Probic Vent Ood For Thought

20Feb/180

Blake’s 7 – Seek-Locate-Destroy: “Because I Want To Survive”

Blake's 7 - Seek Locate Destroy: Travis and Blake

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.

Blake's 7 - Seek Locate Destroy: Teleporting

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, Farscape or Deep Space 9 - are never within grasp.

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 in this episode we do get to see Blake's crew working as a convincing unit, even Vila, for whom his work is clearly one of the few distractions that allows him to forget his natural cowardice. Vila'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's 7: Vila distracts the guards

"Blake, don't leave me!" he begs, the having knocked out two Federation guards with Blake - 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 not evident here.

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.

Blake's 7 - Seek Locate Destroy: Blake and Avon

But it's Jenna - who has already shown outright hostility to Cally - who is arguably most at fault. Later in her conversation with 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.

Blake's 7 - Seek Locate Destroy: Travis and Prell

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.

Blake's 7 - Seek Locate Destroy: Travis and Servalan

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 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.

Blake's 7 - Seek Locate Destroy: Blake and Jenna

Travis 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.

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12Feb/180

Blake’s 7 – The Web: “Change Is Inevitable”

The first four episodes of Blake's 7 form a fairly coherent vision of the series and its worldview: a dystopian science-fiction series about the struggle between a group of criminals, led by an ideologue, fighting a fascistic government in space.

What people in 1977 made of The Web - where Blake and his crew defend a group of hairless space rodents from a papier mache puppet in a fishtank - is not recorded. It's a far cry from the confluence of 1984 and Brave New World we saw only weeks before.

However The Web does allow Terry Nation to expound on Cally's telepathy, while the empath is possessed.

"Don't be mystical Cally," snaps Blake in the first of several shows of irritation shown by the rebel leader in this episode, when Cally details The Lost, a group of Auronar expelled from the planet.

The reactions to Cally's unmasking when she damages The Liberator's forward detector links vary significantly.

While Gan is once again relied on to be calm under pressure in disarming her and later shows dismay at the rough treatment Cally receives from the others, Jenna slaps her - "You should have never have brought her on the ship!" - and Avon grabs her by the throat, face contorted in fury.

Avon is perhaps still sore from the fact he could have allowed Blake to blow himself to bits in the hold. A look of annoyance certainly flashes across his face as he rises to his feet having shoulder-tackled Blake out of the path of an exploding bomb, placed by Cally.

Was is an automatic reaction, as he says? Or is there something more to it, something that Blake perceives, even if Avon does not? As Blake remarks, he is not surprised Avon chooses to save him.

In this scene Blake provides yet another situation for Avon to save his life - and is the look that passes between them as the light on the bomb winks out one of a challenge from Blake to Avon? Save me - or let me die: you choose.

Either way, Avon obliges. Another incremental bond between the two that proves harder for Avon to break with every second.

Later Avon demonstrates the Liberator's self-repair mechanism to Gan, inbetween lobbing insults, which the big man shrugs off.

Avon demonstrates the auto-repair to Gan in order to highlight the ship's awesome financial value. It's either a handily coincidental moment that catalyses a discussion about money and leadership or... it's something else.

"There will come a time when he won't be making the decisions," smiles Avon. Gan isn't buying. When Blake teleports to the planet he warns the others to be ready. "We will," confirms Gan, eyeing up Avon. Gan may be slow, but he's no fool.

With Avon happy to sit this one out, Jenna is clearly in charge in Blake's absence, another demonstration of the mother role and de facto Number 2 she adopts in this first series.

On the surface Blake quickly discovers a morality play that seems made for him: escape with his ship and crew to wage war on the hated Federation - or save an entire species of intelligent creatures from genocide.

Prior to Avon's arrival Blake finds his bargaining power scuppered when he learns Vila has already teleported the computer expert down to the planet with the power cells in the midst of the Decimas.

"I don't give a damn about your power cells," snarls Blake to Saymon when he learns of this. "There's a friend of mine out there." Does Blake genuinely believe Avon is his friend? It seems unlikely, given how often Avon reminds him of his leadership ambitions. But perhaps he perceives a bond that even Avon does not quite comprehend.

In short order Blake's plan to withhold the power cells is easily defeated; the only reason the crew escape and Decimas survive due to the Lost leaving their front door open. More dumb luck for Blake and company.

For his part, having seen the havoc they wreak in the base, Avon is appalled that Blake was so desperate to save the Decimas - a parallel of his attitude towards Blake's crusade against the Federation.

Back on the Liberator, somehow, both Blake and Avon manage to make their experience on the planet validate their opposing worldviews.

"Change is inevitable," sneers Avon.

"Whilst we fight, Avon," manages Blake.

But for the first time Blake looks worn down. The demands on his time and wits - from a fractious crew requiring constant management - are getting on top of him. Not so Avon.

For both men, their detour to the planet of the Decimas - genocide, genetic engineering and violent death - is a mere footnote in their private little war.

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