Probic Vent Ood For Thought

18Apr/180

Blake’s 7 – Deliverance: “You Really Are Obsessed With Blake”

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, whereas 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 down to virtually nothing.

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 in their relationship. Acceptance of this signals Travis' obedience and his deference to Servalan - and his willingness to sacrifice 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.

Blake and Avon

"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 - usually his forte - featuring 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 and potentially tackle the encampment of violent Primitives. It's a demonstration of how problematic the Limiter is in Gan's development. He's the big man of the group, but he's useless when it comes to fighting - until it's not. Here he gets to fend off half a dozen baddies without any visible difficulty.

"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 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 at Blake that 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.

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1Apr/180

Blake’s 7 – Breakdown: “A Matter Of Life And Death”

In Breakdown we have a great opportunity to make some sense of Olag Gan, a gentle giant who is prone to terrible violence. A man who, in Space Fall and Cygnus Alpha, is one of the more able members of the crew.

But by Breakdown he is barely expected to be able to cope with tasks that do not trouble the other members of the crew; in the episodes leading to Breakdown Avon's barbs seem genuine - he believes Gan to be an oaf and a liability.

In Breakdown we have the most often-cited examples of Gan's hatred of women and while there is no hard evidence for this on screen - as opposed to vague inferences of Terry Nation's true intentions - there's plenty to suggest there's something awful in Gan's true nature.

While Gan attacks Blake, Avon and Vila it's the specifics of his interactions with Jenna and Cally that are a cause for concern. After he incapacitates the former he is seen dragging her, by her leg, across the flightdeck. Where? For what purpose? Later, when Cally tends to him, Gan pretends to sleep, observes her covertly and then snarls at her turned back.

Perhaps most disturbingly, having manipulated Cally into freeing him and as he strangles her, he smiles and nods - as if to confirm her worst fears that he is going to kill her. It's a creepy moment from David Jackson, who has made Gan into perhaps the warmest member of the crew. No wonder Cally is so shocked, so horrified.

Does the Limiter send Gan mad here? Or does it stop working, allowing his natural instincts to come to the fore? A line from Blake - 'the limiter didn't even slow him down' - implies the latter. Regrettably Breakdown doesn't go any further with this potential storyline.

Gan's condition and potential death do evoke some interesting reactions from the rest of the crew, however. Perhaps surprisingly Avon is all for pulling out the stops to save Gan's life - but Avon has other reasons for wanting to make the journey to space station XK72.

Vila, perhaps just as surprisingly as an identifiable friend of Gan's, is reluctant to enter into the prohibited zone.

The thief does enjoy a rare chance to show some heroics however, first by working out Kayn's plan to delay the Liberator at XK72, then by confronting him and indicating that he is perfectly prepared to kill him. Blake, says Vila, has "a conscience. He might not be prepared to kill you." He looks serious.

So too Avon, but Kayn looks unimpressed by threats from both. Not so Blake's chilling warning that if the surgeon does not repair the limiter within 20 minutes he will 'destroy [his] hands'.

Kayn is prepared to call the bluff of Avon and Vila. But, like Servalan, he is not prepared to risk it against Blake, who has pinpointed Kayn's weakness.

Blake's superpower - and what makes him so convincing as a resistance fighter - is his ability to identify the weaknesses of opponents and in convincing enemies and allies alike of his complete sincerity.

The women are more protective of Gan - and Cally's role as the mystic / warrior / healer is further cemented in her concern at the big man being restrained. Meanwhile Jenna acidly rebuffs Renor's clumsy advances.

"Do you believe in love at first sight, Jenna?" asks Renor. "Not yet," she replies. Jenna may be less worldly than Blake or Avon - but she's less gauche than Cally.

We also see how news of Blake has spread throughout the Federation, with reactions both positive and negative from Renor and Kayn respectively. "The Blake?" asks the former. It's another rare flash of insight into what is going on beyond the flightdeck of Liberator.

While the crews fret over Gan, and frustrated at another blunder into mortal danger, Avon has scoped out XK72 as a potential bolthole that seems ideal. Vila admits he stays with Blake because he has nowhere else to go. That has been the case for Avon too, but here he chooses Blake over his own personal freedom.

For his part, Blake seems neither surprised nor concerned that Avon is ready to leave. Perhaps - as he has previously implied - he simply cannot believe Avon will not leave him. There is a bond between the two men, but it's not clear if Avon really knows it.

"You know what to do," instructs Blake. In complying, with a brief look of realisation, Avon demonstrates that he understands what acceptance means. Darrow plays it perfectly.

Paul Darrow Avon Blake's 7

The events of Breakdown have brought Blake and Avon even closer to one another. With XK72's destruction the window of opportunity for ever decoupling from Blake narrows further.

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