Blake's 7

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

Terry Nation is running out of steam, but the Liberator crew chalk up another victory in Bounty, while some of Blake’s crew start to flex their own muscles.

With the end in sight, Terry Nation runs into the buffers with Bounty – an episode about Blake rescuing and recruiting a political dissident to act as a spearhead for his revolution 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 bearing only a number in single figures – the number of lines for Gan in the script in question.

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 accepts without demur.

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

In Sarkoff’s gilded prison, Blake is charmed by the former president’s collection of 20th-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.

But when that fails he simply threatens to destroy everything Sarkoff holds dear. It hasn’t taken Blake long to prey on every vanity and weakness he perceives in the man. Blake can be charming, but it’s a veneer to his underlying ruthlessness. This is 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 give up his comfortable life under the Federation.

Meanwhile, back on the Liberator, Vila demonstrates again that he can be relied upon when he conducts his personal investigation into whatever is happening on The Liberator. And he holds the key to freeing everyone when the crew is subsequently accosted and imprisoned.

Vila is prepared to defer to Blake when trying to remove his collar but lashes out at Avon in another demonstration of their spiky partnership.

“Shut up!”

Avon affords himself a smile before getting back to work on the door.

Meanwhile Jenna is stringing Tarvin along until she identifies an opportunity to free the others, disabling two guards in the process. “Tarvin underestimates me!”, she notes to herself, but is she actually 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 are reminded that the Liberator holds unimaginable wealth – and that life on the ship can be dangerous. But we also 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? What is this game they’re both playing?

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.