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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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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