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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20Mar/180

Blake’s 7 – Project Avalon: “Hope Is Very Dangerous”

Blake's 7 Project Avalon

Having given us moonscapes, haunted planets, webbed forests and space opera, Terry Nation gives us an ice planet in Project Avalon. So cold, in fact, even Travis admits to being unsettled in the opening moves of another of his slow-burn traps for Blake.

His plan involved kidnapping Avalon, another resistance leader like Blake. This is the first time we see any signs of significant resistance to the Federation - and we will later hear how new of Blake and the Liberator is fomenting rebellion throughout the galaxy.

Project Avalon Travis Stephen Greif

There have been two attempts on Servalan's life. "Hope," says Servalan, "is very dangerous." The dialogue between Jackie Pearce and Stephen Greif is packed with little gestures and tics, particularly as Servalan details disquiet and Travis' lack of success in killing Blake.

For the first time Travis seems to be on shaky ground. His repeated failures seem to be adding up - and getting to him. By the end of the episode he seems momentarily to have slipped his moorings.

Travis and Servalan

We also see more of the complicated relationship between the Space Commander and Servalan. At times they follow the traditional hierarchy, though Servalan affords Travis her utmost confidence and respect.

Yet at times she appears to defer to him – or Travis’ instincts run counter to the chain of command. Here he overrules Servalan, as the latter is about to order an evacuation of the complex. In Seek-Locate-Destroy he talks so candidly with Servalan, with the merest hints of contempt, that it is not clear with whom the power dynamic lies.

Servalan’s appearances in the first season of Blake’s 7 are nothing as to what comes next. But already we can see what a dangerous customer she is: flirtatious yet ruthless. Her arrival – throwing off her fur cloak for a Mutoid to pick up – is a nice touch here and Pearce does far more with the character than is always on the page.

There’s another dynamic developing in Project Avalon, between Cally and Avon. There are three specific moments in the episode where the two share meaningful moments that convey humour, antagonism and tenderness.

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We also see that Jenna and Cally have moved on from their initially fractious relationship - perhaps because Cally is no longer a threat to Jenna in Blake's affections - and the two show warmth and respect to one another. Avon continues to essay barbs at his shipmates, but there's little spite in them.

We also get to see the computer expert in charge of the Liberator in the absence of Blake and Jenna - the latter is clearly identified by the crew as the Number Two at this stage, on the Liberator flight deck at least.

Project Avalon Jenna

Project Avalon is stylistically similar to Seek-Locate-Destroy in its action-adventure narrative and also in that we see the Liberator crew acting as a realistic resistance force. We also get more of Blake’s undoubted strengths and weaknesses as a guerilla leader. Needing to gain access to the control centre he simply improvises and bluffs his way into reaching the imprisoned Avalon.

But, once more, Blake leads his crew into mortal danger through lack of planning. The crew escapes, as Jenna says, because they are lucky. Yet not in the sense she means. Had Blake’s raid been met with maximum force it’s hard to see how any of them would have escaped.

Blake Project Avalon

Yet Blake is the only one who sees through Travis’ plan, because he instinctively knows something is wrong. Working from the principle of the dud gun he quickly realises that one of Chevner or Avalon is not who they appear. With the android Avalon detected, Blake comes up with an elegant plan to free the real Avalon using the unique skills of his crew.

In most of his dealings with Travis, Blake frequently seems almost amused - communicating his contempt through a sort of whimsical ambivalence. So it proves here - and Blake conveys a similar disregard for Servalan, whom he knows although he has never previously met her. For him it's never personal: The Federation is the enemy; Travis and Servalan are mere ciphers.

Travis and Servalan

The crew might not quite take the role of terrorists here, but they do kill a lot of people without the slightest hesitation or squeamishness. We even see Blake snapping the neck of a Federation guard while gaining access to the cells. In addition to him destroying an entire spaceship in Mission To Destiny, here we see him quite happy to condemn an entire to base to a grisly death.

No wonder Servalan stops Travis from calling Blake's bluff on releasing the virus. Just as she is quietly, casually - even charmingly - ruthless, so is Blake. Servalan sees it the second she sees him.

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