In the previous five weeks of Blake’s 7 we’ve been introduced to the notional Seven and we’ve become well-versed in Blake’s fight against the Federation. In Seek-Locate-Destroy we get something of a warm reboot, a re-setting of the template of the show that casts the regulars as freedom fighters waging a terrorist resistance. If Blake’s 7 is The Dirty Dozen in space then this is their first mission.
Blake’s thinking is sound enough: steal a Federation cipher, destroy the base to cover his tracks and read the enemy’s top-secret communications. With a computer expert, a strongman, a picklock, a warrior woman and a crack pilot – not to mention the best ship in the galaxy – it should be a cinch. Except something goes wrong and Cally gets left behind. Not only that, but Blake’s an old enemy is tasked with capturing and killing him.
The dynamic of the crew attempting a daring raid or rescue, only for something to horribly wrong, is one enforced by the position of Blake and the others as outsiders and the need to maintain some sort of power balance that ensures the freedom fighters remain underdogs. Meanwhile production considerations mean storylines concerning significant uprisings or victories – such as those seen in later comparable shows such as Babylon 5 or Farscape – are never possible.
So while in Seek-Locate-Destroy we hear of Blake’s popularity in fomenting revolt within the Federation, from Rontane and Bercol, we never get any sense of scale beyond the lightning raids that become a stock-in-trade for the show.
However we do get to see Blake’s crew working as a convincing unit, even Vila, for whom work is clearly one of the few distractions that allows him to forget his natural cowardice. The thief’s skills with locks are evident, but he is also relied on here for his cunning and is even tasked with attacking guards. Nevertheless Vila remains anxious.
“Blake, don’t leave me!” he begs, having helped to knock out two Federation guards – a rare moment of suavity for Vila in distracting them. But Blake does leave Vila and the guards, all are forgotten with his goal within reach.
Avon, Gan and Jenna all have their usual parts to play too, though Cally is lost in the mix. Easily overcome by one of the scientists she is notionally guarding, her role within the team as warrior is quickly forgotten.
In losing Cally on Centero while the rest escape it’s unclear who is most to blame. Quite why Blake thinks she is the best suited to guard the prisoners is unclear, when Gan is also among the landing party. The big man seems to forget about Cally, as does Vila who is arguably responsible for the alarm being sounded.
But it’s Jenna – who has already shown outright hostility to the telepath – who is arguably most at fault. Later, to a grieving Blake, she barely hides her contempt towards Cally: “She convicted herself – you can’t live like that. You’ve got to make peace with yourself, Blake, if you want to survive.”
Blake returns a withering look and walks away. It’s the only occasion he is unimpressed by Jenna’s counsel and it invites the reading that Jenna is less than devastated by Cally’s apparent death.
In Seek-Locate-Destroy we see much less of Avon, largely because his role as Blake’s chief antagonist is taken by Travis, the leather-suited Space Commander with a reputation for ruthlessness so severe even Federation officers are in open revolt against him.
Seek-Locate-Destroy gives us a much richer picture of the Federation than previously, in that we see scientists and troops such as Prell and Rai who are simply carrying out their duties – and even demonstrating some professional ethics.
For his part Travis, much like Avon, appears realistic above all. Although we do see him looking at images of Blake being tortured, he does not seem to revel in Cally’s discomfort. He may be clad in leather, but he’s no sadist.
Travis wears an eyepatch and has refused reconstructive surgery on his face – “you’re certainly not decorative,’ remarks Servalan, archly – because he sees disfigurement as a simple hazard of the job.
He and Blake bear scars both physical and psychological from their first encounter. Both men are single-minded and use their understanding of one another to gain the upper hand. They are seemingly set to forever play out their shared past. But perhaps Blake recognises a way to make peace with his own past in Seek-Locate-Destroy, as Jenna urges.
While Travis fixates on avenging himself upon his enemy Blake is more sanguine, telling him: “You don’t matter enough to kill”. Travis might imagine himself as Blake’s nemesis; Blake is playing for far higher stakes.