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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6Apr/180

Blake’s 7 – Bounty: “This Game You’re Playing”

With the end in sight, Terry Nation runs into the buffers with Bounty - an episode that clearly lacks sufficient plot to fill the scheduled slot. It's just one of many patch-up jobs Chris Boucher performs on the series and it's almost certainly down to the script editor that intriguing moments and character dynamics remain.

In Bounty we at least see the crew playing to their specialisations once more: Cally is a guerilla terrorist; Vila a lockpick; Avon a computer expert; Gan a strongman; Jenna a confident and capable pirate.

One wonders if this is the episode where David Jackson passed a fabled note to producer David Maloney with a number in single figures, the number of lines in the script in questions, scribbled on it.

Gan, whose character arc has reduced him to a brainless oaf - albeit with occasional violent tendencies - is much more active here and more capable. He takes the initiative, albeit inadvisedly, in teleporting to the derelict and demonstrates two traits previously identified with the character.

The first is a simple directness. When Avon asks if the crew is to believe Gan would sacrifice himself should the need present itself, the big man replies levelly: "Yes, I expect you to believe that." Due to the way Jackson plays it, his reply is both answer and challenge. Avon does not demur.

When the crew challenge Jenna, apparently allied with Tarvin, Gan plays his part in sarcastically greeting her. He demonstrates visible anger in his frustration too and announces his desire to beat up Tarvin. We're back to the Gan of Space Fall: a loyal, capable and honourable man.

On the surface, Blake is charmed by Sarkoff's collection of Twentieth-Century objects, but that doesn't stop him destroying them as a means of bending the reluctant exile to his will. Blake appeals to his better nature, his sense of pride, loyalty, allegiance. He's even depriving the man of his daughter.

But when that fails he simply threatens to destroy everything Sarkoff holds dear. It hasn't taken him long to prey on every vanity and weakness he perceives in the man. It's less of a rescue than a kidnap.

Even so, Sarkoff could tell Blake a thing or two, were he prepared to listen. "Civilisation demands courtesy, rather than truth," he tells Tyce, in a nice callback to how even Blake was disinclined to follow give up his comfortable life under the Federation.

Meanwhile, back on the Liberator, Vila has some more interesting moments. he demonstrates again that he can be relied upon to do what is required of him when he takes a gun on the way to conduct his personal investigation into whatever is happening on The Liberator. And he holds the key to freeing everyone when the crew is imprisoned later.

He is prepared to defer to Blake when trying to remove his collar - as are all the crew - but lashes out at Avon in another demonstration of their spiky partnership.

"Avon?"
"Yes?
"Shut up!"

Avon affords himself a smile before getting back to work.

Meanwhile Jenna is stringing Tarvin along until she identifies an opportunity to free the others, disabling not two guards in the process. "Tarvin underestimates me!", she notes to herself, but is she thinking of someone else?

With the Liberator crew freed and Blake and Jenna heading to the flightdeck, Sarkoff comes around to Blake's way of thinking because he recognises in him the same single-minded dedication to his people, while he sees no such loyalty in Tarvin. It's not a wholly convincing about turn, but it's at least consistent with the three characters' motivations.

Quite what Jenna's motivation is remains unclear. We get a valuable reminder that on board Liberator is a treasure trove of incredible value - and that life on the ship can be dangerous and unpleasant. But we know she is loyal to - and attracted - to Blake.

In the past Blake has needled Jenna on this. Yet at the end of Bounty, Jenna gets to turn the tables in first teleporting Sarkoff and Tyce down the planet precipitously, then teasing Blake over Tyce's obvious attraction to him.

Blake, usually unflappable, is irritated. Is he angry that Jenna has challenged his authority, defied him, asserted herself, even in this small way?

When she and Blake distract Tarvin, Blake chuckles as the pirate leader - a potential competitor for his ship, crew and Jenna - lies dying on the ground.

"The Amagon is dead," Jenna tells Blake of a man who might have once been her lover, her expression hard to read. Blake cradles her cheek.

"Take us out of here, Jenna," he replies with a grin.

She obeys, returning his smile.

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