Blake’s Seven – tape 1935

There’s some seminal episodes of Blake’s Seven on this tape, from the UK Gold reruns.

First, Death-Watch by Chris Boucher. I wonder how much this spaceship design was influenced by the (then recent) Star Wars?

Meet Deeta Tarrant. I’m assuming he’s Del’s evil brother, who’s also some kind of killer, and manages to kill two people (who are also trying to kill him) as some kind of formalised combat thing.

“Move any faster you’ll break into a standstill” – Boucher did write great lines, that one for Dayna.

There’s a nice scene where commentator David Sibley sets the scene for the Teal-Vandor combat – two champions will enter a randomised environment and fight to the death, and the outcome of the war is decided by who wins. Deeta Tarrant is the Teal champion. This is a nice scene because it starts with his commentary, then goes into him being bitchy with his director. You get the feeling some of this was written from experience.

Deeta Tarrant’s second is played by Stewart Bevan, perhaps best known for Professor Clifford Jones in the Doctor Who story The Green Death.

One wrinkle in the arrangements is that one of the arbiters of the combat is Servalan. Jacqueline Pearce is wonderful, of course, and I’m still sad at her recent death.

The combat arena is a little underwhelming – an abandoned warehouse or similar. It’s not exactly The Hunger Games.

“Tarrant, I assume you have no tedious principles against cheating and lying?” “None at all” “Oh good”.

Tarrant’s brother is killed by the other combatant, whom Orac surmises is an android. If this is discovered, it will cause an all out war between Teal and Vandor, and Servalan is waiting with a fleet to come in and mop up after the war. Avon wants to stop this happening.

Dayna is sent to stop the android being examined, which would reveal his artificial nature. “I want you to imagine how my father felt. Just before you killed him.”

Tarrant gets some revenge for the loss of his brother at the same time as preventing an all-out war, so quite a successful ending for our heroes.

The next episode is written by Terry Nation. It’s Terminal, and is the last episode of series three. This one traumatised me almost as much as the actual finale of the show.

Cally and Dayna are playing Federation Monopoly.

A nice beauty shot of The Liberator.

Avon is behaving cagily. He’s reprogrammed the ship’s course, but he won’t tell the rest of the crew where he’s going or why.

The ship has to pass through a strange belt of matter.

As a result, minute particles of matter are stuck to the hull, but Zen says they’re no problem. I think he might be wrong.

They arrive at Terminal, an artificial planet that was supposed to have broken up years ago.

As the episode progresses, the Liberator is getting more and more corroded, and yet nobody is noticing.

Avon finds his way to what he’s looking for on the planet. It looks like Blake is here, and not in the best of health. The missing apostrophe in the first line annoys me.

Avon finds Blake, slightly incapacitated by an unspecified trauma.

Unsurprisingly, it’s a trap from Servalan. So Avon asks her what she wants in return for Blake’s freedom. All she wants is the Liberator.

That might turn out not to be a good choice, as Zen is breaking down. “I have failed you” he says, heartbreakingly.

So when Servalan wants to take the Liberator, Tarrant and Cally are quite happy to let her take it, even though they all get stranded on the planet Terminus. Vila even manages to take Orac with him, pretending it’s a sculpture.

“Maximum Power”

They really went to town with the destruction of the Liberator set. This predates The Search for Spock by several years, and has a similar emotional effect.

This still upsets me, even now. RIP in peace, Liberator, and Zen.

And naturally, after witnessing the destruction, Avon can’t help himself.

Credit note: One of the principal videotape editors is Malcolm Banthorpe, who was also a programmer who used to publish listings in computer magazines.

Next, the first episode of series four, Rescue, another Chris Boucher script. Avon and Dayna are scouting out the ship Servalan left for them on the planet. Not surprisingly, it explodes when one of the planet’s inhabitants wanders in to it.

There are more nasty monsters out to get our heroes.

Shortly after this, the base they were in also explodes. Vila and Tarrant get out, but Cally doesn’t make it. RIP in peace, Cally. U R wiv da angles now.

I love the way the miniature explosions are really elaborate and violent, then they cut to Vila and Tarrant on the ground, and chuck a bit of fuller’s earth and a couple of bits of set dressing at them.

Ooh look, here’s a new ship.

Who’s this guy? I don’t remember him at all, so he’s probably not going to last long. He’s looking for the Liberator.

Vila and Dayna fall down the same slope.

The man in the ship is Dorian, and he saves Dayna and Vila, but Avon and Tarrant get the better of him. And his ship can actually land on a planet, which is an improvement on the Liberator (although it probably doesn’t have teleport).

Once on board, the ship is menaced by stock footage of a volcano.

Now bound for Dorian’s home base, we meet Glynis Barber as Soolin, who’s waiting for him.

The ship, Scorpio, lands at the home base. These are very elaborate sequences, so I’m guessing they’ll be reused in future episodes. Nice miniature photography.

I’m quite liking Dorian. Since he’s not actually, obviously evil, his motives are mysterious.

Although he does seem to be getting somewhat ill, as he leaves the Liberator crew to get comfortable and he descends to a smoky basement to tell someone or something that he’s got the crew.

I’m going out on a limb and saying this creature in the basement is up to no good.

Dorian’s name was a clue. He’s over 200 years old, and the basement cleanses his body of any aging or damage, and the creature there is his version of the portrait.

He wants to use the crew to replace his current creature, but Vila saves the day by bringing in the gun he kept from the planet, and Dorian does the whole getting older and crumbling into dust thing.

The next episode is Power. The crew, having killed Dorian, are now trapped on the planet, as the door to Scorpio’s landing bay is voice controlled, and only Dorian could open it.

There’s also some other people on the planet. Avon is captured by some Viking types. I’m fairly sure that’s Big Ron Tarr from Eastenders on the left, there.

There’s also some women who, I’d wager, are no friends of the viking types.

One of the women, Pella,  finds Vila working on opening the landing bay door. She tells Vila that if Dorian isn’t there to speak a code word every two days, a nuclear compression charge will go off.

The women (the Seska) and the men (the Hommick) are in conflict. The women have some kind of mental power, but in a very unpleasant scene, Avon faces Pella, and forces her to use up all her power, telling her ‘a man will always be stronger’. And then he kisses her. Really, there’s no way to spin this in Avon’s favour, and it’s deeply creepy.

Pella gets her own back later by dropping a keyboard on his head.

They get the teleport working, with a brand new teleport effect.

And once they’ve got control of Scorpio, Soolin comes out of hiding and offers her services. It’s almost as if her character didn’t appear in the first draft of this script, and they couldn’t find a way to fit her in.

After this, the recording stops, and underneath there’s an older recording, of The Ipcress File. The tape ends during this.

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One comment

  1. “That’s the first time he’s ever said ‘I’.” Traumatising, as you say, but how didn’t Servalan notice the Liberator was turning into goo, anyway?

    Whenever I saw the shot of the Scorpio docking, I remembered the outtake where it accidentally crashed into the cliff. Who was at the controls that day?

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