Probic Vent Ood For Thought

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 given Blake's casual reliance on Avon to routinely save his life, 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.

Back on the Liberator Gan is wearing a VR set when the ship is freed, another small crumb of rarly-seen world-building. And somehow both Blake and Avon manage to make their experience on the planet validate their opposing worldviews.

"Change is inevitable," sneers Avon, clearly enjoying himself.

"Whilst we fight, Avon," manages Blake.

But for the first time Blake looks worn down. The constant demands on his time, effort 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 own, private little war.

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5Feb/180

Blake’s 7 – Time Squad: “As Long As We’re Useful To Each Other”

Four episodes in and it's clear where most Chris Boucher's work is going. With a laughable budget, fag-packet script outlines and two charismatic leading men, the script editor puts a lot of work into the interpersonal dynamics on board the Liberator - and it shows in Time Squad.

Blake is forced to admit that in setting course to blow up a Federation communications centre he has taken the initiative without the promised 'thorough discussion', over the protests of Avon and even Jenna. "I don't follow you," queries Vila. "Oh, but you you do - and that's the problem!" snarls Avon in return.

blake's 7 time squad

But Avon knows he's been outmanoeuvred. Blake commands the loyalty of the others and the ship. If the others want to leave, they can. But they know the Federation will only ever be a step behind. It's Blake or death for the crew, all of whom him a debt of gratitude.

Still Avon manages to needle Blake out of his usual composure. Gan gets in his own dig at Avon, but the clever man has another ready quip when the former asks how the Federation will track them down deaf, dumb and blind. "I'll sure Blake will manage it somehow."

blake's 7 time squad

On finding an apparently abandoned space capsule Jenna warns Blake of the obvious risk of a trap. But true to form Blake waves it away with a smile. Vila doesn't like it either. "Why didn't Zen warn us?" demands Blake. But, as Jenna points out, he did.

In Time Squad we see the first example of Zen's mercurial nature, struggling to warn the crew against endangering themselves by teleporting to the capsule. It's as if Zen has his own limiter, suggests Gan, or is the Liberator's computer at the mercy of some other unseen: someone or something?

blake's 7 time squad

It may be handy plot device - like the Sonic Screwdriver being unable to unlock certain doors - but the viewer is left to puzzle over the in-universe reasons for Zen's intermittent awkwardness.

Sure enough, within minutes Blake and Jenna's lives can only be saved by the skills and quick thinking of his shipmates. Blake repeatedly puts his own life in danger and offers the crew a choice: save him or walk away and let him die. They must demonstrate their loyalty to him and, by inference, their subservience. He is an arch manipulator of people.

blake's 7 time squad

In Time Squad we get the first insight in the background of Olag Gan - and more evidence of what a nuanced character the big man could have been.

Played intelligently by David Jackson there's something genuinely moving about the way he explains about his vulnerability, caused by an inhibitor in his head, and how he came to have it.

blake's 7 time squad

There are many readings of what this might amount to. Has Gan undergone a lobotomy of some sort? Or is even darker than that? There are definite hints in Time Squad that there's more to it than Gan might be letting on.

In Time Squad he explains that the limiter makes it impossible for him to kill, but we have already seen him engaged in mortal combat in Cygnus Alpha, where he is clearly seen driving a spear into one of Vargas' henchmen, and lead an armed rebellion on the London in Space Fall, where he implies he might tear off the hand of a guard.

blake's 7 time squad

Yet here, alone on the Liberator with Jenna and with little obvious direct threat, his limiter renders him helpless. This has inspired many fan theories about the true nature of Gan's crimes - and it's not unreasonable to infer an altogether different reason for neutering Gan's violent urges.

There will be more hints later in the series, but whether Nation ever intended there to be a true pay-off is never clear.

blake's 7 time squad

Down on the surface of Saurian Major Blake finds the resistance wiped out by the Federation and only an awkward, telepathic warrior woman, Cally. With Avon and Vila also at his side we get the first example of the classic Liberator smash-and-grab raid, utilising the crew's various skills and Liberator's superior speed to outwit the Federation.

There's also a last-second escape from the inferno, more by luck than judgment. Vila and Avon silently chide Blake with challenging stares when it appears they may not make it.

blake's 7 time squad

Back on board there's time for Cally to accept a role in the crew, while Jenna registers her sexual jealousy. As ever Blake smiles off his crew's various gripes and complaints. As he pointedly tells Avon, he trusts them as long he knows they are all useful to one another.

While he holds the balance of power over Avon, none of them can escape him.

blake's 7 time squad

Hush child stop addlepating me!

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