Deliverance serves up more by-the-numbers narratives, but two key relationships in Blake’s 7 change significantly in this otherwise dreary episode.
Where once Travis and Servalan had seemed to revel in one another’s company, the dynamic between them has changed significantly. Jacqueline Pearce delights in Travis’ discomfort; Stephen Greif makes the Space Commander a picture of buttoned-up discomfort, his face betraying a galaxy of tells as he first absorbs Servalan’s jibes and then learns of Marryatt’s fate.
This is, perhaps, the point at which Travis succumbs to his hatred of Blake. Where once Travis had openly challenged Servalan, his authority has been whittled away.
When Servalan gleefully tells him that she has knowingly sent one of the few people to whom Travis owes respect to his death, it’s a turning point. Acceptance signals Travis’ obedience and his deference to Servalan – and his willingness to subordinate anything in his pursuit of Blake.
“You really are obsessed with Blake, aren’t you?” ask Servalan. It’s no coincidence that she has condemned Maryatt to his death and his family to slavery in her pursuit of Orac. It’s a calculated wounding of Travis and a demonstration of her authority over him.
In her pointed sacrifice of Maryatt, Servalan has presented Travis with a checkmate move: If he wants Blake he has no option but to surrender. Travis muses that the Supreme Commander is almost as ruthless as he is but he has indeed underestimated her, as he repeatedly underestimates Blake. Both Servalan and Blake are skilled manipulators. In this regard Servalan is more of a mirror to Blake than Travis is.
On the Liberator Blake has pulled out the chair for Avon to lead a mission and again demonstrate his loyalty. Acceptance of the mission, where once he might have absented himself from responsibility, cements his role within the Liberator crew. But also gives Avon an opportunity to demonstrate his value to the others, whom he may wish to lead in Blake’s place.
While Avon frequently snipes at Blake the latter rarely responds in kind, preferring to ignore Avon’s insults and challenges as if they simply don’t matter to him. But when the safety of his crew is threatened, as in Seek-Locate-Destroy and Breakdown, he responds with real anger.
“We’ll go back down,” says Avon, when it is discovered Jenna is missing.
“I think you’d better,” Blake retorts, with a look that visibly startles Avon.
Once again the crew manage to abandon one of the women in hostile territory, with Jenna captured by Cephlon’s natives. Despite Jenna and Cally’s backgrounds as a space pirate and guerrilla fighter respectively, both are easily captured and incapacitated.
Despite an apparently unopenable door featuring – usually his forte – Vila has little to contribute in Deliverance. But Gan gets another opportunity to demonstrate what he brings to the crew, with a fight in which he incapacitates several Primitives. Just moments prior he, Vila and Avon muse on a plan to rescue Jenna.
“If it comes to killing, remember my Limiter implant,” advises Gan, meaning Avon and Vila have to get to and potentially tackle the encampment of violent Primitives alone. It’s a demonstration of how problematic the Limiter is in Gan’s development. He’s the big man, but useless when it comes to fighting – until he’s not. Here he gets to fend off baddies without any visible difficulty from the Limiter that supposedly prevents him being violent.
“You know Vila, for a minute out there, I was actually beginning to enjoy myself,” he confesses. It’s more grist to the mill for the theory that Gan is not only capable of violence, but actively enjoys it – it’s only when women are involved that his Limiter kicks in.
With Jenna’s rescue and Avon’s elevation to Godhood the crew return to the Liberator, where Ensor – attempting to hijack the ship – has died, leaving a pack of energy cells and a clue that will lead to a direct reckoning with Servalan and Travis.
When Cally asks if Meegat actually believed him to be a God, Avon confirms she did, “for a while”.
“How did it feel?” enquires Blake.
“Don’t you know?” returns Avon.
“Yes. I don’t like the responsibility either.”
Throughout Deliverance Avon has given the impression of distinct discomfort as a commander and Godhead, despite his jibe that the others might find him more of an agreeable leader than Blake.
His response to Blake’s suggestion that he doesn’t enjoy his role as the leader of the resistance is met with unspoken but clear contempt. But Blake has needled Avon with the implication that he is not up to it.
As the Liberator crew share their usual end-of-episode banter, Avon simply walks off the flightdeck.