A beaten-up crew in a knackered old tub with a ground-down captain and sadistic second-in-command with a predilection for female prisoners. If The Way Back gives us a glossy, if nightmarish vision of the future, Space Fall provides viewers with something a little more relatable: a three-day week vision of the future where work is reassuringly shit and people are still honest bastards.
While the dome is gleaming, the London demonstrates space travel for what it is: boring and lethal, in a variety of unpleasant colours. Drab clothes for drab people. Of the crew it’s the First Officer who immediately draws the attention.
Raiker might not be the most sophisticated foe Blake comes face-to-face with, but he’s no fool. He knows exactly how to needle Blake and pins him immediately for what he is. He knows without hesitation he can beat Blake, simply by needling his distorted sense of fair play. He’s not cut out for the sort of down-and-dirty fight Raiker gives him.
No wonder Avon is indifferent to Blake. He recognises him immediately as a dreamer, a crusader – and its only with great reluctance he hitches his wagon to Blake’s. The latter always sees a way out; the former deals in hard probability.
Only when Avon realises that Blake’s plan has the best chance of success does he side with him. When Raiker start killing hostages he is furious that Blake concedes. Without the intervention of the Liberator’s appearance, the whole crew would be destined for a life on Cygnus Alpha.
Raiker provides a foe against which Blake can fight, The Federation an all it stands for made solid. Yet Raiker has Blake’s measure within seconds of meeting him. He is not remotely impressed by him, sneering at his child molestation charge.
Raiker is not so unlike Avon in that he sees Blake’s madness immediately and is immune to it. Yet – at this stage at least – Avon is drawn to Blake by inexorable circumstance. Blake knows almost instinctively that Avon has already thought of helping the crew flush the prisoners into deep space and fixing the logs, and lets Avon know that he knows.
He then simply allows Avon to come to the inevitable conclusion that he needs Blake’s help as much as Blake needs his. The two understand one another immediately – and perfectly. And with this first uneasy alliance secured Avon is forever trapped.
Elsewhere in Space Fall Vila’s credentials as a hopeless coward – noted by Avon, Jenna and Gan – come to the fore. Meanwhile the latter is one of the most effective people on the London, capable of taking the initiative and boasting the mental and physical capabilities to back it up.
With Avon clearly keen on sitting out the mutiny while he comes up with a better plan, it’s perfectly believable that Gan would have emerged as the leader of an attempt to take the ship in Blake’s absence from what we see here.
But having been identified as one of the crew by Avon, Nova is subsequently killed off with grim indifference. No-one even acknowledges his death. The hapless prisoner is destined forever to be fossilised in the London’s bulkhead for the rest of its existence. Like Han Solo encased in carbonite, only dead.
For the rest of the lives of Blake’s entire crew, Nova’s corpse makes the painfully slow return trip from Earth to Cygnus Alpha, a testament to Blake’s monomania. And for all his fleeting fury at the death of another of the ingenues who blindly entrust him with their lives, it scarcely ever gives Blake pause for thought.
Blake’s singular skill is an expedience in identifying talented, expendable people who can be swayed by his self-confidence. With a computer expert, pilot, thief and strongman at his behest Blake knows he can take the London. Just like his attitude to taking down the Federation – he doesn’t just believe, he knows.
And by the end of Space Fall, more by luck than judgment, he has not only escaped with something resembling a crew, he has the most advanced warship in the galaxy at his control. The fact several little people are crushed underfoot in the meantime is scarcely acknowledged.
Mere weeks since he regained his memory, Blake has assumed the mantle of resistance leader with alarming speed and little fuss. Shorn even of the appalled angst evident during his trial, he is now operating with a self-belief so total it should act ring alarms bells with anyone around him.
If Blake appears unsurprised by the appearance of the most magnificent ship in the galaxy, the perfect weapon with which he can wage war against the Federation, it’s because he’s not.