Blake’s 7 series 1 episode 6 – Seek-Locate-Destroy

Two of the canon's most popular villains make their entrance this week...

Blake's 7: Seek-Locate-Destroy

THE PLOT On the planet Centero, Blake and Vila teleport down to the Federation communication centre to steal a cipher machine that will allow the Liberator crew to monitor all Federation communications taking place. Vila manages to break in, allowing himself and Blake to distract and knock out guards at the entrance of the base.

Avon, Cally and Gan teleport down. Avon and Gan join Blake with Vila on guard. They succeed in wrenching out the cipher machine. Cally holds the skeleton staff prisoner, but after an alarm sounds, one of the staff, Prell, manages to distract Cally and they overpower her momentarily. After Cally fights back and knocks out a guard, she loses her teleport bracelet in the struggle – just as a set of explosives placed by Gan around the centre detonate. While the others have teleported back to the Liberator, Cally is trapped in the rubble. Blake realises too late that Cally has been left behind, presumably dead, but Avon points out that if they go back, all their lives are at risk…

Supreme Commander Servalan is not having a good day. Grilled by odious Federation officials Bercol and Rontane about her handling of the Blake affair, Servalan explains that she has assigned Space Commander Travis to the case – a decision that is met with disquiet by both officials and Federation staff. One of their representatives Rai, an old ‘friend’ of Servalan, says that they refuse to serve under such a butcher who has caused the deaths of many, but Servalan says that anyone refusing to obey Travis will be committing mutiny. Travis arrives and on learning that his new job is to seek, locate and destroy Blake, he agrees instantly.

Via the cipher machine, Blake learns of the presence of his arch nemesis, the man that captured him and caused the resistance to collapse. Travis explains to Servalan the events of how he captured Blake, and also how he lost his hand in the struggle, which was replaced with an artificial one – complete with built-in weapon. Blake also explains the events of what happened to the Liberator crew, and when asked if he’d still recognise Travis, he’d never forget the man that killed his friends…

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Travis arrives on Centero and discovers the absence of the cipher machine, but also finds Cally, who is still alive. Taking Cally prisoner, Travis uses one of the Federation memory machines to force her to tell him about Blake, his ship and his crew. He decides to use Cally as bait to lure Blake into a trap on Centero, sending a message by the cipher machine that Cally is still alive.

Securing Cally into a chair on Centero, Travis awaits Blake’s inevitable arrival, but makes the mistake of momentarily leaving the room in which she is held hostage. On his return, Blake has already arrived. Blake and Cally force Travis into the chair while they make their escape back up to the Liberator. Cally thanks Blake for rescuing her – Blake says that too many of his friends are dead and can’t afford to lose another.

A fuming Travis vows to find Blake, no matter how far and fast he runs away. “I am your death… Blake.”

ANALYSIS Seek-Locate-Destroy is an important episode in Blake’s 7 as it introduces Blake’s nemeses – Servalan and Travis.

Initially introduced as a one-off character, Servalan rapidly became one of the most popular, returning time and time again to attempt to thwart the crew of the Liberator. What’s interesting about her debut is how subdued Jacqueline Pearce’s performance is, compared to her later Dynasty-esque forays into camp. Here, she’s super-efficient, knowing when to switch the charm on and off like a tap, such as her conversation with old lover Rai. One minute she’s attempting to seduce him, the next she turns on him with barely controlled fury after he dares to question her appointment of Travis. She also seems uncharacteristically flustered after her outburst, a trait that we’d never really get to see again. It’s a pitch-perfect performance, and, as enjoyable as her later performances are, this is one of Pearce’s best.

Stephen Grief is also excellent as Travis, bringing a controlled menace to the character. However, as we’ll see in later episodes, Travis seems a bit surplus to requirements, since he’s always outwitted one way or the other. Quite why Travis leaves Cally alone in the chair and expects Blake to land outside the communications centre again is anyone’s guess. His final speech at the end of the story is also really cheesy, sounding more like a thwarted baddie from a hokey Hanna Barbera cartoon than a tough-as-nails bad guy.

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It’s a good thing that Servalan and Travis are introduced, because without their presence, Seek-Locate-Destroy’s plot is a tad flimsy. In fact it can be broken down into: Blake and co steal the cipher from Centero; Cally is left behind on Centero; Blake goes back and rescues Cally from Centero; Happy ending. Quite how Blake and the Liberator crew manage to miss Cally’s presence as soon as they have teleported back, I don’t know – maybe they were too busy bickering among themselves as usual…

Where Seek-Locate-Destroy does win out though is in Terry Nation’s ability to write convincing back stories. Nation provides a bigger picture as to what happened before Blake’s arrest and achieves this through strong, believable dialogue – the fact that great actors like Gareth Thomas and Stephen Grief bring this dialogue convincingly to life is a big bonus.

Vere Lorrimer’s direction is good, with some well-shot location work at Fulham Gas Works, although the less said about the silly robot the better, the sort of thing you’d find for the under-fives at a funfair. The small guest cast work reasonably well, especially the sycophantic double act of Peter Miles and John Bryans as Rontane and Bercol.

One of the essential Blake’s 7 episodes, Seek-Locate-Destroy fulfils its function in memorably introducing Servalan and Travis, and also stands up well as an entertaining action adventure with intriguing back story.

Interview with Stephen Greif

Check out our review of episode 5 here.

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