Probic Vent Ood For Thought

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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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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