Blake's 7

Blake’s 7 – Redemption: “We Just Lost Our Ship”

Blake and Avon - Blake's 7 Redemption

In Redemption we’re reintroduced to Blake’s 7 with a crew much more at ease with one another. Blake is clearly identified as the leader, with Avon his mercurial Iago. The other four go about their work without complaint, very much Blake’s crew. But change in in the air.

They have also gained some measure of individuality in their clothing. Gone are the drab, rustic colours and strident anorak uniforms of the previous season. Gan looks particularly different, his vast cloak serving to emphasise his hugeness. Blake’s bat-wing leather robe seems to mark him out as the leader, while Avon’s double-breasted studded leather tunic – with its undertones of sadism, sensuality, darkness – seems to cast his as an antagonist or anti-hero – although it plays against the studied lack of passion he is known for.

Blake's 7 Redemption

That sang froid is soon on display. Avon has been observing Blake, silently, because he “had nothing in particular to say” – more likely, as he acknowledges, he suspected Blake was attempting to keep something to himself and wanted to see what played out.

Avon has already spotted a clue in Orac’s prediction of the Liberator’s destruction, however, and enjoys a small triumph over Blake – both in terms of waving aside Blake’s fruitless use of Zen and his self-satisfied reveal.

Blake's 7 Redemption

But Blake gets in his shots too – Avon is clearly unamused when Blake suggests he wouldn’t Avon standing behind him on the precipice of a cliff. Redemption marks the beginning of a new dynamic between the two: rather than simply wanting out, Avon wants Blake’s ship and his crew.

The nature or Orac’s prediction is concerning too. Orac cannot predict the future – he can merely extrapolate from available data. But he is unwilling to give Blake any clues as to prediction as to do so would be to invalidate it. Here we see Orac’s true nature – he would rather the ship is endangered, even destroyed, than be proved wrong.

Orac and Blake - Blake's 7 Redemption

However it seems incomprehensible – even for a machine of Orac’s abilities – that he could predict the precise details of Redemption, so either Orac’s prediction is that the Liberator will be destroyed or he is being mischievous. Neither are comforting thoughts.

Moreover, Zen is particularly unhelpful when the Liberator is attacked by System ships. Orac may be a genius; the Liberator may be the best ship in the galaxy, but neither computer makes it easier for Blake. Orac may save the day here, but he does it in his own good time – and possibly only because it serves to validate his prediction.

Blake's 7 Redemption - Liberator under fire

As ever, Avon seems one step ahead. Blake often perceives or senses trouble, but frequently finds Avon has already got there and is waiting, patient and amused, for Blake to catch up. Quickly Avon realises the pursuit ships have broken off their attack intentionally; then he pieces together the Liberator’s own rebellion.

The crew are starting to see Avon as a capable leader – both Jenna and Cally look to him for answers as the ship starts to behave erratically. Then both Vila and even Gan – who has always treated Avon with caution – report to him. Avon is openly contemptuous of Blake; the rest of the crew do not object, as they might have in the past.

Blake's 7 Redemption - Blake feels Level 3 correction

When Blake acknowledges that he owes Avon one, the latter simply banks it – and tells Blake he’ll collect when the time is right. The ship isn’t the only thing working against Blake.

Redemption is a restatement of Blake’s 7 principles. Blake is an idealist – and frequently impetuous; Avon is pragmatic. Paul Darrow’s performance has evolved between seasons. Here he is a picture of stillness, impassivity – rarely shifting his gaze or modulating his tone. Gareth Thomas’ performance is much more naturalistic, arguably offhand. Whether conscious choices or not, the both emphasise what is in the script and highlight their dualism.

Blake's 7 Redemption - "Turn around"

Back on board the Liberator, Blake orders a course back to Earth – and his fight with the Federation. Some of the others reacts as if it had slipped their mind. Again, for Blake, the run-in with the System has been a mere detour in the overall journey.

“You make them sound like the only alternatives,” says Avon of Blake’s suggestion that it’s the Federation or the System. But for Blake they are.

Blake's 7 Redemption - Blake seeks the Federation.

“Get back to your station,” he adds. Blake can be jocular, morally outraged, protective – even kind. But it masks an iron will – and he will only indulge Avon so far.

Avon considers, averts his gaze and turns away. There is no need to force a showdown now. He has credit in the bank – both with Blake and increasingly the crew. The System are not alone in having designs on Blake’s ship.

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Blake's 7

Blake’s 7 – Orac: “Let Me Do It My Way”

Blake, Vila and Avon - Orca, Blakes' 7

Blake keeps a Captain’s Log. That’s an unusual revelation – if handy for reasons for exposition – as we begin Orac. We join our crew in the midst of radiation sickness and with a new mission: a hunt for the galaxy’s most irritable computer.

Ensor is the first, but not the last, of a group of enigmatic genii that first Blake, then Avon will attempt to recruit. It’s a loose arc that runs across all four series of Blake’s 7 in a narrative that suggests that Blake, his crew and ship are not up to the might of the Federation – even with the coming addition of Orac.

Blake and Jenna - Orca, Blakes' 7

Meanwhile a secondary imperative – the massive doses of radiation received by Avon, Jenna, Gan and Vila – means Cally falls into the rethought role of healer. Cally’s role as a guerrilla terrorist is rarely acknowledged beyond the first series – later in the episode she will scream when attacked by a cave creature. Her telepathic powers means she is recast as an empath and moral centre.

Vila’s radiation sickness is mined for humour in the thief’s cowardice. But Vila is playing to an audience. “All of me?” he asks Cally, who imparts the news. When Avon says their sickness will eventually kill them, Vila demurs and leaves the room, nauseous. Avon is amused; Vila has fulfilled his role. Gan is by now reduced to glances, moans and grunts. Surely by now Boucher and nation have decided Gan’s fate.

Cally and Jenna - Orca, Blakes' 7

Blake seems remarkably unmoved by the potential deaths of four of the crew and in committing the Liberator to its mercy-dash to Aristo, he is banking on Ensor having decontaminant drugs. Either Blake does not much care for the wellbeing of his crew, or he is certain that there will be drugs. But why? It’s another example of Blake’s blithe belief that everything will work out. They are righteous; they will prevail.

On the surface of Aristo, Servalan and Travis – seemingly locked into a relationship of co-dependency – are approaching Ensor’s residence surreptitiously. Servalan’s route to absolute power and Travis’ redemption, are locked up in the successful recovery of Orac. But their journey is not an easy one – Servalan is attacked by one of the creatures.

Servalan and Travis - Orca, Blakes' 7

So shaken by the attack, Servalan weeps in a rare show of vulnerability. Travis is unmoved and attempts to steel her to the task ahead: “The rewards and credit – remember?” he goads. Servalan quickly recovers her composure but it’s a minor victory for Travis. Each knows how to manipulate the other.

With Blake and Cally down and safe, the remaining Liberator crew’s sickness is bringing to the surface lingering tensions. Few of the crew like one another, but they like being alone even less – it is this emotional dynamic that binds them together.

Blae, Cally and Ensor - Orca, Blakes' 7

When Blake meets Ensor he indulges the old man’s eccentricities – but only to a point. Once he has the drugs he needs and Orac, Blake’s tone is much more direct. With the prospect of his enemies behind his retreating party, Blake stays behind to bring the roof down. He dismisses Cally’s suggestions with a curt “Let me do it my way”.

But without the initiative of Avon and Vila, he would not make it off the planet alive. Ensor is not so lucky – the delay in leaving Aristo means he dies in the tunnels with an escape hatch in sight. On the surface the pair are apprehended by Servalan and Travis. Again, Servalan prevents Travis from killing Blake – and Orac’s value is emphasised when she identifies the computer as the real prize, superior even to Blake.

Avon, Cally and Vila - Orca, Blakes' 7

Avon arrives in time to blow off Travis’ hand, though he claims to have been aiming for his head. Blake is not interested in killing the Federation pair; Avon would not hesitate. The others teleport back to the Liberator with decontaminants and Orac; Travis is left facing another defeat and seemingly no way back.

“You’re in a lot of trouble, Travis,” remarks Servalan, and in an echo of another moment in the series when it seems all is lost, Travis simply smiles to himself.

Blake and Jenna - Orca, Blakes' 7

The introduction of Orac could herald a change in tone for the series – as many ‘funny computers’ have. However Orac is very much a Blake’s 7 creation. Not merely irascible, Orac clearly disdains and even dislikes his new owners. And, as Blake realises, he is evasive. Orac predicts the future by extrapolating known fact. He knows The System is onto the Liberator – the means for his prediction – but he does not impart this knowledge.

Mischievous or malign? The question is never really answered. As ever in Blake’s 7, the true nature of our protagonists is forever coloured in shades of grey.

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