saying “bagsey the Liberator”, but he seems sincere in what he wants to do with it.)

The rest of the gang are much as usual - Vila’s constant complaining really is starting to get on my proverbials - but we spend some quality time with Servalan. (This week sporting a funky hat and a very loose dress. Someone in the costume department is having a ball.) Kasabi knew her as a youth when they both trained in the Federation, and tells her what a spoilt, selfish creature she was. Servalan, thrown to the floor, actually looks upset. Just before Travis inevitably kills her, Kasabi regrets not doing more to help her as a young woman. Servalan gets to vent some rage at Travis (for Blake’s inevitable escape), yelling at him, slapping him and telling him deliciously that she’ll bury him. Travis, for his part, is more understated than he was in Weapon; Brian Croucher finds an unpleasant thuggishness which wasn’t there with Stephen Greif, but seems to work for him.

Case in point, with Blake and co. fleeing he throws a grenade after them hoping to cause some random damage. He succeeds: caught under a door, Gan is killed. The tone of the episode foreshadowed this, where the operation seemed like a huge gamble, Blake and Avon had that Death Or Glory attitude throughout, and the discovery of the missing computer followed by a lucky escape felt almost suspiciously clean. But even so, the randomness of this adds to the impact.

Which is good, as it’s horribly shot. First Gan is holding up a door for them, but then everyone is through and he carries on holding it anyway (?), and next we see it’s caught on his foot somehow. He tells Blake he isn’t worth dying for, but too late as the ceiling collapses, catching Blake anyway. (It’s unclear why Blake didn’t die as well.) It’s a shame that such an important moment isn’t stronger visually. Even his dead acting could have used a do-over.

Off Blake goes back to the Liberator, with Kasabi’s daughter opting to stay and have some sort of revenge on Earth. (God knows how as she’s in a collapsed building surrounded by mines with no living comrades.) Travis and Servalan have had a humiliating failure, but Blake has lost a man. Hopefully it’s the last time for a while that we repeat the “it’s a trap” formula, because it worked so well here.

Not much else to report on the episode, so I’ll nitpick. It’s weird that Travis is annoyed when Blake has made it through the mines - wasn’t the trap on the inside of the building? The bit where Avon trips in the minefield and is nearly killed is bizarre and silly, given he’s the most capable one. (The sight of him practically leaping into Gan’s arms is... unfortunate.) The sets are modest including, somewhat randomly, a church, and some absolutely shameless reusing of corridors and stairwells in different lights. But never mind all that. The real talking point here is Gan.

David Jackson did his best, but it wasn’t a vital character. The limiter no doubt looked like a good idea on paper, but given how rarely the gang actually kill anyone, the only time it contributed was the week it broke down. Gan mostly just shoves people out of the way with greater ease than his comrades, which seems a strange use of an actor giving downright RSC enunciation to his minimal dialogue. The nicest thing I can say about him is that he may not have been the most useless one, but then again, even Jenna stepped it up this week.

I knew he’d die going into this, but Pressure Point is tense and exciting regardless. That’s quite an achievement. Good Terry. Now have a nice long think before your next one.

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! Two rebels are quite believably blown up by mines at the start. It’s horrible. Whereas Gan’s death might as well be him randomly copping it on the spot, and the shooting of Kasabi’s troops is a zap-you’re-dead affair.

WHO’S WHO: Jane Sherwin (Kasabi) was in Patrick Troughton’s swansong, The War Games. The surprisingly intense Yolande Palfrey (Kasabi’s daughter) would later appear with Colin Baker in Terror Of The Vervoids.

BLAKE’S... Back down to 7 now including Orac. And hold it...

6. Trial
By Chris Boucher

Gan died in the previous episode. By the end of Trial, you’ll wish you had.

There’s an opportunity here to do some solid character work, as the crew comes to terms with being one man down. To an extent Chris Boucher takes it: Blake is so shaken by events that he needs time alone. He selects a random planet and mysteriously flounces off to it. He’s being dramatic andfoolhardy here, since if no one on the bridge had said the words “Did Blake leave us a message”, triggering Zen, they wouldn’t even know what was happening. Leave a damn note.

Blake doesn’t know where they should go from here. Come back in 13 hours, he says, and if they don’t feel like picking him up they can swan off guilt-free. Avon’s little eyes light up and Vila jokes about doing nothing as a career choice, but there’s no serious debate about leaving him. And in the course of his walkabout, all Blake learns is that he needs to become more of a legend and immediately carry out another high risk attack, so his gang can presumably stay in the top Twitter trends. He’s learned absolutely nothing. Gan who?

And about the walkabout. Okay, Chris: it’s a random planet so it can’t be a Federation trap (for once), but it must allegorically help Blake learn something. So what do we have? A jungle, a lighting rig that makes Blake look like he’s under a heat lamp, and a random alien who says total gibberish for twenty minutes. Pity poor Claire Lewis, dressed as a cross between a Doctor Who cast-off and a kid in a dance show, desperately trying to inject some alienness into Zil. She manages funny arm movements and hilarious tongue darts. Kindly, what the hell were they thinking?

Zil babbles something about oneness and eggs, while on the Liberator Orac announces that Blake has cleverly picked a planet that’s alive, and transforming dangerously. There are probably some good SF ideas in here but the whole sequence is so maddeningly redundant to the ongoing plot or characterisation that I just didn’t care what Boucher was on about. It’s silly, then Blake gets out of there and they all just move on. The only purpose it serves is to revive Blake’s zest to fight and survive. Any crisis would have done.

But wait, you ask. Isn’t this called Trial? Is there a courtroom? Yes to both! Only it’s Travis being put on trial for war crimes, and none of it has any bearing on Blake. (Which is amazing, as Travis’s constant and surely documented failures to capture Blake must also have counted against him, and being charged for those would have been, y’know, relevant.) The trial isn’t particularly interesting or even very trial-ish - it’s just a case of listing the charges and waiting for judgement - including a bizarre moment where Travis makes the opening speech near the end of the proceedings, and it just consists of angry yelling. Sorkin it ain’t.

The episode can’t seem to decide if this is the subplot. Here’s the problem: who in the audience gives a damn about Travis? Yes, he’s a fun bad guy - I would argue less fun since he was replaced with a significantly worse actor, but then again maybe that makes him more so! - but can we seriously be expected to care what happens to him? I hope he fries. If he doesn’t, meh, see you next week I guess. When he survives, it’s ironically thanks to Blake’s attack hitting the court room. (A moment when Travis literally dives for cover made me laugh out loud.) There is probably something to be said about Travis always letting Blake escape, and Blake now inadvertently returning the favour, and whether they are both their own worst enemies. But with all that time needing to be spent on Planet Who Gives A Shit, the episode doesn’t say any of it.

I’m a bit flabbergasted. What was all that about? What did anyone learn, how has the ongoing story progressed? So Travis is an outlaw now. If we are to assume the Federation has a veneer of law and order - and his trial tells us that it does - then to all intents and purposes, he already behaves like one. Even as an official “outlaw” he still has the exact same job and still reports to Servalan!

Ideas, even good ones, bubbling away without good reason continues to be a hallmark of Chris Boucher’s scripts. Hopefully we’re past the worst of it now with this dithering, useless hour.

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! I wouldn’t put them through this, but it’s hardly violent.

WHO’S WHO: Peter Miles is back from a previous episode, offering bitchy trial commentary with John Bryans for no discernible reason. (And guys, they can hear you.) Otherwise John Savidant presides; he would later be killed off within minutes of a Peter Davison Doctor Who.

7. Killer
By Robert Holmes 

It’s Robert feckin’ Hooooolmes! Doctor Who royalty right here, known for Jon Pertwee’s great first story, Peter Davison’s great last one, and that really great Victorian Tom Baker story with the unfortunate racism. Sure enough this episode is brimming with spicy dialogue, mostly for Vila and Avon, who should exclusively hang around with each other for this purpose: “There are a quarter of a million volts running through that converter. I make one false move, I'll be so crisped up what's left of me won't fit into a sandwich.” “I'm a vegetarian. Thanks for the offer, though.”

In Killer, Vila and Avon go to retrieve a crystal that will help them decode Federation comms. While there Avon bumps into Tynus, an old friend for whom he took the rap and got arrested. Needless to say, Tynus owes him. Coincidentally a 600 year old spaceship is drifting towards the same outpost; Cally reckons there’s something malevolent aboard, so while the Bantz Ladz go after the crystal Blake goes to oversee the investigation of the spaceship. Said investigation has already turned up a wisened corpse. The scientists, including Dr Bellfriar, seem blissfully uninterested in Blake’s criminal record. Secretly Tynus has no such objectivity and is stalling for time until the Federation arrives.

It’s a very neat episode. As usual there are two strands to give the different groups something to do, but they dovetail nicely for once. You get a bit of character development for Avon who’s up against a ghost from his past, played with subtle restraint by famous Raiders Of The Lost Ark Nazi Ronald Lacey. The investigation of the dead body goes from bad to worse as it suddenly reanimates and kills a doctor, then dies again, but not before spreading a peculiar plague. As Avon tries to engineer a distraction big enough to steal the crystal and Tynus really has no intention of helping, the plague intervenes and ruins Tynus’s plot. Poor Dr Bellfriar - a lovely, naturalistic performance from Paul Daneman, who I know as Bilbo in the BBC radio adaptation of The Hobbit - dies just as he finds an antidote. Blake and Avon butt heads over whether to let the plague sit there and ensnare the Federation, but Blake rightly imagines what could happen if it gets out and infects the innocent, so he sets up a warning buoy. For a second there, Avon almost has them waging a much dirtier war.

It’s almost a boring one to review. Here’s an episode made up of bits, admittedly, but they all work. I can’t think of anything snarky to say - oh, well there’s the absolutely horrific leather/PVC costumes, which are about as impractical as sci-fi ever gets. What were they thinking? Here I am all set to laugh at Avon for wearing his gimp outfit again, and then they all change into these giant squeaky ponchos that you can’t sit in. I know it’s the 70s but does it have to be quite this 70s? Also there’s a hilariously poorly directed bit where a man fleeing quarantine dramatically says “I’m not going to stay here to die!” and punches someone in the gut, but in doing so pivots his whole body like a cartoon. (Maybe he couldn’t move in the costume?) Lastly, Cally has nothing to do other than get a funny feeling about the spaceship, and Jenna has nothing to do at all. I’m 50% annoyed about this.

Otherwise, smashed it. Robert Holmes, everybody.

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! The corpse looks absolutely horrific, and the plague boils are horribly convincing. Good job all round. Even the script is fairly scary, as the tension mounts over the plague and then as Dr Bellfriar, reading his antidote formula to Blake, suddenly forgets how to read.

WHO’S WHO: The ill-fated doctor is Morris Barry, who appeared in The Creature From The Pit but is mainly known for directing 60s Who episodes with Cybermen in. I forgot he was an actor!

8. Hostage
By Allan Prior

One of the ongoing threads of Blake’s 7 is Travis. Now technically an outlaw - which makes no difference to what he does or who he reports to, but whatever, it sounds cool - he continues to pursue Blake. For the series to continue, he must always fail. For Travis to keep coming back, Blake must never kill him. And so it goes with Hostage, neither of them advancing an inch. Ho hum, roll credits.

Travis, unsurprisingly, has taken a hostage: Blake’s cousin Inga. In a video message he asks that Blake come alone, but just to talk, and he’ll let the girl go. Blake mystifyingly goes along with this and soon the Liberator is in orbit around (you guessed it) a planet closely resembling a quarry. Travis really wants the Liberator and, because they stupidly keep following him down as in Allan Prior’s earlier episode Horizon, he soon has Avon and Vila too. Thanks to Jenna and Cally, his thuggish “Crimos” (an adorably crap name for “criminal psychopaths”) are foiled in an attempt to steal the ship. Inga’s father Ushton helps the hostages escape.

Well, it’s just a runaround isn’t it? Of course Travis is not planning to let anyone out alive. But it’s nice to see Jenna and Cally fight someone off for once. It’s nothing but an eye-roll to see Blake let Travis go again, here gullibly believing that the Federation really do want him in custody and thus will take care of him. We should be at a point now where Avon gets sick of all this indecision and just shoots the guy.

As for Travis, Brian Croucher has found a kind of niche in the character’s violent side, reaching a peak when he screams at Vila to tell him how to operate the teleport bracelets. (It is, hilariously, the word “teleport”. You didn’t try that?!) But otherwise he’s all but pantomiming, and his plans come to nothing once more. Crap, isn’t he?

Servalan shows up and has a few scenes growling at various underlings, but the whole encounter is a bit useless for everybody. Inga and Ushton have plans to liberate the (seemingly barren?) planet using some new food stores, but what with Servalan being there they’ll be bloody lucky to stay alive. Oh, and Blake gains some hitherto unmentioned family in this, which ought to flesh out his character somewhat, but no such luck. Blake’s on-again-off-again amnesiac past provides a blank cheque for the writers, but where he never seems connected to it, because amnesia, it never means anything to us. Anyway, he shares a quick romantic kiss with Inga at the end, which um, yeah. She’s his cousin. So...

Not terrible. Not very good. Not really trying, are they? Next.

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! Travis being Mr Shouty might cause some upset, and one of his Crimos explodes in space thanks to Jenna’s teleporting skills. Otherwise there are some hilariously silly fights between the Crimos and some noticeably bouncy rocks.

WHO’S WHO: During an otherwise pointless attack at the start, which the Liberator is lucky to survive, we see Andrew Robertson who appeared memorably in The Pirate Planet. Ushton is John Abineri who cropped up many times over the years, most notably in The Ambassadors Of Death. But best is Kevin Stoney, who threatens to wrestle a scene away from Setvalan at one point, known for big villain roles such as Mavic Chen and Tobias Vaughan. Quick, bring him back!

9. Countdown
By Terry Nation

Don’t panic: if you give him enough time off, Terry Nation can write very good episodes. Countdown is another one.

Blake and co. visit the planet Albian looking for Provine, a Federation officer who knows where their central control is. The only snag, besides the low likelihood of his actually telling them anything, is that a rebellion is already in progress and the Federation have been driven out - but as a parting shot, they’ve activated a bomb that will level all life on the planet. Avon must work with Del Grant, a mercenary from his past who’s sworn to kill him, to find the bomb and disarm it. Meanwhile Provine is still at large and outwitting everyone.

There’s no mucking about here. They have a time limit (although the countdown is not in seconds so who knows how long they’ve got) and even if they don’t die in an explosion, the guy they’re looking for might cause trouble. The Federation aren’t exactly in charge, but they’ve still rigged the deck in their favour. All of this makes for a better story than the likes of Hostage, where no one achieves anything.

Provine is an appropriately sinister (and worryingly clever) bad guy, taking every opportunity to double cross or change outfits to stay out of sight. But the best bits are with Avon and Grant, and learning what happened to drive them apart. We find out a good amount about Avon here, once forced to let a lover die, and Paul Darrow wrings a lot of pathos out of it - but with the usual Avon twist where it all sounds like nothing much. Nation wisely has the most intense conversations happen while they’re defusing the bomb.

I’ve complained before that hitherto unheard of figures in Blake’s life do nothing to enhance Blake. Here we are doing the same for Avon, and it does work. Maybe the individual bit of back story is stronger in the first place than say, “me and Travis used to be nemesis and turns out we still are”. Or maybe Avon’s just an all round more interesting character; freed of the Robin Hood hero goody-goody role, his past can include stuff he really should regret. You just don’t know. Maybe I just like Paul Darrow better. Anyway, it’s good stuff.

They get what they need, or some of it at least: central control is called Star One. Apart from that they’re on their own (Provine dies before saying more), but the planet didn’t blow up and Avon didn’t end up killing Del, which seemed the obvious route, so phew. I like the frustrated sort-of-victories in this series as well as the tragic failures. Just don’t give me too many draws.

As for a downside, Jenna and Cally get sod all to do. Quelle difference: they always get stuck together and they never seem to leave the Liberator. Any chance we could throw some character development their way? Apart from that, the series has somewhere to go now (Star One) and we know Avon a bit better. We have a winner.

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! Provine slaps and murders his way through this one, and at one point a quite bloody corpse is seen in the background.

WHO’S WHO: Grant is Tom Chadbon, best known as punch-happy Duggan in City Of Death.

10. Voice From The Past
By Roger Parkes

With the Liberator on its way somewhere nice for a change, Blake suddenly hears strange noises and starts remembering the mind-control used on him by the Federation. He changes course for an asteroid and locks up the rest of the crew, except for Vila who seems happy enough to go along with him. The asteroid contains remnants of his old rebellion, including a judge from his trial now defected. Also there is a masked and supposedly crippled man sporting an outrageous French accent. Ham comes off the stranger’s performance in waves. Surely it couldn’t be...?

Anyway, the gang have got evidence against the Federation and a governor willing to help them. Apart from the slightly sticky fact that they’ve used mind control to get Blake here, and the suspiciously familiar masked guy in their ranks, they seem sort of... good? Besides, Blake has enough wherewithal to say - rightly - that they haven’t made much actual progress as freedom fighters, and this seems like a good bet, so why not. It’s a damn good point, apart from how obviously doomed they are.

Avon et al suspect the worst and wouldn’t you know it, Servalan is aware of the whole thing and just wanted to get the rebels together so they’re easier to knock off. Ah well; this is fairly obvious from the outset, but arguably worth it for the literal theatrics of Servalan revealing her plan in a theatre, on a big screen. Finally smashing the mind control device the crew retrieve Blake, who remembers nothing; they make a quick joke about him being his usual nauseating self before we roll credits. Score another one to the Federation I guess.

It’s satisfying when the show remembers what it’s actually about (have the crew of the Liberator actually liberated anyone?), and anything we can do to make Blake less of a cardboard goody-goody is worth trying once. Invoking the horrors of his brainwashing always helps - it’s the most interesting thing we know about him. The ending sort of exacerbates how pointless it all was, but for once the plot - with shades of the Gan episode Breakdown, or Star Trek when Spock randomly hijacks the Enterprise - holds the attention well enough. I like it.

(The cheesy French guy was Travis, obviously.)

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! Blake does a yoga pose at the start that I wouldn’t recommend copying. Also a guy gets a particularly nasty knife in the back.

WHO’S WHO: One of the rebels is Pat Gorman, stuntman and rent-a-face mostly spotted during the Pertwee era.

11. Gambit
By Robert Holmes

This one is an absolute mood. Looking for someone who can lead them to Star One, Blake and co visit Freedom City, a casino world that’s just about the campest thing in the universe. The costumes are outrageous and random: there’s a saucy croupier in a top hat and tails played by Doctor Who’s Amelia Ducat (dotty old lady artist), the place is run by a silver-faced guy dressed as a Prince Regent, he bickers a lot with his manservant who has a massive headdress. Travis turns up dressed as the Shadow, for some reason. There’s tinsel everywhere. It’s barking mad to look at.

And quite fun to watch. The man everyone’s after is Doccholi: Blake wants his info, Servalan wants him dead, Krantor (the Prince Regent guy) wants to extract his secret before he dies, and Travis needs him to fix his robot arm, little knowing it contains a bomb courtesy of Servalan who broke his arm just so he’d go and find the bloke she wants to kill. I know all of this because, rather strangely for something by Robert Holmes, the script occasionally grinds to a halt so the characters can explain the plot. (Why would Servalan, of all people, explain herself to an underling?)

Anyway, it’s almost a farce as everyone hunts for Doccholi (including Cally and Jenna making a big distraction so Blake can sneak into a room), but in the midst of all this Avon and Vila realise they can use Orac to win big at the casino. This they do with surprising success; even when Vila arouses suspicion, no one checks to see if he’s listening to that thing on his wrist, so they sort of have it coming. It’s a hoot, even if it results in the kind of limp, stand-around-and-make-a-shit-joke ending we see all too often in this show.

Blake doesn’t get the info he wants, of course: yet again it seems like no one ever knows anything. He’s given another name to go and investigate, but it’s tempting not to get your hopes up. He also passes up yet another opportunity to kill Travis, with even Jenna now rolling her eyes and offering to do the deed. I’m half hoping Travis gets sick of the suspense and just kills himself.

Nothing useful happens, but Avon and Vila have a nice time and almost everyone wears a silly outfit. I’ve no idea if this was any good but I’d watch it again.

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! A guy gets bloodlessly shot, and someone loses a life or death chess match in the campest way possible: a puff of smoke.

WHO’S WHO: I nearly lost count! Dennis Carey / Chronotis, Sylvia Coleridge / Amelia Ducat, Deep Roy / Mr Sin, Aubrey Woods / the Controller, John Leeson / K9, Paul Grist / Filer, Pat Gorman again.

12. The Keeper
By Allan Prior

While it is nice that Series 2 is going somewhere, let’s face it, this ain’t exactly an arc plot. The quest to reach Star One means (for each episode) that either you’ve found out where it is or you haven’t.  The smart money’s on just tuning in for the last episode.

This week they probably get the right coordinates (judging from what the next episode is called), but there’s another 50 minutes of ho hum until then. What’s the point? It’s just filler.

Landing on a planet that unsurprisingly looks like a dismal bit of forest (be grateful it’s not a quarry), the gang encounters some medieval Viking types, one of whom probably has the brain-print mentioned in the last episode, aka a map to Star One. It’s pretty much a case of checking everyone’s jewellery to see if it has directions written on it. The king fancies Jenna so claims her for his mate; Blake hangs around with the King’s brother to foment some rebellion; Vila becomes the court jester; and Avon stays on the Liberator blowing up what he thinks is Travis’s spaceship. Don’t panic, eyepatch fans. Travis is fine, and apparently he’s back working with Servalan like she didn’t strap explosives to him last week. He probably thinks he’s going to live forever at this point. And knowing our luck...

Jenna sort of plays along with the king, which seems clever until she seems genuinely distraught by his death. Vila makes a good jester - as well he should, that already being his job. Blake... exists. Travis and Servalan are at their most bored. Even the director seems unenthused, throwing away Travis surviving Avon’s attack, and Servalan meeting Jenna and Vila. He perks up later for a bit of handheld fight work.

The whole thing’s like one of the lesser Series 1 episodes fell through a time loop. And, slight tangent, I’m so bored of rubbish planets. If it’s impossible to create alien worlds, why set a series in space? Every planet is either a visit to a random factory or a journey to the bottom of the stock costume box. I wouldn’t mind if the general lack of alien life was making some sort of point about how bleak the universe is - no one here but us humans! - but they always end up going the Star Trek route, and acting all surprised that the alien metropolis looks the Paramount backlot. Just stick to space stations and ships, at least you can do those on a budget.

The guest stars put some effort into it - particularly the king, known for out-yelling Tom Baker as the Pirate Captain - but it’s still the episode equivalent of a meeting that could have been an email.

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! Some fighting and killing here, but we always cut away.

WHO’S WHO: Bruce Purchase (the Pirate Captain), as well as recurring old man Arthur Hewlett.

13. Star One
By Chris Boucher

Well that escalated.

The Liberator finds Star One. No, really. No, REALLY. And that’s remarkable as no one knows where it is - which just fundamentally isn’t true, or how was anyone sent to work there? Blake plans to blow it up. Unbeknownst to him, it’s not even working properly: planets throughout the Federation are losing their weather control (because apparently Star One does weather) and are facing disaster. The reason? Aliens have taken over Star One, having killed and duplicated the crew. Except for one who just hasn’t noticed. (We all have coworkers like that.) Even worse, mucking with the weather is just a side effect: there’s a whole fleet of alien ships poised to invade, and Star One is all that’s keeping them away. If Blake blows it up, everyone dies.

I mean, bloody hell, where were they keeping this one? It’s got tension up the wazoo, particularly the ending, when Avon and co start an attack run just to buy time for the Federation - whom they hate - to arrive in force and help. And it’s got some of Chris Boucher’s WTF ideas, like there suddenly turning out to be a race of bodysnatching aliens who live next door, but it doesn’t just toss the idea out there for weirdness reasons. It also raises the stakes, reevaluating whether smashing the Federation is what they want to do, and suggesting a world where the Liberator and Servalan may have to work together. For a series all too often unsure of its goals, this kind of What If is exciting.

It’s good (if limited) on a character front. Cally, Vila and Jenna barely get a look in. Blake makes his position and modus operandi clear (he wants to prove he was right - not exactly altruistic), as does Avon (not especially fond of Blake, can we get this over with so I can have the Liberator). And on the latter, Avon’s determination to batter some aliens and probably die trying, all to protect a species he mostly doesn’t get along with, adds unexpected heroism. Arguably more than Blake. Contrast that with Travis (sigh) who has apparently sold out humanity altogether. To be fair, he seems even less popular than the crew of the Liberator, so fair enough. And wahey, he finally dies! Get out the tiny violin. (He is dead, yeah? Please?)

There’s somehow time to squeeze in some of Servalan’s machinations, as she tries to get even more control over the Federation just as it falls apart. And Star One is sufficiently creepy (thanks to the aliens) that it more or less lives up to the hype. (Having Servalan seem powerless against it is a nice touch.) As for the aliens, they’re a sudden lurch into Doctor Who territory, but who cares? They more or less justify the hilarious WTF of assuming Blake is Travis, when he clearly doesn’t have only one eye and a robot arm. Meh, aliens gonna alien.

I’m a bit worried about the next series. Where do you go from here? But ending the year with a bang will do for now. Incredible stuff.

PS: I was pleased to learn that Terry Nation supposedly wanted the aliens to be Daleks. YES. That would have been a great crossover. No Doctor required! Someone go back in time and make that happen, ta.

IT’S NOT FOR KIDS! Avon zaps someone and it just makes... all the blood happen. Jeez. Not for kids!

WHO’S WHO: You’ll need IMDB for this one. David Webb (head alien) was in Colony In Space, apparently. Gareth Armstrong (young alien) was in The Masque Of Mandragora. After that, a few uncredited actors have Who credits. Meh, I’m not Toby Hadoke!