Blake’s 7 series 1 episode 12 – Deliverance

Servalan devises a scheme evil enough to have even black-clad Travis questioning her ethics…

Blake's 7 series 1 episode 12 - Deliverance

THE PLOT Two men, Ensor (Tony Caunter) and Maryatt (James Lister) are en route to Cephlon on a secret mission. The planet – which has reverted back to a primitive state as a result of war – initially affects the ship with its gravity drag. While Ensor gets the ship back under control, part of the ship explodes, forcing the two men to eject themselves in life capsules.

Zen locates the Spacemaster Series 5 on the Liberator screen. Avon, along with Vila, Jenna and Gan decide to teleport down to Cephlon to see if there are any survivors. Down on the surface, Jenna and Gan find Maryatt dead in his escape pod, but Avon and Vila discover that Ensor, although wounded badly, is still alive. Teleporting back up, Avon, Gan and Vila discover only too late that Jenna is still on Cephlon, having been captured by the Cephlon primitives. The three men are forced to return to the planet to find her.

In the meantime, Blake and Cally discover from ID that Maryatt was a space surgeon in the Federation Medical Corps with a pass for any area in Space Command. They also find a small box of micro power cells on Ensor, who says that he has to get to Aristo to pass on the cells to his father. Blake refuses, holding station above Cephlon, but Ensor forces him to change course for Aristo by holding Cally at gunpoint.

Travis is summoned before Servalan, and is desperate to get his command back after his suspension over his handling of the Blake affair. Servalan says that there is something more important at stake – Orac. Ensor had gone to Servalan requesting help for his father and while he was there, he showed her plans for Orac, which carries a 100 million credit price tag. Servalan agreed to buy Orac, sending Maryatt with Ensor as a hostage until the transaction was complete.

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Instead, Servalan placed an explosive on the ship, leaving her free to go to Aristo to get Orac. Travis is quietly appalled at Servalan’s actions as Maryatt was the surgeon that saved his life – but all that matters now is Blake’s death – and Orac.

On Cephlon, Avon, Vila and Gan are attacked by an angry mob of primitives. They find refuge in a built-in shelter where they are welcomed by a woman called Meegat (Suzan Farmer). Meegat is especially pleased to see Avon, whom she proclaims ‘the lord’. Apparently, Meegat has waited for Lord Avon for a long time to operate obsolete technology that would bring deliverance to her people, who now number less than 100.

Meegat tells them of a prophecy that claims that strangers from another world would bring the means of her race’s deliverance. Her race’s fathers had fought a great war during which Kashell the Wise sought a way to preserve his race for it to survive among the stars. Avon discovers the solution – a chemical rocket in launch position, which could theoretically carry dormant cells to start a new life in the future. After Kashell was killed, the word of complete deliverance was forgotten until the arrival of the nameless lord.

Avon finds an active power source register and after activating a secondary failsafe, the systems become operational again. While they warm up, Avon, Gan and Vila rescue Jenna from the clutches of the primitives. Avon returns to activate the controls for the rocket, which is launched into Magdalen Alpha.

Blake and Cally have managed to return to teleport the others back up after Ensor has died from his wounds. Blake promises to return the cells to his father and also find out who – or what – Orac is. It’s all systems go and en route to Aristo.

ANALYSIS Deliverance marks the first instalment in the Orac trilogy, which was originally available as a clumsily cobbled together BBC compilation video in the late 80s. At this point, we’ve no idea what Orac is – except that it’s worth 100 million credits and that it’s much sought after by Servalan. Not the star prize on 3-2-1 obviously.

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We’re shown the first signs of Servalan’s ruthlessness in Deliverance. Up until now, she’s been a shadowy presence with only hints of her evil persona. However, in this story, she’s perfectly willing to kill Ensor and Maryatt to get what she wants with no remorse whatsoever. Even Travis is shocked by her actions, especially as Maryatt was the man that saved his life. This is a great little scene, played superbly by both Jacqueline Pearce and Stephen Greif, as it allows the viewer a greater insight into both characters. Travis, normally the instigator of violence, is shown very briefly to have something resembling emotion as he takes in Maryatt’s death. Even though this scene isn’t particularly part of the action on Cephlon, it shows great character development for both baddies.

Avon also gets significant character development in this story, leaving Blake to take a back seat. There are glimpses of the future in his command (and initial botch-up after Jenna’s capture) of the rescue mission and also his ability to be a hit with the laydeez. Here, he’s swooned over by useless Pan’s People reject Meegat, whose constant bleating gets irritating very quickly. Even though he’s elevated to god status, Avon curiously doesn’t take to it that well. He seems awkward with this tag throughout, and right at the end, he confesses that his arrival must be a ‘poor reward’ for Meegat, suggesting that his usual superior attitude is just a facade.

These little character studies are what make Deliverance a success. The basic plot strands are somewhat lacking, though, with the run-of-the-mill threats of Ensor taking Cally as hostage and the primitives being no more than hackneyed clichés.

The idea that Cephlon has regressed back to a primitive state due to war is again reminiscent of Dr Who’s Genesis Of The Daleks, which saw a war of attrition between the Kaleds and Thals. Likewise, the hoary old cliché of the Liberator moving off station, and abandoning part of the crew, rears its ugly head yet again for what seems like the millionth time this series. And guess what – Blake and Cally manage to return to pick up the others just in the nick of time.

The production is still very good, however, with some fine location work – apparently courtesy of series producer David Maloney – although Michael E Briant still directs the studio sequences with great flair.

Despite the paucity of the main plot, the little character studies in Deliverance demonstrate exactly why Blake’s 7 is top quality TV. Rather than just cardboard cut-outs, the central characters are three-dimensional people with injected shades of grey. Naturally, all the regulars give great performances throughout, as does guest star Tony Caunter as the hapless Ensor, not so much a bad guy, more a man looking out for his father whatever the cost. Deliverance sets up the trilogy of stories well, and provides enough intrigue as to the identity of Orac. What could be worth 100 million credits?

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Check out our review of episode 11 here.

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